Who: Marcus Giles
What Team: San Diego
How Much: $3.75M
How Long: 1 year, with a team option for 2008
What It Means: Kevin Towers is one hell of a poker player
Will They Regret It: Most likely not, and this is my front-runner for "steal of the off-season". Giles is 28, just moving into his prime, and it wasn't so long ago that the asking price for him was steeper than the business end of a ski jump. Everyone figured that he was the back end of the Padres' maneuverings when they dealt away the only real second baseman on their roster (Josh Barfield, for those of you playing at home), but to get him this cheaply, on this short of a deal, and without surrendering anything should be enough to send Pads fans into low earth orbit. Last year was Giles' worst with the bat, but he's a decent bet to rebound, particularly if he can avoid getting run over by anyone larger than Eddie Gaedel this year. The Padres have solved their second base problem cheaply and effectively, and holding the option for 2008 just makes the deal that much sweeter.
Who: Ryan Klesko
What Team: San Francisco
How Much: $1.75M
How Long: 1 year
What It Means: One, there are no hitters left out there. Two, they're dancing in the streets in San Diego
Will They Regret It: Only if he plays. Klesko used to be the rarest of all ballplayer types: the burly slugger who could steal bases. One got the feeling he got most of those SBs because those poor, helpless middle infielders bailed off the bag when they saw 220 pounds of snorting Klesko galloping up the basepaths, but that's neither here nor there. His speed went years ago, his power followed when his shoulder turned into linguine, and if you put him anywhere but 1B, prepare to watch him lurch around like he should be doing "Puttin' On the Ritz" with Dr. Frederick Frankenstein. Bruce Bochy says that RoboKlesko will be putting in time in the outfield, but God help the Giants if that's the case. The only redeeming value of this deal is that it's short; even the Giants' system should be able to come up with somebody who can outhit the 2007 edition of Klesko.
Who: Eric Gagne
What Team: Texas
How Much: $6M
How Long: 1 year
What It Means: $6M is now the going rate for a roll of the dice.
Will They Regret It: Slightly, unless they win the World Series this year. We've hit the "one year to prove myself" section of the free agent season, also known as the Nomar Garciaparra Career Memorial, which means that Gagne will spend the season auditioning for next year's big long-term deal. If he craps out, Texas is out a fair bit of money; if he's lights out, he's gone at the end of the year, and if he's mediocre, then he's not worth the $6M. In other words, it's a little much for a flyer on a guy who's an awful long way removed from his last extended action, and about whom the dreaded post-steroids parenthetical ("he looks much smaller" - the artful implication being, of course, that Gagne was doing Better Living Through Chemistry when he was blowing people away, but has since restricted himself to poutine and viande fume) has been repeatedly uttered. The potential for this to blow up in Texas' face is very real, though at least Akinori Otsuka is apparently sticking around to provide a deeper bullpen and some insurance.
Who: Rod Barajas
What Team: Philadelphia
How Much: $2.5M
How Long: 1 year
What It Means: Barajas will be hearing the name "Jody Reed" a lot.
Will They Regret It: Possibly - there's still time for Barajas to back out of this one the way he backed out of his deal with Toronto. The irony, of course, is that he's ending up with fewer years, less money, and no guarantee of starting over Carlos Ruiz. If he plays, he'll provide Lieberthalian production for less money, and throw out more baserunners. Ideally, he's there to ease the transition for Ruiz, the man who is theoretically the Catcher of the Future. On the bright side, it means that Pat Gillick didn't drink Chris Coste's Kool-Aid - the man's a great story, but he's mighty old for a rookie and not someone you want to count on or invest in to do a lot of your catching.