The football playoffs are winding down – we’ve gotten through the Wild Card and Divisional contests and are left with the Conference championships to determine the Super Bowl participants. That leaves us, at this date, about one month out from the start of Spring Training 2012. Teams are starting to get more geared up for pitchers and catchers reporting; trying to get rosters set before heading south for on-field activities.
To that end, general managers are working on writing and offering contracts as they put together rosters for the upcoming season. Many players either had one-year contracts for 2011 or are arbitration eligible, and we will see many of those issues dealt with in the next couple of weeks. The deadline for exchanging arbitration figures was January 17 with hearings scheduled between February 1 and February 21. Teams will be trying to avoid the sometimes contentious arbitration process and will try to get contracts in place before the hearing date.
There have been a flurry of signings over the past week and that will begin to escalate. Let’s take a look at some of the recent signings that have the biggest impact on playing situations.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Joe Saunders given a new contract for the 2012 season but he is just a placeholder for some of the D’Backs upcoming youngsters.
Atlanta Braves – Signed Jack Wilson to a one-year deal. Wilson’s starting days are done as his hitting and fielding have gone south. He will serve as Tyler Pastornicky’s backup at this point. Martin Prado also got a one-year deal and is slated to again be the left fielder although he has a lack of power you would want in a corner position. He doesn’t have second base/middle infield eligibility like he did in 2009 and 2010 which is where much of his value came from. Third base/corner is still there. Jair Jurrjens got a new one-year deal but his role is still up in the air as the Braves have quite a few options for their rotation. There are reports teams are interested in acquiring the right-hander (the Yankees were one but that is unlikely with the Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda moves) so Jurrjens is a pretty good candidate to be changing address. Speedster Michael Bourn also got a new one-year deal and will be back in center field and at the top of the batting order where Atlanta will let him go on the basepaths.
Chicago Cubs – Kerry Wood gets a new one-year deal for 2012 with a team option for 2013. He will be in the bullpen although it remains to be seen how many innings he’ll be able to put in following knee surgery. But who knows what may be in store with Carlos Marmol’s propensity to issue free passes to hitters and reduction in K/9 of almost 4.0 (although it is still about 12.0/9). Jeff Baker, Blake DeWitt, Geovany Soto, Ian Stewart, Chris Volstad, and Randy Wells all got new one-year deals. Baker and DeWitt will have backup roles. Soto will again be the primary backstop but is coming off a disappointing year in which he batted .228. But since we are in an even numbered year expect improvement (if you believe in those kind of trends or track records). Stewart is the heir apparent to Aramis Ramirez but has injury issues. Wells will be back in the rotation and Volstad will get his chance after being traded from the Miami Marlins for Carlos Zambrano.
Cincinnati Reds – Gave new one-year contracts to Homer Bailey, Bill Bray, and Paul Janish. Bailey is coming up on a crossroads as the Reds will most likely have to decide how much longer they’re willing to wait for him to become the starting pitcher they thought he would be. He will be in the rotation starting for Cincinnati in 2012 but for how long isn’t sure. Bray will be back in the bullpen where he did well. Janish stepped back from his 2010 production and is now the backup for Zack Cozart at shortstop.
Colorado Rockies – Signed Seth Smith to a one-year deal then turned around and traded him to the Oakland A’s for Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman in a deal that, frankly doesn’t make sense from the Rockies’ standpoint. Moscoso gives up fly balls by the bushel full which won’t play well in Coors Field. Outman doesn’t fare well against right handed hitters which isn’t a good thing either. Center fielder Dexter Fowler got a one-year deal and will be given his chance to win the leadoff spot again.
Houston Astros – Gave a new one-year contract to J.A. Happ who will again be part of an Astros rotation that has a couple parts with potential but is not deep.
