Next, I’m covering the NL West. I figure from now on, I’m just going to group all of the teams in each division, rather than make individual posts to save time. Anyway, on to the free agents:
First up is the Dodgers. Frank McCourt still holds control of the team, so how much of an impact towards the market the team will make this season is undetermined. In addition, the team will have to take care of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw’s arbitration. However, I should make note that opening day payrolls have gone up the past two seasons.
Also, before I begin talking about the free agents, let me just say that if it weren’t for Kirk Gibson and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Don Mattingly should get a few votes for the Manager of the Year. I say that considering not only the McCourt battles, but the fact that he had both near-hitting Triple Crown and near-pitching Triple Crown winners in Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, respectively (both of which should definitely should get votes for the MVP and Cy Young awards, even if they played for a team that only finished 3 games above .500).
Hiroki Kuroda – Don’t let the 13-16 record fool you, his ERA was 3.07, good for 9th in the National League. While his home runs and WHIP have gone up a year ago, he did go 200+ innings for the first time in his four-year tenure here in the Majors. There was speculation throughout the year that he would be traded, but Kuroda decided to use his no-trade clause because he wanted to stay with the team for the whole season.
Thoughts/Prediction: Though 36, Kuroda is still capable of pitching effectively in the Majors, as if his ERA and innings pitched weren’t enough. The Dodgers certainly felt that way when they signed him to a 1-year, $12 million deal last year. However, Considering the Dodgers’ financial situation, I don’t think the team will be able to pay him a salary that he’ll be looking for (likely somewhere between $9-11 million a year) and will have to let him go. Kuroda would make for a good, veteran #3 pitcher for another team; Texas would be a good place, especially if Wilson and/or Lewis is gone.
Jonathan Broxton – He started off the season well, going 7-for-8 in saves, but suffered pain in his elbow in May and was put on the disabled list. He didn’t return after that, despite hopes of returning in September.
Thoughts/Prediction: Broxton has been one of the more consistently good closers in the majors the past couple of years. Despite his massive frame (at 6’4″, 295 pounds, this guy is huge), he throws an overwhelming fastball and slider, which is why he’s been so effective during his tenure. He was paid $7 million last year, so despite not playing most of this season, I still think he’s worth it. Broxton is 27, so I’d say the Dodgers should give him a 3 or 4-year deal, between $25-$35 million.
Rod Barajas – After claiming off waivers last year, the team resigned him to a 1-year, $3.25 million deal. He played in 98 games, hitting .230, with 16 home runs.
Thoughts/Prediction: Despite just turning 36, Barajas still has the ability to hit for power, as his home runs and slugging percentage have been relatively consistent for the past 3 years. Whether he’s resigned depends on how much faith the team has with A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz waiting on the depth chart. I don’t think either are ready to assume more time as starting catcher (particularly Ellis), so I’m going to assume that the Dodgers will resign him to yet another 1-year deal, worth $3-3.5 million.
Juan Rivera – Rivera was a part of the blockbuster trade last offseason that sent Vernon Wells from the Angels, while Rivera went to Toronto. In 70 games, he didn’t do so hot, hitting only .243, before being designated for assignment. From there, he was picked up by the Dodgers a week later. He fared better, hitting .274 in 62 games.
Thoughts/prediction: Though a fairly average hitter in terms of batting average and on-base percentage, the great thing about Rivera is that he can still hit for contact. His career strikeout rate is a very low 11.3% (compared to 18% for the rest of the MLB). His ability to play both corner outfield positions, as well as 1st base is also a nice little bonus. Dodgers have a boatload of young outfielders though (including Tony Gwynn, Jerry Sands, and Trent Oeltjen), so he’ll most likely let him go. Teams that are looking for a player capable of playing multiple position will surely look at him, but Rivera should also not expect to be paid the $5.25 million he was this year; depending on where he goes and how he’s used, his value is somewhere between $2.75-3.5 million.
Casey Blake (club option) – Blake was marred by injuries throughout the year, limiting himself to just 63 games. In September, he underwent surgery on his neck to relieve a pinched nerve.
