Athlon examines the best and worst of the free-agent contracts over the offseason.
Contracts that make sense from the team’s perspective. Examples of owners spending cash wisely.
Jose Contreras, RP, Philadelphia
Contract: 2 years, $5,000,000
The White Sox and Rockies thought he was washed up a year ago, but the Phillies found a perfect role (setup man) for the former starter.
Carl Crawford, OF, Boston
Contract: 7 years, $142,000,000
In the prime of his career, he’s one of the most explosive offensive players and defensive outfielders wrapped into one. Seven, $161M would have even made sense to us.
Johnny Damon, OF, Tampa Bay
Contract: 1 year, $5,250,000
Since 1998 Damon’s lows are 141 games, 605 plate appearances and 81 runs. He has been durable and a valuable member of every clubhouse.
Scott Downs, RP, L.A. Angels
Contract: 3 years, $15,000,000
We agree with the Angels’ assessment that Downs hasn’t hit the “setup man wall” yet. He’s more than just a lefty specialist. Lefties hit .152 last season, and righties (.243) weren’t much better.
Adam Dunn, DH, Chicago White Sox
Contract: 4 years, $56,000,000
Finally, Dunn has the role he was made for — DH. Apparently, he has accepted the role, but only time will tell. A seven-year average of 40 HRs, 101 RBIs, 107 BBs, 180 Ks. That’s only going to get better at the Cell.
Jon Garland, SP, L.A. Dodgers
Contract: 1 year, $5,000,000
In 2009 Garland made six starts for the Dodgers, going 3–2. L.A. scored just one run in the two losses and three in the no-decision. Of course, his recent injury kills this for the Dodgers, but Garland didn’t pose an injury risk when he signed.
Kevin Gregg, RP, Baltimore
Contract: 2 years, $10,000,000
Gregg has given up just one home run to the 34 batters he has faced in his career at Camden Yards. In some setup/closer combination, Gregg and Koji Uehara should combine for 45 saves.
Ramon Hernandez, C, Cincinnati
Contract: 1 year , $3,000,000
Both Hernandez and the Reds were happy to repeat last year’s deal. Now if he can just repeat his production. We say he will.
Orlando Hudson, 2B, San Diego
Contract: 2 years, $11,500,000
Playing for three different teams in three seasons, he’s averaged .284 and 29 doubles while winning a Gold Glove. Perfect fit in San Diego; pitchers will love his defense.
Aubrey Huff, 1B/OF, San Francisco
Contract: 2 years, $22,000,000
Huff the magic slugger was the poster child for bargain in 2010 when he made just $3,000,000 and became the leader of the Giants. But Huff has proven himself over time to be a run producer and a terrific clubhouse guy.
Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox
Contract: 3 years, $37,500,000
Konerko gave the Sox a hometown discount, which helped them sign Dunn. He’ll be only 37 in the final year of the contract, and he’s been durable — having fallen short of 600 plate appearances only three times since 2000.
Hiroki Kuroda, SP, L.A. Dodgers
Contract: 1 year, $12,000,000
Kuroda won 11 times in 2010, and left three games ahead last season and ended with a no-decision. The Dodgers were shut out in six of his starts. So the unlucky righthander takes a $3 million pay cut to stay in L.A.
Cliff Lee, SP, Philadelphia
Contract: 5 years, $120,000,000
The Phillies instantly became the NL favorite for the next couple of years. There’s little risk with Lee in five years, and he ranks among the best in the majors. Now the Phillies must hope their offense doesn’t get old too quickly.
Russell Martin, C, N.Y. Yankees
Contract: 1 year, $4,000,000
Now that he’s healthy, expect a resurgence from Martin as the everyday catcher in the Bronx.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B/SS, Minnesota
Contract: 3 years, $9,250,000
Nishioka won a batting title in Japan’s Central League last season and won a Gold Glove at second base in 2005 and at short in ’07. But all that’s expected of him in Minnesota is to play the game the Minnesota way, which is fundamentally sound and with great effort. He’ll be a hit with the Twins’ players and fans.
