White Sox Sign Adam Dunn, Red Sox Sign Adrian Gonzalez

December 7, 2010

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The Chicago White Sox signed free agent Adam Dunn to a 4 year deal worth $14 million per year.  The deal will allow Dunn to play his best defensive position – DH.  All kidding aside, I like this deal for the White Sox.   Dunn brings tremendous power, belting at least 38 homers in seven consecutive seasons.  He also walks quite a lot, transforming his lackluster .250 career batting average into a stellar .381 career on base percentage.

The knock on Dunn, of course, is his ability to strike out. He has struck out at least 164 times in every season in which he has accumulated at least 400 at bats.  That’s a huge number of strikeouts.  Unfortunately, it gets more attention than it deserves.  It would be great if he could cut down the strikeouts and hit .275 instead of .250, but the fact of the matter is that strikeouts aren’t much worse than other outs – a .250 hitter who strikes out a ton isn’t much worse than a .250 hitter who strikes out half as much.

Interesting tidbit that casual fans might not know about Dunn – he was once a backup quarterback at the University of Texas.

On the other side of the sock drawer, the crimson hose traded for Padres first baseman Adrian Gonazalez.  Gonzalez is a player who would be one of the most underrated players in the game, if not for media attention that has focused on how underrated he is (oh sweet irony!).  In spite of playing in a park that depresses offensive numbers for hitters, Gonazlez has emerged as one of the leading power hitters in the game – hitting 30+ home runs in each of the past four seasons.  A switch to hitter-friendly Fenway Park should certainly boost his offensive stats.  Gonzalez is also a two time Gold Glove award winner for his defensive play.

I do urge people to take one thing into account with Gonzalez.  While his career road numbers are much better than his career home numbers (.943 OPS vs .800 OPS), this isn’t entirely the effect of Petco Park.  Due to baseball’s unbalanced schedule, Gonzalez has played a disproportionate number of road games in Colorado and Arizona – home to two of the best hitter’s parks in baseball.  This will have a tendency to prop up his road stats a bit.  It’s dangerous to use raw road stats when making comparisons.  My article on park effects is also applicable to this discussion.

Derek Jeter and the Yankees finally called off their game of chicken, with Jeter signing a deal that will pay him $51 million over the next three years, with a complex points-based player option for the 2014 season.  This is much more money than Jeter is really worth at this stage in his career (most players tend to see their skills erode as his age – a sad fact of growing older) but is much less than the $23 million per year that Jeter was reportedly seeking.

On the gridiron, the Denver Broncos bucked Josh McDaniels from his saddle.  McDaniels took over the reigns at the beginning on the 2009 season.  He quickly jettisoned a digruntled Jay Cutler (hey, would YOU be gruntled if there were rumors that the new coach was trying to acquire Matt Cassel to replace you?) and replacing him with Kyle Orton.  J-Mac roared out to a 6-0 start, and many glasses of Coors were held aloft to toast the genius.

The bottom fell out quickly.  The 2009 Broncos lost four straight games after their undefeated start and finished 8-8.  In 2010, the Broncos stand at 3-9 and also found themselves embroiled a controversy involved the unauthorized videotaping of an opponent’s practice session.

Cameron Delivers Titanic Blow to Bay, Holliday

December 15, 2009

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Red Sox sign Mike Cameron, John Lackey

The Red Sox snuck one past me yesterday by signing Mike Cameron to patrol their outfield.  I had been under the assumption that the Red Sox would sign either Jason Bay or Matt Holliday to patrol left field, and was a bit stunned to hear of the signing.  Cameron is a fine defensive player (a three time gold glove winner), but is a big step down from Bay or Holliday offensively. 

Cameron, who will turn 37 in January, is also considerably older than Holliday (who will be 30 in January) or Bay (32 in September).  Players tend to lose a step as they age, and their offensive skills tend to erode.  So it is pretty likely (almost a certainty) that the Red Sox will get less offense from Cameron than they would from Bay or Holliday.  Cameron is a better defender, although defensive range is less important in Fenway Park than in other ballparks because the left field wall is very shallow.  The ability to gauge where balls will ricochet off the 37 foot high Green Monster is more important than foot speed.

On the flip side, the two year deal, worth a total of $15.5 million, is a lot less money than Bay or Holliday will command (easily twice that much, and for five or more years.)  The Red Sox may have simply decided that it would be more cost effective to upgrade a corner infield sport (with either 3B Adrian Beltre or 1b Adrian Gonzalez).  Gonzalez has come into the spotlight a bit in recent years, but Mr. Eyebrows still doesn’t get the respect he deserves.  His raw numbers (3 straight 30+ homer season, 40 homers and a .958 OPS in 2009) are impressive.  When you stop to think that he plays in a park (Petco) that greatly depresses offense, the numbers are even more amazing.  Put him in Fenway, and he’ll win a couple of MVP awards.

The signing is bad news for Bay and Holliday, as it takes a rich suitor off the table. Bay and Holliday will certainly get some serious coin in their deals, but the Cameron deal may end up costing them a couple of million dollars per year. 

The Red Sox also shored up their rotation by signing right handed starting pitcher John Lackey.  This move makes sense on a number of levels.  Other than the cash given to Lackey ($85 million over five years), the marginal acquisition cost was merely a second round pick.  The Red Sox had signed Marco Scutaro (another type A free agent) earlier in the offseason, and were thus bound to lose their 2010 1st round pick.  Signing Lackey merely means that their 2010 first rounder will go to Anaheim as compensation for losing Lackey, while reducing Oakland’s compensation for Scutaro to a 2nd rounder.  Additionally, taking Lackey away from the Angels makes it a bit easier for Boston to get past the Angels, if they were to face them in the playoffs.  While Lackey isn’t as flashy as some of the other top pitchers, he’s definitely an ace-caliber guy.

Phillies Acquire Ace, Trade Away Ace

The Phillies made waves by finally ending Roy Halladay’s long twist in the wind by acquiring Doc from the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Phillies then turned around and traded their existing ace, Cliff Lee, to the Seattle Mariners.  Prospects were the counterweight in both trades.  Halladay is a year older than Lee, but has been a more consistent performer over the course of their careers.  Additionally, Halladay is righthanded (Lee was a lefty), allowing the Phillies to pair him with Cole Hamels for a righty/lefty combination at the top of their rotation.  While the Phillies were able to neutralize teams that were heavily left handed (the Rockies in the NLDS for example) because of the lefty-dominant rotation, having a balance of righty/lefty makes them a bit less susceptible to teams that lean heavily one way or the other.