Posted on: February 23, 2012 3:31 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 3:44 pm
The Angels and Marlins spent plenty, the Astros stood pat, and the Mets did worse than that. Here they, one through 30, from most improved team to least improved.
1. Angels. Anytime you add Albert Pujols when you don't really need a first baseman, that's quite a luxury buy. Maybe 10 years are too many, but he'll obviously make a major impact in the first years of that deal. C.J. Wilson gives them as good a first four as just about anyone. Plus, he comes directly from the main competitor.
2. Marlins. Jose Reyes is a monster get, when healthy, Mark Buehrle fits as the perfect veteran lefthander to pitch behind Josh Johnson and Heath Bell is a very good closer. Ozzie Guillen spices things up. Much more interesting team as they move to their new park.
3. Diamondbacks. Loved that they didn't rest on their laurels. Trevor Cahill bolsters their rotation and Jason Kubel their lineup. Also tried hard for Hiroki Kuroda, offering him $13 million, $3 million more than he got from the Yankees. Terrific effort by a team in an area hit hard by the economic downturn.
4. Nationals. I don't love Gio Gonzalez's 1.48 lifetime road WHIP, but he's a talented, young lefthanded starter who's exactly what they needed. Of course, they still could use a center fielder.
5. Yankees. Hiroki Kuroda is the solid starter they needed, and Michael Pineda has a chance to be better than that, especially if he masters his changeup. Jesus Montero will be a mega star but they needed the pitching, so it was a worthwhile gamble. A.J. Burnett is addition by subtraction.
6. Rockies. Michael Cuddyer is a huge get, even if he did cost $31.5 million over three years. Jeremy Guthrie steps in as the Opening Day starter and Tyler Chatwood has a chance, though rotation questions still remain. Casey Blake might not have a lot left at third base, but super prospect Nolan Arenado looks to be close.
7. Rangers. Yu Darvish is going to be better than Wilson. They flirted with Prince Fielder, but came up a few years short. Had they pulled that one off, too, they would have easily topped this list. A lefthander in the pen wouldn't have hurt, either.
8. Rays. Carlos Pena will bring a lot more punch than Casey Kotchman, and if healthy, Luke Scott brings more still. Somehow, they find a way.
9. Blue Jays. Sergio Santos, Francisco Cordero and Darren Oliver represent a nice bullpen upgrade over Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch. Never made the huge deal folks were expecting, though.
10. Reds. They gave up a lot for Matt Latos, a talented pitcher who'll have to adjust going from pitching-firendly PETCO Park to Great American Ballpark. The pen is better with Ryan Madson in as the closer and strong lefty Sean Marshall over from Chicago. Looks like a contender.
11. Tigers. Owner Mike Ilitch gets props for the $214-million, nine-year band-aid he bought in Fielder after Victor Martinez's brutal knee injury.
12. Phillies. They imported Jonathan Papelbon, who has a longer track record, to replace Ryan Madson. Jim Thome fills the resident nice guy role left vacated by Brad Lidge's departure (and Juan Pierre won't hurt in that dept. either, assuming he makes the team). They have more versatility with Ty Wigginton adding to their bench strength.
13. Pirates. The new killer B's are here -- Rod Barajas, Erik Bedard, Clint Barmes and A.J. Burnett. The Bucs certainly should be better.
14. Mariners. Hong-Chih Kuo, Shawn Camp and Hisashi Iwakuma have a chance to help. But their offseason will turn on whether Montero becomes a bigger star than Pineda. The guess here is, he does.
15. Padres. They maximized the Latos trade. Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal could become stars, and Brad Boxberger may be the closer of the future. Huston Street ably replaces Bell. And Carlos Quentin may thrive back in his hometown.
16. Cubs. David DeJesus is a solid outfielder, and Paul Maholm will help. But their winter will turn on whether slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo is the player they think he is. The real loss for them was the new rule limiting bonus pools for drafted players.
17. Royals. Jonathan Sanchez is just the type of high-ceiling pitcher who fits, Bruce Chen was needed back and Jonathan Broxton is worth a flyer.
18. Dodgers. They managed to cut to below $90 million as cash-strapped Frank McCourt sells the team, but they pieced it together pretty well. Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang are solid starters but most of the other imports are extras. They also made an exciting secret grab at Fielder but were outbid by the Tigers. Their best move, though, was signing Matt Kemp for eight years at $160 million,
19. Indians. Given the restrictions of the budget, not terrible. Casey Kotchman looks to be on the upswing, and Derek Lowe is a veteran presence needed especially now that Fausto Carmona is better known as Limbo Carmona.
