The Hot Stove officially started two Fridays ago with the start of free agency, but here at Beyond the Box Score we have already covered quite a few moves prior to that (check out this, this, and this if you missed them).
Still, we have only so many people, and there are only so many things to say about some moves, so I figured I'd conglomerate a few of these into one big recap each week called Beyond the Hot Stove. Here I'll cover some of the smaller moves of the week that was in the Hot Stove. Since this is the first one, we'll cover moves starting from Friday, November 20th, the start of the free agent period. Links all courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors.
- The first Hot Stove happening was Omar Vizquel's one-year deal with the Chicago White Sox. Vizquel has never been much with the bat, but my guess is that is not why he was brought to the South Side. Even in limited playing time the last few seasons, Vizquel has shown a decent glove, putting up around 30 runs above average the last three seasons at shortstop according to UZR. Granted, most of that happened in 2007, but it would seem as if Vizquel's golden glove has not yet fallen off with advanced age.
As for the White Sox? They look like they will be shuffling the infield once again with the departure of incumbent second baseman Chris Getz. Vizquel could likely work as a serviceable part-time player at shortstop and third base (he played a little third with the Texas Rangers last year), but I highly doubt they'll stick with him for more than the playing time he saw last year.
- The Milwaukee Brewers signed Chris Capuano and continue to search for more starting pitching after throwing the majors' worst rotation last season. Capuano is a Brewers product, but has not pitched in the majors for two seasons since undergoing a second Tommy John surgery and rehabbing. Capuano was a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy before the injuries set in, so he has a shot at being decent if he gets a chance this season.
- Speaking of injury issues, the Oakland A's signed Dallas McPherson to a minor league deal. McPherson has massive home run power and struggles with mostly everything else, particularly strikeouts and staying on the field. He might get some time at third base as filler until Brett Wallace or someone else in the A's organization steps in, or he may linger in the minors once again.
- The Toronto Blue Jays made two interesting moves to shore up their infield, resigning John McDonald and signing Alex Gonzalez. The McDonald move is a head-scratcher, as McDonald has no bat (career wOBA .264, Bill James projected .254 for 2010) and will be playing the role of defensive backup for $1.5M a year. He does seem to be a solid defender, both at shortstop and at second base, and the Jays do have an awful third baseman in Edwin Encarnacion, so the thought may be to replace Encarnacion with the more sure-handed McDonald in the late innings. Is that worth 0.3 WAR and $1.5M?
As for Gonzalez, he is just one season removed from a 2.5 WAR campaign in 2008. However, that came on a career high .340 wOBA that he has never come close to prior to or since that season, so don't count on that happening again. Gonzalez has always been a solid shortstop (career UZR/150 of +7), and a combination of him and Aaron Hill up the middle may vacuum a few more batted balls for Toronto's pitchers. Gonzalez will give most of that value back with his awful bat, however. Bill James has him projected at a .296 wOBA, and if Gonzalez starts all season, he would have to be a +10 glove to approach being an average player. Then again, he's being paid $2.75M, so no one's expecting average production from him.
- By far the most intriguing move to me was the White Sox signing of Andruw Jones to a one year, $500K deal. Jones had a comeback year after a hellish 2008, batting .214/.323/.459 in 331 PA, good for a .338 wOBA and 1.5 park-adjusted batting runs above average. I don't think I need to show the 2008 numbers to tell you that this was a massive improvement over '08. He did all this with one of the lowest BABIP's in baseball (BABIP of .220). For a player who had such trouble with contact (72% contact rate) and swung so much out of the zone (24.0% out-of-zone swing rate), his walk rate was surprising (12.7% UIBB%) but typical of the old Jones from his Atlanta years. He also posted a promising .246 ISO.
Bill James projects a similar wOBA for 2010 of .335, and Jones will be moving into another hitter's haven in U.S. Cellular Field. Jones only played 145 innings in the outfield in 2009, but he is only two seasons removed from a typical Jones-esque season of 21 runs above average in center field in 2007. Jones has not played center field regularly since 2007, and given his physique it may be wise to keep him in the corners. However, it seems plausible that Jones can still contribute positively in the outfield for the White Sox, which is exactly what the Sox need. If he can play a decent corner outfield (on the order of +2 to +5 runs over a full season) and be an average hitter like he was last season, he would be worth a lot more than what the White Sox would be paying him, even after his incentives bump him up to $1M. A good deal for both player and team involved.