|Felix Pie (Icon/SMI)|
This week saw teams starting to round out their lineup. Several signings and extensions occurred and a Sunday-night deal brought the Baltimore Orioles a new outfielder and may have given the Chicago Cubs a piece needed to make Jake Peavy part of their team.
Tampa Bay Rays signed OF Gabe Kapler to a one-year contract.
Kapler’s renaissance last year for the Milwaukee Brewers was a sight to behold once you consider that he was managing in the minor leagues the year before. He hit .301/.340/.498 and showed enough to be given a starting job right out of the gate. Instead, he will serve as the right-field platoonmate of Matt Joyce and back up the other outfield positions.
Kappy’s last two seasons in Boston held below average BABIPs, so his resurgence isn’t much of a surprise. He was a tad lucky on BABIP in 2008 (.333) but deserved it after not getting balls to fall his way before. On fielding he has always been very good and should bounce around the league a few more years as a fourth outfielder. Look for him to return to managing in the minor leagues after all is said and done. We might be watching a future manager here.
Florida Marlins signed infielders Andy Gonzalez and John Lindsey, outfielders Jay Gibbons and Michael Ryan, pitchers Brian Sanches and Michael Wood, Willie Collazo and John Koronka to minor-league contracts.
Baltimore Orioles signed RHP Koji Uehara to a two-year contract.
Uehara has long been one of the premier pitchers over in Japan. Despite most of his career as a starter, he was converted into a reliever for the last two years. He barely walks anyone as he walks just 1.2 batters per nine innings over in Japan. The Orioles will put him back into the rotation and Uehara has the potential to pair up with Jeremy Guthrie to finally give the team a decent front of the rotation. It’s the other three starters that will continue to be problematic. Reports have the team interested in Braden Looper; if they can do that they could surprise in 2009. The three heavyweights in front of them are terrible luck; put them in any other division, give them Looper and you have to consider them a playoff contender.
Smoltz may be in his 40s, but you wouldn’t know it looking at his statistics the last few years. He’s coming off shoulder surgery but reportedly blew away both the Braves and Red Sox with his ability in a pitching session. Everyone knows that Smoltz can pitch and at this age, can pitch effectively. The question is: Will he be able to stay healthy? The Red Sox are among the leading teams in their medical staff, medical facilities in the area and plan for injured players, so Smoltz definitely picked a good organization to rebuild his value.
Saarloos had a nice run as a starting pitcher for the Oakland Athletics in 2005 and 2006, but the wheels fell off when he moved to the Cincinnati Reds and a return to Oakland couldn’t fix the problem. He heads to an organization who might have a use for him this year and has encouraging xFIP numbers to suggest he can still contribute:
2007 CIN: 7.17 ERA, 4.49 xFIP
2008 OAK: 5.47 ERA, 3.99 xFIP
If he makes the big league squad, he may not be a sleeper for fantasy purposes, but he could end up being a valuable contributor to the team.
New York Yankees invited C Kyle Anson, INF Doug Bernier, INF Angel Berroa, C Kevin Cash, OF Colin Curtis, INF/OF Shelley Duncan, LHP Kei Igawa, OF Austin Jackson, RHP Jason Johnson, INF Justin Leone, OF Todd Linden, RHP Mark Melancon, RHP Sergio Mitre, C Jesus Montero, INF Eduardo Nunez, INF Ramiro Pena, C P.J. Pilittere, OF John Rodriguez, C Austin Romine and INF Kevin Russo to 2009 Spring Training.
Kotsay should prove a fine backup for the Red Sox who have assembled quite the bench. It figures to have catcher Josh Bard, infielder Julio Lugo/Jed Lowrie and outfielders Kotsay and Rocco Baldelli. Aardsma has a great fastball but often doesn’t know where the ball is going.
His 5.55 ERA is misleading, however. He had tremendous success early in the season before suffering an injury. Trying to pitch through it, he got lit up and as a result, the ERA went way up. Walks may always be a part of his game, but he can string together a lot of solid outings with only a couple real stinkers to inflate his ERA. Since he’s making the league minimum, he’ll likely be claimed off waivers. If not, he’ll compete for a bullpen role. He should slot in fourth in a rotation in desperate need of depth after trading Javier Vazquez.
Chicago White Sox signed RHP Bartolo Colon to a one-year contract.
