Stephen Drew: Red Sox Shortstop

Wrote a post on HubPages today concerning Stephen Drew and his one-year contract with the Red Sox. When compared to Mike Aviles, though, is he really that much better?

Read more on HubPages: Is Stephen Drew the Answer at Shortstop for the Red Sox in 2013?

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Is Jason Bay Going to Help the Seattle Mariners?

This offseason, outfielder Jason Bay signed with the Seattle Mariners for $1 million, with only $500,000 guaranteed and the other half guaranteed only if he makes the team. That seems like an interesting gamble for the Mariners. It’s not as if Bay has no money coming in, as the Mets still owe him $21 million. It’s a feel-good story for him, though, since he lives 10 miles away from Safeco Field in Kirkland, Washington.

This move would lead to the Red Sox acquiring first baseman/outfielder Mike Carp from the Mariners for a player to be named later or cash. Carp had a pretty good 2011, but after hurting his throwing shoulder in 2012’s opener, he never got back on track. It could be argued, though, that Carp may have been a better option at this point than Bay, who hasn’t been too useful as a player since his monster 2009 with the Red Sox.

So what can Bay provide the Mariners? Obviously, it’s not a huge price to pay if he makes the team, even if all he is an this point is a right-handed bat off of the bench. Let’s see who they already had in the outfield: Michael Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez, Casper Wells, and Eric Thames. Saunders is a pretty good player, who may not be the greatest defensive outfielder on the planet currently, but he certainly has the speed and tools to become one. Gutierrez can be a solid player if he stay healthy in 2013. Casper Wells has some talent, and is a good outfielder. Eric Thames is a fourth outfielder. So Bay would seem to work his way into this mix somehow, wouldn’t he?

There are two other issues with this, however. Raul Ibanez and Michael Morse have since been acquired by the club, and they are both clearly more valuable at this point than Bay. So in hindsight, Bay may not have been worth the gamble, even if there is stilll potential upside with him. He still hits let-handers well (.756 OPS vs LHP in 2010-2012) but that’s about all he’s got. I think the Mariners done goofed here. He may well just take his $500,000 and walk.

Even if Bay is more of his 2010 self (1.5 WAR) than his 2009 self (4.9 WAR), he would easily be worth the $1 million as a fairly regular player. The only trouble is that while his 2010 made him a slightly below-average outfielder, he hasn’t been even worth that since. In fact, in 2011, he was worth 0.8 WAR, and in 2012 he was “worth” -0.9 WAR. So ladies and gentlemen, for the past two seasons, Bay has been a replacement-level scrub, if not slightly worse. The 34-year old might be washed up, but he may still have some value, especially with basically only $500,000 on the line. We’ll see what kind of spring he has, and maybe someone will take a flyer on him.

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The Baseball Mogul Returns

After a long hiatus of not writing about baseball, or watching much baseball for that matter, the Baseball Mogul is back in business! Not only have I begun writing for HubPages, but I will be posting things not quite up to HubPages’ standards (i.e. simple blog posts) on this site.

I’ll be doing my best to post daily updates as the season progresses.

 

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Dodgers & Red Sox Blockbuster Deal: The Worst Trade in Baseball History?

I have not been following baseball very much for a multitude of reasons this season. But one of them has been my total lack of interest in watching the Boston Red Sox self-destruct. I pretty much knew they were done after Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles (a first baseman) pitched to his first major league win in perhaps the most heartbreaking extra innings loss I’ve ever witnessed. (Good for the Orioles, though, they clearly are a much better team than the Red Sox at this point!)

So what have the Red Sox done? They have completed what could turn out to be the worst trade in Major League history. For the Dodgers. Not for the Red Sox.

While I’m not sad at all to see Josh Beckett go (he may well be done as a decent major league pitcher) I must say that the Gonzalez move comes as a bit of a surprise. Granted he has not shown the same power this year, and his home run numbers are down, but he’s still a very, very good player. Of course, when someone is willing to take $120 million off of your hands, you just have to do it.

One thing people must understand right off is that teams put players on waivers ALL the time during this time of the year. This is because you can pull guys back. They just then become inelegible to be traded. After the July 31st deadline, you can only make trades if players clear waivers or if a deal is made with the claiming team.

