MLB Free Agency 2013: 10 Poor Market Values Teams Should Avoid
Jhonny Peralta's four-year, $52 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals shattered the early expectations for the contract most expected him to receive, and it is the latest sign that it's a good time to be a free agent.
Coupled with other re-signings like Carlos Ruiz's three-year, $26 million pact and Tim Lincecum's two-year, $35 million contract, big money has been spent this offseason on players with questionable recent track records and even murkier futures.
If the market so far has been any indication, there will still be a few high-cost, high-risk signings by teams. Let's take a look at the top-10 remaining free agents who likely won't live up to their current market values or the contracts they will most likely receive.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF
Super agent Scott Boras has convinced many general managers to give his clients big-time contracts in the past, and Jacoby Ellsbury figures to be his latest high-profile benefactor.
In a conversation with Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Boras detailed his case for Ellsbury's market value. To no one's surprise, Boras believes his client should earn a deal bigger than the seven-year, $142 million contract signed by Carl Crawford in 2010. Boras also told Gordon Edes of ESPN.com that Crawford's deal was "old," and that Ellsbury can command more now with the market improving over the past three years.
Though Ellsbury is certainly a productive player, he would only be worth that much money over such a long contract if he was able to consistently put up numbers like the ones he posted during his banner year in 2011. That season, Ellsbury batted .321/.376/.552 with 32 HR and 105 RBI while also winning a Gold Glove in center field, a premium defensive position.
But the biggest knock on Ellsbury is his ability to stay healthy. Since becoming a full-time MLB player in 2008, he's averaged just 114 games a season with a collective slash line of .295/.349/.436 and yearly averages of 10 HR, 49 RBI and 39 stolen bases.
While Ellsbury has the potential to be a game-changer, it's hard to pay someone more than $20 million annually if he's missed an average of about 50 contests in each of the past six seasons.
Ervin Santana, RHP
Ervin Santana has been an easy target for criticism since his asking price of five years and $112 million surfaced from a report by Heyman.
Santana's negotiating team is understandably trying to cash in on his solid 2013, when he went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 6.9 K/9 rate for the Kansas City Royals.
However, his track record is filled with inconsistency, as he has four 15-win seasons on his resume but also three seasons when he posted an ERA higher than 5.00.
Santana likely won't be able to find a team to match his nine-figure demands, but Heyman and two baseball sources still envision him signing a five-year contract in the neighborhood of $75 million. That's still too big of a commitment for an inconsistent pitcher who is about to turn 31.
Stephen Drew, SS
I wouldn't be surprised if Stephen Drew's agent, the notoriously persuasive Scott Boras, popped a bottle of champagne when Jhonny Peralta signed his four-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals for a reported $52 million. That's because it likely boosted the value of Drew's new deal this offseason, as he is viewed as the top remaining free agent at shortstop.
Drew has had trouble staying on the field in recent years, as he missed an average of 66 contests from 2011-13. In 124 games with the Boston Red Sox this past season, Drew posted a .253/.333/.443 slash line with 13 HR and 67 RBI. Those are respectable numbers, but given his recent injury history, he's not worth a commitment like the one St. Louis awarded to Peralta.
Peralta was suspended 50 games in 2013 due to his role in the Biogenesis scandal, but he has been otherwise very reliable as an every day player since 2005, averaging nearly 150 games played per year.
Drew will likely command a similar deal to the one Peralta received, but it won't be warranted.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
When Carlos Ruiz signed a three-year, $26 million deal to stay with the Philadelphia Phillies this offseason, Jarrod Saltalamacchia may have been the biggest benefactor other than Ruiz.
Saltalamacchia is six years younger than Ruiz and has better numbers at the plate in recent seasons, so logic says he could command a deal worth $10 million annually this winter. From 2011-13, Salty hit .244/.306/.457 with an average of 18 HR and 60 RBI, while Ruiz posted a .293/.365/.432 with nine HR and 48 RBI in the same span, buoyed by one random year of success in 2012.
Catchers who can hit are at a premium in today's game, but Saltalamacchia's power numbers will inflate his market value too much. He doesn't get on base enough to deserve such a big pay day, and it's hard to predict how long he'll stay productive at the plate as a catcher.
Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP
Ubaldo Jimenez may have arguably the most potential of any pitcher on the free-agent market this offseason, but he also comes with a lot of question marks.
He hasn't been the same pitcher since his career year in 2010 (19-8, 2.88 ERA), but he finished 2013 on a strong note and should be able to parlay that into a significant contract. After the All-Star Break, the 29-year-old righty went 6-5 with a 1.82 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 10.7 K/9 rate, while opponents batted just .223 against him. Still, the past three seasons have been largely marked by inconsistency, as he's gone a combined 32-39 with a 4.45 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 8.5 K/9 rate over that span.
Ken Davidoff of The New York Post predicted that Jimenez could sign a deal worth $50 million over four years, an expensive gamble. One on hand, it could be a steal if Jimenez is able to maintain his form from the second half of this past season and pitch like an ace. On the other, it could be an albatross of a contract if he's inconsistent like he's been for the majority of recent years.
Curtis Granderson, OF
Curtis Granderson could possess the biggest power bat on the market this winter, but it depends on where he plays next year. The lefty's 2013 season was limited to 61 games after twice being hit by a pitch that caused a significant injury. However, he did post consecutive 40-homer seasons in 2011-12.
He benefited from a short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, so it will be interesting to see where he ends up and how it affects his power. Teams might have to pay upwards of $50 million to find out, according to Heyman, and that's a lot for a player who has hit .231 and struck out 264 times since the start of 2012.
Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH
As noted by Greg Johns of MLB.com, Kendrys Morales turned down a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer made by the Seattle Mariners this offseason, and it could affect him at the negotiating table. Now, he will cost whoever signs him a first-round draft pick, but it looks like he's still in line for a nice three-year deal for about $39 million, according to Heyman.
Anything over $12 million annually might not be worth it for Morales in the long run. He hasn't been the same player since his serious leg injury in 2010, hitting .275/.329/.457 with averages of 22 HR and 76 RBI over the past two seasons. Those are solid-but-unspectacular numbers from the 30-year-old who is also limited in the field.
Fernando Rodney, RHP
The animated closer for the Tampa Bay Rays couldn't come up big in his contract year in 2013. Following a stellar 2012 campaign (48 saves, 0.60 ERA, 0.78 WHIP), Fernando Rodney converted 37-of-45 saves this past season with a 3.38 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.
His lack of control has been a problem throughout his career, so his regression in 2013 is alarming. Rodney figures to command a significant haul with 75 saves over the past two seasons, but he's a risk going forward with his 37th birthday coming up in spring training.
Juan Uribe, 3B
The third-base market is thin this year, with the 34-year-old Juan Uribe leading the pack. He produced for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the final year of his contract in 2013 (.278/.331/.438), just in time for free agency.
But it came after two seasons when he batted a combined .199/.262/.289 with six homers and 45 RBI in 143 games. Despite his success this past season, he's not worth a multi-million dollar flier at this point in his career.
Raul Ibanez, OF/DH
Raul Ibanez led the Seattle Mariners with 29 home runs this past season to go along with 65 RBI and a .242/.306/.487 slash line. Those numbers will make him worth considering on a one-year deal, with a general manager telling Heyman that he thinks Ibanez could get $10 million.
At this point, that's too big of a commitment for the 41-year-old. It's impressive that he's been able to produce for so long, but he batted just .203/.295/.345 with five homers and nine RBI after the All-Star break in 2013, showing signs that he's reached the end of his career.