Thoughts/Prediction: On October 4, the Dodgers decided to decline his option, paying his $1.25 milllion buyout. So what’s next? Well, despite being marred with injuries all year, he’s been mostly healthy throughout his career, 2006 being the only exception. And despite not being a .275-280 hitter the past couple of years, he still has the ability to hit around 16-22 homers a year. He can be a good #6 hitter, or even #5 in the lineup, wherever he goes. And though he’s 38, the free-agent market for third baseman is pretty weak; outside of Aramis Ramirez, there’s not really much after (and maybe Edwin Encarnacion, but only if the Blue Jays decline his option). If he’s healthy by Spring Training, I can see him platooning 3b/DH roles with Brandon Inge and the upcoming Danny Worth in Detroit, on a one-year deal.
Vicente Padillia – He began the season on the disabled list. However, upon his return and with Broxton out, Padillia pitched in 9 games, and was a perfect 3-for-3 in saves. Unfortunately, he went on the disabled list again in May, first for his forearm and then in his neck.
Thoughts/Prediction: Well, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Padillia is no longer a starting pitcher. However, on the bright side, if he can return healthy, he can certainly have a good rest-of-his-career playing as a closer or setup man. If the Dodgers keep him, he can certainly provide as both, and would likely be a cheaper repalcement for Broxton, should they not resign him. Either way, I think the team resigns Padillia; what he’ll earn though all depends on what happens to Broxton though.
Jamey Carroll – Carroll probably wasn’t expecting so much playing time at age 37, and with most of the infielder set. However, injuries plus the trade of Rafael Furcal allowed him to play a combined 146 games at second and third bases, and shortstop. He went homerless for the second straight season, but did bat .290 and stole 10 bases (and wasn’t caught all year).
Thoughts/prediction: Here’s a guy who’s perfect to put at the end of your lineup. He won’t knock in runs for ya, but is ability to get on base, plus occasionally steal is good. He also can play at all infield positions (except for first base). Though 37, he’s still a got bit of speed left in him too, stealing 10 bases for the second straight season, and seems to have a knack for being able to get triples (and getting into scoring position is always good). Considering the team has a lack of depth at shortstop (unless they go big in getting Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins, in which I can’t see either happening), I think he’ll get a 1-year deal worth around the same he received last year ($2.3 million).
Jon Garland (club option) – They tried Garland in 2009 after a trade with Arizona. It worked then, going 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 6 games. They lost to him against San Diego in 2010, but got him back this year, in a 1-year, $5 million deal. It didn’t work this time, he went 1-5 in 9 starts and had a 4.33 ERA before being sidelined for a shoulder injury in June.
Thoughts/Prediction: As with Casey Blake, the Dodgers declined his club option. So where next? Considering his status, he’ll be a bit of a risk. He can certainly go the distance, going 200+ innings six times in his 11-year career. At the same time, he gives up a lot of home runs, and thus, his ERA has been 4-4.50 a number of times, as well. He’d be good on a 1-year deal for a team with a pitcher’s park stadium (i.e. – Mets, Rockies, or even a return to the Padres). His value is likely somewhere around $3.5-4 million, as a #3/#4 starting pitcher.
Mike MacDougal – After what’s had to have been a up-and-down four years for Mike MacDougal, he returned to good form (at least for this year). Making just $500,000 on a 1-year deal with what was originally a minor-league deal with the Dodgers, MacDougal pitched in 69 games, posting a 3.25 games, winning three games as a reliever, and earned a save (his first since 2009. In addition, his WHIP was his lowest since 2005, when he was with Kansas City.
Thoughts/Prediction: He certainly had a great year, but interested teams have to be looking at his up-and-down career the past few years, and wonder how much of a risk he’s worth. He can certainly provide as a reliever, including as both a setup man and/or closer, and has a pretty good repertoire. But is a team, including the Dodgers, willing to pay more, knowing his history. If so, $2 million should be about right ($$2.5-$4 million for the Dodgers, depending on what happens with Broxton and/or Padilla).
