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arms market update

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a quick update on the market for pitchers as the winter meetings get underway:

jason jennings: tracy ringolsby poo-poos the talk of a jacque-jones-for-jennings deal; the rockies don't see jones as a solution to their hole in centerfield. they are, however, apparently getting a tempting offer from the astros, who might make cf willy taveras the centerpiece of a package for jennings. taveras fits the rockies' needs to a tee --- a) can cover the vast outfield pastures of coors field, and b) can bat leadoff. if the astros would add a decent pitching prospect to the package, the rox would likely be tempted. the same article suggests that the mets might offer lastings milledge and brian bannister, and that the twins have been seriously courting jennings, with discussions centered on talented young pitchers such as matt garza and boof bonser. scratch jennings off your list; there's no way the cardinals can match any of those offers.

tim hudson: the atlanta journal-constitution says hudson probably won't be dealt now that tom glavine has re-signed with the mets. the only reason the braves considered trading hudson at all was to clear payroll space for glavine; according to this article, the braves are still looking for depth in the rotation. i never quite understood what the cardinals could have offered in exchange for hudson anyway; anyway, you can probably scratch him off, too. . . . the article does say atlanta covets a left-handed reliever, and the cards have a surplus; perhaps there's an opening there for a minor deal of some type involving ricardo rincon.

the dodgers: per the la times, the dodgers are looking for a proven outfielder, with luis gonzalez and preston wilson as two of the candidates. if those guys are options, then juan encarnacion might be one as well --- and the article says the dodgers might be looking to deal. they already have expendable starting pitchers and are pursuing jason schmidt, which would fatten their surplus; unfortunately, st louis might be looking at pitchers like tomko or hendrickson in return, and that doesn't really help the team. the dodgers also need a setup man, and gm ned coletti likes veterans; with the market for relievers pretty much tapped out, maybe braden looper looks attractive to him. it has been suggested that los angeles would part with young right-hander chad billingsley in the right trade, and they need a left-handed bat; too bad they locked up nomar to play 1st base for the next two years, because a duncan-for-billingsley discussion might have gone somewhere.

the orioles: they remain logical trading partners. per the baltimore sun, the o's are willing to trade kris benson and might also deal hayden penn, a highly regarded prospect who has had a difficult start to his big-league career. he got manhandled last year in 6 big-league starts, but his minor-league record is sterling; baseball america ranked him as the 7th-best prospect in the international league (triple a) --- and the number-one right-handed pitching prospect. he has been a top-100 prospect two years running, has a plus fastball and a good curve. still only 21 years old, and has made only 14 starts at triple a --- not quite ready, but if jocketty could convince the orioles to part with him and benson for, say, chris duncan that'd be tempting. the orioles have been frustrated in their efforts to land an impact hitter; they've given up on adam dunn, richie sexson, and pat burrell and are now looking at the likes of emil brown, ben broussard, chris shelton, and jacque jones. that list reeks of juan encarnacion-ness, so a juan-for-benson deal would seem to remain a possibility. kris benson is a boring pitcher and not particularly good, but given the dearth of other realistic options. . . .

the pirates: the post-gazette says dave littlefield's search for a left-handed bat has led to dead-ends at adam dunn, mike jacobs, and brad hawpe; he's now pursuing lesser options such as james loney, ryan church, and casey kotchmann. i continue to hope (no doubt in vain) that jocketty can pry free one of pittsburgh's young starting pitchers in exchange for chris duncan, who is exactly the lh power hitter the pirates want desperately; but littlefield is so problematic to work with (read: stupid), and the risk of dealing within the division so great, that this near-perfect fit probably won't result in any action.

for what it's worth, here's the current state of the starting rotations in the nl central -- top 3 pitchers for each team:

cardinals astros reds cubs brewers bucs
carpenter
15-8, 3.09
oswalt
15-8, 2.98
arroyo
14-11, 3.29
zambrano
16-7, 3.41
capuano
11-12, 4.03
duke
10-15, 4.47
reyes
5-8, 5.06
woody
12-5, 3.65
harang
16-11, 3.76
hill
6-7, 4.17
sheets
6-7, 3.82
snell
14-11, 4.74
wells
2-5, 6.50
hirsh
3-4, 6.04
milton
8-8, 5.19
marshall
6-9, 5.59
bush
12-11, 4.41
maholm
8-10, 4.76

the reds and brewers seem to have the most depth, 1 through 3, with the astros slightly better positioned than st louis and chicago in pathetically bad shape. the cubs will likely try to spend their way to a solution by getting schmidt, lilly, or meche; houston still hopes andy pettitte will pitch for them next year, and there's always the clemens factor. as for the cardinals, their outlook for acquiring proven rotation help is not at all promising. i'm sure jocketty will do his best this week, but the cards aren't going to win a bidding war for a good pitcher in a market this overheated. it's looking increasingly likely that wainwright will end up back in the rotation (see erik's post from yesterday). that has been the common-sense solution all along; if they come around to it late, that's better than never. wainer has at least as good a chance to win 15 games next year as ted lilly or gil meche, and he's a lot less risky in a financial sense. given is'hausen's promising health status, there's no reason not to put adam back where he belongs, ie in the rotation --- and he may be "officially" slotted there by as soon as the end of this week.