MLB Rumors: Which 15 Free Agents Won't Be Offered Arbitration?

Dmitriy IoselevichSenior Analyst IIINovember 22, 2010

MLB Rumors: Which 15 Free Agents Won't Be Offered Arbitration?

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    Baseball's arbitration deadline is tomorrow, and several teams still have decisions to make.

    A Type-A free agent who is offered arbitration and signs with a new team nets his former team a first-round draft pick and a supplemental draft pick. A Type-B free agent is worth a second-round draft pick and a supplemental pick. But there's always the risk that a player will accept arbitration and be paid more than his worth to stay with his current team.

    So do teams offer these free agents arbitration and hope that they'll decline and sign elsewhere? Or do they withhold arbitration and abandon any chance of recouping draft picks?

    Here's a look at the 15 free agents most likely not to receive arbitration and why.

Manny Ramirez (Type A)

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    How far has this guy fallen from glory?

    After only 223 games in Los Angeles over three years, Ramirez was traded to the Chicago White Sox, where he proceeded to become an astonishingly mediocre hitter.

    In 24 games with the White Sox, Ramirez batted .261 with a .739 OPS and only managed to hit one home run. He hasn't topped 20 home runs since 2008, and at 38 years old, he is probably only capable of being a DH.

    Some team will give Ramirez an incentive-laden contract to see if he can rediscover the stroke that made him one of the most dangerous hitters in the game throughout the past two decades.

    But there's simply no way he's worth $20 million at this point. The White Sox will let him go, and not show an ounce of remorse.

Brad Hawpe (Type B)

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    The former Colorado Rockies outfielder was signed by the Tampa Bay in late August to provide depth for the Rays playoff push. 

    But in 15 games with Tampa Bay, Hawpe struggled to hit the ball, batting only .179 and striking out more than twice as many times (17) as he had hits (7). Hawpe was an All-Star in 2009 and had four consecutive seasons of at least 22 home runs with Colorado. But he seems to have fallen off the map now.

    Hawpe made $7.5 million last season and would command something in that range if he were to accept arbitration. The Rays have better and cheaper options on their roster, so expect them to just let Hawpe go.

Vladimir Guerrero (Type A)

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    Unlike Ramirez, Guerrero actually had a good season for the Texas Rangers, and he may have rejuvenated his career.

    He was named to his ninth career All-Star team after hitting 29 home runs and driving in 115 to go along with a .841 OPS. Guerrero can't play the field anymore, but at 35 years old, he's still a dangerous hitter.

    The Rangers would have to pay him $8-10 million if they offered him arbitration, which is probably a lot more than he's worth. Besides, Texas has to save that cash to throw at Cliff Lee.

Carlos Pena (Type B)

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    Pena had a disappointing season for the Rays after an All-Star year with Tampa Bay in 2009.

    His batting average plummeted to .196, though he's only a .241 career hitter. Pena can still smash the ball as well as anyone (28 home runs), but he's become a bit of a liability offensively (158 strikeouts) at a position that is the easiest in baseball to fill.

    The Rays have no reason to continue paying Pena upwards of $10 million through arbitration when there are cheaper, and likely more effective, options on the free-agent market (Jim Thome, Mike Sweeney, Lyle Overbay).

Magglio Ordonoez (Type A)

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    It's been a few years now since Ordonez was a dominant hitter. In 2010 he only managed to appear in 84 games and batted .303 with an .852 OPS and 12 home runs. If he can stay healthy, he'd be a great asset for a team in need of a slugger either at right field or DH.

    But the Tigers have to be regretting the contract they handed Ordonez in 2005 that paid him almost $100 million. Now they can take Ordonez's $18 million albatross of a salary off their books and start over, most notably by pursuing free agent catcher Victor Martinez.

Jason Varitek (Type B)

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    Varitek has been on decline for several years now, but the Red Sox kept him around as a mentor to other catchers in the organization and as someone who has intimate knowledge of the pitching staff.

    Varitek actually played reasonably well in 2010, appearing in 39 games and contributing seven home runs and some timely hitting. But even at $3 million he's probably overpaid.

    Now he's 38 years old, and Boston seems ready to hand over the job (of either backup catcher or starting catcher) to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. 

Derrek Lee (Type A)

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    Lee, once one of the top first basemen in the game, had a tough season in 2010. He batted only .251 in 108 games for the Cubs, and then only improved slightly to .287 once he was traded to the Atlanta Braves.

