Analyzing The Off-Season

It’s been some time… too much time if you ask me, but with the 12 hour work days and the recent holiday, I haven’t had much time to for writing. Detroit’s trade for Gary Sheffield set off what has so far been an electric off-season with plenty more to come. Several signings have taken place and even a few other trades have transpired since the Sheff acquisition. There has been money to burn, too, primarily in the Windy City as the Cubs landed the biggest fish to date with their Alfonso Soriano signing. There has been some outcry regarding the money Soriano got, $136 million over eights years. It’s been compared to the Carlos Beltran deal because of it’s similarity in the figures, but I don’t think it is completely apples to apples. I do think the Beltran deal was a smarter investment, but the context of each is different because of the teams that made the moves.

The Cubs planned to make a splash in this off-season from the outset. It started with hiring of Lou Piniella, then the inflated signing of Mark DeRosa ($13 million, three years) and continued with the Soriano deal. They have been rumored to be after ace starter Jason Schmidt as well. Frankly, they needed to maybe over pay a little bit to land someone like Soriano. Despite the fact that the Beltran signing is better on many levels (he is younger, a markedly better fielder and a better hitter), Soriano is no slouch.

Even when you remove his intentional walks (16), he still increased his walk total by 55% during his remarkable quest into the 40-40 club. Defensively, he came a long way from refusing to go out to his new position during a spring training game. He racked up a very impressive 22 base runner kills, the best amongst all left fielders in baseball. His fielding percentage (.969) left plenty to be desired, but he had the best zone rating of all left fielders at 2.28.

The 2006 Cubs posted an anemic .268/.319/.422 line, thus a bat like Soriano’s was in high demand this November. I don’t like to argue that just because the Cubs had the money means they should throw it away, but I also think this a case where spending a little extra to ensure you get your guy is a solid move. As a Tigers fan, I know plenty about overpaying to get the name you need to start something. The Cubs haven’t been nearly as bad as the Tigers were in their down period, but things haven’t worked out as planned for some time in Chicago.

The spending spree hasn’t been confined to Chicago. Gary Matthews Jr. robbed the Los Angeles Angels blind signing a five year deal worth $50 million dollars. I won’t deny for a second that Little Sarge had one helluva year for the Texas Rangers, especially out in centerfield with highlight plays almost nightly, but I can’t figure out what made the Angels think that he was worth $10 million dollars a year for the next five years at age 31.

He set career highs in at-bats (602), home runs (19), runs batted in (79), runs (102), hits (194), doubles (44), average (.313), on-base percentage (.371) and slugging percentage (.495). My biggest hang up here is the age factor, plus his overall defense is slightly overrated. His range factor was 11th among baseball’s centerfielders and his zone rating was 2nd worst at .847. I just don’t see the value in a five year deal worth that much for a 31-year old.

I like Soriano deal quite a bit based on a need-to-cost ratio, but I’m vehemently against the Angels dropping that much money on Matthews. I’ll take a look at a few other moves this off-season in my next post as well.

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