Top 10 pickups ... and pick-me-ups

Top 10 pickups ... and pick-me-ups

Hopes, or dreads, are planted in the winter. We spend the offseason fantasizing about, or fretting over, the results of our favorite teams' moves and our favorite players' prospects.

Well, it's time for the harvest. The first crop, at least. A month into the season, we gain some sense of which transactions are working out best, and which flickering players need a boost.

But, remember, it's not the bell lap, just the first bell. Don't jump to conclusions, because the season is five months from its own conclusion. In baseball, when it's early, the numbers have a daffodill quality.

Hence, be wary of the Overbay Complex. The Milwaukee bruiser dragged a soft .277 average into a weekend series game against the Reds and nine hits later went to bed hitting .355.

So the following is written not in stone, rather in sand on the beach, just before high tide. Nevertheless, our annual Top Ten lists of who made the offseason's good buys and who in the new season has been saying goodbye.


1. Jose Guillen, Nationals: And to think the Angels said, "Please!" when GM Jim Bowden offered to take him. He's been a model National -- hitting .320 with seven homers, 17 ribbies and 19 runs -- and a model citizen. Reuniting with his former Reds outfielder was a no-brainer for Bowden, who shrugs and says, "This guy has done it for two years. This was not a surprise. This was a sure thing."

2. Derek Lowe, Dodgers: Winning the ultimate game of all three postseason series is a tough act to follow, but he's done it so far with a sub-2.00 ERA through six starts. His right wing gave the early-season Dodgers wings.

3. Scott Podsednik, White Sox: His acquisition for Carlos Lee tops the list of reasons GM Ken Williams is a frontrunner for Executive of the Year honors. Has given Ozzie Guillen's small ball legs with 10 steals in his first 11 tries and an on-base percentage (.357) 44 points higher than last season.

4. Jerry Hairston, Cubs: Okay, this is a curveball. Hairston is struggling in Chicago, but the Cubs' pickup was great for the Orioles, breaking up the second base log jam that has sent Brian Roberts into orbit.

5. Matt Clement, Red Sox: Formerly criticized for his inconsistencies, he has been the rock in a rotation otherwise spinning through injuries to Curt Schilling and David Wells. Undefeated in his first six starts.

6. Shea Hillenbrand, Blue Jays: A hitting machine upon his return to the AL, taking a .410 average into May. One of the best pure hitters in the game who was run out of Boston just because he isn't a walks-drawing Moneyball guy.

7. Pedro Martinez, Mets: For his aura, as well as for his pitching. His "I fear no one" attitude has quickly infested the clubhouse, giving the Mets' self-respect a sorely needed overhaul. As for fears that he was on the decline ... how about 52 strikeouts and eight walks in his first 43 innings?

8. Troy Glaus, Diamondbacks: The front office has made a rash of moves to spin the D-Backs into a U-turn, none bigger than the leadoff signing of Glaus. Justifying the faith -- and money -- shown in him coming off an injury-wrecked season, has been putting up numbers (eight homers, 20 RBIs) fitting for a former homer champ.

9. Jon Lieber, Phillies: The Yankees openly recognize the failure to pick up his option as a mistake, and GM Ed Wade has capitalized on it. Winning his first four starts took the sting out of the club's shaky getaway, and will be remembered as vital when the Phillies work their way back into the heat of the race.

10. Jeff Kent, Dodgers: Just keeps producing wherever he goes, and now the Huntington Beach native is home and happy. But there's much more to him than the numbers (.330-6-21). With his chippy, down-and-dirty attitude, he could do for these Dodgers what Kirk Gibson did for the late '80s model.


1. Mike Lowell, Marlins: Took him a month to get his average above the Mendoza Line, but the guy who totaled 83 homers and 282 RBIs the last three seasons remains stuck on two jacks and eight ribbies. The Marlins' carefully constructed lineup relies on his run production.

2. Steve Finley, Angels: Although he has provided some key hits, he certainly hasn't had many of them, lugging around a .167 average. If it's age, not just a slow start, clearing out Jose Guillen to make room for him will not go down as GM Bill Stoneman's finest moment.

3. Barry Zito, A's: Billy Beane was able to exhale when the lefty finally won his first game, but that 0-4 beginning and high ERA (5.84) certainly exposed the risk of dealing the other two-thirds of the Big Three.

4. Aaron Boone, Indians: The Tribe signed him halfway through his recovery from a knee blowout, willing to wait. They're still waiting. A .123 average and more than twice as many strikeouts (21) as hits (nine) indicate the 2003 ALCS hero is a long way from again being a player.

5. Brian Giles, Padres: At .193, is a staggering 105 points below his previous career average. His little brother, the Braves' Marcus, is outhitting him by 114 points. Only his typical selectiveness (22 walks boost his on-base percentage to .348) is preserving his sanity, and his place in the lineup.

6. Ken Griffey, Reds: He's been waiting for a pick-me-up for years. Getting 73 at-bats into the season before his first home run indicated he was still on hold. And he needs to keep his health to be able to finally find his stroke.

7. Vernon Wells, Blue Jays: His mandate was clear -- take over for Carlos Delgado as the club's main man. A .210 average and little run production suggest the big expectations turned into a big burden. He was supposed to carry the team, but it has turned out to be the other way around.

8. Byung-Hyun Kim, Rockies: Still suffering from Tino-Brosius Syndrome. That's the only explanation for the once-dominant sidewinder's ongoing nightmares. He is 0-3, has blown both of his save opportunities and allowed 13 walks in 10 innings in the Last Chance Saloon, also known as the Colorado bullpen.

9. Jim Thome, Phillies: Charlie Manuel's love of him was one reason he became manager, but one home run in one month says Thome hasn't been returning the love. To think that 41 of his 79 at-bats have come in homer-friendly Citizens Bank Park. And now his back is acting up.

10. Adrian Beltre, Mariners: Is the heat yet off Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta? A .238 average by, and only two long balls from, the third baseman he let get away suggests he knew the "madness" of not emptying the vault for the free agent.

Tom Singer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.