The majority of people visiting this site play some form of fantasy baseball. So, the question is, at what age did you determine that you were smarter than the average MLB General Manager? Don't be modest, you know it's true. In your heart, you're sure that if Brian Cashman or Theo Epstein played in your league, you'd leave them in the dust. As for Billy Beane, that might be more of a challenge because for the first time ever, he'd have the same payroll as everyone else.
Some of you may have reached this obvious conclusion once you started playing the game. For others, it may have occurred earlier, when you first became a real fan and knew the line-ups of every team. For me, it was about age 12 as I watched my Red Sox get clobbered by the Yankees on a regular basis. Even in those long-ago days before free agency, it became clear that some teams just had a better sense of player performance. Certainly, money was an issue, but even the Yankees made bad decisions like spending $100,000 + in 1953 on a "Bonus Baby" from Holyoke, Massachusetts named Frank Leja. His major league career ended with one (1) hit in 23 AB's.
As a youngster, two things became quite clear to me.. The first was that my team had no players of color. While I was too young to understand the social context of the times, I did know that the Yankees had a player like Elston Howard and only a few hundred miles away, the Dodgers and Giants had Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays. The second was that in this time of the reserve clause, the Yankees always seemed to be able to acquire good pitching through trades and the BoSox ended up with retreads. In the mid-50's the Yankees added rotation stalwarts like Tommy Byrne, Bob Turley, Don Larsen and Ralph Terry while the Red Sox traded for Sid Hudson, Hal Brown, Bob Porterfield and Mike Fornieles.
Based on this background, you might say that I have over fifty years of experience as a "GM", so it's that time of the year for the Old Duck to analyze and critique some of the free agent signings made during the "Hot Stove" season.
> Mike Adams, Phillies, 2 Years, $12 Million - It appears that $6 Million is the new going rate for quality relief pitchers, but he's 34 and coming off mild thoratic outlet syndrome. Of course, he could be coming off severe thoratic outlet syndrome.
> Jeremy Affeldt, Giants, 3 Years, $18 Million - Another 34-year old $6 Million reliever.
> Lance Berkman, Rangers, 1 Year, $10 Million - A few years ago, the Rangers caught DH lightning in a bottle with 115 RBI's from Vladimir Guerrero for $5.5 Million. Now they pay twice that for a 37 year-old with two bad knees who played 32 games last season? Let's review a list of the players age 37 or older who had 20 HR's in 2012. Oh wait, there is no list.
> Joe Blanton, Angels, 2 Years, $15 Million - His ERA over the last three years in the NL is 4.82, 5.01 & 4.71 and now he gets to face the DH.
> Jonathan Broxton, Reds, 3 Years, $21 Million - Pitched effectively last year and if he can stay healthy, $7 Million is somewhat of a bargain for a closer.
> Melky Cabrera, Blue Jays, 2 Years, $16 Million - Were there really a bunch of teams in on the bidding? If you assume that 2010 was his last "clean" year, he hit .255 with 4 HR's & 42 RBI's and that isn't worth $8 Million.
> Kevin Correia, Twins, 2 Years, $10 Million - He won 24 games the last two seasons in the NL with a K rate under 5. Does the term "smoke & mirrors" sound familiar?
> Ryan Dempster, Red Sox, 2 Years, $26.5 Million - The Red Sox new version of "Moneyball" is to give any free agent over 30 a $13 Million deal. The dumping of all those contracts last year seemed like a good idea but opening a Senior center doesn't qualify as a strategy.
> Stephen Drew, Red Sox, 1 Year, $9.5 Million - The same strategy Scott Boras used with Adrian Beltre. Sign a one-year deal at age 30 and re-establish your value on the market. Chances are, he'll have a decent season.
> Jonny Gomes, Red Sox, 2 years, $10 Million - Another 30-something role player. If you think he gets 500 AB's, remember that he hit .209 against right-handers last year.
> Zack Greinke, Dodgers, 6 Years, $147 Million - Magic Johnson's wallet makes this look slightly absurd, but he's probably just as good as other $20 Million-a-year Pitchers like CC Sabathia, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain.
> Jason Grilli, Pirates, 2 Years, $6.75 Million - Are the Pirates really this smart? Give a 36 year-old a nice contract to be the set-up guy and then trade the closer, so you're paying less than $3.5 Million to the guy getting the saves? Had 32 Holds last season with a K rate of 13.8
> Jeremy Guthrie, Royals, 3 Years, $25 Million - 14 decent starts at age 33 gets you this kind of contract? As Yakov Smirnoff once said, "What a wonderful country".