Aaron Miles – Like Carroll, Aaron Miles probably wasn’t expecting much playing time after signing a minor-league contract this past offseason. But thanks to injuries from Casey Blake and Juan Uribe, he got to play in 136 games. He hit his first home run since 2008, and knocked in 45 RBIs too.
Thoughts/prediction: Miles didn’t exactly have a huge year, but thanks to those injuries, I think he did enough to at least earn himself one more major-league contract. Compared to Carroll, he lacks a little bit of hitting for contact and speed, but has a bit more power. That being said, I think he can provide as a pinch hitter for the Dodgers for another year, with playing time available if Uribe/Carroll are injured or slumping.
Before I begin, I would like to say it was smart of the Rockies front office to not only resign Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, but to get them for long-term.(they have Tulo until 2010 and Gonzalez until 2017). Gonzalez, especially, because they got him relatively cheap, in my opinion (7 years/$80 million for a batting champ/gold glove/silver-slugger winner, capable of hitting 25-30 homers and steal 20-25 bases a year is a STEAL in this day and age).
Aaron Cook (mutual option) – Oh boy, this guy. In 2011, he went 3-10 in 17 starts (18 games) and his ERA was an eye-twitching 6.03 ERA. If Cook and the Rockies mutually agree, he’ll make $11 million in 2012.
Thoughts/Prediction: You know, at first, his 3-year $30 million contract extension after the 2008 season made sense on paper. He posted a 3.96 ERA and went 16-9 that year, good for 7th in the NL in wins. But that ERA kept going up afterwards, to 4.16 ERA in 2009, 5.08 in 2010, and now 6.03. He is nowhere near $11 million, he’s not even worth touching. DO NOT SIGN HIM!
Mark Ellis – After a slow start in Oakland, they had enough of him after 9 years and traded to the Rockies, where he did much better. In 70 games for Colorado, he batted .274.
Thoughts/Prediction: I feel bad about Mark Ellis. Like Eric Chavez, I thought he would be one of those guys that spends his whole career with one team; in this case, the Athletics. Then, of course, I realized… this is the Athletics we’re talking here. What the heck was I thinking? Anyway, with the young Eric Young Jr. likely to serve a full-time role, Ellis will likely look somewhere in which he can continue to serve as a starter. If he wants the most time, Houston and Cleveland are probably the best cases. Ellis is a decent hitter, but his defensive range is what interested teams should be looked at; his career range factor per game is the third-best amongst active second basemen, behind only Ian Kinsler and Orlando Hudson. If he starts, he should be worth around $3-4.5 million.
Kevin Millwood – What a year for Millwood. He began with a minor-league contract with the Yankees before opting out and signing a minor-league deal with the Red Sox. That didn’t work out either, so he signed a deal with the Rockies and finally got a chance to play, when Juan Nicasio went down with an injury. In 9 games, he went 4-3, averaging 6 innings a game, and recording a 3.98 ERA.
Thoughts/Prediction: He’s not the same guy he was when he played for Atlanta or Texas, but it’s certainly a whole lot better than last year in Baltimore. Despite the fact that he will turn 37 in December, he can still pitch 180-200 innings a year (heck, even last year, he went 190 2/3 innings). He’s also been very healthy throughout his career, starting at least 25 games every full year, with the exception of 2001. He’ll certainly warrant a lot more looks than he did last offseason. I don’t think he’ll stay in Colorado but he certainly can provide a veteran presence at the back end of the rotation for any ballclub.
J.C. Romero – Romero signed a 1-year deal with the Phillies this past offseason. After 24 games, he was released. He then pitched for both the Nationals and the Yankees in minor-league deals before finally signing a deal with Colorado, where he pitched in another 12 games. In total, he posted a 4.01 ERA in 24.2 innings.
Thoughts/Prediction: He’s prone to giving up a good chunk of runs. Fortunately, he doesn’t give up a whole lot of home runs (only giving up 1 this year). The Rockies don’t necessarily need him, considering who they have in relief, but if it’s for a similar deal (1-year, $1.35 million), I don’t think it would hurt. If not, I can see him going to either the Rays or the Cubs.
