Winter meetings preview: NL teams

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Here’s a quick look at what the National League teams could be trying to do this week in Indianapolis.
Arizona – The Diamondbacks should have some money to spend, and they need a starter, a setup man, a first baseman and a closer. They probably won’t do any long-term deals, though, and they may well wait to bargain hunt late in the offseason. In the meantime, they’ll see if a Chris Snyder trade will fill one of the holes.
Atlanta – GM Frank Wren needs to move a starting pitcher, preferably Derek Lowe. That’d free up some money to use on an outfielder and/or a first baseman. Kelly Johnson is another a trade possibility, though he’ll likely be non-tendered. Ryan Church may be in the same boat. The Braves are also crossing their fingers hoping that free agent Rafael Soriano doesn’t accept arbitration prior to Monday’s deadline.
Chicago – Because of GM Jim Hendry’s need to do things in order, the Cubs have to trade Milton Bradley before really starting their offseason. It’s possible he’ll come off the books this week, allowing Hendry to go get the center fielder he wants (Mike Cameron?). The Cubs also need a second baseman and some rotation depth.
Cincinnati – The Reds would have much more room to maneuver if they could deal Francisco Cordero, Aaron Harang or Bronson Arroyo, but there’s little reason to think any will go this week. GM Walt Jocketty would surely like to improve at shortstop and likely in the outfield, but he may be stuck with the current lineup until a pitcher goes.
Colorado – There figures to be one last push to move Garrett Atkins before the non-tender deadline, but it’s doubtful anything will come of it. The Rockies can spare an outfielder, probably Brad Hawpe, in their hunt a starter to replace Jason Marquis. Also, they’ll know Monday night whether Rafael Betancourt will accept arbitration to stick around as a setup man. If he leaves, they’re expected to target LaTroy Hawkins.
Florida – As usual, the Marlins are shedding arbitration-eligible players. Jeremy Hermida is already gone, and Matt Lindstrom, Dan Uggla and Renyel Pinto likely will follow. The Marlins should get an outfielder at some point, allowing them to return Chris Coghlan to the infield. They could also use an innings-eater for the rotation.
Houston – The Astros need to rebuild their bullpen on a budget, which could mean finding cheaper replacements for Jose Valverde and Hawkins. At least the infield market is shaping up better for them now. They might re-sign Miguel Tejada to play third and find a bargain option to pair with Kaz Matsui at second (Ronnie Belliard?).
Los Angeles – The decision not to offer arbitration to Randy Wolf showed just how deep the Dodgers’ financial troubles run. Fortunately, the club doesn’t have too many needs; a starting pitcher is a must, but Blake DeWitt is an option at second base if the belt has to be tightened another notch. A Juan Pierre trade could help, but it’s highly unlikely that GM Ned Colletti would be able to shed much salary in such a deal.
Milwaukee – The Brewers are going cheap in center field and behind the plate, so they should have plenty of money to upgrade their rotation. Ideally, they’d land two reliable starters from the group of free agents. Wolf should top their list now that he’s not going to require draft-pick compensation. They’ll also be in the market for a setup man, and they’d like to re-sign utilityman Craig Counsell, who could be the next infielder off the board.
New York – Who knows? The Mets need a left fielder, a catcher, a first baseman, at least one starting pitcher and perhaps a setup man. Still, trading Luis Castillo and upgrading at second seems to be the top priority. As many holes as they have, it’d make sense to spread the wealth around rather than focus on Roy Halladay, John Lackey, Matt Holliday or Jason Bay.
Philadelphia – With third base taken care of, the aggressive Phillies are now focused on finding a setup man and fallback closer in case Brad Lidge fails to rebound. Ex-Tigers Brandon Lyon, who is also a target of the Yankees, and Fernando Rodney are two possibilities.
Pittsburgh – The Pirates seem determined to spend some cash, even though it could result in Jeff Clement being blocked. Xavier Nady, Rick Ankiel and Hank Blalock are a few of the players on their list. They’ll also consider trading Zach Duke, Matt Capps and Ryan Doumit, preferably for young pitching. Shortstop would be a nice position for an upgrade, but there just isn’t much available there. Tampa Bay’s Reid Brignac is one possible exception.
St. Louis – It’s been a slow developing winter for the Cardinals, as their finances are tied up in their bid to retain Holliday. If Holliday stays, they’ll almost certainly have to settle for cheap replacements at third base and in the rotation. If he exits, then they could sign Mark DeRosa or Miguel Tejada to play third and attempt to bring back Joel Pineiro for the rotation. Unfortunately for them, it’s doubtful the situation will be resolved this week.
San Diego – With Jed Hoyer still settling into his new role as the Padres’ GM, the team’s plans are unclear. There’s little chance of either Adrian Gonzalez or Heath Bell being traded this week, but Kevin Correia and Kevin Kouzmanoff might be possibilities. The Padres will keep their eyes open for a center fielder (Coco Crisp?) and cheap rotation help.
San Francisco – The Giants don’t appear prepared to jump into the bidding for one of the big free agents. They have cash to buy a first baseman, a catcher and an outfielder, but it appears as though they’ll look for guys willing to sign one- or two-year contracts. Perhaps GM Brian Sabean will surprise and move Jonathan Sanchez for long-term help at an infield corner or the outfield.
Washington – The Nationals’ biggest needs are in the rotation and the bullpen and they could land big-name free agents for both spots, but it shouldn’t happen this week. A Josh Willingham trade is a possibility for the meetings. The Nats will also try to find a defensive-minded shortstop, allowing them to send Ian Desmond back to the minors for the start of the year.

