C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels
While Wilson did get a bit of attention as what many would consider the best starting pitcher on the market this offseason, he still has not reached superstardom, and was too quickly forgotten about as â€œthe other guy the Angels got.â€ On almost any other team, Wilson would have been their biggest offseason acquisition, and someone who the fans would rally around to help bring their team a pennant. His five-year, $77.5 million dollar deal should speak for his abilities.
Wilson had a career year in 2011, ranking in the top 10 of every positive pitching statistic in the AL. With 16 wins, 206 strikeouts, 3 complete games, and a 2.94 ERA, Wilson demonstrated he has all the makings of a Major League Ace. He joins a team with the run support of an above average lineup thanks to the signing of a certain first baseman, and will again be pitching in a division with the Oakland Aâ€™s and the Seattle Mariners. Expect to hear C.J. Wilsonâ€™s name on a regular basis this year, as he will certainly earn himself more buzz than he received after signing his contract a few hours after The Machine.
Mark Buehrle, Miami Marlins
Just like Wilson, Buehrle was only the second best player signed to his new team this offseason. Quickly forgotten about by the hype surrounding the signing of Shortstop Jose Reyes last week, he will soon remind Marlins fans of why the team threw their payroll limits out the window and signed him to a four-year, $58 million dollar contract.
His consistency is what makes him so valuable. Buehrle has ten consecutive seasons of ten or more wins, only the third active pitcher to accomplish this. He has an impressive resume including a one-hitter against the Rangers in 2007, and the eighteenth perfect game in MLB history thrown on July 23, 2009. Had it not been for the one walk to Sammy Sosa in the â€™07 game, he would have become the first pitcher in history to throw two perfect games. He also established a major league record for number of consecutive hitters retired in 2009, at 45 consecutive hitters retired. His glove is as good as his arm, and because of this Buehrle has won three straight Golden Glove awards in â€˜09-11. He has one of the best Web Gems of all time, a between the legs, glove flip from foul territory to first base, that led to the creation of the â€œBuehrle-meter,â€ to which all other Web Gems were compared to in the 2010 season. Needless to say, this guy deserved more time on the spotlight, but is sure to wow Miami fans in the upcoming 2012 season.
David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Maybe because heâ€™s still on the same team, maybe because he is 36 years old, or maybe because he is no longer â€œthe guyâ€ for the Red Sox, David â€œBig Papiâ€ Ortiz was all but completely ignored this offseason when he accepted salary arbitration from Boston promising his return for 2012. A one sentence storyline on ESPNâ€™s bottom line was about all the attention “the greatest clutch-hitter in the history of the Boston Red Sox” received when the decision was announced. Neither Ortiz nor the Sox have ruled out the possibility of a multi-year deal still being worked out before the arbitration hearing.
People keep waiting for and expecting the end of Big Papiâ€™s career as the Red Sox DH. While we will never see the 2005-06 Ortiz of 50 homeruns and 130+ RBIâ€™s again, we are still seeing a consistently productive player at the plate. Last season he posted the second highest batting average of his career at .309, and got himself into position to help his team score by having an on base percentage of .398. Batting slightly lower in the lineup these days, Ortiz still manages to drive in runs in bunches. He finished his 2011 season with 40 doubles, 29 homeruns, and 96 RBIâ€™s. His bat is still feared, and nestled into a lineup with almost no weak spot, another .300/30/100 season could definitely still be in this old veteranâ€™s tank.
Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
Signed, sealed, and delivered a month ago, people were not even thinking baseball offseason yet when Papelbon agreed to a four-year, $50 million dollar contract with the Phillies. As soon as the winter meetings began, all the talk was about the superstar free agents that had not signed yet, as it still will be for the next few weeks. It will not be until the dust starts to settle that people will remember this signing, and what it means for the already historic Philadelphia pitching staff.
As the closer for the BostonÂ Red Sox, Papelbon became the fastest pitcher in MLB history to reach 200 career saves. He is the only pitcher to record 25 saves in each of his first five full seasons, and blew that away by recording at least 35 a season in that time span. He also proves his clutch factor by holding the Major League record for most consecutive scoreless innings to start a postseason career at 25 innings. The 31 year-old shows no sign of slowing down as he posted the most strikeouts of his career last season by striking out 87 batters in 64.1 innings. He also tied a career record by only blowing 3 saves over the duration of the season. His skills will provide the nail in the coffin at the end of games for the Philliesâ€™ superb starting rotation, and he is prime to reach 40+ saves by the end of the 2012 season.
Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays
Matt signed a five-year, $14 million dollar deal a few days ago with the Tampa Bay Rays. The deal also allows club options that could make the contract worth $37.5 million over 8 years, numbers that are more reflective of what this 22 year old is really worth. This contract was overshadowed by the bigger negotiations this week, but will prove to be quite important over the duration of its five-year span. Moore is one of the highest rated prospects in all of baseball, and when he got his chance in The Show, he lived up to every bit of it.
His first major league start was against the weak New York Yankees lineup, in the friendly away atmosphere of Yankee Stadium, in mid-September when the Rays had little to play forâ€¦ Okay, all sarcasm aside, the pressure alone would be enough for most managers to never dream of giving a player his first career start in this kind of situation. Moore went out and pitched 5.0 innings of shutout baseball, gave up four hits, walked only one, and struck out 11 on 84 pitches. Beginnerâ€™s luck you ask? Only if it lasts for two games, because his very next start was a 7.0 inning, two hit, six strikeout, shutout against the highest MLB batting average team, the Texas Rangers in Game One of the ALDS. This guy has ice in his veins, and has already demonstrated he has what it takes to face the best lineups in baseball during the most clutch situations. He will not be overshadowed for long, and will someday be in the $200 million dollar contract range.