The Angels were considered the favorites to land OF Carlos Beltran but may now be out of the running. They instead decided to bring in Finley to roam center field. With him on board, Garrett Anderson becomes the left fielder with Vladimir Guerrero staying in right. This gives them one of the best outfields in the game. This could signify the Angels getting back into the Randy Johnson sweepstakes if Johnson would agree to a trade to Anaheim.
Rafael Palmeiro is set to return to the O's and will split time between DH and first base. Palmeiro is now 40 and is inching closer to the end but he can still hit. Surhoff is being rewarded for his solid season with a $300,000 raise. He'll likely play the same role for the O?s as he did last season.
Boston Red Sox:
The signing of Matt Mantei is one of the better values of the winter thus far. The reliever has the potential to be a dominant set-up man and he won't be paid much unless he is effective. If he is healthy, he and Foulke combine as one of the better late-inning duos. If they are unable to work something out with Jason Varitek, Doug Mirabelli may become the starting catcher.
Chicago White Sox:
The Sox have inked Dye to replace the void left by Magglio Ordonez. Dye won't be able to nearly match the production but he comes at a much lower price. If he can play at his best and stay healthy, he'll be worth right around $10 million for the two years. Did any pitcher add more to his value in as short a time as Hermanson? By closing games in San Francisco for two months, the right-hander added over $1 million per year to his value. He'll initially set-up Takatsu but could see time as the closer by the time the season is over.
Wickman will return to Cleveland for another year and will open the year as the closer. How long the right-hander can hold on to the job is anyone's guess. No one thought he'd be able to get the job done last year but he managed to scrape together 13 saves. Scott Sauerbeck missed all of 2003 but could be a solid reliever for the Tribe this coming season.
The Tigers have yet to decide what they are going to do with the back of their bullpen. The only lock is Troy Percival acting as the closer. Ugueth Urbina may set-up for Percival or the Tigers may find a suitor in a trade. Urbina's trade value is high right now so don't be surprised if he is dealt.
Kansas City Royals:
With Joe Randa not offered arbitration, Chris Truby may have been brought aboard as a placeholder for prospect Mark Teahen. The trade for Terrence Long and Dennis Tankersley could work out well for the Royals. Long is a serviceable fourth outfielder and Tankersley is a good young pitcher with nice upside. "Tank" will likely compete for a rotation spot in spring training and should win a job.
Radke was inches away from leaving Minnesota but they came in at the last minute and offered him enough to get the deal done. This is a good signing for both sides as neither ever really wanted to split apart. Radke will again be a solid second starter behind ace Johan Santana. Mike Redmond was brought in to backup Joe Mauer, who missed most of 2004 with a knee injury.
New York Yankees:
The Yankees are up to their old tricks again: throwing around large amounts of money without caring how bad the contract may be. Wright was pegged as a $5-$6 million per year pitcher and the Bombers gave him $7 million. Womack has a career .319 on-base percentage and is below average defensively at second base but he was given two-years at $2 million per year. The primary complains about the Yankees' spending is over their carelessness, even more than the overall amount they spend.
The long-awaited Kendall trade has finally come to fruition except not with the team he was expected to go to. However, this is an excellent move by Oakland. Kendall catches more games than anyone else and has a .400 OBP that will fit nicely at the top of Oakland's lineup. The loss of Mark Redman will be eased by rookie Joe Blanton stepping in and losing Arthur Rhodes is more of a benefit for the A's. Chalk up another one for Billy Beane.
The M's gambled by declining their $6 million option on Guardado but it worked out well when he picked up his end. Bringing him back at $4.5 million could be a bargain as he is expected to be 100% come spring training. He'll be back as the closer and "Everyday Eddie" could return to be one of the best in the league. Dan Wilson will be back for his 11th season with the Mariners as he'll act as Miguel Olivo's back-up and mentor.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays:
Richard Hidalgo hit just .239 last season but he still managed to hit 25 home runs. The right-handed slugger has a 44 home run season under his belt but is no longer the same player. At $5 million, if he has a similar year to last year he'll be slightly overpaid but he has the potential to make the contract look like a bargain. He'll roam the outfield for the Rangers and could be a nice addition as the make another run at the division title.
Toronto Blue Jays:
Troy Glaus, perhaps the biggest name to sign so far this winter, will come into Arizona as the starting third baseman. He is coming off a shoulder injury that is limiting his throwing. The injury could force him to shift to first base and if so, he will start there. Russ Ortiz comes in and joins Brandon Webb as the only locks for the rotation. With Randy Johnson still on the block, it is unknown how the rotation will shake out.
There was never much doubt that Franco would retire or be back with the Braves. The 46-year-old will again play when there is a lefty one the hill and will be the first man off the bench otherwise. He is a good piece to have around and may still be in another 46 years.
