As promised, I have analysis for basically every signing that occurred during the holidays. Let's start with Baltimore.
Jeromy Burnitz was signed as a replacement for Sammy Sosa in right field in Baltimore. This is a massive upgrade for the O's outfield and lineup; not because Burnitz is that amazing a player, but because they are replacing Sammy Sosa, one of the worst everyday players in the major leagues in 2005, with someone who was above average in 2005 and capable of repeating close to that performance this year. Addition by subtraction certainly has its merits, and by adding Burnitz, who performed well defensively in 2005 while hitting homeruns and striking out often - as is his niche - at a relatively low cost (2 years for $6 million a year), the Orioles helped themselves at a serious position of weakness. Burnitz has recovered from his mid-career slide to become essentially a league average or better player, depending on how his defense plays out.
If Luis Matos can repeat his useful 2005, than the Orioles outfield should be in business in 2006. Take a look at this chart of the Orioles' starters by NRAA the past two seasons.
Matos was fine in centerfield, posting a 7.32 NRAA. Sosa was awful in right, with a -12.87, well below Burnitz's 8.11 of 2005. To quantify the difference even better, the difference between the two was 20.98 NRAA/GP...Miguel Tejada's season total from 2005 was 20.88. Burnitz is an upgrade of a second Tejada essentially when considering how poor last year was. Update [2006-1-3 12:16:44 by Marc Normandin]: Or not. [END UPDATE]
Moving on to the former left fielder in Baltimore, Eric Byrnes signed a deal with Arizona to start in centerfield. Byrnes is a useful league average playerand at the right price is a great addition to the roster. Personally I like him better as a fourth outfielder/platoon player, but his defense coupled with the fact that the D'backs park is an offensive heaven should help his cause as an everyday player. His on-base percentage is nothing special, so I don't expect to see him at the top of the lineup, especially with Josh Byrnes the new sheriff in town.
You can't go wrong with a one-year deal at $2.25 million for a chance on Byrnes. I honestly think 2005 outside of Oakland was an aberration for Byrnes, so expect improvemetn from him in 2006, or a season like his 2005 in Oakland at the least. He plays very well defensively in the corner spots, and played centerfield well in 23.7 AdjG (the number of 9 inning games played) in 2004. A small sample size, but he seems to have the hang of defending the outfield at three positions.
I was hoping that the Cubs would sign Byrnes to share the outfield duties with Jacque Jones, who cannot hit lefties to save his life. I sympathize with Jones, since lefties are certainly a factor in the end of my baseball career in highschool. The Cubs plan on playing Jones everyday, which simply boggles the mind. I'm sure Jim Hendry has his reasons, but I would certainly feel a little better knowing exactly what they were. Or maybe not, there is some reasoning I'm sure I never want to lay eyes on.
Kevin Millwood signed a four (or five depending on who you ask) year deal with the Texas Rangers. Millwood was a league average picher in his time in Philadelphia, which was almost as severe a hitter's paradise as the ballpark in Arlington. Millwood was successful for a few reasons in 2005:
- His G/F ratio was the best of his career (1.34 after 1.10 and 1.04 in Philly) thanks to leaving Philadelphia.
- The 2005 Indians defense fielded everything that came at them in 2005, posting the third best defensive efficiency figure in baseball.
Essentially, Millwood is being placed right back into a high offense park that won't help his G/F ratio, and Texas' defense was only ranked 26th out of 30 in defensive efficiency. I understand Texas taking on the contract, because they need to take a chance on a pitcher with some upside, and when the Nevin/Park contract comes off of the books they will have the money to spend on Millwood. Personally I would have rather kept Chris Young than signed Millwood though. I do understand the signing with the departure of Young and Kenny Rogers though, since Adam Eaton can't do it by himself. The cost is high, and the years are higher (although I do like the ability to dump the 5th year if he turns into an injured pumpkin) but this is certainly not the Chan Ho Park disaster of yesteryear.
This should do it for today, I should have analysis for 3-4 more signings up either late tonight or early tomorrow morning.