From CNNSI on the Reds:
Since they didn’t have the money to overpay for stars, they settled for overpaying for non-stars. It’s hard to imagine Mike Stanton being worth a two-year deal or Jeff Conine being deserving of a guaranteed contract. Does Josh Hamilton have any chance to pan out (though at 50 grand, the price was right)? Alex Gonzalez (the one who comes from Boston) can pick it like almost no one else, though.
In other words, they didn’t get much help.
Their outlay and effort were spectacular, with GM Jim Hendry completing the $40 million deal for Ted Lilly from his hospital bed, where he was undergoing tests on his heart. While the Cubs probably overpaid for Lilly, Jason Marquis, Henry Blanco and, of course, Alfonso Soriano, and probably should have made sure Carlos Zambrano was signed to a multiyear contract before Zito blew open the starting-pitching market, they made some very good deals (Kerry Wood for $1.75 million guaranteed, Aramis Ramirez for $75 million, Mark DeRosa for $13 million and Lou Piniella for $10 million) and improved more than anyone else. With $300 million spent, they better be close to 20 games better. If they aren’t, Hendry’s bosses won’t take pity on him; he’ll be gone.
Lee is going to hit a ton of home runs into the Crawford boxes. But by the time his $100 million contract expires, it’s going to look as bloated as he will. Jennings is a decent replacement for Andy Pettitte, but Jon Garland would have been better and they came within a finger of getting him (the White Sox had questions about Buchholz’s health, including what effect the tendonitis on his middle finger would have on his pitches). I’d be surprised if Roger Clemens goes back now that his buddy Pettitte has returned east.
Maybe I’m crazy, but Jeff Suppan for $42 million looks almost like a bargain in this free-agent market. He won 44 games the past three years and starred in the Cardinals’ improbable postseason. Estrada is an upgrade at catcher, and they have some special young hitters. Too bad they couldn’t upgrade their outfield. No one apparently wants Geoff Jenkins.
It took months, but they finally landed Adam LaRoche from the Braves, a move that significantly improves the lineup. Their other big switch was in the front office, where one newspaperman, Bob Nutting, took over as managing partner for another, Kevin McClatchy. That means they’ll probably go from cheap to just as cheap.
St. Louis Cardinals
They won the World Series after doing nothing last winter (Juan Encarnacion was the big signing) and being barely better than a .500 club in the regular season, so it’s hard to keep knocking them. If Mark Mulder looks like a risk and Adam Kennedy a reach, extending Chris Carpenter for $65 million over five years makes the overall effort a success.
Every team in the division grades out better than the Reds….Another reason to be concerned about the direction this team is headed….or the lack of direction.