There are still a whole lot of free agents left on the board, but a few of them went off this past week. At this point teams seem to be adding depth to their teams and filling out their rotations. A lot of minor league free agents and bench hitters have been signed but no real superstars have found homes, other than Papelbon. Let’s take a look at what happened this past week, the impact on the team, and fantasy baseball emphasis.
The Baltimore Orioles are close to signing Chong Tae-Hyon– Or as we would say in America Tae-Hyon Chong. He is Korean. I don’t think the Indians call their guy Choo Shin-Soo so I’m pretty sure Chong will be on the back of the jersey. The Orioles have not officially signed this guy yet, but that’s because of Thanksgiving. The physical is being delayed by Thanksgiving and the announcement of his signing should happen this weekend or Monday. Chong is a submarine right hander who will come out the bullpen. Upon his arrival he will be the first player ever to go straight from the Korean league to MLB. Chong is only 33 years old and will be signing a 2 year contract. He is expected to pitch near the end of the bullpen and could even compete for the closing job in Spring Training. His Korean stats are incredible. He is only 1 of 2 players ever to have a career ERA under 2. That’s right, I said under 2. In 11 professional seasons his career ERA is a 1.93. That includes a 2011 ERA of 1.48, 1.40 in 2010, and a 1.20 in 2009. In 2007 he posted a 0.92 ERA and in 2005 he had a career best 0.37 ERA. With that being said, the Korean league does not play nearly the amount of games that the MLB plays, but they have some very good competition. South Korea is no push over, they went to the finals in the last MLB World Baseball Classic, and they won the gold medal in baseball at the last Olympics. Chong is widely considered to be the best reliever in Korea…the Mariano Rivera of their league if you will. If any of these impressive stats translate to the MLB then the O’s have found themselves a major upgrade in their bullpen. This is a good start for new GM Dan Duquette who wants Baltimore to be more aggressive in the international market.
The Minnesota Twins sign Ryan Doumit- He’s not a catcher anymore. Expect Doumit to see time at 1B, OF, and DH. He will be a super utility guy with power in his bat. He should factor in the be the Twin’s DH most of the time….as of right now. The Twins did offer arbitration to both Cuddyer and Kubel, so there is a chance either of those guys could return. For now Doumit is a solid utility option with limited fantasy value. If he is an everyday starter, hits near 20 HR’s, and is eligible at catcher, then he is a solid fantasy guy. I don’t expect his role to be that big though. I think Cuddyer will re-sign and will really hurt his playing time.
The Philadelphia Phillies trade for Ty Wigginton- With Ryan Howard being out and having injury prone players like Chase Utley, possibly Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Jim Thome, Shane Victorino, and Domonic Brown, it’s a good move. Yes I consider all of those guys injury prone. The Phillies do not have a consistent offense and that is why the super-power team fell in the playoffs. Wigginton is very consistent and can play any position. I see him getting a nice chunk of playing time and being fantasy worthy during the times he is a consistent starting player. He’s one of those immediate waiver wire guys once Chase Utley or Placido Polanco officially hit the DL. In a powerful Philly offense his stats will be elevated.
The Pittsburgh Pirates sign Clint Barmes- This guy is low risk mediocre reward. Was this guy really needed? He’s only played 1 full season since 2003 and that season was the only one where he went over 20 HR’s. His average is poor (career .252), and 13 SB is his career high. All Barmes is doing is taking playing time away from a young kid like Chase d’Arnaud or Alex Presley. And I really like both of those guys. But it makes since that Clint Hurdle wanted Barmes seeing how he was his manager in Colorado when he played that full season and hit 23 HR’s. Hopefully he brings veteran leadership to that young team and takes a back seat to d’Arnaud by midway through the season.
The Colorado Rockies sign Brandon Wood- Every year there are numerous big time free agents that sign for a lot of money and do nothing. The Nationals are the kings of signing these players (Marquis, LaRoche, Werth.) Then there are those high upside guys that a team took a chance on and they became one of the best signings of the year (Jose Bautista, Kelly Johnson.) I’m not saying Wood is going to be a superstar, but he’s always had the upside to be. If there’s one thing we all know about baseball it’s that players hit better in Colorado. I would not be shocked if Wood finally broke out with 20 HR’s while hitting in that thin air. He has a lot of power potential, all he needs is the playing time. Patience is growing thin with Ian Stewart, so the chance of playing time is there. You never know. I can certainly see Brandon Wood being considered the best minor league deal of 2012.
The Texas Rangers sign Joe Nathan- Which means Neftali Feliz goes into the rotation. Finally. I know he was a rookie of the year closer, and an All-Star, but he was also a prized starting pitching prospect. Don’t let his bullpen time fool you, Feliz will still be a legit #1 ace. As for Nathan he finds himself in a great situation. Nathan was highly underrated and people lost a lot of faith in him after his injuries. Even the Twins lost faith when they allowed Capps to close over him last year. It wasn’t until Capps was injured that Nathan took the job back. Nathan can still be as good as he always was and now pitches for a dominate winning team. He will probably be a bargain in your fantasy drafts next year because of his poor 2011 #’s. But I could easily see him returning to All-Star form and being a league leader in saves next year. Great signing by Texas. They got an effective guy who is more proven than Madson and much cheaper.
