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November 22, 2006
Signed RHP Justin Speier to a four-year, $18 million contract. [11/19]
Talk about setting the market-giving an effective setup man this kind of money for that length of time might make "Speier Money" every bit the catch phrase that "Benson Money" was two winters ago in describing what the pricing on third starters was. Don't get me wrong-I've always been a Speier fan, and not simply because he has the best birthday date ever. But that kind of money for a useful setup man is dangerous, not least when we're talking about a guy who just turned 33. Also keep in mind that beyond a certain elite, relievers are pretty unreliable commodities, and while Speier's always been handy, it's worth noting he wasn't more important to the 2005 Blue Jays than a luminary like Vinny Chulk, and in 2004, he was very much part of the problem in a pen that was a disappointment.
Now, maybe the Angels see Speier as another one of their particularly wicked brand of relievers, a righthander with nasty movement and a tricksy delivery. Speier not only throws hard, he backs up the heat with a good splitter and a slider that can come and go. But as things stand, he's the fourth quality righthander in a pen that already has K-Rod, Scot Shields, and Brendan Donnelly, as well as Hector Carrasco in a long relief role. However, Carrasco's already signed to big money, and Rodriguez, Shields, and Donnelly are all eligible for arbitration. If I had to hazard a guess, I think signing Speier is about cost certainty and about affording GM Bill Stoneman the opportunity to deal from strength (and ditch a pending bit of arbitration).
Service time and arbitration was certainly an element of the decision to deal Gregg, although the fact that he was a somewhat redundant swingman after the Carrasco signing last winter certainly helped make him that much more available. Getting Resop back in return feeds the Angel sweet tooth for hard-throwing position player conversion projects (a la Jason Bulger), plus it brings in a kid with options. This was only Resop's third full season as a pro hurler, so it will definitely be interesting to see if he pans out. There's a reasonable chance that this could be a steal, assuming Resop masters a breaking pitch that's a convincing enough set-up for his plus fastball.
Signed LHP Jamie Walker to a three-year, $12 million deal; signed LHP John Parrish to a one-year contract. [11/21]
Blech. Maybe the annual value is less than what the Angels gave Speier, but Walker isn't really that valuable a commodity, and if this is yet another pathetic exercise in proving to the rest of the market that the Orioles will spend money, it's yet another demonstration that their taste in free agents is pretty terrible. Walker wasn't a particularly key component of the Tigers' pen, he's just your basic lefty situational guy, and spending major money on this sort is no more sensible now than it was with Buddy Groom.
Re-signed 2B/SS-L Alex Cora to a two-year, $4 million deal. [11/17]
Activated LHP Abe Alvarez from the 60-day DL, and outrighted him to Pawtucket (Triple-A); added RHP Kyle Jackson and LHP Phil Seibel to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Keeping Cora as something of an insurance policy at short seems like a pretty reasonable early-winter move to me. If Dustin Pedroia can't hack it at short, the Sox won't be short a shortstop, and if having him spares the Sox from making an expensive mistake on somebody like Julio Lugo or David Eckstein, so much the better. The market for shortstops is exceptionally weak, and the last thing you want to do is wind up as the latest employer of Royce Clayton. As things stand now, Theo Epstein can take a chance that Pedroia has the range for short, or he can stick Cora in the ninth hole until something better comes along, or he can go with an offense/defense combination employing Pedroia for his bat and Cora for his glove. (Dustex Codroia? Sounds like another one of Jabba's second-rate gunsels hired out of Semi-Slimy Goons 'R' Us.) Sox fans can wishcast a deal with the Brewers for Billy Hall, but I'd suggest it might make more sense to go down-market, and see if you could pick up somebody like J.J. Hardy or Alberto Callaspo on the cheap.
