Friday, January 22, 2010

Buffalo Beagles hot stove

Julio Mercedes
Age: 28B/T: R/R
Born: Rainbow City, AL
Position(s): RF/CIF/2B/OF/DH
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

BUFFALO _ After several seasons of knocking on glory's door, the Buffalo Beagles appear primed to pull out all the stops to win the franchise's first playoff series and make a move deep into the postseason.

The Beagles have been one of the league's most consistent teams in recent seasons, claiming three of the last four NL East division crowns, but that meager success hasn't translated into a berth in the NLCS. The team, despite deep investments in its starting rotation, has also failed to win more than 93 games in a season.

The offense will be led again by two-time MVP Julio Mercedes and future Hall of Fame shortstop Erick Webster. And there's plenty of support from third baseman Ed Boyd, dependable slugger John Feller and the highly-touted Maverick Payton.

But there are plenty of question marks. Payton is a man without a position, although he appears set to get time in LF, RF and 3B. It's unclear if the Beagles are committed to paying arbitration-eligible CF Tony Estrada, who is demanding more than $7 million a season. Management also needs to decide on the future of arbitration-eligible 2B Lawrence Jenkins, whose production slipped last season. They're considering turning the position over to slick-fielding Dwight Price, who got an extended look last season and provided a mid-season spark. Catcher Hong-Gu Wang hit .309 and was named to his second All-Star team, but is also demanding more than $4 million in arbitration and has competition from the team's top pick in Season 8, Walter Greene. First baseman Rico Wilfredo provides good production and is asking for less than $2 million in arbitration, but could lose at-bats to Payton and Feller.

Considering the talent at the major league level, general manager psanders84 has expressed interest in the past in dealing a package of players for a talent such as Bernie Gongora in the past, but hasn't been able to complete such a deal.

Last season's pitching was solid, but not spectacular. Randy Matthews, Adam Anderson and Jeff Brock got the big money and combined for 37 wins, but Angel Furcal was the only starter named to the All-Star team, thanks to a strong first half. They'll be joined in the rotation by Nick Charleston, who was impressive in a late-season callup last season. Veteran Bobby Patel played a valuable role last year and will work out of the bullpen in what will likely be his final year with the Beagles. Manny Sierra is a dependable closer.

The Beagles will look to make a major move by trade or free-agency this off-season in hopes of contending for the title, even if it means sacrificing some young talent. Only time will tell if they can make the right moves.

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