Given the adjustment of payroll and the lack of moves, it looks like next season is going to be tough, especially considering the improvement that many other NL clubs have made. Do you guys think 2012 is realistic to start trying for a playoff spot? I don't think any franchise should ever plan to be more than 3 years away from competing.
Given the ownership uncertainty, there are a lot of unknowns. If the new owner comes in and installs a payroll of $120M, the GM will be able to vastly improve the club with relative ease. If the new owner stays with the $70M payroll, it will be VERY hard to build a winner anytime soon. I think it's reasonable to assume that any new owner will come in and at least increase payroll enough to win fans and put his best foot forward. So, with an assumed payroll of $100M (where Drayton has gone before), here are my thoughts:
Players under team control through '12:
That puts committed payroll at ~$65M
That roster shapes up like this:
C- Castro (at this point I don't think many people would argue that Castro is not at minimum an adequate starting catcher, and he may develop into much more)
1B- Wallace (this remains to be seen, but I think the general consensus is that Wallace will pan out into a solid everyday 1B)
2B- Keppinger (he proved his worth last season, and while he probably will never be an All-Star, I think he is at least average)
3B- Chris Johnson (I don't think anyone is counting on such a drastic dropoff that he won't be at least a solid everyday 3B)
RF- Pence (in his 2nd yr of arbitration)
CF- Bourn (in his final yr of arbitration)
LF- Lee (in THANK GOD, the final year of his albatross contract)
I think it's fair to say that Houston has enough bench players in it's organization to fill the spots with minimum pay types. I'd pencil in Angel Sanchez and Brian Bogusevic for sure. Guys like Downs, Manzella, Navarro, etc would fill the other bench infielder slot, and guys like Shuck, Bourgeois, Clemens, DeLome, Locke, etc. would compete for the 5th OF slot.
Rotation: Myers (in the final guaranteed year of his contract), Happ, Norris, ?, ?
Bullpen: Figueroa, Abad, Melancon, Lopez, Lindstrom, Lyon
The bullpen looks solid, as there are plenty of young arms who profile as solid middle relievers at worst.
Shorstop, Backup Catcher, OFFENSIVE FIREPOWER, Front line starting pitching, lights out closer
Prospects who may be able to contribute significantly in 2012
Obiviously the hope is that Jordan Lyles would be a big part of the 2012 rotation. Rodriguez (the Rule 5 guy) could be slotted in as well. Several young arms should be in the 2011 AA/AAA rotations, giving them a chance to be in the bigs in 2012; the top of that list (other than Lyles) would be Dallas Kuechel and Kyle Greenwalt (with Ross Seaton also getting a mention). Relievers who could be ready include Henry Villar, Wes Wright, Dan Meszaros, Matt Nevarez, Chia-Jen Lo, Pat Urckfitz, David Carpenter, and Arcenio Leon.
A rotation of Myers, Lyles, Happ, Norris, and Rodriguez, while not totally weak, is still relatively unknown. A lineup of Bourn, Keppinger, Pence, Lee, Johnson, Wallace, Castro, and whatever scrub ends up at SS is very, VERY weak.
Of course, like most years, payroll will be the determining factor. Looking at the list of potential 2012 free agents, there are some interesting names. Assuming $35M in available payroll, Wade could do some damage; up to 4 solid, everyday type players. I would LOVE to see a guy like Ryan Doumit brought in to backup at catcher and play the OF/1B on the other days, spelling Carlos Lee or Brett Wallace. He won't be cheap, but I wouldn't think he will make 8 figures. The biggest need by far is SS. JJ Hardy and Jose Reyes look like the best who should be available in free agency (I don't like a 33 yr old Jimmy Rollins as an option). I think Reyes would be good fit. I'd also like to see a starting pitcher signed, although there doesn't seem to be the depth that this year's free agent class offers. One name that jumps out is Roy Oswalt. Would you guys be opposed to giving him 2 more years? He'll only be 34 and it'd be a splash signing. As far as closer, Lyon could be adequate until the deadline, when a trade could be made if need be. The free agent market is interesting, but includes mostly players who project to be past their prime nad too expensive.
Would this roster be playoff caliber:
1. Bourn CF
2. Reyes SS
3. Pence RF
4. Doumit/Lee LF
5. Doumit/Wallace 1B
6. Johnson 3B
7. Keppinger 2B
8. Doumit/Castro C
Bench: Bogusevic, Sanchez, (Doumit), Manzella, Shuck
Rotation: Oswalt, Myers, Lyles, Happ, Norris/Rodriguez
Bullpen: Rodriguez/Norris, Figueroa, Abad, Melancon, Lopez, Lindstrom, Lyon
PS None of this matters since the world is going to end anyway. A Mayan told me.