Added LHPs Heath Phillips and Carlos Vasquez, RHPs Oneli Perez and Dewon Day, and INF-R Andy Gonzalez to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Added OF-R Ben Francisco and RHP J.D. Martin to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Added RHP Virgil Vasquez to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Acquired C-R Jason LaRue and cash from the Reds for a PTBNL; added LHPs Danny Christensen and Neal Musser and RHP Carlos Rosa to the 40-man roster; designated 2B-R Donnie Murphy and LHP Juan Cedeno for assignment. [11/20]
The nicest thing you can say about LaRue is that he might fetch something of value at the deadline if his bat bounces back at all, but that's about the full extent of his prospective value to the Royals. LaRue's hitting has been a bit strange over the last few years, in that he hasn't done all that well hitting in a good hitter's park while doing much better on the road (.252/.351/.457 over the last three years), so while I wouldn't normally expect him to do better in a tougher home run park, I suppose it isn't inconceivable. The really good news is that the Reds are reportedly paying nearly $3 million of LaRue's $5.2 million salary from 2007, but given that the only thing really at risk here is that the Royals gave up somebody of value (which seems unlikely) and John Buck's potential stardom (even less likely), I could see this paying off if it's about trying to flip LaRue at the deadline in July. If it isn't, then it's really just random activity, and perhaps a little too much like Allard Baird's unfortunate pickups of stale placeholders before the 2006 season.
Added LHPs Ricky Barrett and Alexander Smit, RHP Oswaldo Sosa, and CF-L Denard Span to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Added LHP Chase Wright, RHP Jeff Kennard, and OF-L Bronson Sardinha to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Signed RHP Scott Dunn to a one-year contract; added RHP Marcus McBeth to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Added 2B-R Michael Garciaparra, OF-L Bryan Lahair, OF-B Mike Wilson, and LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith to the 40-man roster; designated RHPs Travis Chick and Jorge Campillo for assignment; acknowledged the loss of OF T.J. Bohn on waivers to the Braves. [11/20]
Added RHP Alexi Ogando and LHP A.J. Murray to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Signed OF-L Frank Catalanotto to a three-year, $13 million deal, with a club option for 2010. [11/21]
Bringing 'Cat' back seems sensible enough for a roster that has a lot of open questions about who plays where in next season's outfield, but his limited power makes him your basic extra guy, and not a critical hitter in a lineup that's now that much more dependent on seeing Hank Blalock and Brad Wilkerson bounce back. For this sort of money, it's not readily apparent that he's going to be that much better than Jason Botts as a hitter, so while he's a filler player for left and leading off (against RHPs, at any rate), this might end up hurting more than helping the Rangers if they think their work here is done. They may end up having to hope Freddy Guzman is ready in center if they don't land any of the major free agent center fielders, at which point, what sort of lineup is that? Mark Teixeira, Michael Young, and a lot of wishcasting seems like a great way to risk finishing behind the Mariners.
Signed DH-R Frank Thomas to a two-year contract. [11/17]
Added C-R Robinzon Diaz to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
As disappointed as I might be personally that Thomas won't be back in the green-and-gold, I can't begrudge the man taking the money. The contract's particularly interesting, in that it comes with a $9.12 million signing bonus, a $1 million salary for 2007, $8 million for 2008, and a $10 million option for 2009 that vests if the Big Hurt manages to avoid enough aches and pains to log 1000 PA in the first two years, or 525 PA in 2008. So, more than $28 million on the table? Of course he took the money, and more power to him. I definitely like what this should mean for the Jays as far as mounting a challenge in 2007, or during Vernon Wells: The Final Chapter. This is a team built around a lot of risk-can Thomas and Troy Glaus stay healthy? Can Aaron Hill play short even remotely effectively? Will A.J. Burnett make thirty starts for the second time in his career? There's enough possible upside to legitimately contend-well, except for Hill at short. That's just an adaptive dead-end as doomed as the dodo.
