Written by Daniel Paulling
Published: 08 June 2007
This past offseason there was a lot of money thrown around at free agents, but what money has been wisely spent and what has been a waste so far? Here’s the outlook at a large number of free agents signed at the halfway mark. Of course, this isn’t a complete list of every single player, but a close look at quite a few.
The Big Boys (deals worth 7.5 million or more)
Raul Ibanez (3 years, $13.25 million, Seattle Mariners):
Ibanez was brought to the Mariners because he could hit at SafeCo Field, something not very common. He has had two solid seasons the past two years, averaging 21 homers with .294 in his first everyday action. The 31-year-old came to the Mariners as the person to play LF, and it has not worked too well. Since leaving the hitter’s paradise of Kaufmann Stadium, Ibanez’s power and average (11 and .268 respectively) have dropped drastically. Plus, his defensive prowess has not been that good in the spacious Kingdome. Grade: C. All Star: No.
Kelvim Escobar (3 years, $18.75 million, Anaheim Angels):
Escobar was signed by the Anaheim Angels, despite a thin track record. Last year was his best season as he started 26 games and pitched 180 innings with a 4.29 ERA. It seemed a big gamble to sign him to a big contract, but Arte Moreno did it. So far Escobar has a 3.91 ERA, while only pitching about 6 innings per start. These are decent numbers, but something a little short of what the Angels had hoped for. Grade: B. All Star: No.
LaTroy Hawkins (3 years, $11 million, Chicago Cubs):
Labeled one of the “best setup men in baseball” last year, after two incredible seasons, LaTroy has so far shown more of the same. He’s thrown 46.1 innings with a 2.33 ERA and 11 saves. He is now the closer on the north side of Chicago with Joe Borowski sidelined and has pitched well enough in the role, but its possible the Cubs might seek a more established closer at the trade deadline (perhaps Ugueth Urbina). Grade: A. All Star: No.
Tom Gordon (2 year, $7.25 million, New York Yankees):
After watching an overworked Mariano Rivera falter, the New York Yankees added talent to their bullpen. A strong improvement was Tom “Flash” Gordon, who quickly established himself as the key setup man in the Yankee pen. In 50.2 innings pitched, Gordon has an ERA of 1.78. Grade: A. All Star: Yes.
Bartolo Colon (4 years, $51 million, Anaheim Angels):
Coming off a duo of good seasons and a triumvirate of solid ones, Colon was hailed as the best starting pitcher on the market. He signed the largest pitching deal of the offseason, and the results have not been too good. His ERA is over 6.3 and he has struggled in almost every start. It seems that Bartolo needs to rediscover how to get movement on his pitches and possibly lose some weight. Grade: F. All Star: No.
Eddie Guardado (3 years, $13 million, Seattle Mariners):
After being inserted into the closer’s role, Everyday Eddie’s ERA dropped and he began to pitch better than he had with the Twins. Now Guardado fills the closer’s role for the Mariners (Kaz Suzuki retired) and is doing a good job, as witnessed by his 2.06 ERA in the first half. With the Mariners all but eliminated already there have been rumors that Guardado might be headed to San Francisco as part of a July deal. Grade: A-. All Star: No.
Kazuo Matsui (3 years, $20.1 million, New York Mets):
Matsui was greatly hyped this offseason, but his numbers have not translated very well to the Major Leagues. He’s hitting .270, with a .338 OBP. I expected a better season, as did the Mets. There has been talk of moving Matsui to second and Jose Reyes back to short, which would make plenty of sense. Grade C. All Star: No.
Andy Pettitte (3 years, $31.5 million, Houston Astros):
Andy is came off a 21-win season with the New York Yankees but that record is deceiving as he received a lot of run support, which helped account for a large number of those wins. This season in Houston (5-2, 4.14), Pettitte has put together a normal year, even though he has been injured a little. Grade: B. All Star: No.
Miguel Batista (3 years, $13.1 million, Toronto Blue Jays):
Last year Miguel Batista was one of the reasons the Arizona Diamondbacks stayed around as long as they did last season; he pitched well both in relief and as a starter. Miguel has hit his stride seemingly with a 3.85 ERA in 117 IP. Grade: B+. All Star: No.
