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MLB Report Cards: Grading Cliff Lee and All of the Major Free Agent Acquisitions

Adrian FedkiwAnalyst IIIOctober 23, 2016

MLB Report Cards: Grading Cliff Lee and All of the Major Free Agent Acquisitions

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    PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 25:  Starting pitcher Cliff Lee #33 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 25, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty I
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The recent MLB offseason captivated the entire baseball audience. 

    Where would Cliff Lee go?  How about Carl Crawford?  Would Jayson Werth stay with Philly?   

    We're a month into the season, some free agents have fared better than others.  We must remember that April may be over, but there's still another five months of baseball to be played. 

     

Paul Konerko Headlines the Free Agent Re-Signings

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    CHICAGO, IL - MAY 01: Paul Konerko #14 of the Chicago White Sox hits the ball against the Baltimore Orioles at U.S. Cellular Field on May 1, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Orioles defeated the White Sox 6-4. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Notable Re-Signings: Paul Konerko, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Carl Pavano, Jorge De La Rosa, Aubrey Huff, Hiroki Kuroda, Jake Westbrook

    Out of the names above, Pavano has been the most inconsistent.  After a solid comeback 2010 campaign with Minnesota, Pavano hasn't been able to transition his success last season into this season.

    Jeter hasn't been spectacular, but his veteran presence is more valuable than his play on the field.

    Konerko's been the one positive in a struggling White Sox lineup.  Konerko is currently second in the AL in home runs (8) and RBI (24).

     

Orlando Cabrera

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    SEATTLE - APRIL 10:  Second baseman Orlando Cabrera #20 of the Cleveland Indians hops over Michael Saunders #55 of the Seattle Mariners on a double play in the fifth inning at Safeco Field on April 10, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Grade so far: B+

    Orlando Cabrera has become that veteran that makes it into the postseason every year.  It doesn't matter which team he's playing for. 

    When he signed with Cleveland, a playoff appearance didn't seem like a reality, but after a month it's the Indians who have the best record in baseball.

    He doesn't have the range that he used to in the field, he's moved to second base this season.  His bat's been steady early on with a slash line of .294/.324/.382.  He's also produced in clutch situations.

    Whether or not the Indians can stay in first is a different story, but Cabrera's veteran presence in the dugout should help the young team.

     

Juan Uribe

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 21:  Juan Uribe #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers plays against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on April 21, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Grade so far: B

    Uribe's stock rose with his performance in last year's postseason with the Giants.

    His bat does provide pop to a Dodgers lineup that lacks it, although he won't hit for a high average. 

    He has a solid glove in the field.

Orlando Hudson

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    HOUSTON - APRIL 15:  Second baseman Orlando Hudson #1 of the San Diego Padres can't reach this ground ball hit by Carlos Lee #45 of the Houston Astros in the ninth inning at Minute Maid Park on April 15, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Grade so far: C-

    Hudson is a very solid player, although he's worn four different uniforms the past four seasons.

    He has a great glove at second, but his bat hasn't provided anything to the Padres lineup, arguably the worst in baseball.

     

Jon Garland

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    MIAMI GARDENS, FL - APRIL 25:  Jon Garland #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during a game against the Florida Marlins at Sun Life Stadium on April 25, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Grade so far: B

    Besides Clayton Kershaw, no pitcher stands out in the Dodgers starting rotation, but they're all solid.

    Garland is a nice arm to have at the back of the rotation.  He won a ring with the White Sox in 2005, and came off a good year with the Padres last season.

    He's given the Dodgers innings and is currently sporting a 3.81 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP.

Javier Vazquez

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    MIAMI GARDENS, FL - APRIL 25: Javier Vasquez #23 of the Florida Marlins looks on during a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Sun Life Stadium on April 25, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Grade so far: C

    Vazquez pitched extremely well for the Braves in 2009 and was talked about for the Cy Young Award that season.

    He flopped as a free-agent last season with the Yankees, and a change of scenery in Florida hasn't helped Vazquez thus far.

    He has a 6.39 ERA with a 1.82 WHIP.