Added LHP Evan MacLane, RHP Jailen Peguero, 3B-B Brian Barden, 2B-B Emilio Bonifacio, INF-R Alberto Gonzales, 2B/SS-L Danny Richar, OF-L Carlos Gonzales to the 40-man roster; designated LHP Randy Choate for assignment. [11/20]
It says a lot about what sort of talent might be available in the Rule 5 draft if a team already sees Bohn as worthy of a 40-man roster spot. Already pushing 27, he's a modestly useful fifth outfield type if things break his way; expecting more would be foolhardy. It's not impossible that he'd make a nice platoon partner for Kelly Johnson or Ryan Langerhans in an outfield corner, but that's sort of what Matt Diaz is already here for, and unless the club did something as bold as sending Jeff Francouer down to get a handle on the strike zone before Opening Day, there isn't a lot of space to squeeze Bohn in. This probably wasn't the best use of a spot on the 40-man, but Bohn's toolsy, and you know that's the sort of thing that gets the Braves worked up.
Signed OF-R Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million contract; added RHP Rocky Cherry and LHP Clay Rapada to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Is Soriano really this valuable? This may well be a situation where the Cubs are trying to impress their prospective Owners-TBNL, and perhaps also a matter of keeping their latest expensive ex-famous manager fat and happy over the promise of the season to come. He did rate 16th in the NL in Equivalent Average, and only two of the people ahead of him are free agents. However, both of those two-J.D. Drew and Barry Bonds-play outfield corner slots, and while both have durability questions and probably aren't the most popular people around the game, either one of them could have been equally handy for a team looking to improve, either would have cost less than this, both would have leavened a righty-heavy lineup with their lefty bats, and neither come with the questions Soriano does as far as whether or not he can remain at this level next year, let alone for the next eight. His spike in walks was heavily dependent on his receiving 16 free passes, and he wouldn't be likely to get those hitting in the middle of the Cubs lineup, and perhaps less still since it looks like he'll be leading off in a lineup that has Cesar Izturis and the pitcher's slot generating outs a'plenty ahead of him.
That's not to say that he's going to make Cubs fans remember Candy Maldonado. He's going to put runs on the board, and he's going to crank a goodly number of extra-base hits and stolen bases. But he's also likely to see his OBP drop down below .330 from the start, and you can imagine where it's going to wind up by the time he's 38. I like having him, but not at these terms. To his credit, he made significant progress in his first season as an outfielder, showing solid range and (despite some early threats about his enthusiasm for the job) a lot of ability and hustle, minimizing the inevitable mistakes he made as a newly-minted outfielder. If the Cubs are serious about looking at him in center, that might make the money a little more sensible, especially if he eventually gets a grip on the position. He's been durable, and he's athletic enough to possibly manage in center. If you're a Cubs fan, you might get revved about his hitting better in daylight this past season-except he didn't do likewise the year before.
In the end, I think what you see is what you get-the problem is that even if you call him a center fielder and he eventually becomes one, is he going to hit well enough over eight years to justify the money, and there, the answer's pretty much an automatic "not bloody likely." I like this move a lot more than going after Mark DeRosa or overpaying Aramis Ramirez, but put them all together, and you've got a lineup likely to go begging to live up to what its components did just last year, let alone put enough runs on the board to make up for a still-uncertain rotation.
Signed SS-R Alex Gonzalez to a three-year contract through 2009, with a mutual option for 2010; signed LHP Mike Stanton to a two-year contract through 2008 season with a club option for 2009; traded C-R Jason LaRue to the Royals for a PTBNL; added OF-L Chris Dickerson and RHPs Calvin Medlock and David Shafer to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Perhaps it surprises even me, but I like getting Gonzalez on this particular team in this particular ballpark. The last A-Gonz standing has pop that might play particularly well in Lindner's Folly, and he might help compensate for Edwin Encarnacion's work-in-progress fielding at the hot corner. Signing him for $14 million over the three years they're committed to (with a $6 million option and an especially manageable $500,000 buyout for 2010) seems pretty sensible, especially in light of the relatively slender options on the shortstop market this winter, and especially considering Julio Lugo's expectations as a free agent. What makes less sense is signing Stanton for anything more than a one-year deal, and for as much as $5.5 million (and perhaps $7.5 million if they pick up the option). This is a team that already has Bill Bray and Rheal Cormier around, and paying out this sort of money for a third lefty probably shouldn't have ranked quite so high on Wayne Krivsky's wish list.
