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Steam from the Hot Stove

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A roundup of all the things happening around Major League Baseball over the last few days....

Boston Red Sox-According to a Boston Globe report, you can take one of the possible low price bargains for the Rays off of the market, as the Red Sox have apparently come to terms with RHP Joel Pinero on a one year deal worth $4 million, pending a physical. Now suppose you wanted to find a lick of sense in this deal, for argument's sake. Where would you start? Perhaps with the dollar amount? Nope, he's overpaid for his production (or lack thereof) over the last couple years. Maybe it is because Pinero's peripheral stats are improving? Nope, nearly all of his peripheral stats have declined substantially over the last three years. Is this move a result of blackmail? Don't rule the possibility out. I can't say anything in his statistics that would warrant anything more than a $1 million annual salary, perhaps not even a major league contract. And the Red Sox are going to give him $4 million and a chance to close games? I've said it before, and I'll say it again about this offseason: I just don't get it.

Cleveland Indians-The Indians, meanwhile, took another prospective free agent away from the Devil Rays by signing former Red Sox closer Keith Foulke to a one year, $5 million deal with additional incentives worth $2 million. There is a mutual option for 2008. I don't want to say that this is a good deal, but considering the market, Foulke's proven track record, and the state of the Indians' bullpen over the last three seasons, it isn't a bad move. Foulke struggled mightily with the long ball last year and in 2005 at a rate which didn't even come close to his formerly decent career rate. Foulke's strikeout and walk numbers weren't bad last year, and he could be quite a reliever if he gets his home run rate back into shape. He will apparently compete with Joe Borowski for the closer' role in what should be an improved Indians bullpen.

Houston Astros-Mark Loretta is headed for a redux with the Astros after coming to terms on a one year agreement worth $2.5 million. This does not mean that Craig Biggio will be uprooted from his starting job at second base. Rather, Loretta will act as the "jack of all trades", a utility infielder that can spell players at any infield position. Two and a half million dollars for a utility man? Whatever you say, but in all honesty, it probably isn't a bad deal. Granted, Loretta is not stellar offensively, but he is pretty good with the glove and should provide some useful flexibility, ever important in the double switch hell that is the National League. Besides, I've always heard great things about Loretta as a clubhouse guy, I've even heard him mentioned several times as the type of guy who would become a good manager someday. Not a bad investment for Houston.

New York Yankees-Our division rivals continue their scary quest for affordable, practical contracts and they appear to have reached another one with Red Sox World Series hero (or, just the guy who kept the ball from the final out and sued to keep it) Doug Mientkiewicz. The terms of the "tentative deal" were not made public, which of course ruins the fun of being able to evaluate the deal, but even assuming that the Yankees are not paying a bloated salary (which again isn't a guarantee), but rather a deal not too much in excess of the $1.85 million base salary he was being paid last year by Kansas City, the deal just doesn't seem worth it. This deal just reeks of Travis Lee to me, not that this is a bad thing. The concept of bringing in someone who can play good defense at first, especially with a groundball pitcher like Chien-Ming Wang on the staff, sounds good, but in reality doesn't mean much. There is a reason Travis Lee isn't a hot commodity as "the best defensive first baseman ever", and it is because that doesn't really matter too much in the end. Sure, having a butcher like Giambi at first isn't optimal, but the loss in production by playing a guy like Mientkiewicz at first routinely isn't worth the investment. Sure, you could say that Mientkiewicz had a, if not good, league-average offensive year for Kansas City last year. After all, he hit .283/.359/.411 for the Royals. But you know what? Travis Lee's OPS was just .013 points lower in 2005, the year before his one year payday. How did that work out? And it isn't like Mientkiewicz has a great track record offensively anyway. Lost in Boston's championship run was the fact that Mientkiewicz was horrible at the plate, and he merely upgraded to "bad" the following year. You won't hear me complaining about this move on New York's behalf, but from a baseball standpoint, it just isn't a good idea.

Also...The Colorado Rockies have resigned utility IF Jamey Carroll to a two year, $4 million agreement...The Chicago Cubs have signed RP Neal Cotts to a one year extension...Sir Sidney Ponson has signed a one year, minor league contract with the Minnesota Twins for the chance to compete in their starting rotation; he will earn $1 million if he makes the final roster and can attain an additional $2 million in incentives.

Sources

Red Sox set to sign righthander Pinero [Boston Globe]
Shaprio says Foulke, Borowski will battle for closer role [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
Report: Yanks reach tentative deal with Mientkiewicz [SI.com]
Infielder Loretta to rejoin Astros in super-utility role [Houston Chronicle]