    He's still a pretty good player at age 34, with a career OPS of .865, and he'll get a chance to prove that he's a quality hitter somewhere. But it won't be in Atlanta.

    That $13.25 million salary is hard to swallow for someone who's not even in the top 10 for his position.

Bengie Molina (Type A)

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    Molina came over to the Rangers from San Francisco in a deal intended to help give Texas that little push to run away with the AL West, which they did. But with the 2010 season over and several promising catchers in the Rangers system (Max Ramirez, Taylor Teagarden), Molina is suddenly expendable.

    Molina only managed to hit five home runs in 2010 after reaching double digits in each of the past seven seasons. His OPS in Texas also dropped to an embarrassing .599, far below his .718 career average. He's a solid veteran catcher and at 35 years old will find a job somewhere, but he may have to settle for a backup role.

    You don't pay $4.5 million for a backup catcher. And neither will the Rangers.

Miguel Tejada (Type A)

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    Notice a theme here with former All-Star sluggers?

    Tejada will join his compatriots Ramirez, Guerrero and Ordonez in free agency because there is no way San Diego offers him arbitration.

    Tejada hit only 15 home runs in time between Baltimore and San Diego and batted a paltry .269 with a .692 OPS. Even for $6 million, that's pretty terrible.

    He will get an incentive-laden contract somewhere, but the Padres seem committed to a full-fledged youth movement. No room for a 36-year-old shortstop/third basemen on the decline in San Diego.

Trevor Hoffman (Type B)

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    The great Hoffman struggled in 2010 as the Brewers closer, sporting a 5.89 ERA and blowing several saves before being replaced by the young John Axford.

    No chance the Brewers bring him back for $7-8 million. He won't be back in Milwaukee next year, and at 42 years old, he may have to retire. 

Kevin Millwood (Type B)

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    It's just last year that Millwood was considered the ace of a laughable Texas Rangers rotation. It's the Rangers who are laughing now, as Millwood has regressed to the point where he may have to contemplate retirement.

    As a starter for the Orioles, Millwood made 31 starts and had a 4-16 record with a 5.10 ERA. He still pitched almost 200 innings, but at this point in his career his stuff isn't fooling anyone.

    Baltimore can't wait to get rid of Millwood. They just wish they could get back the $12 million he made last season.

Hideki Matsui (Type B)

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    The 36-year-old Matsui has had a solid career in the U.S., but he's not the MVP candidate he once was.

    In 145 games for the Angels, Matsui batted .274 with an .820 OPS and 21 dingers. Those are more than respectable numbers and well worth the $6 million he was being paid.

    But the Angels need an impact offensive player, and that means Carl Crawford. Expect them to part ways with Matsui and devote all their cash to pursuing Crawford.

Johnny Damon (Type B)

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    The 36-year-old left fielder had a catastrophic drop-off in production in 2010 with the Tigers. His batting average fell to .271 (career .287 hitter), his OPS fell to .756 (career .791) and he only hit eight home runs (24 in 2009). 

    So if his power's gone and his speed's gone (only 11 steals last season), what's left? Damon is still a good veteran player that could help out as a DH or reserve outfielder somewhere. But the days of earning eight-figure salaries are over for him.

Brian Fuentes (Type B)

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    The former Angels closer was traded to Minnesota in late August and didn't give up a single run in nine appearances. But with Joe Nathan due to return from injury, the Twins have no real use for Fuentes (especially for $9 million).

    Fuentes had a 2.81 ERA and a 1.063 WHIP in a pretty impressive 2010 campaign, but his career 3.8 BB/9 IP ratio is a bit worrisome for a supposed closer. He'll get a job somewhere, though, as the most capable closer after Rafael Soriano and J.J. Putz available via free agency.

Paul Konerko (Type A)

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    Konerko is an interesting case. He had a fantastic 2010 season, as he hit 39 home runs (third most in his career) and batted .312 with a ridiculous .977 OPS (career .854).

    If the White Sox knew they could get that sort of production from Konerko again, then they'd be happy to offer him arbitration and pay him $12-15 million. But if Konerko's 2010 season is an aberration, the White Sox could be on the hook for a giant salary to an aging player.

    Konerko looked just about finished in 2008 at the age of 32. In 2010 he was an All-Star and a one-time MVP candidate. 

    Even if Chicago offered him arbitration, there's no guarantee Konerko would accept. He may not be able to get $15 million a year on the free-agent market, but he could get a long-term contract that would provide him with financial security into his late 30s. Either scenario is equally likely at this point.