Jason Giambi – Despite mostly playing as a pinch hitter/DH (on the road against AL teams), he managed to play in 64 games and even played 1st base in 23 of them. He hit 13 home runs, including 3 against the Phillies in May.
Thoughts/Prediction: Say what you will about Giambi and his use of performance-enhancing drugs, but the guy still has pop in his bat, even at 40. Of course, at this point in his career, he’s merely a pinch-hitter/DH. However, he has served as a mentor to a number of young Rockies players and is very liked not only in the clubhouse, but among Rockies fans. Another 1-year, $1 million contract wouldn’t hurt. It’s not as if any young 1st baseman is going to come by soon anyway, considering they have Todd Helton, their aging but still franchise player, for the next couple of years.
Heath Bell – Bell is the only true to-be free agent this year for the Padres (the rest are either club or mutual options). He began the season with seven saves, tying for fourth-time for consecutive saves (41 over the course of 2010-11). He played in 68 games, posting a 2.44 ERA and went 43-for-48 in saves.
Thoughts/Prediction: Bell is one of the top closers in the game, having 40+ saves for the third straight season. Though his ERA was higher than last year’s and the strikeout rate a bit low, he did lower his WHIP, which is good. Bell wants to stay with the team. Jed Hoyer had said he wanted to sign him to a long-term contract if they couldn’t trade him during the season; although now, Hoyer has moved on to become GM of the Cubs. Bell is definitely worth more than $7.5 million and would be a keeper, but the problem is that the Padres are not a big-spending team; if his contract is going to be big (I figure his new contract will be around $9-11 million per year), it means less money to sign/resign free agents not only this offseason but for subsequent offseasons too. That being said, I think the Padres will keep him, seeing as he’s the only big star this team really has left right now.
Aaron Harang (mutual option) – After three terrible season in Cincinnati, Harang found new life in San Diego, going 14-7 in 28 starts, posting a 3.64 ERA in the process.
Thoughts/Prediction: Harang was good this year. I thought the $4 million the Padres used for him was a bit of a risk. I honestly thought he was going to post similar numbers to last year (in fact, considering he was on the Padres, I figured the win-loss record to be even worse than it was in Cincy) but I was proven wrong. If the option is picked up, Harang will earn $5 million. The Padres need someone behind Mat Latos; Tim Stauffer is getting there, but he’s not a #2 yet. This option should and will be picked up.
Brad Hawpe (mutual option) – Hawpe signed with the Padres on a 1-year, $3 million deal. He played in 62 games, but then had to undergo Tommy John surgery in June, sidelining him for the rest of the season.
Thoughts/Prediction: My oh my, whatever happened to this guy? Four years ago, in Colorado, he was hitting 29 homers, 116 RBIs, and a near .300 batting average. And now… *sigh*. Hawpe can play both first base and right field, and has had a great throwing arm, but after undergoing Tommy John surgery, how much power does he left in that arm, and for that matter, with his bat? Plus, his defensive range isn’t particularly good. I think his days as a starter are done, but could still manage as a pinch-hitter. He’s definitely not worth the $6 million club option (if Hawpe’s in for the money, no doubt he’ll want to stay, but still…). Let him go. A new setting would probably be good for him, so no NL West teams. Pirates, maybe? Twins?
Chad Qualls (club option) – Qualls made $1.5 million this year. He appeared in 77 games this year, posting a 3.51 ERA over the course of 74 1/3 innings. He also closed in several games, but blew all 5 of his save opportunities.
Thoughts/Prediction: Qualls is 33, but like Pedro Feliciano, can relieve in many games throughout the course of the season, and his numbers (except for 2010) have been relatively consistent throughout his career. That being said, the Padres won’t pick up his club option, because it’s worth $6 million. $6 million?! What?! Unless they are letting Bell leave for free agency and plan on using Qualls as closer, $6 million is waaaaaaay too much. Decline the option for now, negotiate to keep Bell; if you can’t keep Bell, get him back for around $4-4.5 million.