    Despite the struggles of Vazquez, the Marlins rotation led by Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez have guided the fish to a strong 18-9 start.

    If Vazquez can find his stuff, it will only be a plus for the Marlins.

Aaron Harang

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - APRIL 5:  Starting Pitcher Aaron Harang #41 of the San Diego Padres throws from the mound against the San Francisco Giants during their MLB Game at Petco Park on April 5, 2011 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Grade so far: B

    The Padres took a flyer on Harang and hoped he would recapture the magic that made him so succussful in 2006 and 2007.

    The fly-ball pitcher got off to a quick 4-0 record after four starts, but since has loss his last two games.

Bartolo Colon

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    DETROIT, MI - MAY 02:  Bartolo Colon #40 of the New York Yankees throws a first inning pitch while playing the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on May 2, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Grade so far: A

    Colon may be the diamond out of the "flyer" free-agents.

    After Cliff Lee signed with Philadelphia, the Yankees signed a few free agents and had a try-out for the final two spots in the pitching rotation.

    Out of all of the contenders for those spots, Colon has been the most pleasant surprise.  His ERA currently stands at 3.00 with a 1.09 WHIP.

    With Phil Hughes going through a dead-arm period, Colon's success is just that more important. 

    The 37-year old 2005 Cy Young Award winner hasn't thrown over 100 innings since his Cy Young Award season. 

Joaquin Benoit

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    DETROIT, MI - APRIL 08:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Detroit Tigers throws a eighth inning pitch while playing the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day at Comerica Park on April 8, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 5-2.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Grade so far: D+

    Behind Rafael Soriano stood Joaquin Benoit, the second most coveted set-up man in the free agent class.

    Benoit had a phenomenal 2010 season with the Rays. He threw 60.1 innings with a 1.34 ERA.

    In 11 innings pitched so far this season, Benoit's struggled with an 8.18 ERA and 1.55 WHIP.

    There were some skeptics about his signing because his career ERA is just 4.54. 

    2011 is an important year for Benoit to prove that his dominant 2010 season wasn't a one hit wonder.  Will he be able to pick himself up and rebound for the rest of the year?

J.J. Putz

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    PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 10:  Relief pitcher J.J. Putz #40 of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates after defeating the Cincinnati Reds in the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Reds 10-
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Grade so far: B+

    Putz peaked in 2007 with the Seattle Mariners when he had 40 saves to go along with a 1.38 ERA.

    Since then, Putz has dealt with injuries and hasn't been able to return to the dominance he showed in 2007.

    However, Putz looks healthy so far this year and has six saves for the Diamondbacks.

Kerry Wood

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    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 01:  Kerry Wood #34 of the Chicago Cubs tips his hat to fans during player introductions prior to playing the Pittsburgh Pirates on opening day at Wrigley Field on April 1, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Pittsburgh won the game 6-3. (Photo
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Grade so far: A

    Out of all the set-up free agent signees, Wood has gotten off to the best start out of the bunch.

    As a Yankee last season, Mariano Rivera taught Wood how to throw the cutter.

    Wood took what he learned in New York and brought it back to Chicago. 

    He started his career in a Cubs uniform as a dominant starting pitcher. 

    In his fifth career game he struck out 20 Astros in a complete game one-hit performance.  He starred at the top of the rotation for the Cubs in the 2003 NLCS.

    Now he's back in a Cubs uniform to set-up for Carlos Marmol.  That cutter has done wonders.

Rafael Soriano

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 31:  Rafael Soriano #29 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Detroit Tigers in the eighth inning on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on March 31, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Grade so far: C

    Soriano dominated the last two seasons as the closer of Atlanta in 2009 and Tampa Bay last season.

    As the set-up man to Rivera, Soriano's struggled early on.  In 11.2 innings pitched, Soriano has a 6.57 ERA.

    Control has been the main issue with Soriano.  In a full season, he walked just 14 last year.  He has nine walks in just one month of play this year.

    The Yankees decided to spend their money to improve their bullpen, and Soriano hasn't delivered so far.  He has time to turn his season around.

