R-O-D-N-E-Y Spells Relief: Mariners Ink Closer, Fashion Trendsetter, Archery Aficianado to Two-Year Deal.

465-lKhN5.St.84Wearing baseball caps sideways is dumber than wearing them backwards which is dumber than wearing the forwards which is dumber than baseball and baseball is pretty dumb.” -nbdyfcnsqnc (Nissan 350Z Forums)

New Seattle closer Fernando Rodney clearly doesn’t have any supporters in the Nissan owners’ community, but can the demonstrative reliever win over notoriously fickle Mariners fans?

He passes the most important prerequisite — not being Brandon League. *shudders*

The rest of Rodney’s antics, including his trademark bow-and-arrow save celebrations, will be easier for Mariners fans to tolerate if he pitches like he did in his breakout 2012 season.

Up to that point Rodney had been a middling reliever for nine seasons, only twice posting an ERA below 4.00 before signing with the Rays and recording a combined 85 saves in 2012-2013. He was nothing short of unhittable in his first year with Tampa Bay, posting a 0.60 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and a SO/BB of 5.07 while finishing 5th in the AL Cy Young balloting. Rodney regressed significantly in 2013 as he blew eight saves (compared to just two in 2012) and saw his WHIP soar to 1.335 — right in line with his career average.

The Mariners, who already have a closer in-house with better peripherals than Rodney and an affordable salary, decided that giving a 2 year/$24 million dollar contract to a soon to be 37-year-old reliever with two good seasons on his 11 year resume is exactly what they needed to climb out of the AL West cellar (oh hi Houston).

It’s possible that 37 and 38 are the new peak ages for relief pitchers, but it’s also possible that the current Seattle regime just doesn’t know how to build a winning ball club. How many games will Rodney even have the chance to close with a lineup full of question marks?

Not enough to earn $12 million a year. Not enough to earn $1 million a year. Certainly not enough to mollify Nissan owners.

Rodney would be a great final piece for a club on the cusp of contention. That team is not the Mariners, and at this rate, it may never be…

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Salt in the Wound: Blue Jays’ Brandon Morrow Loses No Hitter, But Raises Doubts About Mariners’ Front Office Decision Making.

Did the Mariners give up on Brandon Morrow too early? It looked that way on Sunday.

This time last season Seattle fans were wearing “In Jack We Trust” t-shirts, petitioning the organization to construct a statue of new GM Jack Zduriencik in front of Safeco Field and writing in his name for governor of Washington.

What a difference a year makes.

Though Brandon Morrow fell just short of a no-hitter on Sunday afternoon against the Rays, his sterling 17 strikeout, one-hit performance still took some of the sheen off Zduriencik’s head and Seattle’s shiny new Bill Bavasi-less front office. Morrow was shipped to Toronto during the offseason in return for power reliever Brandon League who was supposed to bridge the gap between Seattle’s starting pitchers and closer David Aardsma. League hasn’t been bad (8-6, 3.16 ERA) but has consistently faltered in high-leverage situations, and despite a reputation as a flamethrower, has only struck out 40 batters in 57 innings.

The number five overall pick in the 2006 draft, Morrow was flipped from the starting rotation to the bullpen to Triple-A and back again so many times, it’s a wonder he doesn’t have multiple personalities. While the current regime can’t be blamed for the mismanagement of Morrow early in his career, they certainly can be accused of giving up on the young ace too early.

The 26-year-old Morrow is 9-6 on the season, with a 4.45 ERA (a number which would almost certainly be lower if he was pitching at Safeco Field) and 151 strikeouts in 127 innings (a league leading 10.67 K’s/9 innings). A full season in the starting rotation has done wonders for Morrow’s confidence and he’s started to hit the strike zone with more consistency. If he can continue to cut down on the walks and pitch deep into games, Morrow has the potential to become a staff ace in the mold of Bert Blyleven.

With their pitching staff in shambles (Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas are Seattle’s only reliable starters) the Mariners can use all the arms that they can get. Who do you suppose they would rather have right now: an average middle reliever with a propensity for big innings, or an up-and-coming starter with the makings of a future star?

I’m not giving up on Zduriencik and Co., but a 42-70 record and scores of Mariners (Beltre, Silva, Thorton, etc.) finding success elsewhere don’t make it easy to believe things are going to chance anytime soon.

Is it football season yet?

Must Be Something in the Water: While Seattle’s Season Circles the Drain, Former Mariners Find Success in New Environments.