Talk about a massive jump in payroll; they went from $96 million last year, to $118 million this year. Then again, they have guys like Barry Zito and Carlos Beltran on their rosters. Speaking of Beltran…
Carlos Beltran – Quite a year for Beltran. He played well for the Mets, who as a team continue to baffle me as to how they can perform so poorly then do really awesome (and continuously do that throughout the season, never staying consistent). He was then traded to the San Francisco Giants for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. In 142 games, Beltran hit .300 with 22 homers.
Thoughts/Prediction: It appears Beltran is back. After being marred with injuries the past couple of years, he’s back to being healthy. And when he’s healthy, he’s good. Though 34 (turning 35 in April), he can still give you a 20 home run, 80-85 RBI season, and is a definite improvement at right field than both Cody Ross and Nate Schierholtz. Giants should keep him Now, of course, he’s not worth $20 million a year anymore, but a 2-year, $20 million deal is still pretty darn good.
Cody Ross – And speaking of Cody Ross, let’s talk about “Ross the Boss.” He played in 121 games, posting a .240 batting average, 14 home runs, and 52 RBIs.
Thoughts/Prediction: For a guy with such a mediocre batting average, he doesn’t strikeout as much as you think he would. In addition, he has great fielding ability, a good arm, and is mostly liked by Giants fans. I’d keep him for 2 or 3 years worth about $5 million each.
Jeremy Affledt (club option) – 2010 was a bit of a hiccup, but came back this season, appearing in 67 games. In 61 2/3 innings, he posted a 2.63 ERA and had 54 strikeouts. He also had 3 saves.
Thoughts/Prediction: I like Affledt, he’s a very capable setup man, and would be a suitable replacement for Brian Wilson, should he go down with an injury. My only gripe is that Affledt will walk a lot of guys, which at times, make things worrisome. That being said, his $5 million club option for 2012 is worth it; can’t see the Giants declining it.
Mark DeRosa – Injuries have plagued DeRosa for three years now. In 2010, he had “wrist failure” from a 2009 surgery, then reinjured it this year, before coming back in August. He played in 47 games at the major-league level.
Thoughts/Predictions: He’s come off yet another wrist injury, he’s 37, and doesn’t give much in terms of offense. At the same time, he’s a super-utility player, able to play at both the infield and outfield (though his main position is second base). He’s certainly worth no $6 million to any team, but a 1-year deal worth $2.5 million would be pretty decent. I don’t think he’ll be sticking with the Giants, as both their infield and outfield looks pretty set (with Aubrey Huff/Brandon Belt at first; Freddy Sanchez/Jeff Keppinger at second, Emmanuel Burriss/Keppinger at shortstop; Pablo Sandoval/Conor Gillapsie at third; Beltran (should they keep him)/Schierholtz at right field; Andres Torres at center; and Ross (should they keep him)/Schierholtz at left).
Orlando Cabrera – This past offseason, he signed a 1-year, $1 million deal with the Cleveland Indians. In 91 games, he recorded a .244 batting average. He was then sent to the San Francisco Giants, where he did worse in another 39 games, going 28-for-126 at bats.
Thoughts/Prediction: Quite a ways off from just a couple years ago, where he was posting high .280-low .290 batting averages. His ability to get on base has dropped considerably, although he doesn’t strikeout very often. The only thing he really has going right now are his defensive abilities, which are still gold-glove caliber, and can play at either second base or shortstop (his normal position, but moved to second base for Cleveland in place of Asdrubal Cabrera). That’s what’s allowing him to earn another 1-year major-league contract. It’s not with the Giants, though, it’ll go to a team in need a of a cheap, veteran presence with defensive ability; See: Houston, Pittsburgh, NY Mets (if they can’t keep Reyes). Detroit also a possibility.
Pat Burrell – A 1-year, $1 million deal for Burrell in his second season with Giants. He started off well early in the season. However, by May, he lost his starting job to Cody Ross. He was put on the disabled list in July with a possibly career-ending foot injury, before returning one last time in September.
