Baseball BeatDecember 23, 2004
Money for Free Agents and Opinions for Free
By Rich Lederer

I'm in dire straits this morning searching for an article so I thought I'd comment on the latest bash of free agent happenings.

Now Look at Them Yo-Yos

News item: Alou near deal with the Giants.

When did the National League adopt the designated hitter rule? Did I miss something? Upon hearing that the San Francisco Giants had reached a preliminary agreement with Moises Alou, I figured that the N.L. must now allow DHs -- otherwise why would they go out and sign another left fielder? I don't get it. MOY-zes ah-LOO? Hell-LOO? Is there anyone home (other than his Daddy)?

I mean, if the guy can't even drive a car, what makes the Giants think he can navigate right field? According to Baseball Prospectus, Alou is 29 runs below average for his career as a left fielder. He has played 100 games in right field only twice in his career (1996 and 2001) and -- other than for five games in 2002 -- has has been used exclusively in left field the past three years.

I don't know but maybe Brian Sabean thinks Alou will be able to get to more balls in San Francisco now that he will be free of Steve Bartman. Alou can still hit but can he still field? Call me skeptical. Just don't call me collect.

I Shoulda Learned to Play. . .Right Field

News item: Dodgers to unveil Drew today.

It's easy to love J.D. Drew, but I wouldn't advise anyone to marry him. He's just not the type of guy you would want to have a long-term relationship with. He's good for dating. Heck, you might even go steady with the guy. Or string him along as your fiancee. But no wedding vows, please.

I could see giving Drew $11 million for 2005. That's more than I would prefer but what the heck, the guy is one of the premier players in the game when healthy. But that's just it -- when healthy. What would happen if he were to "get a blister on (his) little finger or maybe get a blister on (his) thumb"?

Drew has never played in more than 145 games in a season. In fact, he has only played in more than 135 games once and has averaged just 121 games per year (not counting 1998 when he was brought up in September during Mark McGwire's magical run at Roger Maris' then single-season home run record).

What I can't fathom is giving Drew an average of $11 million per season for five years. That just seems downright silly to me. Why should the Dodgers take all the risk? If -- and it's a big IF -- Drew plays at least 140 games per year and puts up 2004 stats for each of the next five years, he will prove to be a bargain. However, if he gets hurt and/or reverts to his 2002 form, then we'll be talking about an even bigger bust than Joe Simpson.

Thats the Way You Do It

News item: Miller signs with Red Sox.

Has there been a better free agent signing this offseason than Wade Miller? Granted, the former Houston Astro starter is coming off a rotator cuff injury that prematurely ended his season last June. But how much risk is there for the Red Sox at a base salary of $1.5 million next year?

Miller's agent Bob Garber expects that his client will be ready to pitch by Opening Day. If that's the case, he will join Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, and Bronson Arroyo along with fellow free-agent signees David Wells and Matt Clement to form one of the deepest -- if not best -- starting rotations in all of baseball. The Miller and Wells acquisitions speak to the brilliance of Boston's management. Both contracts call for a low guarantee with the ability for each veteran pitcher to more than double his base salary.

Lemme tell ya, them guys aint dumb.

Comments

I want my MTV.

The OF of Bonds-Grissom-Alou could be the oldest trio since the Del Rubio Triplets.

Whereas the Renteria and to a lesser extent the Clement signings and the Billy Traber blunder speak very little to the brilliance of the Red Sox management.

When you steal guys like Wells and Miller and get cash and usable parts for Dave Roberts (not to mention Mueller and Ortiz all signed to under-market deals), you can afford to overpay for players like Renteria and Clement. This wasn't Christian Guzman and Jaret Wright, ya know.

And I'd hardly call the Traber releasing a "blunder", since a) he wasn't theirs in the first place and b) the chances of him seeing the light of Fenway anytime soon was slim-to-none.

'maybe get a blister on your little finger, maybe get a blister on your thumb.'

oh, and btw, nice comments on Miller. ;-)

"The OF of Bonds-Grissom-Alou could be the oldest trio since the Del Rubio Triplets."

I love it!

"Whereas the Renteria and to a lesser extent the Clement signings and the Billy Traber blunder speak very little to the brilliance of the Red Sox management."

If Cabrera is worth $8 million per year, then I have to think Renteria is worth $10 million.

As far as Clement goes, I don't think they over paid at all. In fact, he looks like a bargain compared to Benson and Wright (both of whom signed for almost the same size contract) as well as Pavano (who will be making a couple million more per year).

I also give Theo & Co. credit for not ceding to the wishes of Pedro. They gave him a very competitive offer, but they didn't panic when the Mets topped it. Instead, they immediately went out and signed Clement at less than two thirds what they offered Martinez. Looking at it in a different manner, Boston picked up Clement, Wells, and Miller for about what it would have cost them to keep Pedro.

Now that is brilliant!

The Red Sox have scored more runs (by far) than anybody in baseball, and the team ERA has been in the top five for each year of the New Regime. Theo must be dumb. What team does John Mill manage again?

Joe--
"When you steal guys like Wells and Miller and get cash and usable parts for Dave Roberts (not to mention Mueller and Ortiz all signed to under-market deals), you can afford to overpay for players like Renteria and Clement. This wasn't Christian Guzman and Jaret Wright, ya know."

Of course, and I don't think the Clement deal was that bad, especially in the context of this free agent pitching market, but a shrewd GM does his best not to play by the market rules and Clement's still a natural 3.80-4.20 ERA pitcher in the NL who struggles to go deep into games whichever way you look at it. It's not a brilliant deal then, and that's all I was saying. Renteria on the other hand is just flat out overpayment, though perhaps the Green Monster might disguise the mediocrity of his bat.

"And I'd hardly call the Traber releasing a "blunder", since a) he wasn't theirs in the first place and b) the chances of him seeing the light of Fenway anytime soon was slim-to-none."

He was theirs - he was claimed off waivers. And it wouldn't have hurt the Red Sox to have left him on the 40-man roster. Still, you're right, he's no big loss. But I didn't mean to imply that he was.

Rich--
"If Cabrera is worth $8 million per year, then I have to think Renteria is worth $10 million."

The thing is neither of them are worth anything near that. And Cabrera got his deal after Renteria, so I suspect the Renteria signing set the market for him in the same way as Benson's deal set the market for every other mediocre pitcher in the game.

Peter--
"The Red Sox have scored more runs (by far) than anybody in baseball, and the team ERA has been in the top five for each year of the New Regime. Theo must be dumb."

I didn't say he was dumb, I said he wasn't always brilliant. The same applies to every GM in the game, although with varying regularity. I think people have too much of a tendency to judge deals not on their merits but on the track record of the GM(s) involved. Had the White Sox signed Renteria to a $40m/4yr deal...

"The thing is neither of them are worth anything near that. And Cabrera got his deal after Renteria, so I suspect the Renteria signing set the market for him in the same way as Benson's deal set the market for every other mediocre pitcher in the game."

Fair enough, John. In Rich's world, Renteria would have gotten $8m/yr and Cabrera $6m/yr. But John Henry and Arte Moreno live in their own worlds and not mine.

Rich -- color me puzzled by the praise Epstein is getting for the Miller deal. It's a shoulder injury, which almost always turns out badly for the pitcher. It's a low dollar bet (relatively speaking), so fine, but it's a gamble all the way.

Sure, it's a gamble all the way, but it's low risk ($1.5m if things go badly) and extremely high reward (the rights to the age 28 and 29 seasons of a 130 ERA+ pitcher). Why doesn't he deserve a lot of praise for that kind of move?