Relievers continue to get paid, Adrian Beltre is the last big bat on the free agent market, and a handful of mid-level offensive players have found their homes for the 2011 season.
Adrian Beltre: He wants something like $80 million dollars. He shouldn’t get it. However, he might, as the Angels have been unable to attract any of the options they were hoping to land (Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Josh Willingham etc.), while losing Hideki Matsui to the Athletics (Hot Stove: Lee Isn’t Only Newsmaker). Will they capitulate to the demands of the incomparable super agent Scott Boras who has likely tried to convince them that Beltre is better than Mike Schmidt? The Angels would be wise to read The Curious Case of Adrian Beltre where I point out how Beltre had one other “special” season in his career which, by pure chance I’m sure, just so happened to come right as Beltre was heading into free agency.
Kevin Gregg: Will he and the Orioles ever get this thing figured out? The two sides have been linked for weeks now with an offer of $8-10 million over two years reportedly being floated his way. Why has Gregg balked at what seems like a reasonable deal? The recent contracts given to Scott Downs (3-years, $15 million), Matt Guerrier (3-years, $12 million), Jesse Crain (3-years, $12 million) and Bobby Jenks (2-years, $12) certainly aren’t helping the Orioles (for more on Jenks give Hot Stove: Signings Galore a read). “It’s fair to say that we’re still in discussions with a few teams and Baltimore is one of them,” said Danny Horwits, Kevin Gregg;’s agent. Say what you will about Gregg, but the fact remains that he is one of only seven relievers in baseball with at least 23 saves in each of the last four seasons. With middle relievers getting such huge deals, you can’t blame Gregg for holding out for more.
Orlando Hudson: Sorry David Eckstein, but with Padres pending addition of Jason Bartlett and today’s signing of O-Dog (2-years, $11.5 million), it might finally be the end of the road for you. I for one have no issue whatsoever in tipping my cap to you. The fact you were able to accomplish so much with so little is flat out amazing. As for Hudson, can we please, finally, put this guy to rest as a solid fantasy option? Every year he is over-drafted, but the simple fact of the matter is that he is nothing more than a replacement level fantasy option, if that. He does own a career .280 average, but he has averaged only eight steals the past eight seasons, hasn’t reached double-digits in homers since 2007, has never knocked in 70 runs, and only twice scored 80 runs. Great defender, great guy, and a wonderful role model, but in terms of his fantasy value he is middling at best, especially now that he will call Petco home.
Bill Hall: Let us all shed a tear for the end of the Jeff Keppinger / Tommy Manzella era in Houston. How could the club look to replace the best up the middle duo since Trammell and Whitaker? Obviously it’s because of the vast improvement they were able to make through the trade and free agent market (wink, wink). A month ago the club signed Clint Barmes to play shortstop, and I wrote about just how poor an idea that was in AL CY and Two Deals. Not content with that brilliant move, the Astros then went out and added Bill Hall off the free agent market on Friday signing him to a 1-year deal for around $3 million dollars to play second base. Hall has power, I won’t dispute that, but he has hit just .225 over the past three years while striking out 32 percent of the time. That’s ain’t good. I have little doubt that Barmes will go deep 15 times or that Hall could approach 25 homers playing everyday, but what are the Astros doing to their teams ability to score runs? As it stands today, if we assume the club will go with Carlos Lee at first base which seems like their current plan (sorry Brett Wallace), here is how their infield would shape up in terms of their 2010 OBPs.
C: Jason Castro (.286), Humberto Quintero (.262)
1B: Carlos Lee (.291)
2B: Bill Hall (.316)
3B: Chris Johnson (.337)
SS: Clint Barmes (.305)
To compare, the big league average in 2010 was .325. That’s right, only one of those players was even league average last year in his ability to get on base. Better get one of those disaster survival kits Astros’ fans, there could be some significant scoring droughts this season.
Xavier Nady: Signed to a 1-year deal for $1.75 million with the D’backs. Nady will likely be asked to play some first base and left field, and to add some pop to a team that has lost its two best power bats from 2010 (Adam LaRoche who is a free agent and Mark Reynolds who was dealt to the Orioles). Nady wasn’t at full strength last year after Tommy John surgery, so the Diamondbacks are willing to cut him some slack for his poor performance (.256-7-31 with a .660 OPS in 236 at-bats). Nady hit 25 homers while batting .305 as recently as 2008, but he has only one other 20 homer season on his resume. Still, this was a nice low cost addition by the D’backs, and he does makes a fine NL-only option.
And finally, the strange case of Kerry Wood…
As I referenced above relievers, even middle relievers, have been getting ginormous deals this offseason. So what is your reaction when you hear that Wood signed a 1-year deal for $1.5 million to play for the Cubs? My reaction was utter shock – I couldn’t have been more caught off guard if a Playboy Playmate had shown up on my doorstep wearing a Santa suit and holding a bottle of champagne (sorry, that’s always been a fantasy of mine). Come on, honestly, isn’t a hottie on my doorstep a more reasonable expectation than Wood signing for a mere $1.5 million? Apparently he really missed Chicago, so I give him credit for leaving millions to return to Chicago (apparently he really wanted to pitch for the Cubs and not the White Sox who reportedly offered a 1-year deal for $3.5 million). Wood will serve as the primary setup man for Carlos Marmol in Chicago, and if he pitches anything like the hurler who had a 0.69 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 31 Ks in 26 innings with the Yankees this could turn out to be the best contract given by a club this offseason.
By Ray Flowers