Activity has picked up again after the usual early-FA lull, with a few big name free agents starting to sign, and another Reds/Astros trade:
A & B Free Agent Signings
San Diego signs 2B Ugueth Gonzalez for 1 year, $6MM
Analysis: Gonzalez might be the "perfect San Diego player": great contact and eye, little power, excellent speed and base-running skills, superior range on defense. The Pads still have a lot of holes to fill, but this is a great start.
Nashville signs 3B Gil Sodowsky for 4 years, $20MM
Analysis: Sodowsky is a far cry from the SS who was hitting 40HR's a year a few years back in Arizona, but he can still be effective, especially in a smaller ballpark like Herschel Greer. I am concerned about the last 2 years of this contract (his age 36 and 37 years), when hitters usually go into a really steep decline.
Pittsburgh signs RP Hector Cruz for 5 years, $29MM
Analysis: Even after adding Moya (bringing to staff to the normal 11), the Buccos decide to add a 12th pitcher - a 3rd lefty to the 'pen to battle the Mets' lefty-dominated lineup.
Montreal signs RP Adrian Caruso for 1 year, $4.4MM
Analysis: Career ERA of 3.10...proof positive that pitches matter.
Tampa Bay signs 1B/OF Orval Miller for 5 years, $50MM
Analysis: was arguably the best hitter in this year's (weak) FA class. High price? Maybe, but not egregiously so. He'll only be 34 at the end of this contract, so his only ratings hits (that matter) will probably be to power. He's an .852 career OPS, and it's not out of the question that he'll maintain that for 5 more seasons.
Philadelphia signs RP Miguel Valdez for 4 years, $25.2MM.
Analysis: first glance at his ratings, you might think Valdez would be especially susceptible to lefty hitters. Maybe, but I think the pitches offset that some, and you can't argue with the results: 9 straight seasons below 4 ERA. And as his Season 32 shows, he can throw up to 160 innings (probably even a few more). Very nice pickup for the Phils.
Tampa Bay signs RP Esmil Gonzalez for 2 years, $13MM.
Analysis: similar to Valdez, ratings-wise, although he's been a little less consistent. Certainly if you were looking for a quality, big-innings middle reliever, these were the 2 on your list. The Rays are coming off just their 2nd playoff absence in 13 seasons, so no surprise they're hitting free agency hard.
Minnesota signs SP Luis Osuna for 5 years, $110MM
Analysis: first big shoe drops, and a day earlier than we expected. The Twins decide to abandon their famous "all-relief" strategy, at least once every 5 days. Or will zbrent think of a different way to use his new 240-inning ace?
Atlanta signs SP Midre Espinosa for 5 years, $95.5MM
Analysis:...followed closely by the 2nd big shoe. At the moment, I think Espinosa is a slightly better pitcher than Osuna. OF course, this contract takes him through age 40, so there will be some dropoff. I see the Braves continue to employ a 97-Pitching IQ pitching coach, which I'm sure they'll go to great lengths to retain. And I'd bet they keep that training budget at $20MM for the next 5 years. With Espinosa's decently high makeup (79), he's got a very good chance to still be very productive at 40.
Analysis: the Braves have executed a very deft offseason plan. It looked like they might start a retooling with the trade of Hunter; then they turned around and picked up Orlando Figueroa for nothing that would ever see their ML roster. Essentially they turned Hunter into Figueroa and Arismendy Johnson (their shiny new 3B). Then they add Espinosa. Maybe not as loud an offseason as Cininnati's or Pittsburgh's, but every bit as effective.
Arizona signs RP Doug Stoops for 2 years, $9.6MM
Analysis: a notch below Valdez and Gonzalez among the robust middle relievers. Looks like he'll get an increased workload - the D'Backs have 14 position players on the roster, which suggests an 11-man pitching staff. Without Midre Espinosa's 250 innings on the staff, everyone's going to have to step up with more innings.
Tampa Bay signs 3B Bart Sanders for 1 year, $3.6MM
Analysis: 3rd Type A/B signing in rapid succession for the Rays. Sanders wasn't a world-beater for Detroit last year (.701 OPS), but if he repeats that performance it'll end up being a nice budget signing.
Cincinnati gets 1B/OF Danny Barr
Houston gets 3B Thomas Seanez and OF Omir Bryant
Analysis: Another power bat for the Reds, although the all-or-nothing Barr is hardly a sure thing. His .311 OBP was perfectly OK when he hit 50 HR's (Season 36 - .862 OPS), but that .270 last year didn't look so good even with 33 HR's (.665 OPS). I don't think Reds' management is going to think twice about this deal, though - the team may well hit 300 bombs this year. The Astros get another young good glove, so-so bat in Seanez, plus an OF who is probably a 2-3 year stopgap at best.
Washington D.C. gets SP Otto Little
Seattle gets C/DH Keury Spehr (Season 37 #28) and OF Erisbel Soto (Season 36 IFA, $31.8MM)
Analysis: As big as any trade or signing this offseason. The Nationals have pulled off an even bigger "rebuild head-fake" than the Braves did. When they moved Petkovsek, Cervantes and Hughes early on, it looked for sure like they were starting a rebuild. But they did get 2 ML regulars in the Pirates deal (in addition to 1 of the top pitching prospects around). And now they flip the take from the Hughes trade (Soto) plus one more prospect into a big-time ace.
Key to this trade: apparently Little is willing to sign a team-friendly long-term deal, presumably in the ballpark of the $7.6MM/year of his first LTC.
D.C.'s rotation now sports a front 3 of Camacho, Little and Spruill - pretty formidable group if they can get to the playoffs out of the tougher-than-ever NL East.
Seattle landed a pretty nice pair of prospects for Little, and they lop a big chunk off their payroll (although I don't think time for tomorrow's 3PM cycle when the rest of the competitive free agents will sign)