I was inspired by the possible 2008 lineup Cheat posted yesterday so I decided to figure out my semi-realistic best case scenario for next year. Tell me if I'm delusional.
Ichiro - CF (signed as FA)
Iguchi - 2B (re-signed)
Thome - DH
Konerko - 1B
Saltalamacchia - C (acquired from ATL via trade of Buehrle)
Fields - 3B
Milledge - LF (acquired from NYM via trade of Contreras)
Sweeney - RF
Escobar - SS (acquired from ATL via trade of Buehrle)
That looks pretty promising to me. I'd prefer it if you could trade Garland to Atlanta instead of Buehrle and then re-sign Buehrle, but I'm not sure that's even a semi-realistic option. I'd also be open to somebody else at 2B over Iguchi, but he seemed like he'd be a reasonably cost-effective option.
I'd estimate the cost of the above lineup at less than $45 million (since the 5-9 hitters would all be making near the league minimum), leaving, I'd guess, about $65 million for the rotation, bullpen and bench. Garland and Vazquez account for about $24 mil of that, while filling out the rest of the rotation with Danks, Floyd, and Gio/Egbert/Russell/Broadway would be incredibly cheap, leaving you with nearly $40 mil and only the bullpen and bench left to pay.
One thing I'm not sure about is whether we'd be able to get rid of Crede, Mack, AJ, and Ozuna's salaries. Or even all of Contreras's. If you get Salty you have to get rid of AJ (he won't be a back up), and I'm not sure what will be done with Crede. I think we're stuck giving Ozuna a million bucks (even if he doesn't play), and we might be stuck with Mack as well. In that scenario, Mack, Hall, Terrero, and Ozuna account for another $7 mil or so, and you'll still need a backup who can play both middle infield positions. Though I hate the thought of Cintron returning, it could be him at $2 mil, since we don't have a worthwhile 2B/SS type in the system.
So now the bench is filled and you've still got about $30 mil by my calculations and just the bullpen to pay for. Jenks and Logan seem like locks to be back, and probably Thornton as well. That's less than $2 mil at their present cost, but I suppose Jenks could get a raise. I'm guessing MacDougal might be gone, so you need to fill in three more guys from the rest of the guys we've seen this year (maybe Day and Aardsma, no thanks on Sisco, Masset, and Bukvich), minor league possibilities, and anything you get back from trading Dye and Pierzynski. So let's throw another $4 mil at the bullpen to account for a possible raise for Jenks and either MacDougal staying or another veteran coming in, which brings our total payroll to only $86 million.
If you hold onto Crede, he'll still probably get a small raise in arbitration (because players always do), so let's say $6 million for him. And maybe you have to pay some of Contreras's salary, so let's say another $4 and put the total at $96 million.
Now, why not give Mark Buehrle a backloaded 5 yr/$75 mil deal and come in just under $110 mil for 2008? If he's still available, that's one option, but if he's not, you could save your money, play out 2008, and then break the bank on Peavy, Sabathia, or Santana, all eligible to become free agents after next year. Carl Crawford and Mark Teixeira will also be in the free agent class.
What do you guys think? Pipe dream? Plausible?