The Braves and Cubs dominated early free agency, which has seen some big numbers and big bargains.
BRAVES - Atlanta has been the big spender so far, dishing out $187MM. Thumbs up on the Cliff Rivers contract - at $13.4MM a year it's no bargain but offense like that just doesn't show up in CF very often. If Chad Seabol's Season 9 was just a down year, his $9.6MM a year will be OK; otherwise the Braves are paying him about $480K per homer. I don't know if they could've landed a better pitcher than Orlando Guerrero, but they could've gotten something similar for way less $$ - they did with Ramiro Diaz (Bargain Signing). SS Willie Camacho is a nice complimentary signing.
CUBS - Chicago concentrated on the bullpen, getting Howie Voigt, Graham Brown and Phillip Munson. They also landed a starter - Davey Molina (Bargain Signing - 1 year at 5.2) - and a CF - Gordon Scanlan - who finally gets paid after 3 straight All-Star appearances.
BREWERS - Watch out for Milwaukee this year. They add former Yankees Patrick Romero and Valerio Guillen (Bargain Signing) to a lineup that now includes two former #3 overall picks (CF Bruce Lewis and RF Bobby Simmons). Willie Hermanson isn't bad at $5.7MM but I think they could've done better.
INDIANS - AL gets in on the action with a trio of nice signings by Cleveland. Pedro Garrido was the big name (and the big contract at $9MM per). Some people might argue his power rating will go down a lot over 5 years...so what? He'll still be a .300 hitter at age 36 and power just ain't what it used to be. They also got a couple of nice deals on SP's: Stephen Fischer at $6.2/2 years and Buddy Truman at $5.8/5 years.
NATIONALS - D.C. has been the most effective bargain-hunter so far. They started with some familiar talent - C Enrique Gonzales (MEGA-BARGAIN at $4MM/ 1 year) and SP/LR Allen Sosa (MEGA-BARGAIN at $5.2/4 years). Then they added some pop in CF with Pat Decker ($5.28MM/4 years), and took a shot at coaxing 1 more year out of Vic Castillo for $700K.
The drama builds on Vitiello and Becker. Tampa Bay, Oakland, Kansas City, and Detroit are widely believed to be in the bidding; Anaheim, D.C., the White Sox and Florida are believed by some to be active in the sweepstakes; and a few observers think San Diego, Minnesota, Portland and Los Angeles are masquerading as rebuilders and quietly hoping to snare an ace SP.