A look at the best personnel moves that teams made heading into the 2010 baseball seasons:
Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay? Tough call, but the Phillies already had Lee and opted for Halladay in a three-way deal with the Blue Jays. The Phillies had to give up another promising arm (Kyle Drabek) in the deal, and all the Mariners lost were unproven prospects. And factor in that Lee makes just $9 million to Halladay's $20 million in 2010, and Seattle received a one-year bargain.
The Yankees have Mariano Rivera. The Red Sox have Jonathan Papelbon. The Rays had... Troy Percival? Dan Wheeler? Yeah, this was a definite need for the Rays, and they went out and made a really good deal for a proven closer in Soriano, who will make $7.25 million in 2010. He went 1-6 last season and had just 27 saves in Atlanta, but struck out 102 and allowed just 53 hits in 75 2/3 innings. The first time through the league could be a very nice ride for Soriano and the Rays.
Vazquez is in his second stint with the Yankees and should be an ideal fit in a veteran rotation. He won't have to be the star behind CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte, but he never has been. He's been sneaky good and one of the best innings-eaters in baseball for more than a decade. He's won 128 games in the last 10 years, and another 15-win season is certainly well within reach. And he'll only be 34 in July. He'll make $11.5 million in the final year of his contract.
Escobar was one of the best pitchers in the American League three years ago (18-7, 3.40 ERA in 2007 with the Angels), but that was before a shoulder injury. The Mets are converting him back to a reliever and spent just $1.25 million (with incentives) to see if they can perform a makeover. Escobar will be 34 in April and saved 38 games for the Blue Jays back in 2002.
He's not going to hit 30 homers, but a career .303 hitter who is a solid pro? Sounds like a perfect fit for the two-time defending NL champs, who are a favorite to make it three in a row. The 34-year-old Polanco is changing positions back to third base, but that's not too big a concern. And the cost was a relatively low $6 million per season for three seasons. A definite upgrade over Pedro Feliz, whose only advantage was power. The Phillies had plenty of power already.
The Cubs are only planning for Nady to be their fourth outfielder, but he will push for more at-bats if he's healthy. He was injured and cast off by the Yankees, but Nady is just 31, and he hit .305 with 28 homers and 97 RBI combined with the Pirates and Yankees in 2008. He is coming off elbow surgery and might not be ready on opening day, but if Kosuke Fukudome doesn't produce, Nady will be in right field in the second half. He'll make $3.3 million.
The Reds gave a six-year, $30 million contract to a Cuban defector who's never thrown a big-league pitch, but it also is a sign that Cincinnati is serious about being a contender again. He probably won't play in the majors this season, but that contract could look like a bargain in just a couple of years.
Might not totally qualify as a pickup because he's pitched for Seattle the previous two seasons, but the Mariners kept the free agent lefty and made him a solid No. 3 behind Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez for just $1.5 million guaranteed. If he hits all his incentives, he could make five times that. But it would be worth it.
When healthy, he's among the best in the majors. And he was reasonably healthy (141 IP) last year for the first time in a long time. That could be a good sign, or if you believe he's due for some arm soreness, that's bad. But there's no doubt that the Rangers needed somebody who could pitch like an ace for the first time since, well, Nolan Ryan? And for $6.5 million, they got a potential. A lot of inferior pitchers will make a lot more money.
It's not exactly a front-page move, but Carroll is a veteran guy who will be very good coming off the bench for the Dodgers and providing depth in case Ronnie Belliard (another bargain acquisition) struggles as the starter at second base. Carroll can play the outfield and around the infield as well, and will hit in the .270s.