All Things Baseball


First, I want to say thanks to everyone who has been following Baseballistic over the past several months. 

If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen anything new on Baseballistic in awhile, it’s because I’ve moved the blog over the, part of MVN (Most Valuable Network).  I’ll soon be blogging on itself, once the re-design of that site is fully up-and-running. 

 Thanks for reading, and please update your bookmarks and feeds to the new location.


The San Francisco Giants were busy this past weekend, very busy. In the past 72 hours, the Giants re-signed veterans Ray Durham and Pedro Feliz, filling openings at 2nd-base and 3rd-base in their infield — openings that had just been vacated by those same players. GM Brian Sabean also added speedy centerfielder Dave Roberts to hit leadoff for the Giants, and to help defensively. Range is a necessity for a centerfielder playing at ATT Park (the Giants’ ballpark) because of the huge right-centerfield corner known as “Triples Alley”. To finish off a week of diligent work, Sabean inked former Giant Rich Aurilia, giving San Francisco a solid bat off the bench and a veteran who can play any of the four infield positions.

But the Giants still haven’t made their most high-profile decision of the offseason: whether or not to keep 42-year-old slugger Barry Bonds in orange and black for another year.

Barry Bonds

The Giants have sent mixed signals over their intentions regarding Barry Bonds this offseason. Shortly after the season ended, GM Brian Sabean mentioned that “Bonds will no longer be the centerpiece of [the Giants] lineup”. The meaning of that was interpreted in two ways. Some believed it meant that Barry Bonds was on his way out of San Francisco. Others had a more mild explanation, saying that it simply meant Sabean’s primary goal this offseason was to add a big bat to replace Barry as the Giants’ top run-producer. Perhaps it meant neither and was simply a case of the Giants’ GM running his mouth.

Why do I say that? Well, consider what Sabean said today. “I don’t know where the story line came from that we didn’t want him back. We’ve had a long-standing conversation and an offer out there that we’ve adjusted a number of times. Because we were pursuing other players didn’t mean we weren’t interested in Barry. We’re trying to put the best team on the field and sign other people also. I guess it was misconstrued the other way.” That just about eliminates the “Barry is gone” understanding of Sabean’s earlier statement. Sabean later invalidated the other explanation by saying “We need a presence, a fourth hitter. Obviously, [Barry] can still play baseball. He can still hit a baseball and is a threat in the middle of the lineup.” That, for all practical purposes, is a direct contradiction of what Brian Sabean said a month ago.

So, why the sudden change of heart? One explanation is that the Giants lost the bidding for this offseason’s top bats (and there weren’t many). San Francisco persistently pursued both Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee, only to see the sluggers sign with the Cubs and Astros, respectively. With those two gone, Sabean was forced to inquire about Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez. The Giants however, have little of what Boston wants in return, killing any possibility of such a deal. With no one else left to turn to, Sabean may have been forced to turn his efforts toward bringing back Barry Bonds.

But a second explanation, and this one is actually connected to the first, is that Sabean was afraid to be left without a leftfielder and cleanup hitter. Bonds’ agent, Jeff Borris, recently made comments criticizing Sabean and questioning how important his client is to the Giants. Borris said “”I feel the Giants may have the perception he will not play elsewhere. I think that would be a miscalculation on their part”. He added that “Maybe they figure they can take care of guys like Rich Aurilia and Ray Durham and they can always worry about Barry later because Barry will always be there for them. But that would be an error in judgment on their part”.

There is however, little for Sabean to be afraid of. Borris is simply doing his job as an agent, and trying to get Bonds the best contract he can get, as soon as possible. Barry Bonds will certainly get interest from teams like the Oakland A’s, Texas Rangers, and Minnesota Twins, who are searching for a DH, but honestly, can you really see him going to any of those 3? San Francisco fans love Bonds; they don’t care about the steroids, the obnoxious attitude, or his awful outfield defense. Everywhere Barry goes on the road, he’s booed, criticized, and heckled relentlessly. He knows that, and I’m confident that Bonds would much prefer playing in San Francisco next season to playing anywhere else.

That means there’s really nothing for Brian Sabean to worry about — he can stall all he wants, and unlike what Borris said, Bonds will be there waiting for the Giants to open their arms to him again. But here’s an interesting question: should they?

At this point in his career, Barry Bonds is far from the hitter who scared the heck out of opposing managers and pitchers. It’s ridiculous that managers do not understand that walking Barry Bonds is pointless — there’s nothing to fear. Just make the fans happy and pitch to Barry — there’s no reason to give him a “chicken walk” to first. If skippers heed my advice, Barry Bonds will no longer get 115 walks every season, and he will never again be a .450OBP guy.

Bonds will also never hit 35+HR in a season again. He hit 26 dingers in 2006, and he’ll likely slam about the same number — no more — in 2007. He’s also not going to drive-in 100+ runs in a season; at least not with the supporting cast he’s got in San Francisco. As much as the Giants and their fans would love to think that Barry Bonds is still the best hitter in baseball, there’s simply no evidence to support that view.

In the field, Barry Bonds is a liability, at best. The Giants were lucky to have Randy Winn and Steve Finley playing centerfield last season, because both have excellent range. Without a speedy centerfielder behind them, Giants’ pitchers would have felt the pain of double after double going into the left-centerfield gap. Bonds still has a decent arm, but it’s not the cannon he once possessed.

