I'm a Dodgers fan. It's not my fault. I was born into it. And they seduced me-they were really good back in the day. They made it to the World Series when I was 10, and again when I was 13, and again when I was 14, and again when I was 17, and again when I was 24. Those are highly impressionable ages.
So, I'm sorry, but I'll never be emotionally able to root for your Padres. Just not gonna happen.
But since I live in your town, and since you've shown me such warmth and kindness-and since your city has provided a job that allows me to say whatever the hell I want and distributes my opinion far and wide-I'm going to offer your baseball team some free advice that will help it compete with my Dodgers, who, by the way, are going to be very, very good for the next five to 10 years.
So, Padres General Manager Kevin Towers and President Sandy Alderson, don't despair another minute. I'm here to help. Here's what you do: Re-sign Dave Roberts, Mike Piazza and David Wells (but only if he'll come back for cheap), sign Barry Zito and trade for Alex Rodriguez. Done. National League West title in the bag.
Your team is close. You're just a couple of major pieces away from having a killer squad. You're set for a long time at first base (Adrian Gonzalez), second base (Josh Barfield) and shortstop (Khalil Greene may not hit above .250, but he's phenomenal defensively). You should bring back catcher Piazza, if you can get him at a reduced price, to platoon for another year with Josh Bard. Dude can still hit. Russell Branyan is an intriguing, cheap option at third, but that might be the only place to put a power hitter, if you can get your hands on one.
It gets interesting in the outfield. Right now, it's crowded with Roberts, Mike Cameron and Brian Giles, and Ben Johnson waiting in the wings. Word is your team is going to let Roberts go score runs in some other town. That's a mistake. He has to be re-signed. There aren't a lot of great leadoff hitters in the game, and you already have one. He finds a way to get on base, he steals second and then he scores. That's the idea. Pay him and keep him. It'd be nice if you could trade Giles and bring in a right-handed power hitter to play right field, but no one is likely to take his $18 million contract over the next two years. You may be stuck with him, but that's OK if he's hitting second and not third. So, you either have to trade Cameron (not optimal) and move Roberts from left to center, or find a power-hitting third baseman.
There's not a lot of power bats on the free-agent market this winter-particularly in the outfield-so third base really does seem like the place to focus attention. Forget about Seattle's Adrian Beltre; he hasn't proven himself beyond one great season and he's guaranteed $12 million a year through 2009-way too much. The best option on the free-agent market is Houston's Aubrey Huff, but he hits left-handed, and you need a right-handed hitter.
All signs point to Rodriguez. If you can get him, you can play him at shortstop if Greene fails to hit above .225, and play Branyan at third. Problem is, the Yankees are probably not going to trade their star third baseman for Scott Linebrink, Mark Bellhorn and a case of Bud Light. Other teams, such as the Phillies, will drive up the price. That's why you should offer Linebrink and Jake Peavy for Rodriguez and a couple of the Yankees' best minor-league hitters.
But you can't do that deal unless you first sign Zito to take Peavy's place atop the rotation. Zito, who went to high school in San Diego, will choose between the Padres and the Dodgers (if he decides to leave Oakland), and his money-grubbing agent, Scott Boras, will pull the Mets and Yankees into the sweepstakes just to drive up the price, but you need to make that happen or watch him lead the Dodgers to the World Series. The consolation prize is San Francisco's Jason Schmidt, probably not strong enough to compensate for the loss of Peavy.
My plan gets you a line-up of: Roberts, Giles, Rodriguez, Piazza/Bard, Gonzalez, Cameron, Barfield and Greene; and a rotation of Zito, Chris Young, Clay Hensley, David Wells and either Mike Thompson, Tim Stauffer, Chan Ho Park (if he re-signs here) or some No. 5 starter off the free-agent heap. If Wells doesn't re-sign, ink someone like Miguel Batista, Tony Armas or Steve Trachsel. Cla Meredith steps into Linebrink's eighth-inning role, and closer Trevor Hoffman, who should win the Cy Young Award this year, is signed relatively cheaply through 2008.
Did I say the Dodgers are going to be very, very good for the next five to 10 years?