Derrek Lee and the Orioles are making their one-year deal official today, and Don Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the contract is worth $7.25 million in guaranteed money plus another $2.75 million in potential “performance bonuses.”
Lee just finished a five-year, $65 million deal signed with the Cubs in 2006, but is a 34-year-old coming off a career-worst season filled with thumb problems and the going rate for a veteran first baseman/corner outfielder coming off a down or injury wrecked season appears to be around $8-10 million.
Lance Berkman got $8 million from the Cardinals. Carlos Pena got $10 million from the Cubs. Magglio Ordonez got $10 million from the Tigers. And on the low end Hideki Matsui and Lyle Overbay each got $5 million. Lee’s deal could be worth up to $10 million and I like his chances of bouncing back in 2011, in which case he probably has more upside than any of those other guys.
Kevin Gregg has been linked to the Orioles for most of the offseason and Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the two sides have finally agreed to terms on a deal.
According to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun he’ll get $10 million for two years, and the contract also includes a vesting option for 2013.
He’ll presumably head into spring training as the favorite for ninth-inning duties, as Gregg racked up 37 saves for the Blue Jays last year for his fourth straight season with at least 20 saves.
However, his 3.79 ERA during that time isn’t particularly impressive and he blew six save chances last year to finish with a success rate of 86 percent that’s basically right at the MLB average. If healthy Koji Uehara is likely a superior reliever, but Gregg has far more closing experience.
Mike Gonzalez was signed to be of the Orioles’ closer last offseason, but missed most of the year with arm problems and remains a question mark. In his absence Alfredo Simon led the team with 17 saves, but he may spend 2011 in prison.
No doubt sick of waiting for Adam LaRoche to accept multi-year offers that have been on the table for weeks now the Orioles have moved on to Plan B at first base, with Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reporting that they’ve agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Derrek Lee.
And ultimately the Orioles are probably better off that LaRoche dragged his feet. Instead of making a multi-year commitment to a non-elite first baseman they’ll see what Lee has left in the tank for a year and reevaluate things next offseason when several big name first basemen may be on the market.
Plus, there’s a strong chance Lee will be better than LaRoche in 2011 anyway. Lee is coming off arguably the worst season of his career, yet his .774 OPS is basically the same as the .788 OPS posted by LaRoche. Age and health are also factors, but Lee is one season removed from an MVP-caliber performance and has a half-dozen seasons in his track record superior to LaRoche’s best years.
As for LaRoche, this seemingly sets him up to sign with the Nationals, who were also in the mix for Lee.
There hasn’t been much speculation surrounding Grant Balfour, largely because he’s a Type A free agent and most teams aren’t keen on surrendering a first-round draft pick to sign a non-closer reliever.
In fact, Balfour declining the Rays’ arbitration offer last month was viewed by many as a surprise because of how much the draft pick attached to signing him would hurt his market value.
However, teams with a pick in the top half of the first round have their pick protected, meaning they’d only lose a second-round pick for signing Balfour. That means sub-.500 teams–or above-.500 teams that have already signed another Type A guy–are his most likely suitors, so it makes sense that the Orioles have “definite interest” in Balfour, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com.
He’d be used as a late-inning setup man in Baltimore after filling that same role in Tampa Bay for the past three seasons, going 13-7 with a 2.98 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 181 innings. If the draft pick compensation is scary most teams off the Orioles could get a bargain on a shutdown reliever, but their reported heavy interest in Kevin Gregg could ultimately rule out Balfour.
Garrett Atkins flopped for the Orioles after signing a one-year, $4.5 million deal last offseason, so he’s had to settle for a minor-league contract with the Pirates this time around and will be reunited with former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle.
Atkins gets an invitation to spring training, but the Pirates have already inked fellow third basemen/first basemen Andy Marte and Josh Fields to minor-league pacts, so there will be some competition for corner infield bench spots in Pittsburgh.
Atkins has gone from hitting .329 with 29 homers and 120 RBIs as a 26-year-old to on the verge of being out of baseball at age 31, and while that’s surprising it wasn’t particularly sudden. In his final four seasons with the Rockies his OPS dropped from .965 to .853 to .780 to .650, and by the end his numbers away from hitter-friendly Coors Field were horrendous. And then he hit .214 with a .562 OPS in 44 games for the Orioles, earning $500,000 per RBI.