Keith Foulke (4 years, $25.5 million, Boston Red Sox):
Having pitched brilliantly for the past five seasons, Foulke raked in the money this past offseason. He has pitched lights out this season -posting a 1.57 ERA over 46 innings, with 13 saves in 17 chances. Grade: A-. All Star: No.
Mike Cameron (3 years, $19.5 million, New York Mets):
By playing a spectacular center field, Mike Cameron established himself as a gold-glove caliber outfielder. His range, arm, glove, and instincts are top notch. And that’s why the Mets wanted him. Last year the Mets were desperate (they even started Roger Cedeno in center) for somebody to patrol the area, and Cameron ostensibly filled that need. Unfortunately he hasn’t hit much (.228 but with 14 homers) and his defense has been less than expected so far. Grade: B. All Star: No.
Scott Spiezio (3 years, $9.15 million, Seattle Mariners):
Not an entirely great player, Spiezio has put together solid numbers the past few years. He is one of an aging group of Mariners who need to be replaced with youth. He’s had a few injuries this season, and he has not begun to hit his stride. His numbers -- .217 with 9 homers -- leave much to be desired. Grade: C-. All Star: No.
Carl Everett (2 years, $7.5 million, Montreal Expos):
I have recently watched Everett play in a game on TV, and he actually kicked a ball for an error. He seemed to have very little range or desire to be in the outfield. He seems clueless at the plate. I hope that he can turn it around for GM Omar Minaya’s sake. Grade: D-. All Star: No.
Miguel Tejada (6 years, $72 million, Baltimore Orioles):
In his first season as a sellout, Tejada has hit .309, with good power. As the season starts to wind down, he should heat up even further and produce better numbers, which is actually quite scary. Grade: A. All Star: Yes.
Gary Sheffield (3 years, $39 million, New York Yankees):
Hampered by a very bad right thumb early in the season, Sheffield has reclaimed his place in all offensive categories. He has 16 homers and 59 RBIs to go with a .302 average. These are good numbers for someone in the number four or five hole. Grade: A-. All Star: Yes.
Javy Lopez (3 years, $22.5 million, Baltimore Orioles):
After setting the record for most home runs by a catcher (42), Lopez left the Braves and signed with the Baltimore Orioles. As part of a resurgent Orioles offense (seems odd saying that), he has his .320, but without as much power as last season. He’s still doing very well and is once again a good offensive player. Grade: A-. All Star: No.
Arthur Rhodes (3 years, $9.2 million, Oakland Athletics):
After a mediocre season last year, Rhodes signed with the A’s, to take over the closer’s role. Its been a disaster and Rhodes does not look like he will ever manage to recreate his sub-2.5 ERA years. He lost his closer’s role earlier in the season and the A’s traded for Octavio Dotel to take over that job. Grade: D. All Star: No.
Vladimir Guerrero (5 years, $70 million, Anaheim Angels):
Probably tired with the constant inconsistency that surrounds the Montreal Expos, Vlad sold out his old team and joined the Angels. Vlad has taken a liking to the Angels clubhouse and team. So far, he has hit .345 with 20 homers, played his normal rangy right field, and used his cannon arm to it’s best. This was pretty much a can’t miss signing. Grade A+. All Star: Yes.
Sidney Ponson (3 years, $22.5 million, Baltimore Orioles):
Returning to his former team, Ponson has not pitched well at all. He’s a 3-12 with a 6.29 ERA as the “staff ace” of the Birds. His drop off from last year’s numbers are quite odd, but I don’t know if we can expect an improvement from him. Grade: F. All Star: No.
Ivan Rodriguez (4 years, $40 million, Detroit Tigers):
Ivan Rodriguez led the Florida Marlins to the World Championship last season and promptly left town. He joined the 119-loss Tigers and has begun to help turn them from their losing ways by hitting .369 with eleven home runs. There are multiple escape clauses in hs contract (for the Tigers), due to Rodriguez’s knack for getting injured. Grade: A+. All Star: Yes.
Greg Maddux (3 years, $24 million, Chicago Cubs):
Maddux is coming off an injury plagued 2003 season where he compiled “only” 218 innings with a 3.96 ERA. But budget restrictions with the Atlanta Braves forced Maddux back to his former club, the Chicago Cubs. Everything hasn’t been the fairy tale that most people have expected as witnessed by his 4.51 ERA over 111.2 IP. Grade: C-. All Star: No.
