Dominoes set to fall at winter meetings - NBC Sports

Dominoes set to fall at winter meetings
Angels, Dodgers, Royals, Braves among those likely to be most active
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The Angels may not be able to retainÿZack Greinke, and that leaves them with work to do.
December 2, 2012, 2:12 am

For all of Arte Moreno's money spent on Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and a couple of relievers, the Angels added only three victories from their 2011 regular-season total, doubled their run differential from +34 to +68, and stayed home in October.

Meanwhile, the world-champion San Francisco Giants proved again that it's often whom you add during the season - Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro to offset Melky Cabrera's PED-related suspension - that translates into post-season success.

The point being, don't get too carried away with what might occur at the winter meetings, which begin Sunday in Nashville. That said, a handful of contenders and wanna-be contenders face an urgent need to better set themselves up for 2013 success:

Los Angeles Angels: Here they are again, and this time, without the starting pitching everybody thought they had entering last season. So GM Jerry Dipoto's focus rightfully will be there.

The good news is they are down below $100 million in 2013 payroll with the departures of Ervin Santana, Torii Hunter, Dan Haren, Maicer Izturis and Bobby Wilson.

But they still may not be in position to retain Zack Greinke, as given the game's latest influx of television revenue, he likely will get the biggest-ever contract for a right-handed pitcher (CC Sabathia's $161 million leads the list).

The Angels letting Greinke get away after trading three of their top 10 prospects for him in July isn't the way to either short-term or long-term success. But it could happen anyway. And if it does, the next rung of targets, in order, should be Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse and Ryan Dempster.

At least one has to be signed if Grienke isn't, because as of now, Mike Scioscia's projected 2013 rotation is Jered Weaver, Wilson, Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams, along with the newly acquired Tommy Hanson.

Signing Ryan Madson for one year and up to $7 million was a low-risk, potentially high-reward move, and he'll join Ernesto Friero, Scott Downs and Kevin Jepsen in a group effort for those last nine outs on a nightly basis. That's depth made Jordan Walden expendable to bring Hanson over from Atlanta.

But in an already-fluid situation - and under a demanding, win-now-focused owner - you know there will be more additions coming, with much hinging on Greinke.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The local television rights deal they are currently negotiating will bring them staggering money - at least $6 billion over 25 years, according to the Los Angeles Times, meaning at least $240 million per year. That doesn't include national TV money, or ticket and concession revenues, so you see where they could take their payroll soon enough.

That means everybody could be in play. The first priority is starting pitching, which means Greinke is their top target to pair with Clayton Kershaw. Even with Chad Billingsley's 2013 in question, there would more than enough depth with Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly and Hyun-Jin Ryu, assuming they sign the last after winning negotiation rights. But another front-of-the-rotation type is needed if the Dodgers want to win in October.

Carl Crawford also is questionable for the start of 2013, but the longer-term question is do they keep him and Andre Ethier - both liabilities against left-handed pitching. And don't forget, they gave Cuban defector Yasiel Puig $42 million, so you know his big-league debut isn't far off.

They also gave Brandon League a generous three years and $22.5 million, but there is uncertainty surrounding Kenley Jansen's health, and not enough left-handed options for Don Mattingly. So expect another key bullpen addition.

Kansas City Royals: There were modest expectations for 2012, which were blown up due to substandard pitching and Eric Hosmer's sophomore slide.

The point of all this is that it's time for owner David Glass to step it up, spend some money - not crazy money, but enough to take a legitimate shot at the playoffs over the next couple of seasons. A bump-up to $75 million-$80 million would shift the burden to GM Drayton Moore.

They're smart enough to know Ervin Santana isn't going to be enough for a rotation in serious need. In fact, there's a chance he's closer to Jonathan Sanchez than Anibal Sanchez. So whether it's by trade or free agency, there will be another rotation addition or two.

Trading Wil Myers or Salvador Perez for a veteran starter makes sense in a general way, but this can be a dangerous trap. For every time this strategy works, there's an Eric Bedard-for-Adam Jones-plus or a Heathcliff Slocumb-for-Jason Varitek-Derek Lowe example out there. (Sorry, Mariners fans).

Instead, the position-player nucleus should remain intact, and the effort should be made to entice a No. 2-3 free-agent starter. If that fails, then try a deal involving lesser prospects than Myers for another middle-of-the-rotation option.

Atlanta Braves: After a 2011 collapse and 2012 wild card game defeat, the tweaking process already has begun. But all they've done so far is replace most of what's been lost: B.J. Upton for Michael Bourn and Gerald Laird for David Ross, with the Chipper Jones void left to be filled.

They've made Upton their highest-paid player, and with Jason Heyward and Martin Prado leading a long list of arbitration-eligibles, another major free-agent signing isn't going to happen. That makes a more-affordable Shane Victorino a possibility in a left field/leadoff role.

Beyond that option, it's Prado hitting first, and perhaps time to put one of the top pitching prospects in a deal for more certainty at either third base or left field. An outfield of Upton, Upton and Heyward certainly is an intriguing possibility, isn't it? Affordability may be another thing, though, as Justin Upton is due $38.5 million in 2013-15.

Atlanta-area native Dexter Fowler is cheaper possibility, especially with the Rockies' need for pitching, and reluctance to deal Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez. Acquiring Fowler would give the Braves arguably the game's best defensive outfield.


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