Let's pretend Jim Crane and George Postolos call you up and offer you the GM job, which you humbly accept. Here are the mandates they give you:
-2012 Opening Day Payroll has to be below $55,000,000.
-As of Opening Day 2012, payroll commitments for 2013 and beyond cannot exceed $30M/yr.
-All moves must follow the plan to build a sustainable winner from within.
What roster moves would you make?
I'll go first; here are my moves:
1. You have to make trades to reduce payroll. If it is indeed true that Carlos Lee waived his 10&5 rights, then Lee, Wandy, Myers, and Lyon are all on the block. Here's what I'd try to land for each:
-Lee would be straight salary dump. I'd be willing to do Lee and $10M for a any non-top-30 organization prospect, which means it would likely end up being a reliever prospect. I think an AL team would bite on a deal like this.
-Lyon would also be a straight salary dump. I'd look to send Lyon and $2M for nothing in return. It's unlikely that there would be any takers.
-Myers might net an "interesting" prospect or two, depending on how much salary is taken on. He's a viable #4 starter on a playoff team, and if he were a free agent I think he'd end up getting a 2 or 3 years deal for around $8M/yr, so I'd like to send him and $5M off for 1 org-top 10 prospect plus another org top 30 prospect (think Austin Wates and Ross Seaton as a reasonable return for Myers and $5M).
-I believe Wandy has surplus value. He's a #2 starter on an average team and would be a #3 starter for a few playoff teams. I'd look to use him to complete the rebuild of the farm system. I'd do Wandy and $9M for a return similar to what Houston received in the Roy Oswalt trade (1 top 100 prospect, 1 org top 5 prospect, and 1 MLB ready fringe prospect).
Those trades would essentially clear the payroll entirely (although I'm going to assume that Lyon would remain), bolster the farm system, allow younger players more innings/at-bats, and present a completely clean slate for 2013.
2. Assess the roster. I'd keep Mills and the other coaches. Jettisoning Lee, Wandy, and Myers adds to the existing roster holes at C, SS, CF, SP, and CL. The good news is that now there is some payroll flexibility. My thoughts:
-Castro may not be ready to assume the full-time catcher role by the beginning of the year. Q's salary has exceeded his value. This position needs to be addressed.
-Wallace has been a bust at 1B, but with Singleton, Hinze, and Nash behind him in the system, the time to find out if he is a real MLB 1B is now.
-Altuve's speed, defense, and contact skills are good enough to allow him to learn on the job. Matt Downs and Jimmy Paredes provide some insurance.
-SS as it stands is a disaster. Sanchez is the only true SS on the roster and is not a viable everyday big leaguer, even on a rebuilding team.
-I think Paredes and Chris Johnson have enough to fill 3B for the time being.
-Bogusevic, Shuck, and Travis Buck are solid reserve outfielders and can combine to fill the RF, OF4 and OF5 roles. I've cooled on Bourgeois and Schafer. I'd actually see if Bourgeois had any trade value. If not, I bus Shuck to AAA and make him OF5. Martinez is an adequate LF and unfortunately will be expected to shoulder a lot of the offensive workload. The team could really use some help in CF.
-In the rotation, with Myers and Wandy gone, Norris and Happ are the only (somewhat) proven commodities. There are some young arms (Lyles, Harrell, Sosa, etc) who may be ready but there will need to be some help brought in.
-Given the state of the rest of the roster, the bullpen ranks pretty low on the list of priorities. With the depth of young arms who performed fairly well last year and the addition of Lyon, I wouldn't force anything.
3. Sign free agents to fill holes.
-At catcher, I'd non-tender Q. I'd try to bring in 2 veteran catchers on 1 year deals at less than $4M each. The list of players I'd look at would include Chris Snyder, Josh Bard, Ramon Castro, Jason Varitek, Kely Shoppach, Dioner Navarro, Jason Kendall, and Ivan Rodriguez.
-At SS, I'd scour the Rule 5 eligibles and see if anyone was worth taking (it doesn't look like there is anyone). If there were no viable options there, I'd sign a veteran on a 1 or 2 year deal. The list includes Yuniesky Betancourt, Edgar Renteria, Jerry Hairston, Nick Punto, Alex Gonzalez, Jack Wilson, Orlando Cabrera, and Craig Counsell. Paredes and Downs would be forced to play ~20 games each at SS.
-I'd bring in another outfielder to allow Schafer to work through his issues in AAA to start the year. Players who could add ability to man CF while providing adequate offense and being relatively affordable would be Rick Ankiel, Nate McLouth, Scott Hairston, and Corey Patterson.
-True front-line (or even mid-level) starting pitchers would be too expensive, so I"d look at high risk players that would come in on a 1 year deal and may make good trade bait at the deadline. I'd offer 1 year redemption deals to players like Rich Harden, Brandon Webb, Dontrelle Willis, Jon Garland, Brad Penny, Chris Young, and Chris Capuano and hope that 2 of them bit.
After all that, here's your opening day 25 man lineup:
CF Ankiel ($2M)
2B Altuve ($.4M)
LF Martinez ($.4M)
1B Wallace ($.4M)
RF Bogusevic ($.4M)
3B Johnson ($.4M)
C Snyder ($3M)
SS Wilson ($2M)
Bench: Buck ($.4M), Downs ($.4M), Navarro ($2M), Paredes ($.4M), Bourgeois/Shuck ($.4M)
Rotation: Norris ($.4M), Young/Webb/etc. ($1M), Garland ($4M), Happ ($2M), Harrell ($.4M)
Bullpen: Escalona ($.4M), F Rodriguez ($.4M), Carpenter ($.4M), Abreu ($.4M), Lyon ($5M), Lopez ($.4M), Melancon ($.4M)
That puts 2012 opening day payroll commitments at ~$54M (including the ~$26M eaten in the Lee, Wandy, and Myers trades), with ZERO salary commitments beyond 2012.
Garland, Webb, Lyon, Snyder, Navarro, Wilson, and Ankiel would all be possible trade candidates at the deadline, especially if the prospects behind them are ready to come up.
This team would obviously be terrible, but I still think they could win 70 games (interestingly enough, every offensive player on that roster has an OPS of 650 or higher, so while the lineup would be completely empty of stars or even above average hitters, there aren't any glaring weaknesses; no pitcher has a career ERA over 4.50). And there's potential for pleasant surprises all around if the prospects (Wallace, Altuve, Paredes, etc) find their snap or the veterans (Garland, Ankiel, etc) have redemption years.
What say you? What moves would make? How does that contrast with what you think we will see the actual GM do?