Carlos Peña, 1B, Chicago Cubs
Contract: 1 year, $10,000,000
After hitting just .196 last season in Tampa, Peña couldn’t generate interest in a multi-year deal. But he still drives in runs and should thrive at Wrigley in another contract season. The slick fielder will cash in next season.
Jhonny Peralta, SS, Detroit
Contract: 2 years, $10,750,000
Peralta raised his average 13 points after Aug. 22, and made just three errors in 44 starts at short for the Tigers.
Manny Ramirez, DH/OF, Tampa Bay
Contract: 1 year, $2,000,000
While there is always baggage and other negatives associated with Manny, it doesn’t take too much offense to be worth two mil. And Manny appears to be on a mission to prove himself worthy.
Mariano Rivera, RP, N.Y. Yankees
Contract: 2 years, $30,000,000
Very quiet, uneventful negotiations reflect Rivera’s mound demeanor. Most teams would have paid more, but he would never leave N.Y.
Miguel Tejada, SS, San Francisco
Contract: 1 year, $6,500,000
We don’t believe Tejada has enough left to be an everyday shortstop, but he still hits well enough to justify $6.5 million.
Koji Uehara, RP, Baltimore
Contract: 1 year, $3,000,000
In 21 save situations last season, Uehara had 13 saves and six holds. None of his 14 inherited runners scored, and he struck out 11 per nine innings while walking just one per nine.
Javier Vazquez, SP, Florida
Contract: 1 year, $7,000,000
He’s averaged 32 starts, 204 innings and 200 hits over his 13 seasons. His career ERA is more than a half-run lower in the National League.
Jake Westbrook, SP, St. Louis
Contract: 2 years, $16,000,000
Our value matrix actually shows his value as $15,390,000 for two seasons. But pitching coach Dave Duncan should coax the extra $610,000 worth of value out of the veteran.
Kerry Wood, RP, Chicago Cubs
Contract: 1 year, $1,500,000
After a brief, but highly effective, stay with the Yankees, Wood took a 90 percent pay cut coming back to Chicago.
Players on this list should be pleased with their agents. These represent foolish, out-of-control spending by owners.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas
Contract: 5 years, $80,000,000
It’s all too appropriate that Beltre tops this list alphabetically. Forgive me if I’m a bit cynical, but unless he’s in a contract year, I don’t expect much. Evidence? His two highest OPS seasons: 1.017 in 2004 and .919 in 2010. His highest in other years: .835. Average is the same trend: .334 and .321 when playing for a big payday, but topped out at .290 in other seasons. His only two 100-RBI seasons came in 2004 and 2010. Within three years, this will be an albatross of a contract for the Rangers. Hopefully, by moving Michael Young from third base, they didn’t upset team chemistry in this deal.
Lance Berkman, OF, St. Louis
Contract: 1 year, $8,000,000
How bad will the Cardinals’ outfield defense be this summer?
Joaquin Benoit, RP, Detroit
Contract: 3 years, $16,500,000
Benoit and the Tigers set the market for middle relievers this winter. In seven seasons prior to missing all of 2009 with an injury, Benoit had a 1.410 WHIP and 4.74 ERA. But a 0.680 WHIP and 1.34 ERA in 2010 earned this contract. We need to see more than one season before we’re convinced.
John Buck, C, Florida
Contract: 3 years, $18,000,000
Maybe the Marlins thought they were signing Joe Buck to do their TV work. We don’t believe he’ll maintain his .281 average, and he walked just 16 times last season.
Jesse Crain, RP, Chicago White Sox
Contract: 3 years, $13,000,000
Crain held lefthanders to a sub-.200 average and was much better (2.52 ERA to 3.77) on the road. He’ll be asked to carry a heavy load in Chicago.
Jorge De La Rosa, SP, Colorado
Contract: 2 years, $21,500,000
The lefty made just $5,600,000 last season. His ERA and WHIP are on a three-year positive trend, but he hasn’t reached the 8-digit salary level yet. Two years, $18 million seems about right. Although, we’re predicting he’ll pitch himself into big money very soon.
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Kansas City
Contract: 1 year, $2,500,000
This is his last chance to revive his career. But he’ll be insignificant.
