Just because the Mariners haven't signed anyone yet doesn't mean they're not trying. Today brings news of two more potential acquisitions - Luis Gonzalez and Cliff Floyd. Baltimore and Los Angeles are hot after the former while Oakland and Cleveland are among the teams chasing the latter, but as much as that would ordinarily indicate which would be smarter, I'm not sold. Quote of the day:
Since 1999, Cliff Floyd has missed an average of 43 games per season. This year alone he sat out due to problems with his ribs, ankle, Achilles tendon, and calf. Injuries are just part of the package, and whoever signs Floyd isn't paying for an everyday player.
Anyway, they're both left-handed hitters on the downslope of their careers, and while Floyd has a more recent history of producing, he fell apart in 2006 while Gonzalez had a considerably more gentle decline. Floyd strikes me as the better bounce-back candidate and his poor season should help him come cheaper, but at this point I don't think it's fair to say that I prefer one over the other.
Of course, what's the rationale here? Signing one of these guys means that one of Sexson, Snelling, or Broussard has to go. I don't think Sexson's getting dealt, and Snelling's better than either of the two, so we're left weighing Floyd/Gonzalez against Broussard's one-year commitment and ability to hit right-handed pitchers. It's not worth it. Sure, the FA outfielders afford you a little additional flexibility, but neither is an asset in left, so that doesn't mean very much. And given the competition, I wouldn't be surprised to see both Floyd and Gonzalez land somewhere for multiyear deals, which is just asking for trouble. I just don't see enough upside here, unless Baltimore gets Gonzalez, Oakland gets Piazza, Cleveland has second thoughts, and Floyd comes crawling up to Bavasi on his hands and knees begging for an opportunity.
If the Mariners find someone willing to give up a shiny prospect for Broussard, then what the hell, I'm all for one-year contracts, so throw some extra money at Cliff Floyd and see if he'll stick for 2007. It has to be spent on someone, after all, and better a bat than one of the overrated clowns on the pitching market. I just doubt that either of these guys would be able to help the club too much going forward.
Speaking of trading Sexson, if the Mariners were ever entertaining the thought of pulling off such a deal, their window is closing fast. The Yankees are talking to Craig Wilson, The Giants and Orioles are chatting with Ryan Klesko, and Baltimore already re-signed Kevin Millar. None of these guys are going to beat the crap out of the ball, but they'll be cheap and moderately productive, much better values than Sexson at $28m/2yr. In an ideal world the other two get their bats and Baltimore throws itself at Bavasi out of desperation, but even if that happened, I don't know that the M's would bite. Sure would be nice to have Hayden Penn floating around, though.
After falling all over himself in an effort to lure Gil Meche, JP Ricciardi handed $1.5m over to Royce Clayton to be Toronto's everyday shortstop next year. Clayton can't hit, and according to PMR he can't field, either, which makes him a lot like Ronny Cedeno and Angel Berroa. Somebody actually wanted that. Any dumbass can tell you that Clayton's godawful at the plate, and he's never played for a champion, so the only possible justification for this deal is that Ricciardi thinks he's a good defender, a position for which we have little available evidence.
I used to think the Blue Jays were on the way up, but at this rate I don't think it'll be long before Tampa passes them by. Maybe not this year, but soon.
Speaking of people who can't hit or field, yesterday I stumbled across this old post showing the best and worst defenders from 2000-2005 by UZR. The second-crappiest infield glove in baseball? None other than Ramontiago himself, at -19 runs per 600 balls in play. But at least he can pick it up and throw it. Given more playing time, I wonder if he couldn't be the worst position player in baseball.
Dave Cameron tipped me off that the Mariners signed Justin Lehr to a minor league contract a few days ago. You might remember him from the Keith Ginter trade, although probably not. Lehr's 29 years old, so he's just about as good as he'll ever be, but he's an effective hard-throwing righty who can miss a few bats and keep the ball on the ground (50.1 GB% last year). A starter-turned-reliever, Lehr went back to the rotation again in 2006 and barely saw any dropoff, posting ratios that would've given him a 4.24 FIP in the Majors. The worst case here is that the M's just signed another ML-capable reliever for nothing, but the best case is that they have another option to patch the rotation. If they go ahead and re-sign Jorge Campillo - which it looks like they're close to doing - then between Lehr, Campillo, Livingston, Blackley, and Foppert, there'll be five guys throwing in Tacoma who could give Seattle a replacement-level performance for the league minimum (maybe not Foppert, but anyway). It doesn't sound like much, but pitching depth is hugely important, so it's hard not to like this.
Lehr isn't going to blow anyone away, but even as an 11th man or something, he's perfectly useful, and will help the relief corps in Seattle if he's given the chance. I've said it time and time again: good bullpens are ridiculously easy to build on the cheap, and teams like Baltimore who throw three years at ML veterans are just wasting their money.