MLB Free Agency Tracker: Grading All the Week's Signings, Trades
While this past week was not as eventful as the week prior to it, in which Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels, R.A. Dickey was traded to the Blue Jays and Anibal Sanchez re-signed with the Tigers among other deals, it was still a significant week.
The signings of Nick Swisher, Cody Ross and Francisco Liriano, along with the trade of Joel Hanrahan, highlighted the past week in MLB transactions, but there were a number of under-the-radar moves as well.
Here is a look at all of the moves of the past week in the MLB, as well as how I grade each transaction.
Pittsburgh Pirates Sign SP Francisco Liriano
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Looking to add a proven starter behind veterans A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald in their rotation, the Pirates took a chance on Liriano on a two-year, $12 million deal (h/t ESPN).
The 29-year-old left-hander was hit-and-miss last season, as a 9.45 ERA through his first six starts earned him a demotion to the bullpen. He went 3-4 with a 2.84 ERA and 10.9 K/9 mark in 10 starts after rejoining the Twins rotation, though, before being dealt to Chicago.
He was 3-2 with a 5.68 ERA in 11 games with the White Sox, making just three quality starts, and it remains a question which Liriano will show up on a game-by-game basis.
The Pirates needed a starter, and Liriano certainly has upside, but the second year brings the grade down on this one.
Seattle Mariners Sign P Jeremy Bonderman to Minor-League Contract
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The 30-year-old Bonderman has not thrown a pitch in the majors, or at any level for that matter, since 2010 when he went 8-10 with a 5.53 ERA for the Tigers.
Bonderman was rushed to the majors as a 20-year-old back in 2003, enduring a 19-loss campaign as a rookie.
However, over the following four seasons he was solid, going 50-43 with a 4.61 ERA. He recorded a pair of 14-win seasons and was a key part of the Tigers' return to prominence.
He's coming off of reconstructive elbow surgery, but according to a tweet from Buster Olney, he has an invite to spring training with the Mariners and should have a shot to contribute if he pitches well. Think Kevin Millwood and Oliver Perez last season.
It's a no-risk, moderate-reward move for the Mariners, who just need three bodies to fill the rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at this point while they wait for Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton to make their big-league debuts.
Minnesota Twins Sign P Rich Harden to Minor-League Contract
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Throughout his nine seasons in the league, Harden always had some of the best stuff in the league. However, he's never been able to stay healthy long to emerge as a premiere starter.
He topped 150 innings just once in his career, and in fact only topped 100 innings four times. He showed what he's capable of in 2008 when he went 10-2 with a 2.07 ERA and 11.0 K/9, but even that year, he made just 25 starts.
He did not pitch at all in 2012, undergoing shoulder surgery, and the signing is a good low-risk, high-reward move for a Twins team that can use all the help it can get on the mound. His future is likely in the bullpen, where he could make a major impact if he can prove healthy.
The Twins really have nothing to lose in signing Harden to a minor-league deal, and the 31-year-old still has the stuff to be an impact arm if he's healthy.
Making the deal even better, Harden has an opt-out clause in his contract like most veterans on a minor-league deal, but it's not until July 31 (h/t Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN). That gives the team plenty of time to stash him in Triple-A and see what he's got.
Cleveland Indians Sign P Scott Kazmir to Minor-League Contract
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Once the ace of the Rays staff and one of the best left-handers in all of baseball, Kazmir dropped off significantly as a 26-year-old in 2010 during his first full season with the Angels.
He made just one start for the Angels in 2011, before being sent down and eventually released in June and he has been out of the majors since. The Indians are the first team to give him a chance since, signing him to a minor-league deal (h/t ESPN).
He found himself in the headlines last season when the Independent League team he was pitching for, the Sugar Land Skeeters, signed Roger Clemens. In 14 starts for the Skeeters, Kazmir went 3-6 with a 5.34 ERA.
The Indians didn't risk anything in signing Kazmir to a minor-league deal, and he'll get a shot to show he still has something to offer this spring. However, after struggling in the Independent League, it's hard to imagine him finding much success.
Houston Astros Sign RP Jose Veras
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Veras was acquired from the Pirates last season in the trade that sent Casey McGehee out of Milwaukee.
He was one of the few bright spots in a terrible Brewers bullpen last season, appearing in 72 games and posting a 3.63 ERA and 10.6 K/9.
He's served as a setup man throughout his career, and he's been a good one the past three seasons with a 3.73 ERA and 10.3 K/9 in 199 appearances.
The Astros shipped closer Wilton Lopez to the Rockies for former first-round pick Alex White, leaving a void in the ninth-inning role.
The team got Veras on a low-cost, one-year, $2 million deal with an option for 2014 (h/t Enrique Rojas via CBSSports), and for a team not expected to contend, he is a good, cheap closing option.
Arizona Diamondbacks Sign OF Cody Ross
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Ross didn't find much interest on the free-agent market last offseason, settling for a one-year, $3 million deal from the Red Sox.
He put himself in a much better position this offseason with a .267 BA, 22 HR, 81 RBI season in Boston, and he signed a three-year, $26 million deal with the Diamondbacks (h/t ESPN).
