Who: Carlos Lee
What Team: Houston
How Much: $100M
How Long: 6 years
What It Means: Pat Gillick finally came to his senses, and Houston isn't waiting around for His Majesty Prince Roger to decide on their off-season plans.
Will They Regret It: In a couple of years. Lance Berkman's already pretty much a first baseman, and if Carlos keeps on chowing down like he reportedly has been, he's going to make Ryan Howard look like Slim Goodbody before too long and need to be a first sacker as well. It's nice that Houston was able to move forward this season instead of waiting on the annual will he/won't he with Clemens, but one gets the sense that no matter how frenied the rumors were, they were really bidding against themselves here. No way were the Phillies going to unload an immobile $15M/year slugging left fielder with 2 years left on his deal to pick up an immobile, $16M/year slugging left fielder for the next six.
Who: Juan Pierre
What Team: Dodgers
How Much: $45M
How Long: 5 years
What It Means: Ned Colletti studied Brian Sabean's kung fu very closely.
Will They Regret It: Only if they pay attention. Look, I like Juan Pierre. I think he's exciting to watch, I find his work ethic and dedication inspiring, and I appreciate the fact that he clearly enjoys playing baseball. That being said, he makes Johnny Damon look like Shotgun Shuba in the outfield, his caught-stealing rate is abysmal, and he doesn't get on base much. What I'm seeing is Brian Sabean 2, as Colletti builds a team by locking older veterans into long-term deals around a superstar or two, and hoping enough young pitching comes along to rescue them. If I'm another GM right now, I'm looking at a Dodger farm system chart and salivating, because with veterans getting locked in on the big club, some of those kids can be had, and most likely had cheap.
Who: Gary Matthews Jr.
What Team: Angels
How Much: $55M
How Long: 5 years
What It Means: Chone Figgins is on his way out of town, and if you squint hard enough Sarge Jr. looks a little like Soriano.
Will They Regret It: Only if he plays like Gary Matthews Jr., as opposed to the unearthly creature who dwelt in Arlington last year. Highlight reel plays are all well and good, but Sargelet flamed out of a lot of systems before finding himself in Texas' launching pad last year. He's not going to put up those numbers again, and he's one of those guys that the announcers on Baseball Tonight call young simply because they haven't been paying attention. This one's going to be an albatross in two years, three at the most.
Who: Jeff Francis
What Team: Rockies
How Much: $13.25M
How Long: 4 years, with option
What It Means: No way in hell will another free-agent pitcher ever come to Colorado, regardless of school systems, humidors, or hookers.
Will They Regret It: There's always the chance that Francis will flame out a la Armando Reynoso, or any other in the litany of pitchers who enjoyed brief flashes of Rocky Mountain adequacy before imploding, but as far as things go, this is a safe bet. The Rockies have to develop their own pitchers, and showing Francis the money (or at least some of it) is a step in the right direction. On his part, he seems a decent bet for continued success, and his willingness to stick around instead of bolting for Shea at the soonest contractual opportunity means that he's someone the team can try to build around, on the field as well as in the community.