20. Giants. Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan are late bloomers, and they might do as well as the combo of Caros Beltran, Andres Torres and Cody Ross. The comeback of Buster Posey is probably the biggest key. Also like the smaller pickups of Clay Hensley and Ryan Theriot.
21. Cardinals. It's hard to lose Pujols (not to mention Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan) and not feel it. But somehow, the Cardinals seem to find a way. Beltran replaces some of Pujols' lost offense, if not his presence. Adam Wainwright's return is the biggest addition, though.
22. Orioles. Nobody did more different things, but it's tough to evaluate or guess what Wei-Yin Chen or Tsuyoshi Wada will become. Wilson Betemit was an odd signing in that no one saw a two-year deal coming.
23. White Sox. Love the Robin Ventura move (though I suspect they should have made him take a more-experienced staff). The team will be a lot younger, too, with all the kids acquired for Santos and Quentin. Buehrle is tough to replace, though.
24. Braves. Their big deal was for utlityman Jack Wilson, which says a lot. Never found the right deal for Jair Jurrjens or Martin Prado.
25. Twins. Josh Willingham has a lot of pressure on him to make up for the loss of Cuddyer and Kubel. Joe Nathan preferred to go to a contender. Not sure how much Jason Marquis has left.
26. Red Sox. I like the way they recovered from the loss of Papelbon by adding Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey. Cody Ross and Nick Punto are nice complementary pieces. But I think they'll miss Jason Varitek more than think. And they still don't have a No. 4 or 5 starter or starting shortstop after trading Marco Scutaro in exchange for "flexibility.'' Bobby Valentine was a great call for manager, and he does his best work when there are issues, so maybe he pulls it all together.
27. A's. They did a nice job collecting prospects (Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole could be stars) but will be hard-pressed to avoid 90 defeats this year after trading Cahill, Gonzalez and Bailey. Big Talent Yoenis Cespedes and Mannyball spice things up. Interesting offseason.
28. Brewers. Tough to make up for the loss of Fielder. Aramis Ramirez is a nice middle-of-the-order bat, Alex Gonzalez is an upgrade at shortstop and Nori Aoki may work. Also lost some bullpen depth with Takashi Saito and Hawkins gone.
29. Astros. They took a flyer on the oft-injured Fernando Martinez but after failing to unload Wandy Rodriguez, Carlos Lee or Brett Myers, they basically return the same team. Which is not necessarily good news when you lost 106 games.
30. Mets. They lost the heart of the team (though an of-injured one), and Andres Torres wouldn't be my first choice to replace the dynamic Reyes. Actually, Pagan would have been better. But that's nitpicky. Let's face it, no one that cuts an unprecedented $50 million can do well.
Posted on: February 18, 2012 7:42 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 8:57 pm
As with every year, there were the deals. And then there were the steals. With camps opening it is time to assess the best and worst of the winter's free-agent signings. With just a few dozen players remaining, here are my lists of the best signings for the team and the best ones for the player ...
Best signings (for team)
1. Francisco Cordero. Blue Jays RP, $4.5M, 1 yr. In a closer market filled with talent, he was the last good one to sign, and he seemed to have gotten squeezed. The Reds turned down a $12-million option for him, but based on 194 saves over the past five years, that seems closer to his true value.
2. Brad Lidge. Nationals RP, $1M, 1 yr. Worries of injury probably kept him down. A great signing for a young team if he has anything left.
3. Carlos Beltran. Cardinals OF, $26M, 2 yrs. Concerns about his knee probably hurt him. But he did not have one knee issue all last year, when he was one of the more productive hitting outfielders in the league. Won't replicate Albert Pujols, but gives them a chance.
4. Ryan Madson. Reds RP, $8.5M, 1 yr. The biggest money spent early on closers when Madson thought he had a $44-million, four-year deal with his old team, the Phillies, before they pulled the offer. The Reds are the beneficiaries when the Angels and Red Sox didn't make their move. Only one year as a closer, but dynamic changeup gives him a chance to be excellent for years.
5. Alex Gonzalez. Brewers SS, $4.25M, 1 yr. He's had a much better shortstop career than Clint Barmes or Jamey Carroll. Chronically low on-base percentage finally catching up with him.
6. Joel Pineiro. Phillies SP, $1.5M, 1 yr. The $1.5-million salary on his minor-league deal wasn't even on Cot's Baseball Contracts (the usual reference spot for salaries), but the hunch is the switch back to the National League will make the difference for him. Despite their ballpark, the Phillies seem to do well with pitchers. Has never allowed a run in Citizens Bank Ballpark.
7. Chris Capuano. Dodgers SP, $10M, 2 yrs. Some might look at this as a fair figure (or perhaps even a little high), but he showed last year he knows how to pitch and win with what he has left. Solid NL starter.
8. Paul Maholm, Cubs, SP, $4.5M, 1 yr. Nice starter has been adversely affected by Pirates offensive woes.
9. Lyle Overbay. Diamondbacks, $1M, 1 yr. Usually a member of the overpays, he went to the other list this year. Very good defender.
10. Jon Garland. Indians SP, 1 yr. undisclosed contract. Whatever he got, the Indians got a solid pitcher who's been an innings eater throughout his career.
11. Ryan Spilborghs. Indians OF, $1M, 1 yr. He got $1 million base for one year on a minor-league deal, and should see a lot ot action with the Indians considering their all lefty starting outfield and the injury history of Grady Sizemore. Solid, good team man.
12. Mike MacDougal. Dodgers RP, $1M, 1 yr. Very talented pitcher. One of these years someone's going to get a steal.
13. Kosuke Fukudome. White Sox OF, $1M, 1 yr. Smart insurance for a team that has a starting trio with some questions, even from the well-paid Alex Rios.
14. Micah Owings. Padres RP, $1M, 1 yr. Multitalented player went 8-0 with the rival Diamondbacks last year. Can also hit.
15. Jonny Gomes. A's OF-DH. $1M, 1 yr. A plus for any team or clubhouse.
16. Francisco Rodriguez. Brewers RP. $8M, 1 yr. That's pretty steep for a set-up man, but K-Rod is really a second closer, a nice luxury for Milwaukee to have.
Best Signings (for player)
1. C.J. Wilson. Angels SP, $77.5M, 5 yrs. Yes, I realize he could have gotten another $22 million from the Marlins. But he's had only two years as a starter, is surprisingly wild and bombed in the playoffs.
2. Laynce Nix. Phillies OF, $2.5M, 2 yrs. Two years? Don't get it.
3. Wilson Betemit. Orioles INF, $3.25M, 2 yrs. And I use the word "infielder'' loosely. The guy can hit a bit. but again, what's the reason for two years?
4. Coco Crisp. A's OF, $14M, 2 yrs. He had the option of going to the Rays after saying he most wanted to play for a winner. So what does he do, but sign for two years (likely two dead years) with the A's. Can't really blame him considering.
5. Rod Barajas. Pirates C, $4M, 1 yr. Pull hitter will yank a few out, even in Pittsburgh. But the market for the so-so catchers generally wasn't this good.
6. Heath Bell. Marlins RP, $27M, 3 yrs. That's what folks figured he'd get. But it was quite good in this closer market for a pitcher in his mid 30s who's been thriving at PETCO. One advantage for the Marlins: He really is Heath Bell, and he's a good guy.
7. Frank Francisco. Mets RP, $12M, 2 yrs. He did well by signing early, getting a multiyear in a rough market for closers.
8. Yoenis Cespedes. A's OF, $36M, 4 yrs. Looked like superman on his video. but can he hit the major-league curveball? Curious choice in that Oakland isn't going to win at least this year, and maybe next. But it's understandable in that they'd missed out on Adrian Beltre and Lance Berkman, two guys who had monster years elsewhere after spurning Oakland's offers. Another plus for the player: if he can hit the curve, he's a free agent again at 30.
9. Prince Fielder. Tigers 1B, $214M, 9 yrs. He could have gotten at least eight years elsewhere (surely from the Orioles and maybe the Dodgers, who had offered seven), but Victor Martinez's injury helped him join the $200-million club with a great team. Credit owner Mike Ilitch for doing whatever it took, but it took a lot.
10. Mark Ellis. Dodgers 2B, $8.75M, 2 yrs. Very nice addition to any team, but he looked like he was on the verge of a release at one point early last year. The whole middle infield market did very well early, including Clint Barmes, Jamey Carroll and others. Dodgers appear a lot on these list, but that's because they signed more free agents than anyone.
