MLB Trade Rumors: Power Ranking the 10 Best Second-Tier Players
This offseason, Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford will be headlining this year's free-agent class. Both players will be demanding major contracts, and both players might end up in New York.
Well, Lee will be in the Bronx, but the verdict is still out on Crawford.
For teams that can ill-afford to get the "Big Fish," they must look at other options—the second-tier players. Guys that can still contribute, but will be affordable to acquire.
With the start of the offseason just five days away for the teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs, here are the 10 best "Buy Low" Candidates for this offseason.
You will not agree with all of my selections. You will mention guys that I left off.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but this one is mine.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Let's play ball.
10. Andruw Jones
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Since hitting 51 home runs and driving in 128 RBI with the Atlanta Braves in 2005, Scott Boras client Andruw Jones, has seen a major drop-off in his offensive production.
Although he followed up his 2005 campaign with another stellar season in 2006 (41 home runs, 129 RBI), Jones has failed to reach the 100 RBI plateau or hit more than 28 home runs over the past three seasons.
Therefore, barring a major power surge over the next week, Jones is going to have one of his worst years of his career, since winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1997.
At the age of 33, Jones is no longer the 10-time Gold Glove award winner that we have grown accustomed to seeing in center field. Jones has lost his power at the plate, but with a .340 OBP, (which would rank top 35 in the AL if Jones qualified) he's still finding ways to get on base.
Jones will be expecting a major short-term deal this offseason, but he needs to be realistic. No one is going to pay him the money he wants. Therefore, if Jones plans on playing in 2011, he should accept whatever offer he's given.
It probably won't be much, but at least, he'll have a job.
Albeit a little, maybe, he'll still even be able to produce.
9. Hideki Matsui
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
He's no longer playing like the 2009 World Series MVP, where he hit 28 home runs and drove in 90 runs for the Yankees. But rather, Hideki Matsui, who played both the outfield and DH in his first season in Los Angeles, has only 20 home runs and 82 RBI, while batting .272 under manager Mike Scioscia.
The 36-year-old slugger only signed a one-year deal with the Angels, so he's set to be a free agent after this season. Los Angeles could bring him back, but that's far from a guarantee with their sights set high on younger, and more talented free agents.
At his current contract—$6 million—Matsui might be priced into that level where teams like Baltimore, Kansas City, or Oakland find him to be a real bargain.
It won't be what Matsui wants, but Godzilla will have no other option.
8. Derrek Lee
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
His numbers are down.
He had an off year.
He played himself out of a major contract.
But after spending a good chunk of his career as a member of the Cubs, Derrek Lee was traded to the Atlanta Braves prior to the trade deadline. The Braves were looking for an offensive replacement to fill in for the injured Chipper Jones, who tore his ACL and was sidelined for the remainder of the season.
The Braves found their replacement, but it wasn't Lee.
Both Martin Prado, and Omar Infante stepped up, while Lee is continuing to struggle, as the Braves look to make the postseason in manager Bobby Cox's final year in the dugout.
In 115 at-bats, Lee has managed just two home runs, and 18 RBI, while hitting .270. Lee will hit the free-agent market. Fair or unfair, teams will be skeptical to sign him.
Does anyone really want a 35-year-old, who's on the decline?
We'll find out soon enough.
7. Jose Lopez
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Will Jose Lopez hit the free-agent market?
Assuming he does, will anyone want him?
Heading into this season, the 2011 option that the Mariners held for Jose Lopez seemed likely to be picked up, as Lopez was looking to be in a Mariners uniform next season. A $5 million price tag for a 26-year-old second baseman, coming off a 25-homer, 96 RBI season looked like a bargain—that was until the 2010 season was played out.
Now, the Mariners must decide whether or not to pick up his option.
With a .297 career OBP, Lopez has continuously struggled to get on base, but with a power stroke like his, he would make up for it when he's at the plate. However, with only 10 home runs in 592 at-bats, his power stroke has disappeared, and he's no longer doing that.
Having no interest in retaining Lopez, the Mariners are expected to decline his option, making him a free agent. Although Seattle fans will be happy to see him go, one city will be happy to have him.
6. Lyle Overbay
Dave Sandford/Getty Images
Lyle Overbay was going to hit the free-agent market.
26-year-old Adam Lind was going to become the Toronto Blue Jays every day first baseman, but since there are concerns throughout the Blue Jays' organization about Lind's ability to play on a regular basis, Overbay might be back in a Blue Jays uniform next season.
There are no questions about Lind's ability to hit, but is he ready to play the field?
With Overbay playing just about every game, there is no reason for him to go elsewhere, if the Blue Jays decide to keep Lind in the DH role.
Toronto knows what to expect from Overbay.
Although Overbay will be extremely affordable during this offseason, and yes, there will be bidders for him, the Blue Jays will probably rather look elsewhere. But since Overbay will come cheap, and can still be a producer, the Blue Jays would welcome him back with open arms.
Overbay is currently making $7 million this year, the final year of a four-year, $24 million deal. Although the market for Overbay is unknown, he can still play the field at a high level, he'll hit 20-plus home runs, drive in 70 RBI, and with an OPS of .768, Overbay is still getting on base.
Once the free-agent market opens, the Jays might be Overbay's best option. He'll certainly be taking a pay cut, but the price to play every day will be well worth it.
5. Magglio Ordonez
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Returning from an injury which ended his 2010 season, at the age of 37, Magglio Ordonez was expected to earn $15 million in 2011, if he reached 540 plate appearances or 135 starts in 2010.
Well, the plans have changed because after only making it to 323 at-bats and 84 games before breaking his ankle in late July, the Tigers are now faced with the decision to either pick up the option or decline to, making him a free agent at the end of this season.