Carlos Silva was an unmitigated disaster in Seattle. In Chicago, the hefty sinker-baller is a star.

If you had told me before the 2010 season began that by the middle of June the Mariners would be 10 games out in the division and Carlos Silva would be a top contender for the NL Cy Young award, I would have thought you were crazier than Michael Lohan and Amy Winehouse –combined. 

Unfortunately, you would have been right. 

The Mariners have been awful in 2010, just awful. Despite the fact that there are only four teams in the AL West the Mariners find themselves sitting 5th in the division. They’re that bad. But, while Seattle battles for the number one overall pick in the 2011 draft, former Mariners are finding success in new places. Here’s a few key examples:

Carlos Silva (Chicago Cubs): After signing a four-year, $48 million dollar contract with the Mariners before the 2008 season, Carlos Silva set out to create a show called “Man vs. Food” in which he took on eating challenges throughout the country, only to discover such a program already existed. Undeterred, Silva devoured record amounts of food any chance he was afforded in the hope that one day, he too would have a shot at fame on the Food Network. Unfortunately, his increased focus on eating came at the expense of his pitching, and Silva went 5-18 in his two years with the Mariners before the team traded him to the Cubs for Milton Bradley. Since moving to the National League, Silva has rediscovered his mojo, posting an 8-2 record and 3.01 ERA. He returns to Seattle when the Cubs face off against the Mariners next week and fans are encouraged to throw hamburgers and hotdogs in Silva’s direction. It’s only fair. 

Adrian Beltre (Boston Red Sox): Adrian Beltre joined the Mariners in 2005 after hitting a career-high 48 home runs for the Dodgers the year before (he finished 2nd in MVP voting). In his five seasons with the M’s, Beltre averaged just over 20 home runs per year and never posted a batting average above .276. Beltre wasn’t a total bust because he played through injuries and was one of the best defensive third baseman in baseball, but he certainly didn’t live up to the bloated contract Bill Bavasi handed him. Now, healthy and in a new environment, Beltre is once again a force at the plate, hitting .338 with 10 HR’s and 48 RBI’s in his first 66 games with the Boston Red Sox. It’s not surprising, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. 

Since leaving Seattle, Adrian Beltre has regained the form that made him an MVP candidate.

Mike Morse (Washington Nationals): Mike Morse might not be as well-known as some of the other names on this list (he had just 300 AB’s with the Mariners between 2005-08) his ability to hit the ball away from the other team’s defense would be a welcome addition to one of the major’s worst offenses. Morse struggled with injuries during his tenure in Seattle and was traded away last season for Ryan Langerhans (who, as you would suspect, is playing sparsely because of injuries). Finally getting some playing time with Washington, the 28-year-old Morse is hitting .395 with 2 HR’s and 5 RBI’s in 38 AB’s (a small sample size I realize, but he is a .303 career hitter). In Seattle’s defense, Morse looks like a dirtbag, so there’s that. Yeah. 

R.A. Dickey (New York Mets): The knuckle-balling Dickey was part of the Mariners’ historically bad 2008 campaign (61-101)–a year in which he went 5-8 with a 5.21 ERA. Apparently whatever his knuckleball was supposed to do, it didn’t, because Dickey was battered around all season. Flash forward to 2010 and Dickey is pitching like an ace for the New York Mets. Through his first six starts of the year Dickey is 5-0 with a 2.82 ERA  (31 strikeouts in 37 innings) and his knuckleball is dancing like Jessica Alba in Honey. I think the Mariners need to defect to the National League. The NL makes everyone look good. Even R.A. Dickey.

Rafael Soriano (Tampa Bay Rays): Despite posting a 2.25 ERA and striking out more than a batter per inning in 2006, Bill Bavasi traded Rafael Soriano to the Braves for the illustrious Horacio Ramirez (who won 8 games in 2007 despite posting a 7.16 ERA and 1.84 WHIP). Soriano was an outstanding relief pitcher for the Braves and has been even better since joining the Rays in 2010 where he is 16 for 16 in save opportunities with a 1.52 ERA. Who could have seen that coming? Oh wait, everyone but Bill Bavasi. I hate that man…I really do.

Viva La Vidro’s 2010 Baseball Forecast: Cloudy With a Chance of Mariners.

Say hey to Jason Heyward, the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year and next Ken Griffey Jr.

