Continuing with the current and past offseason signings that we have not covered so far...
The Marlins continue to fill the holes created by their "Firesale for the Future: Do it for the Kids" campaign by signing third and first basemen Wes Helms and catcher Miguel Olivo as well as shortstop Pokey Reese and reliever Joe Borowski. This is a set of moves I like a good deal to be honest. Helms is capable of backing up Miguel Cabrera on the occasional off day at third base, and can spot start for Mike Jacobs at first base. He is also very effective against lefties, and therefore could work as a platoon partner with Jacobs if southpaws become an issue for the young slugger.
Helms versus lefties 2003-2005
Ding, ding, we have a successful platoon. I wish I could tell you how Jacobs is against lefties, but my only evidence that the answer is poorly comes from the fact that he only had 5 at-bats against them in 2005 with the Mets. A forced limited sample size perhaps? Either way, if the Marlins can get anything close to Helms 2005 season against lefties for the price of $800,000, then they should get a serious pat on the back. It worked for the Brewers in 2005, who used Russell Branyan on the other end of the platoon.
Maybe I give Miguel Olivo more credit than most, but I like him as an option at catcher. Considering his contract terms are not even available where I normally look, I'm going to assume it is dirt cheap. I think the real Olivo is the one who has performed well on occasion during the past two seasons. The one that resembles Rod Barajas from Texas. I don't expect Olivo to have a .294 EqA like he did in his short stint with the Padres in 2005, but I do expect him to be much closer to league average or better than he was in his time with Seattle (Wins Above Replacement Level totals of 0.3 and -0.9...shudder). I'm sure this will get me in trouble somewhere, but if Olivo doesn't turn out to be the player he looked like in Seattle, I like him as an option more than the recently traded Paul Lo Duca. Let me just reiterate that stipulation though; if Olivo is capable of playing like the Rod Barajas clone he has shown himself to be on occasion, I like having him around in Florida more than Lo Duca. If he completely falls apart like he did in the second half of 04' and the first half of 05', forget I ever said that. No really, forget it. Never happened. Update [2006-1-5 14:38:39 by Marc Normandin]: By the way, don't get the impression that I want Olivo to start over Josh Willingham if Willingham is capable of producing. It is just nice to have another option who can produce like Olivo on the roster. [END UPDATE]
Pokey Reese signed on as a possible replacement for former second basemen Luis Castillo, and possibly even as the shortstop if Hanley Ramirez doesn't start out there (as he shouldn't). For a team going through a rebuilding year, I can't really complain about Reese's complete and utter lack of offensive ability. He is excellent defensively (when healthy) and is even useful on the basepaths (if he's ever on base). For a team like the Marlins he is a worthwhile investment to hold down the fort until help arrives from the minors. I would much prefer a Pokey Reese type signing for $800,000 than the signing of say, Mark Grudzielanek for $4 million in this situation. If only Pokey could bust out with another 8.1 WARP season like he did in 1999 for Pittsburgh. Now that would be a pleasant surprise, eh?
Joe Borowski, who split time with Chicago and Tampa Bay last year, joined the relief corps in Miami. He can earn up to $1.05 million with appearance incentives on his one-year deal. Let's take a look at his recent performances:
Excepting the absolute nonexistence of a strikeout rate in Tampa Bay, Borowski performed decently enough at first glance. His Batting Average on Balls in Play was amazingly low though, and if/when that rebounds to normal levels in 2006, the Marlins are most likely going to either quickly jettison Borowski or be able to avoid paying him those appearance incentives. It is a low risk, low cost contract with potential reward though, so I applaud the effort. I'm just not sure how far an A for effort will take Borowski in 2006.
Surprisingly enough, teams besides the Marlins made some transactions. Joe Randa signed with the Pirates for one-year at $4 million to play third base after the Pirates lost out on the Bill Mueller sweepstakes. Randa is a capable alternative to Mueller, although Mueller has the kind of OBP at a low cost that makes me weak in the knees. Randa is an upgrade over Ty Wigginton though, and Freddy Sanchez is apparently either going to be used elsewhere in the infield or as a utility player.
Randa sort of fell apart after his trade to San Diego. He went from a .288 EqA in Cincinnati to a .250 (.260 is league average) EqA in San Diego. His defense also declined in San Diego, which I can't explain besides saying that it is possible Randa simply ran out of gas in 2005. As I said, he is a capable replacement, but the Pirates would have done better with Bill Mueller as their starting third basemen. I personally would've stuck with Freddy Sanchez though, since he is a quality defensive third basemen according to his 2005 defensive stats, and hits roughly for the league average. .291/.336/.400 is far from amazing, but it is respectable, and the defensive prowess makes up for any possible upgrade Randa might bring offensively. Not to mention the cost difference is enormous, with Sanchez bringing in only $322,000 in 2005. Add the Burnitz signing to the mix, and we have the Pirates spending money just because. Because they can, and because I cannot see the reasoning behind it. Maybe that's just me though, and feel free to dissuade me of my opinion via comment.
All right, all right, one last signing. You convinced me. We'll go with a former Pirate to keep the flow going smooth. Rob Mackowiak, recently traded to the World Champion Chicago White Sox, signed a 2-year deal for $5.3 million with a $3.25 million option for 2008 to avoid arbitration. Considering that Mackowiak has a league average bat and can be inserted competently into three or four positions defensively, it is quite the steal for a team whose glaring weakness was their bench in 2005. I am secretly thinking that the White Sox will attempt to deal Joe Crede based off of his postseason performance/perceived growth/whatever and then use Mackowiak as the third basemen. I'm sure nothing will come of it, but that is certainly an option I would explore depending on the value that could be had back. Crede is the kind of player that could be tossed in to a deal with a player such as Jose Contreras, who the ChiSox were mulling over dealing during the winter. Just something to think about. Mackowiak's bat should improve somewhat by playing in U.S. Cellular by the way, and I expect some improvement from his 2005 numbers anyways. A return to his 2003 line would be a nice boost to the Sox offense, although I wouldn't count on it.