Need more evidence that Bonds isn’t great anymore? Let’s turn to the numbers. Baseball Prospectus uses a statistic called VORP (Value Over Replacement-level Player) to evaluate how good a player actually is, taking both offense and defense into account. Bonds did not even have the highest VORP on the Giants last season. That honor went to 2nd-baseman Ray Durham, who out-VORP’ed Bonds 47.9 to 46.6. Believe me, Durham is no whiz with the glove, so he actually beat Bonds at his own game — hitting.

There’s no reason to overpay for a 42-year-old with declining skills, especially one who isn’t even the best player on your team. Now granted, Barry Bonds will put backsides in the seats at ATT Park because he’s just 22HR away from breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time record. However, if you’re trying to win ballgames, you can’t just go by what the fans think. Barry Bonds is not the guy you want hitting clean-up if you’re planning to make a serious run at a World Series title.

That in mind, I think Brian Sabean should lowball Barry Bonds and see if he can make Jeff Borris bite on a cheap contract. Bonds is not worth $14M a season; he may not even be worth $10M per year. That however, is Borris’ expected demand for teams looking to sign Bonds, and I see no reason for Sabean to meet it. I can’t help but think that Bonds will eventually come back to San Francisco, knowing that Giants fans are the only fans that still respect the slugger. And even if he doesn’t, I don’t think Sabean should see Bonds’ departure as a big loss.

One thing is for certain: every baseball fan will be watching when Brian Sabean makes his Giant decision on whether to re-sign Barry Bonds.


Mark McGwire

The question about whether Mark McGwire deserves to be honored with a spot in the Hall of Fame comes down to which of the following two statements you believe speaks louder…

1.  His career numbers

  • .263/.394/.588 with 583HR and 1414RBI over 17 MLB seasons

2.  The steroid allegations that surround him

If it were up to me, Mark McGwire wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.  Do the voters think differently?  It’s possible, but not likely.

What do you think?  Post a comment if you’ve got an opinion on the Mark McGwire Hall of Fame voting.


Pedro Martinez

Put aside all the speculation about Pedro Martinez’s great career being over.  Although Martinez is recovering from an invasive surgery on this throwing shoulder, he promises to come back and pitch for the Mets midway through the 2007 season. 

This is great news for the New York Mets, who, if Martinez had decided to call it a career, might’ve lost both of their top starters in 2006.  With Tom Glavine still deciding between the Mets and the Braves, New York GM Omar Minaya would’ve had to scramble to come up with two more starters if Martinez and Glavine had both departed. 

Pedro Martinez is 35-years-old, so he likely has several more seasons of great pitching left in his tank; the question is, how long does he want to keep pitching? 

Martinez appeared to answer that question, indirectly, in a recent interview saying that “the rehabilitation process is better than expected” and “I’m not going to make any changes in [the way I pitch].  In other words, barring injury, Pedro is likely going to pitch for at least 2 more seasons. 

This however, does not completely solve the starting pitching issues that GM Omar Minaya must deal with.  If Tom Glavine comes back, the Mets may have enough pitchers as it is, to play well until Martinez returns in June-July.  If however, Glavine chooses Atlanta, the Mets will lose Martinez for half a year, Glavine, and another starter — veteran Steve Trachsel, who is a free agent. 

Sure, at team with plenty of offense can probably stay afloat with a starting rotation of youngsters — John Maine, Orlando Hernandez (the only senior), Oliver Perez, Brian Bannister, and Alay Soler — but I don’t think that’s the route the Mets want to take.  With the Winter Meetings looming, I’m sure that signing a starter or dealing for a veteran arm is near the top of Omar Minaya’s list of priorities. 

Meanwhile, Mets fans are left to hope that Pedro Martinez won’t suffer a setback.


This offseason has been unique in the riduculous amount of money being thrown around by teams, and in the horrible decision-making by baseball’s GMs.  Much of this has been caused by the awfully shallow free agent class of 2006, requiring teams to overspend in order to fill their holes, because of the huge advantage players and agents have on this type of market.  Today, we saw yet another interesting twist to this already drama-filled offseason: teams and players backing-out of deals. 

Rod Barajas

One of the two deals to be called-off was Catcher Rod Barajas’ contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.  Barajas and agent Gregg Clifton reportedly agreed to an offer from Blue Jays’ GM JP Ricciardi over the weekend or on Monday.  Then, shortly before Barajas was scheduled to fly to Toronto for an introductory press conference, he switched agents.  The free agent catcher re-hired his former agent Dan Lozano, who then contacted Ricciardi about renegotiating the deal.  The Jays’ GM was infuriated saying “If your word doesn’t mean anything anymore, and your signature [doesn’t mean anything], what kind of world do we live in?” 

Rod Barajas did not respond to allegations of backing-out of the deal, but his new agent played defense for him.  Lozano said he never called Ricciardi to renegotiate the deal, but rather wanted to iron out some things that he believed “weren’t done right”.  Lozano also accused Ricciardi of being rude on the phone saying “I simply informed JP that I represented Rod Barajas again and told him I had to call the union to get the union involved.  JP’s response to me was ‘I’m calling the commissioner’s office'”. 