Added RHPs Ryan Speier and Darren Clarke and SS-B Jonathan Herrera to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Acquired RHP Kevin Gregg from the Angels for RHP Chris Resop; acquired RHPs Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens from the New York Mets for LHPs Adam Bostick and Jason Vargas; added LHP Paul Mildren to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
I'm not sure I get the motivation for going out of my way to get Gregg, although he's a useful enough utility pitcher to put in the back end of either the rotation or bullpen, depending on whichever of the kids pans out next spring. The question is why you go out of your way to add him in particular, when he's arb-eligible, and do the Angels the additional favor of tossing them a young reliever with some upside. Perhaps it's a way of getting a brownie point with the Angels, not exactly a bad idea when they've got moderately useful center field types in their system, and you've got Reggie Abercrombie.
The exchange with the Mets is a little more interesting, in that it's possible that both Owens and Lindstrom could make next year's big league bullpen-they both have the velocity, and Lindstrom's former promise as a starting pitcher died in the always-difficult quest for a quality second pitch. Balanced against that is the suspicion that Vargas might be the best player in the deal, but taken in tandem, I like what Larry Beinfest has pulled off here. The Fish have wound up with a better pair of relievers than Resop, and a better veteran insurance policy for the rotation than Scuffy Moehler was last year.
Added 2B/3B-B Brooks Conrad and OF-L Mike Rodriguez to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Announced the retirement of 3B-B Bill Mueller. [11/17]
Signed INF-R Nomar Garciaparra to a two-year, $18.5 million contract. [11/20]
Added RHPs Eric Hull and Zach Hammes and LHP Mike Megrew to the 40-man roster. [11/21]
The money for Nomar seems a bit rich, given that it isn't incentive-based at all, he's not likely to go Paul Molitor on us and reverse his recent fragility, and seeing as he's becoming a first baseman in his dotage. In his own defense, Ned Colletti talked about "his versatility, mental toughness, clutch performances, and leadership capabilities." The problem with that is if Nomar's playing first, that's not very versatile, and missing only a quarter of the season when he'd missed more than half in each of the previous two seasons doesn't really let you count DL as a new position on his resume. At least I found the last two qualities nice of Ned to note in Nomar, but that's because I consider it karmic revenge of sorts for Larry Lucchino's hatchet job on Nomar's reputation within the game back in 2004.
The money doesn't seem anything to get too embittered over-that's just Colletti spending other people's money after getting all bent out of shape over being spurned by the lissome J.D. Drew. The lesson that money can't buy you love was probably wasted on Ned, but heck, I didn't see the guy when I was in Haight-Ashbury back in the Sixties. (Of course, my mind was almost entirely focused on munchies, not that that sets me apart, but at least I was in swaddling clothes or whatever baby fashions existed back then, since swaddling clothes probably went out with derbys.)
The particular pity of it all is that Nomar's going to get to be the guy at first, forcing the team to see if James Loney can handle the outfield. That's a bit of wasted effort, because Loney's the better fielder at first. Nomar seems the sort who could hurt himself tripping over the bag, running into an ump, or managing to wind up underfoot when Ryan Howard's thundering down the line. Sure, he could always hurt himself running into a wall as an outfielder, but a left fielder generally sees the ball only two or three times per game. As long as you do something like hire Albert Belle to coach Nomar utilizing his timeless outfield manual, "If You're Sessile and You Know It, Clap Your Hands," I'm sure it would all work out for the best.
