Of the 7 $50 million+ contracts signed this off-season, the Blue Jays and the NL East inked 6, no doubt sparking a big lurch in competitive balance around the Major Leagues.
Let's take a look at the 5 big deals signed on the 3PM cycle:
Max Gutierrez (Washington D.C.): 5 years, $110 million. As speculated on the world chat, Gutierrez lands the max deal as the Nats try to keep up in the brutal NL East arms race. My guess is you can prove that most max deals hurt teams more than they help, but I like this one. 3B is generally a weak position in Major Leagues, and Gutierrez stands above (with respect to Vin Sanchez and Benji Wood). He plays great D, rarely needs a day off, drives in 110+ runs; and, he's very likely to do so for the duration of this contract.
Calvin Nielsen (Seattle): 5 years, $68.8 million. Interestingly, Nielsen commanded the 2nd-largest contract of the last cycle. The 8-year vet had 104 wins and a 4.19 ERA in his Royals career - numbers that could well improve in pitcher-friendly Safeco. Not what the rest of the AL West needs.
Rafael Rijo (Pittsburgh): 5 years, $60.8 million. Perhaps a bit of a curious signing by the pitching-rich Buccos. And a curious U-shaped contract - heavily front and back-loaded. All that aside, Rijo can pitch - 3.44 lifetime ERA. Could allow the Pirates to move back to a traditional 5-man rotation - with Rijo as the #5.
Bruce Page (Toronto): 5 years, $57 million. Page will produce...and at higher levels than he did in spacious Safeco...IF he's on the field. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened with great regularity since Season 17. Someone was going take this bet...if it comes up for the Jays, they may have the division wrapped up early.
Alfredo Torrealba (Pittsburgh): 5 years, $52.5 million. If there was a bargain among the last-cycle contracts, this was it. The relatively low durability (186 IP in his most prolific year) and control may have scared off some big bidders, but the proof is in the record: 3.29 ERA in 9 seasons, all in the hitter's paradise that is the Rangers' park. He'll settle in as the #4 starter.