Handing out Winter Meetings grades
Let's face it.
The last seven days in the world of baseball were positively bananas.
Between gargantuan free-agent contracts and a string of mamma-jamma trades, we've encountered a Hot Stove jubilee like never before.
So just like last week, let's uncap the red pen and bust out the Feldman Offseason Report Card Version 2.0 to see how each of these moves stacks up.
Team: Boston Red Sox
What they did: Signed Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million deal and hauled in Adrian Gonzalez for a fistful of prospects.
What I like: I haven't seen Boston fans this excited since "Gone Baby Gone" came to Blu-ray. Despite season-long injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, a half-year from Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz's April disappearance, the Red Sox still managed to finish second in the American League last season with 818 runs scored, behind only the Yankees. And now, within a five-day span, they added two blue-chip All-Star bats without touching their Major League roster. Seriously, how many runs per game can this lineup score? Seven? Eight? Twenty-three? Get in line now, because Fenway Park will be quite a fiesta this summer.
What I don't like: Sure, maybe giving a seven-year deal to a player whose game centers around speed and will be making more than $20 million as a 37-year-old sounds like a bad idea. And maybe dealing the farm away for a potential one-year rental is a little short-sighted. But ... it's Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez! These are exactly the type of moves you make when you have a deep-pocketed ownership group that buys storied English Premier League soccer clubs just because they can.
Combined grade: A
I think Bill James' calculator exploded trying to figure out Boston's season run projection.
Player: Jayson Werth
Team: Washington Nationals
Contract: Seven years, $126 million
What I like: First things first, this is an insane contract. I know this.
With that said, as a Tigers fan, I can sort of see what the Nationals are doing here. Back in 2004, the Tigers were coming off a 119-loss season and trying to remove themselves from the Randy Smith era. So what did they do? New general manager Dave Dombrowski knew the team needed a new identity, so he overpaid Ivan Rodriguez to become the face of the franchise -- and more importantly -- to give the Tigers some credibility around the league. It worked. A year later, Magglio Ordonez was brought in, and a year after that, the Tigers were in the World Series.
Now, with Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in their back pockets, the 2011 Nationals are in much better shape than the '04 Tigers were. But from a macro, bottom-line free-agent perspective, the similarities are striking. Namely, the Nationals weren't going to sign anyone of relevance unless they vastly overpaid to get that player. So they broke the bank for Werth.
And while in a vacuum, giving $18 million a year to Werth is completely mind-boggling, it somehow makes sense. Instead of being viewed as a losing franchise still in the beginning phases of rebuilding, the Nationals are now perceived as serious free-spending players in the free-agent market and a franchise on the upswing. I mean, just five days ago, reports were coming out about the Nationals entering the Cliff Lee bidding. And you know what? The reports were actually taken seriously. People actually convinced themselves that the Nats could sign Lee. This never happens if the Nats don't overpay to get Werth. And while it may not pay off immediately, the perception of credibility means something.
What I don't like: I mean, at the end of the day, $126 million for Jayson Werth is $126 million for Jayson Werth.
Let's see the Nats' next move.
Team: Baltimore Orioles
Who they got: Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy
Who they gave up: David Hernandez, Kam Mickolio, Jim Hoey, Brett Jacobson
What I like: I like everything about both of the trades the O's made to land Reynolds and Hardy. A 66-win team in 2010, Baltimore knew it was unlikely to sign anyone in the free-agent market. So the club did the next-best thing and lured away proven young talent from teams looking to shed some payroll. All it cost the O's was a pair of relievers and mid-ranked prospects.
Also, just take a look at my projected O's starting lineup for a second (Yes, I'm making the assumption that they sign either Derrek Lee or Adam LaRoche to play first base):
1. Brian Roberts (2B)
2. Adam Jones (CF)
3. Nick Markakis (RF)
4. Adam LaRoche/Derrek Lee (1B)
5. Mark Reynolds (3B)
6. Luke Scott (DH)
7. Matt Wieters (C)
8. J.J. Hardy (SS)
9. Felix Pie/Nolan Reimold (LF)
With the exception of Pie and Reimold in left field, the O's have above-average offensive talent at every single position. If Reynolds bounces back to his 2009 form, Wieters finally proves scouts right, Brian Matusz takes the next step and Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta prove to be competent starters, they could win 80 games. All right, that's a lot of "ifs."
