Thanks for putting up with the absence of updates, but I guess I picked the right time of year to be away from internet. Anyway, a couple of signings:
First, the Reds signed Willy Taveras to a two-year contract to be their centerfielder. Taveras is a very good defensive outfielder, but he posted a .604 OPS last year in Colorado. When a player slugs under .300 as a Rocky, there's a problem. Taveras batted .251 in 2008 and he'll surely hit for higher averages going forward, but the average OPS for a centerfielder is around .750, even before considering home park; it's doubtful Taveras can sniff that. His defense certainly will help pitchers like Bronson Arroyo who don't exactly rack up grounders, so Taveras makes a certain amount of sense as a short-term fix, but he's still far from ideal. In the long term, the Reds would do well to grab groundball pitchers, even at the expense of strikeout pitchers, to match their homer-happy ballpark. That way they could try to use their outfield spots to maximize their offense, rather than playing someone like Taveras, who can't hit at all. Anyway, the Reds' signing of Taveras may have the happy effect of making them a less desirable destination for Rocco Baldelli.
Also, Randy Johnson signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Giants, who must have figured he's now old enough to pitch for them. (Sorry. No more cheap shots.) Giants GM Brian Sabean thinks he's got a contender on his hands:
The Giants will enjoy themselves if they manage to contend in the woebegone National League West, which is exactly what General Manager Brian Sabean said the club is equipped to do after adding a five-time Cy Young Award winner to its rotation.
"We mean business," Sabean said. "We're trying to get back into our winning ways, and I think now we've got a chance to make a run at the division."
Well, no. The rotation is good--Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are fantastic, and Jonathan Sanchez quietly had a promising 2008 season. And I really like Johnson at $8 million; he was actually terrific last year and has probably become an underrated pitcher as age, injuries and his disappointing tenure in the Bronx have probably led too many people to forget about him. But the Giants' offense is still a bad joke, and the lack of solid, high-level hitting prospects ensures that offensive depth will continue to be a problem for another year or so. Still, I give the Giants a bit of credit for taking advantage of a down market--with the additions of Johnson, Edgar Renteria, Bobby Howry and Jeremy Affeldt this offseason, they've upgraded substantially for very reasonable prices. (I wasn't a huge fan of the Renteria signing, but he's a big improvement over their shortstops last year; the other contracts are all just fine.) If the Giants bump Sanchez to the bullpen as a result of signing Johnson, however, that'd be unfortunate for them.