MLB Free Agency 2012: Carlos Pena, Coco Crisp, Kelly Johnson and Ryan Madson

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MLB Free Agency 2012: Carlos Pena, Coco Crisp, Kelly Johnson and Ryan Madson
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Carlos Pena

2011 Stats: .225/.357/.462, 28 home runs, 119 wRC+, .354 wOBA, .237 ISO, two stolen bases, 2.6 WAR

The 33-year-old first baseman bounced back from a putrid 2010 season when he produced a .196/.325/.407 line with 28 home runs, but he has still yet to prove he can return to his 2007-2009 form.

Pena has trouble with balls down in the zone, and his biggest weakness is against left-handed pitchers. He hit just .133/.260/.333 with a wRC+ of 59 against them in 2011, but he could be an effective hitter in a platoon situation. Pena will produce 27-30 home runs if he continues to get close to 600 plate appearances, and will finish with a line close to .222/.353/.470.

He is still an above-average first baseman defensively, and he will walk between 15-17 percent of the time. Pena is still a two- to three-win type of player, and he will have suitors once Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols have signed their respective contracts.

I would be concerned about signing him to a multi-year deal in part because of his declining bat speed and the fact this his line-drive rate has dropped in each of the last three seasons. If the Washington Nationals miss out on Prince Fielder, the club could use a left-handed-hitting first baseman.

Prediction: Nationals

 

Coco Crisp

2011 Stats: .264/.314/.379, eight home runs, 100 wRC+, .317 wOBA, .115 ISO, 49 stolen bases, 2.2 WAR

The 32-year-old Crisp is the top center fielder among this free-agent class, but he is starting to show signs of decline and has continued to have trouble staying healthy over the last three seasons (2011 being the exception).

He has never possessed a high on-base-percentage and had a 7-percent walk rate in 2011, but he has stolen 81 bases over the last two years. His .115 ISO was his lowest since 2007, which could have been the product of seeing fewer fastballs this season. Seven of his eight home runs came against fastballs, and he only saw them at a 54.5-percent rate in 2011 (the lowest of his career).

As a switch hitter, Crisp fared much better against right-handed pitchers, but that was mostly due to a low BABIP, and he has been pretty even from both sides of the plate in his career.

Crisp won’t strike out very often, as his 5.6-percent swinging strike rate put him within the bottom 30 in baseball. His batting average of .264 was below his career average of .275 because of some poor luck with balls in play. He had a decent .284 BABIP, but that should have been a lot higher considering he produced a 24.4-percent line drive rate in 2011.

Crisp’s greatest asset has always been his speed, which has allowed him to be one of the better outfielders in baseball. However, he looked as if he lost some range last season. He is still considered an above-average defender, but his days of being a three-win or more player look to be over.

The Miami Marlins and Cleveland Indians need some outfield help, and I think Crisp will return to his former stomping grounds in Cleveland.

Prediction: Indians

 

Kelly Johnson

2011 Stats: .222/.304/.413, 21 home runs, 96 wRC+, .316 wOBA, .191 ISO, 16 stolen bases, 2.2 WAR

The 29-year-old second baseman struggled for most of the season with the Arizona Diamondbacks after a career year in 2010, but he remains the market’s best second baseman. The Toronto Blue Jays acquired Johnson from the D-backs in August, and he finished with his second straight season with more than 20 home runs.

His batting average has fluctuated over the last four seasons because of his BABIP despite having similar batted-ball rates. He has become a high swing-and-miss guy over the last two seasons, with his swinging strike rate jumping from 7.1 to 10.4 percent from 2009 to 2010, and it jumped once again from 10.4 to 12.9 percent in 2011.

He should produce an average around .253, but he definitely has major upside and could wind up hitting .280 once again, along with 20 home runs and a little more than 10 stolen bases. He is patient, with a 9.8-percent walk rate, and had the fifth best ISO among second baseman in 2011.

Johnson was worth about $10 million this season, but he will not command as much on the market. He will struggle against left-handed pitching and breaking balls, but if teams like the Detroit Tigers, who have had a hole at second base for the last few seasons, make a run he would be a bargain at $6 million.

Defensively, Johnson is average at second base. His range is above average, but sometimes he botches more routine plays. He has averaged three wins above replacement over the last four seasons, and I think he could approach four once again. The Blue Jays, Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers (if sold) could all be interested, but the Blue Jays seem like the best fit. 

Prediction: Blue Jays  

 

Ryan Madson

2011 Stats: 2.37 ERA, 2.25 FIP, 2.94 xFIP, 1.15 WHIP, 9.20 K/9, 2.37 BB/9, 1.7 WAR

The 31-year-old right-handed reliever became the Philadelphia Phillies closer in 2011 after years of discussions about whether or not he could handle the role. He saved 31 games in 2011, and the number is likely to get him a big payday this offseason.

Madson was the second-best reliever on the market behind recently signed Jonathan Papelbon, and he is likely to benefit from the contract he received from the Phillies. He has been remarkably steady for a reliever over the last three seasons in terms of his peripherals. He is likely to record a strikeout rate slightly above 9.00 K/9 once again, along with a walk rate around 2.30 BB/9. Additionally, he had a career-best ERA because he allowed only two home runs in 2011. Expect that number to increase, as his 3.7 percent HR/FB ratio is unsustainable and way below his 10.7 career rate.

Madson averaged 94 miles per hour on his fastball and 91.8 mph on his cutter, but his best pitch is his devastating changeup that he uses against both right and left handed hitters. The pitch had a swinging strike rate of 21.3 percent last season, and Madson increased its usage to a career high 34.9 percent at the expense of his cutter. Because of the changeup, Madson does not have much of a platoon split and is able to have an above-average ground ball rate (48.8 percent in 2011).

Like most free-agent closers, his value is being greatly overestimated, and he is not worth more than $7.5 million a season. A two-year deal would be best, but he is currently looking for a four-year deal. The Boston Red Sox, Blue Jays and Marlins are said to be involved, but my guess is the Red Sox will take him over Heath Bell.

Prediction: Red Sox 

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