Like last offseason, we are seeing a late developing free agent market as there are still many names without homes. However, recently there have been a few prominent players that have decided on their futures for next season and beyond. Here is a recap from the last few days and holiday season.
Jason Bay to the Mets – The former Pittsburgh Pirate and Boston Red Sox takes his game back to the NL with his recent signing with the New York Mets. Bay will anchor left field at Citi Field for at least the next four seasons and is expected to provide some much needed pop in the middle of the Mets lineup. The Mets lineup should be pretty good next season barring injury with Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Bay as the main contributors. Last season, Bay hit .267 and hit a career-high 36 HR and 119 RBI with the Red Sox. The Mets are hoping that Bay continues his success in spacious Citi Field, where the new park proved to be pitcher friendly. It is a good signing by the Mets as they needed some power in their lineup. Bay has been a consistent performer in his career and has proved he can play in a big market as his success in Boston will attest to that.
Adrian Beltre to Boston – To combat the loss of Bay, the Red Sox signed free agent 3B Adrian Beltre to a one-year deal with a player option for 2011. The deal is worth $9 million for next season with a $5 million player option for 2011. This is a good deal for Beltre as he looks to have a bounce back year at the plate which would give him the option to get a long-term deal in next season’s free agent market. Beltre is already a premier defensive 3B as he won Gold Gloves in 2007 and 2008. However, he hit only 8 HR and 44 RBI with the Seattle Mariners last season. The hitter friendly Fenway Park should be good for Beltre as the Green Monster can be very forgiving at times. The question for the Red Sox is what to do with Mike Lowell after his trade to Texas was called off earlier in the off season. While I feel $9 million is a lot to pay Beltre for next season, he is a great candidate to have a bounce back season and will provide excellent defense from the hot corner.
Marlon Byrd to the Cubs – The Cubs have filled their hole in center field with the recent signing of Marlon Byrd to a 3-year deal worth $15 million. The deal is light on the Cubs’ tight budget for next season as the deal is back loaded. Byrd is set to make $3 million next season, $5.5 million in 2011, and $6.5 million in 2012. The Cubs are hoping that Byrd builds off his career year last season with the Texas Rangers, where he was an everyday player for the first time in his career. New Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo was the biggest factor in Byrd coming to Chicago as he attributes his new found success as a hitter because of Jaramillo’s tutelage in Texas. This is the second consecutive off season the Cubs have signed a former Texas Rangers outfielder to a 3 year deal and the Cubs are hoping Byrd has a better time in Chicago then the recently traded Milton Bradley did. As a Cubs fan, I am not a fan of the signing, but Byrd if nothing else will provide a much better clubhouse atmosphere for the team. If he can provide anything close to his numbers from last season, he will definately live up to the terms of his contract.
Mark DeRosa to the Giants – The San Francisco Giants added a great piece to their team with the signing of super-utilityman Mark DeRosa to a two-year deal worth $12 million. DeRosa can play anywhere in the infield and both corner outfield spots, but is expected to become the primary 3B in San Francisco, which allows the team to move Pablo Sandoval to 1B. DeRosa has become a solid contributor at the plate since his last season in Texas in 2006. His versatility is a plus as he can play numerous positions well and help the team in case of injury at other positions. DeRosa has been both a fan and player favorite over his career as he is a true professional who understands how to play the game the right way. His career took off as a member of the Chicago Cubs as he became a team leader and provided plenty of clutch hits. I know if I was building a team I would do all I could to have a player like DeRosa on my team as his versatility and leadership are vital to a teams success.
Kelly Johnson to the D-Backs - One of best under the radar signings of the off season goes to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs signed 2B Kelly Johnson to a one-year deal worth $2.35 million. Johnson was not offered arbitration earlier in the off season by the Atlanta Braves, which made him a free agent. Last season, Johnson struggled at the plate after a wrist injury in July and lost his everyday spot in the lineup towards the end of the year. However, Johnson was a solid contributor for the Braves the previous two years and is a good candidate for a bounce back season. I like this signing for the D-Backs as Johnson should provide solid numbers for the team and is an upgrade to their other options at 2B. Sometimes it’s the under the radar signings that benefit a team rather than a big name signing and this could be one of those cases.
It will be interesting to see where the market goes in the next month. There are still plenty of quality names on the market as we are starting to see a new trend with teams waiting it out until later in the off season to fill some holes.