Time again to pontificate on Hot Stove happenings going down around baseball.
The Reds signed Orlando Cabrera to a one-year, $4 million contract, with an option for 2011. The 35-year old is on the decline, which is to be expected at his age. His weighted on-base average (wOBA) has been on the slide over the last three years (.310 in 2009). Cabrera is also stealing fewer bases (13 SBs last year), which makes sense considering he's registered a speed score under five in the past two seasons. Despite his shortcomings, he's managed to be a serviceable fantasy player. In three of the last four years, Cabrera has recorded 70-plus runs batted in. In 2009, Cabrera proved to be a terrific stretch run pick-up with a strong September (.315 batting average, four home runs, 23 RBIs, 28 runs in 130 at-bats). Even with his slower wheels, it's feasible that Cabrera can score 90-plus runs if he hits leadoff for the Reds. He's only worth drafting in leagues that utilize MIs because of his age and eroding skills, but could prove mixed league worthy if he hits in front of Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.
In a curious move, the Blue Jays inked Kevin Gregg to a one-year, $2.75 million pact. Just prior to the signing, it was reported that Toronto planned on letting Scott Downs and Jason Frasor battle for the ninth-inning job. While no one in the organization has said that Gregg was signed to be the closer, one would assume that he's the favorite given his experience in the role. Too bad his "experience" as the closer has not been a very good one. Gregg has a career 4.45 earned run average and 1.34 walks plus hits per inning in save situations, not to mention 16 blown opportunities in the last two years. He did throw harder in 2009 (average fastball: 93.1 mph), but Frasor had better velocity (93.8) and posted a 2.50 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Even Downs (3.09 ERA/1.26 WHIP) was more effective than Gregg (4.72 ERA/1.31 WHIP).
Sadly, none of this matters. Gregg possesses some sort of voodoo instrument that makes coaches employ him as their closer, even though more talented weapons (cough, Carlos Marmol, cough) are available. If Gregg indeed ends up in the ninth-inning role, he will unfortunately be a must-own player simply because he's a closer. Track the position battle in Spring Training, but consider Gregg the leader of the pack heading into the pre-season.
Orlando "O-Dog" Hudson has finally found a suitor, shacking up with the Twins on a one-year, $5 million deal. Though he started out on fire last season, he eventually lost his job to Ronnie Belliard. While the thought of hitting in front of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau may have fantasy owners titillated, history says Hudson will not be roster-worthy in 12-team mixed leagues. The 32-year old has never scored 90 runs and is no more than a "threat" for 10 HRs and 10 SBs. It would make sense to add Hudson if he gets off to a hot start, but don't get too comfortable if he goes on a tear. There are two edicts to live by in fantasy baseball. Don't drop potential stars in the first month and never trust a player who loses their job to Ronnie Belliard.
Erik Bedard has re-upped with the Mariners, but should fantasy owners be interested? If the question is whether or not he's draft-worthy, the answer is no. He's pitched under 90 innings the last two seasons and has seen his ground ball to fly ball ratio shrink over that time as well (1.35 mark in his last year in Baltimore, 0.69 in Seattle). It could also be a while before he's on the mound as he's coming off shoulder surgery (reports have him being out until at least May). That being said, he is a player to keep an open mind about if reports surface that he's close to a return.
In 2009, Bedard had an ace-like 2.82 ERA and 1.19 WHIP to go along with a sweet 9.76 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9). Though his 3.55 fielding independent pitching (FIP) suggests his ERA was a mirage, he was still a very good fantasy starter when healthy. Playing in front of a standout Mariners defense, and with the ability to rack up the Ks, Bedard has the potential to provide sick fantasy value.
The Nationals continued their busy off-season by signing Adam Kennedy to be their everyday second baseman. Fantasy owners interested in killing their fantasy hopes can feel free to draft him as their starting 2B/MI. While the former first-round pick did finish with double-digit HRs (11) and 20 SBs, it should be noted that it was only the second time he's accomplished such a "feat." While Kennedy has long had the talent to be a useful fantasy asset, he's 34 years old, has never scored 90 runs, and possesses a modest .721 career on-base plus slugging. If he goes on a tear like he did last September (.349 BA and 20 runs), then he would certainly be worth adding. Until then, let him chill on the waiver wire.