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  • Restoring the rosters: No. 29 - Kansas City

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    This is part of a series articles examining what every team's roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I'm compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.

    No. 30 - Cincinnati

    As I'm starting out writing these articles, I still don't have a set order for how I'm going to rank most of the teams. However, three rosters really stood out from the pack with only a casual view. One of those rosters will take the top spot in the rankings. The other two belonged to Kansas City and Cincinnati.

    Rotation
    Zack Greinke
    Luke Hochevar
    Chad Durbin
    Kyle Snyder
    Glendon Rusch

    Bullpen
    J.P. Howell
    Jeremy Affeldt
    Kiko Calero
    Mike MacDougal
    Brian Sanches
    Brian Bass
    Tim Byrdak

    Well, the Royals have an ace. And the bullpen looks pretty solid with Howell, Affeldt and Calero. Unfortunately, there's just no rotation after Greinke and Hochevar, and Hochevar has a 5.40 ERA despite showing signs of improvement this year.

    Durbin, Snyder and Rusch all had ERAs right around 6.00 in their Royals career, combining to go 25-56. Still, they might at least be able to eat some innings. One could argue for putting Howell or Affeldt in the rotation, but both had plenty of time to succeed as starters and never did. They're almost certainly more valuable protecting leads, not that they'd have much chance of that on this squad.

    If you think Tom Gordon might have something left, you can squeeze him in over Bass or the third lefty, Byrdak. There isn't much else to choose from.

    Lineup
    LF Johnny Damon
    CF Carlos Beltran
    RF David DeJesus
    DH Billy Butler
    3B Alex Gordon
    2B Mark Ellis
    1B Kila Ka'aihue
    SS Mike Aviles
    C Matt Treanor

    Bench
    INF Joe Dillon
    C Sal Fasano
    OF Mitch Maier
    INF Andres Blanco

    Kansas City's lineup outshines its pitching staff, thanks largely to a pair of outfielders who have long since moved on. DeJesus will have to play out of position in right, but that's still a strong outfield. The rest of the group is less impressive. Butler and Gordon still have some work to do to prove they're going to be above average regulars. Ellis is solid, but prone to injury and there isn't much behind him. I'm going with Ka'aihue at first, with Dillon as his platoonmate against lefties. Aviles gets the nod at short, since the only alternative is Blanco. Treanor and Fasano comprise the catching duo, leaving Paul Phillips out of the mix.

    Mike Sweeney didn't make the cut. Dillon is probably the better hitter right now, and he offers some versatility.

    Summary

    GM Dayton Moore doesn't deserve much of the blame for this mess, even if it does look like the Royals are 0-for-3 in hiring GMs since John Schuerholz left in 1990. Herk Robinson brought in Beltran and Damon, but that's still not much of a haul for a 10-year reign, and Allard Baird's run was brutal. If it seems that the Royals have had a lot of bad luck when it comes to prospects, they've brought much of it on themselves. They overworked their young pitchers, and they encouraged their young hitters to be overly aggressive at the plate. Those practices seem to have stopped, and the team's drafts have gotten considerably better under Moore. Still, it's going to be a long time before the turnaround is complete.

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  • Restoring the rosters: No. 30 - Cincinnati

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    I'm kicking off a new series reviewing what all 30 teams would look like if they included only players originally signed by the club. The ground rules:

    1. Players are assigned to the team with which they made their professional or U.S. debuts. Japanese and Cuban imports are being included. As far as I can tell, Angel Guzman is the only player considered who signed with a team but never played for them at any level. As a result, he's listed with the Cubs, rather than the Royals.

    2. Officially retired players are ineligible, but players simply out of the league are fair game. That includes players currently in Japan.

    There aren't going to be any scientific rankings here. I'm choosing players based on some combination of 2008-09 performance and 2010 projected value. Injured players are being included if, in my personal opinion, they're good bets to bounce back. For instance, Tim Hudson will lead Oakland's rotation, while Jeremy Bonderman gets viewed as a fifth-starter candidate and Mark Mulder won't be showing up at all.

    I'll be ranking the assembled rosters from No. 30 to No. 1. The plan is to cover two teams per day.

    So, let's jump right in. Two teams earned consideration for the bottom spot, but it was truly an easy choice in the end. Ladies and gentleman, here are your Cincinnati Reds.

    Rotation
    Johnny Cueto
    Homer Bailey
    Dustin Moseley
    Brett Tomko
    Buddy Carlyle

    Bullpen
    Trevor Hoffman
    Todd Coffey
    B.J. Ryan
    Josh Roenicke
    Carlos Fisher
    John Koronka
    Zach Stewart

    The sad thing is that this isn't even a bump in the road for the Reds. Cueto's future looks very promising, but before him, they hadn't developed a legitimate major league starter since Tomko, who debuted in 1997, or a good one since Tom Browning, who arrived in 1984.

