Friday, December 02, 2005

Bits and pieces

Lots of free agent news and trade happenings:
  • The Blue Jays won the B.J. Ryan derby by throwing a 5-year, $47 million contract. Ryan is about as good a bet as anyone to be a productive pitcher for five years. But that's not saying much, because closers are a notoriously volatile investment. The odds that Ryan will actually be a productive enough closer over 5 years to make back this money are astronomical. One thing I've noticed while charting baseball seasons is how even good closers have big ups and downs. The exception is someone like Mariano Rivera, who is actually a reliably good closer, year in and year out. Everyone else you could mention, from Trevor Hoffman to Troy Percival, Robb Nen, Roberto Hernandez and other big closers from the past 10 years, are rarely reliable enough to pay big money. Most closers have a short peak of one or two years, and then maybe four of five solid years, interspersed with big injuries and just flat-out sucking. Look at Keith Foulke, who looked like such a great investment for Boston last year. Now he just had an awful, injury-plagued year, and the Sox are actually looking for another closer. So it's nothing against Ryan to say that he's not worth the money. He's had three straight good years and strikes out a whole lot of batters. But most closers after the age of 30 are just trying to recapture their good years. The Jays will be lucky if they get 2 or 3 years of the B.J. Ryan they want. And Toronto simply doesn't have enough money to waste. But that's nothing -- would you believe that the Jays might end up landing A.J. Burnett as well? At least Ryan is actually good and vaguely reliable. Burnett is 29 and still hasn't had an $11-million season. Which is funny, because he's probably going to get paid $11 million (or more) for the next five years.
  • The Oakland A's signed Esteban Loaiza to a 3-year contract for about $21 million. This is a huge head-scratcher, as Loaiza is barely a league-average pitcher. I don't know what tea leaves Billy Beane has been studying, but the odds that Loaiza will make back this money are pretty slim. And again, the A's aren't a team that can afford to give big money to the wrong people. I can only guess that Beane knows something I don't, unless he's just gone goofy. With this signing, the A's starting rotation gets even more crowded, increasing speculation that they will trade ace Barry Zito.
  • The Cubs signed relief pitcher Bobby Howry to a 3-year contract. I don't know if someone dared the Cubs to sign a lot of unreliable relief pitchers to big contracts, or if the Relief Pitchers' Association has compromising photos of GM Jim Hendry, or what. But this is an absolutely bone-headed contract. Why in the world would you sign a marginal relief pitcher for three bloomin' years?
  • The Mets signed Billy Wagner as their closer. They're overpaying him, but I guess they can afford to. Everything I said about Ryan applies to Wagner as well. Wagner has the advantage of being a more proven commodity than Ryan, but has the big disadvantage of being 5 years older.
  • The White Sox re-signed Paul Konerko. It was, again, overpaying, but Konerko was the only big-offense option left out there. This gives the Sox a good offensive boost toward repeating as AL Central Champs, but I'm still putting my money on Cleveland.
  • The Padres signed Brian Giles to a 3-year deal, which is good news for them, since Giles' departure would have ravaged their offense.
  • The Phillies signed Tom Gordon as their closer. Gordon was the Yankees' setup man last season, but New York has now replaced him with Kyle Farnsworth. I really don't know why the Yankees prefer Farnsworth, who is an amazingly unreliable pitcher. It's possible that Farnsworth will be an ace setup man, but it's more likely that he'll take another wild sojourn into mediocrity, leaving him an albatross around their necks. Gordon is older, yes, but much more reliable. He hasn't been a closer for a while, but he was baseball's best setup man from 2003-2004.
  • A half-dead, decomposing animal was found on the Interstate just outside Miami, Florida. Police determined that it was the decaying carcass of the Florida Marlins and put the poor devil out of its misery. Charges haven't been filed, although rumors swirl that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has stolen the deed to the orphanage and tied Pauline to the railroad tracks.

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