A Look Back: Last Winter's Free Agent Deals (Part One)

It's hard to believe the 2007 regular season has come to a close (excluding the Rockies/Padres one-game playoff).

Even though I followed a losing team this summer in the White Sox, it seems like the season just flew by.  Before we all know it, a World Champion will be crowned and we'll be talking about which free agents are headed where.

Speaking of free agents, last winter we saw a number of big money contracts signed.  The names Barry Zito, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee all come to mind.

With guys like Andruw Jones, Torri Hunter and almost certainly Alex Rodriguez set to test the market this upcoming winter, it should be a fun offseason, but let's take a look back at the deals that were signed prior to the 2007 season.

Who played above and beyond expectations?  Who faltered?  Which teams should be regretting giving that certain player a long-term contract?  

Let's take a look:

*Note:  Projections for Marcel and PECOTA include PA's whereas projections for Bill James, ZiPS, Chone and Actual include AB's.

Alfonso Soriano signs 8-year/$136M contract with Cubs:

For the most part Soriano is right were our projection systems expected him to be.  A trip to the disabled list cost Soriano a little playing time and the home run totals were just bit lower than most expectations, but the rate statistics were there.

Soriano's certainly an athletic player and his body should age well, but he doesn't really have any plate discipline skills to fall back on if his power or speed start to deteriorate.  Personally I view this season as a success for Soriano and I ultimately believe the majority of the years left on his eight-year contract will be fun ones, but the back end of this deal is reeling with both good and not so good possibilities.

Carlos Lee signs 6-year/$100M contract with Astros:

As a whole, Lee had a very good season for the Astros exceeding the expectations of most.  Like most of us expected, Lee hit much better at home (.344/.394/.581) compared to his performance on the road (.266/.310/.463), but his home run splits were not as extreme as his rate stats as he hit 17 homers at home compared to 15 on the road.  As far as defense is concerned, BP's Rate system says he was a below average defender (92) and his Zone Rating was dead last among National League left-fielders (.786) which isn't a good sign for a "heavier" outfielder entering his age 32 season next year.  I don't think there are too many statheads that think Lee is going to age well, but his first year was nonetheless a good start to his six-year deal.

J.D. Drew signs 5-year/$75M contract with Red Sox:

Back in December, Nate Silver explained just why Drew would struggle in 2007 citing the level of American League difficulty and the influx of left-handed pitching in the AL as two primary reasons.  Needless to say, Drew struggled mightily in the AL throughout most of the year and hit only .224/.285/.353 against southpaws.  His ability to hit for power may be deteriorating as evident of his HR/OF% which declined for the third season in a row and unless he turns things around next season, this might be remembered as one of the worst free agent contracts in recent memory.

Barry Zito signs 8-year/$126M contract with Giants:

After improving in each of his final three seasons with the Athletics, Zito hit rock bottom in the first year of his eight-year contract with the Giants.  He set career lows in VORP (25.5 runs), WARP3 (3.9 wins, ERA+ (96) and innings pitched (196.2).  On the bright side, his peripherals didn't worsen much and he was much better in the second half of the year (4.90 first-half ERA vs. 4.11 second-half ERA).  Given the projections of both Chone and Shandler (Bill James), I think it's safe to call Zito's 2007 a disappointing one.

Daisuke Matsuzaka signs 6-year/$52 M with Red Sox; Boston pays $51.11M bid for negotiating rights:

I wasn't able to dig up many 2007 projections for Matsuzaka, but we'll take what we have in PECOTA.  As a whole, Daisuke's rookie season was pretty good; he was second among Red Sox pitchers and rookie pitchers in VORP at 37.1 runs, but was shaky particularly down the stretch posting a 5.19 ERA in baseball's second half.  However, he is entering his age 27 season (the year typical players peak), and the ability to dominate is present as evident of the 8.9 K/G which ranked 6th in the American League.  Matsuzaka's main fault came with the home run ball and if the Sox coaching staff can correct this problem Daisuke's second go-round in the big leagues should be better than the first.

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