Penny Wise, Dollar Foolish

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Athlon examines the best and worst of the free-agent contracts over the offseason.

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<p> Athlon Sports Baseball Editor Charlie Miller makes his annual evaluation of the top free-agent contracts signed over the winter. Find out which GMs spent wisely and which players should throw their agents a nice party.</p>

Penny Wise
Contracts that make sense from the team’s perspective. Examples of owners spending cash wisely.

Jose Contreras, RP, Philadelphia
Contract: 2 years, $5,000,000
The White Sox and Rockies thought he was washed up a year ago, but the Phillies found a perfect role (setup man) for the former starter.

Carl Crawford, OF, Boston
Contract: 7 years, $142,000,000
In the prime of his career, he’s one of the most explosive offensive players and defensive outfielders wrapped into one. Seven, $161M would have even made sense to us.

Johnny Damon, OF, Tampa Bay
Contract: 1 year, $5,250,000
Since 1998 Damon’s lows are 141 games, 605 plate appearances and 81 runs. He has been durable and a valuable member of every clubhouse.

Scott Downs, RP, L.A. Angels
Contract: 3 years, $15,000,000
We agree with the Angels’ assessment that Downs hasn’t hit the “setup man wall” yet. He’s more than just a lefty specialist. Lefties hit .152 last season, and righties (.243) weren’t much better.

Adam Dunn, DH, Chicago White Sox
Contract: 4 years, $56,000,000
Finally, Dunn has the role he was made for — DH. Apparently, he has accepted the role, but only time will tell. A seven-year average of 40 HRs, 101 RBIs, 107 BBs, 180 Ks. That’s only going to get better at the Cell.

Jon Garland, SP, L.A. Dodgers
Contract: 1 year, $5,000,000
In 2009 Garland made six starts for the Dodgers, going 3–2. L.A. scored just one run in the two losses and three in the no-decision. Of course, his recent injury kills this for the Dodgers, but Garland didn’t pose an injury risk when he signed.

Kevin Gregg, RP, Baltimore
Contract: 2 years, $10,000,000
Gregg has given up just one home run to the 34 batters he has faced in his career at Camden Yards. In some setup/closer combination, Gregg and Koji Uehara should combine for 45 saves.

Ramon Hernandez, C, Cincinnati
Contract: 1 year , $3,000,000
Both Hernandez and the Reds were happy to repeat last year’s deal. Now if he can just repeat his production. We say he will.

Orlando Hudson, 2B, San Diego
Contract: 2 years, $11,500,000
Playing for three different teams in three seasons, he’s averaged .284 and 29 doubles while winning a Gold Glove. Perfect fit in San Diego; pitchers will love his defense.

Aubrey Huff, 1B/OF, San Francisco
Contract: 2 years, $22,000,000
Huff the magic slugger was the poster child for bargain in 2010 when he made just $3,000,000 and became the leader of the Giants. But Huff has proven himself over time to be a run producer and a terrific clubhouse guy.

Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox
Contract: 3 years, $37,500,000
Konerko gave the Sox a hometown discount, which helped them sign Dunn. He’ll be only 37 in the final year of the contract, and he’s been durable — having fallen short of 600 plate appearances only three times since 2000.

Hiroki Kuroda, SP, L.A. Dodgers
Contract: 1 year, $12,000,000
Kuroda won 11 times in 2010, and left three games ahead last season and ended with a no-decision. The Dodgers were shut out in six of his starts. So the unlucky righthander takes a $3 million pay cut to stay in L.A.

Cliff Lee, SP, Philadelphia
Contract: 5 years, $120,000,000
The Phillies instantly became the NL favorite for the next couple of years. There’s little risk with Lee in five years, and he ranks among the best in the majors. Now the Phillies must hope their offense doesn’t get old too quickly.

Russell Martin, C, N.Y. Yankees
Contract: 1 year, $4,000,000
Now that he’s healthy, expect a resurgence from Martin as the everyday catcher in the Bronx.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B/SS, Minnesota
Contract: 3 years, $9,250,000
Nishioka won a batting title in Japan’s Central League last season and won a Gold Glove at second base in 2005 and at short in ’07. But all that’s expected of him in Minnesota is to play the game the Minnesota way, which is fundamentally sound and with great effort. He’ll be a hit with the Twins’ players and fans.

Carlos Peña, 1B, Chicago Cubs
Contract: 1 year, $10,000,000
After hitting just .196 last season in Tampa, Peña couldn’t generate interest in a multi-year deal. But he still drives in runs and should thrive at Wrigley in another contract season. The slick fielder will cash in next season.

Jhonny Peralta, SS, Detroit
Contract: 2 years, $10,750,000
Peralta raised his average 13 points after Aug. 22, and made just three errors in 44 starts at short for the Tigers.

Manny Ramirez, DH/OF, Tampa Bay
Contract: 1 year, $2,000,000
While there is always baggage and other negatives associated with Manny, it doesn’t take too much offense to be worth two mil. And Manny appears to be on a mission to prove himself worthy.

Mariano Rivera, RP, N.Y. Yankees
Contract: 2 years, $30,000,000
Very quiet, uneventful negotiations reflect Rivera’s mound demeanor. Most teams would have paid more, but he would never leave N.Y.

Miguel Tejada, SS, San Francisco
Contract: 1 year, $6,500,000
We don’t believe Tejada has enough left to be an everyday shortstop, but he still hits well enough to justify $6.5 million.

Koji Uehara, RP, Baltimore
Contract: 1 year, $3,000,000
In 21 save situations last season, Uehara had 13 saves and six holds. None of his 14 inherited runners scored, and he struck out 11 per nine innings while walking just one per nine.

Javier Vazquez, SP, Florida
Contract: 1 year, $7,000,000
He’s averaged 32 starts, 204 innings and 200 hits over his 13 seasons. His career ERA is more than a half-run lower in the National League.

Jake Westbrook, SP, St. Louis
Contract: 2 years, $16,000,000
Our value matrix actually shows his value as $15,390,000 for two seasons. But pitching coach Dave Duncan should coax the extra $610,000 worth of value out of the veteran.

Kerry Wood, RP, Chicago Cubs
Contract: 1 year, $1,500,000
After a brief, but highly effective, stay with the Yankees, Wood took a 90 percent pay cut coming back to Chicago.



 

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