MLB Free Agency: Grading Every Team's Top Hitting Acquisition

Zak SchmollAnalyst IFebruary 17, 2012

MLB Free Agency: Grading Every Team's Top Hitting Acquisition

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    Yesterday, you should have read Matt Trueblood's slideshow that graded every team's top pitching acquisition. Today, you get my opinion on every team's top hitting acquisition. The only difference is that I only considered free-agent signings.

    To take a quote from Hoosiers, "You can't score if you don't shoot.”

    Similarly, in baseball, you can't win if you don't score runs. Pitching a shutout is only valuable if you're able to put at least one run on the board yourself.

    Therefore, let's see how well some of these teams did this winter on their brand-new, free-agent acquisitions.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Jason Kubel

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    I really like Jason Kubel as a hitter. I think that he definitely has the potential to return to approximately 20 home runs and 80 RBI if he was allowed the opportunity to play full-time.

    The problem is that I worry about the overcrowded outfield in Arizona. The Diamondbacks now have Justin Upton, Chris Young, Gerardo Parra, and of course Kubel all fighting over three positions.

    I like this acquisition because I think that Kubel provides a very solid bat, but at the same time, I do not think that it was a smart move for Arizona. They simply deepened an area of depth.

    Grade: C

Atlanta Braves: Jack Wilson

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    The Atlanta Braves signed one major league hitter to a contract so far this winter. Jack Wilson has had a decent career, but he will probably be a backup shortstop in Atlanta this season behind rookie Tyler Pastornicky.

    I don't want to diminish the role of a bench player, and Wilson can definitely put the bat on the ball and hit for a solid average. However, the Atlanta Braves should have made some bigger moves to handle the highly competitive National League East.

    Grade: F

Baltimore Orioles: Wilson Betemit

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    Wilson Betemit has proved that he can play anywhere on the baseball diamond. However, this next season might see him off the diamond with the Baltimore Orioles. With Vladimir Guerrero leaving as a result of free agency, the designated hitter spot could very well be open for Betemit.

    While he doesn't necessarily provide a ton of power, he is more than capable of hitting double digits in home runs with approximately a .280 average. These are not necessarily fabulous numbers, but I predict that he will have a solid season in the process.

    Grade: B+

Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz

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    David Ortiz will be back in Boston next year with a new contract, and Red Sox fans should definitely be excited for that. Ortiz is almost a sure bet to hit 25 home runs and drive in 100 runs. Last season, he hit .309, and he should be able to approach that level again this season.

    I know he is getting older, but because he plays designated hitter, the physical demands on his body will not be as great as they might be at some other position. This means that he will be able to be productive at an older age, and I think this year is one of those years. Great move by the Boston Red Sox.

    Grade: A

Chicago Cubs: David DeJesus

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    David DeJesus had a very bad 2011. However, that definitely is not normal for him. The Chicago Cubs should be able to expect DeJesus to hit around .280 with a handful of home runs and a solid on-base percentage. He definitely is not a star, but he is a nice complementary piece.

    I do not have a problem with DeJesus himself. In fact, I think that the Chicago Cubs had good reason to sign him. I kind of wish that the Chicago Cubs would have tried for a bigger target, but this was a nice move that will help out the team.

    Grade: B

Chicago White Sox: Kosuke Fukudome

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    The Chicago White Sox were not very active on the free-agent market. In fact, Kosuke Fukudome was one of only two offensive signings they have made so far this winter. Playing in the outfield for the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians last season, Fukudome had a difficult time producing the type of power that he had shown previously in his career.

    Fukudome does have value, but this type of signing will probably not have a very large impact on the White Sox this season.

    Grade: D

Cincinnati Reds: Ryan Ludwick

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    I actually really like Ryan Ludwick going to the Cincinnati Reds. This man has a powerful swing, and I'm trying to imagine that swing in the Great American Ballpark. He will definitely put up better power numbers than he did in San Diego last season.

