Month: July 2014

Lester Scratched as MLB Deadline Nears

Will Lester get the ball back in Boston?

Will Lester get the ball back in Boston?

by Drew Sarver

We’re less than two days away from the Major League Baseball trade deadline and the number of rumors is starting to add up. The biggest name among them is Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester. The veteran left-hander has been scratched from his Wednesday start, which means Boston will be making a heavy push to trade him for a boatload of prospects and/or Major Leaguers prior to Thursday’s 4 pm EDT deadline.

With the team and Lester unable to agree on a new contract to keep the left-hander in Boston beyond this year – he becomes a free agent after this season – a trade is now very likely.

Lester’s a grade ‘A’ player; a top performer, team leader, and whose departure would leave a major vacancy in the Red Sox rotation. The 30-year old, who beat anaplastic large cell lymphoma eight years ago, holds a 110-63 (.636) record as of this writing and is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. His K’s per nine innings (9.4) is the highest in four years and he has career bests in ERA (2.52) and WHIP (1.119).

He’s also been solid in the post-season. Last year he helped lead the Red Sox to their third World Series title in 10 years. He won four games, including two in the World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. It will be difficult to cut the cord, but if the Red Sox truly feel they cannot resign him, they might as well try to deal him. Needless to say, they’ve getting calls from many teams. That includes the Pittsburgh Pirates, who last night emerged as a “dark horse favorite”.

Lester could be part of a Boston fire sale now that the Red Sox have dropped 12 games out in the AL East and 9.5 games out of the second wild card position. The team, which dealt starter Jake Peavy to San Francisco on July 26, has been fielding calls on John Lackey, Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller, and Jonny Gomes.

The Red Sox are also rumored to be interested in Matt Kemp, which makes no sense whatsoever. The injury-plagued LA Dodgers outfielder is owed $107MM over the next five seasons. The Red Sox would be better off spending money on starting pitcher. They don’t have to look that far back to see how injured and/or overpaid players (Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez) failed in Boston.

The next best pitcher available is Cole Hamels. After not being able to pull off a Cliff Lee deal so far, the Phillies have reportedly either been shopping Hamels or steadfastly refusing to trade him. Even if Hamels is dealt, the Phillies would like to deal Lee and the minimum $37.5MM he stands to make the next two years. He’s also owed the remainder of $25MM this season. Lee will not command the return of players he once was able to unless Philly eats the majority of the salary.

Hamels stands to make $90MM through 2018, with a possibility of making an addition $20MM-$24MM in 2019. Like Lester, Hamels is 30-years old and is having a very good season. Tuesday night he tossed eight shutout innings in a win against the New York Mets. It lowered his career-best ERA to 2.55 and a very good ratio to 1.128 His 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings is his highest total since 2006. The Phillies certainly won’t give him away and are probably going to hold on to him.

Like the Red Sox, the Phillies could move several players. Outfielder Marlon Byrd is in high demand and inquiries have been made about A.J. Burnett. The Phillies would love to rid themselves of Ryan Howard’s remaining $60MM over the next three years (the last year is an option with a $10MM buyout.), but that’s not likely to happen.

Other pitchers that could move today are the Mets’ Bartolo Colon, who has one year and $11MM remaining on his contract. The Minnesota Twins would part with Kevin Correia, though there isn’t much demand for a pitcher who leads the AL in losses and whose ERA is over 5. The Twins have also been fielding calls for catcher Kurt Suzuki and outfielder Josh Willingham.

The Kansas City Royals will likely lose James Shields to free agency after the season, but with the team five games behind Detroit in the AL Central and 3.5 games behind Toronto for the second wild card, how could they not keep him?

The Cleveland Indians face a similar dilemma. They’re 6.5 behind Detroit and sit five games in back of Toronto. Do they think they can make a run and become buyers or do they go ahead and become sellers? The Indians are a team that might try to do a little of both. Rumor has it they are trying to move starting pitcher Justin Masterson, who is having a disastrous season. Another player having a bad year is Nick Swisher (.615 OPS as of this writing), though the two years and $30MM will make it harder to move him. Add on his failure in several post-seasons, and Swisher won’t bring much return at this point. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera could be in a new home by Friday, as he enters free agency after this season.

The Padres are reportedly shopping reliever Joaquin Benoit, who can either set up or close. Other players that could move on are pitcher John Danks, outfielder Dayan Viciedo, and 1B/DH Adam Dunn of the White Sox, pitcher Colby Lewis and outfielder Alex Rios of the Rangers, Cubs’ Pitcher Edwin Jackson, Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, and Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra.

Stay tuned!

Done Deals

Cleveland sent Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfield prospect James Ramsey. Masterson has been having an off-year in a contract year, but the Cards are hoping he can be the second coming of Jake Westbrook. The Cardinals depth in the outfield allowed them to deal Ramsey, the 23rd overall pick in the 2012 draft.

The Red Sox have traded a left-handed pitcher, but it’s not Jon Lester..yet. They’ve sent Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later.  A Cubs official told Peter Gammons that Doubront was getting “One more change to grow up.”

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

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That’s Not a July T-Storm, It’s the MLB Trade Winds Blowing!

Clee.jpgIt must be July; Cliff Lee is on the trade block.

by Drew Sarver

Major League Baseball is a week past the All-Star break, which means the MLB trade deadline is less than two weeks away. There’s already been a major trade between the Oakland A’s (Addison Russell) and the Chicago Cubs (Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel) that will have an impact on the AL West race.  Teams have until July 31 to decide whether to be sellers, buyers, or to stand pat at the deadline. It gives them less than two weeks to figure out if they are really as bad as they might be playing or as good as they think they are. Should a team within striking distance of a playoff spot go hard after a big-name player or pull the trigger on smaller deals? Or should they stand pat?

There’s precedence for just about every situation at the break. On July 31, 1997, the Chicago White Sox sat four games in back of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central division. Despite their close proximity to first place in the standings, the White Sox went into “full sell” mode.  They dealt starting pitchers Wilson Alvarez and Danny Darwin, and closer Roberto Hernandez to the San Francisco Giants for a half-dozen prospects: Keith Foulke, Bobby Howry, Ken Vining, Mike Caruso, Brian Manning, and Lorenzo Barcelo.

All three players dealt by Chicago were free agents after the 1997 season, so GM Ron Schueler cut his losses. (Of the six players acquired by Chicago, only Foulke and Howry went on to have successful Major League careers . The Giants won the NL West, but were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual World Champion Florida Marlins. The following season, Alvarez and Hernandez went on to big money deals with Tampa Bay, while Darwin re-signed with San Francisco.)

It’s difficult to tell fact from fiction this time of year, which is why the words “rumor” and “reported” are thrown around like baseballs. More often than not, the player attached to the strongest rumors does not get dealt, or goes to the team that had no rumored association with the player. (Think Cliff Lee.)

So let’s take a look at some of the names being bandied about right now and those names that might be brought up once the deadline gets closer.

Jonny Gomes and Ben Zobrist: There are a lot of moves made at the deadline to shore up a position, or to get one or two more players that might put a team over the edge to make the playoffs and/or make a long run at the title. Gomes and Zobrist would fall into that category. Gomes had several big hits last year to help the Red Sox win their third World Series in the last 10 years. But, with Boston struggling this year, Gomes may be one of the guys to go. According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the KC Royals have made Gomes a “potential trade target”. KC is in contention with a group of younger players and could use some experienced, ring-bearing veterans like Gomes.

Zobrist’s name has popped up in many rumors. Though the 33-year old’s bat hasn’t produced as much in the last two seasons, he’s just three years removed from back-to-back 20-home-run seasons. Zobrist, Gomes’ former teammate on the Rays, can also swipe a base when needed and defensively can play both middle infield positions, (second base is his best spot), and the outfield. With a $7.5MM team option for next season, Zobrist comes at a bargain price. That means better prospects will be demanded by the Rays in return.

Fishing for pitching is always a popular sport this time of year, and the biggest fish out there is a Ray. David Price, the 2012 AL Cy Young winner, won’t be a free agent until 2016, but the Rays may deal him before then to haul in a big catch. Price made $14MM this season and will surely top that in arbitration or a one-year deal next season. The 6’6″ left-hander entered Monday’s play leading the league in strikeouts and games started, and had pitched to a 3.06 ERA and a 1.041 WHIP.

Price has been especially hot of late, with six earned runs allowed in 48 innings (1.13 ERA). He’s pitched less than seven complete innings only once in his 13 starts and has thrown at least eight innings in nine of those starts. With the Rays playing better baseball of late – they’ve won five straight and 14 of 18 – Price may stick around Tampa until next season’s trade deadline.

