Brandon Webb, Chien-Ming Wang and 10 High-Risk Free Agent Moves Worth Making

Ray TannockSenior Analyst ISeptember 28, 2010

Brandon Webb, Chien-Ming Wang and 10 High-Risk Free Agent Moves Worth Making

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    One of the most perpetual discussions in baseball has to be contract talks and MLB trade rumors. And even now, as we approach the postseason, many fans are beginning to wonder who will go where, and what deals are the best for the 2011 season.

    There is a bevy of players in the FA market right now—too many to list in a Top 10—but that doesn’t mean  we can’t narrow the list down to 10 high-end players that are sure to draw heavy interest either from their current team or another fish in the ocean.

    Players such as Brandon Webb and Chien-Ming Wang are just two in a long list of potential worthy deals rising to the surface, but there are even more intriguing names out there that I am sure many of you will keep an eye on…I know I will!

    Let’s take a look at who I decided to highlight, and remember to leave a name below that you may feel is noteworthy to mention to get the discussion off the ground.

10. David Ortiz, Red Sox

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    Papi is one of a few players that will enter 2011 with a club option, but many MLB players will agree that playing under an option is NOT a contract and some players—like Papi—want something more secure.

    Papi was thought of as finished after a horrible start this year and a sub-par 2009, but he appears to be far from over with his bounce-back season where he has hit .263/.363/.523 with 31 HRs and 98 RBI.

    The likelihood over Boston giving him an extension isn’t good, but the likelihood of Ortiz becoming another DH monster is inevitable.

    Chew on this: If Lance Berkman isn’t brought back by you-know-who, Ortiz could wind up pulling a Johnny Damon.

9. Russell Branyan, Mariners

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    The Mariners really made a break for Branyan when he became available earlier this year, but whether or not they decide to offer him an extension is still left to be seen.

    But the thing is, there are plenty of AL teams looking for quality DH guys since many teams showed just how valuable the DH spot can be with a quality hitter occupying rental space.

    The Orioles are one team that I can think of that could throw their hat in the mix, should Branyan become available since they could plug him in at first base as well as at the DH spot.

    Seattle is a tough place to hit in especially for an older player, but Camden yards is…well, a whole ‘nother ballpark.

8. Miguel Olivio, Rockies

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    Catchers are usually a hot commodity because they can be utilized in many ways. They can be shifted and re-shifted in the lineup, and put into combo packages to allow teams more offensive and defensive flexibility.

    The Rockies almost exclusively went with Olivo this year despite some early and late struggles, but fellow catcher Chris Iannetta hasn’t exactly been a quality second option just yet.

    Which brings me to my next point: What do the Rockies do?

    Olivo, with his mutual option, is still a cheap two and some change million catcher that the Rockies could keep, unless another team come traipsing along with a more long-term option…I’m looking your way New York.

7. James McDonald, Pirates

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    McDonald was, by far, the better deal out of that trade for Octavio Dotel, simply because this guy has pitched really well since becoming a starter, and is already a seasoned arm as a bullpen pitcher making him a nice utility tool should a team ever need one.

    Ya know, like the Pirates.

    Now whether or not the Pirates actually retain the guy or not is left o be seen but they would be smart to do so. If not, however, the door opens up for a guy who is barely making the minimum as it is, so he is sure to come at a cheap price if he is shopped.

    And whoever winds up with the guy is going to walk away with a solid deal. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees try and make a move on McDonald considering A.J. Burnett is not likely to return.

6. Placido Polanco, Phillies

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    One Phillie that is sparking interest in the FA game is 2B/3B Placido Polanco, and for those who are familiar with him, you can fully understand why.

    Polanco has always had one of the best gloves in baseball, is a switch defensive player who can play second and third, and has put together an impact season in Philadelphia hitting .295/.336/.385 with six home runs and 51 RBI.

    But it’s Polanco’s defensive capabilities that could help spark interest with teams such as Chicago (both sides) and Arizona inevitably shopping the position in the offseason.

