Free Agent Analysis: Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Beltran, Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt

Bleacher ReportContributor IIINovember 7, 2011

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 04:  Jimmy Rollins #11 of the Philadelphia Phillies warms up prior to an at-bat against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Three of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on October 4, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Jimmy Rollins

2011 Stats: .268/.338/.399, 16 Home Runs, 106 wRC+, .329 wOBA, .131 ISO, 30 Stolen Bases, 3.8 WAR

Rollins isn’t the same 5.0 WAR player he was a few seasons ago because of various leg injuries, but he is still the second-best shortstop on the free agent market.His 3.8 WAR ranked eighth among major league shortstops, and he is bound to get a three-year deal for his services. His power has dropped because of his groin and calf injuries. His .131 ISO over the last two seasons is below his career ISO of .161, but his 2011 HR/FB ratio of 7.7 percent sat at his career rate.

Despite some decline in his offense, Rollins has shown more of an ability to get on base, as he has produced walk rates of 10.2 and 9.2 percent respectively. In addition, Rollins’ batting average of .268 was somewhat low considering he produced a 20.2 percent line-drive rate but only a .275 BABIP. He still makes contact at a very high rate; his 4.3 percent swinging-strike rate was the third lowest among qualified hitters.

Rollins has lost some bat speed as he has gotten older, and he did most of his damage against sliders and change-ups this season. However, he still has the ability to turn on a decent fastball.Despite his various leg issues, Rollins was still able to steal 30 bases in 2011. His leg injuries have taken away some of his range at shortstop, but he is still considered above average at the position.

If it were up to me, I would try to sign the 33-year-old Rollins to a three-year deal, as his range at the position will surely decline as he continues to age. Rollins and his agent have been known to desire a five-year deal, but I highly doubt any GM will sign on that deal.I feel like Ruben Amaro will give him more than $15 million a year to get a deal done. In terms of wins that makes sense, but his injury history would worry me. If the Phillies don’t re-sign him, the Giants make the most sense.

Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies


Carlos Beltran

2011 Stats: .300/.385/.525, 22 Home Runs, 153 wRC+, .389 wOBA, .225 ISO, 4 Stolen Bases, 4.7 WAR

The 34-year-old outfielder is not the same MVP-caliber player he was three years ago, but 2011 was one of Beltran’s most productive seasons in the majors.

He was able to stay healthy for most of the season and produced the highest wRC+ of his career (tied for ninth in baseball in 2011). Beltran is the top free-agent corner outfielder, and his .385 OBP was his highest since 2006 (third best of career) while showing he could play everyday in the outfield without getting severely injured.

Speed is no longer a part of Beltran’s game, as he has only stolen seven bases over his last 208 games. His range in the outfield has suffered because of injury, and he is best suited to be a regular DH while starting occasionally at the corner outfield positions. His arm is still considered above average.

As a switch hitter, Beltran is dangerous from both sides of the plate, posting an OPS above .905 from both sides. Considering he played his home games in pitcher-friendly parks like AT&T Park and CitiField, Beltran had a HR/FB ratio of 16.7 percent in those stadiums, showing that he still has above-average power from both sides.

The Red Sox and Giants look to be the front-runners for his services, and the team willing to give him two guaranteed years plus an third-year option will get him signed. I would keep him to one guaranteed year plus an option because of his injury history. Since the Sox have the DH option, a longer offer seems more likely. If he stays healthy, he is a four-win type of player, but the injury risk still looms.

Prediction: Boston Red Sox


Roy Oswalt

2011 Stats: 3.69 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 3.95 xFIP, 139 IP, 1.34 WHIP, 6.02 K/9, 2.12 BB/9, 2.5 WAR

Oswalt pitched fewer innings in 2011 because of a back injury, and that injury has put Oswalt into the riskier free-agent category. His injuries caused him to lose velocity.  His average fastball registered at 91.4 mph this season, the lowest of his career, and his 6.02 K/9 was also a career low.

Even with these injuries, Oswalt still recorded a 3.95 xFIP and figures to be a league-average pitcher at worst. He threw his breaking balls less this season in favor of his change-up, and I am not sure if that was an injury-related decision or growing confidence in the evolved pitch.Even if he regains his velocity, Oswalt should get back to throwing each of his offspeed pitches to a 15-percent rate, which he did in 2010. The ability to throw any pitch at any time was part of the reason he was so successful in 2010.

His BABIP of .316 was a career high, but his line-drive rate of 19.3 percent shows that opposing hitters were not hitting line drives at an extremely high rate. If I were a general manager, I would not be worried about his production even if his velocity drops again.The injury risk is the real concern here, and if the medicals look OK, he is worth the risk. Oswalt should finish with something close to a 3.50 ERA, and if he can make 26 starts he is definitely worth $10 million.  

At age 34, Oswalt will be looking for multi-year deal, and I would not be surprised to see the Nationals making a good offer for him, but neither would I be surprised to see him return to his home state of Texas and sign with the Rangers.

Prediction: Texas Rangers


Edwin Jackson

2011 Stats: 3.79 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 3.73 xFIP, 199.2 IP, 1.44 WHIP, 6.87 K/9, 2.79 BB/9, 3.8 WAR

While Jackson won’t anchor a rotation, his durability makes him a fine middle-of-the-rotation starter. Over the last three seasons, he has WAR’s of 3.6, 3.8 and 3.8 while making more than 30 starts in each of them.

He has averaged 94.5 mph on his fastball over the last three seasons, and he will feature his slider (his best pitch) more than 30 percent of the time to opposing hitters. Jackson will show a change-up to LHH, but it is his weakest pitch and he has a tendency to leave it up in the strike zone. Jackson’s slider is effective against both RHH and LHH, so he does not have much of a platoon split over the last few years. In fact in two of the last three years, he had a lower xFIP against LHH. At this point in his career, Jackson looks like a safe bet to have an ERA between 3.70-3.90 with a strikeout rate close to 7.00 K/9 and a walk rate of 3.00 BB/9.

Pitching up in the strike zone with his fastball victimized Jackson, and opposing hitters had a 24.1 percent line-drive rate against him this season. If he could keep his ground-ball rate close to 49 percent in the National League, like he did with Chicago, I could see him having an ERA close to 3.45.

After being acquired by the Cardinals, his strikeout rate declined despite having a higher swinging-strike percentage.  The starting pitching market is thin, and the 28-year-old is one of the youngest starting pitchers available on the market, something of which Scott Boras will try to translate into a four-year deal.I don’t see any of the big-market clubs going after Jackson, but the Marlins, Orioles, Pirates and Twins are in need of starting pitching.

Prediction: Miami Marlins