Those Left Behind
January 22, 2009 5 Comments
I want to take a few minutes here to look at some of the remaining members of the 2009 free agent class. We’ve been reading for weeks about the depressed economy having an effect on some of the potential buyers this winter, and how some players aren’t happy about it. Bobby Abreu is still unsigned as of this writing, as are Adam Dunn and Manny Ramirez. Those three combined for 97 home runs last season, though they admittedly are not the three best fielders in the world. Abreu, Dunn and Manny are three of the most consistent players in baseball, so it’s easy to figure out what they will each add to a team. Obviously, teams so far have figured out that value and don’t like the asking price so far.
So what about some of the more volatile members of the current free agent class? I’m not talking about the Milton Bradley throwing a fit kind of volatility here. I mean the guys who are more difficult to value because of their potential to be productive, albeit less so than in the past. This is by no means an all-encompassing list, it’s more of just a survey of the field. For right now, I’m going to stick with hitters. Let’s get to it…
Depending on who’s doing the talking, an Ivan Rodriguez signing could be described as either a bargain or a rip-off. Despite having an OBP below .300 in two of the past four years, replacement level is so low for catchers that Pudge has remained a very productive member of society. Let’s say he signs for a one year, $5 million deal. If he reverts back to his 2007 form, or even his pre-Yankees 2008 form, he’ll be a steal. But if the real Ivan Rodriguez right now is the one who got benched in favor of Francisco Cervelli in September, then his new team just threw that money down the drain. My money is on him being a good buy.
Nomar is an interesting case, in that even when he’s healthy you’re not really sure if he’s healthy. He won comeback player of the year in 2006 despite missing 40 games due to injury. Just one season later, in essentially the same amount of playing time, he saw his home run totals drop by 65%. His slugging went from Burrell-esque levels to below the Melky-line. He’s still probably a decent hitter, but not for a first baseman. If some team is in need of a part-time utility infielder and is willing to put up with his limited range, then I can justify acquiring him. Other than that, I’d say he’s not worth keeping on the roster.
I suspect that when he’s up for the Hall of Fame, there will be a lot written about his career in particular, and whether he deserves to be in. Just a wild guess–he gets in the third time around. Side note: Why is it that fielding is rarely considered for awards, but comes up so often in HOF debates? Anyways, Edmonds surprised everybody last season with his 20 home runs in limited playing time (and his .353 wOBA, but I suspect the amount of people shocked by that was far fewer). He’s probably no longer a viable center fielder, but the positional adjustment might just cancel out the value added by moving him to a corner spot. He’d have to be just about average at the corners to come out ahead. Offensively, Edmonds should continue to provide good value since he still has a great walk rate and that power bat (yay Moneyball!). If he’s used in the same way he was last season, he’ll be a good addition to some contending team.
The Big Hurt caps off this list of seemingly forgotten free agents. He held up pretty well in ’06 and ’07 but went down with a series of quad injuries that limited his 2008 season to just 71 games. I don’t see any team signing him to be the DH, so it looks like Fragile Frank (just made that up, I think) may have to hang it up. He’s not much different than guys like Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa, who did not play last season after having varying degrees of success in 2007.
So that wraps up this post on some of the potential bargains of the remaining free agent class. Next week, I might look at some pitchers, although that’s less fun so I reserve the right to scrap the idea entirely.