I know what you’re thinking: “It’s Opening Day and Bud hasn’t even picked his award winners for the upcoming season yet. How am I supposed to know what’s going on and who’s taking home the hardware without his keen insight and witty commentary? Is it finally time for Sidney Ponson to capture a Cy Young? Does anyone like Derek Jeter? Can Casey Kotchman slug his way to an MVP? He doesn’t work fulltime, what’s his excuse this time–his computer died?”    

Well, my computer did pass away, and I would appreciate a little sensitivity during this difficult time (Bud’s computer was five-years-old). Despite this overwhelming obstacle that would cripple most bloggers, I realize my reader(s) would be ill prepared for the 2010 season without me, and that is a responsibility I take very seriously. So before I get emotional thinking about my computer again, here are the players poised for greatness this year:    

NL Rookie of the Year–Jason Heyward (Atlanta Braves OF): If card sales are any indication (just take a gander at his stuff on eBay) Heyward is the real deal. The 20-year-old slugger has been compared to everyone from Ken Griffey Jr. to Fred McGriff, and the Braves would be more than happy if Heyward turned into a “Kred McGriffey Jr.” hybrid. It’s amazing that 13 other teams passed over him in the 2007 draft because Heyward has a once-every-decade skill set, including light-pole power and tremendous plate discipline (especially for such a young player). He’ll start the year in rightfield for the Braves after a strong spring and should run away with the award.    

The Orioles are confident that Matusz can lead them out of the AL East cellar.

AL Rookie of the Year–Brian Matusz (Baltimore Orioles SP): Matusz is set to become the most badass bird since Frightful of My Side of the Mountain fame. The 23-year-old lefty breezed through the minor leagues (11-2, 1.91 ERA, 0.906 WHIP) and showed plenty of talent in a brief stint with the Orioles (5-2, 4.63 ERA, 38 K’s in 44 innings) last season. Alongside Chris Tillman, David Hernandez and Brad Bergesen, Matusz is a major part of Baltimore’s rebuilding project, and despite his age will be counted on as a leader of the pitching staff. Matusz has a four pitch repertoire and a deceptive delivery that makes it difficult for hitters to track his fastball. He also shows a good command of the strike zone and has the ability and makeup to be a top of the rotation starter for the next decade. The Orioles will need Matusz to be as good as advertised if they hope to climb the treacherous mountain known as the AL East.   

NL Cy Young–Roy Halladay (Philadelphia Phillies): While there is no shortage of premier pitchers in the National League (Tim Lincecum, Johan Santana, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, etc.), Halladay should have the best season of his career in 2010 after moving from the power packed AL East to the offensively challenged NL East (no offense Mets’ fans…okay plenty of offense actually). Supported by one of the game’s best lineups Doc Holliday should have no trouble winning games and posting a sub 2.50 ERA to go along with around 200 K’s–more than enough to wrestle the award away from Lincecum.    

AL Cy Young–Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners): King Felix was nearly unstoppable in 2009 (19-5, 2.49 ERA, 217 K’s) and only missed out on the award because of an unreal season from Zack Grienke. With Cliff Lee backing him up (after he gets off the DL) and a slightly improved lineup, Hernandez should be even better in 2010 and has a solid chance to capture his first 20-win season. The key this year for Felix will be cutting down on his walks (71 free passes) and wild pitches (a league leading 17); if he can do that, the King might just be the best pitcher in all of baseball.   

Troy Tulowitzki and the Rockies are poised for big things in 2010.

NL MVP–Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado Rockies SS): Tulowitzki finished fifth in NL MVP voting last season, which is astounding considering how slowly he and the Rockies started in 2009 (.200 BA in April, .242 in May). The sweet swinging shortstop is a wiz in the field and has a desirable combination of power and speed at the plate (30 HR’s/20 SB’s in 2009). More importantly than his numbers though, is Tulo’s leadership in the Rockies clubhouse, where he is the unquestioned captain of the team. If the Rockies can build on their strong finish last year Colorado should have no trouble overtaking the weakened Dodgers in the NL West, and if Tulowitzki plays like he did from June until the end of the 2009 season, the MVP will be his to lose.   

AL MVP–Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays 3B): Despite the Rays’ struggles in 2009, Longoria put together a quietly solid season in his sophomore campaign, hitting .281 with 33 HR’s and 113 RBI’s while capturing the Gold Glove at third base. Still only 24-years-old, Longoria has plenty of room for improvement at the plate, and he’s certainly capable of smacking 40 HR’s if he can cut down on his strikeouts. Tampa Bay has one of the most talented rosters in baseball and have been picked by many baseball pundits to take the AL East or Wild Card, thanks in no small part to Longoria’s continued maturation as a player. Look for big numbers in 2010 from the Rays’ third baseman as Evan finally becomes America’s most popular Longoria.   