Well, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto all went up on waivers. Beckett and Gonzalez were claimed by the Dodgers. Crawford and Punto were not. So what gives?

I must admit, I completely understand the Gonzalez move. In and of itself, if the Dodgers were willing to absorb that contract for a smile, that would’ve made plenty of sense. While Gonzalez may prove that this year is a fluke (which is possible, but who knows if his decline phase is starting early?) it’s still quite a gamble that the next five years would be well worth the $21 million annual paycheck. Beckett I’m not so surprised they claimed, either, simply for rotation depth purposes. No doubt the National League and one of the greatest pitcher’s parks in baseball in Dodger Stadium would perhaps make him a useful pitcher in the stretch run.

So from a simple absorbing contracts standpoint, the Dodgers are in a position to do that. All they have to do is jettison James Loney and get a little extra cash to soften the financial burden, right? Wrong.

Either Ned Coletti is a total imbecile or Ben Cherington is a genius. Or both.

Not only did the Dodgers take on all but the September 2012 salaries of both Gonzalez and Beckett, both relative albatrosses at this point, but they also took on Nick Punto, who they didn’t claim. The real head-scratcher, and the real win for the Red Sox, is the inclusion of an INJURED Carl Crawford and the acquisition of FIVE players!

I admit it. I love Carl Crawford. But the past two years have been pretty much the worst case scenario for any big money signing for him. Granted, his struggles have been because of entirely physical ailments, but that doesn’t change the fact that his monster signing was a major mistake. The Carl Crawford that the Sox watched in Tampa Bay all of those years was the right player to add to the team. He just hasn’t been that at all. This is not to say that the Los Angeles Dodgers couldn’t use that player, either. They most certainly need a left fielder. Enter Crawford. Next year…

Why the hell would the Los Angeles Dodgers, insanely rich as they suddenly are, want Crawford? I understand needing a veteran pitcher like Beckett, even if the cost is crazy high. I understand getting Adrian Gonzalez to slot in between Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp. Hell, Nick Punto for infield help makes plenty of sense. But why did they take on ALL of the money? The Red Sox were desparate to make a big move. They could’ve at least asked for another few million per years. But no. They take on all but $12 million AND take on Carl Crawford! Damaged goods!

OK, fine. Salary dump. Ben Cherington says thank you Dodgers, have a nice day. Nope. Not Ben. He asks, hey, what about that Rubby De La Rosa guy? And Allen Webster? Decent arms? Yeah, throw them on in. And hell, why not Jerry Sands and Ivan DeJesus? Sure, why not? And yeah, we’ll take James Loney for the last five or six weeks. Who cares.

Genius. Pure genius.

What position does this leave the Red Sox in? Well, there are plenty of first base optinos available that can make up for a lot of Gonzalez’s 2012 production. Crawford could be replaced by just about any fourth outfielder at this point. John Lackey can easily replace Beckett for the next two years. Punto was expendable with the emergence of Pedro Ciracio. And they’re about $250 million richer.

The Dodgers get a franchise-caliber first baseman, albeit aging, who adds a huge bat to their lineup and protection for their other two big bats. They get a fourth or fifth starter for the stretch run and certainty for the next two seasons that they’ll have a guy named Josh Beckett on their roster. They also have the wild card in Carl Crawford, who if he proves completely healthy the next five years, could be a very useful player that can stabilize one of their outfield positions. Punto will be useful utility infield depth and a generally good guy to have around.

The problem is the money. The Dodgers have basically hamstrung themselves for the next couple of years. It’s too bad for them that the Phillies pulled Cliff Lee back. That would’ve been a risk well worth taking. But this is utter madness on the part of the Dodgers. I don’t think you can entirely blame Ned Coletti. This was clearly put upon him by management.

This trade could help them the Dodgers this year, and perhaps the next if Crawford returns well. But in the long run, this could be an utter disaster. All three of the big contracts could become absolute disasters like they already were for the Red Sox. As far as the Red Sox are concerned, this is the best trade in their history… they can start all over with guys like Lester, Buchholz, Doubront, Pedroia, Middlebrooks, and Ellsbury still in the fold. And Xander Boeggarts and Matt Barnes on the way. Oh and Allen Watson and Rubby De La Rosa may be stopping by to say hello in 2013.

