Emphasis on value (think Moneyball, bang for the buck, dingers for the dollar, etc.). There’s no question that every GM in the league would have loved to have added Hamilton, Greinke, or Upton, but the below players were much more economical and make sense from an overall payroll standpoint. You’ll get a lot of production per dollar than higher paid stars. These additions obey the 10 Commandments for MLB GMs:
1) 1B Adam LaRoche (Washington Nationals, re-signed for 2-years, $24M)
A grand total of two players on the free agent market hit 30 or more home runs, batted .270 or higher, and drove in 100 runs. One of them is Josh Hamilton. The other is Adam LaRoche. For half the annual price (without the long term commitment), the Nationals get way more than half the production. They also won the “staring contest” to secure LaRoche for only 2 years (he wanted 3 years), limiting their losses if he tails off (although he’s 33, no reason to think he will). A shrewd move for a team poised to be on the short list of NL contenders.
2) OF Ryan Ludwick (Cincinnati Reds, re-signed for 2-years, $15M)
A grand total of three players on the free agent market hit 25 or more home runs, batted .270 or higher, and drove in 80 runs. The other two were mentioned above, the third is Ludwick. Ludwick cost just over half of LaRoche’s annual salary, and is about 10% of the contract commitment offered Hamilton. Ludwick is only 34 and this 2 year deal keeps the Reds in a position of contention.
3) C A.J. Pierzynski (Texas Rangers, signed for 1-year, $7M)
A.J. Pierzynski is in the same performance range of the above, with numbers almost identical to Ludwick (27 HR, .278, 77 RBI). And he’s a catcher, does it well, plays most every day, and didn’t require a lot of money, nor a longtime commitment. A previous blog outlines more reasons he is a great fit for the Rangers.
4) DH Carlos Pena (Houston Astros, signed for 1-year, $2.9M)
There is no question Pena has struggled at the plate the last 4 years (.230 or lower average). But he’s also only 4 years removed from a home run title (39 in 2009), adds 80-90 walks each season (OBP in the low-to-mid .300′s, an accomplishment when hitting so low) and “fits” the Astros spending profile and DH need. I think this is pretty close to the major league baseball salary average and he will be one of the top 2 or 3 paid Astros. And they desperately needed some power (Justin Maxwell led the team last year with 18 homers). And “hello” trade deadline value if Pena manages to produce.
5) IF Jeff Keppinger (Chicago White Sox, signed for 3-years, $12M)
Keppinger has bounced around to contenders the last 2 trade deadlines, but continues to keep his average around .290, almost never strikes out (best contact hitter in the game), has played all the IF positions in the last few years, and has value at the trade deadline. And for $4M per, this is a great deal. If he stays healthy, he’ll start 100 games just as a platoon or sub player because of his versatility. He’s a great weapon off the bench both offensively and defensively, and can give you great at bats in the late innings.
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