All anyone will be talking about today is the Cliff Lee signing, and while I too will lead off with his improbable deal with the Phillies, there are some other moves that are worthy of at least throwing a paragraph at.
Cliff Lee: Ted Carlson already covered the Phillies swopping in a and nabbing the top pitcher on the market out from under the Yankees and Rangers in Phil-Lee Surprise. Here is my favorite line from the piece. “That’s the best quartet that Philly has seen since Boyz II Men.” Classic. Debate will rage about if this is the best foursome of pitchers since the Braves’ in the 1990, the Orioles in the early 70′s or the Indians in 50′s, but let’s just say Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt is a flat out amazing group of arms. As pointed out by ESPN’s Jayson Stark, the top-4 now sports the 2010 major league leader in Wins Above Replacement (Lee), the NL leader in WHIP (Oswalt at 1.03), the NL Cy Young winner (Halladay), and the best left-handed pitcher in the Senior Circuit after 7/1 (Hamels posted a 2.28 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 9.4 K/9 and a 4.24 K/BB mark over his final 118.1 IP). As was also pointed out by @ggiants on Twitter, the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants beat all four of those pitchers in the 2010 playoffs, so don’t go coronating the Phillies as the 2011 champs just yet.
Adam LaRoche/Derrek Lee: It would appear that the Nationals, Orioles and D’backs all need a starting first baseman, and these two are obviously the top-2 options on the free agent market. Both hitters bring solid bats and can be expected to hit 20 homers with at least 80 RBI, and while that isn’t overly exciting by any means, there is nary a team in the game that wouldn’t take that kind of production if the price was right. Lee is likely to command bigger dollars even though he is coming off a slightly depressed season (.260-19-80) and despite the fact that he is four years old at 35. Either one would be a nice pickup at this point with all the big names flying off the free agent board, and neither is going to be poor with teams throwing around money like a drunken frat boy at a gentleman’s club.
Russell Martin: It appears a near certainty that Martin will join the Yankees which sends the wheels moving (he’ll need to pass a physical to make it official). (1) Martin will sign a one year deal with the club, though it’s really a 2-year deal since Martin will be arbitration eligible for the 2012 season, so the Yankees can choose to keep him for one more season if they so desire. (2) It appears that despite coming back off hip surgery, the Yankees are confident that Martin will be able to catch the majority of the time. (3) His signing means that Jesus Montero will likely get some more time to work on his glove in the minors. The dude is ready to hit big league pitching, but many “in the know” worry if he will ever be able to handle the rigors of catching everyday in the big leagues. (4) The real question at this point is what does Martin have left? The hip issue is a huge concern in it’s own right given that a catcher sometimes has to squat and all, but as concerning is the lack of any type of production from his bat. From 2006-08 Martin’s average season was .285-14-74-80-16 as he was a fantasy darling. Since then he has produced an average yearly outing of .249-6-40-54-9, which hardly the stuff of legend. Hitting in a loaded lineup in New York, in a great hitter’s park will help, but I would like his outlook a lot better if he wasn’t being counted on to catch four or five days a week. Don’t be swayed by the love of all things Yankees when considering Martin on draft day, 2011.
Hideki Matsui: The Athletics will announce that they have signed Hideki Matsui after he completes his physical (reports are the deal will be for about $4.25 million for one year). It would appear that Godzilla will be asked to take over as the primary DH in Oakland now that Jack Cust has signed with the Mariners (you can read about that move in Hot Stove: December 8, 2010). Matsui finished 2010 well, and that is putting it mildly, as he batted .309 with 11 homers and 37 RBI, not to mention a .955 OPS, over his last 60 games. The end result was a .274-21-84 line that gave at least those three numbers in each of his last five seasons of 450 at-bats (he hit “only” 16 homers in 2003 when he batted .287 with 106 RBI). Oakland isn’t a great place to hit, and it’s not like their lineup is overflowing with talent, but with Matsui you know what you are going to get.
By Ray Flowers