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 11, 2012 7:16 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 10:51 am
Kerry Wood and the Chicago Cubs belong together. And unless something weird happens, he will remain a Cub.
"If we can't figure this out, there's something wrong,'' Cubs president Theo Epstein said to Cubs writers Wednesday.
Which, if you think about it, is a pretty good tipoff Wood's staying home. Otherwise, Epstein is opening himself up to having admitted something's wrong. And other than Starlin Castro's legal troubles, Alfonso Soriano's untradeable contract, a minor-league system practically bereft of talent, and yes a few more things, what could be wrong?
One thing the Cubs can count on, though, is Wood, their former phenom turned reliable reliever and employee. Last winter, Wood forged his own to deal to return at Ron Santo's funeral, telling then GM Jim Hendry that day that he was inspired to remain a Cub, that he wanted to be a Cub. So Hendry found $1.5 million for Wood, and thus signed him to the one bargain contract of his tenure.
How much did Wood want to remain a Cub? Well, he passed on a chance to sign with the Yankees, allegedly for $6 million, or four times more than he took with the Cubs. The rumor of that day was that there was an informal agreement for Wood to remain a Cub employee forever.
Well, that's being tested now. Maybe just a little, anyway.
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 4, 2012 7:30 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:51 pm
The agreed-upon trade between the Cubs and Marlins of volatile former star Carlos Zambrano for talented former phenom Chris Volstad works for everyone.
The Cubs get rid of the volatile Zambrano, who had lost his friends in the clubhouse after losing is way on the mound last year.
The Marlins give up Volstad, whose great promise has seemed to dissipate the past few years to the point where he was an unacceptable 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA for the Marlins in 2011.
This trade represents a fresh start for both right-handers. It is expected to be announced Thursday.
The Cubs will have to send the bulk of Zambrano's $18-million 2012 salary to Florida, as well. But Zambrano was lost for them anyway. No matter what Cubs people said about how Zambrano could come back for them, the reality was that he needs a new beginning. He gets that with his old friend Ozzie Guillen, who has the best chance of almost anyone of finding the old Zambrano. Guillen had been begging his new Marlins bosses to acquire Zambrano, and this was one (of many) wishes they could fulfill; the Cubs were even more desperate to be rid of him.
Volstad needs to find his way, too. The 6-foot-8 right-hander from South Florida may do better away from home. He showed tremendous promise his first year in Florida but only flashes since. It shouldn't be too late for him, either. He's only 25.
Posted on: January 3, 2012 3:46 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:53 pm
With the Yankees unconvinced the Cubs will consent to trade Matt Garza for less than their very best prospects, the Yankees will continue their dialogue with free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson.
The Yankees and Jackson aren't in any way close to a deal. But there seems reason to think they might find middle ground, as the Yankees like his arm and see him as a solid pitcher who could fill their need for a durable middle-of-the-rotation presence. They also like Garza but don't want to consider trading two top prospects (the Cubs like Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances and want more than one of them) and aren't sure the Cubs are committed to trading him in the winter.
Jackson is believed to be looking for a deal that pays him in the $15-to-17-million range annually. Agent Scott Boras has compared Jackson to C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle, John Lackey, A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe in his book touting Jackson; all those pitchers received $14-to-17-million a year. For instance, in the three previous years, Jackson has won 25 games, struck out 490 batters and posted a 3.96 ERA, comparable numbers to the three years Burnett had before he signed with the Yankees for $82.5 million over five years; in those three years Burnett won 38 games, had a 3.94 ERA and struck out 535 batters. As we know now, the Burnett deal didn't work out so great for the Yankees, however.
More remarkable, Jackson is one of only three active pitchers age 27 or younger who has thrown 950 innings with no D.L. time, with the others being Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. Jackson is also one of three pitchers 27 or younger who's started more than 30 games each of the past five years. The other two are Cain and Felix Hernandez.
There are other starting pitching alternatives on the trade and free agent market, including Gavin Floyd, Wady Rodriguez, Hiroki Kuroda and Roy Oswalt. There's no proof they are heavily involved with Floyd, Rodriguez or Oswalt, and there are uncertain whether Kuroda would go to New York.
The Yankees made only a modest efort at Yu Darvish, submitting a posting bid of $15 million, which was well below the Rangers' winning $51.703,411 bid.
Posted on: January 3, 2012 9:10 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:54 pm
The Coco Crisp mystery isn't quite solved. But we are making progress (a little, anyway).
Crisps's agent Steve Comte got the ball rolling when he told the San Francisco Chronicle that Crisp had settled on a team. So far, that team remains a mystery. Many teams have shown interest in Crisp, making this a tough one.
One possibility is that Crisp simply remains in Oakland. But that is thus far unconfirmed, as well.
As far as the Orioles go, I may need a new crystal ball. While the Orioles did talk to Comte in their pursuit of a leadoff hitter, it appears Crisp is likely heading elsewhere. Someone with the Orioles said his name didn't even come up in a recent meeting, a indication they certainly aren't expecting to get him.
But who is? Just about every A.L. East team was speculated at one point in recent days, but one by one they appear to have been shot down as the likely landing spot. The Cubs, Cardinals and Dodgers are among other teams that have been linked to Crisp. But there's no evidence it's any of them, either.
Word has been that Crisp prefers to remain on the West Coast, and that he wants to play for a winner. Well, if it is Oakland, I am confident they will be a big winner. But maybe not for a couple more years.