Within this article I will look at some of the moves that teams have made, some minor, some major. Obviously I can‘t address every move that has been made. Each team will be looking to improve its team from 2008 to hopefully reach the holy grail of a championship ring. With Christmas just around the corner I thought this was the perfect time to look at the acquisitions so far. The trade and free agent market is in full flow, many deals will be done after this article is long gone, however many teams have already made a splash, here are some of the movers and shakers so far:
New York Yankees Sign C.C Sabathia & A.J Burnett
What can you get for $240+ million in the modern day free agent pool? A new look rotation, and that’s exactly what the Yankees have acquired by convincing C.C Sabathia and A.J Burnett to move to the big apple. CC’s 7 year $161 million contract will be the largest contract offered to a pitcher in baseball history, he will be scrutinized down to every one of the 108 stitch’s on every baseball that leaves the 6’7 pitchers giants hands. The former AL CY Young winner will return to the American League after a brief stint in the NL where he helped propel a Milwaukee Brewers team into the play-offs by going 11-2, with seven complete games and three shutouts. At 27 years of age C.C Sabathia became the youngest pitcher to reach 100 wins since Greg Maddux did so in 1993. The Yankees followed the C.C Sabathia signing by signing another top end pitcher in A.J Burnett. Burnett signed on the dotted line on a 5 year $82.5 contract to pitch on the biggest stage. Burnett enjoyed a career year in 2008 where he set career highs in wins with 18, he pitched over 200 innings and led the American League in strikeouts with 231 to his name. Burnett impressed the Yankees by going 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA against them for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008, he also posted 5-0 record against the rival Boston Red Sox helping his own cause. However there are injury concerns with A.J Burnett, he has visited the disabled list 9 times over the last 8 years. The Yankees ranked 8th of 14 teams in team ERA in 2008 and 9th of 14 pitching staffs in relation to OBA, so these acquisitions should immediately bolster there new look rotation.
Cleveland Indians Sign Kerry Wood
Before the deal could be made official Kerry Wood had to pass every medical test ever invented to test the strength, capability and endurance of his valued right arm. The Indians inked Wood to a 2 year $20.5 million contract. Kerry Wood should bring to the Indians everything that was missing in 2008, a reliable arm at the back end of the pen that can secure a game and send all Indian fans home with a smile on there face. Wood saved 34 games for the Chicago Cubs last season during his first year as a closer after battling consistently against injuries. Mark Shapiro the Indians General Manager doesn’t see the risk in signing Kerry Wood despite the fact that Kerry Wood has been on the disabled list 12 times. “Not only did he hold up for the season, but he was able to pitch three days in a row multiple times, He was dominant as he as ever been in his career.” Shapiro commented just after he had secured Kerry’ signature. Kerry Wood comes exactly as advertised, a hard throwing striker, He struck out 84 batters and walked just 18 in 66 1/3 innings over 65 appearances. This could quickly become one of the premier moves of the off-season.
Philadelphia Phillies Sign Raul Ibanez
The Philadelphia Phillies bolstered there outfield with the signing of highly sort after free agent outfielder in Raul Ibanez. The deal believed to be for 3 years and $30 million will see Ibanez roam left field, Ibanez hit .293, 23 homers and 110 RBI’s .358 OBP while with a struggling Seattle Mariners team in 2008. “Raul not only brings a big bat to our line-up, but also a terrific attitude to the clubhouse,” said Amaro. “He is a quality individual that will fit in well with our club. We believe that a team wins not only with talent, but also with character and Raul has both.” Over the last three seasons (2006-0Cool, Ibanez had the fourth-most RBI among all Major League outfielders (second-most among American League outfielders). During that time span, Ibanez averaged 25 home runs and 112 RBI. Many fans of the Philadelphia Phillies suspected that the Phillies would try to sign a right handed batter to insert to break up the power lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, however last season Ibanez faired better against lefties (.305) than he did against righties (.288). Insert Ibanez into a already prolific line-up and many expect his production to increase, this move is one of the better moves so far this off-season, if I were a Philly fan I would be excited about this offence and its capabilities.
