Free Agent Redux, Part Four
Arizona: The D-Backs, filled with young talent already, were very quiet this offseason as far as free agency went, their only move being to bring in veteran outfielder Trot Nixon on a minor league deal. Nixon looked like he was going to make the team, but he wound up being sent to Triple-A. At this point, he’s just organizational depth.
Atlanta: The Braves also made just a single free agent move, but it was a fairly substantial one as they brought back prodigal son Tom Glavine for one year and $8 million. Although the aging lefty’s durability is beginning to show cracks (he’s already endured a DL stint this season), Glavine’s overall results have been solid after a sub par season in 2007. In fact, he probably deserves a better ERA than he has, given his numbers this month.
Chicago: The Cubs bolstered their pitching, re-signing one of their longtime frustrations and returning a veteran presence that enjoyed his finest seasons in Wrigley.
Kerry Wood, long filled with promise, but often the cause of premature baldness in Chicago area men thanks to his incessant injuries, was brought back for one season at $4.2 million. Installed as the closer, Wood has never been this unhittable, but some reason hiccups have clouded his overall numbers to an extent. Still, I think he’s made the adjustment fairly smoothly, and although the Cubs have plenty of (most say better) options to close, I think the job is Wood’s as long as he’s healthy.
Jon Lieber, who spent four years with the Cubbies, winning 20 games in 2001, was brought back for one year at $3.5 million. Lieber failed to win a rotation spot, so instead has been used in long relief and as a spot starter. He got his crack to return to the rotation earlier this month, but the results were awful. It looks like Lieber’s immediate future is in the bullpen, something that severely limits his fantasy value. Still, it’s been a good fit for the Cubs, so was money well spent.
Cincinnati: The Reds were among the most active teams in the free agent market this offseason, moving to beef up their bullpen, add some rotation depth, bring in a potential impact player and fill some holes.
Cincy’s biggest splash was in landing the top closer on the market, penning Francisco Cordero away from the Brewers with $46 million over four years. He’s paid instant dividends, and although he hasn’t quite matched last year’s career best K/9 rate, Cordero’s done a bang up job at the end of the Red pen. The Reds had the worst bullpen in the NL in 2007. The good news is it’s better this year by over a half run per game; the bad news is it’s still dead last in the NL. Ya…about that middle relief.
The Reds did add Jeremy Affeldt from the Rockies for one year and $3 million, and he’s helped out in the pen as well, leaving the question ‘what the hell is wrong with the rest of Cincy’s relievers?’ At any rate, Affeldt is a workhorse, and although he’s been a bit more hittable this year, he’s never struck out batters at a higher rate than he has so far in 2008. He could be an option in a deep NL-only league, although his recent results are a bit discouraging.
Josh Fogg, who enjoyed a decent year with the Rockies in 2007, was signed for one year and $1.5 million by the Reds. The team quickly realized he wasn’t going to last in the rotation, yanking him after three horrific starts. Since shifting to the pen, Fogg has been much better, perhaps keeping himself in consideration for a spot start down the road. At this point, however, his fantasy relevance is non existent.
Another cheap veteran brought aboard was back-up catcher Paul Bako, signed away from the Orioles for one year and $700,000. Injuries have forced Bako to see way more action than anticipated, and he’s enjoying a career year as a result. He’s showing nice gap power, has been productive and very patient, making Bako a major bargain and even somewhat of an asset in a deep NL-only league.
The Reds took a chance on outfielder Corey Patterson, also luring him away from Baltimore for a year and $3 million. Unfortunately, the enigmatic Patterson hasn’t panned out. His on-base skills, suspect to begin with, have gone completely AWOL, and his power has slipped further. It’s bad enough that he simply can’t compete against lefties; this year, Patterson is swinging a wet noodle against righties as well. He still has some fantasy appeal because of his stolen base potential, but Patterson is finding himself on plenty of waiver wires recently as his play continues to regress.
The Reds got a steal when they signed utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. to a one-year, $500,000 deal. When Alex Gonzalez went down with an injury, Hairston was thrust into a near starting role, and he’s never played better, recording an 845 OPS in 25 games. Hairston Jr. has garnered a modicum of interest in deeper NL-only leagues, and frankly, I think he should garner even more, despite his weak strike zone discipline.
Colorado: The defending NL Champs were fairly active in the free agent market, re-signing three of their own and adding a pair of new arms.
Yorvit Torrealba, who took over as the team’s starting catcher last year, was re-signed for two years and $7.25 million. Unfortunately, his bat has continued to regress, and as a result he’s been losing PT to Chris Iannetta. This virtual job-share scenario has left neither with much value and, so far, suggests Colorado made a mistake with this signing, especially since Torrealba is getting worse as the season progresses.
Re-signing reliever Matt Herges for one year at $2.25 million, however, has worked out well so far. Herges continued to get his career back on track during his first season in the mountains, and this year, he’s been even sharper. If you’re in a deep NL-only league that tracks holds, you’ll want to give Herges another look.
Kip Wells parlayed a decent year in St. Louis into a one-year, $3.1 million deal with the Rockies. While he’s only made one start, Wells was doing a superb job out of the pen for Colorado before blood clots in his hand knocked him out. He could be back in about four weeks, so Wells may still provide the Rox with some value this season.
Mark Redman, a mid-season acquisition last year who really helped the Rockies’ surge to the playoffs, was re-signed for one year and $1 million. Unfortunately, he completely blew up and had to not only be removed from the rotation, but optioned out to Triple-A earlier this month. Colorado didn’t spend much on Redman, so it was a decent signing if for nothing more than some depth.
Finally, Colorado added some bullpen depth by penning Luis Vizcaino away from the Yanks for two years and $7.5 million. Vizcaino has been a steady and durable reliever for several years, but it was clear from the get-go that something was wrong this season and after just one week, he landed on the DL with a shoulder injury. He’s making some progress now, and is expected to begin a minor league rehab stint shortly, so Vizcaino could still wind up justifying his contract, but so far, he’s been a dud.
Next up, we’ll progress through the National League from the Marlins on.