With Samarzdiga, Hammel, and Brandon McCarthy already moved, San Diego’s Ian Kennedy has heard his name mentioned frequently. Recently, FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Los Angeles Angels were very interested in Kennedy, but as of this writing, the teams have not been able to match up players for a deal.

Based on the way Kennedy pitched with the Yankees, you never would have thought he would be in demand. But scouts stood up and took notice when Kennedy finished 21-4, 2.88 with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011. He struggled the following two years and was dealt to San Diego at last year’s deadline. This season, Kennedy has turned things around and is back in demand. The USC product made $6.1MM in 2014 and is arbitration-eligible next year.

Scouts are showing up in droves for Philadelphia Phillies games, with the fightin’ Phils not having a whole lot of fight in them. Teams have made inquiries about starters Lee and Cole Hamels, and closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies would reportedly prefer to hold on to the 30-year old  Hamels (They need someone to build around) and deal Lee. (Is it just my imagination, or does it seem like every year Lee is either looking for a free agent deal or he’s the subject of trade rumors?)

The soon-to-be 36-year old Lee is owed the remainder of $25MM this season, another $25MM next year, and at the very least,  $12.5MM in 2016. (The $12.5MM is a buyout; Lee can earn $27.5MM in 2016 if he throws at least 200 innings in 2015.) By comparison, Hamels is owed $90MM from 2015-2018. Just what was GM Ruben Amaro Jr. thinking with these deals and contracts like Ryan Howard’s (min. $60MM owed for the next three years)? Perhaps the Dodgers could swap Matt Kemp’s huge contract for Lee’s?

Papelbon is owed $13MM next year and can get another $13MM in 2016 if he finishes 55 games next season, or 100 games over the current year and 2015 combined. After a shaky 2013 season, Papelbon has bounced back strongly this year. He’s saved 23 of 25 games and struck out 33 batters, while he has allowed nine walks, and has a 1.17 ERA. Opposing batters have only managed to put together a .429 OPS this season. With teams always looking for bullpen help and with so many closers having off years, the Phils could get some very good return for Papelbon.

Well, there you have it for now.  Stay tuned later in the week for another report as the calendar creeps closer to August.

 

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

AL All-Stars take Midsummer Classic 5-3

jeter all-star

By Brandon Karsten

Baseball’s stars came out Tuesday night at Minneapolis’ Target Field for the 85th Major League Baseball All-Star Game between the American and National Leagues. The AL won 5-3, but one star outshone them all in the last Midsummer Classic appearance of his illustrious career.

New York Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter went 2-for-2 at the plate with a double, a single and a run scored. Before the start of the fourth inning with the A.L. ahead 3-2, Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez jogged out to take Jeter’s place. Then the stadium came to life with people standing and clapping, and flash bulbs twinkling randomly throughout the stadium in acknowledgement of the last time the American League All-Star Team will have a player named Jeter occupying shortstop.

A.L. starting pitcher Felix Hernandez gave up one hit, an infield single to Andrew McCutchen, and struck out two batters in the first inning. With the A.L. up to bat, and after Jeter received a standing ovation, he used his classic inside-out swing to slash a double down the right field line off starting St. Louis hurler Adam Wainwright. Mike Trout followed with a triple to right to score Jeter for the game’s first run. Detroit’s dangerous slugger Miguel Cabrera cranked a two-run homer over the left field fence to put the American League up 3-0.

Boston’s Jon Lester took the hill to start the top of the second frame and ran into trouble. The left-hander gave up a one-out single to Aramis Ramirez of Milwaukee. Chase Utley of the Phillies hit a double to centerfield to score Ramirez and the Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy followed up with another two-bagger to score Utley.

After Ramirez replaced Jeter at shortstop in the fourth, the newly inserted pitcher Chris Sale, of the Chicago White Sox, hit Utley with a pitch and Dee Gordon of the L.A. Dodgers pinch ran in his place. Lucroy the former Twin, tied the ballgame for the Senior Circuit with his second double of the ballgame to score Gordon and tie the game at three.

Both squads were held scoreless until the bottom of the fifth inning when St. Louis reliever Pat Neshek, another form Twins player,  surrendered two straight singles to Oakland’s Derek Norris and Ramirez. Trout came through again, this time with a double down the left field line to score Norris and put the A.L. All-Stars ahead 4-3. With Ramirez at third, Houston’s Jose Altuve hit a sacrifice fly to left to plate Ramirez for a 5-3 AL lead.

