Matthew Pouliot

B.J. Upton

Even at $75 million, B.J. Upton a smart signing for Braves

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Some will raise their eyebrows. After all, the Braves just gave $75.25 million to a center fielder who has hit under .250 four years running.

And it’s not a move without risk. Still, Atlanta’s signing of B.J. Upton to a five-year deal should prove fine in time. He’ll strike out a lot and frustrate fans while slumping, but he’ll hit for power, run down a bunch of balls in center and steal some bases.

Let’s face it, $15 million doesn’t buy what it used to. In this market, it’d barely buy Jeremy Guthrie and Jonny Gomes. Getting a potential star at that price seems like a much better idea than loading up with mediocrities.

Upton is just 28 and he’s had a couple of years of terrific play (.300/.386/.508 in 2007 and .272/.383/.401 in 2008), followed by four years in which he hit .240 and relied on more on his glove and legs to provide his value. Because Upton is durable and possesses those skills that aren’t so prone to variation, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be anything less than an $8 million-$10 million per year player at any point during the deal. If he breaks out in the easier league in the NL and a friendlier offensive ballpark in Turner Field, then he could be a $20 million-$25 million guy a couple of those years.

Still, the real bummer here is that the huge outlay doesn’t actually make the Braves any better right away; Michael Bourn was better last year than Upton is likely to be next year. Bourn, though, is two years older than Upton, he has all kinds of red flags as far as his offensive staying power and he’s seeking even more money than Upton was. The Braves definitely set themselves up better for the future by signing Upton than they would have by keeping Bourn. However, if they want to give their lineup a real boost, they’ll need to bring in a quality left fielder to play alongside Upton and Jason Heyward.

The Reds re-sign Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21 million deal

Jonathan Broxton
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UPDATE: Yes, it was close to Brandon League’s deal. Ken Rosenthal reports that Broxton is getting three years and $21 million guaranteed. The salaries climb, paying him $4 million in 2013, $7 million in 2014, $9 million in 2015 and either a $1 million buyout or a $9 million option for 2016.

That may seem crazy for a guy like Broxton, but I bet that becomes the going rate for adequate-but-not-spectacular closers here pretty soon.

1:25 AM: CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reports that the Reds and Jonathan Broxton have come to terms on a multiyear deal that is set to be announced Wednesday.

It’s expected to be a three-year pact, and one imagines it’ll come in close to Brandon League’s three-year, $22.5 million deal with the Dodgers.

The plan appears to be for Broxton to step into the closer’s role, with Aroldis Chapman joining Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey in the rotation. Mike Leake would work in relief.

It’s a switch with tons of upside, but also with plenty of risk. Of the three biggest relief-to-starting conversion stories last year, only one paid off: Chris Sale with the White Sox. Daniel Bard was a bust for Boston, and Neftali Feliz got hurt in Texas and needed Tommy John surgery.

And then there’s Broxton. He was a perfectly effective reliever with the Royals and Reds last year, amassing a 2.48 ERA in 58 innings. However, his margin for error certainly isn’t what it was. During his first five years with the Dodgers, he averaged at least 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings every season, topping out at 13.5 in 2009. Last year, he was all of the way down to 7.0 K/9 IP.

Personally, I’m all for taking the chance on moving Chapman to the rotation. Still, I would have gone in a different direction for a closer replacement. Re-signing Ryan Madson to a one-year deal would have been the better move.

Carlos Ruiz and performance-enhancing drugs

Carlos Ruiz
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There are a lot of differing opinions out there, educated and otherwise, on just how much performance-enhancing drugs actually enhance performance. On the one side, there’s suspected users like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens pulling off incredible feats at advanced ages. On the other, there’s the long list of proven cheaters littered with names of journeymen long forgotten.

Now, though, that long list has suddenly gotten interesting at the end. The last three veteran major leaguers caught cheating were all exceeding expectations in a pretty big way:

– Melky Cabrera, the 2012 All-Star Game MVP, was leading the NL with a .346 average through 113 games when he was suspended. His OPS went from .671 in 2010 to .809 in 2011 to .906 last season.

– Bartolo Colon had a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts for Oakland prior to his suspension. Two years after his career was presumed over due to shoulder problems, he was on his way to his best season since 2005. Had he maintained the 3.43 ERA, it would have been his second-lowest mark in 15 big-league seasons.

– Carlos Ruiz established new career highs in average (.325), homers (16) and RBI (68) as a 33-year-old last season. The homer total was two more than he had the previous two seasons combined. His .540 slugging percentage was almost 150 points higher than his career mark of .393.

Of course, Ruiz, unlike the other two, wasn’t caught with testosterone. And because he was using an amphetamine, not a steroid, he’s getting just a 25-game suspension (Cabrera and Colon received 50 games apiece).

Whether the Adderall deserves any credit for Ruiz’s performance spike is a matter I’ll let others debate. But it’s more ammunition for those who believe that cheaters get an incredible advantage over those who get their results naturally.

San Francisco hospital wants Dodgers to cover Bryan Stow expenses

Image of Dodger Stadium beating victim Stow is shown on scoreboard before MLB National League baseball game between San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals in San Francisco, California
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San Francisco General Hospital is asking the Dodgers for a $1.2 million reimbursement after treating Bryan Stow while he was in a coma last year.

Stow was beaten by two Dodgers fans in the Dodger Stadium parking lot following a game with the Giants last March. 20 months later, the Dodgers still haven’t taken responsibility and paid out a penny in the case. $6 billion television contracts have taken priority of late, apparently.

Stow’s family has sued the Dodgers in an effort to cover his medical expenses, which are being estimated at $50 million for the care he’s already received and for what he’ll need for the rest of his life. A bankruptcy court urged the Dodgers to settle that matter before Frank McCourt sold the team, but a deal failed to materialize. That suit is set to head to trial on Feb. 5.

Even their spring training home is down on the Red Sox

JetBlue Park
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Fort Myers mayor Randy Henderson said this week that he wishes that Lee County had let the Red Sox walk rather than build the team’s new spring training home, which opened last year.

The new JetBlue Park was originally supposed to cost $77.9 million, but it sounds like the county ended up spending considerably more.

“It would have been smarter to let the Red Sox move on,” Henderson said. “I would debate that we wouldn’t be any worse off, in fact, I think we would be better off.”

As is, Lee County is set to spend $436 million on its three ballparks over the next 32 years. That includes the new park, an enhanced facility for the Twins to keep them on par with the Red Sox and what’s still owed on vacant City of Palms Park, the former home of the Red Sox.

The Fort Myers News-Press breaks it all down here. The article also mentions how Lee County is trying to lure the Nationals to the Red Sox’s old facility, though there’s little optimism about a deal being struck.