    His numbers have dropped a little bit over the past few years, but moving to Cincinnati might be what he needs to bounce back. He will probably play in a part-time role, but it is able to regain some of the power that he previously had, this could be a nice spot for a resurgence.

    Grade: B+

Cleveland Indians: Grady Sizemore

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    Grady Sizemore had other offers, but he decided to return to the Cleveland Indians. He has struggled the past few seasons with injuries, but when he is healthy, he has shown definite 20-20 potential. He is still only 29 years old, so he definitely has time and is capable of overcoming the injuries that have plagued him.

    Bringing Grady Sizemore back makes definite sense for the Cleveland Indians. However, this move is a little bit risky. I just said that he is capable of overcoming these injuries, but he also tends to be rather injury prone. This is a relatively high-risk, high-reward scenario.

    Grade: C+

Colorado Rockies: Michael Cuddyer

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    Michael Cuddyer was one of the bigger bats on the free-agent market this season. In the thin air at Colorado, he could easily hit 30 home runs again like he did in 2009. Also, he should be able to drive in approximately 100 runs. The Rockies have enough talent at the top of the lineup to help set this up for him.

    Cuddyer should have a very productive year in Denver, and he should be able to provide a nice complement to Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton. The Colorado Rockies seem to be coming to play in 2012, and Cuddyer should be a big part of that.

    Grade: A

Detroit Tigers: Prince Fielder

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    After Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder was the most sought-after prize on the free-agent market. He has some of the best raw power in baseball. The Tigers are virtually guaranteed over 30 home runs and 100 RBI for the next several seasons to go along with a pretty decent batting average.

    For acquiring Fielder, the Detroit Tigers deserve a lot of credit. Although there has been some controversy as to whether or not Detroit overpaid, the point remains that they acquired one of the best hitters in baseball, and they definitely deserve praise for that.

    Grade: A+

Houston Astros: Chris Snyder

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    Chris Snyder was one of the only offensive free agent that the Houston Astros signed this winter. Snyder has been a major league catcher for the last eight years, and he actually has shown flashes of power by hitting 16 home runs in 2008 as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    This move will really not have an awful lot of significance simply because the Astros already have Humberto Quintero behind the plate. However, because of his power potential, this move could actually be a little bit interesting.

    Grade: D

Kansas City Royals: Yuniesky Betancourt

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    Yuniesky Betancourt has had an interesting transformation at shortstop. His average has dropped off over the past two seasons, but the obvious trade-off has been an increase in power. I'm not really sure whether or not this trade-off is beneficial, but I think that it will continue into 2012.

    Betancourt doesn't have a lot of plate discipline, but a shortstop with power is relatively hard to come by. While he is not one of the elite shortstops in baseball, he is still a solid option, and he is definitely going to be successful in Kansas City.

    Grade: B-

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Albert Pujols

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    Was there any doubt about this one? Albert Pujols is the best hitter in baseball today, and before his career is over, he very well might be one of the best hitters of all time. He hits for average and power as well as anybody in baseball right now.

    Of course, like Prince Fielder, there was some debate as to whether or not his contract will be worth it in the long run. However, in my mind, the best hitter in baseball doesn't become available every day, and the Angels made the right move in grabbing him up.

    Grade: A+

Los Angeles Dodgers: Mark Ellis

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers are a team based around the two superstars of Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. However, they need complementary pieces to fill in the additional holes, and Mark Ellis has been that player throughout his career.

    He is a second baseman with a little power and a little bit of speed. He doesn't do anything extraordinarily well, but he does everything well. Although he may not have an incredibly large impact, he still should be a quality signing for the Dodgers.

    Grade: B

Miami Marlins: Jose Reyes

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    As part of the overhaul of the Florida Marlins franchise into the Miami Marlins, José Reyes will be the most highly-regarded newcomer in South Beach. He is an exciting player to watch, and he provides great speed to the top of any lineup.

    He was the first major free agent off the market this winter, and expectations are incredibly high in Miami. I personally do not think that the Marlins will be at the top of the division this season, but given the fact that that was what they were aiming for, signing Reyes helped advance that cause.

    Grade: A

Milwaukee Brewers: Aramis Ramirez

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    Aramis Ramirez will have the tall task of trying to fill the production hole left open by the departure of Prince Fielder. However, besides Fielder himself or Albert Pujols, Ramirez was the best available option for this need. He easily has the potential to hit 25-30 home runs with over 100 RBI. On top of that, his career batting average is .284. That is definitely respectable for a power hitter.

    Of course, the Milwaukee Brewers will have perhaps a difficult season ahead of them in terms of offensive production depending on what happens with Ryan Braun, but the point remains that Ramirez will be a great producer for this team in 2012 and after.

    Grade: A

Minnesota Twins: Josh Willingham

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    Josh Willingham received a lot of attention this winter after he hit 29 home runs and drove in 98 runs last year in Oakland. He will now join a Minnesota Twins team that desperately wants to rebound after a disappointing 2011.

    Unfortunately, I do not think that this is the best move for the Minnesota Twins. Right now, the Detroit Tigers are incredibly powerful, and the Twins should have invested the money in youth rather than try to compete right now. However, since we are purely talking about the player, he will do well. He will definitely be productive in terms of power and hopefully help Minnesota rebound.

    Grade: B+

New York Mets: Scott Hairston

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    The New York Mets didn't make very many drastic acquisitions this winter. On the offensive side, the most important thing they did was bring back outfielder Scott Hairston. Hairston is one of those pinch hitters who can come off the bench and provide something big.

    The trade-off is obviously the fact that his average is not very great. Hairston is not a bad signing in and of himself because he provides depth off the bench, but at the same time, I cannot give him a very high grade since he is pretty much one-dimensional.

    Grade: D

New York Yankees: Russell Branyan

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    On the offensive side of the game, the New York Yankees were surprisingly quiet. Russell Branyan has been their biggest signing so far, and he is coming off a very difficult 2011. However, as recently as 2009, Branyan hit 31 home runs, so that power probably hasn't left him yet.

    Down the road, there probably will at least one more move from the New York Yankees. However, at this point in the offseason, the Yankees are hoping they'll get a nice resurgence from Branyan which will lead to a high return on investment.

    Grade: D+

Oakland Athletics: Yoenis Cespedes

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    The Oakland Athletics kind of came out of nowhere and signed Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year contract. After playing for the Cuban national team, Cespedes is finally coming to the MLB. He seems to possess all five tools, and he could be able to start immediately with Oakland.

    It is always hard to evaluate young international talent. Some players have come to America, like Ichiro, and had tremendous success. Others have definitely had difficulties. However, Cespedes seems to have a lot of potential, and that fits with the model that Oakland is pursuing right now. They are building a high potential team to compete in the future.

    Grade: B+

Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins

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    The Philadelphia Phillies and Jimmy Rollins took a while to negotiate a new contract. However, they were finally able to come together and keep the former MVP in Philadelphia. Even though his numbers have declined a little bit, he was arguably the second-best shortstop behind Jose Reyes on the market this winter.

    Even on a down season, he still hit 16 home runs and stole 30 bases. At one of the traditionally weakest hitting positions on the diamond, he is definitely a good option.

    Grade: A

Pittsburgh Pirates: Nate McLouth

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    It wasn't too long ago that Nate McLouth was a rising star with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He always had 20-20 potential with around a .270 average. However, when he left Pittsburgh and went to Atlanta, he began to slide.

    This could be a signing with a rather high reward for a relatively low risk. He is only 30 years old, so he is still in what would normally be the prime of his career. Of course, if he doesn't rebound, this signing will not have a terribly large impact on the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012.

    Grade: C+

San Diego Padres: Mark Kotsay

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    The San Diego Padres made most of their noise on the trade market this winter, but their biggest free-agent acquisition would be Mark Kotsay. Kotsay has a career .278 average, and he has always been a solid, if not spectacular, option.