11. Mark Buehrle. Marlins, $58M, 4 yrs. Very good, consistent pitcher who may thrive in the NL. Steep price, though, so he better.
12. Willie Bloomquist. Diamondbacks $3.8M, 2 yrs. Another one of the journeyman middle infielders who cashed in big. Funny thing is, he turned down close to $5 million with the Giants.
13. Jerry Hairston, Jr. Dodgers INF, $6M, 2 yrs. Spunky, versatile player cashed in after mostly helping the Brewers late last year.
14. Luke Scott. Rays DH, $5M, 1 yr. Hard to criticize the Rays, but the price seems steep considering the DH glut. He's younger and has more power than those left, however.
15. Greg Dobbs. Marlins INF, $3M, 2 yrs. Again, not sure why a utilityman gets a multiyear deal. But good for him.
16. Casey Blake. Rockies 3B. $2M, 2 yrs. Good guy who's an injury risk at this point. Time to start the Nolan Arenado era.
One more that will be good for the team: Roy Oswalt. His geographic desires have hurt him as he turned down close to $10 million with the Tigers and has let a Red Sox offer sit forever. Still waiting for the Rangers or Cardinals (we think).
One that will be better than you think: Albert Pujols. The $240 million over 10 years the Angels gave Pujols may seem a bit high toward the end of that deal, but the excitement and marketability the alltime great brings is immeasurable, though their new TV partner which dished out $2 billion probably has a pretty good idea of his value.
One that wasn;t a free-agent deal but was still great for the team: Matt Kemp. Can't blame the player for taking $160 million) over eight years), but you have to know the new owner loves the fact that the awesomely great Kemp is locked up through his prime years.
Posted on: January 13, 2012 5:01 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 10:49 am
Top free agent slugger Prince Fielder has embarked on a second tour of teams today, and is expected to meet with multiple teams, perhaps four or more, on this excursion as he narrows his expansive field of free-agent options.
Fielder is in Texas today meeting with the Rangers, as @BNightengale reported. But that shouldn't be seen as prove they are about to sign Fielder. The Rangers are expecting to spend $100 million or so on Japanese pitching import Yu Darvish, and there have been mixed signals as to whether they might be able to sign both Darvish and Fielder.
The Orioles, Nationals, Mariners, Marlins and incumbent Brewers ave been seen as the other main players, but there may be more. The Cubs and Blue Jays are among others to have shown interest.
The other teams on the tour aren't known as of yet.
Posted on: January 5, 2012 1:59 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:50 pm
The Washington Nationals, despite their early suggestions to the contrary, do appear to be deep in the mix for star free agent slugger Prince Fielder. They may even justifiably be seen as a favorite at this point. But with several other teams showing strong interest and as many as seven or eight others showing some level of interest, it may be a bit too early to declare them as “the’’ favorite.’’
Reading all the hints, suggestions and tea leaves (not to mention deciphering the requisite downplaying of many), here’s the way I see things as we head into what might be the final several days (in order of most likely to least).
Posted on: January 3, 2012 5:32 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:52 pm
Yu Darvish just visited the Dallas-Fort Worth area, as the Rangers acknowledged. Nobody is saying yet that Darvish and the Rangers are close to a deal yet. But everyone knows he will eventually have one.
And Darvish's visit can only be seen as another positive sign in a negotiation that is sure to end with Darvish signing with the Rangers and taking over C.J. Wilson's role as Rangers ace. Negotiations are ongoing, and indications are that there's progress being made. They are about halfway through the 30-day negotiating window, but this may be one negotiation that doesn't go the limit.
"There's no reason to think this won't get done. There's no reason to think this has to go to the deadline, either,'' one high-ranking baseball person said.
The parameters were already set by Daisuke Matsuzaka, who signed with the Red Sox for $52-million over six years after Boston won the bidding for Dice-K with a bid of $51.111111 million. Figure Darvish will get a bit more than Dice-K's haul, as he is viewed as the better pitcher. Darvish, only 25, went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters and led the Pacific League with 276 strikeouts. The Rangers won the auction for him with a similar $51.703,411 winning bid. (The 34 and 11 at the end were, cleverly, borrowed from the uniform numbers of Rangers president Nolan Ryan and Darvish, respectively.)