Victor Martinez

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    DETROIT, MI - APRIL 11:  Victor Martinez #41 of the Detroit Tigers looks on while playing the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park on April 11, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. Texas won the game 2-0. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Grade so far: B

    A groin strain landed Victor Martinez on the disabled list on April 19.

    The Tigers plan has been to start the 24-year old Alex Avila behind the plate and have Martinez DH.

    Avila's hot start has been an added bonus, he's currently sporting a .309/.344/.593 slash.  He's tied for sixth in the AL with 21 RBI.  He also has five home runs.

    Overall, the Tigers have gotten off to a slow start, just 12-17, but Avila and Miguel Cabrera have helped them stay afloat.

    When Martinez comes back, we'll see what type of lift he gives that lineup.  He was signed to provide insurance for Miguel Cabrera. 

Russell Martin

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    BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 23:  Russell Martin #55 of the New York Yankees after hitting a solo homerun during the eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 23, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Im
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Grade so far: A

    Martin's hasn't played at this level since 2008. After making a few All-Star teams for the Dodgers as a catcher, Martin's play dipped substantially the last two seasons.

    With a fresh start in the Bronx, Martin's currently hitting .291 with six home runs and 19 RBI.

Adam Dunn

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    CHICAGO, IL - MAY 01: Adam Dunn #32 of the Chicago White Sox hits a pinch-hit, two-run home run in the 8th inning against the Baltimore Orioles at U.S. Cellular Field on May 1, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Orioles defeated the White Sox 6-4. (Photo by J
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Grade so far: D

    The White Sox were a trendy pick to win the NL Central: they were supposed to have a balanced lineup.  After a month, they have the second worst record in the American League. 

    To put it mildly, it's been a collective struggle.

    Dunn, the power hitting free agent acquisition is hitting just .171 with 31 strikeouts in 76 at-bats. 

    Dunn has hit 35-plus home runs in seven consecutive seasons; he has just three thus far. 

Carlos Pena

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 01:  Carlos Pena #22 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on May 1, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Diamondbacks defeated the Cubs 4-3.  (Photo by Christian Peterse
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Grade so far: D-

    Pena couldn't hit above .200 last season, and hasn't been able to eclipse that mark yet this season.

    His power usually makes up for his average, but he still hasn't hit one out of the park.

    He's declined every year since his breakthrough 2007 season where he hit .282 with 46 home runs and 99 RBI.

     

Tsuyoshi Nishioka

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 07: Tsuyoshi Nishioka #1 of the Minnesota Twins lays injured after being hit by Nick Swisher #33 of the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on April 7, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Grade so far: D-

    It's not really Minnesota's fault with the rash of injuries that have spread throughout the club.  Joe Mauer, Delmon Young and Tsuyoshi Nishioka are all on the DL.  Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan have struggled coming back from injury.

    All in all, the Twins sit at 9-18, the worst record in the AL.

    Don't count out Ron Gardenhire.

Jeff Francoeur

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    MESA, AZ - MARCH 09:  Jeff Francoeur #21 of the Kansas City Royals at bat against the Chicago Cubs during the spring training baseball game at HoHoKam Stadium on March 9, 2011 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Grade so far: A

    He's always had talent, it just never transitioned onto the field.

    Whether it's the change of scenery to Kansas City, or just being a late bloomer, Francoeur's successful first month brings hope.

    The Royals had a fantastic April and Kansas City currently stands second in the AL Central.

Johnny Damon

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 28: Johnny Damon #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays singles against the Minnesota Twins in the second inning of their game on April 28, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Rays defeated the Twins 15-3. (Photo by Hannah Fosli
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Grade so far: A

    Sam Fuld's emergence in left field has allowed Johnny Damon to emerge as a threat in the DH spot.

    He brings veteran leadership to a young locker room.  The Rays got off to a tough 0-6 start, but have since rallied to a 15-13 record.  They're currently second in the AL East.

    Damon leads baseball with six game-winning hits.

