Many people visiting this blog play some form of Fantasy Baseball. So, the question is, at what age did you determine that you were smarter than the average MLB General Manager? Don’t be modest, you know it’s true. In your heart, you’re sure that if Brian Cashman or Jon Daniels played in your league, you’d leave them in the dust. As for Billy Beane, that might be more of a challenge because for the first time ever, he’d have the same payroll as everyone else.
Some of you may have reached this obvious conclusion once you started playing the game. For others, it may have occurred earlier, when you first became a real fan and knew the line-ups of every team. For me, it was about age 12 as I watched my Red Sox get clobbered by the Yankees on a regular basis. Even in those long-ago days before free agency, it became clear that some teams just had a better sense of player performance. Certainly, money was an issue, but even the Yankees made bad decisions like spending $100,000 + in 1953 on a “Bonus Baby” from Holyoke, Massachusetts named Frank Leja. His major league career ended with one (1) hit in 23 AB’s.
As a youngster, two things became quite clear to me.. The first was that my team had no players of color. While I was too young to understand the social context of the times, I did know that the Yankees had a player like Elston Howard and only a few hundred miles away, the Dodgers & Giants had Jackie Robinson & Willie Mays. The second was that in this time of the reserve clause, the Yankees always seemed to be able to acquire good pitching through trades and the BoSox ended up with retreads. In the mid-50’s the Yankees added rotation stalwarts like Tommy Byrne, Bob Turley, Don Larsen & Ralph Terry while the Red Sox traded for Sid Hudson, Hal Brown, Bob Porterfield & Mike Fornieles.
Based on this background, you might say that I have over fifty years of experience as a “GM”, so it’s that time of the year for the Old Duck to analyze and critique some of the free agent signings made so far during the “Hot Stove” season.
> Carlos Beltran, Astros, 1 Year, $16 Million – Houston’s management team must feel confident that 2017 is the year for this team to seriously contend because they’ve spent some significant dollars on players past their prime. Probably a better buy than Holliday, but 2/3 of his 2016 HR’s were hit in the Bronx & Arlington and he’ll be 40 years old.
> Joaquin Benoit, Phillies, 1 Year, $7 Million – The cost of relief pitching has changed dramatically in the last few years, but this contract for a 39 year-old on a rebuilding team?
> Andrew Cashner, Rangers, 1 Year, $10 Million – Contending teams always need pitching depth and it’s a short-term commitment, but a 5.25 ERA in two pitcher’s parks doesn’t bode well.
> Jason Castro, Twins, 3 Years, $24.5 Million – Let’s hope his defensive skills make a difference because he hasn’t hit over .222 since 2013.
> Brett Cecil, Cardinals, 4 Years, $30.5 Million – Nice to see a journeyman cash in at age 30…should continue to be valuable if healthy.
> Yoenis Cespedes, Mets, 4 Years, $110 Million – They had to have his bat in the line-up…35 HR’s & 100 RBI’s is the baseline.
> Aroldis Chapman, Yankees, 5 Years, $86 Million – Closer salaries have reached a new level, but are one-inning guys worth this kind of money?
> Jesse Chavez, Angels, 1 Year, $5.75 Million – Strictly depth for a questionable rotation.
> Bartolo Colon, Braves, 1 Year, $12.5 Million – Continues to fool father-time, he’ll be an innings eater for a young team. Hopefully, he won’t report to camp in the “best condition ever.”
> Ian Desmond, Rockies, 5 Years, $70 Million – A strange signing, as Colorado says he’ll be their 1B. Reestablished his value in ’16 but did anyone look at his splits? .317 15-52-14 in the 1st half, .251 7-34-7 in the 2nd half. I noticed because he was on my Fantasy team.
> R.A. Dickey, Braves, 1 Year, $8 Million – See Bartolo Colon.
> Michael Dunn, Rockies, 3 Years, $19 Million – Maybe Colorado has to overpay free agent pitchers, but this is a head-scratcher.