Matt Guerrier, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Contract: 3 years, $12,000,000
He can pitch almost every day — he’s averaged 76 appearances over the last three seasons — and only 23 percent of inherited runners have scored during that time. But is he about to hit a wall?
Bill Hall, 2B/OF, Houston
Contract: 1 year, $3,250,000
At 31, you would expect there to be more left in the tank. The Astros have signed him to play second base. Not good.
Derek Jeter, SS, N.Y. Yankees
Contract: 3 years, $51,000,000
While the Yankees had to pay more than market value, once Jeter gets his 3,000th hit in June, his value will diminish greatly. Don’t be deceived by the Gold Glove; his defense is not very good, and getting worse.
Victor Martinez, C/DH, Detroit
Contract: 4 years, $50,000,000
If you value Martinez at three years for about $14 million per, then you could argue the fourth season is for only $8 million. But that doesn’t consider how bad his defense will be in three years. By his third season, his will strictly be a DH.
Hideki Matsui, DH, Oakland
Contract: 1 year, $4,250,000
His career path includes a World Series MVP to a one-year deal for $6 million to a one-year deal for $4.25 million. The Coliseum at Oakland is not a good park for him.
Miguel Olivo, C, Seattle
Contract: 2 years, $7,000,000
Can throw and is durable and but won’t display 20-home run power in Seattle.
Magglio Ordoñez, OF, Detroit
Contract: 1 year, $10,000,000
Mags made just under $82 million over the past five seasons. Now reality has set in, but he’s not worth $10 million. This deal is further proof that the Tigers are going for it all this season.
Lyle Overbay, 1B, Pittsburgh,
Contract: 1 year, $5,000,000
Does Overbay give the Pirates more wins than Garrett Jones does?
J.J. Putz, RP, Arizona,
Contract: 2 years, $10,000,000
His 2.83 ERA looks good, but consider the following: Over his last 22 appearances, he blew three saves and had just one save and three holds with a 6.19 ERA. Those aren’t numbers that should inspire the confidence of a two-year deal. But the D’backs are desperate.
Rafael Soriano, RP, N.Y. Yankees
Contract: 3 years, $35,000,000
Soriano has logged more than 60 innings in back-to-back seasons just twice. And the last time he was going for a third season he lasted just 14 innings (2008). His 94% save percentage last season was tremendous, but he allowed 55% of inherited runners to score. With Mo Rivera in this pen, there won’t be many save situations in New York. However, he will be asked to shut down rallies with runners in scoring position.
Juan Uribe, IF, L.A. Dodgers
Contract: 3 years, $21,000,000
Although he doesn’t look the part, he’s above average at three infield positions and is cool in the clutch. Will likely play second in Los Angeles, but he’s not consistent enough to make this deal worth it for the Dodgers.
Jayson Werth, OF, Washington
Contract: 7 years, $126,000,000
His name is Werth, not Worth. He was a solid piece of Philadelphia’s recent successful run, but he’s never hit .300 and never driven in 100 runs. Joins Vernon Wells of Toronto and Barry Zito of San Francisco as 7/126 guys. Not a good omen. As a point of reference, Matt Holliday signed with St. Louis for seven years, $120 million last year.
My fantasy baseball draft has finally come to an end. Well, at least one of them. I still have an online keeper league redraft on Sunday and am nearly finished with a big board month-long office league as well.
But the first semi-Athlon Sports fantasy baseball draft is, in fact, finished - after months of emails.
I had the 7th pick in the 10-team draft. We use a 6x6 format, adding HOLDS and OPS to the stats. The line-up also includes a CI, MI and fourth OF.
Here is how the draft turned out for me with my three keepers:
Yes, this is the second Athlon Sports fantasy baseball team roster that I have this year. And my three-player, 10-team online keeper draft on Sunday will be my third and final MLB fantasy team of 2011...I promise.
"I love to play defense more than anything. I love taking away from other people -- not in a bad-guy sense, just having fun. Center field gives you more opportunities to do that. But, like I said, I'm going to play where they put me and I don't think about it too much."
AL MVP and Rangers' leftfielder Josh Hamilton on his preference to play center field.