World Series: Seattle over Colorado (4-3)–It’s no crazier than a Duke-Butler final, and really, could it end any other way? Well it could, but I don’t want it to, and I think baseball takes my wants and needs very seriously.

Is the New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl Berth a Harbringer of What’s to Come in Baseball this Season?

Sorry Nationals' fans, not even Drew Brees' magic touch can get you to the World Series in 2010 (or '11, '12, ad infinitum).

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, watching Jersey Shore 24/7 or hanging out with Tiger Woods in a “Sex Rehab” center in Mississippi, you probably know by now that the New Orleans Saints will be playing the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV on February 7th. Moreover, with all the hype and news coverage that comes with a game of such magnitude, you probably also know that this will be the first Super Bowl appearance ever for the New Orleans franchise (who no longer can be called the “Aint’s”). That leaves only four teams in the NFL that have never been to the big game; the Detroit Lions (shocker), Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars. So, does the Saints magical run to the big game give hope to fans of long-suffering baseball teams as it does to the above football teams, or is it simply another painful reminder of how little they’ve accomplished in their pitiful existences?       

Entering their 39th season, the Rangers still have not made a World Series appearance.

Heading into the 2010 Major League Baseball season there are only three teams that have never reached a World Series; the Washington Nationals (including their time in Montreal), the Texas Rangers and, of course, my beloved Seattle Mariners. That’s right, even the four expansion teams created in the last 17 years (Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays) have all made World Series appearances, with the Marlins winning twice and the Diamondbacks once. How frustrating is that if you’re a Nationals, Rangers or Mariners fan? Heck, I’d assume those teams are even more embarrassed than that guy in Viagra commercials who tries to work up the courage to talk to his doctor about ED (though his real problem might not be ED, but the fact that his reflection talks to him).  The Montreal/Washington franchise has been in existence since 1969, the Texas Rangers since 1972 and the Seattle Mariners havecompeted in Major League Baseball since 1977 (these dates do not include the two separate Washington Senator franchises that spawned the Montreal and Texas teams). Even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally, but these teams somehow have not been able to reach a World Series in over 30 years of existence. Will that change in 2010?      

Now, before I go any further into depth about the three teams, let’s eliminate the Nationals from the conversation all together, because let’s face it—it’s going to take a lot more than a miracle for Washington to make the World Series next year (or ever for that case). They’re just like the little engine that could, except they can’t (also see: Royals, Kansas City and Pirates, Pittsburgh).      

The addition of Cliff Lee makes the Mariners a serious threat to capture the AL West this year.

The Mariners and Rangers, on the other hand, both had strong offseasons that could put them in contention to make a deep run in the playoffs in 2010. Texas had a solid 2009 season with the emergence of young pitchers like Scott Feldman and Matt Harrison and added a talented hurler in Rich Harden to their roster to complement an offense led by Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young. The Mariners were one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball last year, finishing 85-77, and reloaded their roster this offseason with Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley and 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee. The two teams will have their work cut out for them in an increasingly difficult AL West, but it’s not hard to believe that either Texas or Seattle could capture the division. Of course, having never reached a World Series, neither Texas or Seattle has a particularly strong postseason track record. Which one has the best chance to break through this year?     

The Rangers have been one of the sorriest organizations in baseball over the past 40 years (but no one’s blaming George Bush). Not only have they never reached a World Series, but the franchise has also never even won a single playoff series. Texas didn’t reach the postseason for the first time until 1996 and have a lifetime 1-9 record (all against the Yankees) in the playoffs. Quite simply, they stink.     

Expect plenty more dog-piles from the M's in 2010. The magic is back in Seattle.

Seattle had a similarly putrid start as a franchise, failing to post a winning record until 1991 and not making their first postseason appearance until 1995 (but what an appearance it was). However, whereas the Rangers have never won a playoff series, the Mariners have made three trips to the ALCS, falling to the Indians in 1995 and the Yankees in 2000 and 2001. Seattle’s overall record in the postseason is a respectable 15-19 (.440 winning percentage) which compares favorably to the New Orleans Saints 4-6 postseason record (.400 winning percentage). Like the Saints, the Mariners have enjoyed a modicum of postseason success, yet have been unable to get over the hump and reach their sport’s biggest stage. That is, until 2010 rolled around.  

