Some big free-agent signings and a few trades of interest highlight our first roundup of off-season activity.
Let's start with last year's World Series teams, which have so far have diametrically opposite offseasons.
The White Sox had only minor FA losses, and have been quiet as mice on the free-agent and trade fronts.
The Astros, on the other hand, faced massive FA defections and have scrambled to re-sign as many of their vets as possible, and pick off desirable replacements for the departed. First, they filled potential bullpen holes by re-signing Tony Blanco and David Garces to team-friendly deals before FA started. Then, while the rest of the league snoozed, they re-signed SP Garret Ward for 5 years, $35MM (MAJOR COUPS). They also jumped on former Tigers MR ace Miguel Valdez (3.34 ERA over 4 seasons) early, inking a 5-year, $34.5MM deal.
Two big ones did get away, though. New Toronto GM coltonrocks made a bold statement by snagging former Houston ace Midre Espinosa for 5 years, $107 million. Espinosa could be on his way to a HOF career - 167 wins, 2.90 ERA, 4 WS rings, 4 All-Stars and a no-hitter so far. And the Pirates signaled their intention to step up this year by luring OF/1B Eddie Hamels with a 5 year, $35 million agreement. Hamels has 4 WS rings, 6 All-Star trips, and 4 Silver Sluggers to go with a .902 career OPS.
The Jays also bolstered the staff with former Jay (Met and Dodger) Hi Reid, holder of a 3.97 career ERA, on a 2-year contract. They join the Astros and Royals as the most active early free-agent purchasers. Kansas City committed approximately $82 million to SP's Fautino Martin (3.60 ERA over 8 seasons) and Spud Bando (4.02 ERA, 9 seasons), and 1B Orlando James (63 HR's over last 2 seasons).
New Focus On Defense?
Are we seeing teams value players with defensive skills higher?
Colorado signs SS Santos Peraza for 5 years, $34MM (to be fair, Peraza hits more than a little - .713 career OPS and a .311/26/99 line for Toronto in Season 29). The Rockies had 24 errors and 6 "-" plays from SS's last year.
Cincinnati trades for Roy Adkinsson, a slick-fielding, light-hitting SS who was a former 2nd round selection. The Reds got 43 errors and 10 "-" plays from their Season 32 SS's.
Several teams have signed (early) defensive catchers (the kind that usually hang around until 8 days into Spring Training: Roscoe Carney (OAK), Fautino Estrella (TEX), Yuniesky Rios (SD), Hank Urich (TOR), Norm Roberts (CIN), Albert Gongora (Mets), etc etc.
Am I imagining things, or is there a trend developing?