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December 9, 2009
Winter Meetings Activity, AL
Signed RHP Scott Atchison to a one-year contract with serial options for 2011 and 2012. [12/7]
Re-imported from Japan after a fitful stateside career, Atchison's around for barely more than the minimum, and strikes me as another one of Theo Epstein's interesting little fishing expeditions, trawling low-cost relief waters for the odd unlikely catch. Atchison had a good pair of years with Hanshin Tigers, managing a 1.70 ERA in 75 games, and now that he's heading into his age-34 season, we'll have to see if he's still the middling middle relief talent the Mariners and Giants used briefly mid-decade.
Agreed to terms on a three-year, $14 million contract with 4C-L Mark Teahen. [12/8]
As much as I liked the decision to add Teahen to let them subsequently shift Gordon Beckham to the keystone, I also saw it as something of a transient fix for their third-base needs. As one anonymous AL Central executive put it, "If that's how they want to spend their money, that's less for us to worry about." Remember, the Royals are still paying $1 million towards Teahen's 2010 compensation, so this becomes that much more back-loaded for the Sox, since they're only paying $2.75 million in 2010 beyond that, then $4.75 million in 2011 and $5.5 million in 2012. This deal does eliminate his last year of arbitration eligibility and buy out his first two years of free agency, which helps go towards explaining the price, but it seems like an overly elaborate gesture as far as landing a simple placeholder for the hot corner, especially when the club still needs to sign an outfielder and a DH to finish stocking the lineup. However, given how front-light the deal is, I could see a one-year offer on Jim Thome being affordable to answer at least one of those issues.
Noted the decision of RHP Carl Pavano to accept arbitration to determine his 2010 compensation. [12/7]
Designated RHP Boof Bonser for assignment. [12/8]
I'd consider the offer and the acceptance as far as Pavano's retention to be entirely in keeping with his seemingly reacquired utility as a fourth starter. You don't want to risk more than a year with him, there's not a ton of untapped upside, but a 2.7 SNLVAR and near-.500 SNWP is useful enough if he can absorb innings. He managed 18 quality starts through six IP in his 33 turns, and while he had a decent strikeout out (6.6 K/9) and some bad luck with his BABIP and HR/FB ratio, I also don't think we should get too worked up on his behalf, given that we can't be entirely sure where his skill level after so much lost time has settled. He's a potentially useful fourth man in a rotation, and better to be at terms with that for one season than go shopping in the market and pay a premium-and probably for more than one season-for someone else.
As for Bonser, he was always the least hopeful element of the A.J. Pierzynski deal, and if the Twins keep him in-house or peddle him away, they still have a whole lot of Joe Nathan and a bit of Francisco Liriano to give them warm fuzzies over that particular heist.
Signed UT-S Chone Figgins to a four-year, $36 million deal, with a $9 million vesting option for 2014. [12/8]
To some extent, I'd consider what the Mariners have done here to be very like what Matt Swartz posited yesterday, as far as expanding a potential market for their own offensive solutions. As Jack Zduriencik noted during yesterday's press conference, finally formalizing the biggest open secret of the Meetings, exactly where Figgins winds up on the diamond isn't locked in. And why should it be? If you consider Figgins a second baseman or a third baseman-or even an outfielder-you expand your market of potential solutions, notionally lowering your potential expense, while also freeing yourself to treat this as more of a lineup question. With Figgins and Ichiro Suzuki atop the lineup card (in whatever order), they should probably focus on mid-order power, and probably key in on their rumored pursuits of Jason Bay and/or Russell Branyan. But because they might treat Figgins as their second baseman, they could also throw Jose Lopez onto the pile of acquirable bargaining chips, and pursue a re-up with Adrian Beltre for a shorter-term deal than the free agent would probably like. This early in the winter, possessing Figgins' flexibility expands Zduriencik's options, and lets the Mariners play the market instead of getting played by it.
Of course, there is the somewhat delicious irony of Figgins winding up in Seattle, since I got so much hate mail from the Pacific Northwest for suggesting last winter that Figgins was the more desirable commodity between Figgy and Beltre. That said, my instinct's to congratulate the Mariners and their fans for adding a player worth the price they've pegged him at. Left alone at third base, he's made himself a tremendous defensive asset at the corner, making him an easy fit for a team that places a priority on defense. I don't think there's a BABIP bugaboo to despair of as far as his 2009 production, in that he's a player with a .341 career BABIP, his line-drive rate wasn't extraordinary, and his walk rate has been above 10 percent over the last four years. Via Equivalent Baserunning, his value on the bases in all phases save stealing bases was a positive, and since the running game is to some extent a managerial decision, that could change on a Mariners team that's much more conservative on the base paths.
Which leaves the real question: will he have value over the life of the deal? Here again, I'm somewhat optimistic. Despite breaking down in two of the previous three seasons, he's been relatively durable over the course of his career. Speed's an asset that ages well, and he's enhanced his long-term value with demonstrably improved defense at the position he's been left at once the Angels stopped asking him to be a super-utility player. His power might suffer some in Seattle, but since he's rarely contributing more than 100 points of ISO in the first place, it's not really one of his key virtues. Remember when Bill James pined for the guys who draw walks and hit for average, but don't hit for power? If that isn't Figgins to a T, who could be?
Finally, in other news, both Jeff Fiorentino and Justin Huber signed with the Hiroshima Carp, for base contracts worth 40 million yen apiece. Both have been sabermetric faves, Fiorentino for his seeming perfect fourth outfielder's blend of modest dashes of OBP and pop combined with an ability to handle all three parts of the pasture, Huber because he was seen as an OBP threat at first base. Fiorentino's luck in sticking has been exceptionally poor, but he'd still very much be an asset to a big-league club; Huber, not so much, but that's in part because the standards of what's playable at first base are so high. Both might make contemporary Ken Phelps All-Stars, but I sort of expect that if either's bound to return, it'll be Fiorentino who's the one who might be able to contribute in the bigs at some point in the future.