Cabrera went 1-for-3 with two runs batted in, and his lone hit was the two-run dinger in the first, which was the first of his All-Star Game career. Trout’s two hits and a pair of RBI earned him the All-Star Game MVP Award.

On the N.L. side, Yasiel Puig struggled at the plate, going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Lucroy finished his first All-Star Game with a 2-for-2 performance at the plate with the two hits as doubles. Detroit’s Max Scherzer was the winning pitcher for the A.L. All-Stars while Neshek got the loss and Minnesota’s closer Glen Perkins hurled a perfect ninth inning to get the save to help the American League earn home field advantage for the World Series.

You can reach Brandon Karsten at bkarsten2009@hotmail.com or find him on Facebook.

Jeter’s Last All-Star Hurrah

Jeter14ASNow batting (for the last time) for the American League, number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2.

by Drew Sarver

It seems like it was only yesterday that Derek Jeter was in his rookie season with the New York Yankees. I was younger then, than he is now. It’s odd enough to not see Mariano Rivera in a Yankees uniform this season, but to not see Jeter in the home pinstripes or the road greys next season is incomprehensible. Life moves fast and so has Jeter’s final season as a Major League baseball player. Tuesday night, he’ll be introduced as the starting shortstop for the American League in the 85th MLB All-Star game at Target Field in Minnesota.

The fans voted in Jeter as the starter this season, as a tribute rather than because of his play this season. They recognize the special player they have witnessed on a nightly basis for nearly 20 seasons. (The anti-Yankees/anti-Jeter sentiment among some fans, specifically those criticizing his place on the team, is more about those fans and their lack of perception of the baseball world outside of their own team.)

Jeter made his first All-Star appearance in 1998, his third full season in the Major Leagues. In an interview with former teammate, and current ESPN analyst Aaron Boone, Jeter admitted to being “scared to death” in his first mid-Summer classic. It’s hard to believe, coming from a player with the confidence that Jeter has, but newbies are newbies. Things have changed since then. (See the entire ESPN interview by clicking here.)

Jeter enjoys chatting with players he doesn’t get to talk with too often. Even those (Dee Gordon) that are the son of a former teammate (Tom “Flash” Gordon). The Yankees’ captain would certainly like to leave a lasting impression for the fans, in attendance and those at home, during Tuesday night’s game. Of course, he would never admit to that.

In that first All-Star game 16 years ago, Jeter subbed for the starter, Seattle’s Alex Rodriguez, and struck out in his lone at-bat. A year later, Nomar Garciaparra got the start and Jeter’s one at-bat again resulted in a strikeout. (A-Rod was left off the team by Yankees manager Joe Torre after a knee injury limited him to a .316 batting average, 1.045 OPS, 18 HR and 48 RBI.)

Jeter was voted in as the starter for the first time in the 2000 season. It was one of the top all-around seasons for the then 26-year old. He was the game’s MVP in the American League’s 6-3 victory, going 3-3 with two RBI,  and a run scored. He then went on to capture the World Series MVP when the Yankees topped the Mets in the Subway Series that Fall.

The next two seasons Jeter again found himself on the bench as Cal Ripken Jr. had his swan song at shortstop (Ripken was actually voted as the starter at third base, but Torre and A-Rod, the winner at shortstop, orchestrated a positional switch at the start of the game.) and a year later A-Rod once again topped the vote leaderboard among the league’s shortstops.

Jeter1998ASJeter’s 1998 All-Star debut in Colorado.

Number 2 in pinstripes missed the ’03 game after he missed a month and a half of the regular season with a shoulder injury. But with A-Rod’s move to the Yankees and third base, and Garciaparra’s declined play, beginnnig in 2004 Jeter was voted in as the starting shortstop for the next six seasons. He lost out to the Cleveland Indians’ Asdrubel Cabrera in 2010, but was back as a starter in 2012. Last season was just the second game he missed since 1998 when a broken ankle and other injuries limited him to just 17 regular season games.

Tonight, he will hit leadoff for the AL and receive a number of rousing ovations from the Minnesota crowd, his teammates and his opponents. At some point, AL manager John Farrell will send Erick Aybar or Alexei Ramirez out to replace Jeter in the middle of an inning so that the 20-year veteran can receive one more thunderous July ovation.

