Usually the proper method to starting a fire is to turn the nozzle to release propane and then use a lighter to catch a flame in the stove. This year, however, Major League baseball decided to instead make a large bonfire and throw a whole can of propane on top. They did not even wait for the Winter Meetings, which are this week.
Here are thoughts on the five most impactful signings from last week:
1. Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners (10 years/$240 million)
- The first thing to point out is that Cano will make $24 million when he is 41 years old. Forget that no Second Baseman in history has hit over .290 or slugged more than 24 round-trippers after their season at 37-years old. Forget that and forget a bunch of other bad statistics about players after 37 and realize that Cano, a lover of the spotlight, passed up the Empire State for rainy Seattle. In what seemed to be a New York State of Mind move by hiring Jay-Z turned out to be not so. From a baseball perspective this upcoming season, the Mariners drastically improved their lineup as Cano will protect Justin Smoak or Jesus Montero (whichever bats 3rd or 4th) and can hit for average as well as power. Also, this means a now-permanent shift to Center Field for Dustin Ackley, the M’s former Second Baseman. Furthermore, to hear the rumors that Seattle has the bankroll of prospects in order to make a serious push for David Price at the Winter Meetings is intriguing. The AL West will become the most exciting division in baseball (yes, even over the NL Central) if that deal goes down. To get back to Robinson: even though it seems like he was going to say CaNO, he didn’t and will provide a lot of pop in the middle of the M’s lineup.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees (7 years/$153 million)
- Free-agency is not efficient and Ellsbury’s monster contract is the largest indicator of that. While all teams must overpay because of competition in the free agency market, the New York Yankees went far overboard in pursuit of the former Red Sox Center Fielder. Ellsbury is 29 years old and should be in the prime of his career, but he has been perpetually side-tracked by injuries. He averaged 96 games in last four full seasons with the Red Sox (18, 158, 74, 134) which is concerning. Also, Ellsbury’s game is extremely reliant on speed and base-swiping and, with the exception of Lou Brock and Ricky Henderson (all-time greats) baseball has proved that speed does not age well. Ellsbury seems to be a better Brett Gardner and Gardner, two years older than Ellsbury, seems to be him as the Yankees shifted him to left because of his defensive liabilities (weak arm, failing speed). They left themselves no flexibility in the Outfield as Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki are no longer reliable everyday outfielders. Suzuki, 37, shows specifically that speed does not age well.
3. Curtis Granderson, New York Mets (4 years, $60 million)
- This signing may seem the least significant of all, but it’s interesting to say that Granderson will stay in New York and his production will dramatically drop. The picture feature is currently not working on WordPress, but here’s the link to Curtis Granderson’s home run spray chart from his 43 round-tripper season circa 2012. Every single homerun is to right field. Then, select the Citi Field (home of the Mets) overlay and realize that Granderson is a product of that incredibly short porch in right field of Yankee stadium. Granderson would hit 17 less dingers in the confines of Citi Field, so look for his power to drop and him not to produce up to his 43 dinger season. A plus for the Mets could be that a “power hitter” that’s left-handed complements right-hander David Wright well. Granderson does not hit for average (.232 and .229 in his last two season) so the Mets have definitely over-overpaid for a Center Fielder that is merely adequate defensively.
4. AJ Pierzynski, Boston Red Sox (1 year, $8.25 million)
- The Sox remained static defensively as Salty wasn’t great and AJ isn’t either. However, a sentiment echoed around the league is that Pierzynski is a superior game-caller and watches a lot of film. Obviously potential is lost as AJ is 36 and Salty’s 28. Salty wanted a lot because he had a career year last year (.804 OPS). Pierzynski and Salty are roughly the same offensively, but Salty has more opposite field power (40 doubles) to Pierzynski (24), but AJ hits it out of the yard more. The biggest downside is that Pierzynski doesn’t work counts and draw walks (11 in 520 PA) like Salty (44 in 470) The biggest reason this signing went down is because Pierzynski at the dish does not do something that Salty does: strikeout. Pierzynski strikes out half as much in 50 more plate appearances. Since he doesn’t walk, it’s evident he makes productive outs. With a lineup of power bats that tend to swing and miss (i.e. David Ortiz and especially Mike Napoli) you can’t have a third bat that swings and misses too often – there must be a guy that can make that productive out, that ground ball to second to score the guy from third, rather than swing and miss and evidently the Sox think Pierzynski is that guy. Still tough to think of how much production you can get out of a 36-year old Catcher. Evidently the Sox think Pierzynski is their bridge guy who can be productive this year and allow other Catchers in the system to mature for another year. My one problem with the signal-callers in the minors is that Lavarnway has been a year away for about three years now. Maybe they’ve decided to finally move past Lavarnway and get to either Christian Velasquez or Blake Swihart (their 8th ranked prospect in the system). The main thought is that the Sox could not give out multiple years (Salty got 3 years for $21million from the Miami Marlins) to a strikeout hitter when they have promising prospects in the system.
5. Ricky Nolasco, Minnesota Twins (4 years/$49 million)
- The Minnesota Twins made a major improvement to their rotation that was one of the worst in the league last season. Nolasco, who has thrown 185+ innings five of the last six seasons, is a horse who will bring relief to the bullpen. He also has decreased his ERA every year since 2009. While again the team overpaid, getting Nolasco is big for the Twins to pair with another recent addition – Phil Hughes – at the top of the rotation. Nolasco gives even more stability to the top of the rotation as he does not walk anyone, but strikeouts many batters at a great rate. (His career K:BB average is 10:3) Nolasco will look to win more than 15 games for the first time in his career this coming spring – and the Minnesota Twins give him a good chance.