Putting the pieces together: Offseason 1996

As I wrote in the last post about the 1995 Expos, this experiment was designed to see if the Expos could find a way to roll with its mid-90s talent, adding key pieces rather than dismantling a near-championship-caliber team.

Keeping John Wetteland paid off as the 5-star closer finished with 34 saves and 1.86 ERA.

Marquis Grissom staying in Montreal also paid off, in part, as the centerfielder hit a solid-but-not spectacular .299 with 12 homers and 47 RBI while spending several stints on the disabled list. He also stole a team-best 25 bases

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 8.23.51 PM.pngThe addition of young hitters like Herbert Perry and Jeromy Burnitz also offered some pop to the Montreal lineup. Perry finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year Award voting during a season that saw him hit a .301 with 14 homers and an OPS of .813. Burnitz was third on the team in both homers (15) and RBI (76).

Several other Expos enjoyed nice seasons, including third baseman Sean Berry (.303, team-best 21 homers and 97 RBI), catcher Darin Fletcher (.276, 20 homers), and shortstop Wil Cordero, whose .321 average was just inside the top 10 in the NL.

Again, it was injuries that crushed the Expos hopes in 1995. By the end of the season, Pedro Martinez was still seven months away from being able to return from a torn rotator cuff. Rondell White, who was lost for the season with a torn posterior cruciate after appearing in just 11 games, was expected to begin working out again after sometime in January.

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 8.24.07 PM.pngMontreal was fifth in the NL in batting average at .263 and just 10th in home runs with 117. And finishing in eighth in starters ERA (3.89) and ninth in bullpen ERA (3.81), the Expos clearly enter the 1996 offseason in need of lineup and staff help.

Pedro won’t be back until after the season begins, so it’s hard to count on his help. Vladimir Guerrero, after a .275, 3 HR season at single-A Delmarva, is still a long way off from adding help at the major league level.

Jack Morris was a free agent castoff by season’s end, while David West (5-9, 5.83) and Ken Hill (12-17, 4.96) were the weak spots of a lefty-laden rotation headed up by the southpaw trio of Jeff Fassero (14-13, 2.77), Butch Henry 9-10, 3.83), and promising rookie Carlos Perez (8-15, 3.11).

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 8.23.59 PM.pngAfter a disappointing season, Jeff Lansing (.237, 6 homers) could be dealt for help at another position, opening the door for Jose Vidro to take over second base. Vidro hit .288 with 13 home runs at AAA Ottawa.

The Expos are over budget, however, and it looks like finding help in a deep free agent market is going to be difficult. Former Expo Larry Walker is back on the market after splitting last season between Colorado and Baltimore. Seattles Ken Griffey Jr., Chicago’s Frank Thomas, Toronto’s Roberto Alomar, and Cleveland’s Albert Belle, could all help to solve Montreal’s power problems, but all will be too expensive to lure into signing a free agent deal.

Time to see how the offseason plays out.

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