MLB Free Agents: 10 Soon-to-Be Free Agents Hurting Their Value
I think we've all heard enough about Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Prince Fielder—the cream of the crop of next offseason's free agent class. No matter where they go (or if they stay), they're going to get paid. A lot.
The latter three are having solid or outstanding seasons, and Pujols, though having his worst statistical year to date, has a historically great resume to fall back on.
But not all are so fortunate. Believe it or not, there are more then four soon-to-be free agents looming around Major League Baseball, and many are not making strong cases for their next paycheck.
Here are 10 players—one at each position, including three outfielders—who are hurting their value through a lackluster 2011 season.
All stats courtesy of BaseballReference.com.
First Base: Derrek Lee, Baltimore Orioles
There are a lot of good things you can say about Derrek Lee: He's a nice guy, he brings a strong veteran presence to the clubhouse and he has a solid glove at first base.
Unfortunately, first baseman are expected to hit, and to hit for power.
It suddenly seems like a lot longer than two years since Lee hit .306 with 35 home runs. Still, in 2011, he has failed to recreate even a glimpse of his best seasons with the Cubs. In his first year in the offensively-enhanced American League, Lee is hitting .233 with six home runs and 22 RBI.
The harshest number is his slugging percentage, a paltry .341. For some perspective, Lee's teammate Brian Roberts, with 234 fewer career home runs to his credit, is slugging only 10 points below that mark this season.
Teams look for their corner infielders, especially first basemen, to serve as run-producers. Lee is not doing that this season. At this rate, if a team does sign him next year, it may be to fill a back-up role.
Second Base: Jose Lopez
(Just a disclaimer: Jose Lopez has actually played more games at third base this season than second, but I consider him still "eligible" there, so to speak.)
Here are the bad numbers: .188 (batting average), .219 (on-base percentage), .260 (slugging percentage).
Here's the one good number: 27 (age).
Teams might show some interest in Lopez this offseason because he's only 27 years old and has hit consistently in the big leagues before. But a lot of that depends on whether he even gets another job this season; Lopez was already released from the Colorado Rockies in June and barely lasted three weeks with the Marlins before being designated for assignment last Saturday.
The most ominous sign is that his numbers have continued to dip over the past couple of seasons. This year is, at best, rock bottom and, at worst, what Jose Lopez fans should get used to.
But they won't have to get used to it for very long. If he keeps up numbers like that, he won't be receiving any offers in the future.
Shortstop: Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers
When Albert Pujols got hurt this season, some thought the injury might affect his value, but most dismissed that notion on account of Pujols' proven durability over his career. Rafael Furcal is the polar opposite.
Furcal has missed most of the year with a broken finger and an oblique strain. This will be the third season out of the past four in which Furcal will see significant time on the disabled list. Though he's proven to still be a solid player when healthy—he hit .300 last season in 97 games—he's also proven to be increasingly fragile as his career wears on.
The Dodgers have a $12 million team option on Furcal for the 2012 season, but it's looking more and more likely that they won't exercise it. After all, why should they? Their financial troubles are well-documented and, in light of that, $12 million for a guy who may not even play half the season looks like an awful lot of money.
With shortstop being such a premium position, Furcal will likely get some interest, but his questioned durability will ultimately hurt his value in the offseason.
Third Base: Melvin Mora
Melvin Mora's free agent stock this offseason may be irrelevant, because the veteran infielder could decide to retire.
Still, if he was planning on playing past 2011, he certainly did not help his case. Mora signed a one-year deal with the Diamondbacks last offseason and initially received regular playing time. However, his .228 batting average and .276 slugging percentage, combined with the emergence of current Arizona third baseman Ryan Roberts, quickly put his roster spot in danger.
The Diamondbacks released Mora at the end of June.
If Mora does look for another job next year, it will most certainly be as a bench player. But the interest teams have in a 40-year-old backup infielder with little offense to provide is never more than minimal, unless your name is Omar Vizquel.
Catcher: Dioner Navarro, Los Angeles Dodgers
It's always been said that a catcher's primary responsibility rests behind the plate. While that is true, at least some offensive contribution is always well-appreciated.
Dioner Navarro has never been an outstanding hitter, but this season has still been disappointing. Yes, he has had limited playing time behind Rod Barajas, but plenty of back-up catchers hit higher than .173.
Luckily, there are two things on Navarro's side: his youth (he's 27 years old) and his ability to throw out runners. Navarro has caught one third of potential base-stealers this season.
Still, if he wants to raise his value during the rest of his walk year, he'll have to get his batting average above the Mendoza line. Now may his best chance, with Barajas still on the disabled list with an ankle injury.
Outfield: Juan Pierre, Chicago White Sox
Juan Pierre's best tool has always been speed. Although his career .296 batting average is more than respectable, it's his average of 52 steals per 162 games that has consistently found him playing time.
This year, however, something's gone wrong. Pierre has only 12 swipes on the season, but what's worse is that he's been caught 10 times. A 55 percent success rate stealing bases is about as valuable as a 55 percent result on a school exam.
On top of that, Pierre's batting average has dipped to .261 this season, and he has played consistently inadequate defense in left field, which has at times put his job into question. Luckily, manager Ozzie Guillen has remained faithful, and Pierre has managed to stay in the lineup.
Still, come the offseason, it'll ultimately be general manager Ken Williams' decision whether to make an offer to Pierre, and he doesn't seem as fond of the veteran outfielder.
Pierre won't sniff his stolen base total from last season (68), and if he doesn't start being more efficient with his thievery, he will draw considerably less interest from potential suitors.
Outfield: J.D. Drew, Boston Red Sox
J.D. Drew has never been a Boston Red Sox fan favorite, and this season certainly isn't helping in that regard.
Drew has continually been maligned for his outwardly apparent lack of care or toughness. In 2011, he has suffered from a lack of offensive firepower. Drew is currently hitting .235 with a .324 slugging percentage. He's struck out in almost one quarter of his at-bats (50 out of 204).
Perhaps even more surprisingly, he is 35 years old. I don't know why this came as such a shock to me. Maybe his perpetual emotionless state fooled me into thinking that he just doesn't age.
Whatever the case, his drastically declining production coming at this point of his career indicates that his free agent status during the offseason will not be very profitable.
Outfield: Mike Cameron, Florida Marlins
If there's one outfielder with a bleaker outlook than J.D. Drew, it's Drew's now ex-teammate, Mike Cameron.
Cameron was just traded by the Boston Red Sox to the Florida Marlins for a bucket of balls and a package of Tic-Tacs—I mean, for a player to be named later or cash considerations. It isn't clear how much playing time he will get in Florida, but even if he doesn't suit up at all, he can't be much worse than when he was with the Red Sox.
In 105 plate appearances in 2011, Cameron has mustered 14 hits. He's managed to make some of them count, for he does have three home runs on the year. But even that .266 slugging percentage won't earn him significant interest this offseason, especially considering he's 38 years old.
Starting Pitcher: Brandon Webb, Texas Rangers
This has been such a tough break for Brandon Webb. I don't understand why his story doesn't get more attention.
For three straight seasons, he was one of the most dominant pitchers in the game (he didn't finish lower than second in the National League Cy Young Award voting from 2006 to 2008), and the next thing you know, he's started exactly one game in three seasons.
Relief Pitcher: Ryan Franklin
A 38-year-old relief pitcher who lost the closer's job and his roster spot in a span of three months. Need I say more?
Franklin will likely get at least a minor league deal somewhere, but his chances at another closer's contract are next to none.