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Legends On Deck

Offseason Free Agent Signings: Part I

Every offseason there are winners and losers when it comes to signing free agents. There were some big names available this year, with some coming off the board early and some waiting it out.  A signed player could be what some clubs need to bring them to places they have never been, but it could also go the other way too as we have seen so many times in the past.

Here at Legends on Deck we are going to take a look at a few of the first to change teams this winter and how we feel they will affect their team positive or negative.  We also encourage you to tell us how you feel about what has gone on so far.  This is the first part in a three-part series.

Jon Lester – Chicago Cubs

6-yr/ $155 million (2015-20), plus 2021 option

Courtesy of ESPN.com

Courtesy of ESPN.com

John Ginder – Well it took longer than I expected for Jon Lester to make a decision but alas he did.  He is going to try and put the curse of the “Billy Goat” in the past and bring a championship to the Cubs for the first time since 1908.  In a sense I am happy that the Cubs made a “splash” with this signing and at first glance when you put an actual dollar number per year out it can look alarming.  When you look at his statistics over his career it makes sense in “nowadays” figures.  Lester has made 30 or more starts every full season as a pro.  He hasn’t pitched less than 190 innings during that span.  He is the ace that the Cubs so desperately needed and I think he will be able to bring them places, as long as he stays healthy, that so many Cubs fans never had the chance to get to.

David Conde – The first thing I think about is what were the Red Sox even thinking trading him away to the A’s prior to the deadline this past summer. They did receive a young exciting bat in Yoenis Cespedes, but that was just a rental and for just two months. Sending Cespedes to the Tigers for Rick Porcello may ease some of the pain of Red Sox faithful from losing out on Lester.  But I could see why he chose the Cubs. GM Theo Epstein is looking to finally bring a championship back to the Windy City and what better way then to have Lester leading the charge. Lester brings a very good pitching resume with 116 career wins and in his better years averaged about 15 wins. That is still five more wins than the Cubs only double digit winner had in 2014 (Jake Arrieta – 10 W). It was a great pick up for Epstein.

 

Hanley Ramirez – Boston Red Sox

4-yr/ $88 million (2015-18), plus 2019 option

Courtesy of ESPN.com

Courtesy of ESPN.com

JG – This was an interesting deal.  The Boston Red Sox wasted no time filling some holes they had to coming off a down year.  What made this kind of a head-scratcher was the fact the Hanley plays shortstop, and the Red Sox already had one with Xander Bogaerts.  Then shortly after this was announced they said he was going to play left field.  I had no idea what to think being that he is penciled in to a position he hasn’t played.  Factoring in Fenway Park and the Green Monster this has the making for disaster.  Hanley has a ton of talent but the baggage to match.  This is something to keep your eye on as the season progresses.  Is it a great signing or a bad signing?  You be the judge.

DC – I have to admit, I agree with John, but I am also scratching my head at this pick up, and for four years?  There must be something being done to work Ramirez into the infield somehow because I really don’t get him agreeing to play a position he never played, not even in the minors. Maybe he is security just in case Xander Bogaerts doesn’t hit higher than his .240 average in 2014.  I could see Ramirez maybe wanting to rejoin the organization that signed him as an amateur free agent in 2000, but to agree to play outfield in Fenway, in front of the Green Monster, I have to say is taking a risk. Now there may not be much doubt that he will hit and if he stays healthy he can have a field day hitting the ball off the Monster. I like Ramirez and it would be a great one-two-three punch with him, Pablo Sandoval and Big Papi. Hopefully playing the outfield won’t be a huge distraction.

 

Pablo Sandoval – Boston Red Sox

5-yr/ $95 million (2015-19), plus 2020 option

Courtesy of ESPN.com

Courtesy of ESPN.com

JG – Kung Fu Panda in Boston.  This kind of has a “future DH” role all over it.  Sure he is only 28, but just how long can he maintain a high level of play at the hot corner?  The one thing this move does is give the Red Sox a third baseman they have needed since Mike Lowell.  He is a switch-hitter and has tremendous success in the postseason.  After missing out on October baseball last season, could this move have been made in hopes of a return to it?  It is a lofty investment if that is the case, but I think he will have success in Boston and could see a return in his power numbers.

