2012 MLB Free Agency: 20 “Can't-Miss” Signings That Will Blow Up on Teams
The season of MLB free agency is underway, and all 30 teams are beginning to make over their roster. Some have already made moves such as declining options, while others have done their best to keep their roster intact, namely CC Sabathia re-signing with the Yankees.
Every year, many free agents look like sure things. Either they are virtually guaranteed to be stars for the next several years (Albert Pujols), or they should have no problem playing up to a modest contract or surpassing it.
Despite this, there are always signings that blow up in teams' faces, like Adam Dunn and his embarrassing batting average with the White Sox. Here are 20 free agents who could end up being the next Dunn.
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Vlad the Impaler's legacy, as well as a near-guarantee for the middle of the lineup, will likely be a nice $5 million bargain for any teams looking for power.
Unfortunately, Guerrero appears to pretty much be done. After a comeback year in 2010, he fell down to reality. Thirteen home runs in a year, his lowest since 1997, and a career-low batting average of .290 this past season tells me he's on the decline and at best can be a placeholder if a team has farm talent to groom.
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After missing 2010 due to shoulder troubles, Bedard finally returned in 2011 and had a nice season with the Mariners and Red Sox, finishing the year with a 3.62 ERA in 24 starts.
He is likely to be a small-market pickup as someone who could be a potential All-Star. While he's good, he's a long way removed from his career year in 2007, and who knows how well the shoulder will hold up, as that's always a red flag.
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A surface look at Reed Johnson's stats from last year makes him look like a nice pickup as a fourth outfielder. A .309 batting average and 28 RBI in 266 plate appearances is nice to see, and about as good as you could expect from the bench.
Having said that, he has terrible plate discipline (five walks each of the past two years) and hasn't played 120 games since his days in Toronto. He doesn't seem to be able to go a full season, and a look past the batting average shows a player who will be overpaid for what he does offer.
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Pena is going to be a nice consolation prize for those that miss out on Pujols or Prince Fielder, or at least that's the idea. You know what you're going to get with Pena, a 30 HR/80 RBI guy who doesn't hit for average much.
That being said, he's hit for average in the past, and the fact that this hasn't been rectified tells me it's only going to get worse. If anyone is really in the market for how he played in 2010, then so be it, but I would still consider that a blow-up.
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I've always found Juan Pierre to be a very underappreciated talent. He was stuck behind Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in Los Angeles, and he's been able to show his speed for the White Sox the past two seasons, as he continues to be a reliable leadoff hitter.
That being said, he's 34, and this season, he's shown signs of slowing down. More importantly, when his defense and power numbers are looked at, it shows he has little to offer besides his speed. If he gets a nice multi-year deal, the team may like it in 2012, but they'll be hating it by 2013.
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Grady Sizemore has been the epitome of "great when healthy." If he could actually play 150 games, then he'd be able to hit 30 home runs and give a team great defense, and he has shown that, so a team could very well give him a nice real as a high-risk move.
The guy has played under 200 games in three seasons, and more importantly, he hasn't been all that great when healthy, as his average has been dropping, and he went one year without any home runs.
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Magglio Ordonez has been so good for so long that, despite his health concerns, someone could pick him up. Yes, he had a terrible 2011 (-1.9 WAR), but if you look at just the last three months, he had an average of .296. Besides, he has a two-year stint where he missed a lot of playing time before.
Despite his bargain status for 2011, 2012 will likely show what those in Detroit think: He's done. He may bring in a decent average, but his power is gone, yet given his bad defense, he would have to be a DH to be worth anything. Either way, the team loses.
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Bruce Chen had a couple very nice years in Kansas City, and given how the pitching market is this year, there will be several teams that will try to get their hands on him. He may not be dominant, but he keeps the team in games.
The problem with Chen in the past is that he's been inconsistent. One year, he's a fine starter, and the next, he's stuck in the bullpen and struggling. This seems likely to happen again, and whoever picks him up will realize it quickly.
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If there's one thing I value when picking up relievers, it's consistency, and Fernando Rodney has shown that. In the past five years for Detroit and Los Angeles, he's been solid, and has stepped up in save situations when he's needed to.
The problem with his consistency, however, is that he's consistently average, and as a guy who can probably no longer close, he has nowhere to go but down. Any team that tries to keep him long-term will be regretting it quickly.
