Stars finding their new stripes

Off-season free agent signings can make or break the upcoming season for a major league baseball team. This time is the most hectic time of the year for most organizations whether it is re-signing their star players or trying to land the big deal with a free agent. Many teams, such as the Mets and Braves along with others, are starting to fill the empty spots in their lineup. The New York Mets answered their most important off-season question by agreeing to a contract extension with their veteran third baseman, David Wright. Arguably the best third baseman in the NL last year, Wright is the heart and soul of the Mets’ lineup. Wright and the Mets agreed on a seven-year, $122 million contract extension in which Wright would be paid almost $20 million per year. New York desperately needed to agree on the contract extension with the loss of Jose Reyes before the 2012 season. Other than Wright, the rest of the infield is relatively young and the loss of Wright would mean the loss of much needed veteran leadership. Not only is he great in the field, he batted .306 and was great with runners in scoring position with 93 runs batted in. With the Mets finishing 74-88 last year, this deal is one that needed to get done in order for the Mets to get back on track and into the playoffs. With the Mets extending Wright’s contract, division rivals the Atlanta Braves got a big new acquisition by signing a huge bat. B.J. Upton, 28-year-old outfielder previously from the Rays, signed with the Braves for five years. Over the five years, Upton is set to get $75million. Atlanta lost Michael Bourn who might be a bit better offensively and defensively than Upton, but B.J. brings to the table a big threat on the base paths. Upton has stolen 109 bases in the past three years but has only batted over .250 once in his past five years in the league which was a big turn off to many teams looking for free agent centerfielders. Although his homerun numbers have gone up each year with 28 last year, his strikeouts have risen to 169 in the past year. Though B.J. Upton’s hitting numbers are not where a team would want them for a centerfielder, he is a good pickup for a team needing a good defensive replacement for Bourn. With some free agents signing, good free agent pitchers are still available that can be used in different roles in a rotation. Anibal Sanchez helped his value rise by helping the Detroit Tigers get to the World Series. Although Sanchez is a middle of the starting rotation kind of guy, Sanchez wants a contract comparable to an ace-pitcher which is hard for most teams. He is young (28 yrs. old) and has experience in big time games. Not a high strikeout guy, he pitched in three playoff games for the Tigers and averaged eight strikeouts per nine innings while posting a 1-2 record in the playoffs. If a team is able to pay him less than what he wants then he is a great addition. Otherwise he is asking for much more money than teams should pay him. One of the biggest free agents this year is Zach Greinke. Although he may be the biggest name pitcher being talked about, Kyle Lohse is a great and experienced pitcher who is still available. Lohse may be five years older than Greinke but Lohse is having better seasons as he gets older. Last season, Lohse had a 16-3 record and had a better ERA than Greinke who posted an ERA of 3.48. Greinke might get more strikeouts, but Lohse may be the better pickup as he is more reliable in eating up innings. Most may disagree, but Lohse is the better pickup. Wright, Upton, Sanchez, Lohse, and Greinke will make a difference on their new teams but who will help their team make the push towards the World Series? Wright and Upton have found their team for the years to come but three pitches worth signing are still available. Great free agents will always land somewhere…where will that be?