More baseball. I’m getting the jones, man. I’m thinking about getting into football just so I’ll have something else to care about during the offseason. How ’bout them Bears, huh? They’re… pretty awful.
Ahem. Tim Brown’s written up a thing about the highest-profile free agents in this class. Let’s take a look!
Let’s not take a look at the first part. It’s some hyperbole about the Yankees, which is fine. Hard to talk about the 2009 free agent class without some hyperbole about the Yankees, and Tim doesn’t cross the line into not-at-all-classy land. But we’ll skip to the meat, because goddamn if I feel like talking about the Yankees’ payroll any more than I already have.
This is among the biggest days of the year at Scott Boras Corp., when franchise owners are cordially invited to lose their fiscal minds. The best part, the spirit of it all lasts for months, ending, usually, with Boras himself waving from the balcony while the crowds below cheer.
The funny thing about this is that it’s not very far off from being literally true. Really the only part about it that’s hyperbolic is the balcony — Boras is usually standing on a dais.
Like his Mark Teixeira auction of last winter, Boras again has the showiest pony, though this one – as Cardinals fans might recall – lacks Teixeira’s defensive standing.
Oh no he didn’t!
Cutting commentary about his hilarious LDS gaffe aside, Holliday’s not bad defensively. BP thinks he’s just about average, assigning him one entire FRAA for his career. Fangraphs likes him a little better, giving him 32.5 career UZR, for a 150-game average of 6.9. So he’s not really a drawback in the field. Teixeira, meanwhile, clocks in at 25 FRAA, so BP likes him better, but Fangraphs has him at only 11.6 UZR (1.7 UZR/150). So call it a wash, Tim? Oh — also, Teixeira plays 1B, and Holliday plays LF. So maybe more like advantage: Holliday.
So skip down a few paragraphs, and there’s a whole separate entry also about Holliday:
• Matt Holliday, LF. The list of teams that could use a corner outfielder who hits like a corner outfielder is long. The list of teams that can afford one in the prime of his career is considerably shorter. In a winter with no competition beyond Bay, Holliday, like Teixeira before him, probably is bigger than the economy. The possibilities: New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs.
"Bigger than the economy" makes no sense, but we’ll let that pass. My guess is that he goes to the Giants, who definitely have the jones for a power-hitting left fielder now that it’s been a few years since the last one
retired was forced out of baseball by a huge conspiracy the MLBPA will expose in exchange for huge kickbacks for its officers. The Giants also are recently suffering the sting of seeing their playoff hopes ruined by finishing fifth-from-last in all MLB in runs scored. They’d probably like to get something going while Cain and Lincecum are still good and under their control, so expect them to make a big move like this.
• John Lackey, SP. Lackey’s market is all over the place, mostly because he’s the only available ace, even if he qualifies more in attitude than body of work. He’s had some arm issues the past couple seasons, but likes to finish what he’s started, isn’t afraid and is a commanding clubhouse presence. Estimates have him pulling anything from A.J. Burnett money (five years, $82.5 million) all the way to Barry Zito money (seven years, $126 million). The possibilities: Los Angeles Angels, Mets, Seattle Mariners, Milwaukee Brewers, Mets, Red Sox, Yankees, Washington Nationals (he won’t pitch for the Nationals).
I really enjoy that Tim lists the Mets twice here, because the Mets are where Lackey is going to end up. The Mets will drastically overpay for Lackey, who is, by the way, not very good. But the Mets don’t know that. They just throw money at mediocre veterans because they’re the Mets. They are so lucky Brian Sabean out-Metsed them for Sexy Barry Zito.
• Jason Bay, LF. Bay’s agent, Joe Urbon, has called his man "the most complete player in this free-agent class," a direct assault on Team Boras. Rumor has it the players’ union has scheduled a debate for the lobby of the winter meetings hotel in Indy, for which both agents have been asked to wear cups and mouth guards. Bay, 31, remade himself in Boston (a polite way of saying people noticed him when he got out of Pittsburgh) and had another productive season. His possibilities include almost everyone who loses out on Holliday: Red Sox, Mets, Mariners, Yankees, Angels, Giants, Mariners.
Unless Matt Holliday is missing some organs I don’t know about, Jason Bay is definitely not the most "complete" of this year’s class. He’s an absolute butcher in the field — BP has him at -37 FRAA, and Fangraphs at -13 UZR — and he’s a few years older than Holliday, to boot. But he’s a good offensive player, and will probably end up staying with the Red Sox. They have the money, and they seem to like him well enough.
• Chone Figgins, 3B/LF. In a pinch, he could even play a little center for you, or second, or even short. While he dampened a wonderful season with yet another soggy October, Figgins, 32 soon, embodies the game’s post-steroid lean toward speed, touch and gap-to-gap hitting. He’s an AL lifer, but has NL skills – in interleague play he has batted .309 with a .376 on-base percentage. Possibilities: Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Mets, Angels, Mariners.
