Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Marlins sign key player; Yanks get Sheffield, Gordon
The Hot Stove is rising in temperature and has already seen two blockbuster trades that involved Curt Schilling and Richie Sexson. Now, the two World Series participants have made moves in hopes to ensure that they return to the promised land in 2004. In response to the hated Boston Red Sox receiving Schilling from the Diamondbacks, Yankees GM George Steinbrenner made his first big move by signing Atlanta Brave free agent, Gary Sheffield. Sheffield signs on for 3-years worth nearly $38 million dollars. The 35 year old left fielder has amassed 100+ runs batted in four of the last fives years with his 132 from 2003 setting a career record. He has also achieved .900+ OPS for 6 straight seasons, including 1.023 last season. The Yankee outfield now boasts three stars in Sheffield, Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui. Alfonso Soriano is a possibility to move out there as well.

New York addressed another need as well when they overpaid veteran reliever/starter/closer Tom Gordon to the tune of $7.25 million dollars for two years. Gordon parlayed a sparkling second half (2.86 ERA, 9 SV, .182 Opp BA) into the bulky contract. The 36 year old lefty is set to join his 5th team in as many years. Paul Quantrill, Felix Heredia and LaTroy Hawkins remain free agent targets for the free-spending Yankees as well. Meanwhile, the Yankees are from done in terms of their pitching staff. The retirement of Roger Clemens, the refusal to re-sign David Wells and Andy Pettitte's potential departure leave the rotation in great uncertainty.

The trade of Derrek Lee to Chicago, the unfinished deal with Mike Lowell, stalled free agent talks with Luis Castillo and talks of trading Mark Redman left Marlin fans crying like it was 1997. That was the year of their first World Series title and the eventual dismantling of the entire team very soon after. However, fears were tempered with the re-signing of standout 2B, Luis Castillo. A three year contract worth $16 million dollars kept the 28-year old in Miami. He and centefielder Juan Pierre were the catalysts at the top of the lineup that propelled the Marlins to their improbable World Series title. Despite slowing down significantly in terms of stolen bases, Castillo produced his highest batting average and OPS totals since 2000:

Year Avg Obp SB/CS
2000 .334 .418 62/22
2001 .263 .344 33/16
2002 .305 .364 48/15
2003 .314 .381 21/19

Despite his obvious struggles on the basepaths, Castillo and Pierre teamed up to give the Marlins the most stolen bases in the majors last year (150). The Marlins are far from done, however, with several key players still in doubt regarding a return to defend the title. Most importantly, catcher Ivan Rodriguez is looking for $10 million dollars per year, or about $2.5 million less than the Marlins are willing to offer at this point.

As we enter Decemeber, plenty of action remains in the free agent and trading world of Major League Baseball and you can bet that both the Yankees and Marlins will be involved as active participants or bystanders to the pillaging of their team... you decide which will fall into each category!


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