Hot Stove Roundup (cont.)
Red Sox sign C Kelly Shoppach ($1.35M/1yr + incentives)
Shoppach returns to the team that drafted him, signaling the end of free agent captain Jason Varitek's 15-year tenure with the Sox -- if not the soon-to-be 40-year-old catcher's career. Varitek outhit Shoppach in each of the last two seasons, but opposing runners stole on him at will. Shoppach, who has power and patience but hit just .197 over the last three seasons, led the majors in 2011 in caught-stealing percentage, though he's typically closer to average in that category.
Blue Jays acquire OF Ben Francisco from Phillies for LHP Frank Gailey
The powerful John Mayberry Jr. surpassed Francisco as the righty platoon outfielder for the Phillies last year, allowing the Phils to dump Francisco on the Jays for Gailey, a 26-year-old lefty reliever who has yet to succeed above Single-A ball. In Toronto, Francisco could fit as the short side of a leftfield platoon, alternating with either Eric Thames or Travis Snider.
Orioles sign SP Tsuyoshi Wada ($8.15M/2yrs + $5M option)
A small, soft-throwing lefty starter who will be 31 in February, Wada spent the last nine seasons with the Japanese Pacific League's Fukuoka Hawks, showing good control and strikeout rates and overcoming an early-case of gopheritis. Despite its modest sum, his contract suggests that he'll enter camp with a spot in the Orioles' rotation, though no one can be sure how his deceptive delivery and slow repertoire will translate overseas. To date, the rate of sustained success for Japanese imports in is extremely low. A free agent this winter, Wada did not need to go through the posting process.
Diamondbacks sign RP Takashi Saito ($1.75M/one year)
The former Yokohama BayStars starter and Dodgers closer will turn 42 on Valentine's Day, and has missed 95 games over the past two seasons with nagging left hamstring strains. He's very good when healthy, but his body may be giving out on him. Still, for a one-year deal worth less than $2 million, he's worth the gamble in an otherwise deep bullpen.
Phillies sign LHP Dontrelle Willis ($1M/1yr + incentives)
Willis salvaged his career with the Reds in the second half of 2011 (throw out his disaster start against the Cubs in September, and he posted a 4.23 ERA and 7.1 K/9 in 12 starts), and now, heading into his 30-year-old season, will make an inevitable transition to the bullpen, where his extreme platoon splits make him a valuable lefty specialist. His ability to start remains a bonus, but his shaky control and lack of success with righties are problematic. But they're not uncommon: The issues are shared among the bulk of the lefty specialists around the majors.
Tigers acquire RP Colin Balester from Nationals for RP Ryan Perry, Nationals non-tender Doug Slaten
In a challenge trade of young, hard-throwing righty middle relievers, I'd rather have Balester. Though Perry's fastball touches the upper 90s, his strikeout rate plummeted after it lost some steam and seemingly all of its movement. Slate, who will be 32 in February, is a lefty specialist who failed to retire lefties in 2011.
Rays acquire RHP Burke Badenhop from Marlins for C Jake Jeffries, non-tender RHP Andy Sonnanstine
Badenhop is a solid righty middle reliever who generates steady ground balls with his sinker and slider. Jeffries is unlikely to make the majors, and Sonnanstine, a vestigial piece of the 2008 rotation that hasn't had a definitive role on the team since, was set to break into seven figures via arbitration. He was finally non-tendered.
ATL: IF Brooks Conrad, RP Peter Moylan
BAL: OF/1B Luke Scott, SP Jo-Jo Reyes, RP Willie Eyre
BOS: LHP Rich Hill
CHC: C Koyie Hill
COL: OF Ryan Spilborghs, OF Cole Garner
DET: 2B Will Rhymes
KCR: RP Aaron Laffey
MIA: RP Clay Hensley
MIN: RP Jose Mijares
NYM: C Ronny Paulino, OF Mike Baxter
PIT: SS Pedro Ciriaco, C Jason Jaramillo
SDP: OF Jeremy Hermida
SEA: C Chris Gimenez, RP Dan Cortes
SFG: IF Jeff Keppinger, C Eli Whiteside
TEX: RHP Fabio Castillo
Despite the fact that Luke Scott hit .272/.357/.512 from 2006-10 while averaging more than 20 home runs per year, a torn labrum in his right shoulder made him expendable coming off a season in which he made $6.4 million. That's the key to tendering a player a contract: It guarantees the player at least 80 percent of his previous year's salary. Once a player is non-tendered, however, his salary is determined by open market value.
Other than Scott, none of the others above should be particularly surprising, as several had already been dropped from their respective teams' 40-man rosters. Still, expect most to find homes before pitchers and catchers report, many via major league contracts, some perhaps with the team that just non-tendered them.
Dodgers avoid arbitration with OF Tony Gwynn ($2M/2yrs), non-tender RP Hong-Chih Kuo
Gwynn and Schumaker were the only non-tender candidates signed to multiyear deals before Tuesday's deadline, and Gwynn's two-year deal comes as a major surprise. "The first offer they made me was a two-year deal, I hadn't even thought of that," he recently told the Los Angeles Times. Kuo is among the best lefty relievers in baseball when healthy, but elbow, back and anxiety problems derailed his 2011. Though his arthroscopic elbow surgery in October wasn't a major procedure, it was already the fifth operation he's had performed on his joint. That could be cause for concern.
LF/DH Manny Ramirez reinstated from the retirement list
Ramirez retired rather than serve a 100-game suspension for performance enhancing drug use last April, meaning that he still has to serve the suspension despite his reinstatement from the retirement list. The suspension has been reduced to 50 games given that he did miss all of 2011, but he'll still be 40 before he's able to play in another major league game. Expect a very limited list of suitors, if any at all.
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