Everyone hates this part of the shopping spree: opening the closet six months or so afterward to see how things looks. Almost always, they are worn or faded – different, without the beauty and sheen of what's new.
Such excitement accompanied every fresh C-note dropped during baseball's $1.5 billion free-agent bonanza last winter. Flush with cash, baseball owners couldn't help but kick it back to the players and turn the offseason into a series of eBay auctions gone horribly awry.
There were mistakes. Lots of them. There were successes. Though not nearly as many.
And there was Kei Igawa, who might deserve an entirely different category.
So before we take a look at next year's free-agent class in a story coming Monday, it's time to rank this year's signings. The best, worst and undetermined. The bargains, the too-short deals and those that can't end soon enough.
Everything that made the '06-'07 offseason one we'll dissect for years.
1) Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston, SP (6 years, $52 million plus $51.11 million posting fee): Over the last five weeks, he's got the game's sixth-best earned-run average and third-best strikeout ratio – and that includes a rough pre-break outing against Detroit. Matsuzaka is only getting better. And perhaps the best part for Boston: He's not pitching for the Yankees.
2) Barry Bonds, San Francisco, LF (1 year, $15.8 million): Slag him for his attitude and his arrogance, but never question Bonds' bat. The Giants needed to bring him back to break Hank Aaron's record, and his production (baseball-best 1.101 OPS) is gravy.
3) Hideki Okajima, Boston, RP (2 years, $2.5 million): He's Takashi Saito, only left-handed. A middling reliever in Japan, he must've found Superman's phone booth, because hitters can't touch him (.161 batting average against) and Boston can't live without him (0.83 ERA).
4) Eric Gagne, Texas, RP (1 year, $6 million): Though not the Gagne of old, he's still a top closer. Because of that – and this makes the signing top 5 – he'll bring at least one good prospect at the trade deadline.
5) Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs, LF (8 years, $136 million): One of these days, Lou Piniella will realize Soriano fits best batting third. Then his counting stats (only 33 RBIs) will catch up to the meaningful ones (like his .532 slugging percentage). He'd be higher if the deal didn't go through his 38th birthday.
6) Ted Lilly, Chicago Cubs, SP (4 years, $40 million): The second great free-agent pluck from Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, who actually pulled off the deal while attached to an EKG after being rushed to the hospital for an angioplasty. By more than halving his career walk rate, Lilly has delivered more than the Cubs could have hoped.
7) Gil Meche, Kansas City, SP (5 years, $55 million): From Dayton Moore should be fired to Dayton Moore is quite admired. This was certainly the biggest risk of this offseason, but the Royals' GM needed to take it, and Meche has paid him plenty. Now, can he keep it up?
8) Ryan Franklin, St. Louis, RP (1 year, $1 million): He's been so good (3-0, 1.23 ERA) the Cardinals gave him a two-year extension last week.
9) Mark DeRosa, Chicago Cubs, UT (3 years, $13 million): Maybe last year wasn't an anomaly. DeRosa is walking more, striking out less and can play every position but catcher.
10) Akinori Iwamura, Tampa Bay, 3B (3 years, $7.7 million plus $4.55 million posting fee): No longer do the Devil Rays worry about Iwamura's transition into the major leagues. The only concern is where he plays when top prospect Evan Longoria arrives, because Iwamura's near-.400 on-base percentage and propensity for the spectacular in the field guarantee him a spot.
2) Barry Zito, San Francisco, SP (7 years, $126 million): So, dude. A 6-9 record kinda isn't good, right? And a 4.90 ERA, it doesn't suck or anything, but it sorta does. And, like, six more years of this. Whoa.
4) Julio Lugo, Boston, SS (4 years, $36 million): The Curse of Nomar continues. If Lugo weren't a twig, he might not be batting his weight.
5) Vicente Padilla, Texas, SP (3 years, $33.75 million): Sometimes it's great to peruse Baseball Prospectus to get a true idea of how bad some guys are. According to the site's Value Over Replacement Player calculations, a sad-sack, replacement-level player would still be 15 full runs more valuable than Padilla.
7) Jim Edmonds, St. Louis, CF (2 years, $19 million): Giving a multiyear deal to an aging outfielder coming off shoulder surgery is risky. Giving a deal to an aging outfielder coming off shoulder surgery and foot surgery is stupid. Giving a deal to an aging outfielder coming off shoulder surgery and foot surgery with a history of bad concussions is good reason to make this list.
9) Danys Baez, Baltimore, RP (3 years, $19 million): This deal and this list were just meant for one another.
UP IN THE AIR
1) Carlos Lee, Houston, LF (6 years, $100 million): So far, so good. He's leading the National League with 72 RBIs. Not so far in the future, maybe not so good. He's liable to lead the NL with a couple hundred RBIs – rib bones ingested.
2) J.D. Drew, Boston, RF (5 years, $70 million): He can't be this bad.
3) Aramis Ramirez, Chicago Cubs, 3B (5 years, $75 million): His sore left knee renders him useless on the bases, and unless repaired, it'll only worsen. Which means this deal's success is contingent on how Ramirez can recover – and if he'll need surgery.
1) Sammy Sosa, Texas, DH (1 year, $500,000): Credit where it's due, Part 2. Half a mil for 100-plus RBIs is a good deal anywhere.
2) Matt Stairs, Toronto, 1B/RF (1 year, $850,000): Rare is the player better suited for beer-league softball who looks so good (13 homers in 195 at-bats).
3) Kaz Matsui, Colorado, 2B (1 year, $1.5 million): Still persona non grata in New York, Matsui is batting over .300, cracks extra-base hits regularly and should steal 30 bases.
4) Shannon Stewart, Oakland, LF (1 year, $1 million): Prime target in the trade market could bring a nice prospect in return.
1) Luis Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers, LF (1 year, $7.35 million): Even after a recent slump, his OPS remains around .850. And in a Dodgers lineup that could use a little Viagra, leave it to the old man to provide it.
2) Octavio Dotel, Kansas City, RP (1 year, $5 million): When he's been healthy, at least. Gagne's numbers may be better, but Dotel will be the poor man's choice at the deadline.
3) Randy Wolf, Los Angeles Dodgers, SP (1 year, $8 million): Incredible in the beginning, mediocre recently and now hoping a cortisone injection returns him to the former before the latter.
4) Kevin Millar, Baltimore, 1B (1 year, $2.75 million): Big personality, big voice, big (enough) bat with an OPS over .850.
5) David Riske, Kansas City, RP (1 year, $2.25 million): Riske posted 18 consecutive scoreless appearances earlier this year. And he's halfway there currently with a new streak of nine and an ERA rapidly approaching the 2.00 mark.
GOOD THING IT'S ONLY ONE YEAR
1) Jeff Weaver, Seattle, SP (1 year, $8.325 million): He's actually been quite good the last five weeks. Not even Sandy Koufax could make up for his first six starts: 0-6, 14.32 ERA.
2) Mike Piazza, Oakland, DH (1 year, $8.5 million): The most expensive backup catcher in baseball.
3) Moises Alou, New York Mets, LF (1 year, $8.5 million): The only one in this group earning his salary, because it cannot feel good to have fluid drained from your quadriceps.
4) Shea Hillenbrand, Los Angeles Angels, DH (1 year, $6.5 million): Career is sinking.
5) Joel Piñeiro, Boston, RP (1 year, $4 million): The Red Sox with him (5.04 ERA) as closer (49 baserunners in 30 1/3 innings) would have been (only 16 strikeouts) quite the disaster (currently on the DL).
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Chicago Cubs