San Francisco Giants Sign Edgar Renteria
San Francisco Giant fans will have to rub there eyes come opening day, so used to seeing 11 time gold glove winner Omar Vizquel they will have to get used to seeing someone new roaming the area between 2nd and 3rd base. Renteria signed a 2 year $18.5 million contract, returning him to the National League, a league which he feels a lot more comfortable in, “I played good in the National League. I feel real comfortable,” Renteria said on a conference call. “Maybe I know more of the game in the National League. It’s my type of league. I like to play the game. The American League is different – you have to go for the home run and wait for hitting. That’s no excuse for what happened in the American League, but it might be why I’m so excited to get back to the National League.” Renteria a lifetime .290 hitter will bring some much needed offence to a ball club that has plenty of pitching, Renteria suffered through one of his worst seasons while with the Detroit Tigers in 2008 hitting only .270 with 10 homers and 55 RBI’s and a .317 OBP, he wont receive much protection in the Giants line-up as things stand but this could turn out to be a very good signing for the Giants who ranked 15th out of 16 teams in the National league in runs scored in 2008. “We really appreciate his interest and look forward to a relationship that’s going to be fruitful on both sides. I don’t think Edgar needs any introduction,” Sabean said. “We’re just thrilled to put him in our No. 2 spot in the line-up and at shortstop and move on to other business.”
Atlanta Braves/LA Dodgers Sign Rafael Furcal (Not A done deal yet )
Although this deal has yet to be made official due to the passing of a physical and agent interference, in all likeliness when you read this article the deal will have become official, either signing for the Braves, or the Dodgers will have guaranteed that 3rd year and given Furcal something to think about. If Furcal is to make the leap back to Atlanta he will be reunited with many of his former colleagues as well as his mentor and father figure, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox. When previously playing for the Braves, Furcal hit .284 with a .348 on-base percentage and 189 stolen bases. The Braves haven’t had a player record more than 17 stolen bases during any of the three seasons that Furcal has played for the Dodgers so he will be bringing much needed speed to the Atlanta line-up. He may however prefer to stay on the West Coast with a LA organization that this heading in the right direction under the right management, after securing Casey Blake the Dodgers are still tweaking there roster for the 2009 season,which could include re-signing Derek Lowe. Whoever manages to get Furcal to sign on the dotted line will have themselves a great player.
New York Mets Sign Francisco Rodriguez
The New York Mets secured the signing of one of the premiere free agents this off-season when they inked Francisco Rodriguez to a 3 year $37 million deal with a vesting option based on games finished for 2012. Rodriguez, 26, converted 23 saves in 2008 when entering the game with a one-run lead and 22 more when coming in with a two-run cushion. The six-foot, 195-pounder established a Major League record for saves Sept. 13 when he closed out the Angels’ 5-2 victory vs. Seattle for his 58th save – one more than Bobby Thigpen of the Chicago White Sox. The three-time All-Star allowed 54 hits in 68.1 innings last year, surrendering 21 runs, 17 earned, with 34 walks and 77 strikeouts in a career-high 76 contests while going 2-3 with a 2.24 ERA. He converted 25 consecutive saves from April 14-June 11. “One of our primary goals this off-season was to secure a top of the line closer to anchor our bullpen and by acquiring Frankie Rodriguez we feel confident that we have one of the best closers in the majors,” said Mets General Manager Omar Minaya who himself received a contract extension this off-season even after missing out on a post season berth. The Mets will start a new era in a new ballpark with a brand new closer, and nobody is more excited about that that K-Rod, I’m thrilled to join the Mets,” said Rodriguez, who will wear uniform #75. “Mets fans are very passionate and playing in a new ballpark is going to be great. I’m going to do everything I can to help bring a championship to Citi Field.”
Chicago Cubs Sign Ryan Dempster
Regardless of what the Cubs do for the rest of the off-season they already made there most important splash in the free agent pool by re-signing all star pitcher Ryan Dempster to a 4 year $52 million deal. Dempsters 17 win 2.96 ERA season in 2008 was enough to convince Jim Hendry and the rest of the Cubs management that re-signing Dempster should be top of the ‘To-Do’ list. Dempster was a integral part of the Chicago Cubs success and march to the play-offs, his contribution on the field is matched only by his contribution off the field, one of the brightest personalities in the major leagues today, Dempster will play a vital role in the club house this year, especially after fan favourite and player favourite Kerry Wood was allowed to test the free agent market and consequently sign with the Cleveland Indians.“ I’ve become attached not just to the guys on the team but also to the city of Chicago,” said Dempster, who resides in Wrigleyville. “Ultimately, it comes down to what our chances are to win a world championship. Getting to the postseason the last two years, I thought this is where I wanted to be.” “I just thought this is where I wanted to be,” Dempster said. “Was more money out in the open market? I’m sure there probably was. Who knows, maybe there were five-year [offers potentially], you never know. That’s a question that I will never be able to answer. Truthfully, I don’t really even care to know. I’m happy with what I have, more money than I can ever dream of getting.”