Free Agent Redux, Part Six
Alright…we’re into the home stretch of our MLB free agency report now, picking up today where we left off, in the second half of the National League. You can find the rest of this exhaustive report here: Parts One, Two, Three, Four and Five.
New York: The Mets only added one new player, and it was a fairly minor move, but they did re-sign four of their own free agents.
New York re-signed back-up catcher Ramon Castro to a two-year, $4.6 million deal. I’ve always been a big fan of Castro’s, and always wondered what kind of numbers he’d produce with even, say, 250 at bats. Well, a Spring Training injury necessitated him to start the year on the DL, but with Brian Schneider crushing the ball early, it didn’t seem to matter. Well, Castro is back now and Schneider has remembered that he sucks. Still, as great as Castro has done in limited action, he continues to be a non-fantasy factor thanks to his reduced role. If Schneider gets hurt or continues to scuffle, this could be one situation worth watching.
The Mets also brought back second baseman Luis Castillo, rewarding his fine second half by giving him a four-year deal worth $25 million. As per usual, he’s dealing with leg issues that have slowed him, but so far, he’s avoided a DL stint. It’s the same old, same old with Castillo. Unless he’s stealing a boatload of bases (he’s doing okay there) and hitting for a high average (not so much), his complete lack of extra-base power really limits his fantasy use. Right now, he’s only of use in very deep mixed or NL-only leagues.
New York also rewarded a strong 2007 by utility infielder Damion Easley, re-signing him for one year and $950,000. This year, he’s not exactly rewarding them despite making better contact. Easley simply isn’t getting on base enough to be of any use, and he’s really scuffled this month. It looks like it’s about time for this veteran to ride off into the sunset, but before we recite his eulogy, do note that Easley has come back from worse.
The club re-signed a third second baseman in Jose Valentin, penning him to a minor league deal. A neck injury in Spring Training has delayed the start of his season, but he’ll soon be ready to join the team in a utility role, perhaps spelling the end of Easley’s stint with the Mets.
The only newcomer brought in was Tony Armas, signed to a minor league deal. While he didn’t make the team, he is pitching quite well at Triple-A, so he’s someone who deserves another crack at the majors soon.
Philadelphia: The Phils didn’t make an extraordinary amount of moves, but in adding a pair of vets to multi-year deals, they committed a combined $21.5 million in salary over the next two seasons.
Outfielder Geoff Jenkins has been slipping for a couple of years, yet Philly opted to give him a two-year deal worth $13 million. So far, the move hasn’t exactly paid off. While Jenkins has raised his BA, his power hasn’t been this uninspiring since he was rookie. He might have some use in a very, very deep NL-only league, but otherwise Jenkins has no purpose.
A move I like much better so far was the inking of Pedro Feliz to a two-year, $8.5 million contract. Feliz may finally have somewhat solved the third base crisis Philly has endured since dealing away Scott Rolen. He’s hit well this year, enjoying his finest season since 2004. Especially scorching of late, Feliz is beginning to get plenty of attention on the waiver wires, so have a look if you need help at third base.
Finally, the Phillies added Kris Benson to a minor league deal, a low-risk move designed to add depth to a pitching rotation that was decimated by injuries last year. Still working his way back from off-season shoulder surgery, Benson has been pitching in extended Spring Training and could be available to help the club in June. But who cares about him? Let’s talk about his wife instead. Now there’s a real fantasy option.
Pittsburgh: The Pirates were fairly busy this offseason, but all four of their signings were marginal additions.
Chris Gomez was signed away from the Tribe for one year and $1 million and thanks to an injury to Jack Wilson, he’s been needed more than expected. So far, Gomez has delivered in a big way, swinging a .325 bat in limited action. Should he receive steadier PT, he will become an option in deeper NL-only leagues.
Elmer Dessens signed a minor league deal, but he didn’t make the team and was subsequently released. The veteran righty is currently pitching in the Mexican League, and has a nice record despite his way too hittable stuff. Chances are slim that this 37-year-old will find his way back to the majors, unless the Yankees get really desperate (and I’m not available to pitch that day).
Pittsburgh added another vet in the form of Doug Mientkiewicz, coming off a solid year as a backup for the Yanks. Penned to a one-year, $750,000 deal, Mientkiewicz’s power has completely evaporated, making him an essentially useless commodity, fantasy-wise. He may bring veteran leadership, great D and his World Series ring to the table, but what do we care?
Lastly, the Buccos signed Byung-Hyun Kim away from the Marlins for one year and $850,000. It turned out to be a waste of money, as Kim was bitch-slapped badly in Spring Training and the team bought out his contract. See ya.
St. Louis: The Cards didn’t nab anyone big, but did bring in five new free agents last offseason.
Veteran catcher Jason LaRue was signed away from the Royals for one year and $850,000 to be Yadier Molina’s backup. Unfortunately, LaRue’s regression since enjoying a career year in 2005 has continued, and he’s a marginal MLB player now. It wouldn’t shock me if the Cards send him packing soon, although, in fairness, he’s been better in May after a simply awful start put him in deep hole.
With David Eckstein gone, the Cards brought in Cesar Izturis to take over at short. Signed away from the Pirates for one year and $2.85 million, Izturis isn’t hitting as well as he did last year, but has justified his signing by suddenly learning how to take a walk. Although he’s cooled recently, he’s enjoyed a strong month of May, so is someone to consider in a very deep NL-only league.
RHP Matt Clement was added for one year and $1.5 million. Although he hasn’t pitched since 2006, the Cards have had some success with pitchers recovering from injuries, so this might turn out well. Clement is expected to begin rehabbing soon, so we may see him back in the Show sooner rather than later.
Veteran reliever Ron Villone was inked away from the Yankees for one year and $600,000. He’s pitched very well, and is doing a fine job as a lefty specialist, completely overmatching opposing southpaws. This is a bargain signing that flew far under the radar, but was a wise investment even if Villone is the type of pitcher who is much more valuable in the real world as opposed to the fantasy one.
The team also added righty Kyle Lohse for a year and $4.25 million, a move that to date has proved astute. Lohse is no one’s idea of a star, and he’s scuffled in May, but overall, he’s been a solid addition, and has gained some attention in NL-only leagues as a result. Given his diminishing K rate, however, I’d suggest that Lohse is best employed in 4×4 leagues.
Next up, we finally finish this report with the remaining NL teams.