|The quest for respectability|
Written by Bjoern Hartig (Contact & Archive) on February 23, 2009
Over at the Hardball Times, Craig Brown analyses which perennial loser has the best chances to finish with a winning record. The candidates are the Washington Nationals, the Baltimore Orioles, the Kansas City Royals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Nationals have done the most to improve the team on the market with the acquisition of Adam Dunn. However, the Nationals have also created new problems:
Already stocked with a plethora of corner outfield types, the additions of Dunn and Willingham add to the logjam. Dunn obviously will play somewhere — either left field or first base. If he’s at first, that displaces the oft-injured Nick Johnson, who could be trade bait. The top question in the Nats camp is whether Johnson can recapture the form he showed when he was last healthy in 2006; he hit .290/.428/.520 that year.
First baseman and defensively challenged corner outfielders are usually not too easy to trade, but in Anaheim, designated first baseman Kendry Morales is unproven and if he slumps through the early months, the Angels may be interested to take on Nick Johnson.
Regarding the "loser turns it around" question, my money is on the Kansas City Royals. While the Nationals may have improved the most, they were really, really bad and they still don't have any pitching. The Royals meanwhile have Zach Greinke and some servicable arms (Meche, Bannister) and while their offense is nothing to write home about, they have a solid lead-off man in David DeJesus, two young bats ready to take the next step in Alex Gordon and Billy Butler and they play in the rather mediocre AL Central. I'm not saying that the Royals will be this years Rays (Rockies, Tigers ...), but they have a good chance to be respectable.