I bring this up for two reasons. One, it cements my belief that bringing back Wickman was the right move. And two, it means the Indians lose out on the Giants' draft pick bonanza.
Point one. While I like Benitez, and he was the best closer by far on the market, spending $21M on him isn't what I'd call a good investment. He's probably a better bet than Troy Percival to be worth what he's getting, but after seeing what happened with past reliever contracts, I just don't think spending that much on a closer is a good outlay of money. Especially in a situation where you have a fixed amount of money to spend. I'd rather spend $21M on a starter than a closer if I had the choice.
Point two. The Indians won't have the Giants' first round pick; that will be going to Florida because of Benitez's higher Elias ranking. If the Giants sign another Type A free agent (Steve Finley is a possibility), the pick the Indians receive could be even lower. It's obvious the Giants really don't care about high draft picks, and judging by the amount of cash they're shelling out, are trying to win right now. One of my interests as far as baseball is concerned is a team's "big picture" strategy, and what Brian Sabean is doing is pretty fascinating. He knows he has at best 2-3 years left of Barry Bonds' career, and he is literally going for broke in order to win a championship before Bonds retires. And that means funneling virtually all the teams' money, including draft pick bonuses, into the free agent pool. While I think this strategy is going to land the Giants in a huge mess in 2007 or so, I don't think Sabean really cares about that. Not while Bonds is still playing. Maybe during the winter I'll look into the method to his madness a bit further, but for now, the Indians simply lose their first round draft pick.
A Couple Interesting Signings
Invited RHP Steve Watkins to Spring Training
Signed SS Erick Almonte and OF John Rodriguez to minor-league contracts; Invited them to Spring Training
You've probably heard of Almonte; when Derek Jeter went down in 2003, Almonte got some playing time in New York. But after Jeter returned, Almonte was shuttled back to Columbus. After the 2003 season, he signed with the Colorado Rockies and played the entire 2004 season in Colorado Springs, where he hit .318/.402/.507. Keep in mind, though, that those offensive numbers are inflated because of the altitude, but his K/BB ratio was 87/64, which is outstanding. Right now, Almonte is probably going to be that third shortstop in camp, along with Peralta and Phillips, and may be kept around as a utility infielder, depending on how Phillips performs. If not, then he'll go down to Buffalo as an insurance policy.
John Rodriguez is another former Yankee farmhand who also had his best profession season in 2004. With Columbus he hit .294/.382/.542, with 26 doubles and 16 home runs in 378 at-bats. There was no way he was going to see Yankee Stadium, so maybe he's doing the next best thing by playing somewhat closer to home in Buffalo. He can play center field, so that's likely where he'll play with the Bisons now that Jason Tyner has moved on.