> Josh Hamilton, Angels, 5 years, $125 Million - We should all be fans of this player. Not just for what he's gone through to get where he is, but also for his respect for the game. I've watched him stop and sign autographs at every Spring Training game for the last five years while lesser players head for the clubhouse. With that being said, this isn't a good investment. Despite his gaudy numbers, there are signs of deteriorating plate discipline and the new home park won't help.
> Dan Haren, Nationals, 1 Year, $13 Million - There's that magic number again. Move to NL can't hurt, but needs to get that 4 MPH back to be successful. Essentially, he's replacing Edwin Jackson in the rotation.
> Torii Hunter, Tigers, 2 Years, $26 Million - Let's see, 26 divided by 2 is...13! Will certainly be an improvement over Delmon Young, but his 2012 stats were inflated by the line-up around him in
> Edwin Jackson, Cubs, 4 Years, $52 Million - You're right, 52 divided by 4 equals 13! Has pitched for 7 teams in 10 years with a lifetime record of 70-71 and a 4.40 ERA. Somewhere Scott Boras is rubbing his hands together and laughing like Dr. Evil.
> Jeff Keppinger, White Sox, 3 Years, $12 Million - When you have a chance, research how many 33-year old utility players became productive everyday contributors at a corner position.
> Russell Martin, Pirates, 2 years, $17 Million - Not as bad as it looks. His .211 BA was partially the result of a low hit rate and he'll provide some pop in the Bucs line-up.
> Brandon McCarthy, D'Backs, 2 Years, $15.5 Million - A history of health issues equates to an expectation of no more than 150 innings, but if he could pitch 200 innings, then he'd cost $13 Million a year.
> Brett Myers, Indians, 1 year, $7 Million - One of the bargains of the off-season. His skills and durability make him a better choice than any other Pitcher making less than eight figures. And, in a pinch, he can close.
> Mike Napoli, Red Sox, 1 Years, $5 Million (can earn $13 Million if he stays off the DL) - Even though his contract is laden with incentives, how can we resist listing another Red Sox $13 Million deal. Will not remind anyone of Adrian Gonzalez at 1B.
> Angel Pagan, Giants, 4 Years, $40 Million - There's something to be said about keeping a winning roster intact.
> A.J. Pierzynski, Rangers, 1 Year, $7.5 Million - At age 36, repeating last year's career year isn't likely.
> Cody Ross, D'Backs, 3 Years, $26 Million - Nothing Kevin Towers has done this off-season is easily explained. From taking on most of Heath Bell's salary to trading the #5 prospect in baseball for an unproven SS to stockpiling OF's. Ross needs to play everyday to justify this contract...but who does he replace?
> Anibal Sanchez, Tigers, 5 Years, $80 Million - Timing is everything, as this still 20-something cashed in on his post-season performance. Might seem overpaid, but he's a better investment than most of the $13 Million guys.
> Marco Scutaro, Giants, 3 Years, $20 Million - Hitting over .400 in September on the way to a World Series title is what gets you this kind of money at age 37. The comment on Pagan also applies here.
> Nick Swisher, Indians, 4 Years, $56 Million - As with numerous cases, you wonder where the other bids were coming from, but the Tribe really needed some pop in their line-up and his 20-25 HR skills are still intact.
> B.J. Upton, Braves, 5 Years, $75 Million - At age 28, he is the perfect free agent. Has power, speed, defensive skills and an athletic body that should still be viable in five years. However, Braves fans need to temper their expectations slightly, as his .255 lifetime BA and 169 K's last year point toward mediocre plate discipline.
> Shane Victorino, Red Sox, 3 Years, $39 Million - What better way to finish than with another member of the BoSox "Club 13". While he still has the speed to steal bases, his batting skills fell off the cliff in 2012 at age 31. When your OPS goes from .846 to .704, it isn't just bad luck or a slump. And now, he's a corner OF! This could be a really bad contract.
> Rafael Soriano, Nationals, 2 Years, $28 Million - Washington came out of nowhere to add what they hope is the final piece to their World Series puzzle. On one hand, it looks like Scott Boras pulled another one out of his hat. On the other, they have the money and a lingering memory of Drew Storen coughing up the lead in the NLDS. Soriano will close, pushing Storen back to the 7th.