Free Agent Redux, Part Five
Florida: The Marlins’ sole move on the free agent front was to add veteran outfielder Luis Gonzalez for a one year at $2 million. Now 40, Gonzo has been slip sliding away for years now, but he keeps finding jobs. I mean, a year ago, we were saying he was about done. He’s no longer a fantasy option at all, and at this point is probably just taking at bats away from a youngster who could develop. Still, if nothing else, he brings leadership to a very young team.
Houston: The Astros were very busy this offseason, adding five new bodies and re-signing two holdovers.
Houston signed infielder Geoff Blum to a one year, $1.1 million deal after he enjoyed a decent year as a key utility man for the Padres. Unfortunately, he’s been much more impatient this season, and it’s showing in his results, pretty much the worst of his career through the first two months. We used to think of Blum as a good role player, but now think he’s ready to hang ‘em up.
The Astros also pilfered Doug Brocail away from the Padres for one year and $2.5 million. This is a deal we analyzed closely at the time, thinking then it was a stretch to ask for a repeat of his fine 2007, but in fact, Brocail has been even better so far this season. His control has been absolutely impeccable and he’s thrived as the team’s top set-up man, already equaling his 2007 total for holds. He’s a fine asset for NL-only leagues, and one owners are starting to take a shining to.
Houston wasn’t done picking the bones of the NL West, luring second baseman Kaz Matsui away from the Rockies for three years and $16.5 million, making this the team’s largest free agent deal of the 2007 offseason. Injured earlier in the season, Matsui has yet to live up to the contract. Although he’s scoring plenty of runs batting near the top of a strong Astro lineup, his extra-base pop has slipped as has his BA. Matsui has gotten better as the season has progressed, so we’ll cut him some slack for now.
The ‘Stros re-signed Mark Loretta, yet another second baseman, to a one-year, $2.75 million contract. Loretta did well in a super-sub role last season, but as his role has changed to more of a utility man, his numbers are down significantly this year, especially in the power and average departments.
Houston added some veteran savvy with the signing OF Darin Erstad to a one-year, $1 million deal. Now just a fourth outfielder, Erstad is enjoying a very strong year, so he could have value in the event of an injury to one of the starting three.
Reliever Brian Moehler was rewarded for a strong season by being re-signed for one year and $500,000, however, he hasn’t done quite as well in his swingman role this season. He’s actually done very good work in his four starts, but has been bitch-slapped in his five relief appearances. Overall, Moehler is simply too hittable to be of much use in any fantasy format.
Lastly, Houston gave swingman Shawn Chacon $2 million for 2008 to leave Pittsburgh, where he enjoyed a nice rebound season. Used strictly in the rotation for the ‘Stros, Chacon has done a pretty good job, although the increase in home runs allowed and his declining K rate are bad signs. While his May results haven’t been as good as April, Chacon seems to be gaining a tiny bit of traction in NL-only leagues of late.
Los Angeles: The Dodgers were very active as well, mostly signing or re-signing spare parts, but also landing one of the biggest fishes on the market in Andruw Jones.
Jones wasn’t able to get the kind of deal Scott Boras envisioned for him, considering he was coming off the worst season of his career. Sure, two years and $36.2 million is nothing to sneeze at, but we’re talking about one of the pre-eminent talents in the game. Or at least we were. Jones completely tanked this year, and now he’s undergoing knee surgery that will cost him four-to-six weeks. The Dodgers better hope the real Andruw Jones shows up after his recovery or else this contract will take on albatross qualities very quickly.
Among the low key signings for the Dodgers was the penning of back-up catcher Gary Bennett to a one year, $875,000 deal. Backing up Russell Martin tends to leave you with very little value; batting .190 leaves you with even less.
LA re-signed second baseman Ramon Martinez to a minor league deal, although I’m not really sure why, considering he bottomed out in 2007. At any rate, he didn’t make the team out of Spring Training and he isn’t exactly tearing it up at Triple-A, so we may have seen the last of this ten-year major league veteran.
Another re-signing that didn’t pan out was reliever Rudy Seanez to a one-year, $550,000 deal. Seanez enjoyed a nice year in 2007, but a rough spring caused the Dodgers to set him free in a surprising move. He caught on with the Phils, and has pitched very well, notwithstanding some awful control.
The Dodgers also re-signed first baseman Mark Sweeney, giving him $600,000 after his fine 2007 campaign. Unfortunately, this one isn’t working out so well either, as Sweeney hasn’t been able to hit his way out of a wet paper bag, currently needing to double his BA just to get to the Mendoza Line.
Milwaukee: The Brewers were among the most active teams, adding seven new players to a young and improving team.
Jason Kendall was signed away from the Cubs for one year and $4.25 million to take over at catcher. While he’s slowed after a fast start, Kendall is still enjoying a pretty decent year, as he continues to be a solid on-base guy. He’s starting to make headway on the wires of NL-only leagues these days.
In an effort to fill bullpen holes, the Brew Crew made a couple of moves. David Riske was the biggest investment, signed away from the Royals for three years and $13 million. This one hasn’t panned out yet, as Riske was ineffective before landing on the DL earlier this month because of elbow woes. He’s still dealing with pain, so don’t expect him to return very soon, but once he does, he has a chance to be an asset in NL-only leagues at the very least.
With the departure of free agent Francisco Cordero, Milwaukee brought in Eric Gagne from the BoSox as a replacement, signing him for one year and $10 million. Gagne has been awful, finally landing on the DL last week. So far, this signing has been a colossal bust.
The Brewers inked outfielder Mike Cameron to a one year, $7 million deal, even though a drug suspension was going to cost him the first 25 games of the year. Well, he’s back now and is enjoying a nice recovery after a down 2007. Cameron is hitting for more power than ever before (six homers in May already), making him a very attractive wire pickup of late.
Third baseman Abraham Nunez was signed to a minor league deal in the hopes that he could land a utility role. Not only did he not make the team, but he was hitting so poorly in Triple-A that the Brewers released him. He’s since signed a minor league deal with the Mets’ organization.
Milwaukee also added third baseman Russell Branyan to a minor league deal, bringing in some organization depth. He was molesting the ball down in Triple-A, earning a promotion to the big league team last week. He’s off to a decent start, so is a name to watch in NL-only leagues, if for no other reason than his ever-present home run potential.
Lastly, the Brewers gave Jeff Weaver a minor league deal last month. He’s getting bitch slapped in Triple-A, so I doubt we’re going to see him any time soon. Weaver’s contract allows him ask for a release if he doesn’t get promoted by June 1, but does he honestly believe someone else is ready to give him a chance? Actually, maybe he can return to the Yanks; they probably need him, and surely he has fond memories of his time there. He’s never been the same pitcher since.
Next up, we’ll finish up the National League.