Major Free-Agent Signings
The Detroit Tigers signed free agent catcher Victor Martinez.
The Detroit Tigers signed Victor Martinez to a four-year, $50 million contract to become their primary catcher (catching about half the time), part-time designated hitter and occasional first baseman. The contract is not a bad one for the Tigers. Martinez is one of the better available bats in free agency and is a solid versatile player. He may not be catching in 2013 when the Tigers' other catcher, Alex Avila, will have either proven himself or been replaced. However, he should still be a valuable designated hitter. What this means for players like Ryan Raburn and Carlos Guillen hasn't been made clear yet. Be patient before reacting to changes on the Tigers, there is still a lot of Hot Stove Season left.
The Tigers pitching staff could be cringing at this news considering Martinez has problems on the defensive side of the catcher position. Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka all pitched considerably better during the 2010 season when Martinez was not behind the plate.
The Los Angeles Dodgers signed free agent right-hander Jon Garland.
Garland will be guaranteed $5 million for 2011 with an additional $3 million in incentives and an $8 million option in 2012 that will become guaranteed if he reaches 190 innings pitched in 2011. He has reached that number in all nine seasons since he became a full-time starter.By most measures, Dodger Stadium is not quite the pitchers' haven that Petco Park has become. Still, if the Dodger defense bounces back, Jon Garland should be a very effective fifth starter for the Blue. Garland had a nice 2010 season with a boost in his k-rate and the Petco effect complementing well. He is very likely to take a step back in 2011. However, if I owned Garland at a reasonable price in a NL-only league I would definitely consider adding him to by list of keepers. In mixed leagues it depends on the depth of the available pitching but it would still be a consideration at the right price.
The San Francisco Giants re-signed free agent first baseman Aubrey Huff.
The Giants rewarded their best hitter of their 2010, World Series winning season with a two-year $22 million deal to continue to hit in the middle of their lineup. Huff isn't an elite first base option, and has had problems with consistency but was a solid option at first base in a short term contract such as this one. Huff should be a nice keeper option in most NL-only leagues and a solid middle round connection in mixed leagues. Brandon Belt owners should have no fear of Huff blocking him. One of them, most likely Huff, will move to left field when the time comes.
There seems to be a perception out there that Huff was playing over his head. He clearly was not. He did not have a great 2009 season and that was the reason he was available on the cheap for the Giants. His 2010 stats while very good were much different than his other good seasons. I would not want to bet on him at full price in a fantasy league but at the price he was available at last year, he makes a great keeper.
The Detroit Tigers signed free agent relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit.
Joaquin Benoit banks the huge season he had for the Tampa Bay Rays. He will receive $16.5 million over three years to become the primary set-up reliever for closer Jose Valverde. Many analysts believe this contract is too long for benoit who has not been durable in the past. I think it is fairly reasonable. When Benoit is healthy he is one of the better relievers in baseball and deserves to be paid as such.
The Pittsburgh Pirates traded lefty Zach Duke to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Pirates designated Zach Duke for assignment and made him available to every team in the process. The Arizona Diamondbacks stepped in and offered a Player To Be Named Later for Duke. Chances are the Diamondbacks will make Duke a decent contract offer. If he accepts he'll be in the rotation this season, if not he'll be non-tendered.
It's easy for prospect-crazed analysts to look at the Pittsburgh Pirates young stars and see a brighter future. They certainly have the bats of a future contender to build around. They have a few big arms on their way up the minor league system. Things are brighter than they've been in a long time, so tossing Zach Duke away like so much garbage seems pretty easy from the perspective of a Pirates fan and possibly even Pirates staff. the unfortunate part is the Pirates never put Duke in a position to succeed.
Zach Duke is a pitcher that relies heavily on the defense behind him. He has better than average control, He induces a fair number of groundballs, but does not have the stuff to rack up strikeouts in large bunches. In the estimation of many analysts Duke would seem to have two thirds of the stuff we like to see in our pitchers (as far as results are concerned, tools/stuff is another thing altogether) control and groundballs. Now, consider that the Pirates had one of (if the absolute worst) defense in MLB in 2010. In 2010 Duke was worth 0.4 WAR in an awful season. In 2009, the Pirates had one of the better defenses in MLB. In 2009, Duke was worth a solid 2.5 WAR. Now the Diamondbacks, owner of one of the better 2010 defensive teams, own Duke, and a sleeper (for NL-only leagues at least) is born.
The New York Yankees traded first baseman Juan Miranda to the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor leaguer Scottie Allen.
Juan Miranda had no place to go in the Yankees organization. He was trapped behind Mark Teixeira and the aging Yankees who will populate the designated hitter spot over the next few years. The trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks could be a blessing in disguise for both Miranda and fantasy owners. Miranda projects as a solid MLB first base option. Offensively he is probably a little better than Diamondback first base prospect, Brandon Allen. Allen can play left field, where the Diamondbacks presently have penciled in the weak-hitting (but defensively superior) Gerardo Parra. Miranda is capable of batting around .260-.270 with 25-35 homeruns with a solid walk rate and decent defense in a full season. Fantasy owners should keep a close eye on this situation.
Scott Allen, meanwhile, goes to the Yankees in the Miranda deal. The 19-year-old was an 11th round draft pick in the 2009 draft. In 2010, he posted rates of 9.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 78 innings pitched at South Bend of the Low-A Midwest League. According to Baseball America, the 6-1, 170 pound Allen sits 87-91 MPH with his fastball, mixing in a decent high-70s slider and changeup and a fringy curveball. Allen didn’t crack either Kevin Goldstein’s or John Sickels’ recent lists of top Diamondbacks prospects.
Other Significant Transactions
Kansas City Royals released RHP Bryan Bullington.
Seattle Mariners signed free agent LHP Fabio Castro.
Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Charlie Haeger.
Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Chris Smith.
Cincinnati Reds signed free agent LHP Dontrelle Willis.
Minnesota Twins signed free agent 1B Justin Huber.
New York Yankees released RHP Jonathan Albaladejo.
St. Louis Cardinals signed free agent LHP Raul Valdes.
Philadelphia Phillies signed free agent 2B Josh Barfield.
Philadelphia Phillies signed free agent 2B Pete Orr.
Philadelphia Phillies signed free agent LHP Dan Meyer.
Kansas City Royals signed free agent RF Brett Carroll.
The Minnesota Twins were the top bidder for the rights to sign Japanese middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The Twins are trying to add speed to their lineup. Nishioka has it but is not an elite base stealer, just a competent one. How his stolen base rate translates to MLB will be something to watch, I would not set my hopes at middle infield Ichiro, as some have suggested.
Catching prospect Derek Norris could be a nice sleeper. He has a higher upside than Wilson Ramos who has a solid shot at being the primary catcher for the Washington Nationals in 2011. Watch for Norris owners who are ready to give up on him due to the poor batting average and the Ramos acquisition. Norris is still one to watch.
Gary Sanchez is the long term future of the Yankees at the catcher position. He has tremendous offensive potential and the instincts to be a dynamic defensive catcher. He is a primary target in AL-only leagues with minor league systems.