    The fifth spot came down to Carlyle or Koronka. Koronka has a 6.25 ERA in 30 starts and one relief appearance as a major leaguer, while Carlyle is at 5.58 in 27 starts and 75 relief appearances. Before running either to the mound, I'd want to find out if Jack Armstrong or Scott Scudder feels up to making a comeback.

    The bullpen is in slightly better shape with Hoffman, who spent two years as an infielder and two as a pitcher in the Reds system before being plucked by the Marlins in the expansion draft. A rebound from Ryan would go a long way. Rounding out the staff are the two young relievers the Reds surrendered for Scott Rolen last week: Roenicke and Stewart. Sadly, that left no room for Scott Williamson, who has allowed 10 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in the minors this season.

    Lineup
    CF Chris Dickerson
    1B Joey Votto
    C Ryan Hanigan
    LF Adam Dunn
    RF Jay Bruce
    2B Aaron Boone
    3B Adam Rosales
    SS Paul Janish

    Bench
    OF Chris Denorfia
    OF Austin Kearns
    C Paul Bako
    INF Zach Cozart
    INF-OF Todd Frazier

    To go along with their two quality pitchers, the Reds also have two above average regulars in Votto and Dunn. Unfortunately, those two, Bruce and Dickerson are all left-handed hitters. For that reason, I've slid Hanigan into the third spot in the lineup, which seems like a better choice than batting Boone second. When the Reds face a lefty starter, Denorfia should start over Dickerson in the leadoff spot.

    The infield is just brutal, aside from Votto, but there aren't any alternatives. Even Edwin Encarnacion was originally a Ranger. Cozart gets the utility gig over fellow prospect Chris Valaika. If the Reds actually had this group, they'd likely be concentrating on Frazier as an infielder. He's played mostly left field in the minors this year. Juan Francisco also provides some home for the future.

    The lone tough call here was whether to go with Bako or Jason LaRue as the backup catcher.

    Summary

    No other team truly compares. The only thing the Reds have done worse than identifying young talent is developing it. Jim Bowden, who remarkably lasted 10 1/2 seasons as the team's GM before being fired in July 2003, deserves a lot of the blame, with much of the rest going to those who kept him in power. Particularly given how little depth there is behind this abysmal group, a major league team using this roster would be lucky to win 40 games.

  • Pirates to pay for giving up on Gorzy

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    Seven pitchers have started games for the Pirates this season, with ERAs ranging from 3.45 to 6.09. Tomorrow, that number will expand to eight, with the newly acquired Kevin Hart making his debut for the Diamondbacks. Going the other way in that trade with the Cubs was Tom Gorzelanny, who, quite bizarrely, wasn't included in the group of starters.

    Despite some lingering questions about the health of his arm, Gorzelanny was considered one of the Pirates' building blocks two years ago, when he went 14-10 with a 3.88 ERA as a 24-year-old. A complete and total collapse followed in 2008, as he finished 6-9 with a 6.66 ERA. He allowed more walks (70) and homers (20) in 105 1/3 innings than he did in 201 2/3 innings the year before. He didn't miss time due to injury until mid-September, when he injured a finger ligament. He did complain of shoulder tightness in April, but he pitched through it.

    When spring 2009 arrived, the assumption was that Gorzelanny would have every opportunity to win back his rotation spot. However, after some early struggles, he was sent down with still more than two weeks to go. When he was recalled in mid-May, it was to pitch out of the pen, a role he had never filled as a pro. The Pirates didn't even give him a couple of appearances in Triple-A for him to get used to it. He spent three weeks on the roster, giving up five runs in 8 2/3 innings, and then returned to starting in Triple-A. From that point on, he went on an incredible roll, posting a 1.17 ERA in eight starts for Indianapolis. Still, the Pirates opted to trade him without ever taking another look at him. It wasn't a money issue, as he's making barely more than the minimum. He's not going to be eligible for free agency until after 2013.

    The Cubs wasted no time in putting Gorzelanny into the rotation after acquiring him, and he allowed one run and three hits over 7 1/3 innings in his debut Tuesday. He struck out six and walked just one. The now 27-year-old lefty looked nothing like the pitcher he did last year. He was throwing 89-92 mph consistently and showing an improved slider. As should have been obvious to anyone, he still has the stuff to win in the big leagues.