Even though JP Ricciardi said that “things worked out for the better”, he continued attacking Rod Barajas’ decision to cancel the deal, and criticized his decision to switch agents during the final stages of the signing process.  “The original [agents] agreed, and they did a great job — a super job,” “Your word is supposed to mean something. What does that say to the agents you just did a deal with? You’re going to get a new agent and start renegotiating?”  If Ricciardi truly believed that things worked out for the better, he certainly didn’t show it. 

The Blue Jays have apparently moved on however, bringing back their 2006 back-up catcher Gregg Zaun with a 2-year, $7.5M pact, to be (presumably) their starting catcher. 

One thing is clear from all of this: Rod Barajas will never play for the Blue Jays after this fiasco. 

Joe Borowski

In the 2nd of the two back-outs, it was the Philadelphia Phillies pulling the plug on their multi-year deal with free agent reliever Joe Borowski.  Phils’ GM Pat Gillick and Borowski’s agent Ron Shapiro had reportedly agreed to a multi-year contract for the veteran reliever, but the team backed-away because of injury concerns.

After Borowski took his physical, a team doctor analyzing the results was concerned about the reliever’s throwing shoulder.  Taking the team doctor’s advice, Gillick called Borowski’s agent, apologized, then said that the Phillies could not stay with the agreed-upon pact. 

Borowski’s agent did not seem extremely disappointed or perplexed about the situation, and he was optimistic that his client would get a decent contract somewhere else.  Shapiro also would not rule out the possibility that Borowski will still land with Philadelphia, on a 1-year hitch. 

If Borowski hadn’t had shoulder problems before, GM Pat Gillick and the Phillies might’ve overlooked the concerns brought about by his physical.  However, Borowski’s 2004 season was ravaged by shoulder ailments, and this likely caused Gillick to decide to play it safe and back away from the agreement. 

One wonders what other unique stories might come out of this offseason of mega-spending.  We’ve seen just about everything going wrong and not a lot of things going right for teams this month.  Perhaps the upcoming holidays will turn the tide and bring some smart decisions and good deals with them. 


The Yankees are known for being Major League Baseball’s biggest spenders, but they’re also known for using their money wisely.  When George Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman decide to fork over an amount of money most of us would rather not think about, they usually have a great reason for doing it — i.e. the player will make up for his huge salary with excellent performance on the field.  Today, the Yankees were declared the winners of the bidding for Japanese lefthander Kei Igawa, with a bid of $25Million.  That’s a lot of money, and in this case, it’s not money well spent. 


Kei Igawa

The Yankees don’t have many pressing needs this offseason, but one that stands out is the need to sign a starting pitcher; preferably a southpaw.  That was the reasoning behind the Yankees’ bid for Kei Igawa, who was arguably the best lefty remaining on the market.  The bid, as I mentioned earlier, was $25Million, and Igawa is seeking a contract in the neighborhood of 3-years, $18Million.  That means Igawa, if signed by the Yankees, will end up costing $43Million over 3 years. 

While it’s not fair to count the “posting fee” (bid) as part of the total salary for a player, that’s the way most people choose to see it.  The problem with Igawa is that he projects as a #4 starter in the MLB, and some experts have him as low as a #5, or even best suited for a bullpen role.  In effect, the Yankees intend to pay Igawa $14.33M a season to be a bottom-of-the-rotation starter.  That, for comparison, is higher than the 2007-8 salaries for Mike Mussina and Chien-Ming Wang, who are considered the top-2 starters for New York, which is ridiculous. 


Daisuke Matsuzaka

The Yankees’ potential contract with Kei Igawa will inevitably be compared to the Red Sox’ deal with their own Japanese superstar, Daisuke Matsuzaka — for the record, I believe this is a horribly unfair comparison to make.  Boston, including its $51.1Million bid on Matsuzaka and his expected deal (which I expect will be in the neighborhood of 4-years for $56M), will be in the hole $107.1M for 4 years of Matsuzaka’s services.  That averages-out to roughly $26.78M per year, which is an obscene amount of money.  As I mentioned earlier, it’s not completely fair to include the posting fee as part of a player’s salary, but since I did it in the case of Igawa, it wouldn’t be right to consider Matsuzaka’s expected contract without the Red Sox enormous bid.  The Red Sox really broke the bank for Matsuzaka, but I’m not convinced that Boston’s decision was worse than New York’s. 

Now, let’s compare the two… 

  • Igawa to the Yankees for 3-years, $43M total  — $14.33M a year
  • Matsuzaka to the Red Sox for 4-years, $107.1M total —$26.78M a year

Kei Igawa (age 27) will cost the Yankees roughly $14M a season to be their #4 starter (we’ll take the optimistic side of his potential for the purposes of this argument).  Daisuke Matsuzaka (age 26) will cost the Red Sox roughly $27M a year to be their #2-3 starter, and eventually the team’s ace (once again, I’m taking the optimistic side).  While both of these are egregious overpayments, I would argue that the Yankees’ decision is worse. 

