Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Winds of Change Are Blowin'

At least in baseball, it doesn't get quite this bad.
  • Reports are that the Yankees have agreed to a contract with Japanese pitcher Kei Igawa. The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun puts the value of the deal at about 5 years, $20 million. Add to that the Yanks' posting fee of $26 million.
    This seems like a good deal to me. Even taking the posting fee into account, the Yanks will be paying about $9 million a year for Igawa (less when you consider that the posting fee doesn't count toward the luxury tax). This is the going rate for an above-average starter, which Igawa seems to be. In fact, since he's relatively young and is (I think) better than he looks, he should be a good addition to the Yankee rotation. The Yanks now have a tentative rotation of: Wang, Mussina, Pettitte, Igawa, and Randy Johnson. This means they have the luxury of phasing in star prospect Phillip Hughes whenever they wish and could actually be trading away a starting pitcher mid-season.
  • Vernon Wells did indeed sign the 7-year, $126 million deal offered by the Blue Jays. I'll save this discussion for later when I can go into more detail, but I think people have deluded themselves into thinking that Wells is better than he is. It also commits Toronto to a lot of money which really limits their maneuverability in the coming years.
  • The Mariners made the second really bad trade of their offseason when they sent prospects Chris Snelling and Emiliano Fruto to the Nationals for Jose Vidro. Vidro is washed up as a hitter (289/348/395 last year) and has become a loss at second base. He's signed to a silly contract that's a remnant of the Montreal Expos era. I wouldn't trade away a box of paper clips for Jose Vidro and his contract.
    But the Mariners decided to trade away Chris Snelling, a promising (if injury-prone) young outfielder, and a fair relief arm in Fruto to get him. Vidro won't be displacing Jose Lopez at second base, and so will be the team's DH.
    Now you're probably thinking that a DH should be a good hitter. You're also thinking that if someone is a decent hitter for a second baseman, they're going to suck as a DH. Keith Law predicts that Vidro will be the worst DH in the league, and I agree. He's displacing Ben Broussard, who's no Dave Winfield, but is a much more valuable hitter than Vidro.
    This is yet another terrible deal for the Mariners that smacks of desperation and could easily seal the fate of GM Bill Bavasi.
  • The Devil Rays agreed to a perfectly reasonable contract with Japanese infielder Akinori Iwamura: 3 years, $7.7 million. Not bad for such an above-average guy, especially considering their posting fee was minimal.
  • As many people expected, the Tigers signed pitcher Jeremy Bonderman to a contract extension. The deal is for 4 years and $38 million, and is absolutely reasonable by any standard. The length of the contract covers Bonderman's entry first couple years of free agency, but is still relatively short enough to allow the team some wiggle room if the hard-worked youngster gets injured. And $9.5 million per year for one of the top 10 or so pitchers in the good league is well below market value.
  • The White Sox traded 1B/OF Ross Gload to the Royals for relief pitcher Andy Sisco. Okay, try to help me understand this. The Royals are amazingly crowded with 1B/OF types, most of whom are far better than Ross freakin' Gload. Andy Sisco is a young relief arm who is still a bit raw, but has good potential, and should be a valuable (and cheap) part of the Sox bullpen. Is Allard Baird still secretly running the Royals?
    The White Sox also signed up free agent Toby Hall to a 2-year deal to be their backup catcher. Hall doesn't hit well even for a catcher (career 265/301/384) and isn't particularly gifted on defense. It's not a lot of money, but I still wonder what makes people seek out Toby Hall.
  • The Red Sox made some maintenance moves to fill out their roster. They got reliever Brendan Donnelly from the Angels for a prospect, and they signed reliever J.C. Romero and backup catcher Doug Mirabelli to one-year deals.
    At 35, Donnelly's a bit old, but he's also got a reliable track record as an above-average big-league reliever. It's better that the Sox get him instead of making another Julian Tavarez-esque boo-boo.
    J.C. Romero is just 30, but is coming off a wretched season with the Angels (6.70 ERA in 48.1 IP). But Romero is usually solid, and so long as there's nothing lingering from his 2006 season, he should be a perfectly acceptable LOOGY. These two moves still leave unanswered who will be the Boston closer in 2007. The Red Sox are certainly capable of thinking outside the box, but there aren't any desirable closer-type relievers left on the market. The Sox have talked to several teams about a trade but haven't gotten anywhere yet (although they're in the running for the Pirates' Mike Gonzalez). I wouldn't be surprised if they ended up shifting Papelbon back into the role, if only for a year.
    As for Mirabelli, the Sox could probably do better for a backup catcher and really shouldn't go this crazy over a guy who can catch a knuckleball, especially after last year's fiasco.
  • The Giants signed Ryan Klesko to a one-year deal. Apparently, they were running low on Defensively Useless Old Guys With Nothing Left in the Tank.
  • Rumors have Marcus Giles headed to San Diego to join brother Brian on the Padres. This looks like a good deal for the Pads by any standard, as they get Giles, a well above-average second baseman. The Padres also have Todd Walker, who accepted the team's offer of arbitration, but that's not such a problem. Walker can serve as an insurance policy for young third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and is also a valuable backup guy and pinch-hitter.

More to come, no doubt, as we're still Waiting for Zito(t).

No comments: