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Good Offseasons And The Teams That Have Them

Don't you just hate getting shown up by your rival?

San Diego Padres 2007/2008 Offseason:

Minor league contracts to OF Chip Ambres, RRP Adam Bass, 2B Edgar Gonzalez, and 3B Marshall McDougall, all with invitations to ST. Last November the Padres were in dire need of some outfield depth, so Ambres and his .854 OPS in the PCL last year seemed like a good fit. McDougall's hit at every stop in the minors for years, now, and could be a decent bench bat option. Needing a second baseman at the time, the Padres made a great pickup in Gonzalez, a pretty good, safe hitter who only gives a few runs back with the glove. And Bass, in his first year as a reliever, showed a Major League fastball and succeeded in the same park that made Andy Green look like a legitimate hitter.

Re-signed Greg Maddux, $10m/1yr. Maddux still throws a shit-ton of strikes and has failed to top 190 innings exactly zero times since 1987. He'll turn 42 next April, but he just put up the eighth-best xFIP in the National League, and on a one-year commitment, what's the risk? When you don't really have any decent pitching in the system, it's hard to do better than this.

Offered arbitration to Mike Cameron. Go to hell, Pat Gillick.

Selected RRP Michael Gardner and 2B Callix Crabbe in the Rule 5 draft. In his last three minor league seasons, Gardner has allowed a total of five home runs. His command could be better, but all he ever does is get groundballs, so he's a good fit for an organization that's had a load of success with Cla Meredith. Crabbe, meanwhile, looked at the time like another decent short-term option at 2B, as he's coming off the strongest minor league season of his career.

Acquired RRP Carlos Guevara for cash. Guevara boasts both a strong screwball and an even stronger career 11.6 K/9 (12.6 last year in AA). Another exceptional candidate for middle relief.

Signed Randy Wolf, $4.75m/1yr, with incentives based on starts and innings. When healthy, Wolf is an average to above-average starter capable of missing quite a few bats, and his flyball tendencies make him a perfect fit for Petco. He hasn't made 30 starts in a season since 2003, but that's a known risk, and besides, if he gets hurt, he doesn't hit his incentives. He only gets paid bigger money if he's pitching and pitching well.

Re-signed Jake Peavy, $52m/3yr with a $22m 2013 team option, effective when Peavy's current contract ends after 2009. Peavy's NL xFIP rank since 2004: 7th, 3rd, 6th, 3rd. Durable. Awesome. Great, great deal.

Signed Shawn Estes and Glendon Rusch to minor league deals, with invitations to ST. Rotation depth. For free! Imagine that. Nothing great, but the Padres are seriously thin on pitching, so these guys are going to occupy the Baek/Feierabend roles for a little while.

Acquired Jim Edmonds for David Freese. Freese is a C/C+ prospect, a soon-to-be 25 year old who hasn't played above high-A and who projects as a first baseman if he doesn't get his act together quick. He can hit, but he has a long way to go. Edmonds, meanwhile, is almost miraculously still about an average defensive CF who's a better hitter than his 2007 raw numbers suggest, and who's only under contract for this one season. He's an obvious injury risk, but he's a talented player who fills what became a gaping hole in center once it became clear that Cameron wasn't going to return.

Signed Tadahito Iguchi, $3.85m/1yr. Iguchi is a slightly above-average defensive 2B who's also ~league-average offensively for his position. Between he, Crabbe, and Gonzalez, the Padres should be more than set for however long it takes 2B Matt Antonelli (.895 OPS between A+/AA in 2007, 22 years old) to become Major League ready.

Signed 1B Robert Fick and OF Jeff DaVanon to minor league contracts, with invitations to ST. DaVanon's a good defensive OF at all three positions who brings a bat that just put up a .946 OPS in the minors last year. In other words, he's Edmonds insurance. Fick is just a random guy, so I don't know what that's about. Random bench bat possibility.

Re-signed Michael Barrett, $3.5m/1yr, with a few little incentives. The Padres offered Barrett arbitration because he was a Type A free agent, but because he couldn't land a starting gig with anyone else, he accepted instead of giving them back two draft picks. Still, only one year ago he was one of the top offensive catchers in baseball, and he'll either end up splitting time with Josh Bard or getting dumped on a non-contender.

Signed Mark Prior, $1m/1yr, with $4.5m in performance bonuses. The Padres came away with a good deal here because Prior is a local boy who was interested in coming home, but even allowing for that, this still looks great. While he won't pitch until June (July?), and while he's pretty much impossible to project right now, the upside is staggering, and the risk is minimal. If he's even just 75% of what he used to be for 15 starts, it's a steal.


Peavy extension aside, the Padres didn't do anything that sexy. They re-signed an old Greg Maddux and brought in a bunch of other guys who're either familiar names with question marks, or nobodies with solid minor league track records. On the surface, it's unimpressive. But if you really look at it closely, you can see the plan - fill 2008 holes with low risk/good reward players without making any future commitments. The only player in that entire group who's still under contract in 2009 is Jake Peavy. Everyone else is just playing for 2008, and when the end of the season comes, they'll be off the books unless they performed well enough for the Padres to want them back. No commitment. Lots of upside. This is the kind of offseason that dorks like me dream about.

Kevin Towers isn't the best executive in baseball, but despite his blind spots, he's damn good. This isn't a fluke. Last year he grabbed Maddux, Kevin Cameron, David Wells, Heath Bell, Justin Hampson, Jack Cassel, and Doug Brocail for basically nothing beyond a little short-term money. He also brought in Kevin Kouzmanoff for the huge bust that was Josh Barfield in a trade that I hated at the time. Yeah, he busted on Marcus Giles, but so what? Giles is gone now. It was a one-year experiment that failed. That's going to happen. But the neat thing about having an approach like Towers' is that when players fall apart, you can just throw them away. You're not tied to them for another year or three.

Like Bill Bavasi, Kevin Towers knows how to build an awesome bullpen for nothing (although Towers is better). Like Bill Bavasi, Kevin Towers is a warm, affable guy who loves to meet up with fans and talk about baseball for hours at a time. But unlike Bill Bavasi, Kevin Towers is good at the other parts of his job, too, to the point where he can build an annually competitive team for what was, in 2007, less than 55% of the Mariners' payroll.

Some fans get to know that, if nothing else, at least their favorite teams are being guided by a sharp front office with an intelligent plan. Some fans are us.