The Red Sox, if they sign Matsuzaka, will get the best pitcher on the market this offseason, and a potential top-of-the-line ace in a couple of seasons; I see Matsuzaka, if signed, as the heir apparent to Curt Schilling. In other words, Matsuzaka could be of immense value to the Red Sox, just considering his on-field potential (forget about the benefits of having a stake in the Asian market for now).  The Yankees, if they decide to bring in Igawa, will in effect be getting similar value out of him to what they received from Jaret Wright last season — 11 wins and an ERA in the low-to-mid 4.00’s.  As you’ll see in a moment, the Yankees could’ve saved their money and gotten better results from a domestic free agent if those were their expectations for a new starting pitcher. 

If an end-of-the-rotation was truly what the Yankees were seeking out of a free agent starting pitcher this offseason, they could have gone with an experienced MLB veteran such as Gil Meche, Vicente Padilla, or Jeff Suppan, paid much less for their services, and expected better results on the field (not to mention that they would’ve avoided the risk of a meltdown caused by the transition from Japanese to American baseball).  I know that money is not a concern for the Yankees, but wasting money is never a good thing, no matter how much of it you have.  While I’m not a fan of the Yankees’ 200+Million payroll, I have long respected the front office decisions of Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner, even though I know that money is a huge advantage for the Bronx Bombers.  Sure, there’ve been flaws in the Yankees’ judgment such as Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, but more often than not, the Yankees spend their money (and lots of it) better than just about any team in baseball.  Signing Kei Igawa would be a glaring exception to that trend of smart spending, and it is more likely than not that it’ll turn into a bad decision. 

Hideki Irabu

Now, I’ll make another wildly unfair comparison; Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa.  Look at the statistics for Irabu and Igawa in their final seasons in Japan, before transitioning to American baseball…

  • Irabu (1996) — 13-8 with a 3.28ERA over 171IP and 219K’s
  • Igawa (2006) — 13-9 with a 3.11ERA over 200IP and 184K’s

Aside from the record and to a degree the ERA, the statistics for Irabu and Igawa aren’t all that similar.  The two are also very different pitchers, and the contrast goes far beyond the fact that Irabu is a righty and Igawa is a lefty.  Irabu projected as an ace in America, with some skeptics (who proved to be right) saying he could be a middle-of-the-rotation starter rather than a premium ace.  Igawa, according to some, could become a top-of-the-rotation starter in America, but most believe he’ll be a bottom-of-the-rotation starter (the pessimists even project that he’ll be demoted to bullpen duty due to the difficulty of pitching in the AL East).  Both Irabu and Igawa were heralded as terrific pitchers coming from Japan to America.  Unfortunately, Irabu’s ace-like qualities were lost in the move.  I tend to believe Kei Igawa’s fate will be the same. 

If the Yankees see Kei Igawa as a #4 starter, their decision to spend $43.3M on him for 3 seasons of work simply doesn’t make sense.  Of course, there is the possibility that Igawa will exceed his expectations and become the ace that Irabu never was.  The likelihood of Igawa turning out to be an Irabu-esque bust however, is much greater.  That much money (no matter how much of it you have to waste) spent on an acquisition covered with so many potential risks, is not well spent; it’s a poor decision, and knowing that this is the Yankees, it just doesn’t add up. 


With the Hot Stove season now in full swing, teams are dishing out big bucks for top-quality free agents.  Every team has holes at least a few holes to fill this offseason, and there aren’t very many quality players on the market.  That’s why one team, the Baltimore Orioles, decided to quickly determine who its targets were and to sign them before anyone else got the chance. 

The bullpen was one of the Baltimore Orioles’ biggest problems last season, finishing with a combined ERA of 5.27 — second worst in the league.  There wasn’t one reliable reliever in the Orioles bullpen last season, except for closer Chris Ray, who had a spectacular year keeping the leads the bullpen was able to hold for him.  That’s why GM Jim Duquette put overhauling the bullpen at the top of his to-do list for this offseason.  Just a few weeks into the offseason, he’s already made plenty of headway toward accomplishing his goal. 

Jamie Walker

The O’s first signing of the offseason was veteran lefthanded reliever Jamie Walker, who had an excellent 2006 season for the Detroit Tigers; the deal was a 3-year pact worth roughly $12M.  Walker went 0-1 with a 2.86ERA last season, and opponents hit .251 against him (.238 Lefties/.262 Righties).  He walked just 8 batters in 48 innings of work.  In 7 MLB seasons with the Tigers and Royals, Walker is 15-16 with a 3.95ERA and a 1.26WHIP.  Opponents have hit .258 against Walker during his career.  Jamie Walker bolsters the Orioles bullpen and give Manager Sam Perlozzo a reliable arm for the middle-innings, as well as a veteran who does very well against lefthanded hitters. 

Danys Baez

Continuing to work toward improving the bullpen, the Orioles announced yesterday that they had agreed to a 3-year deal ($19M) with righthander Danys Baez, who will likely be the new set-up man.  Baez did not have a particularly good year in 2006, but his 5-6 record and terrible 4.53ERA were likely caused by the move from Atlanta to Los Angeles as well as the constantly changing situations (closing, set-up, middle-relief) he was asked to pitch in.  For his career, Baez is 31-37 with a 3.79ERA and a 1.31WHIP, over 6 seasons with 4 different teams (the Indians, Devil Rays, Braves, and Dodgers).  He has 111 career saves, including a terrific year in 2005, during which he recorded 41 saves for the Devil Rays (a remarkable number because the Devil Rays only won 67 games that year).  Baez will provide solid late-inning relief for the Orioles as well as excellent insurance for closer Chris Ray, should he encounter some difficulties in his sophomore year. 