Good call, Red Sox. Good call.

I especially love this quote from Cherington:

I think we recognized that we are not who we want to be right now… It’s been a large enough sample performance, going back to last year, that we felt like in order to be the team we want to be on the field, we need to make more than cosmetic changes. As we look forward to this offseason, we felt like the opportunity to build the team that we need, that the fans deserve, that we want — required more of a bold move to give us an opportunity to really reshape the roster, reshape the team. It was a difficult thing to do to trade away four players like this.” (Source, redsox.com)

No, it wasn’t Ben. It was a no-brainer. Thank you, Dodgers. You just saved “Red Sox Nation” about four or five years of total agony. Now Sox fans can watch the team suck without all the overpaid guys clogging up the roster…

At least, now there’s hope…

Posted in Baseball Musings, Los Angeles Dodgers, Red Sox | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mat Latos: The New Ace of the Cincinnati Reds?

Mat Latos is certainly an ace caliber pitcher. There is no denying that. But the San Diego Padres received a starting first baseman (Yonder Alonso), a starting catcher (Yasmani Grandal), a rebound candidate for their rotation (Edinson Volquez), and a possible set-up man (Brad Boxberger).

Quantity over quality trades often work out for the side getting the quality but the main thing to remember is that Latos (like any starting pitcher) is one arm injury away from making this a steal for the Padres. Right now, of course, the Reds got exactly what they needed for what have essentially become spare parts for their organization. But as with any trade for a starting pitcher (see Erik Bedard trade), giving up any real quantity of possibly useful players can come back to haunt you.

I am not going to strictly compare this to the Bedard trade, as Baltimore really in the end only have Adam Jones left to show for that deal. Yes, Chris Tillman hasn’t proven anything as a starter, and may have to shift to the bullpen to provide any real value. On the flip side, though, the Orioles got more out of this deal than at first glance.

George Sherrill was death on left-handers, and still is, and saved some games for the O’s. They also got a couple of prospects out of dealing Sherrill to the Dodgers, although unfortunately Josh Bell has been a bust and Steve Johnson profiles as a middle reliever at best. However, Kam Mickolio gave the Orioles a few decent innings, and more importantly was sent along with set-up man David Hernandez to Arizona for Mark Reynolds. Even a guy like Mark Reynolds who strikes out 200+ times a year was a good pickup for two relief arms. He’s easily the Orioles starting first baseman next year.

So in the end, Bedard got them Adam Jones, Mark Reynolds, Steve Johnson, and Josh Bell. The last two are really just depth at this point, but a starting center fielder and first baseman is a good return for an oft-injured pitcher. Bedard did pitch quite a few good innings for Seattle, but his starts were so few and far between that he never provided the value even Adam Jones alone gave the Orioles. The bright side for the Mariners is that they at least got two outfielders from the Dodgers and Mariners, one of whom Trayvon Robinson, could end up as a starter, and Chih-Hsein Chiang who could be a solid fourth outfielder.

Latos, of course, is no Bedard. He’s an ace pitcher now, and with his 6’6 frame should stay durable. He’s quietly become one of the elite pitchers in the game. But as with any pitcher, increased workload can take its toll, and as the Reds’ ace, this is bound to happen. If his arm ends up falling off, this could become a disaster of a trade. The Reds do control his services through 2015, so it’s not a short-term fix, and one or two injuries won’t make this an instant win for the Padres, but pitchers are always risky propositions.

Padres GM Josh Byrnes is a guy who’s always hunting for value, and is never afraid to trade a top starting pitcher for many pieces. The Padres are desperate for two of the pieces he acquired, Alonso and Grandal, and Volquez is an easy bounce-back candidate pitching in PetCo Park who could net them a decent return at the trade deadline. Boxberger has struggled with control, but he’s probably a future set-up man, and at worst, an above average middle reliever.