And then one more “the last one” will be in the books.

 

Derek Jeter’s All-Star statistics

H AB AVG OPS R RBI HR 2B
11 25 .440 1.061 5 3 1 1

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

What’s Up Baseball? – 7/9

ScherzerScherzer vs. Greinke tonight in Detroit


“It’s a great day for a ball game; let’s play two!” – Ernie Banks aka Mr. Cub

by Designated for Assignment Staff

How’s this for a pitching match up when the LA Dodgers and Detroit Tigers meet today? Zack Greinke vs. Max Scherzer. Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy Young winner is 11-4, 2.66 with 119 strikeouts to just 22 walks. Scherzer, last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, hasn’t been as good as he was in 2013, but he hasn’t been bad either. The 11th overall pick (by Arizona) in the 2006 draft, Scherzer has compiled a 10-3 record, a 3.47 ERA and 139 strikeouts opposed to 33 walks.

Scherzer was part of the three-way trade with the New York Yankees, Detroit, and Arizona in 2006. Who got the best of it? In addition to getting Scherzer, and Daniel Schlereth, from AZ the Tigers picked up Phil Coke and Austin Jackson from the Yankees. The Dbacks got Ian Kennedy from NY and Edwin Jackson from the Motor City while Curtis Granderson went from Detroit to the Yankees.  Yeah, I’m voting Detroit on that one. The only players still on the same team five years later are Scherzer, A. Jackson and Coke. (Schlereth was just reacquired by Detroit from Pittsburgh.)

Brandon McCarthy (Yankees) and Jason Hammel (A’s) make their debuts for their new teams tonight. It remains to be seen if McCarthy, who claims he’s pitched better than his record while with Arizona, will be effective for the Bronx Bombers. Either way, Yankees fans will get to enjoy tweets from McCarthy’s wife Amanda like this one:

Hobbes is Mrs. McCarthy’s beloved Westie.

How about the Oakland A’s, one of McCarthy’s former teams. They picked up their 57th win last night, a franchise record for wins prior to the All-Star break. They accomplished the feat despite losing starter pitchers A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker for the year, before the year even started, and 13 blown saves from the bullpen. Now they’ve added Jeff Samardzija and Hammel. How deep is the A’s staff now? Tommy Milone was sent to the minors, despite a 2.62 ERA in his last 11 starts and a 6-0 record in that stretch.

Masahiro Tanaka had his worst outing of his Yankees career last night. Michael Brantley gave him the most trouble with a home run and two doubles. Overall, the Indians tagged him for five earned runs and 10 hits in 6.2 innings pitched. And there were no midge attacks. Tanaka has lost three of four starts, but he pitched well enough in two of them to win. A 2-1, 9th inning loss to the Red Sox and an 8-0 loss to the Orioles, in which Tanaka allowed three earned runs in seven innings, were the previous two losses.

 Update 5 pm – As first reported by George King III of the NY Post, Tanaka headed back to NY for an MRI after complaining about discomfort in his right forearm.

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NHL Free Agency: Which Signings Will Have the Most Impact?

IginlaJarome Iginla’s signing is a big boost for the Avalance and a blow to the Bruins (photo courtesy of sportsglory.com)

by Alli Baker

The first of July is like Christmas for hockey fans. Once free agency begins, every team has a chance to ink a big-name player and drastically change their upcoming season. This year’s free agency frenzy didn’t disappoint, as many superstar players moved around the league on July 1. These new additions will no doubt have a sizable impact for their new teams in the 2014-2015 season:

Dan Boyle and the New York Rangers: After losing Benoit Pouloit and Anton Stralman to free agency, the Rangers had some holes to fill. Not having much cash to work with, GM Glen Sather made some shrewd moves, signing veteran defenseman Dan Boyle to a two-year, $9 million contract. The 38-year old  provides a veteran presence and experience. The defenseman made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004 and won gold in the 2010 Olympics with Team Canada. Boyle can provide offense for the Blueshirts, as well – the ex-Shark scored 12 goals in 75 games last year with San Jose. In signing Boyle, the Rangers acquired a top defenseman for a low price, allowing the team to also sign Tanner Glass and resign Dominic Moore.

