MLB Free Agency: Josh Hamilton and 10 Riskiest Free Agents on 2013 Market
Even though 28 of the 30 MLB teams have yet to play a game this season, it's never too early to look to the future. So let's look to the end of the season and the big-name players who will be out of contract.
One can be fairly confident in some of them, like Dan Haren and James Shields. There's a minimal chance of them disappointing once they're signed.
However, there are a few who carry bigger risks.
Here, we look at 10 of the riskiest 2013 free agents. Note that some have options for 2013, but we'll go on the presumption that their services are not retained.
Josh Hamilton, OF
Josh Hamilton is one of the best stories in recent baseball history.
He has bounced back from alcohol abuse and injuries to become one of the game's best players, leading the Texas Rangers to the AL pennant in each of the last two seasons and winning the MVP award in 2010.
However, injuries still bother Hamilton, the latest being a groin injury, which has become apparent in the last few days.
A player of his caliber will command a long contract, but the prospect of him spending a decent amount of that deal on the DL should make GMs think about it a little longer.
Carlos Lee, LF/1B
The Houston Astros will be very pleased that Carlos Lee is in the last year of his contract.
The six-year, $100 million deal that he signed before the 2007 season has not panned out the way they wanted. In 2010, Lee's average was .246, and while he bounced back a little last year, it was still only .275.
His defensive decline has made it painful to put him in his native left field, but his contract prevents the Astros from benching him.
His power might land him a job in 2013, but even that has taken a hit—his tally of 18 home runs last year was the lowest of his Houston career.
Grady Sizemore, CF
Injuries have taken a huge toll on what was one of the most promising young careers in baseball.
In the four seasons from 2005 to 2008, Grady Sizemore missed a total of nine games. In the next three seasons, he has missed 276.
At his best, he was great, placing in MVP voting four times, making three All-Star appearances, winning two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger.
He has a one-year contract for 2012 with the Cleveland Indians, but if he struggles to stay on the field again, he will likely have to look elsewhere for his next paycheck.
David Wright, 3B
If there is one issue that has unified all major North American sports in the last few years, it has been concussions.
The NFL has changed the rules regarding tackles and hits, fining players for going at the head. The NHL is considering banning fighting. MLB has not started to change the rules of the game, but the effects of concussions are clear, with David Wright seriously struggling.
Wright was a great third baseman for the New York Mets, hitting over .300 each year from 2005 to 2009. Last season, that fell to just .254, and he played only 102 games, the fewest since his rookie year.
If he can remain healthy, he can be a great player, but health is a big concern.
Carlos Zambrano, SP
2011 saw Carlos Zambrano post the highest ERA of his career, but decline is not the biggest concern with signing him.
He has never had the best attitude and was placed on the disqualified list last season for 30 days after he stormed out of the clubhouse. He was previously suspended for having a bust-up with then-Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee the year before.
So desperate were the Cubs to jettison Big Z that they agreed to pay $15.5 million of his $18 million salary when he was traded to the Miami Marlins.
Either he will have a resurgent season and sort out his attitude and anger management issues, or being on the same team as Ozzie Guillen will make him unbearable.
Francisco Rodriguez, RP
Things have gone downhill since Francisco Rodriguez broke the single-season saves record in 2008.
He signed a big-money deal with the New York Mets but wasn't the same pitcher and was traded to Milwaukee last season.
He inked a one-year, $8 million contract with the Brewers in the offseason, but even if he is lights out in 2012, signing him in 2013 will be a risk.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP
There was phenomenal hype when Daisuke Matsuzaka came to the major leagues from Japan.
The Boston Red Sox paid $50 million just to be able to negotiate with him, and he helped the Sox win the 2007 World Series in his first season. The next year, he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA.
Since then, though, things haven't gone so well. He has pitched 250 innings total in the last three seasons and has an ERA over 5.00 in that span. Matsuzaka will miss most of 2012, too, as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
It would be a gamble for any team to sign him when he becomes a free agent after this season.
However, new manager Bobby Valentine spent many years in Japan and speaks Japanese. He might be able to communicate with Dice-K better than former manager Terry Francona.
If he can coax a good second half out of the righty, he might have a few interested parties.
Jose Valverde, RP
Jose Valverde had a brilliant 2011, leading the AL in appearances (75), games finished (70) and saves (49).
He has received Cy Young votes twice (2007 and 2011) and led the league in saves three times (2007, 2008 and 2009).
Another decent year in Detroit, and he will land a big payday in 2012, as competitive teams are always looking for a reliable arm.
The problem is that closers are rarely reliable, especially when signed to a long-term deal. Just look at Joe Nathan and Francisco Rodriguez.
Carlos Pena, 1B
The fact that Carlos Pena has averaged 34 home runs over the last five seasons and has had to settle for back-to-back single-season contracts should tell you all you need to know about how confident GMs are in signing him.
He has spectacular power, but his average is a huge worry for prospective bidders.
He might hit 40 home runs, but if he couples that with a .196 average (which he posted in 2010), was he really worth having on your team?
Mark Reynolds, 3B
Mark Reynolds is similar to Carlos Pena in that he is very much an "all or nothing" player.
While Pena's drawback is his paltry batting average, Reynolds' is his strikeout rate.
Only one player in major league history had struck out 200 times in a season before Reynolds came along—and he only did it once. Reynolds has done it three times in four years.
That said, he has brilliant power, and that might make him a worthwhile investment when his contract with Baltimore expires at the end of the season.
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