Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Catching Up

Wow. Glad to be back after a stressful few weeks of finals preparation. I’m stoked to get back to writing on a regular basis, and I can’t wait to delve into what I believe has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable offseasons in recent history. I’m going to take the next few days to run down some of the bigger deals before we return to our regularly scheduled programming. These deals have already been thoroughly dissected by the most well-respected and widely read minds in the baseball blogosphere, so I’ll just take you through each deal quickly and give you my two cents.

This one caught me by surprise as much as it did pretty much everybody else. My first reaction was that I’m extremely glad he turned down so much money to do what he knows will be best for himself and his family. If he doesn’t want to play for the Yankees, he shouldn’t let any amount of money convince him to sell his soul. That said, the tens of millions he let go are a pretty unprecedented number, so MLBPA wasn’t exactly happy about that. Whatever. Lee immediately turns the Phillies from a strong playoff contender to one of a few World Series favorites, with a top four that could challenge the mid-90s Braves as one of the best rotations of all time. Of course, they’ll have to stay healthy and effective, but any team with Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Cole Hamels is going to have a chance to shut down any other ballclub on any given day.

Perhaps the second most surprising free agent move of the offseason was Jayson Werth becoming one of the first big-name players to sign. I had predicted the Nats would make a splash (although I had them going after Lee) and GM Mike Rizzo paid the big money to pick up Werth to man right field for the foreseeable future. Werth’s deal was surprisingly large and has set the stage for one of the most player-friendly free agent markets in recent memory, with pretty much every player getting more money and/or more years than most people predicted. This contract is the same as the ones Barry Zito and Vernon Wells received. The Nats will be hoping Werth doesn't go the way of those two.

Crawford’s signing surprised me in that, like almost everyone else, I believed the Werth contract would have much more impact on the amount of money Crawford was able to get. After Werth agreed with the Nationals, predictions for Crawford’s value jumped, with some believing he could get in excess of 10 years or $180 million plus. This contract was more in line with what I figured he’d get at the beginning of the offseason, so the top end of the market may not have adjusted as much as it did for lower-tier guys. The only question for the Sox will be whether playing Crawford in front of the Green Monster will sap some of his defensive value. My guess would be that it will. It’ll be interesting to see what they do about that.

The trade that everyone sorta knew was coming finally happened, after Padres’ GM Jed Hoyer pulled the trigger, sending Gonzalez to Beantown in exchange for Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, Reymond Fuentes, and Eric Patterson. Gonzalez to Boston just made too much sense not to happen. He’s a strong defender and fits well in Fenway, especially considering the great 145 doubles factor for lefties, according to Statcorner.com. He’s put up 176 doubles over the past 5 seasons, and getting out of cavernous Petco Park will certainly lead to a few more home runs as well. He’s been a premier home run hitter for the last few seasons, putting up more than  30 home runs in every year since 2007 and topping out at 40 in 2009. With the move to Boston, Gonzalez could push his total into the 40s and may even have a shot to challenge for the league lead. This trade was reported to be done, then fell apart over Boston's inability to successfully negotiate a contract extension with Gonzalez. Boston GM Theo Epstein eventually decided to pull the trigger anyway, with the hope that they can extend Gonzalez in the near future. 

We’ve still got a ton more to cover, including the Greinke trade, the relief market, Victor Martinez, Mark Reynolds, Dan Uggla, and others. It’s been a crazy offseason and I can’t wait to see how the rest shakes out. I’ll discuss that in my next post.

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