The Florida Marlins trade John Baker to the San Diego Padres for Wade LeBlanc- Advantage Marlins. LeBlanc will compete for a rotation spot in spring, is a much needed lefty, and adds depth to their rotation. Even if he doesn’t crack the rotation right away he will make a fine long reliever and will fill in once someone is injured. The guy is only 27 years old. John Baker is a backup catcher. He was John Buck’s backup and now he’s Nick Hundley’s backup. So I don’t really need to elaborate on the value of a backup catcher.
The Cleveland Indians re-sign Grady Sizemore- So i guess this is a good deal if he’s healthy. He probably won’t be healthy though. The last time he played a full season was 2008. Even when he returned last year his legs didn’t seem to work as he went 0/2 on SB attempts. Sizemore’s value came from his speed/power balance. With no speed all he has is power. The power is still there though. He did hit 10 HR’s in 71 games. That’s 22 HR or so over a full season. But again, he won’t play a full season. Did I mention he’s always had a below average average? So bad batting average, no speed, and just power. That sounds like a modern day Jason Bay to me. Good thing he didn’t cost nearly as much and his contract is incentive laden. I guess I would take a late chance on Grady in fantasy. I would not invest highly on him. I would also probably prefer most middle-tier options over him.
The Kansas City Royals re-sign Bruce Chen– Good for them. I mean, Bruce Chen is Bruce Chen. He’s a mediocre starter who will eat innings. What’s your favorite thing about Chen? The fact that he’s 34 years old next year? The fact that his career ERA is in the mid 4’s? The fact that he’s had 2 full seasons since 2007? Or that fact that he won’t touch last year’s ERA? I’m sorry but I do not trust Chen to put up another ERA in the 3’s because there was a 6 year gap from the last time he did it. Now don’t get me wrong, I think Chen is a solid end of the rotation guy worthy of eating innings. I just don’t think he’s a middle or top of the rotation guy. I know the Royals don’t either but I also don’t see why the Royals didn’t target other guys first.
Seeing how Bruce Chen is a former Oriole let’s segway into two other former Orioles. The New York Mets sign Adam Loewen to a minor league deal, and The Pittsburgh Pirates sign Jake Fox. Good for both of those guys. I really liked Adam Loewen and I was happy to see him hit over .300 in the minors last year. I don’t think he will have much of an impact as a major league hitter though. Jake Fox is a different story. I was a fan of Jake Fox before he came to Baltimore. Having met hundreds of major league players I can personally say that Jake Fox is the nicest player in all of major league baseball. He’s the kind of guy that after you meet him one time he will remember your name the next time you see him that day. And he will go out of his way to say hi to everyone. You can’t build that kind of character. The Oriole’s truly did him wrong. He had one of the best spring trainings of anyone in baseball last year. After finishing 2nd in spring training HR’s he was barely used. Even though he could play almost every single position, he was barely used. After showing his tremendous power upside in the spring there was no reason why he shouldn’t have been kept around. He simply burnt himself out in the spring and started the season in a slump. That happens. The same thing happened to Michael Morse, who was the only guy who hit more HR’s than Fox in spring. The problem was that Morse eventually played everyday and Fox was never given the playing time to break his slump. So now he can go to Pittsburgh where he can give that young club the same kind of power upside. I hope he hits 25 HR there too.
Key free agents still available:
C- Ramon Hernandez, Jason Varitek, Chris Snyder, Jorge Posada, Jason Kendall, Dioner Navarro, Ivan Rodriguez, Kelly Shoppach
1B- Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee, Casey Kotchman, Lyle Overbay
2B- Kelly Johnson, Jose Lopez, Carlos Guillen, Bill Hall, Nick Punto
3B- Aramis Ramirez, Wilson Betemit, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Casey Blake
SS- Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal, Alex Gonzalez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Cesar Izturis, Edgar Renteria, Jack Wilson
OF– Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Beltran, Josh Willingham, Jason Kubel, Raul Ibanez, Coco Crisp, Juan Pierre, David DeJesus, Johnny Damon, Nate McLouth, Magglio Ordonez, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Ryan Ludwick, JD Drew, Kosuke Fukudome, Jonny Gomes, Felix Pie, Andruw Jones, Xavier Nady
DH- David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero, Hideki Matsui, Marcus Thames
SP- CJ Wilson, Yu Darvish, Roy Oswalt, Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, Mark Buehrle, Erik Bedard, Tsuyoshi Wada, Javier Vazquez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Paul Maholm, Jason Marquis, Aaron Harang, Joel Pineiro, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Jeff Francis, Dontrelle Willis, Chris Capuano, Jon Garland, Rich Harden, Livan Hernandez, Wei-Yin Chen, Tim Wakefield, Brandon Webb, Chris Young
Closers- Ryan Madson, Heath Bell, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Capps, David Aardsma, Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch
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