10 MLB Free Agents Guaranteed to Be Overpaid This Winter
Just weeks after the end of the World Series, the bidding will begin for over 160 players who are eligible for free agency.
That doesn't even count players who have option years that need to be decided on.
While this year's crop isn't rife with superstars, there are some names out there that will draw considerable interest. There are also players who come with various factors—either because of injury concerns, poor performance or other issues—that will likely decide their fate.
Inevitably, there will be players who will simply be overpaid. It happens every year, and this offseason will likely be no different.
Here is a short list of current free agents who could be paid far more than they're actually worth.
1. Jason Grilli
Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Jason Grilli put up some big numbers in 2012, two years removed from major knee surgery that was career-threatening.
However, a closer look at the numbers may reveal a different story.
Grilli's first half was out of this world—a 1.87 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP and a strikeout-to-walk ratio that was nearly 4-to-1.
After the All-Star break, Grilli pitched like, well, Jason Grilli. A 4.32 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in the second half was much more in line with Grilli's career 4.34 ERA and 1.41 WHIP.
The 13.8 strikeout ratio that Grilli posted for the entire season will raise eyebrows, and it will likely land him a nice paycheck. But which Grilli will GMs be paying for—the new-and-improved Grilli of the first half, or the same-old-same-old of the second half?
2. Grady Sizemore
Despite the fact that outfielder Grady Sizemore was coming off another knee surgery, the Cleveland Indians took a chance and signed him to one-year, $5 million contract with further incentives for games played.
Sizemore then injured his back while fielding ground balls during spring training and never logged a single game all season.
The 30-year-old outfielder is an immense talent, but multiple knee surgeries and other ailments have kept him off the field. The Indians took a major chance and are now $5 million poorer as a result.
The bottom line is that no one should be giving Sizemore a contract more than the major league minimum at this point. It's been four years since he actually logged a full season, and the new Sizemore won't even be close to the man who presented an element of speed and great defensive range in the mid-to-late 2000s.
But it's baseball; someone will take another chance on him.
3. Melky Cabrera
It would appear that outfielder Melky Cabrera's time in San Francisco is out. Instead of participating with his teammates on the ultimate stage in baseball, Cabrera is watching from his home in the Dominican Republic.
And he has no one to blame but himself. Cabrera's MVP-like season was cut short with his positive test for testosterone, and he must now work on convincing teams that his numbers weren't completely enhanced by his illegal use of PEDs.
Cabrera is the reason the Giants are enjoying home-field advantage at this year's World Series, and he's partially the reason why the Giants are in the Fall Classic in the first place. He should be looking forward to being rewarded with a nice payday this offseason.
Instead, Cabrera now ponders his fate.
There's no question in my mind that all Cabrera warrants for a contract is the major league minimum for next season. Make him prove that he can still produce like he did in 2011 and 2012 but without any illegal enhancements.
Unfortunately, Cabrera will likely get another chance, and it won't be for the major league's minimum salary.
Anything beyond that for Cabrera is absolutely overpaying.
4. Ervin Santana
With the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's pursuit of starting pitcher Zack Greinke this offseason, Ervin Santana will likely be on the outside looking in.
Just last week, Mike DiGiovanni of the Los Angeles Times reported that the Angels will more than likely decline Santana's option for $13 million to have the resources to go after Greinke.
Santana was 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA, giving up a major league-leading 39 home runs on the season.
That doesn't sound like a $13 million pitcher, does it?
Doesn't even sound like a $5 million pitcher, for that matter. But if Santana's option is in fact declined by the Angels, he will get overpaid by someone.
5. Francisco Rodriguez
Francisco Rodriguez really couldn't have picked a worse time to come up with the worst season of his career.
About to hit the open market, K-Rod posted a 2-7 record, a 4.38 ERA, seven blown saves and a 9.0 K/9 rate. All represent career lows.
Rodriguez has made his desire to close once again no secret. However, with his performance last season, coupled with another arrest for domestic assault, teams will be understandably wary.
If Rodriguez got half of what he earned last season ($8 million), it would be too much.
6. Edwin Jackson
One of these days, someone is going to have sit down and explain to me the economics of baseball.
How is it that a pitcher who has a career .500 record and an ERA north of 4.00 is making an eight-figure annual salary?
That would describe Edwin Jackson.
Before this season, Jackson's career numbers consisted of a 60-60 record and 4.46 ERA. And yet he was still signed to a one-year, $11 million contract.
Jackson's 2012 numbers mirrored his career stats—10-11 with a 4.04 ERA. Now, there's talk of Jackson getting a multi-year deal.
Wow, do I ever long for the days of actually getting paid based on achievement.
7. Mike Napoli
8. Shaun Marcum
The free-agent market for starting pitchers will be loaded this offseason. It may not be loaded with top-tier types, but it's loaded nonetheless.
One of the more intriguing names on the list is Shaun Marcum.
For years, Marcum was billed as a top-of-the-rotation guy. He certainly looked like one in 2008 when he raced out of the gates with a 3.39 ERA in 25 starts for the Toronto Blue Jays. Then the dreaded elbow issue reared its ugly head, and Marcum was sidelined after Tommy John surgery until 2010.
Fast forward to this season. Marcum was again looking solid until mid-June, when he was again sidelined with elbow issues, this time for over two months.
Marcum returned in late August and finished the season strong with three consecutive quality starts. But still, much like Erik Bedard, Ben Sheets and countless others before him, the injury question will follow Marcum wherever he goes.
It's doubtful that any team will commit long term to Marcum, but one might consider a two-year deal in the $8-$10 million range annually.
Caveat emptor should be the rule of thumb for Marcum. I'm not sure if every team will rely upon that rule, however.
9. Nick Swisher
New York Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher could have really upped his stock in early October if he had been able to exorcise his postseason demons.
Swisher hit .250 in three ALCS games, actually raising his career postseason average to .169.
Swisher is nothing if not consistent during the regular season. He's been good for somewhere around 25 HR and 85 RBI for most of his career.
But when it counts, Swisher's bat suddenly and inexplicably disappears.
Two months ago, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com said that Swisher could be looking for a contract comparable to the one signed by Jayson Werth.
If Swisher's numbers were even close to Werth's postseason numbers (.264, 14 HR, .960 OPS), maybe he would have a starting point.
10. Josh Hamilton
When someone hits 43 HR and has 128 RBI before hitting free agency, one could automatically assume that player deserves a nice, fat multi-year contract.
But we're talking about Josh Hamilton here.
Hamilton's numbers could have been even more brilliant had he not decided to give up smokeless tobacco, as Rangers president Nolan Ryan suggested.
Hamilton has been plagued with injuries throughout this career, but for the most part, he managed to avoid them this year. However, the decision to give up on another addiction right smack in the middle of the season was without a doubt a dumb move to make.
Still, teams will salivate—no pun intended—at the chance of signing Hamilton this winter. Make no mistake about it, Hamilton is indeed a rare talent. However, that team will also be taking on all of the issues associated with Hamilton—ongoing sobriety maintenance, medical issues, dumb decision-making processes and a hitter prone to streakiness.
Last month, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com spoke to a baseball exec who believed that Hamilton could receive a deal for five years and $150 million.
I love Hamilton's talent and abilities. But I'm not paying $30 million annually for that plus everything else that comes with it.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
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