Luis Castillo (3 years, $16 million, Florida Marlins):
Castillo received a hefty paycheck, most likely due to his work in the playoffs last season. So far this season, Luis has not done what he is supposed to, with a .282 batting average and a .348 OBP. For someone hitting behind Juan Pierre and in front of Mike Lowell and Miguel Cabrera, that’s extra bad. Grade: C-. All Star: No.
Shannon Stewart (3 years, $18 million, Minnesota Twins):
Since joining the Twins Stewart has been a new man and hoped to excel in the leadoff spot. This filled a desperate need for the Twin and might have worked out except for the fact that Stewart has been injured for much of the season and rookie Lew Ford is filling in just fine. Grade: B-. All Star: No.
A Few Others (No Monetary Value)
Paul Quantrill (2 years, $6.4 million, New York Yankees):
Pauly has been a great relief pitcher the past few seasons, getting the ball from starter to Gagne. This year he has been all right (3.05 ERA in 56 IP), but I expect those figures to get even better. Grade B-. All Star: No.
Michael Tucker (2 years, $3.5 million, San Francisco Giants):
Tucker was taken away from the Kansas City Royals last year. He put up some decent stats in one of the best hitter’s parks in the AL, and many people discounted his value coming to play in one of the best NL pitcher’s parks; and the skeptics have been correct. Tucker has hit only 7 homers but with a .272 batting average since joining the Giants. Grade C-. All Star: No.
Tim Worrell (2 years, $5.5 million, Philadelphia Phillies):
Last season Worrell saved 38 games for the Giants, and this season he will save a lot fewer, as he gave up the closing job by moving to Philly to be a setup man for Billy Wagner. He’s done a good job this season (44.1 innings with a 3.45 ERA with a few saves in Wagner’s absence) and should continue to put up fine stats. Grade B+. All Star: No.
John Thomson (2 years, $7 million, Atlanta Braves):
Thomson has worked with pitching guru Leo Mazzone, but the stats haven’t shown it yet. He’s currently sitting at 6-7 with a 4.82 ERA. The Braves pitching woes continue, and perhaps not even Leo Mazzone can fix things this time, but at least Thomson is matching Maddux, the man he was supposed to replace in the rotation. Grade: C-. All Star: No.
Vinny Castilla (1 year, $2.1 million, Colorado Rockies):
Signed at a bargain price, Vinny has put up stats (.272, 16, 71) that should have warranted all star consideration, but didn’t get anything. Oh, and he brings a great glove to the ballpark. Grade: B. All Star: No.
Benito Santiago (2 years, $4.3 million, Kansas City Royals):
Santiago was a decent candidate to protect Barry Bonds in the lineup last year, but the addition of AJ Pierzynski made Santiago expendable. Amid BALCO controversies, Santiago has hit 6 homers and has not done much for the pitching staff in KC. The Royals need Santiago to return from injury and help the young pitching staff. Grade: C. All Star: No.
Rondell White (2 years, $6 million, Detroit Tigers):
White is oft injured, but he can put up very good stats when healthy. His best season came in 1997 when he clubbed 28 homers and hit .270 with the Expos, but he rarely plays in more then 120 games. He’s been healthy this season and has hit .278 with twelve homers. Grade: B. All Star: No.
Jose Cruz Jr. (2 years, $6 million, Tampa Bay Devil Rays):
The Rice University product Jose Cruz Jr. played well for the Giants last season until he dropped an easy fly ball in the playoffs. His overall stats weren’t great, but he did manage to put up decent numbers. So far he has hit fourteen homers, but with a disappointing .241 batting average. He’s been pretty streaky and has had some injuries along the way, but with his glove, Cruz Jr. is worth the money spent on him. Grade: C+. All Star: No.
Reggie Sanders (2 years, $6 million, St. Louis Cardinals):
In the past seven years, Sanders has played for seven different teams (Reds, Padres, Braves, Diamondbacks, Giants, Pirates, and Cardinals since I know you all were wondering), but this time, he did it right by signing a two year deal. It’s very hard to tell why this guy hasn’t gotten more attention than he has in the past, but he hasn’t. So here goes: this season Sanders has hit fourteen homers with a .257 batting average. Not that great, but good enough. Grade: B+. All Star: No.
