Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cubbies sign Saenz For Record (we think) Bucks

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+

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