The major question here is, what will happen with current starters at catcher and first base? Nick Hundley hasn’t exactly been durable, and Grandal is good enough behind the plate to very easily steal the starting job. Anthony Rizzo hasn’t proven he can hit Major League pitching, even though he destroyed AAA (but as is often the case with the Pacific Coast League, those numbers are definitely inflated). Alonso is more of a gap-power hitter who uses all fields, while Rizzo will pull a lot of balls that will go to die. There are plenty of teams that will take a chance on Rizzo, though, so the dealing is not done here yet.

Edinson Volquez has had a very tumultuous story, and the past couple of years his control has apparently deserted him. But the Padres seem to be good at fixing broken pitchers. If he’s just decent for the Padres in 2012, he should net them a couple more prospects at the July trade deadline. Nothing like a buy-low candidate that you can swing for more pieces.

Latos will likely help the Reds win what is probably a winnable National League Central, although the Cardinals are far from dead, and the Brewers despite their problems should hang in the race. But where the Padres are going nowhere fast, and their top prospects are a year or two away from making an impact, trading Latos now before he got expensive actually probably nets them a surplus in the long run, especially if Alonso and Grandal fill the biggest holes on the Major League roster.

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Jimmy Rollins Gets $33 Million to Stay a Phillie

So Jimmy Rollins gets $33 million guaranteed, and a 4th year vesting option that could easily net him another $11 million. Finally we can put an end of the absurd notion that he could possibly land a 5-year deal.

It doesn’t take much statistical analysis to admit that this is a bit of an overpay. He’s still an above average shortstop, especially defensively, but I can’t see that anyone else bid nearly this high for his services. The 4th year option should vest easily if he stays relatively healthy. So it’s essentially $44 million guaranteed for a shortstop that likely won’t age all that well.

The good news for Phillies fans is that, yes, he should finish his career in Philly. He’s just not elite anymore, and he’s being paid like he is. He’s no Hall of Famer. I’m not saying that anyone thinks he is, but Rollins is only marginally better than Rafael Furcal, and there’s little reason to think he’ll be much more durable than Raffy going forward. He needs to  stay perfectly healthy for the next three seasons for this deal to be worth it.

This deal also blocks top prospect Freddy Galvis, but for a guy that only has one good offensive season to his credit and certainly not on an MLB-starter level as far as defense, it’s easy to understand why the Rollins deal happened. But for a team already as old as the Phillies, Rollins is a big investment for a question mark. The guy’s value comes primarily from batted balls in play, his base-running abilities, and his defense. He’s a leg injury or two away from being a barely average player.

I like Jimmy Rollins and I’m happy for him that he’s going to be a lifelong Phillie. But that’s only because this is going to look like a pretty bad unmovable contract if he struggles in 2012. But the Phillies are going all in now and needed to make sure that they had shortstop covered by at least a capable defender who isn’t a minus at the plate. It’s a gamble they’re willing to take.

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Transaction Thursday: December 15, 2011

Some very reasonable and solid signings this week. I’ve already discussed Josh Willingham’s 3-year deal, which was an extremely solid signing. So let’s start with the other big one first.

Aramis Ramirez signs with the Brewers

The Brewers fill an obvious position of need at third base with Aramis Ramirez. Yes, he’s a butcher with the glove, but his bat certainly makes up for a lot of that. His contract is also incredibly back-loaded. He’s only making $6 million out of the $36 million total in 2012, so he was kind enough to allow plenty of financial flexibility. He’ll make $10 in 2013, which is still a decent amount. His 2014 salary is $16 million, but $6 million of that is actually def erred. There’s also a 2015 option for $14 million with a $4 million buyout.

Overall, if he stays healthy over the next couple of years and continues to put up his usual level of production, he’ll be worth it. But it’s likely he’ll only play about 2 full seasons worth of games over the life of this deal.

Orioles sign Japanese pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada

It’s a 2-year deal with $8.15 million guaranteed, and a $5 million option for a third year for the 30-year old Nippon League veteran. He’s been a decent left-handed starting pitcher over his career, but he doesn’t have overpowering stuff. However, considering the dearth of starting pitching options on the free agent market, this is a pretty solid signing in that it’s not a huge overpay, and if he stumbles as a starter, the Orioles have plenty of use for a solid left-handed reliever out of their bullpen. It’s a medium-risk, high-reward scenario.

