Category Archives: Free Agent Signings

On the Pirates signing of Clint Barmes

Sometimes I get the feeling that teams just sign free agents because they can and not because they need to.  Case in point, the Pirates signing of Clint Barmes to be their everyday shortstop for the next two seasons at a grand total of 10.5-million.

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In a weak and expensive free agent market for starting pitchers, Danks and Floyd may be better options.

By Travis Reitsma

When C.C. Sabathia re-signed with the Yankees almost immediately after opting out of the remainder of his deal, making him the richest pitcher in baseball history, the free agent market for starting pitchers went from not great to bad.  Only two others achieved ‘Type-A’ status in Rangers’ lefty C.J. Wilson and the Phillies’ Roy Oswalt, who’s well past his prime and is a significant injury risk.

Another intriguing option is Japanese righthander Yu Darvish who is expected to be posted by his NPBL team sometime this offseason, but with a posting fee, Darvish could end up costing his North American team over $100-million; a risky proposition for a pitcher who has never thrown a pitch in the Majors.  There are also ‘Type-B’ options Mark Buehrle, Hiroki Kuroda, Edwin Jackson, Aaron Harang, Bruce Chen, and Freddy Garcia and other notables such as Erik Bedard, Aaron Cook, Bartolo Colon, Zach Duke, Livan Hernandez, and Jon Garland.

In other words, there are some decent options, but no game changers outside of Wilson and Darvish who probably aren’t true number one pitchers themselves.  The problem with trying to acquire starting pitching on the free agent market is just how expensive it is.  Take a look at these contracts given out to starting pitchers last year:

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Has Ruben Amaro learned nothing from the Brad Lidge Extension?

By Eric Han

On November 7th, 2007, Brad Lidge, a lights out closer for the Houston Astros, was traded (along with Eric Bruntlett) to the Philadelphia Phillies for a 3 player package consisting of speedy outfielder Michael Bourn, reliever Geoff Geary, and 3B prospect Mike Costanzo.

8 months later, after an extremely successful debut with the Phillies, Lidge signed a three-year, $36M (plus $12.5M option) extension with his new team. The deal, which (according to ESPN) was orchestrated by then-Assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr., wasn’t viewed as an overpay; other closers at the time like Joe Nathan and Francisco Cordero got similar money as free agents. Lidge also had a solid track record.
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Diamondbacks plan to use Micah Owings as both a pitcher and a first baseman.

Here’s an interesting little tidbit of information; according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers, after re-acquiring him from the Reds, has announced that pitcher Micah Owings will play some first base as well as pitch this upcoming season.

Surely Towers is not the first person to have thought of this as Owings is probably the best hitting pitcher in baseball.  A lot of people have watched him hit and wondered if he could be both a hitter and a pitcher.

Well, the D’Backs are going to try it.

Owings has a career .293/.323/.538 slash line with a very good .365 wOBA and 9 home runs in 198 career plate appearances .

On the mound, Owings has a career 5.11 ERA and 5.03 FIP in 99 career appearances including 64 starts.  One could reasonably conclude that perhaps his ticket to staying in the majors is as a hitter.

There is one question that needs to be asked:  Does having a player as both a position player and a pitcher take his focus off of pitching?  Could it actually make him worse on both sides?

I guess we’ll find out.

When and if there’s a published story about this, I’ll post it and perhaps we’ll have more information.

Wells traded to the Angels — Manny and Damon sign in Tampa

Leave it to me to say that there is no news in baseball right now.  As soon as I posted that Pujols piece, all hell broke loose.

The Toronto Blue Jays, led by noted ninja Alex Anthopoulos unloaded Vernon Wells and his gaudiest of gaudy contracts to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for catcher/DH/1B Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera.

On a pure talent level, the Angels may have an edge in this deal, but this was clearly a salary dump for Toronto.  They get out from under four years and $86-million owed to Vernon Wells and in return get two serviceable major-leaguers who fill urgent needs for 2011.  Beyond that, nothing is guaranteed to either player, giving the Jays much more financial flexibility going forward; Rivera is a free agent after this season and Napoli is still in his arbitration years.

The best part of this deal is that the Angels will take on all $86-million still owed to Wells.  The Jays get off.  Scott.  Free.

Juan Rivera can occupy one of the now empty outfield spots (probably leftfield, moving Snider to right) with Rajai Davis most likely manning center until Anthony Gose or Darin Matroianni are ready.  Rivera could also be flipped in another trade.

Napoli fits in nicely as an insurance policy behind the plate in case Arencibia shows signs of not being ready and if he is ready, he can DH and play occasional first base.

Napoli has very dramatic splits (.305/.399/.567 against lefties vs. .208/.277/.423 against righties) which set up some really nice platoon options for Toronto with Adam Lind at first base.

As the Wells news began to settle down, the Tampa Bay Rays popped up with some equally significant news; they signed both Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to one year contracts.  Damon’s deal is for $5.25-million and Manny’s is apparently for $2.0-million!!!!

I speculated earlier this week that Manny would get far more than $4-million and I really did think he’d get $6-$8-million.  Mind=blown.

I’m a little confused as to why the Rays would get both Manny and Damon considering neither can play outfield, but maybe they are planning an insane DH platoon, who knows?

Both players are still more than competent at the plate and to get them both for under $8-million is nothing less than very impressive.