> Edwin Encarnacion, Indians, 3 Years, $60 Million – He’ll be 34 but has been one of the most consistent sluggers in the game.
> Dexter Fowler, Cardinals, 5 Years, $82.5 Million – Rolled the dice, won a ring and then got rich. Will give the Redbirds a good return for at least the first three years.
> Carlos Gomez, Rangers, 1Year, $11.5 Million – Another short-term commitment but the skill level seems to be in decline.
> Rich Hill, Dodgers, 3 Years, $48 Million – At age 37, he still has good skills but 110 innings isn’t worth this kind of investment.
> Derek Holland, White Sox, 1 Year, $6 Million – If he’s in the rotation after the All-Star break, I owe you a sugar-free carbonated beverage.
> Matt Holliday, Yankees, 1 Year, $13 Million – At age 37, don’t expect much.
> Daniel Hudson, Pirates, 2 Years, $11 Million – Any pitcher who has come back from two Tommy John surgeries should be rewarded.
> Kenley Jansen, Dodgers, 5 Years, $80 Million – Should age better than Chapman, but a big payroll hit.
> Jon Jay, Cubs, 1 Year, $8 Million – A nice insurance policy with Fowler gone.
> Matt Joyce, Athletics, 2 Years, $11 Million – If you asked Billy Beane to “Splain” it you, he might point out that this player had the most improved exit velocity (+6.4 mph) in baseball last season.
> Mark Melancon, Giants, 4 Years, $62 Million – When you sell out every home game and your bullpen implodes in September, this is the result.
> Kendrys Morales, Blue Jays, 3 years, $33 Million – This could be a real bargain, especially compared to what Jose Bautista would have cost…hit 30 HR’s in KC and now goes to the Canadian launching pad.
> Mitch Moreland, Red Sox, 1 Year, $5.5 Million – Almost no down side even if he’s a platoon player…20+ HR’s and a Gold Glove level defensive player.
> Charlie Morton, Astros, 2 years, $14 Million – A 4th or 5th SP for $7 Million is a bargain in today’s environment…his 2016 injury was not arm-related.
> Ivan Nova, Pirates, 3 Years, $26 Million – A win-win situation…the player finds a comfortable place to play and the team gets a home-town discount.
> Steve Pearce, Blue Jays, 2 Years, $12.5 Million – A multi-positional player with some pop from the right side…these under-the-radar signings can be huge for contenders.
> Wilson Ramos, Rays, 2 Years, $12.5 Million – Late season knee injury cost him a shipload of money…might not be behind the plate until 2nd half.
> Josh Reddick, Astros, 4 Years, $52 Million – While he’s a capable player, you have to wonder who else was bidding.
> Sean Rodriguez, Braves, 2 Years, $11.5 Million – A versatile player but he’ll probably be somewhere else on a contending team by August.
> Mark Rzepczynski, Mariners, 2 Years, $11 Million – Teams expecting to be in the hunt must have a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy).
> Junichi Tazawa, Marlins, 2 years, $12 Million – When your rotation is suspect, you needs lots of bullpen guys.
> Justin Turner, Dodgers, 4 Years, $64 Million – Has gone from a forgotten utility player to an established star at age 32…a cornerstone guy for a franchise.
> Koji Uehara, Cubs, 1 Year, $6 Million – Always got results from guile, not velocity…could still be a valuable contributor.
> Edison Volquez, Marlins, 2 Years, $22 Million – Has averaged 194 IP the last three seasons and that’s what the Fish paid for…don’t expect much else.
> Brad Ziegler, Marlins, 2 Years, $16 Million – More bullpen depth to cover the rotation question marks.
The next 30 days should find landing spots for Pedro Alvarez, Chris Carter, Rajah Davis, Greg Holland, Mike Napoli, Michael Saunders, Mark Trumbo and others. Don’t turn off the hot stove yet.