MLB Report Cards for Cliff Lee and All of the Major Free-Agent Acquisitions
Cliff Lee headlined an eventful offseason in Major League Baseball. His decision to return to the Philadelphia Phillies was unexpected and sent reverberations around the rest of the league.
Free agency allows big name players to move around, but it also allows the penny-pinching teams the opportunity to grab great bargains. It's an important tool for any ballclub.
How have the biggest names and signings of this past offseason fared? Take a look and find out.
Dan is a Boston Red Sox featured columnist. Follow him on twitter @dantheman_06.
Jayson Werth: C+
Werth’s seven-year, $126 million contract was universally panned by the press. While Werth has knocked in eight HR, his batting average sits at just .245 and his OPS sits at just .776.
To make matters worse, the Nationals are in last place with a 22-30 record. Much of this has to do with their anemic offense, which has contributed just 194 runs on the season, good for the 23rd lowest mark in the league.
The NL East has seen strong play from three teams—the Phillies, Marlins and Braves—and the Nationals look to be out of the playoff race already.
It doesn’t look like the Nationals will be able to do anything of significance until they can surround Werth with more talent and production.
Adam Dunn: F
Adam Dunn has been miserable at the plate all season. In 203 PA, he’s managed a ghastly .181/.320/.331 slash line, and his 69 strikeouts lead the majors.
The White Sox have $56 million committed to Dunn over the next four years, quite a lot for an aging DH without the ability to make a positive impact in the field.
To make matters worse, the Chi Sox have been one of baseball’s biggest underachievers, currently the owners of a 24-31 (.436) record.
Mariano Rivera: A-
While MO has blown three saves this year, he’s been pretty good. His 13 saves are tied for the third best in the American League, and he currently owns a 2.11 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP.
Rivera is a staple of one of the league's best bullpens. He remains one of baseball’s best closers.
Victor Martinez: B
V-Mart was slowed by injuries earlier in the season, but he’s since proven his worth. He’s currently batting .299/.362/.467, and he’s having one of the better months of May of any position player.
The only knock on V-Mart is that he’s spent the majority of his time DHing for Detroit this year. His hitting numbers while he’s been behind the plate have been subpar.
Nevertheless, V-Mart remains one of the better hitters in this league.
Paul Konerko: B+
The White Sox rewarded Konerko for his stellar 2010 with a three year contract. His numbers thus far have been good. In 54 games, Konerko is batting .299 with 10 HR and 39 RBI.
His slugging percentage is down nearly .100 points from last year, however. Konerko’s slow feet on the basepath have made him fairly one dimensional this season: either home run or a single. He has only seven extra-base hits outside of his 10 HR.
While Konerko could stand to leg out a few more doubles, he hasn’t been the issue for the White Sox, who are severely struggling.
Jorge De La Rosa: F
De La Rosa was performing admirably this season. In 10 starts, he was 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP.
Unfortunately for the Rockies, De La Rosa tore his UCL and will require Tommy John surgery, which will end his 2011 season.
This wasn’t something that the Rockies could have forseen, so they aren’t to blame.
Rafael Soriano: F
In 15.0 innings this season, Soriano struggled, posting a 5.40 ERA and a 1.73 ERA. Then, Soriano hit the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, which could hold him out of action for nearly two months.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman wasn’t in favor of the signing originally, and now we know why. While Soriano has great stuff, he has an extensive injury history. Soriano had never been healthy for three consecutive seasons, and he had appeared in 141 games over relatively injury-free seasons in 2009 and 2010. In some sense, he was due.
Ironically enough, the Yankees bullpen has performed admirably in Soriano’s absence. Their 2.95 reliever ERA is the fifth lowest in baseball.
Derek Jeter: D
Derek Jeter is a champion and a Yankee legend, but he just can’t hit anymore. His batting slash line is .258/.319/.325, laughable when you consider he’s making $15 million. His fielding isn’t much better: his UZR currently sits at a slightly below neutral -0.3, and his limited range is clearly an issue.
Jeter has lost almost all pop: his ground ball percentage (68.1) is the highest of any MLB player, nearly six percentage points higher than the second place Ichiro Suzuki. He hasn’t made the adjustments that should accompany a declining player at the dish.
Jeter is no longer the cream of the crop shortstop that he was for so long, and it looks like only a matter of time before he’s permanently dropped in the order. He avoids failing only because he’s been healthy this year, playing in 50 games.
Russell Martin: A
Russell Martin has been without question one of the best signings for the money in recent memory. In 44 games, Martin leads all major league catchers in HR (nine) and is tied for second in RBI (26). His OPS (.842) is the highest it’s been since his stellar sophomore season.
Martin can also claim credit for the handling of the Yankees’ pitching staff, which has seen the revitalization of AJ Burnett and the reinvention of Bartolo Colon.
Martin has clearly found his stride again in New York.
Lance Berkman: A
Berkman looked to be done after one poor season with the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, but that hasn’t been the case at all in 2011.
Berkman’s batting average (.354) is the second highest in the majors, and so is his OPS (1.113), behind only Jose Bautista.
Berkman has also knocked in 11 HR and 34 RBI, and his contributions have been one of the biggest reasons why the Cardinals are atop the NL Central, despite the prolonged slump of Albert Pujols.
Berkman has had one of the best offensive seasons of any Major League player. At just $8 million, he's doing it cost effectively as well.
Adrian Beltre: A-
Many wondered if Beltre’s production would dip following his productive 2010 contract year with the Boston Red Sox, just as it had dipped following his stellar 2004.
So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In 52 games, Beltre has mashed 11 HR, good for fifth in the AL. The only thing down significantly from last year is Beltre’s batting average (.255), but his current .235 BABIP all but guarantees a spike in batting average somewhere down the line, especially since he’s striking out at a career low pace.
Beltre didn’t start hitting for power until mid-May with the Red Sox last season, and he doesn’t traditionally see a power surge until June, so it’s a good sign that Beltre has shown some pop early on in 2011.
Carl Crawford: C
Carl Crawford’s 2011 campaign has been a tale of two months. April for Crawford was downright abysmal. Fans and writers alike began to question his role on the team after he hit just .155 through his first 24 games.
But the month of May has been most kind to Crawford. In 25 games, Crawford has batted .333/.359/.535 along with three HR and 15 RBI—i.e. the kind of production the Red Sox were expecting when they signed him to a seven-year, $142 million deal.
As of late, Crawford has found his niche in the Red Sox lineup, batting as the second leadoff hitter of sorts from the fifth and sixth hole. His presence in the middle of the lineup has done wonders for the second half of the order, which has become nearly as potent as the top half.
Cliff Lee: B+
While Cliff Lee’s 3.50 ERA might be a tick higher than what the Phillies were expecting, they can’t complain. The Phils currently sit atop the NL East with a 33-20 record (.623), baseball’s best.
Their starting rotation currently sports a 3.17 ERA, just 0.01 of an ERA point off the San Francisco Giants for the National League lead.
Cliff Lee is an integral member of what many consider to be baseball’s best rotation. His 10.37 K/9 is the second best mark in the majors, behind only Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs.
Come playoff time, the Phils rotation will be incredibly dangerous, which is what they wanted when they added Lee to the fold.