Thursday, November 1, 2012

MLB Free Agents, and Fool's Gold

You'd be hard-pressed to find many high-priced free agents who've earned their exorbitant new salaries over the years.  Last season, if I recall rightly, Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes were the plumb free agents on the market, followed by Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson, and Yu Darvish.  How'd that work out?  Pretty good to fair to middling, right?

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors breaks down his Top 50 list of available free agents this year.  Going over some of the standouts:

(Note:  I love using Baseball-Reference.com's ERA+ to judge pitchers and OPS+ to judge hitters.  Basically, 100 is league average.  The closer you are to 100, the more average you are.  A 140 is great, for instance; a 105 is not.  An 85 is awful.)

* #1, 2, and 3 are Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn.  Each is intriguing.  Each could very well be a significant difference maker in 2013.

Now then...

*  Anibal Sanchez is #4, the second-ranked pitcher, behind Zack Greinke (#1).  Sanchez has a career ERA+ of 110, right in line with his 101 with the Marlins and 113 with the Tigers last year.  Postseason standout, maybe, but regular season fool's gold.

*  B.J. Upton is #5.  Career OPS+:  105.  Last year:  109.  Buyer beware.  Outstanding talent, but each year feels like an increasing disappointment to how good he could be.

*  Nick Swisher is #6.  Let's not forget how he bombed with the White Sox in 2008.  Lack of pressure in the New York Yankees' lineup has made him productive (excluding his miserable postseason play:  .169 career batting average in the playoffs).  I'd highly doubt he goes elsewhere and plays better.

*  Edwin Jackson is #7, apparently destined to continue to pick up one-year pay checks, tantalize, and then move on.  Seriously, I understand why a team would be intrigued -- but is he really anything more than a back-of-the-rotation starter longterm?  The Nationals had it right, give him one year and go from there.

There are some more interesting names, such as Hiroki Kuroda, Kyle Lohse, Shane Victorino, and Adam LaRoche from #9 - #15.

*  Rafael Soriano is #17, ready to serve as the 2013 version of Heath Bell, picking up a hefty paycheck, blowing saves, and souring the clubhouse.  Any team that overpays for Soriano deserves what it gets.

*  Melky Cabrera is #18.  Sell that signing to your fans, especially if he starts the season in a slump.

*  Marco "Blockbuster" Scutaro is #23, one spot behind Cody Ross.  Hey, two postseason heroes from the Giants, each one great in the clubhouse, each one able to give you something, neither one deserving of anything more than a complementary salary at this point in his career.

*  #25 is Joe Saunders.  We are halfway through the list of the top free agents and we've reached a pitcher who gritted through two postseason starts... but he's basically a 4.00 ERA sort of pitcher (and over) with a career ERA+ of 103.  Average pitcher.

Average?  At #25?

Yes, the list takes a severe nose dive from here, including Francisco Liriano, Carlos Villanueva. Joe Blanton, a ton of pitchers coming off surgery, the aging Ichiro, professional hitter Jeff Keppinger, the suddenly hittable Jose Valverde, and, at #50, Jeremy Affeldt.

In conclusion...

Seriously, unless your team conducts a series of major trades (there's talk that the Rays' David Price might hit the market), there's not too much going on in the hot stove department.

Best of luck to whomever decides to throw a ton of money at Josh Hamilton.

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