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Joe Crede to Twins
The Chicago Tribune reported Saturday that Joe Crede has agreed to a contract with the Minnesota Twins. Terms of the deal weren't available, but the Tribune seems pretty sure, having posted a mini-retrospective of Crede's time with the White Sox on its Web site, and also mentioning the first date (April 10) that Crede will return to U.S. Cellular Field as a Twin.
If Crede can stay healthy (which is a mighty big if), he represents a major upgrade at third base in Minnesota, where Brendan Harris was starting to look like the starter. Instead, Harris can go back to where he belongs, a utility role, and Brian Buscher can play in the minor leagues. The fly in this particular ointment is Crede's back, which has required surgery in consecutive seasons. He played only 47 games in 2007, and after beginning '08 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in April, he wound up playing only 97 games total and having that second surgery last fall.
And let's face it: Crede doesn't exactly blow you away with on-base skills, either. He's got a career .306 OBP and has failed to post a batting average above .248 in either of the past two seasons. But he's got thunder in that bat and is moving to the HomerDome, so if you can convince yourself he'll be healthy, you have to assume 25 homers is within reach. That doesn't make him a must-start guy in mixed leagues, but in an AL-only league, Crede will be a fixture in your lineup, right up until the day he goes on the DL.
Jason Isringhausen to Rays
For those who feel tempted to draft Troy Percival in fantasy leagues, it might be wise to check out what's going on down in Tampa. The Rays continue to stockpile relievers in mini-Red-Sox fashion, presumably at least in part because they're quite concerned that Percival's surgically repaired back might not be ready to go in April. To that end, the team announced Friday that it signed Jason Isringhausen to a minor-league deal.
Isringhausen himself is damaged goods: He had elbow surgery in September and was just awful throughout 2008, posting a 5.70 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP while blowing seven of 19 save chances. But he did tell the Tampa Tribune that he's healthy now, and he was very good as recently as '07 (2.48 ERA, 1.07 WHIP). He's 36, though, so you do have to wonder if Izzy's got it in him to bounce back from what turned out to be pretty severe elbow troubles.
This all will bear watching. The Rays now have Isringhausen, Percival, Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, Joe Nelson, Brian Shouse and Lance Cormier in the bullpen, with guys like Jeff Niemann and Jason Hammel knocking on the door (Chad Bradford is out after elbow surgery of his own). That's probably not as good a relief staff as Boston has stockpiled (Jonathan Papelbon, Takashi Saito, Hideki Okajima, Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen and Justin Masterson), but some of the same principles apply: throw a lot of guys against a wall and see who sticks.
For now, Tampa claims that Percival is their Opening Day closer, but we'll see. If Izzy winds up looking good in the spring, he could make the big-league club and be an eighth-inning guy, and there's a chance he gets in the mix for saves. But Wheeler seems a likelier solution to Percival problems, and I still think Howell might be the best pitcher in the group. Right now, I'm not leaping to draft Isringhausen. But stay tuned.
Orlando Hudson to Dodgers
The Dodgers rightly decided that Blake DeWitt wasn't going to be their 2009 answer at second base, signed Orlando Hudson, formerly of the Diamondbacks, to a one-year deal that could reach $8 million with incentives.
Hudson is probably a little overrated as a fantasy player. He's never driven in more than 67 runs, never hit more than 15 homers, never topped 87 runs and never hit better than .294 except for last season when he injured his wrist and played only 107 games. But the fact remains that at what may be fantasy's current weakest non-catcher position, the O-Dog is at least relatively solid in four offensive categories. (He's not a steals guy.)
His value to the Dodgers is higher: Hudson's a very good defensive player whose presence will probably shave some fraction of a run off L.A.'s team ERA. In addition, if your league uses on-base percentage as a statistic, O-Dog is all the more valuable fantasy-wise, considering he hasn't posted a season OBP worse than .354 the past three seasons. He's also staying in the NL West, which means he won't have to adjust all that much to new pitchers (though having to face Brandon Webb and Dan Haren won't be fun). Overall, though, I wouldn't definitively put Hudson among, say, the top 10 second basemen in fantasy. He's still at best a middle-infield candidate in a mixed league.
As a result of this signing, the Dodgers figure to send 23-year-old DeWitt to the minor leagues despite a not-terrible rookie season in '08: .264 AVG/.344 OBP/.728 OPS. Still, with Casey Blake locked in at third, Hudson at second and Mark Loretta the utility man, there really aren't many at-bats for DeWitt in the majors, though he'll be the first guy called up if anyone gets hurt.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.