(Please don't take my grades too seriously...just the opinions of 1 guy who hasn't figured this game out yet)
Cleveland, Atlanta and Boston dominated the early A/B FA signings, inking 7 of the first 11 contracts.
Del Wilhelm - LF - 4 years, $30MM. Some teams probably stayed away because of his declining power ratings, but the Tribe was more persuaded by his 8 consecutive .300 seasons and still-superb durability. Even at 33, one of the top FA's in this class...certainly among the top 5 hitters available. Some concern about low makeup leading to plummeting ratings in the out years of the contract (perhaps a mutual option on the last year would have been prudent), but a solid signing nonetheless. Grade: B
Albert Gonzalez - 2B/LF - 2 years, $11.6MM. Should be good for .260 with 20-25 HR's - a big offensive boost if he plays 2B (this year and next are pretty short on good 2B's), but that's not altogether clear. He's adequate at best defensively at 2B, and the Wahoos are building up an oversupply of 2B/LF types. Kudos for getting this guy on only a 2-year deal. Grade: B+
Jimmie Ruiz - C - 3 years, $7.5MM. "Grandpa" Ruiz can still handle a pitching staff, although he's no longer much of a threat on offense. This signing gets my first raspberry on 2 counts: first, he's not really any better than the 2 (much cheaper) guys they already have; and second, it's a 3-year contract for a guy who's ratings are already in free-fall. At least the Tribe can punt on the last year by declining the option.
Bobby Dawkins - LF - 4 years, $20MM. Unheralded vet coming off career highs in HR's and RBI (in the hitter's graveyard of Portland, at that). His power's starting to ebb a little, but his high makeup, combined with Atlanta's nearly-expert training staff, should ward off any significant ratings declines. Nice price for a fulltime player. Grade: A-
Zach Millwood - SP - 2 years, $10.4MM. Not an ace, but a very productive back-of-the-rotation SP. Features a decent sinker and a good cut fastball...way tougher on lefties than most RHP. The thing to watch here is walks - he's been up around 1 every other inning some seasons. Could start to suffer some ratings declines this year or next, but shouldn't be a big problem. Nice short-term signing. Grade: A-
Victor Lima - SP/RP - 2 years, $16MM (mutual option). He's been a starter (13-6, 2.56 for FLA in Season 4), he's been a closer (92 saves for the Giants in Seasons 6-7), he's probably been everything in between. Still a top pitcher, the only question is whether the Sox can keep him glued together for another season or 2. 92 makeup and the best jacuzzis money can buy ($20MM training budget) say "yes". Grade: A
Richard Ishii - 3B - 2years, $17MM (mutual option). Signed to settle last year's 3B-by-committee approach (we think...the Mac Smith signing casts some doubt), although he's certainly a + hitter at SS (multiple Silver Sluggers). Not a cheap price, but given the all-round shortage of infielders in free agency, a good signing. Grade: B
Yankees: Scot Pickford - SP - 5 years, $30MM. Evil Empire goes for the rehab special. Here's the deal: yeah, he took a big hit, but his ratings are still very good - the BEST of any SP in free agency. If he didn't have that injury last year, and came into FA with the ratings he has - $50MM + contract. Grade: Grand Larceny A+ Steal Of Free Agency
Expos: Diego Ibarra - SP - 4 years, $48MM. Big-innings ironman benefited from the spacious OF in Seattle, but that fall-off-the-table sinker will help out in the new cozy digs. Vulnerable to lefties, but that's a minor critique. It may be the market, but that's a pretty big price tag for this guy. Grade: B-
Reds: Ernest Becker - SP - 2 years, $11.6MM. Double-digit wins for 8 straight seasons - pretty impressive. Ratings solid but unspectacular across the board. Biggest concern is is age, but high makeup and training budget should render that concern moot. Grade: B+
Brewers: Craig Evans - RP - 2 years, $10MM. Solid reliever can be a closer or 100-inning setup man. Might see his numbers tick up a bit with the ballpark change, but should still be very good. One question: why sign a 31 year-old Type A for only 2 years? Grade: B