Jarome Iginla and the Colorado Avalanche: In order to follow up its impressive turn-around season and playoff push during the 2013-14 season, the Avalanche knew a top player would be needed if the team was to continue to be a contender. Losing Paul Statsny to the Blues was not a step in the right direction for the Avs. Signing Jarome Iginla to a three-year, $16 million contract was. One of the younger teams in the NHL, the Avalanche are definitely going to benefit from having the veteran added to the roster. The former Boston Bruin is undoubtedly a top six forward for Colorado and will provide the team with extra offense. In 78 games last year with Boston, Iginla posted 30 goals and 61 points. The 37-year old doesn’t look to be slowing down, either, and should become a solid part of Colorado’s lineup over the next few years.

Mike Camallerri and the New Jersey Devils: The New Jersey Devils desperately needed to make a big move this offseason and acquire a player or two to provide some much-needed offense. GM Lou Lamoriello did just that, inking ex-Calgary Flame Mike Camallerri to a five year deal worth $25 million. The 11-year NHL veteran scored 26 goals in 63 games last year with the Flames and has consistently been a 20-plus goal scorer. The Devils had tried on two other previous occasions to acquire Camallerri, and finally did so on the first day of free agency. The 32-year old said that he was most looking forward to having the chance to play alongside superstar Jaromir Jagr. The Devils also added Martin Havlat, hoping the two new acquisitions will be able to boost the team’s lackluster offense from the previous season.

Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, and the Washington Capitals: After a less-than ideal finish to the 2013-14 season, the Caps had some serious work to do this offseason. The organization started by hiring former Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz in hopes that he could provide some wisdom for the defensively-challenged team. Washington, home to NHL superstar Alex Ovechkin, didn’t have a problem scoring goals. Defense, on the other hand, was a challenge. GM Brian MacLellan added some depth by signing Penguins’ defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to massive contracts. Niskanen was signed for seven years and $40.25 million, while Orpik got five years and $27.5 million. Although these signings will definitely reinforce Washington’s defensive depth, they are considered to be the worst deals of free agency thus far by many. Orpik, who is already 33 years old, has been injured often throughout the past few seasons and may not provide the consistency the Caps need. The contracts also take up a sizable amount of cap space.

Ryan Miller and the Vancouver Canucks: The Vancouver Canucks added some talent in goal Tuesday by signing two-time Olympian Ryan Miller to a 3-year, $18 million contract. The 33-year old will bring his experience and work ethic to Vancouver and it’s the hope of GM Jim Benning that Miller will become a good role model for many of the team’s younger players.Miller, who has reached 30-plus wins seven times, is without a doubt an improvement for the Canucks.

Brad Richards and the Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks started free agency already over the cap limit, but still needed to make a move to remain competitive in the Central Division. This goal was accomplished by signing veteran Brad Richards to a one year, $2 million contract. Richards, who scored 20 goals last year with the Rangers, will no doubt add offensive talent to the Blackhawks. For this bargain, the Hawks also get a number two center who could possibly play alongside Patrick Kane. Although this isn’t a massive deal, it’s exactly what Chicago needed to do.

Thomas Vanek and the Minnesota Wild: It was the deal everyone knew would eventually happen: the Wild finally acquired Minnesota native Thomas Vanek on Tuesday, signing him to a three-year, $19.5 million contract.  The 30-year old will replace the holes left by the departure of Dany Heatley and Matt Moulson. Vanek, who played college hockey at the University of Minnesota, should help to fix the Wild’s goal-scoring problem. The former Montreal Canadien scored 27 goals and had 41 assists in 78 games last year. It’s that ability that GM Craig Leopold is counting on to make the Wild a legitimate Stanley Cup contender next year.

Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman and the Tampa Bay Lightning: The former New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan gave the Tampa Bay Lightning some inside information on Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman and quite possibly provided an incentive for the two other ex-Rangers to head to the Bolts. The trio played together in New York for parts of three years, so a Tampa reunion was not out of the question. Stralman signed for five years, $22.5 million; Boyle signed for three years, $6 million. The Lightning moved Nate Thompson and Teddy Purcell in order to make enough room for the two new contracts, so the big question is whether the addition of Boyle and Stralman will make Tampa better or worse.

Free agency is far from over and signings will continue to occur throughout the summer, but the biggest names are already off the market. Now all there is to do is wait three months to see how the moves will work out when the 2014-15 season begins.

1 – CBC.CA

2 – ESPN.com

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23