This offseason saw a large number of free agents sign with new teams. Some teams were trying to fill holes while others were trying to take their team to the next level. Whatever the reason, a lot of quality players found new homes. This is a recap of the signings with the most interesting fantasy implications.
Just like last year, there were three big players who everyone wanted, but few could afford. Last year, the Yankees gobbled up Mark Teixeira, A.J. Burnett, and C.C. Sabathia, but this year the Bronx Bombers were conspicuously quiet when it came to the free agent market. The Yankees decided to make trades for players other teams couldn’t afford rather than dry up the free agent pool with their bottomless pockets.
The three big-time free agents this year went to three different teams, all considered to be rivals of the Yankees. Jason Bay signed with the Mets, Matt Holliday re-signed with St. Louis and John Lackey went to Boston.
Prime Time Players
Jason Bay found his way to New York, but it was to the cross-town rival Mets. He is a good but not great hitter whose fantasy value will be determined by whether he can pull homeruns down the left field line or hit long fly outs to the CitiField power alleys. Both Bay and the Mets should have done better than joining forces, but they kind of needed each other despite the fact that this marriage will likely end up poorly. Bay is not worth the high draft pick he will command, so stay away unless he drops a few rounds in your draft.
Matt Holliday plays for the second winningest franchise in MLB history (as measured by World Series titles), but he has never won one himself. He is hoping that a long-term pairing with Albert Pujols will lead to an over-sized ring. Holiday hit very well last season after his trade to the Cardinals, but don’t expect that level of hitting prowess to continue. The Cardinals lineup looks thin after the two big boys, so temper your expectations.
John Lackey was the best pitcher on the free agent market and found himself signing with the Boston Red Sox. He goes from being the best pitcher for the Angels to the number three starter in Boston. The offense in Boston is very strong and Lackey will benefit. Bid confidently, but don’t overpay for him.
Leaving New York was Hideki Matsui as he headed for Los Angeles. Godzilla’s not fit for playing the outfield any longer, but his bat is still strong. He’ll be the Angels DH and is worth a roster spot on your squad.
Matsui replaces Vladimir Guerrero as the Angels DH and Vlad moves on to Texas to fill the same role. His legs are shot, but the power should remain, especially in the hot Texas sun. He’s good for your team, just don’t expect the Guerrero of old.
Chone Figgins also left the Angels. Figgins headed for Seattle and will occupy the Mariners hot corner. Look for a lot of the same from Figgins who will use Seattle’s big field to turn doubles into triples.
The best thing about Octavio Dotel’s contract with the Pirates is that it is only for one year. That means he is auditioning for his next employer right now and will have some save opportunities along the way. He won’t get a lot pitching in Pittsburgh, but it he will make a nice cheap source of a couple dozen saves if he slides in your draft.
Orlando Cabrera is very solid. You get pretty much the same thing from him every year, regardless of which team he plays for. If you want a slightly above average guy, O-Cab is your guy. If you strive for something better than that, look elsewhere.
Texas also added Rich Harden. Harden is the ultimate high risk, high reward guy. When he’s healthy, he’s a dominant pitcher. But he’s often not healthy and can’t be counted on and will usually spend some time on the disabled list most every season.
Ben Sheets is a lot like Harden in that he’s great when healthy, he just isn’t healthy all season. The Athletics most likely signed him so they can trade him to a contender at the trade deadline, so Sheets will be auditioning all the first half of the season for the team he will go to for a playoff race. Since he is on a one-year deal, he’s also auditioning for a big contract after the season. He should give you good ratios in the first half playing in Oakland’s cavernous stadium and then pick up wins playing for a contender in the second half. You should get great stats from Sheets, assuming he stays healthy.
The Padres brought Jon Garland in to become trade bait at the trade deadline, too. He’ll thrive in San Diegos’ huge stadium, but won’t get many wins with a horrible offense backing him up. You’d be buying him for the second half of the season, not the first.
Atlanta signed Billy Wagner to be their closer and Troy Glaus to play first base. Wagner’s coming back from elbow surgery and he turns 40 next season, so a lot of things can go wrong. He is in the perfect situation for saves: good pitching rotation, mediocre offense. The Braves will present their closer with opportunities, the only question is will Wags stay healthy enough to be that guy?
Glaus is returning from shoulder surgery and picking up a new position. The Braves are wondering if he can find the big numbers he posted from 2000-2006 when he averaged 32 homers and 88 RBI a season.