Kudos to GM Jim Duquette for fixing his team’s most glaring issue this early.  I expect the Orioles to sign at least one more reliever during these next few months, but I think the O’s are ready to move on to potentially making several trades and working on bolstering the offense, which will need improvement if they want to contend in the near future.  With the addition of Baez and Walker, the Orioles should see terrific improvement in their bullpen numbers for 2007; they can now focus on bolstering other aspects of the team to contend with the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays in a season or two. 


Frank Catalanotto

In an offseason full of insane overspending and horrible decision-making, one team appears to have sniffed-out a bargain. The market for solid, but cost-effective outfielders was thin this offseason, and teams that were in need of such a player decided to pull the trigger on expensive contracts early. The Dodgers signed Juan Pierre for 5 years and $44M. The Angels added Gary Matthews Jr. for 5 years and $50M. And then there’s the Texas Rangers, who found their man without spending too much, and may get more out of him than the Dodgers and Angels from theirs.

Texas signed Frank Catalanotto, a former Ranger who played for the Blue Jays the past few seasons, to a 3-year deal worth $13.5Million (including an option for a 4th season for $5Million). This signing, in my opinion, is the best of the offseason so far, considering value, cost, and potential.

Take a look at Catalanotto’s statistics for this season…

  • Games: 128
  • At-Bats: 437
  • BA/OBP/SLG: .300/.376/.439
  • OPS: .816
  • Doubles: 36
  • Triples: 2
  • Homeruns: 7
  • RBI: 56
  • Runs Scored: 56
  • SB/CS: 1/3
  • Walks: 58
  • Strikeouts: 37

There’s nothing not to like about those numbers, except perhaps the disappointing 33% SB success rate. Catalanotto, expected to hit leadoff for the Rangers next season, did everything necessary to fill that role, except steal bases, which is not always considered a prerequisite for hitting in the #1 spot.

Now look at these numbers…

  • With Runners On: .354/.446/.554
  • With RISP: .330/.430/.474
  • With RISP and 2-out: .375/.500/.475

They speak for themselves.

The one glitch in Catalanotto’s numbers is his line with nobody on base (.263/.325/.363). While that’s probably the most important situation for a leadoff hitter to be successful in, I see no reason why Catalanotto can’t turn those numbers around, especially considering that his line with the bases empty in previous years was very good.

Still thinking about that one glitch in Catalanotto’s numbers? Well, consider this: Juan Pierre and Gary Matthews Jr. had much bigger concerns surrounding their numbers and performance, but still received much longer and pricier contracts than Catalanotto.

Frank Catalanotto’s career numbers are actually better than those of Gary Matthews Jr…

  • Catalanotto: .297/.362/.454 with 70HR and 382RBI
  • Matthews Jr: .263/.336/.419 with 78HR and 315RBI

It’s ridiculous, considering their career numbers, that Gary Matthews Jr will earn $10M a season while Catalanotto will get just $4.5M per year; not to mention that Gary Matthews Jr. was hitched to a 5-year deal while Catalanotto only received 3-years. And I’m not blaming the Rangers for underpaying Catalanotto; this is a knock on the Angels (and other teams who’ve made similar errors in judgment) for missing the big picture and flagrantly overspending to fill their needs.

So why were teams so quick to nab expensive options such as Pierre and Matthews Jr. when players who could be much better signings for the money were still available? Because they succumbed to the insanity of this offseason of overspending and decided that if money must be spent, it’s best to do it early to be sure and lock up their targets. The Rangers and GM Jon Daniels did not fall into the trap of bank-breaking to fill needs and found a cost-effective option that worked for them.

Frank Catalanotto is the best free agent signing in terms of value so far, and other teams would be wise to follow the early example for avoiding outrageous spending provided by the Texas Rangers.


In any situation where there’s plenty of demand but little inventory, the cost of getting what you need will be sky-high.  The 2006-07 MLB offseason has been and will continue to be no different.  This free agent class is very thin in many positions and has offers almost no premium talent.  If you want great players, prepare to spend big-time, and take huge risks with your acquisitions; with all the teams needing to fill major holes, there’s no shortage of willingness to do so..  We’ve seen two contracts worth over 100Million dished-out in just the first few weeks of the offseason.  There have been numerous examples of overpayment and bad decision-making.  Finding a signing in which the team didn’t overpay or make a terrible judgment on the player is extremely difficult; in fact, one may not exist.  This post focuses on the 5 worst signings thus far, to determine which GM has made the biggest mistake thus far, and why his team will pay dearly for it. 

1.  Alfonso Soriano Cubs — 8 years for $136M

Financially, the largest contract signed so far (and probably the largest that will be signed this offseason) is Alfonso Soriano’s.  Soriano agreed to an 8-year deal worth a whopping $136M to join the Chicago Cubs.  As I pointed out in an earlier post (Alfonso Soriano will Make the Cubs Sorry-ano by 2014), the Soriano signing was a terrible decision by Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry. 