The stars have aligned for Sodo Mojo in 2010. Bet it all on the Mariners to reach the World Series for the first time this season…my logic is infallible.

Changing of the Guard: Do the Red Sox Recent Acquisitions Make Them the Team to Beat in the AL East for 2010?

John Lackey has the heart of a warrior. Will it be enough to propel Boston past New York?

The Boston Red Sox came into this offseason in a foul mood. Not only were they swept from the playoffs by the Los Angeles Angels, but their bitter rivals, the New York Yankees, returned to baseball’s limelight by capturing the World Series on the strength of stars Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia—players that Boston had at one time targeted through free agency or trades. To make matters worse, the Yankees had already pulled off one of the biggest moves of the offseason, acquiring talented center fielder Curtis Granderson in a trade with the Tigers. Clearly Boston was feeling the heat in a never-ending arms race with New York, and it didn’t take long for the Red Sox to respond in turn. In the span of two days they acquired John Lackey, the best free-agent pitcher on the market, and Mike Cameron, a defensive virtuoso, to fill the void in left field. Both players will play important roles for Boston in 2009, but will they make the Red Sox the best team in the AL East?   

The addition of Lackey gives Boston one of the deepest pitching rotations in all of baseball, with a talented trio at the top and a number of serviceable arms at the back of the rotation. Lackey received staff ace money from the Red Sox (5 years/$82.5 million) but will probably be the third starting pitcher in the rotation behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester (Killer J’s? J-Cubed?). Though hampered by injuries in 2009, Lackey still went 11-8 with a 3.83 ERA and 139 strikeouts against only 47 walks. He is mainly a groundball pitcher but can be susceptible to the longball (he allowed 26 home runs in 2008), which may prove to be an issue with the Green Monster out in left field. Despite the fact that Lackey might not be in the same class as pitchers like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, he has a strong postseason track record (3.12 career playoff ERA) and past success against AL East foes (25-15, 3.62 ERA vs. New York, Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa Bay). After getting burned last year by the John Smoltz experiment the Red Sox were eager to acquire a dependable arm (Lackey has a .590 career winning percentage) and now have one of the most formidable starting fives with Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Clay Bucholz (though be may be traded for an additional bat) and either Dice-K or Tim Wakefield. In terms of pitching, Boston certainly has the talent to compete with the Yankees; do they on offense?  

Mike Cameron has some big shoes to fill in left field.

While Mike Cameron will be an upgrade defensively over Jason Bay in left field (or centerfield, depending on where Terry Francona decides to play Jacoby Ellsbury), he will be hard pressed to match Bay’s 36 home runs and 119 RBI’s. The 36-year-old Cameron hit .250 with 24 HR’s and 70 RBI’s last season, but also chipped in 32 doubles and 75 walks which led to a .342 OBP (vs. Bay’s .384 OBP). With the perpetually disappointing J.D. Drew in right, Boston won’t exactly have a murderer’s row in the outfield, and may lose even more ground to the Yankees’ big bats (New York outscored Boston by 43 runs in 2009). As questions continue to swirl around the health of Mike Lowell, and David Ortiz continues to age at the speed of light, the Red Sox are still at least another bat away from usurping the Bronx Bombers, and that’s assuming that New York doesn’t make any more moves (they did).

So, while the signings of Lackey and Cameron have improved the Red Sox’s pitching and defense, New York is still clearly the team to beat in the AL East. The Yankees have done nothing but improve this offseason after winning 102 games in 2009, and with a healthy A-Rod and the newly acquired Granderson the team could be a juggernaut in 2010. Boston is moving in the right direction, but unless they want to spend another postseason watching the Yankees raise a World Series trophy, general manager Theo Epstein had better continue to work the phones…New York isn’t going anywhere soon.

Noteworthy News: Wrapping Up the Latest Deals from Baseball’s Winter Meetings

The Rangers sent Kevin Millwood to Baltimore, then signed free-agent Rich Harden the next day.

 1) Texas Rangers trade Kevin Millwood and cash to Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Chris Ray: The Texas Rangers have been one of baseball’s busiest teams in the  offseason thus far, and they continued that trend by sending former Opening Day starter Millwood and $3 million dollars to the Baltimore Orioles for relievers Chris Ray and Ben Snyder. Millwood was solid in 2009, going 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA but the Rangers were looking to free up salary to sign free-agent Rich Harden (a deal which has since been completed). The 27-year-old Ray is a former closer who struggled to return from elbow surgery last season but has saved 33 games as recently as 2006. The deal gives Baltimore a proven veteran pitcher controlled through 2011 to mentor younger starters David Hernandez, Brian Matsuz and Chris Tillman. 

