Free agency report card: White Sox strike gold
Dunn signing a slam dunk, but many other pacts hit and miss
Free agency is less than a month old, and we've already seen hundreds of millions of dollars exchange hands.
Somehow, this has all taken place without any of the Major Leagues' five biggest free agents (Cliff Lee, Derek Jeter, Adrian Beltre, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth) signing on any dotted lines.
So with that in mind, do some stretching, warm up that hamstring and sprinkle in a few lunges. It's time for the first installment of the Feldman Offseason Report Card.
Player: C/1B Victor Martinez
Team: Detroit Tigers
Contract: Four years, $50 million
What I like: Detroit desperately needed a big bat to slot around Miguel Cabrera, so mission accomplished there. The fact that V-Mart is also a switch-hitter is really just the amazing liquid chocolate sauce that oozes out of those incredible molten chocolate cakes. Twelve-and-a-half million a year for an upper-echelon No. 3 or 4 hitter really isn't so outrageous, even if Martinez's throws to second base will give Detroit fans Jeff Garcia moonball flashbacks. After initial bouts of queasiness, it took me about three hours to get on board with this signing.
What I don't like: The Tigers made it clear that they were interested in both V-Mart and Adam Dunn. And I still can't figure out if I would have preferred to go with what's behind door No. 2. Dunn is a year younger than Martinez, has hit somewhere around 5,395 home runs over his career and would have been the biggest power bat in Motown since Cecil Fielder (Note: Fielder was the man). And, yeah, the fact that Dunn signed a similar contract (four years, $56 million) to play with the rival White Sox does make me want to crawl under my desk like there's a tornado drill going on.
At the end of the day, the Tigers needed a big bat and they got one at a reasonable price. So that's nice.
Player: 1B/DH Adam Dunn
Team: Chicago White Sox
Contract: Four years, $56 million
What I like: Over the past two seasons, Dunn has belted 76 home runs while playing half of his games in a pitcher's park and all of his games in the least-intimidating lineup east of San Diego. Now, he moves to the most hitter-friendly ballpark east of Arlington and will be slotted into a top-five American League lineup (assuming Paul Konerko re-signs). Dunn will hit at least 50 home runs this season. Take it to the bank.
What I don't like: If the White Sox re-sign Konerko, Dunn will be a full-time designated hitter. And as one who had a front-row seat to the Gary Sheffield-as-a-DH experiment in Detroit, I can safely say that the transition to being a full-time DH is not always seamless. Also, $14 million a year to a lifetime .250 hitter who hurts your team's chances of winning the second a glove is placed on his left hand is at least a little bit troublesome, no?
Who am I kidding? Dunn signing with the White Sox was pretty much the doomsday scenario for any AL Central fan. U.S. Cellular Field couldn't possibly be more perfect for him. I just know that a 60-homer season is firmly in play here. You really can't convince me otherwise.
Player: RHP Mariano Rivera
Team: New York Yankees
Contract: Two years, $30 million (reportedly)
What I like: It's pretty much impossible to not love this signing for the Yankees. The best closer in baseball, who just happens to be the best closer in baseball history, signing a short-term deal under market value is never not amazing (double negative!).
I'm really just interested to see how this affects Jeter's negotiating tactics. Can Jeter really ask for a deal that would shatter Rivera's contract and not take a cold shower afterward?
What I don't like: "The best closer in baseball, who just happens to be the best closer in baseball history, signing a short-term deal under market value is never not amazing."
And that's me quoting myself!
Player: LHP Jorge De La Rosa
Team: Colorado Rockies
Contract: Two years, $21.5 million; $10.5 million player option for third year
What I like: The "Eggs in the Basket" strategy with borderline unproven, second-tier free-agent starters is almost always a bad idea. Immediately, names like A.J. Burnett (five years, $82.5 million), Carlos Silva (four years, $48 million) and Carl Pavano (four years, $39.5 million) start popping up. But De La Rosa, who I pegged as the second-best starter in this free-agent market, signed a startlingly reasonable deal. Two years at $10.75 million per to a left-handed arm who is just a full season removed from a 16-9, 4.38 ERA campaign passes the smell test and seems like a deal worth making.
What I don't like: What's going on here? What happened to the money-flinging general managers who toss eight-year deals and hundreds of millions of dollars to any left-handed starter who flashes a hint of talent? I refuse to accept that the days of Barry Zito and Mike Hampton contracts are over. The Angels better throw $100 million Doug Davis' way or I might just lose it.
