So, yeah. This whole offseason thing is a pretty big deal. And there's really no better (gimmicky) way to explore it than to break the whole shebang down into 30 questions and 30 answers.
I'll tackle the AL this week and break down the NL next week.
Let's break some bread, shall we?
Q: Could the Orioles actually be players in the Zack Greinke sweepstakes?
A: Absolutely. If the Giants proved one thing last season, it's that awkward facial hair and questionable underpants are no longer hurdles for success. And if they proved a second thing last year, it's that strong pitching can almost single-handedly take you to the Promised Land. The O's have top young arms to deal in Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Brandon Erbe. Let's just say that if they choose to poke the Royals on Facebook, they should expect to be poked back. Super-poked, maybe. But, you know, this is assuming the Royals actually want to trade Greinke (we'll get to that later. Oooooooh, foreshadowing!)
Q: Which free agent is more important to the Red Sox, Carl Crawford or Adrian Beltre?
A: Beltre, and I don't think it's even that close. Let's say the Red Sox put on their bibs and go knee-deep into the Carl Crawford all-you-can-eat bidding war, letting Beltre walk to the Angels or wherever. Presumably, the idea would be for Kevin Youkilis to shift over from first to third base, a position he's obviously familiar with. But, then what? Overpay Victor Martinez to be a full-time first baseman? Wouldn't they rather the Orioles or Tigers do that? Send off Casey Kelly to rent Prince Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez for one season?
I know re-signing Beltre may not satiate the famished Boston fans seeking a huge name after a disappointing '10 campaign, but that route is definitely the smarter path, long term, and protects them from giving Jacoby Ellsbury away for a beef jerky dehydrator, as tempting as that may sound.
Q: Could the Yankees conceivably dish out $400 million worth of contracts to four different players (Cliff Lee -- six years, $125 million; Carl Crawford -- seven years, $135 million; Derek Jeter -- five years, $80 million; Mariano Rivera -- three years, $60 million) and feel good about it?
A: This is a somewhat rhetorical question. Just look at those numbers. I think the Lee and Jeter contracts are probably on the modest side, too. Let's just take cold showers and move on.
Q: We know the Rays can replace Crawford with Desmond Jennings and have Jeremy Hellickson on the way, but, uh, they are going to need a bullpen in 2011, aren't they?
A: Rafael Soriano (62 1/3 IP, 3-2, 1.73 ERA, 57/14 K/BB), Grant Balfour (55 1/3 IP, 2-1, 2.28 ERA, 56/17 K/BB), Joaquin Benoit (60 1/3 IP, 1-2, 1.34 ERA, 75/11 K/BB), Randy Choate (44 2/3 IP, 4-3, 4.23 ERA, 40/17 K/BB), Chad Qualls (21 IP, 2-0, 5.57 ERA, 15/6 K/BB) and Dan Wheeler (48 1/3 IP, 2-4, 3.35 ERA, 46/16 K/BB) are each unrestricted free agents this offseason. That's 188 1/3 innings worth of stellar bullpen help they are going to have to replace. Good luck with that.
Q: With Lyle Overbay out of the picture, what's the plan for first base for the Blue Jays?
A: Overbay is who we think he is: An above-average defensive first baseman who hits for average power (16.6 homers per season over five years with the Jays), with an average batting average (lifetime .274 hitter). In a division that featured the likes of Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Carlos Pena and even Ty Wigginton (22 HR, 76 RBIs in '10), that's not going to cut it.
So expect the Jays to be players in the Victor Martinez, Adam Dunn and maybe even the Paul Konerko sweepstakes. Keep in mind, though, that the Jays are stocked in young, hard-throwing arms, the one commodity the Brewers would desire most, should they consider Prince Fielder swappage.
Q: Is there any chance the White Sox hand Paul Konerko his walking papers?
A: Obviously, nothing is out of the question when it comes to Kenny Williams. The guy would at least entertain the idea of trading rosin bags for sacks of powdered sugar. With that said, it's hard to imagine the White Sox without Konerko, especially after he posted an MVP caliber .312-39-111 line last year.
Williams loves to deal and would happily buy non-refundable tickets to the Prince Fielder/Adrian Gonzalez trade fiesta; however, after dealing Daniel Hudson and Clayton Richard away in the recent deals, he doesn't have very many golden geese left in his trade arsenal.
Q: Will the unveiling of the Indians' new uniforms be the highlight of their offseason?
A: Yikes. New general manager Chris Antonetti did a commendable job in creating a diversion with the release of the new Feldman-approved road jerseys and caps. "Sure, we might not sign Carl Crawford, and yes, our eyes are locked in on the likes of Ty Wigginton and Aubrey Huff, instead of Adam Dunn and Victor Martinez, but ... look at our new hats!" I do like the idea of switching Jayson Nix to third base. So there's that.
