With free agency winding down, the Chicago Cubs prevailed in the frenzied bidding for Jolbert Saenz and signed the former Twins backstop to a 5-year, $85MM deal.
Saenz had been in the Twins organization for all 8 Kinsella seasons, coming to the majors in Season 3 and hitting .301 with 103 HR's over 6 seasons. He also set career highs with a .307 average, 24 HR's and 80 RBI last year.
Never the object of major publicity or attention during his years in the northland, Saenz found a bulls-eye materializing on his chest when Expos GM huskypride attempted to scare everyone off a targeted player (implying a max bid), and speculation centered on Saenz. The target's even brighter now that the ultimate judgement of Saenz and his contract depend on a Cubs World Series win sometime in the next 5 years.
Very good player, maybe the best in this free-agent class, but a risky contract. Grade A if the Cubs win a Series during the contract, Grade F if they don't.
In other late free-agency news:
Phillies: Alexander Myers, LF - 2 years, $8.2MM (mutual option). Lifetime .315 hitter can still get on base, but his days of 20+ HR's are probably over. Philly's collecting quite a surplus of LF's, making us think a trade for something they couldn't find in FA (3B?) is afoot. Grade: A
Astros: Derrick Russ, 3B - 5 years, $35MM. Steady hot cornerman compiled a .276 BA and 147 HR's, plus a Silver Slugger (Season 3) and an All-Star Game (Season 8) in his 7 years with the Expos. 5-year contracts for 31 year-old hitters always come with ratings decline concerns, particularly in the power and durability departments, where Russ has already seen a little erosion. All in all, though, solid player for a a decent price. Grade: B
Padres: Kerry Dispenza, RP - 2 years, $5.1MM ($4.5MM bonused this year). Love this signing for a couple of reasons. First, he's really a good fit for San Diego - Dispenza's the poster boy for ballpark effects (5+ ERA with Texas, 2.87 with Portland last year). He has the kind of OK-to-pretty good ratings that can play well in Petco. Second, the big bonus and minimum salary could make him very attractive trade bait come deadline-time, either this year or next. Grade: Best oddball, quirky, savvy signing of the year
Tigers: William Ryan, 3B - 3 years, $11.3MM. Cracked 43 dingers and made the All-Star Team for Cincy last year, but Great American is +2, +2 for HR's and Comerica is -2, -2. It's a big difference and will almost certainly suppress his power numbers. He's a good defender at 3B, and it's a small price for a full-player...just be ready for disappointing production. Grade: C+