DC – Two big bats picked up by the Red Sox in the off season could only mean one thing, they want to win now and maybe the Red Sox are looking to swing their way to the Post Season. I actually like this pick up by the Red Sox and feel they have gotten a ball player that they can count on to hit and drive in runs.  He hasn’t hit  20 home runs since the 2011 season when he launched 23 over the fence, but he has averaged at least 70 RBI since and on the defensive side he has a career .960 Fld% with only 76 errors in 1888 chances at third base. DH doesn’t look like his destination with Big Papi holding down that position for now. As a switch hitter he can take advantage of the Green Monster and the right field line only at 302 feet away.

 

Nelson Cruz – Seattle Mariners

4-yr/ $57 million (2015-18)

Courtesy of ESPN.com

Courtesy of ESPN.com

JGNelson Cruz is finally getting a multiple-year deal that he craved last season.  One of the bigger names on the market last year held out looking for a long-term deal only to find himself signing a one-year pact with the Orioles.  The deal turned out good for Baltimore, and even better for Cruz.  There are two things about this one that have me concerned.  Safeco and past PED.  Is Nelson Cruz going to find success playing in Seattle or is he going to struggle like Adrian Beltre did after he signed there?  A player that has been suspended already once for PED’s is a huge gamble.  Is it one that will pay off for the Mariners?  We will just have to wait and find out.

DC – John poses a great question regarding hitting at Safeco. Robinson Cano went to Seattle after staring at Yankee Stadium and even though he matched his 2013 batting average (.314), his numbers were the lowest since his 2008 season.  Can Nelson Cruz avoid any struggles in Seattle and come out with an even bigger year and help the Mariners make the playoffs?  After being suspended for his involvement with PEDS, he came back and led the league with 40 home runs and droves in 108 with Baltimore, both career highs. I guess he made a huge statement to his naysayers. But hopefully after finally getting his long term deal, he doesn’t take a year off.

 

David Robertson – Chicago White Sox

4-yr/ $46 million (2015-18)

Courtesy of ESPN.com

Courtesy of ESPN.com

JG– The guy that will take over for Mariano Rivera.  Well that lasted just one season.  David Robertson was the guy that New York Yankees fans thought they would be seeing closing out games in the Bronx.  Instead they will have to read about him in the Chicago papers as Robertson signed with the Chicago White Sox.  Robertson is making “closer-money” and should do well for the pale hose.  The White Sox were pretty busy adding arms via trade and free agency that will help the rotation and the pen to try and separate them from the rest of the AL Central.  Robertson has pitched a little over 400 innings in his career with 524 strikeouts.

DC – In 2014, Robertson takes over for the great Mariano Rivera and at age 29, saves a career high 39 games for the Yankees. Maybe the Yankees were looking to hand over the closer role to Dellin Bretances, since all the reliever did was strike out 135 batters and had a 1.40 ERA in 90 innings. As for the White Sox, they traded away closer Addison Reed, who saved 40 games in 2013 for Chicago, to the Diamondbacks for infielder Matt Davidson. But in 2014, four pitchers combined for 34 saves, so picking up Roberston for 2015, should be a shot in the arm for the back end of the White Sox rotation.

John Ginder

Site Co-Founder/Senior Editor and Co-Host at Legends on Deck® The Podcast
In the past John has been a part of such successful sites as MetsMerizedOnline and MetsMinors.net.John was born and raised in upstate New York and has a love of all sports but mainly baseball. He has grown used to heartache with his teams as he roots for the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres too.John has a loving and understanding wife and is the the proud father of two amazing boys.He also loves heavy metal music.

You can also reach out to John at jginder@legendsondeck.com