More non-surprising Day One Of The Hot Stove Season news: the Braves exercised options on shortstop Alex Gonzalez and ALL-STAR Omar Infante. They also signed reliever Scott Proctor to a one-year deal for $750,000 plus incentives.
Like I said, no-brainers. Gonzalez wasn’t any great shakes after coming over in the trade from Toronto, but he has pop, can still field well enough and, more importantly, he’s better and cheaper than just about any realistic option on the shortstop market. Infante, of course, constituted about two-thirds of the bailing wire that held the team together once Chipper Jones and Martin Prado went down with injuries. Brooks Conrad was the bubblegum, but the less said about him the better.
Proctor only pitched in six games for the Braves, but it was a rehab year for him. The incentive deal sounds right for a guy with his history, but if he’s back to his old form in 2011, Atlanta won’t mind paying the incentives.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.