Hey Big Spenders
March 4, 2007
The spring training games have begun and most roto-drafts are but a few
weeks away. Fans and fantasy owners alike are looking at
the moves the teams made and are wondering where the sleeper players
are going to come from. A perceived weak field of free agents
didn't stop several teams from
up the checkbooks to give a few players some pretty hefty pay
So here is one man's opinion of how well these teams spent their fan's
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays signed Frank Thomas to boost their offense but the time
to get on the Big Hurt's bandwagon has passed. Last
year he was motivated to prove the White Sox wrong for dumping him and
had the benefit of playing on grass for most of the season. This
year, Toronto gave him two wheelbarrows full of money, the White Sox
are in his rear view after missing the playoffs and he'll be playing on
turf for close to 100 games
as opposed to last year's sum of less than 10. The kind of foot,
ankle and leg
injuries that Thomas has suffered from the last three years won't
improve by playing on turf. In fact, Thomas came away gimpy from
the 3-game series in Toronto and ended up missing a week.
But with every cloud there is a silver lining and I'm guessing the
shiny in this is that Adam Lind will get pretty regular at bats.
For a team in desperate need of left-handed power (another reason
the Thomas signing was puzzling) the presence of Lind, who smacked 26
homers between three levels last year, is a welcome addition.
There probably will be some affection
thrown Matt Stairs' way as Thomas insurance, but he's 38 years old and
considerable signs of skill erosion last year. His .771 OPS mark
right-handers marked the first time he had ever been under .820.
last year was the first time in his major league career he struck out
than twice as often as he walked. Stairs will be a nice
but the horse you want to hitch your wagon to is Lind.
The Jays are somewhat of a chic dark-horse pick to win the AL East, but
their biggest issues were infield defense and depth in the rotation and
don't know that they solved either of them with their offseason
Royce Clayton was signed to help with the glove at shortstop, but
range has been in decline for several years and is not a significant
over Russ Adams, if any.
A healthy AJ Burnett will go a long way toward improving their
rotation. He was one of the best starters in all of baseball once
he got his groove
in September. And getting a healthy Gustavo Chacin will help
innings. But unless Francisco Rosario, Dustin McGowan or Matt
settle in as reliable starters, the Jays are going to have some trouble
their bullpen fresh because Tomo Ohka and John Thomson are not very
In short, it looks more like the Jays just felt a need to spend money
this offseason. But unlike last year they didn't seem to have a
plan to spend
The Cubs were another team that was quite active this offseason,
acquiring Alfonso Soriano, Cliff Floyd, Mark DeRosa, Ted Lilly and
Jason Marquis. I understand the need to add some offense, so the
Soriano and Floyd contracts make sense to me. I don't understand
signing Mark DeRosa to play second base. DeRosa's strength is his
versatility. His defense is not what I would call that of an
everyday player at any position, so to plunk him at second seems like
not only a waste of his ability but also exposes his weaknesses
unnecessarily. plus the Cubs have Ryan Theriot and Eric
Patterson. Patterson is the long term answer as he has as much
talent as his older brother Corey. But he doesn't quite look
ready to handle major league pitching. Theriot, on the other
hand, looks like a perfect short-term solution. He plays good
defense, hit .338 last year with an OPS over .900 when the Cubs gave
him some playing time and stole 27 bases split between AAA and the
majors. Many will look at his minor league stats and think
"fluke" but ever since he put the kibosh on the Cubs' experiment to
become a switch-hitter, he has been a .300 hitter. The guy can
play and he knows how to win. Hopefully, even the Cubs will be
able to see that.
Floyd isn't really any worse a fielder than Matt Murton, but now the
Cubs had a sub-par fielder in left and a guy learning to play center
field in Soriano.
The transition to left field went pretty quickly and smoothly in
last year for Soriano but there will still be a learning curve.
be so bad for Jason Marquis, although having DeRosa fielding grounders
not be a good combination, but for flyball pitchers like Ted Lilly,
Mark Prior and
Hill (and increasingly Carlos Zambrano and Wade Miller) having two
marks chasing down flies is not a good thing. Complicating
is that Wrigley has been one of the best park in the majors for
it's been in the top in four of the last six years and top five in
of those. On the plus side, in the years it wasn't in the top ten
wasn't even in the top half, actually depressing home runs. Maybe
park in baseball is as much affected by the weather (both the
temperature and the wind) as Wrigley. So if the season starts out
cool or intemperate, it might present a good buying opportunity for
Cubs starters. If it's warm, however, sell, sell, sell.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants won the Barry Zito sweepstakes after failing to retain Jason
Schmidt. If there is any free agent pitcher to throw big bucks at
a long term contract, it's Barry Zito. No starter has been more
and very few have been more effective over the last five or six years.
While he has not had another
dominating season like he did when he won his Cy Young award, he's been
consistently good. So spending money on him made sense.
What didn't make sense is not doing anything to make the Giants'
outfield more athletic. The A's backed him up with very good
outfielders - Mark Kotsay might be the most under-rated center fielder
in baseball and Milton Bradley is very good when he's healthy.
The Giants, however, will be fielding Randy Winn (who is average
at best), Ryan Klesko (who has always been an adventure) and Barry
Bonds (who was once one of the best outfielders but for the past few
years has been one of the worst). Dave Roberts was also brought
in and he will help in center, but he has never topped 130 games played
in a season and only twice in his eight-year career has he topped 115
games. That could force the Giants to rely on some fairly young
inexperienced players, who might not have the talent to play everyday
like Jason Ellison, Todd Linden and Fred Lewis. So while Zito's
strikeout rate will certainly go up facing pitchers each game, his
other numbers might not show any improvement.
The Astros also spent a ton of money to stay competitive despite the
impending retirement of Roger Clemens. They also lost out on
keeping Andy Pettitte. Trading for Jason Jennings will help
offset some of the innings lost, but giving 40-year old Woody Williams
a two-year deal worth $12 million looks like money down the drain.
Williams is a flyball pitcher coming from an extreme pitchers
park to one of the better home run parks. More problematic, the
Astros traded the one good outfielder they had (Wily Tavares) in the
Jennings deal, so the odds weigh heavily against Williams making a
positive impact on the mound.
It will help that Houston inked Carlos Lee. The Juice Box is a
great park for right-handed pull hitters like Lee. In fact, this
might be the year he tops 40 homers. Combined with Lance Berkman
and a healthy Morgan Ensberg, the Astros should field a pretty decent
offense. The addition of Mark Loretta to get on base ahead of the
boppers will assure that
Houston will improve on their 25th ranked showing last year in the run
department. A rebound from Jason Lane or Luke Scott continuing
his remarkable production from last year should move them into the top
And if Chris Burke can handle the center and figure out what went wrong
the plate in the second half last year, this could be one of the top
three offenses in the NL. That might not be enough to win the
division, though, because unlike the last three years with Clemens and
Pettitte in the fold, after Oswalt and Jennings in the rotation they
have nothing but question marks.
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