What with the economy being at the forefront of our collective consciousness right now, people are trying to save money however possible. Which, of course, is boring and sucks. But it got us to thinking - if you were to try and build a baseball team on the cheap, who would be the best players to take? Rules of this draft are: anyone who's taken cannot qualify as a rookie, so they must have had 100 ABs or 80 IP, they must have made under $1,000,000 last year (salaries taken from USA Today's Salary Database and Cot's Baseball Contracts), and they can't have signed a multiyear extension between Opening Day of '08 and now. Also, we're going to try to avoid playing around with position switches. Past and future seasons are taken into account. Here we go kiddos: a 25-man roster all making under a mil.
C Geovany Soto ($401,000) Geo, the NL's best rookie last year, managed to slug .500 while being a solid backstop. He dropped 23 bombs last year, and if he improves, he could be the best receiver in the game. Until Matt Wieters comes along, that is.
1B Joey Votto ($390,000) Votto had a case to be the ROY over Soto last year, but his Reds were nothing compared to Soto's Cubs. And that never goes over well with the voters. Votto, like Soto, has already established himself as one of the premier players at his position, and they've got plenty of growing to do.
2B Kelly Johnson ($430,000) There's not a lot of good talent at the keystone, and what good players there are cost quite a bit. But Johnson is one of the best players at the position after making a successful transition there from the outfield, and he's still cheap.
3B Edwin Encarnacion ($450,000) Third base is another position where there's not a lot of cheaply available talent, but Encarnacion is a good one. His average dropped significantly last year to .251, but he's still posting an above-average 106 OPS+, which tells you a lot about his secondary skills.
SS Troy Tulowitzki ($750,000) Shortstop is stocked with high end talent, but none of them come so cheaply as Tulo. He posted an excellent rookie year, coming in 2nd in the ROY voting, and his name Troy Trevor Tulowitzki. As alliteration aficionadoes, we really like that. His down year can be attributed to injuries, and we're betting that he's recovered enough this year to get back to old form.
LF Nate McLouth ($425,000) McLouth is a center fielder by trade, but he can't really play the position very well. He won a Gold Glove despite being arguably the worst glove in the league at his position, so we're shifting him over to left on our squad. He'll be good for 20-20 seasons for years to come.
CF Adam Jones ($390,000) Jones , on the other hand, is a premier defender, plus his bat projects to be one of the best in center field. Like everyone else on the team, he is young and improving, and we think he's going to grow into a star.
RF Ryan Ludwick ($411,000) Ludwick was fantastic last season, which was just his third with over 100 ABs. That, despite the fact that he's the senior citizen on this team, at the ripe old age of 29. We're concerned that he may have been a fluke performer last year, but we just can't ignore a .299/.375/.591 line. Read that again, and then remember that he finished 16th in MVP voting despite out-OPSing 8 of the hitters ahead of him on the list.
BN Jay Bruce ($390,000) Bruce was superhuman in the week following his callup, but then regressed to being just another rookie. However, he still has all the talent that made him such a huge prospect, and in his second season, it should really shine.
BN Howie Kendrick ($432,500) We're still intrigued by Kendrick's preternatural ability to put his bat on the ball despite the fact that he can't seem to stay healthy. But we're all for having a high-contact, good speed guy on the bench. By limiting his ABs, we should be able to keep him healthy, and his skills play well for spot duty.
BN Matt Kemp ($406,000) Kemp would be starting if not for the fact that we didn't want to play around too much with the positions. We think that Adam Jones' defense gives him the edge here, and if we could, we'd have stuck him in right. Ultimately, though, we felt that that violated the spirit of the team. We felt bad having such a talent on the bench, but then we figured that he wouldn't really mind, given that this is, yknow, a blog's fake team.
BN Andre Ethier ($424,500) Ethier's in the same boat as Kemp. We envy the Dodgers and their fans for being able to enjoy such talent in their outfield, and we're glad to snatch them up on our team, even if it means they're stuck on the bench. Such is life in the KCSD world.