Colon was rather impressive in his seven starts as a member of the Boston Red Sox, but refused to move to the bullpen and contribute down the stretch in that role and so returned to his home. It’s unclear why the Sox wanted Colon to move to the bullpen.
San Diego Padres agreed to terms on a one-year contract with IF David Eckstein; claimed RHP Jae Kuk Ryu off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Despite doing what he had always done in his time in Toronto, he was benched and later moved to the Arizona Diamondbacks as Toronto manager Cito Gaston preferred John McDonald‘s glove. Eckstein gives the Padres a solid complementary player at second during a season in which they’re expected to lose games… a lot of them. Eckstein may have two World Series rings, but let’s be realistic about what he brings on offense: he can hold his own on average, has a good eye and no power. Wouldn’t surprise me to see him hit zero home runs next year playing 81 games in Petco Park.
Boston Red Sox signed INF Kevin Youkilis to a four-year contract with a club option for a fifth year.
Even if we assume that Youkilis gives back some of his power, sticks at first base and declines somewhat during the last two years of the pact, this deal looks like a winner for the Red Sox.
Los Angeles Dodgers released OF Andruw Jones.
It’s a good thing the Dodgers made this move so they don’t have Jones sucking up at-bats in 2009. Anyone thinking that Jones has been humbled by these last two years… think again. His conditioning is no better and he refuses to change his swing to fix the holes that have sprung out. Looks like another lost season on the way for Andruw… if he even finds a job.
Tampa Bay Rays signed pitcher Lance Cormier to a one-year contract.
Philadelphia Phillies re-signed 3B Greg Dobbs to a two-year deal.
Baltimore Orioles invited LHP Alberto Castillo, RHP Scott Chiasson, RHP Fredy Deza, RHP Brad Hennessey, RHP Ryan Keefer, RHP Andy Mitchell, RHP Chris Tillman, RHP Ross Wolf, C Adam Donachie, C Robby Hammock, C Chad Moeller, C Guillermo Quiroz, C Jose Reyes, C Guillermo Rodriguez, C Matt Wieters, INF Craig Brazell, INF Jolbert Cabrera, INF Blake Davis, INF Chris Gomez, INF Donnie Murphy, INF Brandon Snyder, INF Justin Turner and OF Justin Christian to 2009 Spring Training.
I like this deal a lot for the Orioles. Garrett Olson is a back of the rotation starter. He could develop into a No. 3 but odds are he won’t. Much of his value is tied up in being left-handed. As a fly-ball pitcher, he better watch out for the days the wind blows out at Wrigley Field. One encouraging sign that Olson demonstrated was reducing his 2007’s BB/G of 6.7 in 32.3 innings to 3.2 in 132.2 innings in 2008 although he was far from successful in 2008 as well. Olson needs to figure out how to get more balls on the ground to convert them into outs, or work on his 5.1 K/G ratio of 2008. Of course, it’s no secret the Padres covet Olson, and this has to be what Jim Hendry had in mind in this deal.
Williamson is way too far off to project; young relievers in the low minors rarely make the majors.
On the other hand, the Orioles get the better “reward.” Pie can be an All-Star outfielder, while it’s doubtful Olson will ever make an All-Star Game. Pie doesn’t have that great of a track record in the majors, but he received sporadic playing time and over the last two years has garnered 260 at-bats. He’s always succeeded in the minors and young for his age, still has time on his side at age 24.
The Orioles now have a young, dynamic outfield in Pie, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. They can all run, play defense, and hit. It’s not out of the question that one day they will all combine to have a 60/60 season. The issue for the Orioles is obviously their pitching, but Olson was never going to help reverse that trend.
The Orioles are going to field a solid defensive club. They have the whizzes in the outfield and Cesar Izturis and Brian Roberts up the middle. Aubrey Huff isn’t a wizard with the glove, but he doesn’t embarrass himself at first either. Melvin Mora is fine at third. Their offense should again have plenty of pop. Again, as I’ve mentioned, it’s the pitching. If they can turn that around in the next couple of years, they’ll be dangerous. It’s definitely not going to be fun for any team in the AL East the next five to 10 years.
Philadelphia Phillies Signed LHP Cole Hamels to a three-year contract.
The Phillies buy out three of Hamels’ four arbitration years. As a “Super-Two” player, he will be eligible for arbitration again in the fourth year. It’s a great deal for the Phillies because it gives them cost-certainty in a time where they have a ton of arbitration cases bowling them over and Ryan Howard‘s soaring salary to contend with.