What does it mean that Figgins has "NL skills?" He’s good at hitting pitchers who bat? I think the days of the AL being a fastball league and the NL being a curveball league were over a long time ago, Tim. Rumour has it the Chicago Cubs are also interested in Figgins, and lord knows they could use somebody who gets on base, but I don’t think it will happen. He’s too sensible a choice. Probably ends up staying with the Angels — of all their free agents, I expect Figgins is the one they’ll resign.
Incidentally, Chone, your name is pronounced "coney," like the island, no matter what you say. Get down with that.
• Johnny Damon, LF. He just turned 36, just muscled up on the new Yankee Stadium for 24 home runs (matching a career best) and just won another ring. Damon still has a certain something, as evidenced by his Game 4, ninth-inning dunk and dash, providing the pivotal few minutes of the World Series. He might already be a DH, but might have another get-by season in left. Possibilities: Yankees, Red Sox.
Damon’s steal of two bases on one pitch was one of the awesomest things in this year’s World Series. He had a resurgence this year, but he’s well into his decline at this point, and, as you say, is almost complete junk in the field. I don’t think the Yankees will take him back — he’s asking too many years for what he has to offer, and I expect they’d rather have Matsui to DH. Not sure there’s a place for him on the Red Sox either. If I had to guess? White Sox. Kenny and Ozzie love old broken-down dudes with reputations for being "scrappy."
• Adrian Beltre, 3B. Seattle – the ballpark, the distance from L.A., the direction of the club – never seemed to fit. Amazingly, Beltre is just 30 and ready for a second long-term contract. We’ll see how the market treats him this time. He’s healthy and catches everything, but is a career .265 hitter with runners in scoring position (Figgins, by comparison, has hit .312 in those situations). Beltre does some things well, and could indeed end up being a bargain. Possibilities: Phillies, Angels, Orioles, Mariners.
Away with your goddamn batting average with runners in scoring position. Beltre’s career batting average is .270. That is exactly the fucking same, Tim. Just like, you know, everybody’s ever. Beltre has had one good year in his entire career, and the Mariners overpaid for him. If I had to guess, I’d say he goes to the Phillies — they love dudes who make lots of outs and once hit for power in the long-ago days of yesteryear.
• Marco Scutaro, SS. Another guy who’ll show up and play his position every day, or a utility type in case of emergency. Few players have worked harder for a rewarding free agency than Scutaro, who turned Cito Gaston’s admiration into a full season at shortstop for the Blue Jays and the best numbers of his career. Possibilities: Toronto Blue Jays, Phillies, Angels, Orioles, Oakland Athletics.
The best numbers of Scutaro’s career: .282 / .379 / .409 / .789. Yikes. This is the only year he’s ever been above average OPS+-wise, and normally he’s way under. Anybody who buys high on Scutaro is in for a disappointment. Probably he stays with the Blue Jays to soothe their Eckstein withdrawl. But at least he shows up and plays every day! I mean, his career high for games played in a season is 145, but still. I imagine he showed up those other days and just maybe played the Game Boy in the locker room. Because he’s a gamer.
• Andy Pettitte, SP. Looks like Pettitte has another season or two in him, if he wants them, after 14 regular-season wins and four more in the postseason. At 37, Pettitte could start thinking about Hall of Fame numbers and keep pitching. Possibilities: Yankees, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers.
Yeah, Pettitte can still pitch. He’s not anybody’s ace anymore, but he’s a reliable middle-of-the-rotation starter. Probably the Yankees keep him, since they don’t exactly have pitching to spare; if he’ll sign another one-year, $5M-or-so deal, I can’t see why they’d let him go. And, yeah, Pettitte can start thinking about Hall of Fame numbers any time he wants to — maybe Clemens can let him borrow some, because Pettitte won’t be sniffing the Hall. He was very average.
• Randy Wolf, SP. Since returning from Tommy John surgery mid-season 2006, the left-hander is 36-25 with a 4.10 ERA. He just threw a career-high 214 1/3 innings, made a career-high 34 starts, and had a 3.23 ERA. The Dodgers, of course, thought so much of him they pushed him back to Game 4 of the NLCS, a poor decision. He’s better than you think he is. Possibilities: Los Angeles Dodgers, Mets, Phillies, Brewers, Minnesota Twins, Rangers, Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks.
This was Randy Wolf’s only good year since coming back from surgery. Pro tip: he didn’t have too many good years before then, either. Turns out he’s exactly as good as I think he is. I’m thinking he’ll parlay his one good year into an overlarge contract with a team that likes to sign lousy pitchers. Oh, the Rangers are hiring? Excellent!
