Hot stove round table: Part 2

Dodgers sign Andruw Jones to a two-year, $38 million deal.

What impact might this deal have on a rapidly improving NL West?

John Beamer: I like this deal. Colletti has made short term, high priced deals his signature of recent years, what with the signing of Jason Schmidt and Rafael Furcal to short but over-priced deals. I argued here that Jones is worth three-years and $53 million (on a short contract), which is in line with what he has been given. It is a canny move. Jones is likely to recovery form and be a power bat for the Dodgers next year and if he doesn’t LA isn’t saddled with a six-year mammoth contract. Moreover, everyone has been concerned that Jones, with his rotund figure, could age faster than many. A two year deal is a nice hedge against that.

It certainly makes the NL West an exciting division. Save the Giants any team all the other teams should be in contention (though I still have the Friars as favorites).

Bryan Tsao: I just got our first batch of THT projections fresh off the spreadsheet from David Gassko, and it likes Jones to bounce back and put up numbers comparable to those of Torii Hunter, who just signed for a lot more money and years. The Dodgers are basically replacing Luis Gonzalez’s .278/.353/.433 line from last season with Jones, so if he comes close to his .253/.342/.491 projection, plays his still good defense and pushes Juan Pierre to the bench, this could be one of the key moves in the NL West next season.

Geoff Young:So, the team that plays in LA and the team that thinks it plays in LA both appear to be conceding that last winter’s signings of Juan Pierre and Gary Matthews Jr., respectively, were mistakes. A two-year deal for Jones seems reasonable, but as with Torii Hunter, I’m surprised that he landed where he did.

Steve Treder: Juan Pierre as a corner outfielder is the punchline of a twisted joke. While Pierre isn’t a good offensive player, his ability to handle center field with reasonable defensive competence provides some value. Putting him in left field negates even that value. If the result of the Jones signing is that Pierre becomes the Dodgers’ utility outfielder, then (assuming Jones hits better than he did in 2007) the signing is a great move for them. If, on the other hand, Pierre becomes the regular left fielder (as is currently assumed) then it’s one step forward and a bigger step back.

Brewers sign Eric Gagne to a one-year, $10 million deal.

Did the Brewers overpay, and which Gagne can they expect

John Beamer: I have mixed thoughts about this deal. Ten million dollars is a lot of loot for someone who may only throw 70 innings or so in year. However, if you assume that Gagne is going to close for the Brew Crew (and pitch with a Leverage Index of 2) then that is equivalent to a $15 million deal for a 200 inning starter. On the free agent market we’re talking Carlos Zambrano money (for next year).

Is that a good deal for the Brewers? Based on Gagne’s Boston performance, no. However, it is only a one year deal and if he reverts to elite closer form (which is unlikely) then it isn’t the worst deal in the world.

Bryan Tsao: Not surprisingly, our projection system has Gagne putting up a middling 3.75 ERA in 54 innings next season, which is about what you would expect based on his up and down season. Projecting reliever performance is basically folly, but paying $10 million doesn’t leave a lot of room for upside. I like it better than paying what Francisco Cordero got, but you’d think for the organizational resources that $10 million represents they could have taken a few flyers on promising arms or converted starters or something, Padres-style. I can see the argument that says they’re paying a premium for a known quantity in their bullpen, but really, is Gagne that guy at this point in his career?

Rangers sign Milton Bradley to a one-year, $5 million deal.

What are the Rangers hoping to accomplish with this deal?

John Beamer: I love this deal. Taking a risk on unpopular players is exactly what a canny GM should do. Recently we’ve seen Manny Acta do it with Lastings Millidge and Elijah Dukes. The Rangers are doing the same thing taking a punt on Bradley.

Milton Bradley is slightly above average with the bat and average with the glove. In all he is a couple of wins above replacement, so you’d expect (in a rational market) to give him a $9-10 million a year. At $5 million he is a snip. For gravy the Rangers should have tried to sneak in a club option!

Geoff Young: As for Bradley, if he logs even 350-400 plate appearances, this is a steal for Texas. When healthy, Bradley is an impact player. He comes with baggage, obviously, but most bats of his caliber are fetching much more on the open market. The Padres will be hard pressed to replace his production.