A short-term deal and not-so-crazy money to a No. 2 starter in the NL West sounds good to me.
Player: RHP Javier Vazquez
Team: Florida Marlins
Contract: One year, $7 million
What I like: You know those challenges on "Survivor" or "Fear Factor" when the contestants are forced to eat items from the "Buffet of Horror" and shove disgusting things down their throats? Yeah, you see where I'm going with this. Take everything from the "Buffet of Horror," toss it in a blender and you pretty much have Vazquez's 2010 season with the Yankees.
So why do I like this signing? Because is there really any downside on taking a one-year flier on a guy who was arguably a top-five pitcher in baseball in 2009 (15-10 with a 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts with the Braves)? Personally, I'm just excited to see if Vazquez shatters Nelson Cruz's 2009 record of appearances on a fantasy baseball sleeper list.
The line is set at 348.5. I'm taking the over.
What I don't like: The only thing that caught me off guard here is that the Marlins gave Vazquez a full no-trade clause. We know that the always-fiscally-sound Marlins brass will never go long term with a veteran pitcher here. They might as well have just announced that they really just signed two 2012 first-round Type-A compensation Draft picks to a $7 million deal.
Pitchers' park + NL East + out of New York limelight + one-year deal motivation = too much to like here, even with the reports that his velocity has dropped.
Player: RHP Joaquin Benoit
Team: Detroit Tigers
Contract: Three years, $16.5 million
What I like: Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski paid top dollar to land the market's top non-closer reliever to replace Phil Coke, who will be pitching out of the starting rotation next season. Benoit was positively lights out with the Rays in 2010, registering a 1.34 ERA and a 75/11 K/BB ratio over 60 1/3 innings. That's really, really good. A Benoit-Jose Valverde one-two punch for the eighth and ninth innings sounds pretty stellar -- at least in theory.
What I don't like: Giving a three-year deal laced with Monopoly "Free Parking" money to a right-handed reliever who missed all of 2009 with a right rotator cuff injury gives me an instant asthma attack. Sorry, but I just can't fully get on board with any deal longer than two years to a reliever -- especially a right-handed one.
The only way I'll fully come around on this signing is if the Tigers let Valverde walk after this season and Benoit becomes the team's closer in '12 and '13. And dominates.
Player: SS Miguel Tejada
Team: San Francisco Giants
Contract: One year, $6.5 million
What I like: I'll dip into Twitter for this one. Here is a little nugget from @BenDougan (courtesy of Ken Tremendous):
"What is Miguel Tejada thinking? Doesn't he know the market for 36-year-old shortstops with no range who hit .270 is 3 years, $45 million?"
What I don't like: Tejada hasn't slugged north of .455 since 2006, underscored by the yikes-worthy .381 clip he posted last season. Oh, and he'll be 37 years old on May 25. Since it's only a one-year deal, I don't have that much of an issue with this. But frankly, I'm just worried for all the Giants fans currently flying high in their offseason honeymoon of bliss.
With a World Series now under his belt, general manager Brian Sabean might finally invoke the "sign-every-single-veteran-older-than-35" strategy he's been dreaming of. That's not a good thing.
It's only a one-year deal, so crisis is averted for now. This really could have had disaster written all over it.
Player: RHP Jon Garland
Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Contract: One year, $5 million
What I like: I like everything about this signing. Every year it seems like Garland signs below market value, and every year he proves to be a reliable No. 3 or 4 starter. The crafty 31-year-old (how is he only 31???) is fresh off a 14-win, 3.47 ERA season with the Padres and posted a 2.72 ERA over 36 1/3 innings with the Dodgers in '09. Sprinkle in the fact that this is only a one-year deal, and this was a total slam dunk for the Dodgers.
What I don't like: Absolutely nothing.
How no other team stormed in with at least a two-year, $12 million deal is beyond me.
Player: C John Buck
Team: Florida Marlins
Contract: Three years, $18 million
What I like: I guess hitting 20 homers is pretty good(?).
What I don't like: Did the cash-savvy Marlins really just dedicate a fifth of their payroll to a 30-year-old catcher with a lifetime .243 average? Is this really the best way to spend the check that would have been neatly folded in Dan Uggla's back pocket?
I think not.
Dave Feldman is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.