Christmas is coming early for the 2006 free agent class. With general managers gathered to do a little holiday shopping at the winter meetings in Orlando, a number of players have already cashed in on this year’s free-agent frenzy.
The N.L. West is finally starting to make some noise with the Dodgers letting Greg Maddux move South to San Diego for a one-year $10 million deal and replacing him with 33 year old former San Fran ace, Jason Schmidt with a three year $47 million contract. This looks like a decent move for the Dodgers who seem to be turning over half their roster this offseason. Adding Schmidt to the fold won’t generate the headlines that the now-dead rumor of a blockbuster deal for Manny Ramirez would have but trading disgruntled Brad Penny for a bat appears much more likely at this point. Schmidt has had a few arm problems in the past and is probably far removed from putting up the kind of numbers that made him a Cy Young contender in 2003 and 2004 but 200 IP, 15 wins and 180 K’s seems well within his reach. The thing is, while Maddux can’t overpower hitters like Schmidt, he will likely match him in wins and innings pitched at $7 million less this season but in the mediocre N.L. West, Schmidt could be a difference maker.
Padres fans have to love this move. Sure, $10 million is a little steep, but not outrageous considering this market. Maddux definitely looked reinvigorated after moving West last season and playing half his games in pitcher friendly Petco Park will probably only improve his numbers. This is a great move for the Padres. Maddux will share his wealth of knowledge with San Diego’s young staff and help them take the next step as Kenny Rogers did for the Tigers last season.
On the East Coast, the Red Sox continue to be a major player this offseason inking both J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo for 5 years and $70 million and 4 years and $36 million, respectively. No one doubts Drew’s ability to swing the stick but questions about his desire and injury history have dogged him his entire career. Bitter fans in Philly, St. Louis, Atlanta, LA here’s your chance to say your peace. Under the microscope in Boston definitely seems like an odd choice for Drew even with the big payday. Without a strong start, the boo birds will be out early and often in Beantown.
Lugo will replace defensive wizard and automatic out Alex Gonzalez at shortstop and likely hit leadoff in a lineup that could rival the Yankees with Manny seemingly off the market and Drew, at least on paper an offensive upgrade over Trot Nixon. How will these moves affect the race in the hyper-competitive A.L. East? If nothing else, the Sox have proven to everyone that the Yanks are no longer the only Evil Empire on the block.