Always a fun exercise, even if it's darn well near impossible to actually be correct. If I were Doug Melvin, and if I were being realistic (aka I'd love Mike Lowell, but he's not coming to Milwaukee):
Given that Geoff Jenkins is gone (leaving a hole if the OF), and given that we have an excess of acceptable-to-good SP (Sheets, Gallardo, Villanueva, Suppan, Parra, Bush, Capuano, Vargas), my solution would be one of the following:
1. Sign CF Kenny Lofton, move Ryan Braun to LF, move Bill Hall to 3B. Have Weeks/Lofton OBP and speed combo hitting 1/2 in the order in front of Braun/Fielder/Hart.
2. Trade for a good OBP LF without breaking the bank/dealing much young talent. Austin Kearns (Was) and Josh Willingham (Fla) come to mind. Kearns would serve the dual purpose of being a solid defender on a weak defensive team. Perhaps a package involving Tony Gwynn, SP (Cappy/Bush/Vargas), and a prospect could get it done. Then, move Hall to 3B, Corey Hart to CF, Ryan Braun to RF. To me, this is the preferable option. Go into next year with a lineup of:
1. 2B Rickie Weeks 2. LF Austin Kearns/Josh Willingham 3. RF Ryan Braun 4. 1B Prince Fielder 5. CF Corey Hart 6. 3B Bill Hall 7. SS JJ Hardy 8. C Johnny Estrada 9. Pitcher
For the pitching, that part's tougher. I think you trade a starter (preferably Vargas if possible), let Cordero and Linebrink walk and reap the 4 early draft picks (kills me to let CoCo walk, but he's gonna get big big dollars).
Sign RP Kerry Wood, RP Ron Mahay. Go into the year with the following staff:
SP Ben Sheets SP Yovani Gallardo SP Jeff Suppan SP Carlos Villanueva SP Chris Capuano (L)
RP Dave Bush RP Manny Parra (L) RP Seth McClung/Matt Wise/any garbage guy RP Brian Shouse (L) RP Ron Mahay (L) RP Derrick Turnbow CL Kerry Wood
Obviously the bullpen would be very sketchy, and Wood is a perpetual injury risk, but I don't think Cordero and Linebrink will come cheaply. Maybe Linebrink could be retained, I don't know. I don't have a great solution for the bullpen, unless they pull a nice trade (perhaps for a Chad Cordero type).
Anyway, this would be my modest offseason plan. The big picture is to add OBP/defense, add bullpen help, and not shakeup this brilliant young Fielder/Weeks/Hardy/Braun/Hart/Gallardo/Villanueva/Parra nucleus. I also wouldn't make any long term commitments in LF with Matt LaPorta already knocking down the door to the big leagues.
- Bring in a veteran 2B in case Antonelli isn't ready in camp. Preferably, I'd like to see Loretta brought back. - Do not sign Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter, or any other big name free-agent CF. Exception: Andruw Jones on a loaded, one-year contract. The Padres can't afford to part with a first-round pick at this stage in our development. Ideally, I'd like to see (a healthy) Milton Bradley as the starting CF, but Coco Crisp would work too: want Cla back? - Move Kevin Kouzmanoff to LF. - Promote Matt Antonelli and Chase Headley to the MLB squad. Headley gets 3B, Antonelli gets 2B barring a horrible Spring. - Sign a veteran pitcher to compliment Peavy, Young, Maddux. Schilling would be preferable, but someone like Brett Tomko could potentially work in Petco, as well. - Let Wade Leblanc start the season as the #5. - Bring in a veteran backstop to help take the load off Bard. Ausmus, before being signed today, would have been ideal.
I see this next season as a sort of rebuilding year; with the Dodgers, DBacks, Rockies, and Giants all experiencing youth movements, we can't miss a beat in readying our prospects. Antonelli B. Giles Kouzmanoff Gonzalez Bradley Greene Headley Bard
Crisp Hairston Loretta Vet C
Peavy Young Schilling Maddux Leblanc
Hoffman Bell Thatcher Another KT masterpiece Another KT masterpiece
Expiring Contracts: Jason Jennings, Mike Lamb, Mark Loretta, Trever Miller, Brian Moehler, Orlando Palmeiro. Sign Brian Moehler to another minor league deal and let everybody else walk.
Cut: Woody Williams
Trade Adam Everett, Max Sapp, Fernando Nieve, Brad James to the Baltimore Orioles for Miguel Tejada and Wally Crancer. Pick up 20 of the remaining 26 million over the final 2 years of Tejada's contract.
Sign Bartolo Colon to a 1 year, 7 million dollar contract + incentives.
Sign Scott Linebrink to a 3 year, 18 million dollar contact.
Sign J.C. Romero to a 1 year, 3 million dollar contract with a mutual option for 2009.
Sign Geoff Blum to a 1 year, $950K contract.
Sign Mark Bellhorn to a minor league deal.
Sign Jose Cruz Jr. to a minor league deal.
Final 2008 Opening Day Roster:
C- J.R. Towles 1B- Lance Berkman 2B- Chris Burke SS- Miguel Tejada 3B- Ty Wigginton LF- Carlos Lee CF- Hunter Pence RF- Luke Scott
BN- Brad Ausmus, Geoff Blum, Mark Bellhorn, Josh Anderson, Jose Cruz Jr.