BN Dan Uggla ($418,000) Uggla not only has some of the best power among middle infielders, but also possibly the biggest forearms we've ever seen in person. So he's got that going for him, which is nice. Unfortunately, he's sorely lacking in the way of glove skills, which is why we ultimately tabbed Kelly Johnson as the starter at second base.
RHP Tim Lincecum ($405,000) We've already written about how great Lincecum is, how he's one of our favorite players, etc. To add on more praise at this point would, we think, be redundant. Suffice it to say, he's as legit an ace as can be.
RHP Yovani Gallardo ($405,000) Gallardo has ace stuff, too, and he should be fine as the Brewers' staff leader. He's an Opening Day starter on just about any team in MLB, but not ours!
RHP Edinson Volquez ($392,500) Volquez had a remarkable season last year, flashing excellent stuff and the poise to use it. He faded down the stretch, but it was his first full season - and he has the pleasure of having Dusty Baker running his arm. Good for him that we're stealing him away.
RHP Ricky Nolasco ($390,000) Nolasco was surprisingly dominant last year. We'll let Baseball Prospectus' Marc Normandin explain: "from June 15 onward, Nolasco whiffed over a batter per inning while holding his walks to one per nine, a 140 1/3 IP stretch of dominance that no pitcher in 2008 can claim." Yeah, we'll take that in our rotation.
RHP Adam Wainwright ($687,500) We still love Wainwright for the Uncle Charlie that buckled Carlos Beltran's knees in the NLCS a few years back, but he's more than a one-pitch wonder. He's a very capable front-end starter, and having him in the fifth spot is an unexpected luxury.
CL Joakim Soria ($426,000) The Mexicutioner takes the closer role because, well, he's a closer. And he's very good at his job, as evidenced by an ungodly .861 WHIP, almost a K per inning, and a 266 ERA+. He's got an arsenal to which few pitchers can lay claim, and he's better at using it than just about anyone else.
RP Carlos Marmol ($430,000) As Aaron Gleeman wrote today, "Since moving to the bullpen full time two years ago Marmol has been baseball's most unhittable pitcher, striking out one-third of the hitters he faced while allowing a silly .150 batting average." Sounds pretty good to us! The only reason he isn't closing on our team is because we want to give him as many innings as possible. Limiting him to the 9th seems like a waste of premium resources.
RP Heath Bell ($420,000) Bell should excel as San Diego's closer this season, as his fastball-slider combo and staccato delivery has led to success to the tune of a K per inning. And we just so happen to be of the opinion that one can never have enough power arms.
RP Jose Arredondo ($380,000) We thought Arredondo would've been a great choice for the Angels' closer role, but that's why they don't pay us the big bucks to be a GM. Brian Fuentes has the reins for now, but Arredondo should grow into the role in a few seasons.
LHP Matt Thornton ($875,000) Thornton's another guy with a fantastic arm, chalking up 268 K's in 237 innings. He's had control issues in the past, but posted a sub-1.00 WHIP last season, and when you factor in that he's a lefty (the only one on our staff), well, that's just icing on the cake.
Long Relief Brandon Morrow ($380,000) Morrow, a converted starter, had some arm trouble this spring, but we don't think it's anything to be concerned about. He's still a great 'pen guy, with the potential to make spot starts when needed.
2B Kelly Johnson
LF Nate McLouth
1B Joey Votto
RF Ryan Ludwick
C Geovany Soto
SS Troy Tulowitzki
3B Edwin Encarnacion
CF Adam Jones
Total Payroll: $10,980,000.
So there you have it. A team that, if it were real, would be a World Series contender, if not favorite. Plus, we're set up for the future; when everyone is under 30, you're in good shape. And to think, you could have all this for less than the cost of a year of Carlos Silva or Jeff Suppan! And people think Jeff Loria is thrifty.