Baseball: Five Free Agent Signings That Make Sense (At Least in My Head)

Josh LevittSenior Analyst IDecember 4, 2008

1. Jason Giambi to the Giants

I know, I know, he can't play defense. The obvious down side of this deal is that the Giants would be stuck playing the Giambino at first base 120-130 times a season, which is ugly at best.

But think about it this way: The Giants just went out and spent roughly $30 million on three players: shortstop Edgar Renteria, reliever Bobby Howry, and reliever Jeremy Affeldt. The Giants obviously think they can compete in 2009, especially given their starting pitching and revamped bullpen.

But the one thing the Giants are sorely lacking is a power hitter. Giambi fits the mold: He walks a lot, gets on base, has lots of power, and is left-handed. Last season, the Giants' anemic offense ranked last in home runs, 14th in on-base percentage, and 15th in runs scored in the National League. Yikes...those are terrible numbers.

Furthermore, Giambi would probably only command a one-year contract in this market, which makes him all the more appealing to Giants GM Brian Sabean.

2. Adam Dunn to the Athletics

Dunn is exactly the kind of player GM Billy Beane craves: He walks a lot, hits tons of home runs, and has a high OBP. In most years, Dunn would have been one of the most coveted free agents out there, but because of the economy teams are shying away from handing Dunn the long-term contract he seeks.

This would be a great time for the Athletics to dive in and sign Dunn. First of all, after trading for Matt Holliday, the Athletics are clearly going for it in 2009 and a lineup with both Dunn and Holliday would be potent and powerful.

Second, it is likely the Athletics would not have to give Dunn a long-term contract. He would actually be better off signing with a team like Oakland for a season and then testing the free agent market again in 2009. Once again, this is the perfect scenario for the normally frugal Athletics to make a big splash.

And selfishly I want to see this deal happen because having Adam Dunn and Jack Cust on the same team would be amazing. Think about it, they are both slow, power hitting, walk machines who strikeout a lot and cannot hit for average. There is no doubt that the Athletics would lead the league in walks, strikeouts, and maybe even OBP and home runs. How cool would that be?

3. Jon Garland to the Cardinals

The Cardinals struck gold last season when they signed starter Kyle Lohse during spring training to a modest one-year, $4 million deal. The move shored up the Cardinals rotation and allowed St. Louis to compete for a playoff spot into September.

I think signing Garland would be a shrewd move for the Cardinals, a lot like signing Lohse was a year ago. You get what you're going to get with Garland: very few strikeouts, lots of innings, lots of hits, very few walks, and lots of ground balls.

He will never be confused with an ace, but then again he will cost a lot less than Javier Vazquez. His style would fit very well with the Cardinals, who shored up their already stellar defense by acquiring shortstop Khalil Greene from San Diego yesterday.

In addition, Garland would offer more stability to a rotation that has many questions. Will Chris Carpenter be healthy? Will Todd Wellemeyer repeat his breakthrough 2008 season? What will they get out of Joel Pineiro in 2009?

4. Ben Sheets to the Rangers

There is no team in baseball that needs starting pitching more than the Rangers do. It's not like they haven't tried before to bring in quality arms (cough...Chan Ho Park, Kevin Millwood, Vincente Padilla), but with each big contract comes another big failure.

Sheets is a different animal, though. He has absolutely filthy stuff and has the potential to be a bona fide ace, but his health has always been up in the air. When healthy, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball...and for the pitching-impaired Rangers, that kind of talent isn't available every day.

So here's a little tip for Texas GM Jon Daniels: Go after Sheets hard, but do not under any circumstances give Sheets a four- or five-year contract. Stick to a one- or two-year deal that would protect the Rangers if Sheets gets hurt.

That would take the risk out of this contract and give the Rangers the ace they have not had in roughly a decade. Plus, I think Sheets would prefer a shorter contract right now so he can prove he can stay healthy and be in line for a huge payday down the road.

5. Trevor Hoffman to the Indians

I know Hoffman might not like the idea of going to Cleveland too much, but if he wants a shot to win, the Indians might be his best bet. The Indians are only a year removed from the ALCS and still have a solid core group of guys. Their 2008 season was ravished by injuries and dominated by the CC Sabathia trade talks, but I look for the Indians to rebound in a big way in 2009.

And that's where Hoffman comes in. It's true that he is no longer a dominant closer and will probably only play for another season or two. But what Hoffman offers the Indians (experience, stability) is much better than anything else they have currently in their bullpen.

Sure, Jensen Lewis is a good pitcher and could wind up one day as a great closer, but for right now he would be better suited as a setup man. The Indians lack depth in the bullpen and they need to find a way to build a bridge to the ninth inning. Signing Hoffman would enable them to begin building that bridge that could lead the Indians back to the playoffs.

And look on the bright side: Hoffman is much better than Joe Borowski!

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