Well, this team sucks, it's weirdly really old and unexciting, and even Greinke isn't as fun to watch because the team refuses to give him any help. In short, it's clear even at the start of May that this season is every bit as lost as we thought it would be. So instead of banging our heads against the wall about management continuing to defy common sense again and again, let's take a chance to talk about how 2011 looks like it might shake out.
The way I see it, that "wave of talent" that management has been promising us for years is due to begin arriving at the start of next season. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer look like absolute studs once again. Montgomery has laughed his way through High-A and looks to begin dominating AA this week. Derrick Robinson has been considered a potential gold glove caliber defender in center field for years, and looks like he might have finally turned a corner with the bat. Ka'aiahue has been killing the ball like it's 2008. Giavotella has been hitting well, and Crow and Arguelles are expected to spend short time in the minor leagues. Even Osuna has pitched well after lackluster performance in previous years, and has been described by the coaching staff as a left-handed Soria. (Although it's worth noting that they did offer him back to the Braves for $25,000 following that description.) All of these players have a shot to be on the opening day 2011 roster.
On top of this likely talent infusion, a LOT of money should be coming off the books that could be reinvested to improve the team. Guillen, Farnsworth, Cruz, Podsednik, Ankiel, and Bloomquist's contracts all expire at the end of this season. Depending how the OF prospects play this year, (Robinson, Moustakas and Gordon defensively) DeJesus's option may also be declined, freeing up additional money. I haven't run the numbers, but that sounds like about $23M freed up. I believe Meche also enters the final year of his contract, freeing up $12M more starting in 2012 that could be used for multi-year contracts. Some of that will go to paying our current players more (I'd imagine Greinke, Soria and DeJesus and arb-eligible players will be due for signficant raises) but payroll was down this year already, and you have to figure DM will be handed at least $15-20M to improve the MLB roster if they feel that it's time to make a push.
So with that, let's look at what our dream 2011 roster would look like and how it might fare.
1B/DH Butler and Ka'aihue
BN Giavotella, Maier, Pena
SP's Greinke, Montgomery, Bannister, Hochevar, Crow?
RP's Soria, Arguelles, Wood, Osuna?
That roster looks pretty solid assuming all of those prospects play reasonably close to their expectations, but they won't, and we have $20M to spend to bolster the team anyway. Where we spend that depends how the rest of the year plays out, but the first spot I'd look to improve would be catcher. If there isn't a good match at catcher (or if you really insist on keeping Kendall), I'd look for a good fit in the OF or at SS. It would also make a world of difference if we could add just one reliable bullpen arm to complement Soria and a talented, but inexperienced unit.
What do we think? Could this team contend next year?