2) Boston Red Sox trade Mike Lowell and cash to Texas in exchange for catching prospect Max Ramirez: The Red Sox freed up third base for next season, possibly in order to sign Adrian Beltre, with today’s trade of Mike Lowell to Texas. The Rangers plan to use the injury-prone Lowell as a DH and first baseman (potentially a platoon partner with Chris Davis). Lowell, a major liability in the field due to hip problems, appeared in just 119 games last year but still hit .290 with 17 HR’s and 75 RBI’s. The Red Sox have also agreed to pay most of Lowell’s $12 million dollar salary for next season if the league approves the deal. In return Boston receives Max Ramirez, a 25-year-old catcher and former Atlanta Braves top prospect, who will likely serve as Victor Martinez’s backup unless the Red Sox decide to shift Martinez to first. 

The Astros hope Feliz's strong defense will help them return to the postseason.

 3) Houston Astros sign free-agent third baseman Pedro Feliz: Feliz spent the last two years as the primary third baseman for Philadelphia but with the Phillies acquisition of Placido Polanco, the 2008 World Series champion was left looking for work and Houston happily obliged. The Astros already have Geoff Blum manning the hot corner but would prefer to use his versatility all over the field rather than play him full-time at third. Feliz is a solid defender at third base but is starting to become a liability at the plate after hitting only .266 with 12 HR’s and 88 RBI’s last season. Already 34-years-old, Feliz doesn’t have much in the way of upside and won’t turn a team from pretender to contender, but is a solid if unspectacular pickup (1 year/$4.5 million) for a team on a budget like Houston. 

4) Pittsburgh Pirates sign free-agent shortstop Bobby Crosby: An underachieving team signing an underachieving player doesn’t sound like a traditional recipe for success, but so is life for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans. Crosby has been in steady decline since winning the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2004 and struggled last year with injuries and inconsistency (.223-6 HR’s-29 RBI’s). The Pirates hope that he can challenge Ronny Cedeno for shortstop and possibly recapture some of his past success, but at only $1 million for next year Pittsburgh isn’t taking that big of a gamble on him…what’s new in Steeltown? 

5) Atlanta Braves trade relief pitcher Rafael Soriano to Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for pitcher Jesse Chavez: One of the top right-handed relief pitchers in the National League last season, Tampa Bay acquired Soriano with the idea plugging him in as their full-time closer in 2010. While splitting the closer’s role with Mike Gonzalez in Atlanta last year, Soriano posted a 2.97 ERA and struck out 102 batters in only 75 innings. The Rays had a full-blown closer by committee bullpen in 2009, and if Soriano can stay healthy Tampa Bay will be one step closer to challenging the Yankees and Red Sox for AL East supremacy. The Braves decided to move Soriano after he accepted their arbritation offer which would have cost the team between $7 and $8 million dollars next season if they had kept him. In return, Atlanta acquires an average bullpen arm (Chavez went 1-4, 4.07 ERA in 2009) at a steeply discounted price. 

Randy Wolf snagged almost $30 million dollars from the Brewers. Is he worth it?

 6) Milwaukee Brewers sign free-agent pitcher Randy Wolf: Looking to add stability to their rotation behind ace Yovanni Gallardo, the Brewers have reached an agreement with Randy Wolf on a three-year, $29 million dollar contract. The left-handed Wolf was the Dodgers most consistent pitcher last season, winning 11 games to go along with 160 strikeouts and a 3.23 ERA. However, before last year Wolf only had two other seasons with an ERA below 4.00, and is moving from one of the league’s best pitcher’s parks to one of the worst. The Brewers desperately needed starting pitching, help, but it remains to be seen whether Wolf is the right choice long-term. 

7) Texas Rangers sign free-agent pitcher Rich Harden: The ultimate high-risk, high-reward player on the market, Harden is one of the game’s most dominating starting pitchers—when he’s healthy. The deal promises Harden $7.5 million next season with a club option of $11.5 million for 2011. Harden went 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA last year for the Cubs, striking out 171 batters in only 141 innings. Unfortunately, last season was just the third time in his seven-year career that Harden pitched more than 140 innings, and only once has he made more than 30 starts in a single year (2004). If he can stay off the disabled list this could be a major coup for the Rangers, if not, it’s just a very expensive mistake.