Budget shopping dominated the overnight free agent action, with the exception of Kansas City's purchase of Rabbit Grilli. This has turned out to be a very deep free-agent pool, with a lot of nice bargain signings. Here are the overnight highlights:
KC signed Grilli, probably the best overall power hitter in this year's class, for 5 years, $72 million. Grilli is only 2 years removed from his MVP season, so he has plenty of gas left in the tank. I don't think he's going to be worth his contract in years 4 and 5, but if KC gets a WS out of it, hallelujah! I love it when teams go BIG.
Toronto bought some insurance on their Theo Castello signing his ratings clone, Ahmed Floyd, for 3 years x $4.6MM. Floyd put together his best year in the last 5 in Season 32 with a .284/21/82 line.
The Astros, Mariners and Padres both did some nifty bargain shopping. Houston landed pro hitter Nathan Huff for $2.6MM, tough setup man Harry Soriano for $2.4MM and solid SS Benji Nieto for $3.6MM (all 1-year deals, btw). The 'stros have really done a nice job of filling in for FA losses with useful, low-cost players.
San Diego also went the 1-year route for a SS (Jorge Rodriguez, $2.8MM) and a short reliever (Jerry Baker, $2.2 million).
Seattle settled for 2 years, but got nice bargains with RP Stephen Pierre ($2.4MM) and OF Howie McLaughlin ($2.6MM).
Where Will Lanning Land?
Speculation is rampant about the 5-tool OF's destination of the next 5 years. Here's our not-very-informed opinion of the most likely spots - in no order and based on eyeballing need and cash availability.
Mets: Huge chunk of cap space and a big need in RF (are they really going with Boomer Beckwith?). We know overeasy manages his cap well, and we also know he hates losing. Even after promoting their 2 superstar hitting prospects last season, the Mets only managed 687 runs, and they don't have any difference-making hitting prospects arriving anytime soon.
Baltimore: they have the cap room, and sorely need the production (15th in runs last year). One could argue they need pitching just as badly, but a lot of their pitching problem cold be traced to the mysterious inability of (former #1 pick) Flip Harris to get people out. He also pitched a very low inning total...maybe due to a non-DL injury. Harris will be fine, and there are other good young hurlers there...they need some POP and Lanning would provide it.
Atlanta: They'd probably contend anyway. They've patiently cultivated some great young talent on both sides of the ball. They had the best staff in the NL last year with a microscopic 3.12 ERA, and even though they had some great individual seasons on offense (C Leach and 2B James especially) they only scored 631 runs. This may be the team with the biggest "we're 1 player away" feeling.
Texas: Another team that has accumulated some good young talent. Maybe not 1 player away but the "stuck-in-74-win-never-never-land-and-have-to-break-out" urge could be very strong. As could be the urge to put Lanning and co-MVP Brooks back-to-back in the lineup.
Odds he'll be with one of the above...I don't know, 25%? These things usually end up surprises.