Two sources, however, said that MLB will almost certainly allow the Expos to spend more than $50 million -- and one said perhaps as much as $55 million -- which would be at least an $8.3 million increase over the team's payroll for the 2004 season.Here's what I'd like to see happen: Bowden signs near league-minimum stopgaps for the team's holes, guys like Ramon Martinez and Jeff Cirillo. He then spends the $8-12 million or so he has to play around with on one player, either via free agency or trade. Who's the lucky guy? I don't have anyone specific in mind, but here are some ideas.
Peter Gammons' latest column doesn't have anything directly pertaining to the Expos, but there was this:
Tampa Bay is trying to clear salary and shopping SS Julio Lugo 1B-OF Aubrey Huff, OF Jose Cruz, closer Danys Baez and C Toby Hall. Lugo is a fine player, but his domestic abuse issue in Houston is scaring off teams such as Boston.Well, seeing as how Wil Cordero was considered a team leader with the 'Spos, I'm sure Lugo would fit right in. Anyway, Aubrey Huff is a very good hitter (OPS over 850 the last three years), fairly young (27), and makes under $5 million a year over the next two seasons. He's also kinda versatile, though on the low end of the defensive spectrum, having played LF, RF, 1B, and 3B. He played 87 games at third last year, and that's certainly an area of need for our team.
There are some real third basemen on the market as well. Aaron Gleeman of the Hardball Times has been going over the free agent scene position by position, and his third base article is full of guys with asterisks. Aside from Adrian Beltre, who's out of our league, there's Troy Glaus, a slugger who seems destined for a career at DH, and Corey Koskie, a Canadian. Koskie is interesting. He's a more than solid hitter and has a superb defensive reputation. Furthermore, he has been very much overlooked throughout his career, which, it is hoped, may help keep his price down. There are other things that may keep him affordable, though. In Gleeman's words,
Just looking at Koskie, you'd think he was all washed up. He does everything methodically, from walking to swinging a bat, and it often appears as though he's in a constant state of hurt. After every diving stop at third base that ends an inning, he rolls the ball back to the pitcher's mound and slowly ambles over to the dugout, like an old man who forgot his walker.Gleeman recommends a "short-term, incentive-based contract." Koskie fails the "Vidro Test" - he won't be good when the team is, as do most free agents. Bill James famously observed that with free agents, you're paying for the downside of a player's career. With the exception of 25 year old Adrian Beltre, pretty much all the free agents out there are going to fail the Vidro Test, which is why I keep advocating dirt cheap, one-year stopgaps. Koskie, however, would be a lot better than Bowden's apparent preference.
And in turning 32 years old next year Koskie, with his naturally bald head, molasses-like movements and sizeable injury history, might just be an old man in baseball terms.
Speaking of which, the reality of Jim Bowden continually interrupts my flights of free agent fancy. Check out this truly asinine column on MLB.com.
One of Bowden's top priorities is to re-sign third baseman Tony Batista, who filed for free agency last week. The Expos have offered him a multiyear deal, but both parties are far apart on dollar figures.I'd rather they gave him the money he wanted and kept it to one year.
What are the Expos' options if Batista is not re-signed? They have no one in the farm system that is ready to replace Batista. Then there's free agency. The Expos can't afford Adrian Beltre, and the asking price for Troy Glaus and Vinny Castilla will likely be lower than Beltre's, but the Expos still may not be able to afford one of those two players.Why would the Expos want to be able to afford one of those two players? One of them can't lift his arm above his waist and the other one just sucks. I don't like the way this offseason is looking. So far our interim GM has tried to resign an awful player in Tony the Baptist and trade for Jose Guillen when we already have Juan Rivera, who plays the same position better and for less. If Bowden does blow $8-10 million on a free agent, I fully expect it to be a guy like Eric Milton or Moises Alou, instead of someone who's, you know, good.