The fact that the Cubs will be paying $17Million per season to Soriano isn’t the most disturbing thing about this deal; the problem is the ridiculous duration of the contract.  Soriano is 30 years old right now, which means that he’ll be 38 when this mega-deal expires.  Soriano relies on speed, not only in his baserunning and defense, but also at the plate (bat-speed).  Speed is also the first part of a player’s game to decline, and most players begin to experience this decline by age 33-34 at the latest.  That means in 3 years, Soriano will go from a 5-tool player to a below-average, aging outfielder who swings at everything and doesn’t come close to making his contract worthwhile.  Sure, Soriano might buck this trend and a ton of others that suggest he won’t be worth his contract, but the chances of that are slim (especially considering the Cubs’ lack of luck). 

And there’s another problem with the Cubs’ logic in signing Soriano.  GM Jim Hendry says he wants his prized acquisition to hit leadoff.  Soriano may look like a good leadoff hitter because of his speed, but he K’s a lot, walks much less, and isn’t as great a base-stealer as you might think.  Look at it this way, Soriano stole 41 bases this season, but he was also caught 17 times (about 70% success).  A base-stealer who is successful on less than 70% of his attempts is actually hurting his team.  As Soriano’s speed begins to decline, his success rate at swiping-bases will do the same.  Meanwhile, as Soriano’s bat-speed declines, he will start to miss many of the balls that he is currently drilling for extra-base hits, and his strikeout rate will rise, as his walk rate remains steady at “well below-average” because he is notoriously free-swinging.  That’s a recipe for disaster if you’re a leadoff hitter. 

If the Cubs had signed Soriano to a 3-year deal worth $17M per season, I would have commended GM Jim Hendry for his decision.  Even 3-years for $60M wouldn’t have been so bad.  But an 8 year deal worth a whopping $136M for a player who will go from “very good” to “below-average” midway through the duration of the contract?  What are Jim Hendry and his front office assistants smoking?

2.  Carlos Lee Astros — 6 years for $100M

The Astros main goal this offseason was to add power, in order to give Lance Berkman some support in the lineup.  They accomplished their goal by signing Carlos Lee, who had a terrific 2006 season split between Milwaukee and Texas; unfortunately, this decision was far from brilliant. 

Carlos Lee is 30 years old and his only gift is his bat, which he uses admirably.  Lee has 221 career Homeruns, hits for a solid batting average, and has an excellent eye at the plate, striking-out just 65 times this season.  The problem is that Lee is below-average at just about everything else. 

A look at Carlos Lee’s defensive statistics reveals that he’s among the worst outfielders in baseball.  His fielding percentage for this season was .975, but that isn’t even half the problem.  Lee has awful range, terrible judgment, and an strong but inaccurate arm.  Watching Texas Rangers games was fun this season, especially when El Caballo was running around Ameriquest Field’s leftfield looking lost.  He was funnier to watch out there than a Blue Collar Comedy Tour DVD.  It’s a good thing that Minute Maid Park in Houston has a tiny leftfield, but the small amount of real estate he’ll have to cover still won’t do enough to prevent Carlos Lee from being a major liability to the Astros defensively. 

And that’s not all.  Carlos Lee has a little bit of speed, and surprisingly El Caballo even had enough giddy-up in his legs to steal 19 bases this season.  His baseball card says Lee weighs 240 pounds; the most likely explanation is that Topps forgot they took their measurements in kilograms and El Caballo actually weighs 529lbs.  I have no idea how Lee can motor his heavy frame around the baseball field, but there’s another aspect to this — the risk of knee injuries.  Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Frank Thomas, etc… have all had knee issues due to their weight.  If history is a reliable way to predict the future, Carlos Lee will have knee ailments by the time he’s 33-34, and the Astros could be stuck with a lemon for half of the contract they just gave him.

Sure, Carlos Lee brings tremendous offensive potential to the Astros, but GM Tim Purpura either forgot to consider defensive ability (or lack thereof), or decided to overlook it.  Lee would have made a perfect designated-hitter for an American League team; with the Astros, he’s just a horrible outfielder with some power (which by the way will decline as he ages).  The contract he just signed will earn Carlos Lee $16M per season for 6 years.  A 3-year pact with the same, or even a slightly higher salary would’ve made some sense.  Six years, given Lee’s defensive liability and the likelihood that he’ll become injury-prone or will see his power decline?  No way.  And I return to the Blue Collar Comedy Tour — specifically Bill Engvall — to say to Astros’ GM Tim Purpura, “here’s your sign”. 

3.  Juan Pierre Dodgers — 5 years for $44M

Money-wise, Juan Pierre’s contract isn’t as rich as those of Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee.  Value-wise, it may be worse. 

Juan Pierre has been a leadoff hitter for almost all of his career, but he isn’t suited for that role.  Pierre’s only great asset is his speed, which has allowed him to steal 45+ bases in each of the past six seasons.  He doesn’t walk, he doesn’t hit for power, while Pierre plays a very solid centerfield, that is also wholly reliant on his speed.  Speed however, is far from a trustworthy tool.

