Maybe I should have spent some time seasoning myself with comments, but why not try and swing for the fences, right?
One of the threads I've been seeing the most of is the gunning for free agents posts. Guys that can come in, help the team win more games and so on...figured I might as well do one of those, too.
For my money, the signings need to be able to answer three questions:
1) Do they offer VALUE? Not a hard one to figure out.
2) Do they IMPROVE the team, in conventional or unconventional ways? Yes, adding W's is important, but having a player who could potentially swing trade value in July doesn't hurt either. Flexibility in contracts is key.
3) Do they address a NEED? Again, not hard.
And now, my list, in no order based on need - just based on when they jump out at me as I scan:
1) Grady Sizemore - Centerfielder/DH - 31
VALUE: Yes, he's been hurt. A lot. And yes, his defense is slowly getting worse because of it. But when it comes to hoping there's still something in his bat, it could be worth around 4-5 million to figure it out. Hell, 2010 Sizemore (.248-18-64-13-.343) is worth that kind of look, forget the guy who went 30/30 with a .374 on base percentage.
IMPROVE: Yes. No matter where you put him (RF for Bogie? DH for...anyone?) his bat, in theory, improves the lineup. If he stays healthy and begins to mash, he adds tremendous trade value for a contender who's struggling with their lineup which could improve the team either by getting their ML excess or in prospects.
NEED: Yes. He's a step up from Bogie or Schafer, for my money.
OFFER: 1 yr/$3 mill with incentives
2) Lance Berkman - 1B/DH/LF? - 37
VALUE: Maybe. He rejuvinated himself in St. Louis, so there will probably be richer teams than us banging down the doors to kick the tires first. But, if the knee injury scares off the bigger fish, it works better for Houston. He's an on-base machine.
IMPROVE: Yes. Unless Brett Wallace becomes the second incarnation of his former uber-prospect self, or Steve Pearce/Scott Moore becomes something worth watching, I can safely say Lance Berkman would be a step up. Plus, like Sizemore, he's a good bat to flip if need be.
NEED: Again, maybe. It really depends on how bullish you are on Johnathan Singleton. If you think he can contribute by September 2013, then it's a no because this team won't compete anyways. If you don't, and think it may need to be September of 2014, then it's a good signing.
OFFER: 2 yr/$12 mill
3) Hong-Chih Kuo - LHRP - 31
VALUE: Very much so. A power lefty with great K/BB ratios is hard to get cheap, unless they've had five elbow surgeries. Oh, he has? Good, I guess. He misses bats, but apparently hasn't been good enough to stay in Seattle or Chicago on minor-league deals. High risk, high reward.
IMPROVE: Yes. Tell me with a straight face, whether you believe in lefty/righty matchups or not, that he couldn't do a better job than Fernando Rodriguez. You can't. He has the upside to top Wright if he can pitch close to his 2008-2010 levels, where he struck out 201 batters in 170 innings and had an ERA of 1.96. And tell me a reliever like that couldn't fetch a mid-level prospect for a contender with a shaky pen.
OFFER: Minor league contract
4) Grant Balfour - RHRP - 35
VALUE: Possibly. Non-closers can come cheaper if the market is saturated with good relievers. For my money, Balfour is one of the, if not the best non-closer out there. That said, he does have warts. His K-rate has come down since 2010 (9.1 - 8.6 - 7.1) as his ERA has slowly crept upwards. I think 1.5 K/9 is a bit steep of a jump and should probably go back towards 8 or so next year. If the overly analytical look just at that rate and avoid, Luhnow can pounce.
IMPROVE: Yes. Who's closing now? Coco Cordero? Rhiner Cruz? Me? Exactly. Balfour can jump in right now, take the 9th inning, and never look back unless he's traded or one of our relievers becomes the lovechild of Chuck Norris and Xena. And, again, I know it sounds bad to keep hearing this, but he could offer good value back in a trade.
NEED: Yes, but not overwhelmingly so. A 9th-inning arm isn't as important if 6-8 suck, but it's still a need.
OFFER: 2 yr/$7 mill
5) Edwin Jackson - RHSP - 29
VALUE: ...Ish? He's getting paid 11 mill to be a 3-starter in Washington, but has some great skills to be a 2/3-type. Misses bats, keeps his ERA down, keeps the ball (kind of) in the park. At 29, he could still provide value when the next wave of Astros talent comes up. And honestly, I think he'd kill someone for a deal that lasts longer than a year or doesn't end with him getting traded six times.
IMPROVE: Yes. The fifth-starter mishmash of Galaraga/Rodriguez/etc. is gone. A rotation of Jackson, Norris, Harrell, Lyles/Keuchel, [flex spot for prospect] fills in. But, really, that'd be a solid 1-2-3 for a team that'll most likely be coming up on another #1 pick.
NEED: Yes. Norris is a good pitcher, but can't even be considered a #2 starter. Jackson can. He gets innings, keeps you in games and is quite above average. Definite need.
OFFER: 4 yr/$40 mill
That's an extra $22.5 million on the books in 2013 for those four who got concrete deals, plus whatever Kuo would pick up, if anything. If Luhnow has $25-$35 million to play with in the winter, he'd still have roughly 10-12 to throw in on other players.