Ordonez rebounded this season to once again become a formidable No. 3 hitter in front of Miguel Cabrera and batted .303 with 17 doubles, 12 home runs, and 59 RBI in 84 games.
Will the Tigers pick up the $15 million option, welcoming Ordonez back in 2011? Will they hold on him for 2011? Or will Detroit part ways with the 2006 ALCS team hero, and 2007 league batting champion?
Ordonez's future will be one of the hottest topics this offseason. If the Tigers do not pick up his option, will other teams be concerned with his age and ankle to stay away if his price is too high?
A lot of uncertainty surrounds the future of Ordonez in Detroit. If you can get him at a cheap price, the risk will be worth the reward.
4. Manny Ramirez
It was no more than two years ago, where Manny Ramirez, acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers via a trade from the Boston Red Sox, catapulted his team into the playoffs with one of the greatest pennant-race performances of all-time, batting .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBI, earning him a two-year, $45-million contract.
But what a difference a couple of seasons make.
Now as a member of the Chicago White Sox, despite having a .431 on-base percentage, Ramirez has only one extra-base hit, and one RBI in 55 at-bats since joining the team.
He hit 21 home runs in 456 at-bats with the Dodgers after serving a 50-game suspension for violating MLB's steroid policy in 2009, but it appears the sitcom known as "Manny Being Manny" is coming to an end.
He can no longer hit home runs, or hit for average.
His RBI total is down.
With the 2010 season dwindling down, now is the time for Ramirez to prove he can still perform at a level we're used to watching. When the offseason arrives, there is no doubt, he'll be looking for the mega-contract.
No team will be willing to pay him, and no team should pay him.
However, when he reduces his price, then the offers will start to pile up, and Ramirez will be able to chose where he wants to play next season.
Whomever he signs with will not be getting the Ramirez of old, but who knows, maybe he still has some punch left.
It be great to see him go out on top. I'm hoping it happens that way.
3. Ty Wigginton
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
According to the Baltimore Sun, President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said last week, "that it’s possible the club will start talking to its free agents both before and during the exclusive two-week negotiating window the Orioles will have after the players file for free agency."
That means, the Orioles, who have seven free agents heading into the offseason, including Ty Wigginton, will begin discussing his future with the team in just a matter of weeks, or maybe, even days.
But with new manager Buck Showalter at the helm, looking to rebuild what was once a prominent franchise, might be skeptical in signing the 32-year-old, who's earning $3.5 million, in the final year of a two-year deal with the O's.
As Wigginton hopes to return to the club as an everyday player, there might be a 50-50 chance on whether or not Wigginton returns to the O's. If Baltimore is looking to get younger, Wigginton will find himself in a different uniform at the start of next season.
As the Orioles continue to mull over the possibility of re-signing Wigginton, his versatility, and his ability to play almost any position, makes him extremely attractive to other teams, despite nearing the end of his career.
While with the Houston Astros, in 2008, Wigginton hit .285 with 23 home runs and a .350 on base percentage in 386 at-bats. In his first year in Baltimore, his numbers dropped, hitting just .273 with 11 home runs and a .314 on base percentage in 410 at-bats.
Heading into this offseason, Wigginton's age and drop in production will be of a concern to whomever he signs with. At this point in his career, Wigginton might need to realize he's no longer an everyday player.
But that certainly doesn't mean he can't be productive when called upon, and that might be his role, starting next season.
2. Jim Thome
At the age of 40, Jim Thome is leading the Minnesota Twins with 25 home runs on the year.
Thome, who has 589 career home runs and is a future Hall of Famer, is hoping to play next season. While Thome has earned $100,000 each for reaching 250 and 300 plate appearance, and is 15 plate appearances from 350 and another $100,000, Thome is playing for $1.5 million in base salary this season.
Thome will become a free agent after the season, and on the open market he might be able to command a $5 million-plus-incentives deal for next season.
Thome has proven he can still contribute. He plans on contributing next season, but if the Twins win the World Series, Thome might call it a career.
And if he hangs up the cleats, he should be given a standing ovation.
He's certainly earned it.
1. Jorge Cantu
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Prior to being traded to the Texas Rangers, before the July 31st deadline, Cantu was struggling at the plate hitting a mediocre .262 with 10 home runs, 54 RBI, and a .310 OBP, as a member of the Florida Marlins.
When the Marlins sent Cantu packing to the Lone Star state, the 28-year-old had a prime opportunity to turn his season around, while playing for a postseason contender in a hitter-friendly ball park.
Cantu had a chance to prove that he should be signed to a long-term deal. However, that has not happened.
Until Cantu's solo shot this past Saturday, which not only broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning against the Oakland A's—Cantu's second RBI since joining Texas—it also gave the Rangers their first AL West division title since 1999. But besides for Cantu's late game heroics, his time in Texas has been a major disappointment, hitting a lousy .236, with a .284 OBP, to go along with a .610 OPS in 89 at-bats.
Not the greatest performance if Cantu has hopes of spending the next few seasons in Arlington.
Coming off a two-year stretch in Florida, while setting a career high in 2008 with a .808 OPS (2008), Cantu drove in 195 RBI, and averaged over 20 homers per season, while showing ability to play both corner infield positions. But his discouraging performance for the Rangers, doesn't bode well for his upcoming free agency.
Let's not forget that Cantu has the talent to regain his 2005 form, where he hit 28 home runs, en route to setting a career high in RBI (117), while batting average (.286).
There are clubs out there that will take a chance on Cantu. He's simply too talented to be overlooked. In all likelihood, Cantu will have to settle for an affordable short-term deal, and rebuild his value during the 2011 season.
But for now, Cantu has other priorities.
That's winning a World Series Championship.