Pierre is 29 years old right now, which means he’ll be 34 when his contract expires after the 2011 season.  The first asset players lose as they age is speed, which is the only gift Pierre has.  By the time he’s 32, Pierre’s steal percentage (currently about 74%) is likely to drop below the all-important 70% threshold, which means his speed will no longer be of great assistance to the Dodgers.  With an OPS of under .750, Pierre brings nothing else to the table, which means it’s very likely he’ll be a leadoff hitter better suited for the 8th spot in the lineup. 

Sure, three years of solid play isn’t bad, but that’s just 60% of the contract Pierre just received from the LA Dodgers.  By 2010, the Dodgers will be paying Pierre roughly $9M a season to do just about nothing offensively.  A purely defensive outfielder isn’t worth nearly that much money.  Signing Pierre was a horrible decision by GM Ned Colletti; the Dodgers have plenty of needs and throwing this much money at one of them was downright stupid, especially when you consider how sharply Pierre’s value will decline in a few seasons.  A 3-year deal worth the same money, maybe.  5 years for $9M per?  Bad idea.

4.  Gary Matthews Jr. Angels — 5 years for $50M

The Angels signed Gary Matthews Jr. to play a similar role that Juan Pierre will be asked to play with the Dodgers.  There are however, several significant differences between the two veteran outfielders. 

Gary Matthews Jr. is a multi-dimensional player, which makes him a better value than a completely speed-oriented player like Juan Pierre.  While Pierre will decline quickly as he gets older, Matthews Jr. is likely to be successful for awhile.  This season was by far the best of Matthews Jr.’s career thus far, which is surprising, because at 32 years of age, it would seem that Matthews Jr. should be past his prime. 

The risk with Gary Matthews Jr. is very different from the risk of a Pierre or Soriano type player.  While Matthews Jr. is fast, he’s slower than Pierre, and isn’t completely dependent on speed to be successful.  The skill that Matthews Jr. utilizes most is his great eye at the plate; a skill that declines more slowly (if at all) than speed.  If his .313/.371/.495 line from this season is to be trusted, Gary Matthews Jr. brings almost no risk, even though he will be 37 when his contract expires in 2011.  However, Matthews Jr. is a career .263/.336/.419 hitter, which certainly brings up concerns that 2006 was a fluke year and he’ll soon return to mediocrity and 4th-outfielder-ness. 

Also, Gary Matthews Jr. is only an average centerfielder.  His range isn’t especially great, and his fielding percentage was just .981.  Matthews Jr. does have a strong arm (8 assists, 2 double plays), but his throws are not always accurate.  As he grows older and enters the latter part of his contract, Matthews Jr. will likely lose whatever speed he had, and although that won’t hurt him offensively, his range in centerfield will certainly be hampered. 

While his 2006 season may suggest that Gary Matthews Jr. has finally developed into a premium player, the switch-hitter’s career numbers are a huge concern.  If only because of that, the 5 year deal GM Bill Stoneman and the Angels signed Matthews Jr. to is an enormous risk.  Determining whether Matthews Jr. will continue to be a good hitter or if he’ll regress back to his prior form is a crapshoot.  Therein lies the problem.  There’s no way Matthews Jr. was worth the 5-year, $50M pact he received unless he plays the way he played in 2006, through the duration of the contract.  The chances of that are slim, but perhaps Stoneman is hoping his team’s locale in Anaheim will inspire a Disneyland-style ending to this financially-inflated deal.

5.  Daisuke Matsuzaka Red Sox — $51.1M bid plus contract

I don’t think the Red Sox huge bid for the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka was a bad business decision; on the contrary, I think it was a smart move.  I broke down my view of the situation in a previous post, which you can find at  Daisuke Matsu-SOCK-a!.  While I don’t believe the Red Sox overspent egregiously for Matsuzaka, others do, so I decided to include it in my list of the 5 most dangerously overpriced contracts so far. 

And here’s my list of the 5, from most overpriced (or most risky) to least overpriced (or least risky)…

1.  Juan Pierre

2.  Alfonso Soriano

3.  Carlos Lee

4.  Gary Matthews Jr.

5.  Daisuke Matsuzaka


I actually do not believe that the biggest problem with the worst contracts of this offseason is the millions of dollars they’re worth per season.  The issue is the duration of the pacts, which stretch well past the player’s prime and create enormous risk for the team.  For example, I think that had the Cubs given Alfonso Soriano a 3-year deal worth $20M, it would’ve been a significantly better decision than they made by giving him 8-years for $17M per.  It’s not worth going crazy with contract length and the money involved just because the free agent class is thin in terms of premium talent.  There are plenty of other options.  But, I suppose, if you must go on a spending spree, it’s best to pay more money for fewer years, than the other way around. 

Good luck to all 5 of those players, the teams that signed them, and the GM’s that worked out the contracts.  It could get ugly (financially and otherwise) if the risks you took don’t pan-out in your favor.  With that, I suggest Jim Hendry, Bill Stoneman, Tim Purpura, Theo Epstein, and Ned Colletti keep their fingers crossed, because they’ll need all the luck in the world to get away with the risks they’ve chosen to take.