Washington added two starters to help their young and troubling rotation. Jason Marquis and Chien-Ming Wang will occupy rotation slots, giving the Nationals depth and a veteran presence. Wang will miss half the season with a foot injury, but both should be productive this season, though they might not get much run support from the Nats’ anemic offense.
Mark DeRosa signed with the Giants to play a variety of positions. He’ll likely spend most of his time in left field, but will be below average at the position. In addition, DeRosa underwent wrist surgery, which will likely have an adverse affect on his hitting, especially his power.
Aubrey Huff is the Giants new first baseman. He has had some real good seasons mixed in with some duds, so you really don’t know what you’ll get. San Francisco’s home park is tough on lefties, so the power likely won’t spike, but the RBI opportunities should be there if he can put the ball into play.
The Houston Astros gave Brett Myers a contract and a rotation slot. This guy has a history of injuries and is a head case. If he can stay healthy he could return to his magical form of a few years ago, but that is a big if.
The Reds surprisingly signed Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman to a lucrative free agent contract. This kid has a lot of talent, it is just very unclear how ready he is to contribute in the majors this season. Watch him closely during spring training to evaluate his progress. He’s keeper quality, but no one knows if he’ll be very useful this season.
The Brewers added a couple of fossils to fill out their rotation. They welcome Doug Davis back to Milwaukee while bringing Randy Wolf in for the first time. Both lefties are grizzled veterans, but how much gas do they still have in the tank? Davis is the safer bet, but Wolf may be a good value pick if he slides in your draft.
Marlon Byrd was brought in to be the Cubs everyday centerfielder. The only problem is that he’s not the kind of guy you want to see up at the plate 550 times in a season. He’s best utilized as a teams’ fourth outfielder, where he usually takes advantage of matchups. Don’t spend a lot on this one or else you will be greatly disappointed
Adam LaRoche and Kelly Johnson both moved from Atlanta to Arizona. They both had a troublesome first half followed by an improved second half. LaRoche was better than his typically good second half, but couldn’t parlay it into a long term deal, so he’s playing for one this season.
Johnson lost his starting job after an injury and is trying to reestablish himself. LaRoche is more likely to have success than Johnson, but bet on the second half as LaRoche is always better in the summer heat than in the beginning of the season.
Bench (or Waiver Wire) Material
Boston also added Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron to their offense. Scutaro is coming off a career season and isn’t likely to come anywhere close to his 2009 numbers, even in a powerful offense like Boston’s. Mike Cameron will be consistent and will provide solid numbers, but he’s getting long in the tooth and you should be wary of a decline in skills.
Toronto signed Kevin Gregg to be their closer. His ERA was awful last year and don’t expect it to get any better playing in the A.L. East. He’s got s history of blown saves and he’s likely to keep that trend going. Gregg is not an answer to saves unless you are truly desperate.
The Orioles added new pieces to play their infield corners. Miguel Tejada and Garrett Atkins both have put up big seasons in the past but both seem to be on the backside of their careers. The good news is that both of these guys will quickly have multiple position eligibility. The bad news is that both are moving away from hitters havens and will likely suffer in Baltimore. Stay away from both unless they are the kind of bench player you can roster.
The Phillies filled their third base hole with one of the best defensive second basemen in baseball, Placido Polanco. Unfortunately, his bat will be mediocre at best for his new position. Philadelphia is looking for good defense here and you should look elsewhere for your offense.
A few more Nationals’ signings filled slots at catcher and second base. Ivan Rodriguez was the best fantasy catcher in the early 2000’s, but those days are long gone. Adam Kennedy was never considered anywhere close to the best in his professional career and since he is also getting a little too old, neither should be considered for anything more than a bench spot.
Orlando Hudson signed with Minnesota. The Twins are already spending money they expect to make from their new stadium and Hudson’s defense is an upgrade. Unfortunately, defense isn’t a category used by most leagues in fantasy baseball. He is getting slower with age and his offense was never his strength. He’ll be a great backup, but you don’t want O-Dog as your starter, unless you are in the deepest of leagues.
The Kansas City Royals added three veterans to fill out their offense. Rick Ankiel, Scott Podsednik and Jason Kendall have all had successes in their careers. But this is not the time or place for those successes to repeat. None of the three are worth a starting role on your team, but could be useful backups.