Red Sox sign Kelly Shoppach

For only $1.35 million, a catcher that can absolutely terrorize lefties and throw out attempted base stealers is a bargain. The main issue is that he’s been an absolute non-factor against right-handed pitching for the past three years, and he strikes out a boat loat (main reason the Red Sox traded him in the deal for Coco Crisp in the first place).

But he’s the perfect complement to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is actually a slightly above average hitter against right-handers, but dreadful against left-handers. I’d love to see Ryan Lavarnway make it to the bigs to stay this year, but that may still happen if Saltalamacchia doesn’t improve his act behind the plate. Shoppach is really good here no matter what. Kind of a steal, really.

Rays Acquire Burke Badenhop

I really just love the guy’s name, but the Rays made a good move here, hence why I’m mentioning it. All they lose is a minor league catcher with a career .660 OPS. I think it’s fair to say that Badenhop with his decent strikeout rate (~7 K/9), not terrible walk rate (~3.0 BB/9), and really good groundball tendencies (57% career) was a great acquisition. He’s going to be due only about $1 million this year, and with the Rays’ excellent infield defense, he could be a very solid reliever.

Cardinals sign J.C. Romero

Romero will probably be around forever. He walks far too many guys (5 career BB/9), doesn’t strike out a ton of guys (7.2 career K/9), but gets a lot of groundballs (55% career). It’s probably not for a ton of money, and it’s only for one year so there’s really nothing wrong with this move. It’s just not spectacular.

Phillies sign Dontrelle Willis

He gets about $1 million guaranteed. Willis made a comeback with the Reds last year and in about 75 innings had an ERA of around 5. But Great American Ballpark is known to destroy pitchers with its small dimensions. As a reliever for the Phillies, I think he does have some value, though, especially with his funky delivery from the left side. It’s an interesting little project, and he serves as insurance in that he can be a spot starter.

Giants Re-sign Guillermo Mota

This guy just quietly continues to be good even at 38. He strikes out about a batter an inning and is a very solid middle reliever. For just $1 million, in baseball terms he’s a bargain if he just repeats his performance from last year.

Cardinals re-sign Skip Schumaker to a 2-year deal

The deal is for $3 million guaranteed. I seem to think that he could have gotten more on the open market, but I can understand he doesn’t mind being a Cardinal for life. He’s not a power threat by any means, but he gets on base (career .346 OBP) and while he’s pretty bad at second base (career -12 UZR/150) he’s an okay corner outfielder. It’s a good re-sign and he’s very useful depth.

Diamondbacks sign Takashi Saito

When he’s good, he’s very good. He’s never really bad, actually. He just sits on the disabled list a lot. For only $1.75 million for one year, though, it’s reasonable.

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Red Sox Add Melancon and Punto, Subtract Lowrie and Weiland

In what is not an entirely unexpected move, the Red Sox have traded Jed Lowrie along with Kyle Weiland to the Houston Astros. The puzzling aspect to me though is what they got in return. Mark Melancon, the Astros closer much of last year, is not a bad pitcher. He strikes out a fair amount of batters (8.0 K/9) but does walk his share as well (3.1 BB/9). He does keep the ball on the ground, though, with a groundball rate last year of 56.7%, a well above-average figure.

It would seem that he is not the Red Sox final answer for closer. Actually, the biggest benefit to this deal is the fact that he’s not arbitration-eligible until 2013, and is under team control through 2016. So the Red Sox got a B+ reliever who’s cost-controlled who could be a strong set-up man, and perhaps a closer option. I do like Melancon, though. The former Yankees prospect, now 27, is definitely a nice piece to add to a bullpen.

I think that new Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, the former Cardinals VP of player development, won in this trade as far as total value is concerned. Jed Lowrie, for all he’s been injured, is a low-risk, high-reward possibility to fill the shortstop vacancy for the Astros. His upside is still there. It’s just a matter if he can stay healthy. Obviously, this trade hinges much on his future success. He is arbitration eligible for the first time this season, and the Astros have him under team control for the next three years. So it’s understandable that the Red Sox just may have had to move him.

