Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 13, 2000
BASEBALL: Free Agent Roundup

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website

FREE AGENT QUICK TAKES (an incomplete list):

ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Itís not impossible to build a team from a marginal contender into a champion, starting with one huge paycheck. After all, the Lakers did it. But the Rangers arenít run by a baseball Jerry West and canít bank on just pulling a rookie superstar out of their tails. Instead, they just have to bank on Tom Hicks not caring about the payroll. They still donít have any pitching, although they do have Royce Clayton to trade (hey, how about Clayton for Kevin Appier?). I guess Rodriguez hopes to capitalize on the pro-Ranger bias in the MVP voting and favorable tax treatment from a pro-Ranger White House bent on rewarding Hispanic Floridians. $252 million is ridiculous money but itís better than spending $6 million on Mike Lansing; at least they will get something for the money. This wonít help the Yanks and Sawx in re-signing Jeter and Nomar.

Funny, I donít remember Boras asking the Braves to move the fences in Ė for their own good, of course Ė when he was representing Greg Maddux as a free agent.

MANNY RAMIREZ: What a coup, even if an expensive one. Actually thereís not much to say; A-Rod is the gameís best all-around player and younger, but Manny is baseballís best hitter and will do wonders for the offense. The key now is how the Sox turn the crowd of extras into successful platoons or trade bait at 1B, 2B, 3B and DH. Just forget about that 1-for-18 thing . . .

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yup, turning down that $140 million was a great idea . . . Iím surprised Boras didnít demand that the Rangers sign him too. Hard to see where he goes besides Detroit.

MIKE MUSSINA: The rich not only get richer, they get to gripe about how everyone else went over budget. Mussinaís no lock to make the Yankees a lot better Ė remember what people said about Roger Clemens, and his first year in pinstripes was a disaster. Mussina went 11-15 last year, and with weak middle relief and no run support he could do that again. Not to say itís not a great move, but funny things happen and the Yanks still need offensive help.

MIKE HAMPTON: I hated to lose Hampton, but an 8-year contract for a starting pitcher who has to throw 20 extra pitches a night in his home games isnít a great idea. Then again, the Rox have to at least try to have some pitching, and since Hamptonís the most extreme groundball pitcher in the game they will finally get to test out that theory. He's probably a better gamble the next 3-5 years than Mussina, except for the Coors effect. Buyer beware: Hampton was 4-6 with a 4.83 ERA on the road in 2000.

KEVIN APPIER: Glad it's not my $42 million. Over the past two years, Appier has posted a 4.85 ERA pitching mostly in a pitcher's park; given an unusually high number of unearned runs, that comes to 5.34 runs per 9 innings (granted, the A's porous defense is part of that). He has averaged, per 9 innings, 9.57 hits, 1.1 HR, 4.14 walks and 5.79 K. Appier's sharply declining K/BB ratio is a major indicator of a guy who's reduced to nibbling because he's not fooling anyone anymore. He may or may not be an improvement over the injury-prone Bobby Jones. If the Mets get one good year from Appier before he crumbles Iíll be happy.

DENNY NEAGLE: Neagle now has a built-in excuse for his inevitable failure. He remains proof that the Yankees and Braves donít give up on pitchers unless theyíre hurt.

DARREN DREIFORT: Oddly, Dreifort has always pitched poorly at home, which is one reason I thought he might not be a creation of Dodger Stadium. Dreifort remains an unproven commodity, but he's young enough that he could still surprise.

STEVE TRACHSEL: I was much higher on Trachsel before this season, but heís still a healthy innings-eater who will hover around the league-average ERA, and he was cheap, cheap, cheap at about a third of Appierís price. The Sawx, who need healthy arms as much as anyone, really missed the boat on this one.

DEREK BELL: Donít pity me because Iím small market. Pity me because Iím stupid. Bell is completely done as a major league regular, and will never be happy as a bench player. I canít even imagine what would possess anyone to sign him . . . but Bellís batting/slugging/OBP against the Pirates this year was .432/.622/.512, so I guess their pitchers think heís Ted Williams.

MARK GRACE: Rob Neyer captured this debacle pretty well; so much for the Diamondbacksí supposed cash crunch. Grace openly mocked the idea that somebody named Hee Seop Choi could ďprotectĒ Sammy Sosa in the lineup; now we get to find out.

ANDRES GALARRAGA: Iíve predicted the Big Catís demise before without success; who the heck knows? Heís still not a great investment, but his loss will be felt in Atlanta.

TERRY MULHOLLAND: How desperate are the Pirates to look like they care? Hopefully they will use him in relief.

FRANK CASTILLO: Castillo can be brutal when his control is off even a little. A good candidate for a Joe Kerrigan-inspired 3-month hot streak, but all bets are off after that.

JEFF FRYE: Well, the first step is admitting you have a problem, and Homer Bush was a problem. Frye could be a stopgap solution.

KEN CAMINITI: The Rangers sure know how to stock up, but their defense will be shaky with so many old, brittle guys. Hope they are keeping Mike Lamb handy.

JEFF NELSON: The Marinersí bullpen gets nastier Ė wow that sounds strange. The Yankees will miss Nelson very much, even with Mendoza returning.

ELLIS BURKS: As you might have guessed, Iím not a big fan of signing injury prone thirtysomethings as free agents, and replacing Ramirez with Burks is another sign that an era has ended in Cleveland.

JOSE MESA: Did anyone think this was a good idea?

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