    He has also been a solid fielder throughout his career, and he does the little things to make his team better. This signing is not necessarily a huge deal given that he is definitely getting older and less productive, but I personally have always liked Kotsay.

    Grade: D+

San Francisco Giants: Ryan Theriot

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    Ryan Theriot actually had a relatively solid year in 2011 even though it was probably his worst full year as a professional. He will arguably hit around .280 and still around 20 bases in an average season, and he definitely should return to that level in 2012.

    He never has hit for very much power, but he still should be able to get on base and help the Giants produce runs. They have the pitching staff, so hopefully Theriot will be able to improve the run production and move the Giants ahead in the West.

    Grade: B

Seattle Mariners: Carlos Guillen

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    Carlos Guillen began his career with the Seattle Mariners, and now he is going back after a tenure in Detroit. The past few seasons have been very difficult for the former All-Star, and he only appeared in 28 games in 2011.

    Guillen has had a solid career so far, but he is beginning to get older. Assuming that he makes the team out of spring training, perhaps he will be able to find some of what made him a solid option before. Unfortunately, his main opponent is probably age, and it is very hard to fight that.

    Grade: F

St. Louis Cardinals: Carlos Beltran

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    The St. Louis Cardinals had a huge hole to fill after the departure of Albert Pujols. However, Carlos Beltran will be able to help with that problem. Last season, he hit .300 with 22 home runs and 84 RBI. Also, he walked almost as many times as he struck out which indicates that he is still gaining more plate discipline.

    Nobody in baseball today can replace Albert Pujols, but I really like this signing. The National League Central will not be as strong this year, but the Cardinals made a good move by improving their lineup as much as they could.

    Grade: A

Tampa Bay Rays: Carlos Pena

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    I bet all of you Tampa Bay Rays fans out there remember when Carlos Pena hit 46 home runs and drove in 121 RBI in 2007. He played four years by the Gulf of Mexico and hit 144 home runs during that tenure. After a one-year hiatus with the Chicago Cubs, his return will definitely be welcome.

    Pena does strike out a lot, and he doesn't hit by a very high average at all, but he does hit for a lot of power and drive in a lot of runs. He is really the ultimate high-risk, high-reward hitter at every at-bat. He is either going to hit the ball hard or miss mightily, but he is still a good acquisition to add to the middle of their lineup.

    Grade: B+

Texas Rangers: Conor Jackson

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    Conor Jackson started off his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and he quickly established himself as a first baseman who would hit for high average with moderate power. Unfortunately, his career has spiraled somewhat after 2009. His average dropped off, and he has virtually had no power.

    Hopefully the Texas Rangers will help him return to his prior form. Sometimes a change of scenery will do that, and since he only signed a minor-league contract, he could be a huge bargain if he is able to rediscover what made him a solid hitter early in his career. However, given his past three seasons, I cannot give this a high grade.

    Grade: F

Toronto Blue Jays: Kelly Johnson

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    The Toronto Blue Jays and Kelly Johnson went to arbitration before they finally agreed on a new contract. Luckily for the Toronto Blue Jays, everything worked out well and Johnson will be playing in Toronto again.

    Johnson is one of the more powerful second baseman in baseball, and even though he only hit .222 in 2011, his career average is .260, so he obviously is capable of doing better than he did in 2011. Johnson is definitely very productive, and the Blue Jays should be happy to have him.

    Grade: B+

Washington Nationals: Mike Cameron

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    Mike Cameron has had a very solid career as an all-around performer. He has demonstrated power and speed throughout his career, but he is 39 years old now. He is definitely getting older, and he had a very difficult year last year.

    Perhaps he will be able to recover, and perhaps he will not. The Washington Nationals didn't necessarily look to build through the free-agent market this season, so unfortunately, I can't give this a very high grade.

    Grade: D-

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