Thoughts/Prediction: See the words “career-ending.” Burrell asked manager Bruce Bochy to start him in the final game at left field, because he felt it was his potential final game. I think his baseball career is over. Burrell has a pretty good career overall; near 300 home runs, 2 World Series rings, legacy with the Phillies as a “Met Killer.” All in all, not too shabby. If this is the last we see of Burrell on the field, I wish him the best.
Javier Lopez – Javier was very solid in 70 games, not only posting 2.52 ERA, but winning 5 games, and lowering his opponents’ batting average to a career-low .221.
Thoughts/Prediction: As of this post, the Giants resigned him to a 2-year contract worth $8.5 million, which is what he is definitely worth. Though 34, he’s a very effective pitcher, and doesn’t give up a whole of home runs (or even runs in general). All of this while pitching left-handed and with a sidearm delivery (and I’m not a big fan of sidearm pitchers, to be honest, I just don’t like that). Would service as a viable replacement to Affeldt as setup man, should Affledt’s club option be declined. A keeper in my books.
Guillermo Mota – Appearing in 52 games, Mota posted a 3.81 ERA in over 80 innings, with 77 strikeouts (his most since 2004).
Thoughts/Prediction: First off, let me just say that I do NOT like Mota. Why? Because this guy hits a lot of batters. From Mike Piazza (though what he did was unjust) to Prince Fielder. Mota always says it’s unintentional, but often, I find that hard to believe. In addition, he’s been known to be a troublemaker in the clubhouse. More reasons to not resign him would be that he’s 38, and has an easy-to-hit fastball. What allows him to keep playing in the Majors is his ability to eat innings up as a reliever. That’s all he has going though. If he does receive another contract, it’ll likely be a minor-league with an invitation to Spring Training, as it was this year.
Before I begin, Kirk Gibson deserves NL Manager of the Year. With such an underrated team that many likely chose to finish last in the division (including myself) with another terrible season, he and the D-Backs did a great job, winning the division and making it to the playoffs, before losing to the Brewers. Also, major props to Ian Kennedy, former Yankee prospect, who will be getting looks for the NL Cy Young award, alongside Clayton Kershaw.
Jason Marquis – After a mess of a 2010 season with the Nationals, Marquis returned and began well, going 8-5 in 20 games, with a 3.95 ERA, before being traded to the D-Backs. He started 3 games, doing miserably (a 9.53 ERA), before breaking his fibula, ending his season.
Thoughts/Prediction: Though he doesn’t give up too many homers as he used to, his ERA has typically been in the mid 4s, and is prone to giving up many hits with each start. He also doesn’t strikeout a whole lot either. All of this despite throwing a pretty sharp and hard sinker, which to me is odd. At the same time, he eats up a good chunk of innings, and is pretty good on defense, He is also one of the few NL pitchers that can hit too. Thought not worth the 2-year, $15 million deal he received with the Nationals, he can make for a good #3/#4 veteran starting pitcher for a team like the Padres. A 1 or 2-year deal worth $4 million a year should be about right.
Aaron Hill (club option) – An odd year with Hill. He only posted a .225 batting average and could only manage 6 homers in 104 games with Toronto. He was then traded to Arizona, where in 33 games, posted a .315 batting average. Also, after stealing no more than 6 bases in one season, he stole a combined 21 this year.
Thoughts/Prediction: I liked Hill in Toronto, he was one of my favorite players, which is why I found it odd when he traded him for Kelly Johnson. Even odder, is that his power just dropped out of nowhere (from 36 in 2009 and 26 in 2010) and now all of sudden, can steal bases. Weird. I don’t know which Hill will be which in 2012. Either way, he can still be used effectively, just in different manners. If he hits for power, he can be used in the middle of the lineup alongside guys like Justin Upton and Ryan Roberts. If he keeps stealing bases, he can be used at the top. Or heck, maybe he’ll do both, and show he’s a five-tool second baseman. Good news for the D-Backs is that if they’re willing to pay $8 million, they have club options for both 2012 and 2013. They can certainly take the risk for at least one year; if it doesn’t work next year, then let him go. I say D-Backs keep him, I see no reason not to, especially since there’s a lack of depth in terms of second baseman, both on the depth chart and in the free-agent market.