    Of course, there's no guarantee it will last. Gorzelanny has had elbow issues in the past, and we know from last year that he can lose his command and become completely useless in the blink of an eye. He's also not exactly a slave to conditioning. But the Pirates treated him as little more than a throw-in in a deal that brought them two expendable pitchers from the Cubs. This wasn't Ian Snell, who failed in back-to-back years and no longer wanted to pitch for Pirates. This was a guy who had one bad year. It's mindblowing that the Pirates never gave him a second chance. If Tuesday's performance was any indication, they'll be regretting it soon enough.

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  • What we're watching: Big starts for Penny, Price

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    - After playing a dramatic 13-inning game Tuesday, the Red Sox and Rays will be looking for long outings from their starters tonight. Unfortunately for them, Brad Penny and David Price aren't very good bets to turn them in. Penny has averaged 5.5 innings per start while going 7-5 with a 5.07 ERA. He's yet to go seven full innings this year. Price did pitch seven innings last time out, doing so for the second time this year. However, that was against the Royals. He's averaged 5.0 innings on is way to a 4-4 record and a 5.10 ERA.

    - It probably wouldn't have made the list under normal circumstances, but tonight's Brewers-Dodgers game could feature fireworks if there's still some fight left in Prince Fielder after he tried to charge the Dodger clubhouse following Tuesday's game. Perhaps Fielder will simply let his bat do the talking against the Dodgers' Jason Schmidt, who has been throwing 85-88 mph since returning last month. Dodger bats should make some noise as well. Braden Looper has allowed 11 runs over 11 innings in his last two starts, and he gave up four homers when he faced Los Angeles back on July 10.

    Game of the Night

    Colorado vs. Philadelphia - Two of the game's hottest left-handers will face off as the Phillies try to break a three-game losing streak. They'll turn to J.A. Happ, who has lost two in a row since his 7-0 start. Run support has played a big role there, though, as the Phillies scored a total of one run in the two losses. Happ had a 2.93 ERA and a 1.05 ERA during July. Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa was 5-0 with a 2.50 ERA last month. He's won seven starts in a row and lowered his ERA from 5.81 to 4.68 in the process.

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  • Three Cuban defectors now up for grabs

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    ESPN's Jorge Arangure reports that Cuban defectors RHP Yadel Marti, OF Yasser Gomez, and RHP Juan Yasser Serrano have been declared free agents and are now eligible to sign.

    That's according to their agent, Jaime Torres. The three players all defected at the end of last year. Marti, who is listed as 25, will likely be the most sought after of the three. He pitched 12 2/3 scoreless innings and went 2-0 in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. While he lacks an above average fastball, his arsenal might make him a quality middle-of-the-rotation starter anyway. If he signs quickly and shows that he's in shape, he could find himself on a major league roster, perhaps as a reliever, in September.

    Gomez, 28, could also contribute soon, but he's probably going to prove to be a reserve outfielder. Serrano has a poor track record and likely will have to settle for a minor league contract.

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  • Red-hot Abreu making 29 teams look foolish

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    The faltering economy didn't take much of a toll on CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett last winter, thanks to the Yankees' lavish buyout plan, but those unwanted by the Bombers had to scramble to find refuge and many remained unemployed until February. Take Bobby Abreu, for instance. Too many quality GMs believed they were already set at the outfield corners and too many lousy ones weren't bright enough to see that he was still a fine player. After talking with the A's and White Sox, Abreu ended up accepting $5 million from the Angels just days before camp opened. It was an $11 million paycut.

    Of course, Abreu has proven to be a bargain, even if he didn't hit his first homer until May 26. He's currently batting .322/.417/.455 with 22 steals in 27 attempts. He ranks sixth in the AL in average, third in OBP, tied for fifth in steals and 11th in runs created. He was just named the AL's player of the month for July, mainly because he led the circuit with 28 RBI. His defense, much maligned during his final season in New York, has graded out as practically average this year.

    Abreu is on pace to play in 150 games and post an 800 OPS for the 12th straight seasons. With one more homer, he'll join Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan and Willie Mays as the only players with 250 homers, 2,000 hits, 1,000 runs, 1,000 RBI, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases.

    Unlike those five guys, Abreu hasn't quite performed at a Hall of Fame level. He's never led the league in average, OBP, slugging, homers, runs, RBI or steals. His only "black ink" comes from when he led the NL in doubles in 2002 and tied for the lead in Triple-A in 1999. He actually led the majors in walks in 2006, but that was the year he was traded from the Phillies to the Yankees at midseason. His highest ever finish in the MVP balloting was 14th place in 2005, which actually was pretty far down the list of his best seasons. He's appeared in just two All-Star Games.

    Abreu deserves much better treatment than he's deserved through the years. He's not one of the game's greats, but he's been awfully effective for a long time. Worse players have been enshrined in Cooperstown. It's going to be very interesting to see how he's treated when he's a free agent again this winter. Abreu will turn 36 next spring, and he's not known for his conditioning. Still, the remarkable durability should make him a candidate for one more multiyear deal, likely at significantly more than the $5 million he's earning this season.