Garciaparra came over to the Cubs mid-season and never truly got settled. Now he has a chance to start everything over. If he can stay healthy he'll be worth more than the $8 million he's being paid.
Not much has changed yet in Cincy. LaRue will return as the starting catcher. He'll give them another season with a low average but more homers than the normal catcher will give. Wilson is a questionable signing. He's had a few very similar seasons: mid-4.00 ERA while missing a few starts. He has no upside beyond what he did last season.
The signings of Al Leiter and Alfonseca are complimentary deals. Alfonseca will compliment Guillermo Mota and the back end of the pen and Al Lieter compliments the young rotation, providing experience and consistency. Lowell's deal was completed so early that it may become a bargain if the salaries continue to rise as they have so far this winter.
The Astros haven't made a big splash yet but they have taken care of some loose parts. Biggio is coming off an outstanding season and while he likely won't put up similar numbers, could still be a nice value at $3 million. Vizcaino was solid when replacing Adam Everett late in the season and is also a fair value for the 'Stros. Palmeiro, however, is a replacement-level player and is overpaid even at $800,000. Two out of three aint bad.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
Kent to the Dodgers came as a small surprise. While the fit is there, he wasn't being mentioned much at all. Kent is still playing at All-Star level so the price is pretty fair. However, the Dodgers will likely move him to first or third base and that will hurt his value. If he can maintain his production for at least one more season, it has to be considered a good move.
Why does a 35-year-old catcher who hit .272/.339/.403 last season need nearly $3 million per year, let alone a three-year contract? This deal has to be considered a mistake no matter how you look at it. While he is very unlikely to repeat his numbers from last year, even if he did he's barely worth $3 million. Add the fact that he's signed through the age of 37 and you've got yourself one awful deal.
New York Mets:
The Mets were in a bind and Kris Benson knew it. The deal that may have set the market for the rest of the starting pitchers may have only been as high in value because of the Mets' predicament. The Mets were bashed for what they gave up to acquire Benson and a coup may have occurred if they allowed him to leave via free agency. The Benson camp knew this and took advantage of it. He squeezed everything he could out of the Mets and drove up the market price for the other pitchers by possibly over $1 million per season.
The Phillies apparently think their theory works even without any positive results. For the past few seasons the Phils have had a deep rotation but lacked that true front-line pitcher. By bringing in Lieber they add more of the same. Lieber is a safe bet to be solid but that is about it. Cormier had a good season but it pales in comparison to his 2003. He'll likely post a season closer to last year in 2005.
The Kendall deal is one of those deals that seem to be good for both sides. The Pirates are out from his hefty contract and add two decent players. Redman will likely be a decent third starter behind ace Oliver Perez and Kip Wells. Rhodes will likely be sent to another team soon in an attempt to pick up an outfielder. Mesa was set to retire if the Pirates wouldn't bring him back but they decided to give him one more year as their closer.
St. Louis Cardinals:
Morris' contract is one of the better contracts to be signed so far. His base salary is $2.5 million but if he is able to stay healthy and pitch well, he could earn an additional $4.5 million. If he is unable to stay active, the Cards are just out $2.5 million but if he can make it all the way back, the $7 million they will pay him is still likely a good deal. That contract is only outdone by the $2 million being paid to Chris Carpenter. If he can pitch anywhere close to the level he threw at last year, he'll be a major bargain in the coming season.
San Diego Padres:
Woody Williams' contract looks brilliant on the surface but looking a little deeper reveals an interesting incentive. He will receive $125,000 per start made up to 32 starts. If he makes all 32 starts he will be owed a total of $7.5 million. There aren't many scenarios that make Woody Williams worth that total-not at his age. It's hard to root for a newly-signed pitcher to get hurt but if the Padres are forced to pay him the whole thing, they'll be out a lot more than they needed to be.
San Francisco Giants:
The Giants have been very active so far. Even after coming off an outstanding season, Benitez has found yet another new home. He will replace Dustin Hermanson as the closer and there's no reason to believe that he won't have another successful season. Vizquel isn't the defender he once was but he'll solidify the middle-infield for the Giants. Grissom is currently penciled in as the center fielder but if the Giants acquire someone else, he'll shift over to right.
It's hard to defend the signing of Guzman for the Nationals. He is a good defender but has a career line of .266/.303/.382. The player they gave up in the Guillen deal, Maicer Izturis, hit .206/.286/.318 in 107 at-bats in 2004. He is able to handle the glove and while those offensive numbers are far from good, it may have been better to give him the job and use the $4 million per year that they gave Guzman elsewhere. Izturis had a stellar season in Triple-A and probably deserved a shot.