I would sit down in front of a roaring fire, wearing my finest velvet robe, take the pipe out of my mouth and say "Kids, the lesson for this week is that: teams are scared to death of going to arbitration with their players. This week it seemed like every single player in Major League Baseball re-signed with their team to avoid the dreaded arbitration process. I was originally going to write every single deal down under the bold transaction header like I usually do, but at a certain point, deals were being reported so fast that it was nearly impossible to keep up. Here is just a brief list of some important players who re-signed with their teams to avoid arbitration. Most of them were one year deals and most of them were clearly hastily engineered....how else do you explain Jonathan Papelbon making about as much as Bobby Jenks for the 2009 season?
Those are just the short term examples. There were three players who received a little more substantial deals from their current team
Philadelphia re-signs SP Cole Hamels to 3 years, $20.5 million deal
Ohhh, this deal is magical. Any Phillies fan who knows anything about baseball probably choked to death on their cheesesteak when they heard about this deal. Trust me, that's a good thing. I am actually kind of shocked that Hamels even signed this deal. Before last season he reportedly balked at a Phillies offer that he felt was significantly too low. Now he accepts a $20.5 million deal in the same off-season that a pitcher 3 years older than him and without his postseason success (CC Sabathia) garnered a $160 million deal. That just seems kind of strange. Maybe he figures that he can hold the Yankees ransom in 2011 when he is the same age as CC was back in 09. But at the end of the day, 2011 is pretty inconsequential for the Phillies who for only $20.5 million essentially got a left-handed Josh Beckett circa 2004.
Baltimore re-signs OF Nick Markakis to 6 year, $66 million deal
You won't find many bigger fans of Nick Markakis than yours truly. This is because I am a fan of consistency. Let's look at Markakis's 2008 base-stats. In 595 ABs Markakis went .306, 20, 87 on a fairly bad team. Now let's look at his 2007 stats. In 637 ABs Markakis went .300, 23, 112 on an even worse team. And as if that weren't enough, in Markakis's rookie season he went .291, 16, 62 in only 491 ABs! He has been nothing short of clock work for three straight seasons. He hasn't missed significant time in three straight seasons. He has been an excellent defensive right-fielder in three straight seasons. He is only 25 years and can practically be pencilled in for the #3 hole and .300, 25, 90 (if not better) for the next 6 years. And if for whatever reason, that isn't enough for you, in '08 Nick Markakis placed in the top ten in the AL in TEN OFFENSIVE categories (AVG, OBP, OPS, G, R, H, 2B, BB, OPS+, RC). This deal was an absolute no-brainer and the Orioles now have someone to build around for 6 years.
Milwaukee re-signs 1B Prince Fielder to 2 year, $18 million deal
The Brewers did pretty well for themselves on this deal. You always want to make sure you have flexibility when it comes to power-hitting lefty first-baseman...especially when said first-baseman is rather tubby like Prince Fielder. Look, I'm not knocking fat people, I AM one, I just think those extra pounds add some extra risk to any deal involving Prince Semien Fielder (best name in baseball). This seems to be a pretty fair deal for both parties as Prince Fielder must be happy in Milwaukee if he didn't seek arbitration. Think about it: Prince Fielder is essentially Ryan Howard-lite and Ryan Howard is currently seeking a record $18 million in arbitration and he is five years Prince Fielder's senior. Bottom line is that Prince could have gotten more money.
In other news, the Dodgers outright released Andruw Jones. You had to figure that signing Andruw to a 2 year, $36 million deal last year was a bad idea but I don't think ANY of us could have foreseen just how bad a deal that was. If Andruw Jones was a bigger douchebag, he would have been Major League Baseball's answer to Stephon Marbury and the Knicks. I am almost disappointed that they cut him so the situation didn't reach Marbury-D'Antoni levels of awkwardness. Oh well. The knee-jerk reaction in all of this would be to say that Jones should go back to the Braves. I don't really know if that is the right move but I do know that wherever Jones signs, it needs to be a AAA deal. Andruw Jones needs to work himself back up from the bottom and start over.
Before I get to this week's transactions (there are only two of them), I have come across some baseball articles I must direct your attention to. First off, Jayson Stark gives us his World Baseball Classic "Preview". It is a pretty well thought out piece, and ESPN was nice enough to throw us WBC fans a bone (all twelve of us) but I can do better. And ladies and gentlemen, I WILL do better. Two weeks from today, I will bring you the most comprehensive WBC Preview the Internet has ever seen! God help me. Next up, Shawn Hoffman of Baseball Prospectus writes an article about why a salary cap would only hurt baseball. I feel VERY strongly against a salary cap in baseball and tried to explain why on my other blog a while back, but I was nowhere near as articulate as Mr. Hoffman. Finally, I was quite shocked to hear which team had the best farm system according to Keith Law, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. I don't want to ruin the surprise, so go read it.
That brings us to two little knick-knacky deals that interest only me.
San Diego signs 2B David Eckstein to 1 year, $.850 million deal
I don't care that David Eckstein is moving to an easier position for him to play, I don't care that the deal is only one year and I don't care that it is "only" $850,000. The Padres should not have signed David Eckstein, plain and simple. The Padres are an incomprehensibly terrible team and signing David Eckstein isn't going to change that, it isn't going to put more fans in the seats and it isn't going to bring them any more production than Edgar Gonzalez, Matt Antonelli or whomever their AAA second-baseman is; all infinitely more sensible options to play Second-base then David-Freaking-Eckstein. In the immortal words of Gob Bluth: "COME ON!"
Chicago (NL) trades OF Felix Pie to Baltimore for SP Garrett Olson
You know you are a baseball nerd when your reaction to Felix Pie being traded for Garrett Olson is "Cool!" and not "Felix Who? What Olson?" I have always been a closeted-fan of Felix Pie. Don't get me wrong: he is terrible. His swing is too long and a well-spotted fastball will kill him but there is something so exciting about pure, raw potential and he has it. It will be tough to find room in the Orioles OF for him, but he could be a half-way decent left-handed complement to Adam Jones when they play a Pitcher who just can't figure out lefties. Garrett Olson has done virtually nothing for the O's, but the Cubs seem to be in that confident Leo-Mazzone-type attitude where they feel like Larry Rothschild can save anyone's career after reinventing Ryan Dempster. They are probably wrong, but more power to 'em. It can't hurt to take a flier on a left-hander with #4 or #5 rotation potential when Felix Pie had clearly worn out his welcome in Chicago.
And that, children, is it for this episode of Bojay's Baseball Blog! Tune in next week when the gang gets into all kinds of fun hijinks!