• Jose Valverde, RP. Depending on preference, there are plenty of potential closers to choose from (Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, Billy Wagner, Fernando Rodney, J.J. Putz, Takashi Saito), and Valverde could be the best of the bunch. He went 47 (for the Diamondbacks), 44 and 25 (Astros) in saves the past three seasons, and has been effective if you don’t mind unsightly. Possibilities: Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves, Astros, Orioles.
Valverde’s been wildly inconsistent, but when he’s good, he’s really good. The Astros have a very high payroll and no clear idea what they’re doing, so I sort of expect they just resign him by rote. Not the worst move they could make.
• Aroldis Chapman, SP. Everyone sees Chapman’s potential. And everyone wonders if he has the drive, aptitude and attitude to make something of it. Of course he has the big fastball. His secondary pitch, the slider, is not nearly as impressive. He’s young and athletic. He also was barely out of the Red Sox’s offices when unflattering photos of him surfaced on the Internet. The very definition of risk assessment here. Possibilities: Yankees, Mets, White Sox, Red Sox, Braves, Orioles, Cubs, Cardinals.
Never played a major league game, so I have no real opinion on his abilities. My Hendry-sense is tingling, and telling me the Cubs are about to offer him something idiotic like $50M over three years entirely on the strength of that fastball and the interest from the Red Sox and Yankees.
• Vladimir Guerrero, DH/RF. Big Daddy had trouble staying on the field in ’09, so his numbers began to reflect the way he carries himself to the plate and back. He hit pretty well from May on, hit nine home runs in August and had some huge at-bats against the Red Sox and Yankees in October. What he has left, at 34-ish, is anyone’s guess. But, by the end, he looked like he could still hit, and he insists he can still play right field. We’ll see. Possibilities: Angels, Rangers, A’s.
I very much doubt that Vlad’s done. I think probably the idea that he’s done has gotten around, though. The Angels probably won’t want him, since he doesn’t run a lot; in all, he seems like the kind of guy the A’s will pick up: underappreciated veteran slugger.
• Hideki Matsui, DH/LF. He still hits lefties and righties, but, like Guerrero, is starting to look a lot like a full-time DH. The early word had the Yankees choosing between Damon and Matsui and letting the other one walk, which could still happen. Possibilities: Yankees, Mariners, Rangers.
Godzilla is a DH at this stage in the game. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. I think the World Series MVP is the deciding factor on this one: Yankees. They’ll pick his amazing batitude over Damon’s two-base steal.
• John Smoltz, SP/RP. The question general managers have: Can Smoltz deliver 25 to 30 starts? In 15 last season split between Boston and St. Louis, his ERA was well into the 6’s. Maybe another offseason will heal his body, which, by the way, is 41 years old. And maybe this means a return to the bullpen. Possibilities: Cardinals, Mets, Dodgers, Rangers, Astros, Cubs.
Smoltz is looking really cooked at this point. He allowed eleven hits per nine this year, which is very not good. He’s also 42 years old (yeah, 42, Tim, not 41 — they have this information on the internet if you want to check your work sometime), and not likely to be getting better any time soon. On the plus side, his walk rate has stayed constant, so he still has his command of the strike zone; it’s just that he’s not getting dudes out anymore. If Smoltz is willing to work out of the pen, a team with a weak bullpen and a love for expensive old ex-Braves pitchers — like, oh, say, the Mets — might make a move.
• Joel Pineiro, SP. Just in time for free agency, the 31-year-old right-hander dropped his best big league season. He’ll stand in behind Lackey with the second-tier guys, maybe just after Wolf and Pettitte, before Rich Harden, Erik Bedard, Jon Garland, Jered Weaver and Carl Pavano. Possibilities: Cardinals, Mets, Brewers, Twins.
Tim. You just put James Richard Harden in the same category as Jered Weaver and Carl Pavano. You crazyass.
Pineiro sucks. I don’t think his walk rate is going to stay at a freakish MLB-best 1.1 — probably it goes back up toward his career average of 2.6. At which point he’ll be looking at a WHIP of about 1.4 and an ERA+ of about 90, just like he always is. I say either Mets or Brewers, depending on whether or not the Mets pick up Smoltz.
• Jarrod Washburn, SP. He had arthroscopic knee surgery in October, the need for such a procedure almost certainly explaining his bumpy second-half starts for the Tigers. He had pitched effectively for 20 starts in Seattle and, at 35, would seem to have capable years ahead. Possibilities: Brewers, Twins, Mariners.
Washburn was unreal for Seattle this year, and then got traded to Detroit and immediately sucked. It was hilarious and I loved it. Probably next year, when he ends up on the Brewers, he’ll revert to form and be a slightly-below-average pitcher who gets hurt a lot. They love that shit in Milwaukee.