Spring Training is officially underway, and all is right with the world again. That means it’s time for us to step up our baseball coverage, starting with the completion of our free agent report. Miss a section? Here you go:
The defending World Champions had great balance in 2008, with a powerful lineup, a great bullpen and a fine rotation. This is a team that’s been on the rise for a couple of years now, but can they defend? Well, with a mere four free agents to deal with this offseason, they were more or less guaranteed to return virtually intact.
Pat Burrell, OF: This consistent slugger won’t help you in batting average, and his strike zone judgment slipped after a career best showing in 2007, probably explaining his slight reduction in numbers. Still, Pat the Bat draws a ton of walks, topping the century mark in each of the past two seasons. Philly opted not to bring him back, signing Raul Ibanez instead. Burrell, meanwhile, switched leagues and has gone to the team Philly took out in the Series – Tampa Bay. How ironic will it be if these two teams meet in the Series again and Burrell proves to be the difference?
Tom Gordon, RHP: Flash has been in decline for four years now, and last season ended early thanks to elbow surgery that will likely translate into a late start this year. The Phils let him walk, and Arizona swooped in, becoming the eighth team to stitch Gordon’s name on its uniform. We shouldn’t expect much – hell, the dude’s old enough that his son was drafted last year, but Arizona’s late inning situation is a land full of possibilities given the amount of question marks. So don’t be shocked if Gordon actually emerges with some value. Or not.
Jamie Moyer, LHP: If Gordon is old, what does that make Moyer? Yet, unlike Gordon, who has been sliding for a few years, Moyer is coming off his finest season as a Phillie, making me wonder just when the hell this dude will slow down. Obviously the Phillies don’t think it will be anytime soon, re-signing him for two years. The lefty with the timeless changeup really cut down on the long balls allowed last season, and that made a huge difference.
Rudy Seanez, LHP: Another aging arm, Seanez was cut from the Dodgers during the pre-season and wound up having a pretty good season with the Phils. He walked too many, struck out too few, got hurt, yet enjoyed decent bottle line results. Seanez always seems like such a long shot to make whatever team he’s battling for a job with, but it wouldn’t shock me if he lands yet another gig somewhere. However, to date, he’s not getting any bites this offseason.
Sixteen straight losing seasons and counting; an offense that was middling at best (and that’s being extremely generous) and a pitching staff that was horrendous. This team has its work cut out for itself. Again. Something positive: The Buccos had just four free agents to deal with, yet they let every single one leave, but that could be addition by subtraction as each of them were aging veterans. So if nothing else, the Pirates should be younger in 2009.
Chris Gomez, 3B: Although he enjoyed a fine start to the season, his chances – and play – deteriorated badly in the second half when he barely hit .200. His extra-base pop was almost non-existent, leaving him as a very unproductive utility player. Signed by the O’s, Gomez will try to win a job in B-More, but with Ty Wigginton there, it’s going to be tough.
Jason Michaels, OF: Another veteran bench player the Pirates let walk, Michaels started the season with the Indians, but was so bad, they had to DFA him. Dealt to the Pirates, he was better, but that’s not saying much. He simply doesn’t get on base often enough to be useful, strikes out too often, and his power is slipping. Now with Houston, he’ll add bench strength to the Astros, but won’t be of any use for fantasy purposes unless half the team eats some bad crawfish.
Doug Mientkiewicz, 1B: Yet another veteran backup Pittsburgh allowed to leave, Mientkiewicz saw plenty of action with the Pirates last year, but as we discussed last season, with no power to speak of, he’s not roster-worthy. The Dodgers have given him a shot as a non-roster player, but the best case scenario is he beats out Hector Luna and Luis Maza for a back-up corner infielder gig.
Luis Rivas, SS: What’s this? Another backup the Pirates parted ways with? Are you sensing a trend? Rivas was awful in the first half, earning the non-fantasy factor stamp from us, but shockingly, he was even worse in the second half, recording a 454 OPS after the break. Somehow, the Cubs were interested enough to sign Rivas to a minor league deal, where he’ll compete for the second utility infielder job, something I expect will stead him with zero fantasy value yet again.
Next: We’ll hop aboard the Main Line and head to St. Louis to check in on the Cardinals.