The Yankees were learned Tuesday to have bid $15 million for Darvish, while the bid of the Jays, seen as the main competitors for Darvish, still isn't known but said to have been well below Texas' winning bid.
Sources have suggested Darvish would seek at least $65 million for five years. So figure he'll get $10-to-13 million on a deal for five years or so.
Posted on: January 2, 2012 9:42 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:56 pm
The news of Coco Crisp's imminent signing with some unknown mystery team added intrigue to the baseball interest Monday night. Nobody seems to know for sure what team it is, but here's one guess out of left field: the Baltimore Orioles.
It hasn't been confirmed that it is the Orioles. But sources suggest that Crisp has been talking to the Orioles in recent days, and they are very much interested.
The Blue Jays are another team that could be a possibility, but they are said to be optimistic about Eric Thames and Travis Snider.
The guessing game began when Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Crisp's agent Steve Comte said his client had picked a team. However, Comte didn't identify the team.
The Orioles don't seem like the obvious fit as they already have a fine young center fielder in Adam Jones. But they could move Jones to left field and form an outfield with three players capable of playing center. The Braves have been asking about Jones' availability, but the asking price has been understandably high. Baltimore wouldn't do it straight-up for young righthander Jair Jurrjens.
The Cubs and Cardinals were two teams that have been known to show interest in Crisp, but this may wind up being a surprise signing.
Posted on: January 1, 2012 10:06 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 9:00 pm
There is "no real favorite'' in the five-team Matt Garza sweepstakes, according to someone familiar with the talks.
The teams involved the derby for the 28-year-old Cubs righthander at this point are the Yankees, Blue Jays, Tigers, Red Sox and Marlins. With the Cubs seeking young pitchers, it would seem that the Yankees, Blue Jays and Tigers could hold an edge ultimately. The Yankees have Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, the Tigers Jacob Turner and the Blue Jays several well-regarded prospects at the lower levels. The Cubs are hoping to improve their young pitching stock, and Garza is the most marketable player they're willing to deal.
The Red Sox earlier named Garza, who went 10-10 with a 3.31 ERA in 2011, his only one with the Cubs, as a target in Theo Epstein compensation talks, but it's unclear wether the Cubs would even consider trying to solve the compensation issue while making a bigger Garza deal with Boston. They wouldn't surrender Garza straight-up for Epstein, and it's possible the Cubs would want to keep Garza and the compensation issues totally separate. The Red Sox don't have pitching prospects to match the Yankees or Blue Jays but do have hard-throwing righthander Anthony Ranaudo, who was drafted by Epstein, the new Cubs president.
The Cubs are obviously rebuilding but have been nonetheless tied to the Prince Fielder derby. A Cubs person suggested that while Fielder is the type of player they need, they aren't willing to pursue Fielder at all costs, a not unfamiliar refain for teams pursuing big-name free agents.
Posted on: December 29, 2011 12:07 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:59 pm
There's been a lot of discussion and debate lately about whether the improving Washington Nationals are one of the teams trying to sign free agent slugger Prince Fielder.
And while there's still nothing definitive on the subject, one Nats player told me Thursday, "We're in the market. We're still shooting for him.''
People can scoff at the validity of a player as a source, but this player did not hesitate and sure seemed to know what he was talking about. But who can be sure?
This has surely been a fairly mysterious market to this point. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, who just bolstered the rotation with the addition of young lefthader Gio Gonzalez, downplayed the Fielder chances in an interview Wednesday on MLB Network Radio, saying Adam LaRoche would be their first baseman barring something "extrordinary.''
To be precise, Rizzo said, "We've more or less decided Adam is going to be out first baseman unless something extraordinary, out of the ordinary, happens.'' LaRoche is to make $8 million in 2012 (plus he has a $1 million buyout on his 2013 salary).
If Rizzo is merely downplaying their genuine interest in Fielder as a way not to get fans' hopes up, he wouldn't be the first GM to do that. The Nationals have been considered among about eight teams -- the Rangers, Orioles, Mariners, Marlins, Cubs, Blue Jays and Brewers being the others -- to have some level of interest in the 27-year-old first baseman.
Fielder recently went on a tour of some of the interested teams, flying to a few points around the country. But it isn't known what teams, including the Nationals, were on the tour. Or whether a team that wasn't on the tour might jump into the mix.