What I don't like: There's little not to like. Sure, Reynolds batted .198 in 2010 and is in line for a nice pay raise in arbitration, but he's a lock for 35-40 homers playing half of his games at Camden Yards. And say what you want about Hardy, but he's a huge improvement over Robert Andino and Cesar Izturis.
Combined grade: A
If I had to start rooting for a random AL team, I'd pick the Orioles. What a fun-loving young bunch.
Player: Carlos Pena
Team: Chicago Cubs
Contract: One year, $10 million
What I like: It's pretty simple. The Cubs needed a first baseman and some pop in the middle of their lineup. Pena sports a slick glove and hits 40 homers a year. So there's that.
The cherry on top is that this is a one-year deal, so there's little risk involved.
What I don't like: If giving $10 million to a guy who couldn't crack .200 seems a little steep, it's because it is.
Since it's a one-year deal, I can't kill the Cubs here, but I would have preferred going the LaRoche route or re-signing Lee on the cheap.
Player: Lance Berkman
Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Contract: One year, $8 million.
What I like: On the surface, giving a one-year deal to a five-time All-Star who is only a full season removed from posting a .274-25-80 line seems like a foolproof move. And on paper, a 3-4-5 of Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Berkman does look positively frightening.
What I don't like: Take into account that Berkman is 34 years old and will be playing a position that he hasn't played regularly since 2004 and requires at least a smidgen of mobility. Oh, and if you ask any Astros or Yankees fans, they'll tell you that Berkman looked borderline washed up last season. That's never good.
This grade could skyrocket if "Big Puma" reports to Spring Training in tip-top shape and somehow becomes competent in the field. Smells like a long shot to me.
Players: Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera
Team: Kansas City Royals
Contract: One year, $2.5 million (Francouer); one year, $1.25 million (Cabrera)
What I like: You can talk me into the Cabrera signing. For one, $1.25 million is a minimum investment -- even for the Royals. And for two, the Melk-man seems to be a passionate player/good clubhouse guy who managed to hit a respectable .274 with 13 homers for the Yankees back in 2009. You could do a lot worse than having Cabrera as your fourth outfielder, especially if he ever gets into playing shape.
What I don't like: You can't talk me into the Francouer signing. I'll leave 10,000-word blog posts to Joe Posnanski shredding this signing. But I'll say this: Allotting one of your starting corner-outfield jobs to a player who has delivered a .256/.301/.389 triple-slash line over his last three seasons is total "Bad News Bears."
Just remember, Royals fans, the days of Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Mike Montgomery, Aaron Crow and Wil Myers are just around the corner!
Trade: Milwaukee sends highly regarded infield prospect Brett Lawrie to the Blue Jays for starting pitcher Shaun Marcum.
What I like: With a team ERA of 4.58, the Brewers really, really, really needed starting pitching. Sure, Milwaukee gave up one of its best prospects, but it's hard not to like Marcum.
In his first full season removed from Tommy John surgery, the 28-year-old right-hander went 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and a 165-to-43 K-to-BB ratio through the gauntlet of the AL East. Just imagine the type of numbers he can deliver facing the Pirates, Astros and Cubs instead of the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. There's little doubt I'll take Marcum in the 15th round of every single one of my fantasy leagues next season.
Anyway, I also like this trade for the Jays. I know you can never have too much starting pitching, but ... the Jays have enough. Between Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Marc Rzepczynski, Jesse Litsch and Zach Stewart, Toronto has a bumper crop of promising young starters. Add in the fact that Marcum is due for a big pay raise and is already fishing for a new contract, and it makes sense that the Jays would take his talents to Swapville when Milwaukee dangled the 20-year-old Lawrie.
Win-win trade all around.
Dave Feldman is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.