Jose Guillen

After a solid 2005 campaign, the Washington Nationals had high expectations for outfielder Jose Guillen.  He didn’t come close to fulfilling any of them.  Guillen’s 2006 season was ravaged by injuries and horrible slumps at the plate, and neither of those helps his case as a free agent.  What might help Guillen is his terrific numbers in 2003-2005, but after a disgusting 2006, it’s hard to say if anyone will be excited about adding him. 

Here’s a look at just how bad Guillen’s season was (69 games)…

  • Batting Average: .216 — bad…
  • On-Base Percentage: .276 — …worse
  • Slugging Percentage: .398
  • OPS: .674
  • Doubles: 15 — half of his hits went for extra-bases
  • Triples: 1
  • Homeruns: 9
  • RBI: 40
  • Runs: 28
  • Stolen Bases/Caught Stealing: 1/0
  • Walks: 15
  • Strikeouts: 48 — much too “free-swinging”

There’s nothing impressive about those numbers and plenty to be unimpressed and disappointed with.  Maybe his situational stats are better…

  • Bases Empty: .230/.282/.418
  • Runners On: .202/.270/.378
  • RISP: .216/.276/.365
  • RISP w/2 outs: .176/.222/.382
  • Bases Loaded: .200/.286/.400

They didn’t.  If anything, those situational numbers made Guillen look worse. Splits, anyone?

  • Vs. Lefties: .200/.269/.417
  • Vs. Righties: .221/.279/.392
  • Home (RFK Stadium): .257/.328/.468 — those are semi-respectable
  • Away: .182/.231/.341 — “coach, can I skip the next roadtrip?”
  • Day Games: .228/.265/.443
  • Night Games: .210/.281/.377

Before you completely dismiss Jose Guillen as a terrible hitter and a “has-been”, let me defend him a little.  Take a look at Guillen’s numbers from 2003-2005…

2003 w/Oakland: .265/.311/.459 with 8HR and 23RBI

2003 w/Cincy: .337/.385/.629 with 23HR and 63RBI

2004 w/Anaheim: .294/.352/.427 with 27HR and 104RBI

2005 w/DC: .283/.338/.479 with 24HR and 76RBI

Those incredible numbers with Cincinnati were almost certainly a fluke, but even as recently as 2005, Jose Guillen was swinging for the fences.  Go back to 2004, and you see a great hitter.  So, aside from the injuries, what is Jose Guillen doing wrong? 

The explanation for Guillen’s rapid decline is two-fold. 

  1. There’s one thing that Guillen must improve to be successful at the plate again.  He is extremely “free-swinging”, often going after pitches that are well out of the strike zone and giving pitchers the advantage when he’s at the plate.  Even when Guillen was doing well, he was striking-out much too often; Guillen was K’d 102 times (or once per 5.5 at-bats) in 2005.  There’s no way a hitter can do well if he’s striking-out that often, which means that Guillen will need to decrease his K-rate to recover his offensive prowess. 
  2. The second issue Guillen has had these past few seasons is his temper.  Always an emotional person and a guy with an extremely short-fuse, Guillen has turned on everyone from umpires to opposing managers over the past 2 years.  If a player is filled with anger and negativity, he’s not going to be able to focus on baseball, and therefore he’ll have limited (if any) success.  Whichever team signs Guillen should suggest he take some anger management or meditation classes because his emotions are getting the better of him and are sometimes detrimental even to his teammates. 

With those two things, plus the elbow injury holding Guillen back, interest in him this offseason will be limited.  The only teams that will likely place calls to Guillen’s agent are either those in dire need of an outfielder, or teams with nothing to lose in taking a chance on a slumping veteran like Jose Guillen.  The team that signs him could get the steal of the offseason, but will more likely get a 4th outfielder past the peak of his career.

Which team will take a chance on Jose Guillen?

Everything I’ve mentioned in mind, I think there’s one team that would be a perfect fit for Jose Guillen.  That team is the Pittsburgh Pirates, who could use an outfielder and need to take chances if they’re going to slowly get back into contention.  If Guillen can resurrect what used to look like a fine career, the Pirates might get the steal of the offseason if they snag Guillen off the market. 

My prediction:  Guillen to the Bucs — 2yrs 8Million 

Stats prediction:  Somewhere in-between his prior success and his 2006 failure.  .270/.330/.440 with 15HR and 60RBI sounds about right

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow’s Profile: Joe Borowski

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Today’s Moves and Rumors…

The Astros did plenty of shopping on Black Friday, signing outfielder Carlos Lee to a 6year 100Million deal, then adding veteran RHP Woody Williams with a 2yr deal worth 12.5Million.

The Blue Jays are rumored to be close to a deal with catcher Rod Barajas which makes it unlikely that the Jays will resign both Bengie Molina and Gregg Zaun, who shared the backstopping job last season.  The rumored deal is a 2year pact worth 5.75Million. 


Trivia Time!

Yesterday’s question was…

Ted Lilly has played for 4 teams in his MLB career; which of the following is not one of them?

  • New York Yankees
  • Oakland Athletics
  • Montreal Expos
  • Los Angeles Dodgers

The correct answer…

Lilly has never played for the LA Dodgers

Today’s question is…

During a game against the Mets in 2006, Jose Guillen was HBP’d twice by which New York starting pitcher, nearly leading to a brawl?