The Awe-Inspiring Outfield
The Texas Rangers have two new center field options. They recently signed Marlon Byrd, who started for the Phillies and hit .300 in 2003, and have apparently agreed to a contract with Kenny Lofton.
That means the outfield now consists of those two, Brad Wilkerson, Frank Catalanotto, Freddy Guzman, and Nelson Cruz. There's a lineup that will strike fear into no one. Here's hoping they don't leave us pining for the days of Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix.
Now there's potential here. Cruz has serious upside. There's always the chance Wilkerson was hindered by that bum shoulder and didn't just outright suck. And Rudy Jaramillo coaching a former .300 hitter is often a plus. But that is way too many if's. The good news is maybe this, and Mike Piazza signing with the A's, means Jason Botts finally gets a legitimate shot to prove he can hit. But there's another if.
So let me repeat myself: Barry Zito must be signed. And not for just the obvious reason that he doesn't require as much offensive help. Also, because if he and Mark Mulder, who reports indicate sees the Rangers as his top choice, fill out a rotation that would be set for at least three years, maybe you can use your prospects, then, to acquire a top outfielder. Say Vernon Wells?
Now Wells is a year removed but the Blue Jays, who figure to be unable to resign the guy, have made him available. If you get to the season's second half with four solid starters and Robinson Tejeda maybe you can spare the prospects necessary to get the deal done. But, if you do, you better follow the trade by immediately getting him extended.
That would be more money than Tom Hicks would appear willing to spend, but he said he'd do it for the right players. I think Wells is the right player. That would give you Wells, Zito, Padilla, and Millwood with long term deals. You could any other major bucks on keeping Michael Young and Mark Teixiera. This should give you a solid foundation to move parts in and out around as needed.
But again: it all hinges on Zito.