    But remember that Philadelphia will probably try and ink a new deal for him…well, hopefully.

5. Jayson Werth, Phillies

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    All year long, Werth has been the subject of trade talk and contract discussion, but nothing really materialized other than another stellar performance where he is currently hitting .292/.385/.518, which is better than his 2009 numbers.

    Oh, that, and he did hire new agent Scott Boras so Philadelphia can basically say goodbye to Werth.

    There is an undercurrent rumor that Werth isn’t liked by owner Rubin Amaro Jr., but without concrete evidence to back that up, it is nothing more than a rumor, but if true, it’s even more reason to think Werth will be playing elsewhere in 2011.

    Werth is not only a great hitter though, he is also a stellar outfielder with great range, and a dangerous base runner who is always a double threat making him a top commodity off the FA list.

4. Adrian Beltre, RedSox

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    Another Bostonian currently without a long-term deal is third baseman Adrian Beltre, and while Beltre has dealt with a number of injuries this year, he has been a focal point in both the offense and defense in a very good way for Boston this year.

    These traits have always been a part of who Beltre is, making him an interesting name to throw into the FA pool.

    Whether or not Boston moves on him is another story, however.

    IF Boston decides against bringing Beltre back—a very possible scenario considering the rising youth brigade they have at their disposal—Beltre would still gain a lot of looks from a lot of wealthy teams willing to pay for a third baseman who can hit AND is available; a rarity in the majors.

3. Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers

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    One of the better feel good stories of 2010 has to be Vlad becoming a Ranger, since many people also felt his days of being a contributor would be over as a DH hitter.

    Think again, my friends.

    Vlad stormed the gates in Texas and lifted this team into the postseason, and if everything continues to go forward, he could be that huge X-factor in the Rangers’ postseason run this year.

    The Texas Rangers were the benefactors of a .301/.347/.497 batting line, as well as 28 dingers and 111 RBI—not bad for someone who was thought to be finished, eh?

    There are a ton of lingering contract question going on in Texas right now, and they just got done swinging a multi-billion dollar TV deal, AND they have the postseason to focus on which means nothing will probably happen until things settle down, but the Rangers would be wise to keep the heavy slugging bat of Vlad, and another player...

2. Cliff Lee, Rangers

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    Yup, you guessed it, Cliff Lee.

    It has amazed me that this guy hasn’t ever received a permanent deal from any team in the league considering what Lee is capable off on any given night.

    Some nay-sayers may argue that Lee suffered a bit after he arrived in Texas, but I think a lot of that had to do with underestimating his competition, because when he had to face some of the best teams in the majors, he was dead on, but there were times where he would curiously struggle against some of the not-so-good teams like Baltimore.

    Either way, Lee would be a perfect piece to the building puzzle in Texas especially with that fancy-shmancy TV contract they just inked.

1. Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks

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    He has a $1.5 million buyout and an $8.5 million club option, but he also has a little issue with some injury baggage making him a high risk/high reward player in the FA market.

    Still, Brandon Webb is one of the biggest names in the FA pool this year in regard to overall talent.

    Not only was Webb a 22 game winner in 2008, but from the 2005 season to the end of the 2008 season, this guy went 70-37 with a 3.24 ERA, and crammed 727 strikes down opposing batter’s throats.

    Any pitcher, however, coming off of shoulder injury, is always looked at as a risky venture.

    But in reality, it’s no riskier than taking a chance on a slumping hitter who a team believes they can turn around (Raul Ibanez).

    It’s no different than taking a chance on an old catcher that can still proved significant offense at the ripe age of 31 (Victor Martinez).

    And it’s no different than taking a chance on a pitcher who’s bullpen capabilities have always been overshadowed by lingering injuries…just ask the Yankees and Kerry Wood.

    I hope you guys enjoyed this piece, and everything I have brought to the table this season. Thanks for all the support and debates; it’s been as informative as it’s been exciting.

    Now, it’s time for the postseason discussions! Coming this week, so keep your eye out for it!