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After missing 2010 due to surgery, Nathan returned in 2011 only to show the world that he is not the same pitcher. There are likely a few teams looking for a closer that will shrug off this year and look at his track record beforehand, since he was an elite closer just a couple seasons ago.
Based on how he pitched in 2011, it doesn't seem like he's going to be able to re-adjust to a closer role, so whoever picks him up will not be happy when the blown saves start to pile up.
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At least Joe Nathan had an excuse for struggling in 2011. Matt Capps had an opportunity to get a good contract with a good year, and instead struggled as well. Despite this, he has plenty of upside given his youth, and those looking for a long term closer may select him.
Since he hasn't had multiple great seasons as a closer in a row, his consistency is a big problem, as it would be for any closer. As a result, if he's good this coming year, he would blow up next year.
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On the surface, Betancourt seems to have turned the corner for free agency. He's had two seasons with decent power and an alright batting average, and seems to be playing well enough that a team could keep him around as an everyday starter.
His lack of plate discipline and spotty fielding, however, will catch up to him. There's a reason he's considered among the worst everyday active ballplayers in writer's circles, and I expect him to return to that rather than stay where he is.
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Jose Reyes is one of the marquee free agents this offseason and is naturally going to get a huge deal, definitely one over $100 million. He is a player who can hit triples without a problem, and had a career year with a .336 batting average.
He's on the list, however, for two reasons. First, he hasn't played a full season in three years due to injuries, which could be a problem down the road. Second, I feel like the next stage of his career will mirror Adrian Beltre's. He will still put up nice numbers, but it won't be quite as great as his contract.
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After a great year with the Oakland Athletics, Willingham is considered the best left fielder in this year's free agent class, so will likely end up getting a nice three-year deal out of it. A 29 HR, 98 RBI season does make him look like an underrated slugger.
I feel like he's following a similar pattern as Jayson Werth. He's had a few nice seasons, but I don't see him holding onto that. Factor in that his defense is starting to become bad as well, and this could end up being a bad move.
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Due to a lackluster pitching group in free agency, Edwin Jackson has rocketed up the charts thanks to a great stint with the Cardinals for the second half of 2011. Factor in his upside, and he could be a great steal for a mid-level team.
Because Jackson has bounced around from team to team, there's no way of knowing how he'll perform when he's actually settled down, and beyond that, he has not looked good in postseason performances. He could be a middle of the rotation guy, but any team paying top dollar for him will not like what they get.
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On the surface, Heath Bell appears to be an elite closer, as he has had three great seasons in a row. His age means that teams will only have to sink two or three years in him as well for what you think would be a sure thing.
Looks can be deceiving, though, and any time a pitcher from the Padres moves to a different ballpark, they struggle, much like those that play for the Rockies fall back to earth elsewhere. He could still be a solid closer, but he's not going to keep an ERA around 2.50.
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After a terrible 2010, Qualls rebounded and had a nice year. In fact, 2010 was the only bad year in what looks like a fairly consistently good career. As a result, those looking for relief help will be considering him.
However, Qualls actually has inflated stats thanks to playing for the Padres. He had a 2.09 ERA at home versus a 5.05 ERA away. As a result, his ERA will bounce back up if he's signed elsewhere.
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Ibanez has continued to be a 20 HR guarantee for the Philadelphia Phillies, and despite being 39, he could continue playing in left field for the most part. As a result, he could be a great platoon option for a year on a team, especially in the American League.
Despite his power hitting, his batting eye is leaving, as evident by a mediocre batting average and a bad on-base percentage. A -0.4 WAR isn't that far off from what could be expected for whoever signs him this year.
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Johnny Damon has consistently been productive throughout his career, and while he may be down to one-year deals now, he can still make it work, as evident by a solid 16 HR performance with Tampa Bay this past season.
He will be 38 when the season starts, though, and I think this will be the year that he starts to slow down. He'll keep trying to make it to 3,000 hits, but it won't look pretty next year.
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I actually think that despite his inclusion on this list, he'll be entirely fine for his new team. He may unravel a bit to start since he only has two years of starting pitching experience, but it shouldn't be too bad.
His inclusion here is because of his postseason record. Whichever team signs him will be doing so for him to lead the charge come playoff time, and he will continue to struggle.
For whatever reason, as evident by his 1-5 record, he doesn't pitch in the playoffs well, and if the Yankees pick him up, you know the fans will be looking at those numbers closely.