Lots of important stuff Thursday. Let's get right to it.
JEFF KENT signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Dodgers. I can't really tell you how I feel about this deal. Tell you the truth, I can't really tell you how I feel about Jeff Kent right now. I mean, the guy has hit the most homers of any second baseman ever. And the three-run, game-winning, walk-off blast he hit off Isringhausen in Game Five in the NLCS was quite possibly the greatest experience of my life as an Astro fan.
But he's 37. Which means he will decline, probably very rapidly. And even though his numbers with us (roughly .295 / .350 / .520) were very very good, I don't think we should have signed him. Chris Burke looks a decent enough player, but I'm hoping that we move Bidge back to second. I'm sure his defense would be adequate, and that way Lane finally gets his chance.
But back to Kent: I heard from Rotoworld.com that negotiations broke down when we refused to offer him a no-trade clause. Apparently we were offering a one-year, $7 million deal with an option for a second year at the same price. That seems quite reasonable. The Dodgers' $17 million for two is risky and steep. But they're getting a quality player. I'll miss him.
ANDY PETTITTE threw Thursday for the first time since his surgery in August to repair a tear in his flexor tendon. "I feel good," he said. "Right now, it's just like baby steps. [There was] no pain. More than anything I feel like my shoulder is just a little cranky because I haven't thrown in so long. It's encouraging. I've had problems with my elbow the last nine years off and on. I'm just excited that I'm feeling good."
We all knew Pettitte was a risky sign last year. But with Williams, Wright, Ortiz and Morris all signed and Clemens far from a sure thing, quality free-agent pitchers are becoming a scarcity. Pettitte's elbow must be 100 percent in 2005 for the Astros to compete.
ROGER CLEMENS said Thursday: "If I had to decide today, I'd say I'm not playing. But I'm not saying that. My wife and family want me to wait until after I take a vacation before I make a decision. I'm not ready to say yes or not about my future. I know which way I'm leaning, but I want to get away on vacation a while and see how I feel after that."
I personally feel like Rocket owes us another year. He had the ball in his hand for Game Seven of the NLCS, but blew it on back-to-back pitches: an rbi-double by Pujols and a two-run homer by Rolen. Ouch. I'm surprised he didn't come out and take the blame (a la Kerry Wood after the 2003 NLCS). But then again, he did have a phenonemal year, and yet another Cy Young. Anything, not much new here. But my money's on Rocket starting Game One 2005.
Now then, there have been about a gazillion free-agent signings already, and the Winter Meetings haven't even started yet! That's a great part of baseball: it's exciting even in the off-season. I went and ranked some of the bigger signings thus far. Here's the skinny:
The GOOD (signings):
Troy Glaus to the D-Backs (four years, $45 million). He'll be worth it if he stays healthy.
Jermaine Dye to the White Sox (two years, $10 million). I like it. Dye really fell off in the second half last year, but if he can produce like he did in 2001 with the Royals, Kenny Williams will be a genius.
Brad Radke to the Twins (two years, $18 million). Third best pitcher in the AL right here.
Nomar to the Cubs (one year, $8 million). The contract is heavily-incentive based and has an option for another year. Cubs will be damn good again next year.
Todd Walker to the Cubs (one year, $2.5 million). Walker is a good player, defense be damned. Cubs are going to be real good again next year. That infield!
Woody Williams to the Padres (one year, $3.5 million). I was hoping we'd sign him for about this much money, but we got beat to the punch. Woody is 38, but has shown that he can still play. Plus, the contract is very incentive-based.
Julio Franco to the Braves (one year, $1 million). These are the types of players who deserve $1 million. NOT Jose Vizcaino.
Matt Morris to the Cardinals (one year, $2.5 million). That's damn good! Remember 2001, when Morris won 22 games? He's still got it in him; he's only 30. Bengie Molina and Bob Wickman are making more next year.
Cal Eldred to the Cardinals (one year, $600K). I only mention this one because it illustates how great the Cardinals are about not overpaying for quality talent. Eldred took a pay cut after posting a 3.76 ERA last year. Damn good!
John Mabry (one year, $725K). See above. Damn the Cardinals are good.
Matt Mantei (one year, $750K). BoSox can do it too. Good signing here. Mantei has potential to beast like he did a few years ago.
Armando Benitez to the Giants (three years, $21.5 million). I guess this guy is okay. He had a pretty good year last year. I'm just not high on overpaying for top-notch relievers. I am super-pumped for three more years of BRAD LIDGE!!!!
Troy Percival to the Tigers (two years, $12 million). See above. Again, Percy is probably going to help the Tigers, but they could have spend equal money on somebody (Kent?) that would help them much more. Apparently the Tigers want to contend this year.
Jaret Wright to the Yankees (three years, $21 million). I don't know if he can get it done without Mazzone. Wright has a history of being a headcase. He might wig out in New York.
Al Leiter to the Marlins (one year, $8 million). He's 39. Sure, he had a decent year last year, but old, lefty control specialists seem to get lit up toward the end of their careers (Glavine, Moyer)
Jon Leiber to the Phillies (three years, $21 million). Leiber was solid last year, but I don't know about $7 million. That might be too much. We'll see though.
Damian Miller (three years, $8.5 million). Miller's a decent catch, but for for $3 million a year. And certainly not for three years!
Tony Womack (two years, $4 million). Um..... what? The Yankees may not have noticed, but Miguel Cairo was not half bad last year. Womack is bad and will get worse.
Henry Blanco to the Cubs (two years, $2.7 million). This rivals our Brad Ausmus deal, because Blanco rivals Ausmus' ineptitude at the plate. What were they thinking?
Vinny Castilla to the Nationals (two years, $6.2 million). He's 37. And he posted a sub-.300 OBP away from Coors Field last year. Watch out.
Christian Guzman to the Nationals (four years, $16.8 million). Ugh. Washington will get tired of this guy after four months. They got him for four years. He can't steal anymore, and his numbers have been in a steady decline the past few years. Why?!?
Omar Vizquel to the Giants (three years, $12.25 million). Sure, he's a great fielder, and amazingly has revitalized his hitting. But c'mon. He's 37. The Giants will be in pain from this signing. And soon.
Paul Wilson to the Reds (two years, $8.2 million). The Reds are in trouble if that's the best they can do.
Rheal Cormier to the Phillies (two years, $5.25 million). What?!? Who gives more than $1 million to a set-up man? Nonsense right here.
Dustin Hermanson to the White Sox (two years, $5.5 million). WHAT?!? This guy is worse than Cormier! Did anyone actually see his stats last year? Pathetic.
OK, That's it for tonight. Hope you had a good time. I know I did. Tomorrow: What I Absolutely Hate About Billy Beane