Interesting that others in the blogosphere have also --- independently? --- suggested that it would be a good idea to trade Zach Duke to Milwaukee for J. J. Hardy, a notion that we kicked around here on The Green Weenie a few days ago.
All of which got me thinking, in my best If-Only-I-Were-Neil-Huntington mode, about what should be done this offseason so 2010 will not resemble the train wreck that was 2009.
I would be on the horn to Milwaukee immediately re: Hardy. Even if his bat never comes all the way back to what he showed in 07-08, he is an athletic player who has plus power for his position and a plus glove.
I'd deal Duke for him in a heartbeat and have an open competition in spring training for Duke's spot among Daniel McCutchen, Brad Lincoln and Kevin Hart and see what happens. I'd hope Lincoln would go north with the team as he really has nothing left to prove in the minors, and Hart, I suspect, is better suited to bullpen duty. This would mean all 3 pitchers would make the team, with McCutchen and Lincoln at the back of the rotation.
While this would leave us a bit thinner in terms of overall pitching depth, we still have Jeff Karstens and, possibly, Phil Dumatrait as long men and/or fill-ins in the event of injury or ineffectiveness, and presumably some of our young guns will soon be within shouting distance of Pittsburgh as they come up through the minors. We could also, of course, either make a big splash with a veteran starting pitcher free agent, or we could go trolling through the junk bin (where we got Dumatrait).
But the main point is that we have some pitching depth from which to deal---for once. Hardy would be an ideal buy low player whose star has dimmed but who is unquestionably young enough to bounce back. Plus, he'd be ultra-motivated against Milwaukee, and we can't punch them in the nose enough times to suit me.
I'm not sure about Andy LaRoche, whether at third base or at second. Certainly his so-so bat would play better at 2B than it did at 3B this season, but it's so hard to say with him because his minor league career was uniformly excellent and with his very good defense I would be willing to try him again at third next year, at least until Alvarez comes up. On the other hand, Alvarez may well be a first baseman, in which case maybe we ought to move Andy to second and take an extended look at Neil Walker at third.
Yes to Rick Ankiel as an offseason signing, except of course for the unfortunate fact that he has satan as his agent. Xavier Nady---another name being suggested in some circles---does, too, by the way. I wouldn't mind either of those guys because Ankiel is way better than Brandon Moss if he can return to his 07-08 form (he's also better defensively) and Nady, even with his elbow, is way better than Steve Pearce, who shouldn't be anywhere close to our roster next season or any season after that. But there again, we have Garrett Jones to consider, and we have Alvarez to consider.
FWIW, I'd move LaRoche to second at least temporarily so we could evalute both him and Walker until the All Star break. Jones would be my 1B with Ankiel in right until Alvarez comes up. (I don't believe in Clement at Indy.) If Alvarez is in shape, he becomes the 3B with Walker moving to a Jose Bautista 3B-OF utility role.
If not, he becomes the 1B and Ankiel would then switch off with Jones and Milledge and even McCutchen when he needs the occasional day off. Moss would probably be gone by this point, if in fact he even made the team at all out of spring training. It's hard to see where he would fit if we sign Ankiel or a similar player in the offseason.
Anyway, Ankiel would allow us to keep Tabata at Triple-A until after the All Star break, at which point we could bring him up and work him in gradually (again, no role for Moss, unless we want to save the bucks and not bother to sign Ankiel in the first place; either way Tabata is the future at one corner spot).
Evan Meek would be my closer in the 'pen, and I'd bring Mike Gonzalez back as fast as possible to be our main lefthander. Etc and so forth.
This is of course very preliminary and off the cuff. But our lineup would look like this:
CF Andrew McCutchen
2B Andy LaRoche
1B Garrett Jones
RF Rick Ankiel
C Ryan Doumit
SS J. J. Hardy
LF Lastings Milledge
3B Neil Walker
Rotation: Maholm, Morton, Ohlendorf, D. McCutchen, B. Lincoln (or a veteran placeholder until Lincoln is called up)
Long Relief / Spot Starters: Jeff Karstens, Phil Dumatrait (though either or both could be replaced this offseason and both have had some health issues)
Short Relievers: Jesse Chavez, Mike Gonzalez, Matt Capps, Joel Hanrahan, Kevin Hart; Dumatrait would be the second lefty here if healthy, though Hart might be the man if we decide to keep just one leftie, and either Hart or Dumatrait or both could end up back at Indy.
This hurts me personally because I've always liked Dumatrait and the guy can unquestionably pitch on the rare occasions when he is physically sound. It's just that he's never physically sound. Well, almost never. Anyway, someone here is probably going to get bumped, because the Pirates won't go with a 12 man pitching staff. But because I'm not yet sure how this will shake out, I'm listing 27 players here instead of 25.
Closer: Evan Meek
Bench: Delwyn Young, Jason Jaramillo, Brandon Moss (until Tabata is ready), some combination of 3 other players, likely 1 internal and 2 veterans signed in the offseason. Jack Wilson just might be back. Or the team could choose to keep Cedeno around, only this time as a backup rather than as the starter (something I would much prefer, and which is a no-brainer if we get Hardy). And so on.
That's not a great team, but it's not bad on paper, and I think we'd have at least a fighting chance at ending our run of losing seasons. And of course, we're now getting to the point at which our internal reinforcements coming up from the minors should---emphasis on "should"---start telling by the middle of next season. I'd gladly take my chances with this roster for a year or two while we wait for the kids to get here.
(GW regular Will Pellas puts on his GM cap, and presto - the 2010 Buccos! His piece is certainly a strong starting point for the winter's hot stove league. Ya listening, Neal?)