Happy New Year, everyone! Some teams rang in the new year in style. One extended their starting catcher, one found a new closer and another a catcher. Not many moves to take exception to this week as most teams were actually pretty smart fellers. Toss in the news that the Los Angeles Dodgers recently restructured Andruw Jones‘ deal (to bring Manny back?) and even Ned Colletti may be smartening up. Let’s take a look…
|Brian Fuentes (Icon/SMI)|
Tampa Bay Rays signed RHP Joe Nelson to a one-year contract.
The Rays needed a reliever and found a fit with Joe Nelson, finding major league success for the first time in 2008 at age 33. Playing for the Florida Marlins, he pitched 54 innings of 2.00 ERA ball, whiffing 60 and walking 22. He was rather lucky as his xFIP has him posting a 3.59 ERA, but the Rays would certainly take that from Nelson and his vulcan change up. He has experience in the American League, earning a World Series ring from the Boston Red Sox in 2004 for 2.2 innings of work (as I mentioned back in 2005: “He posted a forgettable 16.88 ERA for the Red Sox in 2.2 as Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo would go on and on about Nelson’s signature change-up, the ‘Vulcan.'” He had a 4.43 ERA (xFIP of 4.47) for the Royals in 2006 over 44.2 innings as well. It’s a solid signing for depth and is likely Nelson’s biggest payday ever.
Arizona Diamondbacks signed C Chris Snyder to a three-year contract extension with an option for 2012.
This will be Snyder’s sixth year in the bigs and for the last three years had steadily increased his value. Becoming a catcher that pitchers liked throwing to, his offense progressed enough that he can be considered one of the league’s better catchers at this point. Bopping 16 home runs last year and posting an even .800 OPS, the 28-year-old-to-be seemingly has given the Diamondbacks a long-term solution at the position.
Snyder possesses a solid batting eye and power as evidenced by his .348 OBP despite a low .237 average. However, given xBABIP we learn that Snyder was actually unlucky in 2008. His BABIP was .273 and should have been .292. Last year in 2007, his BABIP was .265 while his xBABIP was .287. Given the standard regression to the mean and the fact that Snyder’s career high in batting average was 2007’s .252, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Snyder could approach a .280 batting average over the next three years.
This signing has led some to postulate that the Diamondbacks will look to trade Miguel Montero. This may be the case, but the club may elect to wait until midseason or even after the season to make such a move.
Baltimore Orioles signed LHP Mark Hendrickson to a one-year contract.
Hendrickson returns to the AL East, where he was a starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay then-Devil Rays before being moved to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Dioner Navarro and two other players. Hendrickson was a fine back of the rotation starter who pitched to his xFIP capabilities in 2004, 2005 and 2007 (with his outlier xBABIP with Tampa in 2006 leading to his trade to the Dodgers, a classic case of selling high). He did not fare well with the Dodgers in 2007 nor the Marlins in 2008, although his xFIP tells a different story. Instead of respective ERAs of 5.21 and 5.45, his xFIP checks in at 3.90 and 4.80, so the Orioles may have found themselves a dependable rotation starter at a low cost during a season where they try to rebuild their pitching.
Chicago Cubs signed INF Aaron Miles to a two-year contract.
Miles has received extensive playing time for the last five years despite never posting a slugging percentage higher than .398 (throwing out his .583 in 12 at-bats in 2003 at age 26, his major league debut). He can hit for average as his career .289 average indicates, but that’s all he can do offensively. He’s a solid defender who plays second and short capably. He’ll step in to replace Mark DeRosa as the infield utility player of choice unless he beats out Mike Fontenot for the starting gig.
Los Angeles Dodgers signed RHP Claudio Vargas to a one-year contract.
Cleveland Indians acquired INF Mark DeRosa from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for RHP Jeff Stevens, RHP Chris Archer & LHP John Gaub.
This is a great move by the Indians in getting DeRosa, who can play second, third, left and right without a problem. He’s coming off a career year at age 33, hitting .285/.376/.481 with 21 home runs. His xBABIP shows that he was only marginally lucky, so the Indians can expect similar production in 2009. Basically, he’s their new Casey Blake.
Los Angeles Angels signed LHP Brian Fuentes to a two-year contract with an option for 2011.
Going home was too much of a pull for Fuentes, who settled for a two-year deal after opening the offseason (reportedly) confident he could nail down a four-year pact. Fuentes, who will be 33, whiffed 12.4 batters per nine innings last year, a fantastic statistic for a closer. Although he lost his job briefly as a closer to Manny Corpas in 2007, he has always had excellent numbers, especially for a player who played in Coors Field pre-humidor. Interestingly enough, xFIP says Fuentes might be a better pitcher than he actually is (for example, he posted a 2.73 ERA in 2008, xFIP has him at 3.25, and over 4.25 in 2006 and 2007) but FIP supports his candidacy.
The Angels have an expensive (and effective) bullpen; even if Fuentes regresses to his xFIP, the club won’t miss a beat as they can insert Jose Arredondo as their closer, which they may do from the start. There’s no getting around that Fuentes is an excellent left-handed reliever and was the premier one on the market. Signing for just two years doesn’t bode well for Dennys Reyes and Joe Biemel.
Colorado Rockies signed 2B Luis Gonzalez to a minor league contract.
Boston Red Sox signed C Josh Bard to a one-year contract with a club option for 2010.
Marcel’s projections have him at a .325 wOBA. For comparison, Jarrod Salatalamacchia’s is .322. His projected BABIP was way over .300 but his actual was .230, with his whiffs and walks in line with career averages. Taking a peek at xBABIP (2007 numbers only available) show that his BABIP was .321 compared to xBABIP of .316. In other words, his .285/.364/.404 line with San Diego in 2007 may be more indicative of his true abilities. If true, the Sox have a steal on their hands.
Arizona Diamondbacks signed 1B Tony Clark to a one-year contract.
Florida Marlins signed RHP Scott Proctor to a one-year contract.
Now watch Joe Torre demand to be let out of his contract to go to Florida. Wherever Proctor goes, Torre goes as well so he can continue his experiment of seeing if he can actually make an arm detach from its body physically on the mound.
Proctor struggled with injuries all of 2008 (one guess why; it involves a certain manager in 2006 and 2007) but if he comes back healthy, could be the Marlins’ answer to losing Joe Nelson. I know I’ve quoted xFIP a lot but that’s because I really like the number. Anyways, it posits that Proctor had a 4.42 ERA in 2008. FIP agrees with xFIP and interestingly enough, both FIP and xFIP disliked his 2007 for the Yankees. An actual ERA of 3.81, a FIP of 5.53 and an xFIP of 6.06. His 3.52 ERA in 2006 comes with a FIP of 3.90 and xFIP of 4.58, so Proctor’s been rather lucky, I would say, over the course of his career. Anytime a pitcher walks about 4.5 batters per game, you’re going to get these numbers.