Happy New Year Baseball fans, particularly World Champion Phillies fans.
I’ve had a bit of a break from blogging baseball. There’s been a lot of other stuff going on here in Israel, particularly the War in Gaza over the past almost 2 weeks. And I’ve been doing double-duty handling two blogs dealing with the war. The war action’s been hot and heavy and you can check out it out here and here.
But now, back to baseball.
Five major free agent deals have come to fruition over the past few weeks, Four of them will be dealt with in this post. The fifth one, since it relates to former Phillie outfielder Pat Burrell’s acquisition by the Tampa Bay Rays, will be discussed in a separate post.
First on the docket is 1st baseman Mark Teixeira’s 8 year, $180 million deal with the Yankees.
Teixeira, whose name congures up taste-buds longing for Tex-Mex cuisine is a 6 year veteran who has consistently been above 30 homers and 100 RBIS and lifetime .290 BA and who has struck out over 100 times in 5 of 6 seasons.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum notes for Yahoo sports that Teixeira and his wife discussed the deal prospects for weeks before the deal was struck.
“I’d been asking her for weeks and weeks, Where do you want to go? Where do you want me to play?” he related. “And she said, `I want you to be happy. I just want you to be happy.’ And finally, she said, `I want you to be a Yankee.’ So that’s when it was done. And once we got the contract figured out, it was a no-brainer.”
“The Yankees hadn’t made their decision yet, but that’s when we made our decision,” he said with a laugh.
“He was pushing me for an answer. I gave it,” Leigh said, giggling. “I always loved New York, and I thought it would be really special for him to be a Yankee.”
But is Mark Teixeira worth A-Rod rarified air money, $22 million plus per season? It will be interesting to watch and judge in 2009.
45-year-old veteran lefthander Randy ‘Big Unit’ Johnson, having recovered and been rehabbed after two recent back surgeries, agreed to an $8 million, one-year contract with the San Francisco Giants just before New Years.
Johnson, a veteran of 20 seasons, is a 3 time 20 game winner, 5 wins shy of 300 career wins and is high-up on the list for career strikeouts. He sports a career 3.26 ERA.
Johnson, a 5 time Cy Young award winner, joins a Giants pitching staff, one of the deepest staffs in baseball — boasting 3 Cy Young winners, including last season’s winner, 2nd year star Tim Lincecum.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley reports;
“I’m well ahead of schedule than I was the last two offseasons,” Johnson said Saturday during a conference call, noting he plans to be on the 2009 opening day roster. “It will be really nice to be in that position this year. … To some degree I have silenced the critics and shown that I’m healthy.”
The Giants are counting on that.
Giants general manager Brian Sabean believes his club could become a contender again in the NL West with the addition of Johnson. San Francisco expressed an interest in him from the start of free agency and had several productive conversations with his representatives to make it happen.
“I’m excited to come back to where I started my baseball career,” said Johnson, who still has a brother and a sister in the area. “As a visiting player with the Diamondbacks, a couple of the reporters would ask me, ‘Toward the end of your career, do you see yourself playing in the Bay Area?’ It’s always nice to come back and play there.”
He has 4,789 strikeouts, second on the career list to Nolan Ryan (5,714). The 6-foot-10 lefty made $16 million last season, when he struck out 173 and walked 44 after beginning the season on the disabled list.
Johnson, who can earn an additional $5 million in performance bonuses, went 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 30 starts last season.
In another pre-New Years deal, 9 year veteran Brad Penny, off of 2 brilliant 16 win seasons with the LA Dodgers followed by a 2008 season plagued by right shoulder soreness where he slumped to 6-9 and a 6.24 ERA in 94 2/3 innings, has agreed to a 1 year $5 million deal with the Boston Red Sox.
Sporting News’ Ryan Fagan writes of Penny and his deal with the Sox for Yahoo sports;
Like Johnson, Penny seems like a perfect fit in his new home. Well, at least he’s a high-reward, low-risk option for his new team. Penny was injured for much of the season and largely ineffective when he was on the mound, to which his 6-9 record, 6.27 ERA and 1.63 WHIP attest. But, he’ll only be 30 this spring, and won 16 games in back-to-back seasons before his clunker in 2008.
If he has a huge bounce-back season, he stands to earn a hearty multiyear deal next offseason, which won’t have any Sabathias or Burnetts in the mix. And it’s not like the Red Sox are counting on big things from Penny. Their rotation, with or without him, is one of the best in the bigs, and his contract is only $5 million. If he’s a bust, the team will be just fine.
The Yahoo report on the Penny deal notes;
According to the reports, Penny could earn an additional $3 million in performance bonuses with the Red Sox. He is 94-75 with a 4.06 ERA in nine big league seasons.
Finally, having lost MLB record-setting 62 save closer Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez to the Mets, the Los Angeles Angels inked a 2 year, $17.5 million deal with free-agent reliever Brian Fuentes.
The Angels are hoping that they don’t skip a beat in the closer’s spot with the acquisition of Fuentes.
AP sports writer John Nadel reports on the deal for Yahoo sports;
Fuentes gets $8.5 million next season and $9 million in 2010. There’s a club option for $9 million in 2011.
“He should solidify the back part of our bullpen,” Angels general manager Tony Reagins said on a conference call. “We pitched well last year, we expect to pitch well again.”
Fuentes, a 33-year-old lefty, was a three-time NL All-Star who went 1-5 with 30 saves in 34 chances and a 2.73 ERA for Colorado this season. He had a 1.75 ERA after the All-Star break, when he saved 16 games in as many chances.
“I’m definitely happy to have the opportunity to play for a team that I’ve watched for a long time,” said Fuentes, who grew up in Merced, Calif., and still lives there. “My 2-year-old’s excited. He can’t wait to go to Disneyland.”
Regarding Angels manager Mike Scioscia, Fuentes said: “From what I hear from other guys, he’s a player’s manager.”
Reagins said plans call for Fuentes to close, with Scot Shields or Jose Arredondo serving as the Angels’ setup man. The Angels have several other experienced relievers including Darren Oliver and Justin Speier, who were both teammates of Fuentes in Colorado.