Los Angeles Dodgers – James Loney and Andre Ethier each get a new one-year contract. I have no use for Loney as a first baseman who has never hit more than 15 home runs but evidently the Dodgers do. Ethier was limited to 135 games last year and disappointed with only 11 home runs. Los Angeles and fantasy players will be hoping for a bounce back.
Miami Marlins – Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez) and Edward Mujica get one year contracts. Both will work out of the bullpen for the Marlins.
Milwaukee Brewers – Sign Carlos Gomez, Kameron Loe, Nyjer Morgan, Manny Parra, and Francisco Rodriguez to one-year contracts and Norichika Aoki to a two-year deal. Gomez and Morgan will again split the center field duties. Loe and Parra will be part of the bullpen mix again. Rodriguez comes back to Milwaukee for 2012 at a $3 million plus salary cut after which he could hit the open market in a more favorable year for free agent closers. His salary also makes him an attractive potential trade chip for a team looking for a closer later in the year. Aoki will primarily back up the corner outfield positions but could get full-time duty early on depending on what happens with Ryan Braun.
New York Mets – Manny Acosta, Ronny Cedeno, Mike Pelfrey, Ramon Ramirez, and Andres Torres all received one-year contracts from the club. Acosta will at least compete for the closer’s role while Ramirez will have a bullpen spot. Cedeno will serve as a backup to Ruben Tejada at shortstop. Pelfrey should be back in the rotation despite a poor 2011. Torres will be the everyday center fielder but doesn’t bring much to the table anymore, especially for fantasy players.
Philadelphia Phillies – Signed Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, and Wilson Valdez to one-year contracts. Hamels, who was party to trade rumors earlier in the off-season, will slot back into the starting rotation. Kendrick will start out in the bullpen but will be the first to get a call to start if anything happens to the first five. Valdez will again fill a bench role and doesn’t have fantasy value even when he does play.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Joel Hanrahan, Jeff Karstens, Evan Meek, Charlie Morton, and Chris Resop all got new one-year contracts. Hanrahan returns as the closer after saving 40 games in 2011. Karstens will return to the rotation and Morton, just off hip surgery, will be in the mix for starts. Meek at one point was considered a potential closer candidate but had a rough 2011 that included missed time from a shoulder injury. He’ll be back in the bullpen as will Resop.
San Diego Padres – Sign John Baker, Luke Gregerson, Chase Headley, Nick Hundley, Carlos Quentin, Tim Stauffer, Joe Thatcher, Will Venable, and Edinson Volquez all to one-year deals. Hundley will be back as the starting catcher with Baker as his replacement. Gregerson, who some thought would be the heir to close out games before Huston Street was acquired, will set up Street. Thatcher is a lefty back of the bullpen option. Volquez and Stauffer both have starting rotation spots and Petco should keep some of Volquez’s fly balls in the park. Headley is back at third base and, while not providing much power, has low teens stolen base output. Quentin mans left field but should see a drop in home run production playing in Petco. Venable figures to share time in right field.
San Francisco Giants – Melky Cabrera, Santiago Casilla, Angel Pagan, and Nate Schierholtz receive one-year contracts while Pablo Sandoval gets a three-year deal. Cabrera will man center field for the Giants after a breakout 2011 for the Kansas City Royals. He figures to see a drop in HR and SB playing in San Francisco. Pagan will be the starting right fielder and figures to get pretty good SB totals. Schierholtz will back up the corner outfield spots. Sandoval gets rewarded for a bounce back 2011 at third base and Casilla is a good middle relief option.
St. Louis Cardinals – Only move of note the past week was to sign Kyle McClellan to a one-year deal. He will be back in a swing role for the Cards out of the bullpen.Washington Nationals – Tyler Clippard, Jesus Flores, Gio Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, and Jordan Zimmerman are all signed to one-year contracts. Clippard and Gorzelanny will man the bullpen with Gorzelanny being an option to start if needed. Zimmerman and Gonzalez are starting pitchers with good fantasy value. Flores will be a backup backstop.