2007 Free Agent Signings: The Good, The Iffy, & The Ugly

In an off season that has transpired into an (over)spending spree, players are continuing to see their paychecks increase while owners continue to see their wallets diminish. I decided to sit back and try to make some sense of it all and hopefully this post will help make some sense to you as I try to sort out all the notable off season free agent signings to see if the newest members of these teams will end up helping or hurting them in the long run. I plan on breaking it into three categories showing the good, the iffy, and the ugly.

The Good

· Jason Schmidt, Los Angeles Dodgers (3 years – $47 million): While this deal does seem to be a lot of money per season (over $15 million per), the Dodgers did a smart thing and only made it a 3 year deal and didn’t get locked in long term like Schmidt’s old team, the San Francisco Giants, did with Barry Zito. Plus bringing in an ace to go along with Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, and Randy Wolf really solidified them in a division that as a whole beefed up on pitching this winter. If everyone stays healthy, the Dodgers have a very scary staff that will help in their quest to win the NL West.

· Mark DeRosa, Chicago Cubs (3 years – $13.3 million): This is a rare situation in which a team seems to have actually gotten a good deal for a player rather than the other way around. The Cubs signed this very versatile player at the very beginning of the free agent signing period before all the inflated dollar amounts were thrown around. Last season with the Texas Rangers DeRosa hit .296, 78 runs scored, 13 homers, and 74 RBI. DeRosa will make a very nice addition to the rebuilt Cubbies this year.

· Rich Aurilia, San Francisco Giants (2 years – $8 million): A very nice deal for the Giants as they got a player relatively cheap who put up very productive numbers in 2006 with the Cincinnati Reds posting a .300 average, 23 homers, and 70 RBI.

· Mike Piazza, Oakland A’s (1 year – $8.5 million): A move to the American League is exactly what Piazza needed to extend his great career. Now he can slide into that DH spot that was filled by Frank Thomas last season and give his old catcher’s body a rest. He’s still got it at the plate and proved it last season when he batted .283 with 22 homers with the Padres.

· Moises Alou, New York Mets (1 year – $8.5 million): While Alou has battled injuries the past couple of seasons, he is still a very solid presence in the lineup. In only 98 games last season, he still hit .301 with 74 RBI with the San Francisco Giants and looks to put up similar numbers in the already potent Mets lineup. Alou even passed up other 2 year deals with other clubs so he could play for the Mets. They should be very happy with their investment, especially if he can play at least 120 games.

· Kenny Lofton, Texas Rangers (1 year – $6 million): Too old? Past his prime? Says who? I don’t understand why anyone would say that he wasn’t effective anymore. The Rangers were able sign a bona fide and more importantly, proven, leadoff hitter for cheaper than most teams. Last season in 129 games with the Dodgers he hit .301, scored 79 runs, and stole 32 bases. That hardly sounds “past his prime” to me.

· Marcus Giles, San Diego Padres (1 year – $3.2 million): Marcus wanted an opportunity to play with his older brother Brian Giles so the Padres were more than willing to help him out with that. With the trade of Josh Barfield this past winter the Padres needed a second baseman and Giles will be a great fit to the top of their order and for not a lot of money.

· Carlos Lee, Houston Astros (6 years – $100 million): Now I know this is a lot of money over 6 years for a guy in his 30’s, but think about this: over the past three seasons in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Texas, Lee has averaged a .290 batting average, 33 homers, and 109 RBI. Now you are going to put him in Houston with the most right handed hitter friendly park in baseball? I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lee hit 45 homers and drive in 130 RBI the next few seasons. Just you watch.

The Iffy

· Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Red Sox (6 years – $52 million): I’m just leery about this signing. I know he had a great career in Japan but I think over $8 million per year for six years for someone who has never pitched in the Major Leagues is a lot. Especially considering he will be wandering into possibly the most offensively potent division in baseball (for sure the better hitting league). Not to mention the incredible distraction and havoc the Japanese and American media will unleash on the unprepared Fenway every time Matsuzaka takes the mound.

· Gary Matthews Jr., Los Angeles Angels (5 years – $50 million): If Matthews can match his career highs from last season, great, he’s worth the money. But to think a 32 year old can match that over the next 5 years might be a stretch. That’s why I’m just not ready to say a “yes” or “no” to this one.

· Eric Gagne, Texas Rangers (1 year – $6 million): After an injury plagued season, Gagne hopes to revive his once thriving career as a closer. I am leaning towards this being a good signing simply because he has the skills and they did the smart thing and only signed him for one season in case the injury problems continue.

The Ugly

· Gil Meche, Kansas City Royals (5 years – $55 million): This one I just plain don’t understand. Why would a small market team pay over $10 million per year for 5 years to an average pitcher. In fact, I’m using the word “average” very generously. Meche has spent his entire 6 year career in the very pitcher friendly Safeco Field and has a 4.65 ERA to show for it. That’s not very good and doesn’t seem to be worth more that $10 million per. It seems to me the Royals closed their eyes and threw a dart at a wall with different pitchers faces on it. Because for their sake, I sincerely hope they didn’t sit down with $55 million burning in their pockets and say with a straight face that Gil Meche is their man.

· JD Drew, Boston Red Sox (5 years – $70 million): $14 million per year for 5 years is a lot for a guy who historically hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He put up pretty good numbers last season (.283, 20 HR, 100 RBI) after playing most of the season, but considering he turns 32 this season, my guess is that any plaguing injuries will just get worse as he gets older. As of this posting both sides have yet to sign on the dotted lines, but assuming the deal does go down this way, the Red Sox may be financially hurting if Drew is unable to stay in the lineup for an extended period of time. This deal is also a bit perplexing considering there were better free agents available and they already have a guy who can play in right field with Wily Mo Pena. I just have a feeling Sox fans will be hating him before too long.

· Jeff Suppan, Milwaukee Brewers (4 years – $42 million): Despite the stellar post season that Suppan had with the Cardinals last year, this is a lot of money to spend on a guy in his 30’s. To me it just seems like a lot of money and a lot of years to spend on a veteran with so many young pitchers they could give a shot to. This was just another example of all the pitchers who were overpaid this winter. Which brings us to the biggest of all…

· Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants (7 years – $126 million): I just want to start off by saying that Zito is a very good pitcher. But the fact that he will now be the highest paid pitcher ever is a little ridiculous. Zito is set to make $18 million per year which if you break down how he has done the past few years is way, way too much. Now granted Zito’s ERA over the past four seasons has been below four, but his record (55-46) hasn’t been stellar. The lefty also hasn’t recorded a complete game or shutout over the past three seasons. Once again I want to make sure that I state for the record that I think Zito is a very good pitcher. But I do not think he is worth that much money, especially over 7 years. I think this one will come back to bite the Giants in the end.

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