A few more trades have hit, but it was a light first day of signing for Type A and B free agents. No doubt the bidding will extend into Saturday for free agency's big names.
Some interesting themes have started to emerge: Can Cincinnati possibly pack more talent onto its roster? It has no doubt entered the elite of the NL. What's going on with AL Champ Arizona? A couple of small trades for DH's, but relatively quiet. Houston has remade itself a couple of times over already, but Tony Moya remains an Astro (and rumor has it he may for awhile). The NL (Houston, Cincy, Pittsburgh, Mets) has dominated the trade scene; will the AL dominate free agency?
Day 4's activity so far:
A & B FA Signings
Detroit signs IF Tori Hatcher for 4 years, $23.7MM
Analysis: Tigers step up early for who I think will be their new 2B. Montero slides over to 3B, so Hatcher is replacing the departed Bart Sanders. Hatcher and Sanders are basically equivalent hitters; their infield defense might be a tad better.
Boston signs SP Derrek Helton for 5 years, $38MM
Analysis: pretty big commitment for a guy with a 4.37 career ERA. Then again, he could end up being their best starter - their #4 and 5 starters had ERA's of 4.60 and 4.80 last year, and their top starter, Doug Mateo, has had a number of full seasons in the upper 4's as well.
Houston signs C Harry Ugueto for 2 years, $6.0MM
Analysis: Astros add to the stable of defensive-whiz catchers. The trade of Roberts opens the door for Ugueto to be the everyday C (he has the DUR for it), or at least the vR part of a platoon.
Kansas City signs RP Domingo Chavez for 3 years, $18MM
Analysis: Free agency had whittled away the Royals' short-reliever corps - Chavez become their prime late-innings righty.
Milwaukee signs OF Sidney Larkin for 2 years, $9.4MM
Analysis: Nice economical signing of a good-contact (.276 last year), still-20-HR hitter. Looks like Larkin will be the fulltime LF.
Philadelphia signs Shigetoshi Shinjo for 4 years, $24.8MM
Analysis: Shinjo is just a good player. On top of his sterling defense, he's hit 20+ HR's 8 years in a row. I doubt he'll continue that to the end of this contract, but it's still a good signing. Not sure who plays where yet in Philly's IF/CF alignment, but I'd bet Shinjo starts somewhere.
Montreal gets DH Rudy House
Cleveland gets SP Kris Taylor (Season 37 #53), RP Robel Holbert (Season 34 11th Round, DITR), and OF Babe Balfour (Season 37 Round 3)
Analysis: I'm a little puzzled at this move by the Tribe, as they have a nice batch of prospects ready to promote (to go along with last Season's prized rookie, Desmond Farmer). It's not like Kendry Fernandez lit it up as a DH (.238/19/60). In any event, House will move to Montreal, where his role is unclear. Will we see a resurgence of DH's playing RF (Pittsburgh for sure, maybe Montreal). Of the prospects the Indians got, Taylor has the best chance at a ML role (4/5 starter LR).
Chicago Cubs get C Robert Roberts
Houston gets RP Ryan Rose
Analysis: Roberts is a capable backstop, although not the defensive savant the new Houston management favors. Not quite sure what the Cubbies will do with him, as they currently have 3 C's on the ML roster. Rose is a 4A-to-bottom-of-the-staff type...maybe exactly the type that very high-PC catchers can improve enough to make him effective.
LATE-BREAKING: MOYA TO PIRATES
Pittsburgh gets Tony Moya + $5MMM
Houston gets SP LaTroy Owen (Season 33 19th Round), IF/CF David Richmond (Season 29 #55), and IF/CF Eduardo Chavez (Season 33 IFA, $9.9MM)
The 'Stros land a pretty good pitcher (especially for a 19-rounder), albeit one with health concerns, plus a pair of nice defenders for Moya. Let's face it, no one was going to make this deal except the Pirates (and that was far from certain), and no one was going to value players like Richmond and Chavez as highly as Houston. Owen immediately joins the rotation, Chavez becomes the starting SS, and I'm sure Richmond has a ML role somewhere. The Pirates' staff now has a front 4 of Moya, Roque, Baerga and Watson; Ernesto for 7 and 8, and Cervantes closing (if the damn Mets can beat that they deserve to win!)