Lisa Gray: The media does not like him. And far as I’m concerned, anyone Jeff Truckwasher got a problem with is my kind of ballplayer. Milton’s a good ballplayer, when he’s not hurt that is; Sort of reminds me of Jeffrey Hammonds

Yankees sign LaTroy Hawkins to a one-year, $3.75 million deal.

How much impact will this deal have on the Yankees?

Geoff Young: Why J.C. Romero gets more money and more years than Hawkins is beyond my comprehension. Hawkins shows up every year and performs well. There’s nothing fancy about him, but he gets the job done, which is more than can be said of some relievers getting multi-year deals.

Bryan Tsao: I agree. To the Yankees, $3.75 million is chump change, he has as good a chance as anyone of being a useful reliever and he’s not blocking anyone great. He has just enough upside to potentially contribute a win or two if he has a nice season. Signing non-elite relievers to one-year deals is basically like buying a lottery ticket, and the Yankees can afford plenty.

Jacob Jackson: I’m going to delve into full conspiracy theory mode to try and tackle this one.

Here’s an important item from Article XX Section B (5) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, regarding Free Agent Quota:
“(b) A club shall be able to sign at least as many Type A and Type B players as it may have lost through players having become free agents under this Section at the close of the season just concluded.”

Unfortunately this piece of the CBA isn’t as specific as one would hope, and that leads it open to a few possible interpretations.

Looking at the Yankees specifically, they had five Type A or B free agents entering this offseason: Alex Rodriguez (A), Jorge Posada (A), Mariano Rivera (A), Andy Pettitte (A), and Luis Vizcaino (B).

By one possible interpretation of the CBA stipulation cited above, the Yankees might be limited to signing five Type A or B free agents this offseason. If that’s the case, then they can only add one more “impact” player through free agency this year (after re-signing the aforementioned “Big Four”).

Which brings us back to the decision to sign LaTroy Hawkins. Sure, he’s not as good as Ron Mahay (Type B) or Vizcaino (also a B). But Hawkins does provide some value, and what makes him more attractive to the Yankees than Mahay or Vizcaino isn’t that he’s cheaper…but that he isn’t a Type A or B. Which means that the Yankees can still bid for one more impact free agent if they want to.

Who is that player?

My guess is that the Yankees are stealthily interested in Aaron Rowand. Signing Rowand would allow the Yankees to more comfortably include Melky Cabrera in their rumored Johan Santana dealings, or to trade Hideki Matsui or Johnny Damon to further shore up their relief corps.

And even if Rowand only provides a slight upgrade over the Yankees’ current projected outfield, that upgrade may yet be critical. The Tigers’ addition of Miguel Cabrera just made the AL playoff chase became even more competitive. The Red Sox, Yankees, Indians and Tigers might be the four best teams in baseball next year – but only three of them will make the playoffs.

So if I was Brian Cashman, and I had more financial resources than anyone in baseball—but could only sign one more “impact” (A/B) player—I’d probably rather invest in Aaron Rowand than Ron Mahay or Luis Vizcaino.

And that’s why I think he’s turned to (what he thinks is) the best bet among non A/B free agent relievers: LaTroy Hawkins.

Tigers trade Chris Shelton to the Rangers for Freddy Guzman

Should anyone care about this deal?

Bryan Tsao: I like this move for the Rangers. It doesn’t cost them much, and Shelton is actually projected by our newly revamped projection system to hit a not terrible .265/.351/.446, which is in line with Dan Syzmborski’s ZiPS projection as well. He’s in the first base/corner outfield/DH mix with Milton Bradley, Frank Catalanotto, Jason Botts and Nelson Cruz, and the fact that Milton Bradley is prominently involved means that he should have ample opportunities to prove himself.

Geoff Young: Guzman hasn’t been a prospect since his name was Pedro De Los Santos and he played second base in the Padres organization. Shelton should be able to help someone off the bench, although if anyone can afford to cast him off, it’d be the Tigers.

Vinay Kumar: Ouch! Apparently Geoff wasn’t a believer when Guzman was hitting .289/.362/.376 and stealing bases left and right in Double- and Triple-A for the Pads in 2004, and was supposed to be the future in center field. Not like I’m disagreeing, as I wasn’t too optimistic about what he could do in the majors, either, but that was pretty harsh.

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