Let There Be News is a recap of the most interesting stories and transactions from the previous week.
In case it wasn’t clear, the lead-in was a joke. There is no team named the Mysteries, although I imagine they would be based in Montreal were they to exist. The Montreal Mysteries are now expected to focus their attention on Cuban imports Yoenis Cespedes, Gerardo Concepcion and Jorge Soler.
This week’s feedback request: How often do you use links from LTBN? This week’s issue is fairly light on links (outside of the Fielder section). Does that negatively affect the quality of the column?
On to real stuff…
The Detroit Tigers hook Prince Fielder
Oh, to imagine how many words could I write about Fielder and the Tigers right now.
The contract, a nine-year, $214 million behemoth, will pay Fielder $23 million in 2012 and 2013 and then $24 million for the remaining seasons. Rather than rehash all the fallout from the signing, let’s take this in a different direction, shall we?
Jay Jaffe has more about those brick gloves.
Joe Sheehan thinks the Cabrera-to-third base plan is a mistake.
The consensus is that Prince was overpaid. Is that true?
When owners attack. Or more specifically, when owners take a personal interest in fielding a high-quality product. Yeah, that’s a less interesting title, let’s stick with “when owners attack.”
R.J. Anderson does a great job covering the many aspects of this signing. Unfortunately, it is behind a paywall.
The Blue Jays sign Brandon Morrow to a three-year deal
The three-year, $21 million deal covers Morrow’s final two arbitration seasons plus a free-agent season. The club holds a $10 million option on a fourth season with a $1 million buyout.
The contract is a calculated risk on the part of the Jays. Morrow shows frequent flashes of ability, akin to the best pitchers in baseball, yet his actual results have been below average. Three years from now, we might be talking about Morrow as an elite pitcher or as a slightly better version of Ricky Nolasco. Only time will tell in that regard.
Morrow consistently fans over 10 batters per nine innings, and his walk rate has trended in a rapidly positive direction. That’s the good news.
The bad news has to do with his ability to strand baserunners, specifically that he’s been below average in that category the last few years. Chris Cwik offers some theories over at Fangraphs.
So, will Morrow continue to improve his control? Will he get a handle on baserunners? The answers to these questions probably will determine whether the Blue Jays just signed a great contract or a mediocre one.
The Giants sign Tim Lincecum to a two-year deal
The two-year, $40.5 million contract buys out Lincecum’s final two seasons of arbitration eligibility.
Players and teams exchanged arbitration figures last week. The Giants submitted a $17 million figure while team Lincecum countered with $21.5 million. Rather than face arbitration, the two parties agreed to a contract that calls for $18 million in 2012 and $22 million in 2013 with a $500k signing bonus.
The deal is seemingly an admission by Lincecum and his representation that their figure might not have been entirely reasonable. Perhaps they expected a lower bid from the Giants?
The deal has a bit of a head-scratcher quality from the Giants’ perspective. Going year-to-year with Lincecum would have cost the club “only” an additional $2.5 million.*
*estimated $19.25 million mid-point for 2012 + roughly $23.75 mil in 2013
Given the available information—including continuously declining velocity from Lincecum, an atypical body type for a pitcher, and mechanics that still cause some scouts to bite their nails—it seems like a roughly $2.5 million savings is on the light side when over $20 million is at stake.
Then again, the Giants will undoubtedly insure their ace, so they’ll be just fine monetarily so long as Lincecum is productive or on the disabled list. And the added cost certainty may make it easier to deal Lincecum if the Giants discover that their ship is sinking at the trade deadline.
The Blue Jays sign Francisco Cordero
And with that, the last closer is finally signed. Cordero agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million contract to head north of the border.
Of course, the interesting part of this deal is that Cordero will not serve as the Blue Jays closer. That honor goes to Sergio Santos, who has emerged as one of the game’s better relievers in recent seasons. Santos was acquired earlier this offseason from the White Sox in exchange for Nestor Molina.
It’s possible, perhaps likely, that Cordero overplayed his hand this offseason. His peripherals have declined rapidly, but he still has the record of proven success that some front offices appreciate.
If he’d had more modest salary demands earlier in the offseason, he probably could have found a more advantageous situation, be that an actual closer’s role or simply more money over more years. Instead, he found himself without leverage, choosing between teams with lukewarm interest.
It’s impossible to blame Cordero or his representation for that. Pitchers with a lesser reputation than Cordero have signed for more in recent seasons—Brandon Lyon comes to mind—and Jonathan Papelbon found a massive contract with the Phillies that sent a false signal to free-agent closers.
Only a few players have generated more speculation this offseason than Yoenis Cespedes. He’s finally a free agent, and negotiations could move quickly with spring training only a few weeks away.
The Phillies signed Juan Pierre to a minor-league deal. He will compete with John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix for playing time in left field. His primary role may be as a pinch runner for when Jim Thome or Ty Wigginton reach base late in games.
The Phillies have one roster spot unaccounted for while Ryan Howard is sidelined with an Achilles injury, but his return will result in a roster crunch. I have more to say about the move and how it affects Domonic Brown over on THT Live.
The Red Sox signed outfielder Cody Ross to a one-year deal and figure to use him in the light half of a platoon with Ryan Sweeney. If Carl Crawford’s struggles from 2011 continue into 2012, Ross may find some time in left field as well.
Last Monday, the Yankees and Mariners officially completed their blockbuster trade from two weeks ago. For those living under a rock, the Yankees will receive Michael Pineda and pitching prospect Jose Campos from the Mariners in return for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.
Whilst the internet melted from the stunning Fielder signing, the Orioles quietly signed utility infielder Wilson Betemit. He has emerged as a useful platoon option and will earn $3.25 million over the next two seasons.
The Nationals inked Brad Lidge to a one-year, $1 million deal. The Nationals’ spacious home park seems ideally suited to the injury-prone slider specialist.
The Athletics designated utility infielder Adrian Cardenas for assignment. The A’s originally received Cardenas as part of the Joe Blanton trade. The other major piece in that trade, Josh Outman, was already dealt this offseason.
The Rays signed utility infielder Jeff Keppinger to a one-year, $1.525 million deal. Keppinger’s flexibility should prove useful to a club that is famous for its ability to get the most out of its players. Russ Canzler was designated for assignment in a related move.
The Giants signed Ryan Theriot to a one-year, $1.25 million contract with incentives that could take the deal up to $2 million. Theriot will join a crowded mix of undistinguished shortstops in San Francisco.
LTBN may take a one-week hiatus in observance of the national holiday next Sunday. More likely, an abbreviated version will appear.