The Red Sox also have Marco Scutaro, who has been an above average shortstop the past few years, and well worth the contract the Red Sox gave him. My only issue is his durability, but if he’s healthy, Lowrie probably just would have rotted on the bench.

But the Astros also got Kyle Weiland, who may end up as a reliever down the road (he was Notre Dame’s closer when he was drafted). But for now, he’s a back-end rotation option. A starting pitcher with decent upside at the league minimum in a system that badly needs them is very, very good. No matter how you slice it, in short-term value, the Astros definetly won here. Granted, the Red Sox may not have had much use for him, but if he gives the Astros 150 league-average innings in each of the next few seasons, anything they get from Lowrie would be a bonus.

I was a little surprised about the signing of Nick Punto, but it makes sense considering they traded Lowrie. They did only guarantee him about $3 million over two years, which is hardly bad at all, considering his fine 2011 with the Cardinals. But he is 36, and as we have seen with Marco Scutaro, late thirties infielders are often hampered by nagging injuries. Granted, Punto has been a fantastic defender, and that’s where most of his value lies. If he stays healthy, he should be fine, even with his minimal to negative offensive value. Considering he’s replacing Lowrie on the roster, it’s not a terrible signing.

I do think Ben Cherington did an OK job here. But I think in the end Luhnow will end up being the winner. Then again, the Astros aren’t contending anytime soon, and the Red Sox did need a high-leverage arm, so in the end, it probably ends up a wash.

Posted in Houston Astros, Red Sox | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Joe Saunders Gets Non-Tendered

I’m not the biggest Joe Saunders fan, but I have to admit, he’s not a bad option if you need someone to eat innings. The Diamondbacks mostly let him go because they acquired Trevor Cahill, and Saunders would’ve likely gotten a nice prize in arbitration due to his fair-looking 3.69 ERA (not exactly backed up by a 4.78 FIP) winning 12 games (like that really means much) and pitching 212 innings (which does definitely mean something).

That last number, innings pitched, is probably his biggest asset. He’ll probably be a 4.50 ERA pitcher who can eat about 180 innings wherever he goes. If he goes to a pitcher’s park like San Diego, though, he’ll probably pitch to a similar ERA as in 2011 and be a bargain. I don’t really think a team like the Red Sox, who have been on him for awhile, really should bother investing in him, since there are probably league minimum options that they could turn to in-house that would perform about as well as Saunders. But for a team screaming for pitching depth, he’s a good option who should come affordably.

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Twins Land Josh Willingham

While it seems Michael Cuddyer were destined for an eventual reunion, it may not happen now with Josh Willingham agreeing to a multi-year deal. It’s a pretty solid move overall. Cuddyer is known as a versatile player who has decent pop, but Willingham is a solid, if unspectacular outfielder with proven 25+ home run power. He also has a solid on-base percentage every year.

Also, while Willingham is not exactly stellar in the outfield, Cuddyer is much worse (career -41 cumulative Total Zone rating (TZ) and -6.2 UZR/150 in the outfield) at any position he plays. No matter what position he may man, you’ll get a below average defender. Willingham is a career -5 UZR/150 outfielder , but only a career -4 cumulative TZ. Considering the amount of innings played is very much similar, it’s not a stretch to say that while neither is fantastic, Willingham’s mediocrity in the field would seem to indicate that he’ll save more runs as a fly-catcher than Cuddyer.

On offense, Cuddyer owns a .794 OPS, certainly above average for a corner outfielder. Willingham’s is .836, and that is mainly because of his slightly higher walk rate. But he is still indeed a superior hitter, even if only marginally better. So it’s another plus for Willingham.

When the financials of this deal become clear, a more detailed analysis will be in order, but if it’s in the neighborhood of the 3 years and $30 million Cuddyer is still seeking, then the Twins made a good choice. Willingham is perhaps only marginally better than Cuddyer overall, but he should be worth about a win more than Cuddyer would have over the life of his deal.

I still expect Cuddyer will get pretty much what ever Willingham gets but will sign with a team like the Rockies because of his positional “versatility.”

UPDATE: Willingham gets $21 million over 3 years. This looks like a steal.

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