Lyle Overbay – Overbay started off the season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but was eventually designated for assignment. The Diamondbacks then picked him up to use for th rest of the season, while Xavier Nady was injured. He hit a combined 9 home runs and a .234 batting average in 121 games.
Thoughts/Prediction: Overbay is not the typical first baseman. By that, I mean a lot of the first baseman are 25+ home run monsters hitting third or fourth in the lineup. Overbay is not that kind of guy. He can hit 15-18 homers though, and has a knack for hitting doubles. With the upcoming Paul Goldschimdt and the cheaper availability of Xavier Nady, I don’t think he’ll resign with the team. I expect Overbay to return to the American League, mostly as a DH. Baltimore, I think, is the most likely choice.
Xavier Nady – Nady signed a 1-year, $1.75 million deal with the D-Backs. In 82 games, he hit .248, with 4 homers and 45 RBIs. He went down with an injury in August.
Thoughts/Prediction: All the power he had back in 2008 appears to be gone at this point. However, Nady is still capable of playing both 1st base and the corner outfield positions. He’ll be a lot cheaper than Overbay and can serve as a transition at 1st base from him to Paul Goldschmidt. They sign him for a $1-1.5 million deal; he possibly starts Opening Day and then phases out to Goldschmidt in the process.
Zach Duke (club option) – Duke got out of Pittsburgh right away, signing a 1-year, $4.25 million deal with a club option. In Arizona, Duke was all over the place. He started, he relieved, he even closed. He was also injured briefly. Duke was in 21 games, and starting in 9. He posted a 3-4 record with a 4.93 ERA.
Thoughts/Prediction: Duke is an… um… interesting one in the free-agency market. His ERA has been pretty high throughout his career, and gives up plenty of hits. However, he can be used as a spot starter, a la Tim Wakefield. When he starts, he eats innings too. He’s also still under 30 (currently 28). I would decline his $5.5 million club option, but instead would sign him for a cheaper, slightly longer-term contract; say, a 2-year, $6/$7 million deal?
John McDonald – McDonald began the season with the Jays. He played in 65 games, before being traded to the Diamondbacks with Aaron Hill for Kelly Johnson. He played in another 19 games.
Thoughts/Prediction: Throughout his career, McDonald has not been much of a hitter, though he hasn’t had many opportunities to hit to begin with (he went 300+ at-bats only once, in 2007). However, he is a great defensive player, to the point where he was dubbed the “Magic Man” and “The Prime Minister of Defense” in Toronto. A suitable substitution for Stephen Drew late in games, I think. McDonald doesn’t really have much left in his career, just turning 37. A 1-year, $1 million deal doesn’t sound too bad. If he leaves, I’m not sure where he gets really any true opportunity, and might be stuck with a minor-league deal if he goes elsewhere.
Willie Bloomquist (mutual option) – Bloomquist signed with the Diamondbacks on a 1-year, $900,000 deal. In 92 games, he hit .266, and stole 20 bases. He started 84 of those games (59 at SS, 25 at left field), and did well on defense, making only 5 errors.
Thoughts/Prediction: With the injury of Stephen Drew, Bloomquist was a serviceable replacement for Drew. He also the ability to play in the outfield and at second base as well. The fact that he can still steal 20+ bases is a nice touch, as well; definitely a good top-of-the-order type of guy. The problem with this signing is Stephen Drew; he’s in the way, but only after 2012 (at the earliest, with a mutual option for 2013). However, if Hill is not signed, Bloomquist can certainly move back there. If not, he can be used in a variety of positions. At 33, I’d sign him 2 years and $4 million total. That way, Bloomquist can be used in a variety of different ways, depending on the situation both during the offseason and the regular season.
Next up on the list is the NL Central, and the big free agent himself, Albert Pujols.