by Mike Harmon
December 15, 2004
Also see: AL player movement
The winter meetings ended with a flurry of signings and deals with a ton more on the horizon. Pedro Martinez, Carl Pavano, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa are but four of the big players expected to submit change of address forms to the U.S. Post Office in the coming weeks.
Here's a look at some of the movers from this past week in the National League.
Jose Guillen, OF – Free agent signed with Washington
We may never know all of the back-door battles that led to Guillen's deactivation for the final stretch of the 2004 season. However, it is quite clear that this guy can mash. Guillen launched 27 bombs last year to go along with 104 RBI. In 2003, he hit 23 for Cincinnati in only 315 at-bats.
At 27, Guillen is now hitting his prime. With two straight years of 25 homers and 85 RBI under his belt, Guillen appears ready to explode. Now, he'll need the Brad Wilkerson of July and August and productivity out of recent acquisition Vinny Castilla to help him do it, but a 30 HR, 90 RBI season stands as the starting point.
Troy Glaus, 3B – Free agent signed with Arizona
I'm questioning how thoroughly the shoulder of Troy Glaus was examined. Glaus has missed the better part of the last two seasons with recurring shoulder concerns, leaving fantasy owners to await 3B-eligibility for Chone Figgins and company.
Perhaps the Diamondbacks were impressed by Glaus' comeback in the final 29 games of the season, when he hit seven homers with 14 RBI while hitting a robust .200. He's hit better than .251 only once in his career, so there's no help there. But if he's sound, 30 homers and 100 RBI put him back in the 3B elite.
Jeff Kent, 2B – Free agent signed with Los Angeles
Kent leaves the short porch in Houston for spacious Dodger Stadium in a move made for family reasons that happen to include the possibility of sticking it to his former employers in San Francisco. He's a career .250 hitter at Dodger Stadium, with only 12 home runs in 256 career at-bats. However, he'll be ready to roll when he hits Pac Bell, where he holds a .305 career average and some solid power numbers.
Kent has hit 20 or more home runs for eight straight seasons. He missed the 100-RBI mark only once during that stretch (2003 when he missed 32 games). Kent remains one of the few power brokers at 2B, topped only by Alfonso Soriano in 2004. The big power alleys in Dodger Stadium will pose some issues, but barring a truck washing incident heading into the spring, he's a top five 2B draft choice.
Armando Benitez, RP – Free agent signed with San Francisco
This move serves as the unofficial notice that Robb Nen will not return from shoulder problems to pitch again for the Giants. Benitez is a worthy successor to Nen's dominance in the Bay Area. He posted crazy numbers down in Florida in 2004, racking up 47 saves with a 1.29 ERA and ridiculous 0.82 WHIP. That's Mariano Rivera territory.
The Giants are running with a young pitching staff, anchored by Jason Schmidt. San Francisco expects that Noah Lowry and Jerome Williams will go deep into their starts with Matt Herges serving as the set-up man to Benitez. Look for about a strikeout per inning and 40 saves because you know that the Giants will always be in the hunt.
Russ Ortiz, SP – Free agent signed with Arizona
Ortiz returns to the NL West, where he helped get the Giants to the World Series. The thought of Dusty Baker taking the ball out of Ortiz's hand and sending him to the showers still haunts Giants fans. He posted a 20-win season upon joining the Braves staff and held opponents to the lowest batting average against of his career. Last season, the pressure of picking up for the losses of Greg Maddux apparently got to him, as his ERA jumped over one-third of a run and his WHIP bounced back above 1.50.
He leaves the wisdom of Leo Mazzone for the rebuilding Diamondbacks, who are still trying to determine a course of action for Randy Johnson. If he departs, Ortiz becomes the No. 1 guy again, and that role doesn't suit him well. You can be assured that he'll take the ball every fifth day (six straight seasons of 33 starts). His 15 wins per season are nice and good, but wins are overrated. The bloated WHIP and ERA totals will hurt you more.
Jon Lieber, SP – Free agent signed with Philadelphia
The Yankees gambled and signed Lieber after an injury-shortened 2002 campaign, knowing that he would be unavailable for the 2003 season. He rebounded from surgery to log 176 innings and post 14 wins for the Bronx Bombers. However, his ERA and WHIP took the hit you'd expect in the offense-laden AL East.
Lieber had two strong seasons with the Cubs in the NL before the Yankees jumped on the discarded and injured hurler. Though his record was below .500 (6-8) when he was shut down in 2002, his ERA stood at 3.73 and his WHIP was a solid 1.17. That ERA would have placed him in the top 20 for the NL in 2004. The schedule is loaded with games against the Mets and Nationals, meaning that Lieber should be able to recapture his success of '01 and '02. He'll be a great value later in the draft.
Al Leiter, SP – Free agent signed with Florida
Leiter returns to Florida after a seven-year stint in the Big Apple. His win total took a hit behind a Mets offense that scored just 4.2 runs per game, but his 3.21 ERA ranked ninth in the NL. The Marlins didn't generate much more offense than the Mets, but youngsters Juan Pierre and Miguel Cabrera continue to improve.
Leiter will enjoy a return to the spacious confines of Pro Player Stadium. For his career, Leiter owns a 22-9 career mark at Pro Player with a 2.77 ERA. With Carl Pavano headed to New York, the 39-year old Leiter will assume the role of staff ace and mentor to Dontrelle Willis, Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett. He'll give you strong numbers in three categories and hold great value in NL-only leagues.
Vinny Castilla, 3B – Free agent signed with Washington
Castilla belongs in Coors; that's where he does his damage. In six full seasons with the Rockies, Castilla never hit below 30 home runs. He had a great year in Houston in 2001 after coming over from Tampa Bay, but take it with a grain of salt because everyone hit home runs that season.
Look to Castilla's splits last year. Though he hit more home runs on the road than at Coors last season, Castilla drove in 29 more runs and his batting average was a full 100 points higher at home. He'll give you .270 with 25 dingers and 85 RBI, but out of the thin air of Colorado, don't bank on much more.
Carlos Lee, OF – Traded to Milwaukee
Lee enjoyed tremendous success in the heart of the White Sox lineup alongside Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez. He's matured at the plate, boosting his batting average above the .290 mark the past two seasons. Lee has also homered 24 or more times for five straight years while playing 140-plus games each season.
The Brewers welcome a right-handed power hitter to complement Lyle Overbay and Geoff Jenkins in the middle of the order. Lee can also steal an occasional base, as he did swipe 18 in 2002. Since he's been on the radar so long, it's easy to overlook the fact that Lee is just 28 years old. He's just now hitting his peak and is a potential five-tool contributor.
Keep an eye on the pages of Yahoo! Sports for further updates, as a flurry of signings and deals are just over the horizon.
Updated on Wednesday, Dec 15, 2004 11:04 pm, EST
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