After a few weeks of trading and big signings, the need for a little insight has come about. Needless to say, its been an offseason with more parallels to 2000 then 2004. At one point, we may have found ourselves complaining about Johnson contract or the Pedro signing. But no more. 4 years and 52 million doesn't seem all that excessive in the wake of recent signings. Here's a rundown of the most perplexing ones:
B.J. Ryan, 5 years, $47 million with the Toronto Blue Jays - Now I grant Ryan is a great talent. In the last three years, he has average a 2.88 ERA and has had over hundred Ks the last two years. His 12.8 Ks/nine innings this year was very impressive as was his .208 opponent batting average. But all those things don't add up to the highest-paid closer in history. He was only a full-closer last year and he was not under the pressure of a big contract. He isn't exactly Billy Wagner or Eric Gagne. He won't strike out nearly 15 hitters per nine innings anytime soon or hold them to a sub .180 average. So, therefore, its crazy to pay him like he is better than either Wagner or Gagne. By doing so, Toronto gives themselves a player that may help them now, but who will not live up to the contract given to him. And such contracts only hurt teams like the Twins in their pursuit of offseason options.
Estoban Loaiza, 3 years, $21 million with the Oakland Athletics - Loaiza has had exactly two good years in his long, journeyman career. In 2003, he went 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA with the White Sox, representing a career-year. The next year, he went from mediocre to awful when he was traded to the Yankees. Last year, he had a decent year under little pressure and in a pitcher's stadium playing for the Nationals. 12-10 with a 3.77 ERA isn't bad, but if Carl Pavano is any proof, there is no guarantee. Thats why it makes not sense that people in baseball believe that Oakland will now trade Barry Zito with Loaiza on board. Zito may not be an ace, but his numbers are far superior to Loaiza and Loaiza is getting too old to be consistent.
Paul Konerko, 5 years, $60 million with the Chicago White Sox - It seems like a good reasonable contract, but Konerko doesn't seem to breathe consistency to me. Konerko may also have an degenerative hip, so signs of Mo Vaughn do spring in the background. But, beyond that, 2005 was in many ways a career year. Konerko had his best OBP at .909 and and hit 40 HRs with 100 RBI. Along with 2004, when he hit 41 HRs and had 117 RBI, these have been his best years. However, for $12 million a year, Konerko isn't exactly Albert Pujols. He doesn't run well (as he has never scored 100 runs), is immobile on defense, and had an atrocious year in 2003. Its the same reason Pat Burrell has been a risk for the Phillies, but this wasn't the strangest signing this offseason. It was, instead, pretty predictable.
Rafael Furcal, 3 years, $39 million with the Los Angelos Dodgers - This one I don't get at all. The Dodgers certainly need offense, but this is overpaying big time. As Buster Olney put it, Furcal remains spectacularly inconsistent. I'd agree. Last season was a perfect example, as Furcal had a great second half but was awful in the first. Furcal has other issues as well. He has never hit over .300, which is troubling for a leadoff man, his career OBP is .348, and he has only begun now to realize his potential use of speed. Also, Furcal has a great arm, but he committed 31 errors last year, which is an awful lot for a Dodgers pitching staff with guys like Derek Lowe who need good infield defense. Understandibly, Furcal and Cesar Izturis, when he returns, can be a great combo. But he isn't worth $13 million. That's more than what Miguel Tejeda makes for being a superior offensive and defensive player. Furcal is more in Jimmy Rollins territory and Rollins is only getting $8 million. Thats a wide gap.
Scott Eyre, 3 years, $11 million with the Chicago Cubs - This is where my bigger concerns appear. Overpaying for relief pitchers escalates the market price for many free agents big time. Eyre had one good season last year amidst tons of mediocre relief performances. And he gets this contract? Same goes for Bob Howry. What are the Cubs thinking? They need support for Derek Lee, a new center fielder not named Corey Patterson, a corner outfielder, a shortstop, and a second baseman. They have far bigger concerns. Why throw some much money on what is clearly a bad invenstment.
Overall, so far it has been overpayment after overpayment. Contracts have been absurb nearly the way there were in 2000. Will Johnny Damon get seven years and $100 million and if so, why? There are very few players worth this kind of cash, but in a weak free-agent class, clubs decided to get competitive and offer out terrible contracts to unproven players. The point is this is bad news for the Twins. It destroys much of their hope to get a guy like Bill Mueller or Mike Piazza or especially Nomar Garciaparra. It seems now we can only hope for inconsistent guys like Rondell White and Tony Graffinino. Lets just Terry Ryan has a surprse for us this week.