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  • What we're watching: Halladay set to take on Bombers

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    - Still a Blue Jay, Roy Halladay will make the first of what will be back-to-back starts against the Yankees tonight in Toronto. Halladay last year became the first pitcher since Luis Tiant in 1974 to beat the Bombers five times in a season. This year, he's faced them twice and gone 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA. Starting for the Yankees will be Andy Pettitte, who is 8-6 with a 4.51 ERA for the season after going 0-3 in his last five starts. He is 4-2 with a 3.42 ERA away from Yankee Stadium, with one of those victories coming over the Blue Jays.

    - In a rematch of last year's ALCS Game 7, Jon Lester and Matt Garza will face off with the Red Sox in Tampa Bay. Lester lost both of his starts against the Rays in the postseason last year. He was also handed his worst defeat of 2009 when he gave up eight runs in 4 1/3 innings against Tampa Bay on May 9. However, he has a 2.82 ERA since that date. Garza has faced the Red Sox three times this season, going 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA. Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew and Jason Varitek have all hit .200 or worse against him in their careers.

    - It will be up to Johan Santana to stop the bleeding after the Mets lost three out of four at home to the Diamondbacks. He'll get the Cardinals and Joel Pineiro tonight. Pineiro, one of the league's hottest starters, went 3-0 with a 1.22 ERA in five starts last month. That doesn't even count the two-hit shutout he pitching the Mets on June 23. Santana has turned in seven scoreless innings in three of his last four starts. He's 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his two career starts against the Cardinals.

    Game of the Night

    Baltimore vs. Detroit - Sure, there are better teams facing off, but this one will feature one of baseball's best prospects making his major league debut and one of the AL's ERA leaders in his first start since being traded. The Orioles' Brian Matusz is being promoted from Double-A after going 11-2 with a 1.91 ERA in his first season in the minors. Since moving up to Bowie, he was 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA and a 46/11 K/BB ratio in 46 1/3 innings. Jarrod Washburn allowed a total of three runs in his last five starts for the Mariners, a stretch that started when he threw a one-hit shutout against the Orioles on July 6.

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  • Boston’s failed bid for King Felix won’t be its last

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    Sure, the Red Sox would have loved to add Roy Halladay had the price been right, but it seems clear now that he was never their No. 1 pitching target. As usual, while the media looked one way, the Red Sox thought outside the box and set their sights sky high. In this case, that meant targeting Felix Hernandez.

    While I may have argued differently a year ago, Hernandez clearly trumps Halladay as a property now. It's largely due to contract status and cash. When I ranked the top 50 pitchers for 2010-14 back in May, I had Halladay third and Hernandez fourth. However, money was left out of the equation then and it was close anyway.

    The contracts play a huge roll. Halladay will earn $15.75 million next year and is eligible for free agency at season's end. King Felix will ask for a huge raise from his current $3.8 million in arbitration, but he still probably won't clear $10 million next season. Also, he's under control for 2011.

    The Mariners never seemed to have any intention of trading Hernandez now, though the return would have been impressive. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times reported that they could have had Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Michael Bowden from the Red Sox. I can't think of a trade that ever brought a team a greater haul of young pitching. I'm not convinced that Baker has the list exactly right; my guess is that if the Mariners wanted both Buchholz and Bard from the list of eight players, then a couple of the other pitchers would have been ruled off limits. Still, in terms of quantity and quality, the Mariners would have faired quite well.

    Alternatively, they apparently could have had Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres, along with Buchholz, though that would have required them surrendering three of their top youngsters in Brandon Morrow, Carlos Triunfel and Phillippe Aumont. Under the circumstances, the two-team deal with Boston seemed like the better option.

    The Red Sox, and probably other teams as well, will again approach the Mariners about Hernandez this winter. There's still not going to be any urgency to trade him, but they might be more open to it if another round of contract talks fails to result in a long-term agreement. While most of the game's top young starters have been willing to give up a year or two of free agency in order to guarantee a lifetime of financial security, Hernandez has declined to sign a long-term deal. It's turned out to be a smart strategy for him; in the wake of his breakthrough season, he's in line to negotiate far better terms now than he might have a year ago. It might take something like $80 million for five years to lock him up now, and it's possible that Hernandez would still prefer to wait and see if there's a $200 million offer awaiting him in free agency.

    The Mariners should have the cash to play ball with Hernandez, but they can't risk having him depart in return for just two draft picks. The plan should be to make him a generous offer this winter and then consider moving him if he doesn't take it. With so few elite free agents available this winter -- particularly on the pitching side -- there probably won't ever be a better time to trade him.

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