Lance Berkman

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    HOUSTON - APRIL 26:  Lance Berkman #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals during pre-game warmup before playing his former team the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on April 26, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Grade so far: A+

    The Cardinals took a chance on Berkman and put him in right field, a position he hasn't played since 2007, and a position he hasn't played full time since 2004.

    His bat has provided a spark for St. Louis.

    Hitting fifth behind Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, Berkman has flourished.

    He currently has a .406/.467/.781 slash line with nine home runs and 27 RBI.

    St. Louis currently sits a top the NL Central standings with a 16-13 record.

    It's a promising start for a squad that lost a Cy Young quality pitcher in Adam Wainwright.

Manny Ramirez

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    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 01:  Designated hitter Manny Ramirez #24 of the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the Baltimore Orioles during the Opening Day game at Tropicana Field on April 1, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Grade so far: F

    Nothing needs to be said here.

Vladimir Guerrero

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    BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27:  Vladimir Guerrero #27 of the Baltimore Orioles is congratulated by manager Buck Showalter #26 after a 5-4 victory against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 27, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Grade so far: B

    The 36-year old Vladimir Guerrero brings additional pop to an already potent Baltimore lineup.

    Guerrero's been in the heat of the postseason the last two seasons, and adds veteran leadership to the young Orioles squad.

    Guerrero is currently hitting .274 with four home runs and 13 RBI

Adrian Beltre

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    OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 30:  Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers hits the ball to the shortstop in the eighth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on April 30, 2011 in Oakland, California.  Beltre reached first base safel
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Grade so far: A

    Adrian Beltre's reputation has always been that he plays well when the money's on the line, but once he's insured his play drops.

    That hasn't been the case so far this season after signing a six year $96 million contract during the offseason.

    He's added pop to an already dangerous lineup.  He's second in the AL with 22 RBI tied for fourth in home runs with seven.

    Of course, the defense is there too.

Hideki Matsui

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    OAKLAND, CA - MAY 02:  Hideki Matsui #55 of the Oakland Athletics hits a walk off home run to win the game in the tenth inning against the Texas Rangers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 2, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty I
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Grade so far: C+

    Oakland already had an underrated rotation, but the batting lineup isn't exactly the best.  It's been a struggle for them to score runs so far.

    The A's are counting on Matsui's power from the left side.

    Matsui does have three home runs, but his average sits at just .242.

    Oakland could contend for the AL West if they could get more production from the lineup.  The starting pitching is good enough the carry to lineup.

    Matsui has to pick up his game.

Jayson Werth

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    WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:  Jayson Werth #28 and manager Jim Riggleman #5 of the Washington Nationals watch the game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on April 28, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Grade so far: B

    With Stephen Strasburg out for the season and Bryce Harper developing, the Nationals best days are clearly a few years away. 

    It's a transition season in Washington, although they're 14-14 record is respectable.

    Werth has been so-so with a .233 average with four home runs and just seven RBI.  He has scored 15 runs.  He can't be fully evaluated until a few years from now.

Carl Crawford

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    OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 20:  Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on April 20, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Grade so far: B-

    The struggles of the Red Sox and Carl Crawford early on haven't gone unnoticed.

    Some guys are able to handle lofty expectations after signing a monster contract early on, and some struggle.

    After a 0-7 and 2-10 start, Boston has played better as of late and got their record back to 12-15.

    After three weeks the Boston faithful have gotten on Crawford.

    Crawford is hitting just .181 thus far and has struggled to get on base so he can utilize his speed.  He's been moved around a lot in the lineup.

    You'd think he'll pick up the slack soon.  He's too talented.

     

     

Cliff Lee

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    PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 25:  Starting pitcher Cliff Lee #33 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 25, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Diamondbacks defeated the Philli
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Grade so far: A-

    Let's throw the statistics away so far. 

    His stikeout to walk ratio is incredible, 44 strikeouts and just six walks.  But, when he's failed to locate it's been in the middle of the plate.  He's had two bad starts due to what I just referenced.

    He's dominated at times, highlighted by a complete game 12-strikeout three hit performance against Washington.

    He's in Philadelphia to win a ring.  He can't be given a grade until postseason play concludes.

     

     

     

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