Yesterday in Part 1, we examined some of the best moves of the winter Hot Stove season, and your feedback was excellent, as some readers agreed, for the most part, with my choices and others compared my sanity to Claire Danes in Homeland. Today in Part 2, in homage to former Washington Bullets general manager Wes Unseld, we shift our focus to discuss and scrutinize some of the more questionable moves of the offseason.
5) Chicago Cubs sign RHP Edwin Jackson 4-yrs $52 million
Edwin Jackson pitched well for the Nationals last season and provided the team with the veteran workhorse they needed, posting a 10-11 record with a 4.03 ERA, a 1.218 WHIP, and 168 strikeouts in 189.2 innings pitched. A durable pitcher who has thrown 161+ innings six seasons in a row and 1,268.2 innings in his career, the 29-year-old Jackson has matured from a precocious prospect years ago in the Dodgers organization into a consistent, league-average or slightly better starting pitcher today. No question Jackson has value as a reliable #4 starter, but I do not understand the logic behind the Cubs feeling the need to lock up a pitcher of this nature when they should struggle to contend for the playoffs the next two years. Will the Cubs be happy 2 years from now with Jackson at 31-years-old with another 350+ innings pitched and 2 years further into his decline phase locked up for 2 additional seasons at $26 million dollars? Highly unlikely and a poor use of financial resources, which are the reasons it makes the list.
4) Minnesota Twins sign RHP Kevin Correia 2-yrs $10 million
$10 million dollars in baseball terms is not an extravagant free agent contract, but when far superior pitchers such as Shaun Marcum, Joe Saunders, and Brett Myers had to settle for 1-year deals this winter, it is difficult to understand why Correia, the owner of a lifetime 4.54 ERA, 1.411 WHIP, and a 6.0 K/9 ratio necessitated a 2-year commitment. Correia is an uninspiring veteran #5 starter with little to no upside but has proven durable over the course of his career, a profile more deserving of a contract similar to John Lannan 1-year $2.5 million dollars, Jeff Karstens 1-year $2.5 million, or Jason Marquis 1-year $3 million this winter. Clearly the Twins needed pitching this offseason, but this contract has little chance of being looked upon two years from today as a wise investment for a rebuilding team like Minnesota.
3) Kansas City Royals sign RHP Jeremy Guthrie 3-yrs $25 million
Guthrie struggled mightily in Colorado after being traded from Baltimore last offseason, posting a 3-9 record with a 6.35 ERA and a 1.688 WHIP in 90.2 innings pitched, but bounced back with a 3.16 ERA in 91 innings pitched after a midseason trade to Kansas City. The 33-year-old Guthrie is not as bad a pitcher as he showed in Colorado, and not the Ace-level pitcher he showed as a Royal, but it seems reasonable that the veteran of 9 seasons and 1,202 career innings pitched should post a season similar to his career numbers (4.28 ERA, 1.309 WHIP, 5.4 K/9 ratio) in about 180 innings pitched. A solid #4 or #5 starter without question, but pitchers of similar ability like Joe Saunders, John Lannan, and Brett Myers all signed 1-year contracts for significantly less this season.
2) Boston Red Sox sign OF Shane Victorino 3-yrs $39 million
This is an interesting case, as this time last winter Victorino was coming off a .279/.355/.491 with 17 home runs and 19 stolen bases season in 2011 and appeared poised to receive a similar contract to other free agent centerfielders such as BJ Upton, Michael Bourn, and Angel Pagan this winter. Unfortunately for the 32-year-old Victorino, this season was miserable for him, hitting .255/.321/.383 with 7 home runs in 154 games and his woeful numbers against right-handed pitching (.222/.296/.333) strongly forecast Victorino has entered the decline phase of his career. This makes Victorino’s annual salary and 3-year commitment even more curious, as superior centerfielders Michael Bourn (4-years $48 million plus an option) and Angel Pagan (4-years $40 million) received less annual salary and comparable corner outfielders, which is where Victorino is scheduled to play in Boston, such as Cody Ross (3-years $26 million), Melky Cabrera (2-years $16 million), and Torii Hunter (2-years $26 million) signed lesser deals this offseason. His offensive numbers should rebound slightly in 2013 and his defensive skills and all-around ability should allow Victorino to be a productive player the next two years, but there is almost no chance the Red Sox will want to pay him $13 million dollars in 2015 and it is highly doubtful this is looked at as a good move in three years.
1) Los Angeles Dodgers sign RHP Brandon League 3-yrs $23 million
Like hiring Jim Zorn as head coach of the Redskins, this looks like a mistake from the beginning. In an offseason in which Jose Valverde is still a free agent, Kyle Farnsworth can sign for 1-year $1.25 million plus incentives, and Ryan Madson has agreed to 1-year $3.5 million contract, to guarantee 3-years $23 million dollars to a 30-year-old reliever with a career 3.60 ERA, 1.276 WHIP, and a 6.7 K/9 ratio seems near laughable. League is a slightly above-average reliever that most every team in baseball would like to have pitching in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings, but his fortune to collect 52 saves the past two years has severely overinflated his market value. This contract is a massive overpay by any standards, and in my opinion, the worst contract of this offseason.
Honorable Mention: Los Angeles Dodgers sign RHP Zack Greinke 6-yrs $147 million, Kansas City Royals acquire RHP Ervin Santana from Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for LHP Brandon Sisk, Toronto Blue Jays acquire RHP R.A. Dickey, Catcher Josh Thole, and Catcher Mike Nickeas from the Mets for Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, Catcher John Buck, RHP Noah Syndergaard and OF Wuilmer Becerra, and Miami Marlins acquire SS Yunel Escobar, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, RHP Henderson Alvarez, C Jeff Mathis, OF Jake Marisnick, LHP Justin Nicolino and RHP Anthony DeSclafani from the Toronto Blue Jays for RHP Josh Johnson, SS Jose Reyes, LHP Mark Buehrle, INF Emilio Bonifacio, and Catcher John Buck.