Signed OF-R Moises Alou to a one-year contract with a club option for 2008; formally announced the decision to not take up the club's 2007 option on LHP Tom Glavine, making him a free agent; acquired LHPs Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick from the Marlins for RHPs Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom; added OF-R Carlos Gomez to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
I like the risks involved with the decision to patch over their left field situation with a short-term deal for Alou. The deal's for $7.5 million per year, with a $1 million buyout of 2008, a reasonable balance of risk and reward that affords the Mets no more certainty than employing Cliff Floyd did. That might seem strange considering that Alou's six and a half years older, but Floyd managed only one healthy season in the last four. The additional plus is that Alou's potential upside is probably higher than Floyd's, in that he's been able to slug better than .550 two of the last three years, but the additional risk is that Alou's at an age where things might just stop working. That just reinforces the point that the length and the money seem right, and while the signing does create the possibility that Omar Minaya might be able to shop Lastings Milledge, the length doesn't make trading the prospect at all necessary. If Milledge learns something about the strike zone in New Orleans, and gets brought up during the odd multi-week stretches when Alou breaks down, that sounds like a win-win.
As for the deal with the Marlins, Vargas is an interesting pickup, the sort who might wind up at the back end of the Mets' rotation if things work out. He's polished enough as a former college star, but his fastball isn't extraordinary, and his nice run at the end of 2005 leads Kevin Goldstein to suggest it was a once-around-the-league success story more than an indication that he's got a lot of promise. Maybe he's a Rick Peterson project that actually works out, and maybe he's just another one of the Mets' (sometimes Peterson-inspired) random fancies that doesn't work out. Bostick's a bit on the wild side (80 walks in 142 innings between Double- and Triple-A, against 139 Ks), but he's not an especially hard thrower, relying instead on a curve and a fastball that's more of a cutter in terms of its movement if not velocity. He isn't seen as a high-upside guy, but he might grow up to be like Vargas-somebody who could step into the back end of a rotation. Still, that's two guys who might be quality relievers for two guys who might not be anything more than fifth starters.
The problem seems to be that the Mets have a lot of those guys, and not a lot of front men for their 2007 rotation. The decision to not pick up Glavine's option, particularly in this market, seems all the more foolhardy. This team is already very much built to win now, so why not take your chances on one year with Glavine, versus offering a multi-year deal to Barry Zito or Jason Schmidt? Maybe I'm not appropriately enthusiastic about the two biggest names in the free agent starting pitcher pool, but for the money either's going to cost, I'd rather take my chances with Glavine. Instead, the Mets might have to spend major money on the famous people, still find themselves a bit short, and have to take shopping Milledge that much more seriously. Choosing that much uncertainty over a one-year commitment to Glavine seems like a pretty significant miscalculation.
Signed 3B/1B-R Wes Helms to a two-year, $5.45 million contract. [11/17]
The market for third basemen is perhaps even uglier than it is for shortstops, so Helms was certainly in a position to shop around for the best possible bid for his getting to start. In that, Philly's a perfect match, as he'll almost certainly get the opportunity to start 100-120 games. While he won't hit anything like last season's .329/.390/.575 in full-time play, and his glovework at third won't win any awards, he's an improvement at the plate on Abraham Nunez, and the price to go out and get him is a fraction of what it seems Aubrey Huff is going to expect. Helms apparently had larger offers available to him, but with less guaranteed playing time-I guess I'm always impressed when a guy takes the chance to play over the money. It isn't like he'll starve, and how many times do you get to actually play when you're Wes Helms? The guy's already past 30-here's hoping he does more than give the Phillies their money's worth.
Added OF-L Nyjer Morgan, LHP Dave Davidson, and RHP Romulo Sanchez to the 40-man roster; released C-R Carlos Maldonado. [11/20]
Added SS-R Luis Cruz and RHP Leonel Rosales to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Added 2B/SS-B Eugenio Velez and RHP Osiris Matos to the 40-man roster. [11/20]
Added LHP Troy Cate, RHPs Dennis Dove and Blake Hawksworth, and OF-L Cody Haerther to the 40-man roster. [11/20]