Jose Guillen (2 years, $6 million, Anaheim Angels):
Trying to prove that last season was not a fluke, Guillen signed with the Angels for only two years. So far he’s done a good job proving that his 2003 season was not a flash in the pan. He has fifteen home runs at and has hit at a .301 clip in a lineup that desperately craves offense. Grade: A-. All Star: No.
Jeromy Burnitz (1 year, $1.5 million, Colorado Rockies):
Jeromy has quietly been putting together a good season, albeit in Colorado. He has a .286 batting average with eighteen homers and fifty-seven RBIs. He has been the main force in the Rockies lineup, and with numbers like that, he’s doing a good job. Grade: A-. All Star: No.
Armando Benitez (1 year, $3.5 million, Florida Marlins):
Many people discounted the ability of Armando Benitez to be a successful closer due to a tendency to collapse in the clutch. Perhaps he has not had many clutch performances required yet this season, but he has put up 29 saves with a 1.00 ERA. Grade: A+. All Star: Yes.
Kenny Lofton (2 years, $6.2 million, New York Yankees):
Lofton has either complained about playing time, been injured, or both for much of the entire season. This definitely not the Lofton of old, and his skills have certainly degenerated (this usually does happen for 36-year-old outfielders), but he still is hitting .297 with a .378 OBP, but that is a good testament to how great he was. Grade: C. All Star: No.
Juan Gonzalez (1 year, $4.5 million, Kansas City Royals):
Gonzalez has (surprise, surprise!) missed some time this season, but if he can begin to approach even last year’s statistics, he should be pretty well off. So far this season he has hit some, but not too much, and has provided a decent glove in right. Grade: C. All Star: No.
Danys Baez (2 years, $6.5 million, Tampa Bay Devil Rays):
Prone to blowing save opportunities, Baez has done a decent (17 of 19) job this year as a closer. Also, he’s pitched very well for a struggling team that desperately needs some arms in the bullpen (and rotation and minors). Grade: B. All Star: No.
Braden Looper (2 years, $6.75 million, New York Mets)
: Braden LaVern Looper has been inconsistent throughout his career, to say the least. The Marlins replaced him with Ugueth Urbina last season, and he pitched well enough in a setup role. The Mets made a decent acquisition here in Looper as a closer. This year he has responded with a 1.88 ERA while going 18 of 20 in save opps. Grade: B. All Star: No.
Rafael Palmeiro (1 year, $4.5 million, Baltimore Orioles):
Raffy Palmeiro has been perhaps the best example of consistency throughout his career. He will usually put up 38 homers with around 100 RBIs and maybe a .270 batting average. This year, however, Palmeiro is falling behind his career average stats. He has only 13 homers and a .247 batting average. Look for him to crank up his power production as questions about his Hall of Fame candidacy come into question. Grade: B-. All Star: No.
Roger Clemens (1 year, $5 million, Houston Astros):
After “retiring” Clemens returned with a vengeance. He is already 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA. Look for the Rocket to cool off, but he should continue to being a strong starter despite his showing at the All Star game. Grade: A+. All Star: Yes.
Jay Payton (2 years, $5.5 million, San Diego Padres):
Perhaps a Coors Field product somewhat last season, Payton has done an acceptable job at the plate this year, without the power numbers. He has a .322 OBP, which is what the Padres don’t need, someone who doesn’t get on base. Grade: C-. All Star: No.
Ugueth Urbina (1 year, $3.5 million, Detroit Tigers):
There was some concern about Urbina who “hadn’t picked up a baseball since Game 6 of the World Series” until he signed with the Tigers. He has gotten back into shape and has pitched his worth with 14 saves on the young season. The Tigers figure to make Urbina trade bait, so look for him to go soon (perhaps to the Cubs). Grade: A-. All Star: No.
Mike Timlin (1 year, $2.75 million, Boston Red Sox):
Timlin has been part of the Red Sox’s great bullpen, though his numbers don’t show his true value. He’s 4-3, but has a 3.57 ERA over 45.1 innings. Timlin will most likely keep that number there, and let the innings continue to rise. Grade: B. All Star: No.
(Author’s Note: Special thanks to espn.com for their stats and salaries on the above players. All stats are going into Sunday, July 11.)