The playoffs have begun, which means I'm thinking about what next year could bring. Showalter showed us the team we expected to see all season and with a promise of more experience, expectations are high for a .500 season and beyond. The problem being that there are some sizable question marks in the line-up. It's been blogged and reported ad nauseum that the Orioles need a "big bat" and a solution at third and/or first but questions remain at short where Cesar Izturis becomes a free agent.
Since I prefer a spectacular fielding shortstop to a third or first baseman, here's looking at the shortstop options:
First and foremost, our boy Cesar Izturis could easily be resigned in hopes that he can put together another solid defensive season with a sometimes surprising bat. We've all seen what he's done the last two years: rarely hurt, spectacular defense, and a bat that, while generally anemic, can surprise you in clutch at-bats. He seems to be the most likely to be signed, and probably with a 2- or 3-year contract as we all wait to see what becomes of Machado and Givens.
Of the birds waiting on the wire, Robert Andino could very easily take over as the everyday shortstop instead of as a utility player. His play in Triple-A was much improved as Andino showed off a powerful bat, solid average, yet frustrating defense at short and second. And when he made it back to the show he didn't seem as over matched as his full season in 2009. However impressed we were with his offensive numbers, we all recognize how overmatched he is defensively. Often looking lost, booting the ball or throwing it away. My guess is he'll remain as a utility guy.
The free agents are looking like an older bunch with Bobby Crosby, Adam Everett, Cristian Guzman, and Juan Uribe rounding off the under 35 options (without options); which is an underwhelming group. Sure, Juan Uribe put together a solid season at the plate with a .248/.310/.440/.749 line a surprisingly reasonable fielding percentage (.984) at short and (.957) third. I'm loathe to get in depth on Bobby Crosby and Cristian Guzman as they've been on the downslide for years now, but it should be noted that they did, at one time, show an ability to hit the ball consistently. And if Andy MacPhail is interested in a lighter hitter than Izturis, he could consider Everett.
For someone more unconventional, the Seibu Lions are prepared to post 28-year-old Hiroyuki Nakajima. I mentioned him after being impressed with his play and bat in the World Baseball Classic where he hit .364 with an .516 OBP behind Ichiro. Fangraphs says that Nakajima is the "second best hitter" in Japan, with "back-leg" power and speed, and solid fielding at short and third. In 2009 he hit .300/.368/.476/.845. Now, picking up a guy from Japan is always a crapshoot. Style of play differs, the ball is smaller, the competition is severely diminished, and the schedule is short, but there have been just as many successes as there have been failures. And with Koji Uehara a possibility to come back, it seems logical to go hard after Nakajima.
Lastly, there are players available in trades. Mets fans and talk radio have been clamoring that the new GM trade players to replenish their farm. The most important players of which being David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Ruben Tejada. Reyes is a free agent this offseason with a club option and buy out. That's to say, it's possible the Mets will pick up his option, it's possible they'll buy him out and he'll become a free agent. In either case, Reyes has it within him to be a stellar hitter and above average fielder at short or second. The problems have been with health. The man can't stay healthy for a season and there's no telling for certain if he'll ever hit .300/.354/.487/.841 again. It's possible, but then there's Ruben Tejada, a Top 10 Mets prospect the last two seasons. Though he was definitely rushed to The Show, he showed a good glove at both short and second and, with some seasoning, might develop the ability to be the hitter Izturis is...I'll let you debate whether that's a good or bad thing.
All those players aside, there are other trade possibilities that I have mentioned, and maybe some free agents that I ignored or essentially ignored that you think the world of. What are y'all thinking? ...of course, my vote is Nakajima.