Billy Williams, Bill Murray and . . . Fall Out Boy!

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 08:  Former players Ferguson Jenkins (L) and Billy Williams of the Chicago Cubs throw out ceremonial first pitches before the Opening Day game against the Milwaukee Brewers during the Opening Day game at Wrigley Field on April 8, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Major League Baseball has announced the on-field ceremonial stuff for tonight’s Game 3 of the World Series. There are a couple of good things here! And one bit of evidence that, at some point when he was still commissioner, Bud Selig sold his mortal soul to a pop punk band and now the league can’t do a thing about it.

The ceremonial first pitch choice is fantastic: it’s Billy Williams, the Hall of Famer and six-time All-Star who starred for the Cubs from 1959 through 1974. Glad to see Williams here. I know he’s beloved in Chicago, but he has always seemed to be one of the more overlooked Hall of Famers of the 1960s-70s. I’m guessing not being in the World Series all that time has a lot to do with that, so it’s all the more appropriate that he’s getting the spotlight tonight. Here’s hoping Fox makes a big deal out of it and replays it after the game starts.

“Take me out to the ballgame” will be sung by the guy who, I assume, holds the title of Cubs First Fan, Bill Murray. It’ll be wacky, I’m sure.

The National Anthem will be sung by Chicago native Patrick Stump. Who, many of you may know, is the lead singer for Fall Out Boy. This continues Major League Baseball’s strangely strong association with Fall Out Boy over the years. They, or some subset of them, seem to perform at every MLB jewel event. They have featured in MLB’s Opening Day musical montages. They played at the All-Star Game this summer. Twice. And, of course, they are the creative minds behind “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark,” (a/k/a “light ’em MUPMUPMUPMUP“) which Major League Baseball and Fox used as incessant playoff bumper music several years ago. I don’t ask for much in life, but one thing I do want is someone to love me as much as Major League Baseball loves Fall Out Boy. We all do, really.

Wayne Messmer, the former public address announcer for the Cubs and a regular performer of the National Anthem at Wrigley Field will sing “God Bless America.”

Between that and Bill Murray, I think we’ve found out the Cubs strategy for dealing with Andrew Miller: icing him if he tries to straddle the 6th and 7th innings.

Imagining a daytime World Series game at Wrigley Field

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 27:  A overall shot of the scoreboard showing the postponement of the game in Baltimore because of riots before the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 27, 2015 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Night baseball first came to the World Series in 1971, when the Pirates played the Orioles in Game 4. The last World Series game played under natural light came in 1984, when the Tigers played the Padres in Detroit in Game 5 of that year’s Fall Classic. The last World Series game played during daytime hours was Game 6 of the 1987 World Series, but that came in Minneapolis, in the Metrodome, so it was still played under artificial light. All games since then have been played in the evening hours.

Ever since, there have been periodic calls for the World Series to include day games. These appeals are often grounded in tradition and nostalgia for bright sunshine making way for long shadows. For memories of sneaking transistor radios into classrooms. For the symbolism of the sun setting on both the day at hand and the baseball season as a whole.

It’s an appealing idea. Baseball in the daytime is a wonderful, wonderful thing. And while day baseball may be occasionally miserable for fans and players in the heat of August, October afternoons are often the loveliest weather there is. There is nothing better than fall sunshine. A baseball game in that fall sunshine seems like the closest one can get to heaven on Earth.

Unfortunately, it’s a wholly unrealistic idea in this day and age. Far fewer people would actually get to watch the World Series if it were played during the day. We complain about late games lasting into the wee hours, preventing kids from watching, but how many kids are going to be able to watch a World Series game when they’re in school? Or at after school extracurricular activities? And how many people can ditch work to watch a baseball game? Some say to put one of the day games on the weekend, but that clashes with other activities and, of course, with football, which is going to win the battle for the remote in more households than baseball would.

Yes, the networks and Major League Baseball are in it for the money and the TV ratings, but the fact is that the money and the ratings are a function of more people watching baseball games in the evening, kids and grownups alike. It’s pretty straightforward, actually. More people watching baseball is better for the people and for baseball, full stop, aesthetics and commercial motivations notwithstanding. For this reason the World Series will almost certainly be played at night for the foreseeable future. And it should be.

Still . . . it’s Wrigley Field, the last bastion of day-only baseball for decades. A place where, even if they now play most games at night, still features more day baseball than anyplace else. And it’s a sunny Friday afternoon on which the temperatures will creep into the 60s. I know it would never happen and certainly won’t happen today, but the idea of an afternoon World Series game in Wrigley Field makes even a hard-headed, bottom-line-appreciating anti-nostalgist like me sorta wish today was a day game. If I close my eyes I can imagine it. I can feel the warm breeze and smell the fall afternoon air. I’m sure many of you can too.

And even if you can’t, can we agree that maybe today should be a day game simply for public health purposes? I mean, get a load of this:

These people will have been drinking for at least 11 hours come game time. Many of them for much longer. You’re probably looking at some dead men walking, here. For the sake of their livers and personal safety, this game should start at 1pm, dang it. If even that is early enough to save them.