Q: Do the Tigers legitimately think signing Victor Martinez to a five-year deal is a good idea, especially when he'd have to play a position involving a face mask and throwing out fast people attempting to steal bases?
A: As a Tigers fan, I certainly hope not. According to the sabermetrics blog, "Beyond the Box Score," Victor Martinez was the worst catcher in the American League last season, when it came to throwing out runners attempting to steal. That's not good. And neither is the fact that V-Mart is going to be 32 years old at the start of the 2011 season -- not exactly an age when a veteran catcher suddenly transforms into Cannons McGee. I might as well be riding shotgun and checking the tire pressure on the "Adam Dunn to the Tigers" bandwagon. There's plenty of room, folks!
Q: The Royals aren't really thinking about trading Zack Greinke, are they?
A: Look, I've heard all the Greinke rumors, just as you have, but I'm not exactly sure what teams could possibly offer the Royals to get their attention. Let's sit a song out and take a step back for a moment. The Royals have arguably the best farm system in baseball. I'd actually get rid of the word "arguably" there. They are completely stocked. You want bats? How about the game's best infield prospect, Mike Moustakas, to go with a couple promising young 'uns in first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Wil Myers. Arms? The Royals have two up-and-coming aces on the way in Mike Montgomery and John Lamb (not to mention Aaron Crow, Tim Melville, Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer). Anyway, for Kansas City to deal Greinke, who is still locked up for two more cheap seasons, they'd have to be blown away by either a proven and promising youngster (Buster Posey-level) or a Major League-ready, blue-chip talent, along the lines of Desmond Jennings or Domonic Brown. I don't exactly see either happening anytime soon.
Q: Is there any way the Twins can get a frontline starter this offseason?
A: It's not looking good. Look, obviously things could have been different in the ALDS vs. the Yankees, had Justin Morneau been healthy, but a) he wasn't and b) they likely weren't going anywhere without an upgrade toeing the rubber. Starting pitchers who throw the heat are what wins in the postseason nowadays; it's not exactly a secret. We saw it with the Giants last month (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner), with the Yankees last season (CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett) and so on. While I like Scott Baker, Brian Duensing and Carl Pavano as much as the next guy, they don't exactly have that postseason intimidation factor -- even considering Pavano's mustache.
The lone potentially affordable, high-upside arm available this offseason belongs to Jorge De La Rosa. And the smartly budgeted Twins front office is going to have to think long and hard if it's worth breaking the bank to roll the dice on a somewhat unproven but clearly talented commodity, or just re-sign Pavano to a short-term, cheaper deal.
Q: Is it just me or could the Angels go absolutely gangbusters with their payroll this offseason?
A: Oh, they most definitely could. After the whole Alberto Callaspo/Brandon Wood debacle last year, I fully expect the Halos to be serious players in the Adrian Beltre bidding war. And I really don't think they'll stop there. At all.
With only one year left on Bobby Abreu's contract and Peter Bourjos looking more like Joey Gathright than Juan Pierre at the plate last season, the Angels will be punching tickets for entry into the Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth Experiences. Oh, and they need a closer, and Rafael Soriano just so happens to be on the market. And I think they have Jorge De La Rosa's number too. There really is no ceiling here.
Q: Do the A's have any plans on adding a power bat to their lineup, or are they completely content with guys who max out at 15 homers?
A: After trading for David DeJesus and re-signing Coco Crisp already, the A's projected starting outfield is DeJesus, Crisp and Rajai Davis. That trio hit a combined 18 home runs last season. OK, then. With Kevin Kouzmanoff locked in at the hot corner, the only realistic position the A's could add some power is at first base. But in all actuality, 25-year-old Daric Barton flashed some improvement last season, finishing the year with a respectable .273-10-57 line. Are the usually frugal A's really going to break the bank on Adam Dunn or Paul Konerko? I don't see it happening. Especially since Dunn's name has appeared approximately 87.5 times already in this column.
Q: So about those Mariners ...
A: Yeah, not looking good. I really don't even know where to begin here. So I won't. At least Michael Pineda will be fun to watch next season.
Q: Do the Rangers really want to break the bank to bring the band back together?
A: This starts and ends with Cliff Lee. And the answer is "Yes." With a new ownership group, an offseason World Series high and the city of Dallas firmly in their backpockets after the whole Cowboys debacle, the Rangers know they need to strike while the iron is hot. The difference between the Rangers and the Yankees, I think, is that the Yankees are only willing to go five years to haul in Lee, while the Rangers might be desperate enough to go six years. Oh, and you know, they have that whole no-state-income-tax thing.