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First Free Agent Signings

Yesterday brought to a start the 2006/2007 free agent signing period.  Much has been made about the amount of money chasing this year's class of free agents.  Two of the first three signings do not lend a lot of validity to that din.

The Chicago Cubs resigned two of their own free agents, 3B Aramis Ramirez and starter-turned-closing-candidate Kerry Wood.  Ramirez received a 5-year/$73 MM deal that boosts his average annual salary from $11MM to $14.6MM.

This supports the 28-year-old's decision to opt out of his prior contract, but the contract was far below the 7-year/$119MM Beltran-like one that was being exuberantly tossed around in the press.

Update [2006-11-13 8:48:42 by Eric Hz]: From ESPN's Keith Law:

Aramis Ramirez was supposedly asking for "Beltran money" (the new gold standard for top-of-the-market hitters) if he didn't re-sign with the Cubs. And if we believe the market was likely to provide that salary to Ramirez, then the Cubs got themselves an outstanding hitter at a good 20-percent discount.

Kerry Wood signed a one-year deal with a $1.75MM base and $4.25 MM in incentives based around games finished.  This morning's Chicago Sun-Times reports he is in the closer mix.

This is great fantasy news for Wood owners in NL-only leagues, and bad news for the other injured closers on the market.  Wood's deal is far below even the two-year/$10MM contract Todd Jones signed last off-season.  Could that be the high mark for potential 2007 closers?  (If it is, is there some collusive behavior going on?)

The one player who has busted the bank is Mets' 2B Jose Valentin, who inked a one-year deal for $4MM with a vesting option for 2008.  According to this morning's NY Post: deal with a vesting option for 2008 that would guarantee him $4 million - and considerably more if the option vests...The vesting option for 2008 is based on plate appearances....

That appears to be a lot of money for a 37-year-old who hit .170 in 2005 and .216 in 2004.  The Mets may rue the day next season when they discover the Valentin from the play-offs was closer to the real thing than the one they saw in the 2006 regular season.

From a fantasy baseball perspective, Aramis Ramirez's value remains unchanged.  Kerry Wood's sits in the lower double digits with possible appreciation to the $20 range if he looks to be the clear closer, and Jose Valentin's value sits in the high single digits/pre-teens double digits assuming a no reversion to his sub.250 AVG days, which happen to be six of his last nine seasons, and the full-time gig necessary to get him to the high teens in HRs.