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Best of the lot

Contracts that made sense for the team and player

Posted: Wednesday December 20, 2006 11:25AM; Updated: Wednesday December 20, 2006 12:36PM
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Randy Wolf went 4-0 in 12 starts for the Phillies last season after returning from injury.
Randy Wolf went 4-0 in 12 starts for the Phillies last season after returning from injury.
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, there were some worthwhile signings this winter, a few good deals and maybe even an actual bargain or two. Not everyone was like Gil Meche, which I believe may be French for "money flushed down a toilet." Sorry, but it's hard to fathom how his meager accomplishments add up to $55 million over five years.

I can understand why a team would want Meche, who has tremendous talent (Alex Rodriguez has told me 10 times, if not 20, that Meche possesses supreme ability). The part I don't get is the $55 million.

I have wracked my sports writer brain, and all I have so far are three theories, one worse than the next:

1) The $55 million figure represents one million for every career victory (coincidentally or not, Meche is 55-44 lifetime);

2) the two 5's represent the five-something ERAs he had in two of the past three seasons ... in a pitchers' park, no less; or

3) the Royals know they can never be accused of the worst $55 million contract ever since Milton Bradley's idol, Albert Belle, once got the very same deal from the White Sox before they happily pawned him off on another sucker.

But enough about that utter Meche of a contract. Let's get to the deals that make sense, fit a budget, help a team and are generally to be applauded in a winter where madness took over. Here they are, 11 acquisitions I love:

1. Randy Wolf, Dodgers starter ($8 million, one year): Not to brag, but I predicted weeks ago Wolf would be the biggest free-agent bargain this winter. Little did I know he'd tell his hometown Dodgers he'd take a one-year deal in a year everyone had money to spend. He could have gotten three years elsewhere. I've taken hits from readers -- mostly from Philadelphia -- upset he didn't re-up with Philly after they had to sit through his 2005 surgery. But Wolf deserves praise for going home to be near his widowed mother, Judy, and taking a one-year deal to reprove himself.

2. Sean Casey, Tigers first baseman ($4 million, one year): He took a 50 percent paycut after being a rare Tiger to perform superbly in the World Series. After earning his rep as one of the game's nicest players, he showed his clutch, too. And apparently his lack of greed, too.

3. Nomar Garciaparra, Dodgers first baseman ($18.5 million, two years): Not that we need to take up a collection for Mr. Mia Hamm, but Garciaparra will wind up being one of the most underpaid players of his generation. Once upon a time, when he was locked up to a longterm deal early on by the Red Sox, contemporaries and then-comparables Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez waited and cashed in for four and five-plus times more than Garciaparra's salary. Last year he looked like a gamble at $6.5 million coming off yet another injury and trying a new position. This year, after being one of the 10 most valuable players in the league (my opinion, not a stat), he gets a raise but still doesn't break the bank.


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