As of now, he's slated to be their starting center fielder alongside Jason Kubel and Justin Upton in the outfield, pushing prospect Adam Eaton and Gerardo Parra to the bench.
Ross is a fine player, but his signing makes absolutely no sense for the Diamondbacks. When the team traded Chris Young at the beginning of the offseason, it appeared they were clearing a path for Eaton to step into an everyday role, but now that's not the case.
One thought is that this could be a precursor to the team moving Justin Upton, with Ross on board to step in as the replacement right fielder. Until that happens, though, this is a strange move to say the least.
Seattle Mariners Sign LF/DH Raul Ibanez
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Even at 40 years old, Ibanez was a solid contributor last season for the Yankees as he hit .240 BA, 19 HR, 62 RBI on a one-year, $1.1 million deal.
That was enough to earn him a one-year, $2.75 million with the Mariners (h/t ESPN), the team he played for from 1996-2000 and then again from 2004-2008.
For a Mariners team starved for an offensive boost, Ibanez will be a welcome addition along with newly acquired first baseman Kendrys Morales.
Ibanez is not exactly the piece that's going to push the Mariners over the top, but he's still an upgrade over fellow free-agent signing Jason Bay in left field.
Cleveland Indians Sign RF Nick Swisher
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The Indians are a team that appeared headed for a full-blown rebuild heading into the offseason, but they added Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs and Trevor Bauer early in the offseason, along with dealing Shin-Soo Choo.
They then signed Swisher to a four-year, $56 million deal (h/t ESPN), and while those moves may not be enough for them to contend in the AL Central, it should give them a much more competitive product on the field in 2013.
Swisher has been durable throughout his career, and he averaged a .268 BA, 26 HR, 87 RBI line over the past four seasons with the Yankees.
Swisher gives the Indians offense a boost, and he should put up solid numbers in the middle of a good, young lineup. However, it appears at least on the surface that the team overpaid for Swisher, as he is far from an elite player.
Miami Marlins Sign P John Maine to Minor-League Contract
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Maine underwent reconstructive shoulder surgery during the 2010 season, and he has not pitched in the major leagues since.
He was a 15-game winner back in 2007, and went 39-32 with a 4.17 ERA during his five seasons with the Mets.
He's spent the past two seasons in the minor leagues, and he went 8-5 with a 4.97 ERA in 15 starts for the Yankees Triple-A affiliate last season. The Marlins signed him to a minor-league deal (h/t CBSSports), and he could have a shot at making their rotation with a good spring.
The Marlins have a very young rotation following the trade of Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to the Blue Jays, and if nothing else, Maine could provide solid depth if he's willing to pitch at the Triple-A level again this season.
Boston Red Sox Acquire RP Joel Hanrahan from Pittsburgh Pirates
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The Pirates shipped two-time All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan, along with infield prospect Brock Holt, to the Red Sox for pitchers Stolmy Pimentel and Mark Melancon, infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr., and outfielder Jerry Sands (h/t ESPN).
Hanrahan saved 76 games over the past two seasons as the Pirates closer and he'll replace Andrew Bailey in the ninth inning for the Red Sox. Holt hit .292 in a 24-game stint with the Pirates last season.
Sands and DeJesus Jr. will both serve as organizational depth for the Pirates, while Melancon could potentially emerge as the team's closer and Pimentel is a high-upside starting pitching prospect.
Pirates Grade: A
With Hanrahan set to hit free agency next offseason, the Pirates got a solid package of players for him, and they have a viable replacement in Jason Grilli to step into the closer's role.
Red Sox Grade: B
The Red Sox incumbent closer Andrew Bailey is coming off of an injury-plagued season, as he missed most of last season with a thumb injury. The team gave up four players but really didn't lose much as far as impact players.
New York Yankees Sign LF Matt Diaz to Minor-League Deal
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The Yankees have agreed to sign outfielder Matt Diaz to a minor-league deal (h/t ESPN), and he'll compete for a reserve outfield and pinch-hit spot.
A career .291 hitter, Diaz has an impressive .863 OPS against left-handed pitchers. He could find plenty of at-bats against lefties seeing as all three Yankees starting outfielders are left-handed hitters.
The 34-year-old is a professional hitter, and he has a great chance of making the team and filling the void left by the departed Andruw Jones.
With an outfield full of left-handed hitters, Diaz was the perfect low-cost signing to fill out the Yankees bench. He'll battle with Chris Dickerson to be the team's fourth outfielder.
New York Mets Sign P Aaron Laffey to Minor-League Deal
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Laffey split last season between the bullpen and the rotation for the Blue Jays, going 4-6 with a 4.81 ERA in 16 starts and posting a 3.07 ERA in six relief appearances.
The left-hander has a 4.38 ERA in 148 career appearances (65 starts), and he will likely again serve in a swingman role if he is able to catch on with the Mets, who signed him to a minor-league deal (h/t CBSSports).
Seeing as Josh Edgin is the only lefty locked into a bullpen spot for 2013, he has a decent chance of sticking in a middle relief role, if nothing else.
Laffey is still only 27 years old, and he put together a terrific stretch when he first joined the Blue Jays rotation last season, going 2-1 with a 3.28 ERA in six starts. In the role of left-handed middle reliever who earns a few spot starts, he should be a solid addition to the Mets staff.