The Rays and Jays are both fully aware of the kind of savvy it takes to compete in the AL East on a small budget and within minutes, they both showed you why.

Blue Jays intentionally overcrowd their bullpen with righties, sign Rauch

The Jays have added yet another arm to an already crowded bullpen by signing the monstrous Jon Rauch to a one-year, $3.5-million contract.  The deal also has a $3.75-million option for 2012 which, if not enacted, can be bought out for $250,000.

I’m torn about this deal.  On the one hand, I think Rauch is a much better signing than Octavio Dotel, who was signed earlier this month for comparable cash.

I’m pretty confident that I would stand more of a chance against a tough left-handed batter than Dotel, while Rauch is better rounded with fairly even splits.

For those of you who believe in such things, Rauch ranks at an 11 out of 10 in the intimidation department standing as the tallest man ever to appear in a Major League game at 6’11” tall.

I however, do not think height and crazy neck tattoos actually intimidate professional hitters because, here’s the scoop, they’re professional hitters.  If they get intimidated by such meaningless crap then they probably shouldn’t be playing professional baseball.  Randy Johnson aside, of course, that motherfucker was bananas.

Dustin Parkes over at Getting Blanked isn’t too fond of the deal because, and I completely agree, the Jays have too many pitchers that do the same thing.  Like him, I don’t believe it’s ever the smartest move in the world to spend any significant doe on relief pitching, but I don’t hate this deal.

In comparison to many of the other deals for relief pitchers this offseason, the Jays managed to spend about market value for only one guaranteed season on Rauch.  He is a pitcher who, at times, can be extremely effective and does have experience closing out games.  If you’re going to spend $3.5-million on an overvalued ROOGY like Dotel, or give a multi-year deal to a pitcher like Joaquin Benoit or Jesse Crain than this deal doesn’t look too bad.

In fact, if you look at Jesse Crain and Jon Rauch side by side, you start to see why the Jays made this move.

Crain:  3.42 ERA, 6.22 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, 0.75 HR/9, 45.7 GB%, 7.4% HR/FB, 4.04 FIP
Rauch: 3.71 ERA, 7.34 K/9, 2.80 BB/9, 0.98 HR/9, 33.6 GB%, 7.7% HR/FB, 3.89 FIP

In fact, looking at those you could make the argument that Rauch is a superior pitcher.  Since I was all for the Jays signing Crain, I think I have to like this deal.  Crain signed with the White Sox for 3 years and $13-million.

With Brian Fuentes signing in Oakland, it’s looking more and more like the left-handed situation in the Jays bullpen will be some combination of David Purcey, Rommie Lewis, Jesse Carlson, and Marc Rzepczynski providing he’s not starting.  Given what I know about them, I’d be okay with a Purcey/Carlson combination if they both pitch the way they are capable of.

Like I say, I do like the deal, but why not use similar dollars to sign an effective lefthander?  If it were me, I’d sign Rauch, leave Dotel the hell alone and maybe ink Randy Flores, Dennys Reyes or Randy Choate for the same amount of money or less.

Texas Rangers third base roulette

Adrian Beltre sans cup

Rumour has it that the Texas Rangers are close to signing free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre to a six-year deal worth $96-million (a guaranteed $80-million over five years).  This deal has been on and off more times than Brett Favre’s career (too easy?), but it appears to be ‘on’ again as reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown.

This deal makes sense on a few levels for Texas and none on a few others.  Beltre is a solid player.  He’s one of the best defensive third-baggers in the game and has been for years and is a solid contributor with the stick.  The problem is he’s always far better in walk-years than in any other year.

Take away Beltre’s two biggest free-agent seasons in 2004 and 2010 (not counting his ’09 walk-year with the Mariners which was injury-plagued) and Beltre goes from a career average .275/.328/.462 to a .264/.318/.435, which is more likely what you’ll get from him going forward.  Throw in the fact that he’ll be 37 when the deal is done, and like most marquee free agent pickups, this one might turn sour on the Rangers.

By the way, Beltre’s line in his two walk years is a stupid .328/.377/.591.  Like the Mariners before them, the Rangers will likely pay for a slash line similar to that rather than what he does in every other year.

There are two other aspects to this deal that need to be considered as well: one good, one bad.

The good: The other two major suitors for Beltre’s services were two of Texas’ division rivals in the Angels and A’s.  Texas swooping in and grabbing Beltre certainly hurts both of their rivals, especially the Angels who have now lost out on every major free agent they were said to be in on.  It has been a disastrous offseason for the Halos so far.

Michael Young

The bad:  What to do with Michael Young?  The Rangers’ defensively inept third baseman will either be traded (which will be hard considering he’s owed $48-million over the next three seasons) or have to endure yet another position change.  Every time Young is asked to move positions which he’ll now have to do for the third time, he complains, asks for a trade and then eventually settles down and accepts his new lot in life.

The problem is that this time Young will be asked to move either to first base or DH, two positions which are high offensive positions and Young is in full offensive decline, posting OPS numbers well below his career average in three of the last four seasons; don’t let his 21 HR and 91 RBI in 2010 fool you.

In comparison to some of the wacky contracts that have been handed out since the Giants won their first World Series in San Francisco, this one won’t be the worst; but it’s still curious.

This also very likely means Vladimir Guerrero won’t be returning to Arlington, priming him for a possible return to the Angels…or perhaps the Jays?  Discuss…

Statistical information lifted from FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference