The editors at mlb.com
obviously sent all of the team correspondents a mass email ordering them to write Winter Meeting shopping list stories...pronto!
Well, their loss of editorial independence is your gain. Here, based on those stories and reports from a few of the hometown papers, is a summary of what the Cubs’ NL Central brothers might be looking for during next week’s meetings in Nashville:
NL Central teams posted four of the five worst bullpen ERAs in the National League last season, with Milwaukee (4.15/12th in NL), Houston (4.62/14th), Pittsburgh (4.77/15th) and Cincy (5.10/16th) positively embarrassing the Cubs (3.76/3rd) and Cardinals (4.00/9th). No surprise then that so many of the division’s teams are hoping to address bullpen issues.
The Brewers actually lost their best reliever, closer Francisco Cordero, who signed last week with the Reds, plus set-up man Scott Linebrink, who signed with the White Sox. (You think Kenny Williams will ask him to play centerfield
?) GM Doug Melvin says he doesn’t anticipate trading
for an established closer given the typical asking price, but he’s also understandably wary of the three remaining, free-agent closers—Gagne, Percival, and Dotel—given their colorful injury histories.
Sounds to me like Doug Melvin has a problem.
The Cards are counting on Mark Mulder to be part of their Opening Day roster; not so with Chris Carpenter, whose road back from injury will be longer. As a result, new GM John Mozeliak is looking for at least one quality starter, and the Saint Louies are “willing to deal younger pitching for expensive veteran arms.”
The team has also expressed interest in, but not yet offered contracts to, free agent starters Carlos Silva and Kyle Lohse.
If free agent shortstop and lead-off man David Eckstein walks, the Cards’ replacement candidates would include
Miguel Tejada, Jack Wilson, and free agent Cesar Izturis.
On behalf of Cub fans everywhere, I strongly recommend that the Cards go for Izturis.
Though Johnnie B. Baker seduced Cordero
into joining the Reds, the team still needs to punch up the league’s worst relief corps. They’re also on the lookout for a veteran starter to complement a rotation that currently includes Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, and young Homer Bailey.
They need a whole big bunch. The recent trade of Brad Lidge has created a vacancy for a closer, plus they’ll be looking for a couple of starters and a second baseman to replace retired legend Craig Biggio. General Manager Ed Wade’s shopping list has been said to include
, among others, Tad Iguchi, not-yet-a-Cub Kaz Matsui, and once-a-Cub Jon Lieber.
As laughingstock franchises go, the Pirates have decent outfield depth (Jason Bay, Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth, Xavier Nady, et al), which they might be able to parlay into some much-needed pitching help, particularly the right-handed relief pitching type.
On a closing side note, I just noticed that new Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington looks a lot like New Jersey Nets Coach Lawrence Frank
. Also, like the 13-year-old who delivers my newspaper.
(You'll find Carrie Muskat’s thoughts on the Cubs' plans for the Winter Meetings right here
. I didn’t bother to summarize them since the people who frequent this page have so many more interesting, insightful things to say than Carrie does.)