Some of MLB's most overrated players are poised to disappoint whichever teams invest in them this offseason.
There are two different ways to be overrated.
In the simplest scenario, a player's contributions are misjudged to be better than they actually are. That can be a matter of admiring his physical gifts over his actual production or ignoring circumstantial influences on his raw stats, such as whether or not he played in a hitter's park.
Overrating doesn't only take place in a vacuum, though. A player can also appear more desirable when considered alongside his peers. It's the difference between a decent power hitter being treated as such and getting paid like an All-Star slugger in a weak market.
Depending on how badly the league miscalculates, the results of signing one of these free agents may vary. A bloated contract could affect a team's spending for years, while a performance below expectations could derail a potential run at a World Series.
Let's take a look at the free agents most likely to disappoint their future teams.
PED suspension aside, Nelson Cruz is not the big-time hitter some suitors might perceive him to be.
He has a gorgeous home run swing and the build of a great power hitter, but the numbers say he's just a good one.
In 2010, he batted over .300, slugged over .550 and posted an OPS over .900. He has not hit any of those marks in any other full season in the bigs. Notably, he hit just 22 homers that year. After hitting 33 in 2009, he has not topped 30 since.
As Rany Jazayerli of Grantland points out, Cruz's slugger reputation does not jive with his recent historical comparable:
Nelson Cruz, 2011-13: .263/.319/.489, 112 OPS+. Jose Guillen, 2005-07: .274/.333/.457, 109 OPS+. Cruz is 22 months older than Guillen was.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) November 4, 2013
The Biogenesis controversy will keep Cruz's price tag from getting too inflated, but if he gets any deal for eight digits per year, he'll still be overpaid.
It's going to be ugly when Curtis Granderson moves from Yankee Stadium to a less hitter-friendly park.
After hitting over 40 home runs in each of the two prior seasons, he had just seven in 61 games in 2013, and his .407 slugging percentage was the lowest of his career (aside from a nine-game stint in 2004).
Given his star power and his injuries in 2013, general managers could write off his power outage easily enough. However, his dismal on-base stats were nearly identical to 2012's numbers.
Away from the short corner porches of the Bronx, his difficulty getting on base will be even more detrimental.
Despite being the closest thing to an ace available this offseason, Ubaldo Jimenez still isn't worthy of being treated as such.
A winning record, a 2.7 WAR and a 3.30 ERA were steps in the right direction last season, but they're steps in the right direction rather than proof he has returned to his elite form.
In fact, those stats pale in comparison to his All-Star production from 2010, the season that inspired the Cleveland Indians to buy low on him the next year.
From a narrative perspective, he's on the rise again, but he's not posting 1.15 WHIPs and 7.5 WARs anymore; any bidding war over Ubaldo will drive his price too high.
You wouldn't think of James Loney as overrated, and yet teams keep letting him play first base.
He's a very good fielder, but his .299/.348/.430 split in 2013 was actually his best in each category in a half-decade. Even so, he has started at first for three different teams in that time, each of which has struggled to score enough to contend.
But he's on an upswing, hit well in his one playoff series and has experience, so someone is going to plug him in and hope to milk a little more power out of him. Seven seasons' worth of evidence says it won't work out, but someone will try.
Ervin Santana could just as easily be on this list. He and Ricky Nolasco are both 30-year-olds who put together their best seasons in 2008 and are coming off bounce-back campaigns.
That said, Santana really just had a down 2012. He has now posted WARs over 2.0 and ERAs under 4.00 in three of his last four seasons, whereas Nolasco didn't get down to 3.70 until 2013, when he posted a 1.8 WAR.
By grouping them together as inconsistent but very good starters, Nolasco's reputation actually improves. The numbers bear him out as decent at best and even more inconsistent than Santana.
Sources: E. Santana seeking $100M, Nolasco $80M on five-year deals. Story: http://t.co/q8iNLosRrr— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 8, 2013
If Santana commands a price anywhere near the $100 million he wants, Nolasco's price will rise in kind. He has done nothing to warrant that payday, but that's how perception and misconception can hurt in free agency.