MLB Free Agents 2012: The 11 Cheapest Veterans Still on the Market
As Christmas is fast approaching, it's the time of year when tons of people get what they've been hoping for under the Christmas tree—while just as many are left with a lump of coal.
The latest Kindle or iPhone might be the gift that you covet this year, but you could ultimately find yourself unwrapping a bread-maker or a Slap-Chop—items bound to sit unopened in your closet for decades to come.
Just like holiday gifts, MLB's free agency has surely given some fanbases exactly what they wanted while leaving the majority scratching their head at their team's moves, or lack thereof.
This year's free-agent class contained a collection of highly sought-after sluggers (Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes), a couple of quality starters (Yu Darvish, CJ Wilson) and some top-flight relievers (Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Madson).
But it's also got it's share of Chia Pets. Something no one wants this Christmas.
Here's 10 bargain basement free agents that, like it or not, you could see under your tree this holiday season.
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Probably the most talented name on this list, Roy Oswalt was expecting to garner a multi-year deal.
Teams appear to believe Oswalt might be aging like milk rather than wine–and he's nearing his expiration date.
Despite some moderate numbers last year, injury concerns and advancing age are pushing Oswalt toward the reality that be might need to sign a one-year deal to prove himself again and hope for a massive payday in 2012.
Oswalt could be a welcome middle-of-the-rotation addition to a team in need of some starter depth, but if you were hoping for Yu Darvish this Christmas, ending up with Oswalt feels like you're getting a fruitcake.
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Despite a pedestrian 2011 where he hit just .240 with 15 HRs and 52 RBIs, 30-year-old Cody Ross went into the offseason expecting a big payday.
It didn't happen.
While free-agent outfielders are falling off the market left and right, Ross is still sitting there with an empty wallet. It's looking like his agent severely overestimated the market for this fine-fielding, light-hitting left fielder.
Ross could still contribute as a starter on a mediocre team or a fourth outfielder on a contender, but either way he's going to come cheap.
To put it in Christmas gift terms, if your team gets Yoennis Cespedes, you're getting the new Nikes. Ross? Maybe a pair of socks.
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Saying you're the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates is like being the Harlon Hill trophy winner.
Don't know what that is? It's Division II NCAA Football's equivalent to the Heisman Trophy, and like Pittsburgh Pirates aces, its winners are just as anonymous.
Maholm, however, was starting to catch some eyes nationally as a skillful lefty who seemed to be improving every year. Then, of course, the injuries hit.
Maholm has been linked to the Cubs as of late, but hasn't drawn a lot of attention otherwise. Like Oswalt, he'll likely be looking to get a one-year deal to prove he's healthy.
Less costly than CJ Wilson or trade target Gio Gonzalez, you might not be happy to find Maholm in your team's stocking this holiday season, but give him a chance.
You might like him in the long run.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Johnny Damon is like an aging mutt at the pound. It's becoming harder and harder to find him a home.
Despite a decent season for Tampa Bay with 16 HRs and 73 RBIs, Damon is again on the market.
His defensive shortcomings make him a liability to put in the field and he's lost too much power to make him a DH candidate.
If he doesn't get re-signed by the Rays, his best bet is probably to sign cheap and latch on to a bad team desperate for any names in the lineup, such as return to the Oakland A's—which is enough to ruin anyone's Christmas.
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Don't expect Brad Penny to sign for a long, long time.
While he may have held out late into the offseason last year for the best opportunity—which he ended up deciding was with the Detroit Tigers—this year he'll be waiting for all other available starters to sign, since he'll likely be a final option for any team.
Despite giving the Tigers 181.2 innings and an 11-11 record, Penny had a bad season overall for Detroit and was often bailed out by their strong offense.
Penny posted an enormous 5.30 ERA and impressively terrible 1.56 WHIP. Santa would definitely put him on the naughty list for that.
I'll cut the guy some slack, though. After posting a 27.00 ERA in the playoffs, he broke off his engagement to his Dancing with the Stars fiance, Karina Smirnoff.
On a side note, the fact that he dated her and Alyssa Milano is mind-boggling. Guess that old Nike commercial is right. Chicks do dig the long ball.
Even when you're the guy serving them up.
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Once upon a time, Vladimir Guerrero was a 70 Million Dollar Man and one of the top players in the game. Now he is another veteran who's hanging on for dear life.
Baltimore declined arbitration on Guerrero leading everyone to believe, "If the Orioles won't take him, who will?"
Guerrero has already stated he wants to play in 2012, and he'll probably end up latching on in the AL for a bargain basement deal.
Perhaps he's still got enough pop to be a part-time DH and pinch hitter, but getting Guerrero is like enjoying a fine glass of egg nog. Without the rum.
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No, the diminutive backstop isn't one of Santa's Little Helpers. At least I don't think he is.
Ivan Rodriguez is running out of options and it appears that he's finally starting to accept that he is on the downside of his career—making him officially the last person in the world to realize that.
Within grasp of 3000 career hits, Rodriguez is in a position where he'll have to play a backup role and perhaps get some pinch-hit opportunities.
Well compensated throughout his Hall of Fame career, money won't be a concern for Rodriguez on a new deal. And that's a good thing, because he won't get much of it this time.
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Seems like just yesterday Kerry Wood was a young gun out of Chicago. Actually, it was about the same time a VCR was a cool Christmas gift.
However, after a faded career, Wood enjoyed a bounce-back season in Chicago after signing there for a discount in 2011.
Despite the fact the Cubs and Wood appear to still be interested in each other, there's been little progress toward a deal since Theo Epstein took over the reigns for the Cubs.
Despite the lack of any movement, look for Wood to resign in Chicago for another, more discounted price, later this offseason.
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Derek Lee was acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates to bolster their lineup for the playoff run.
That worked out as well as when I gave my wife a vacuum cleaner last Christmas.
In fairness to Lee, the Pirates collapse had nothing to do with him as he performed well—hitting over .300 with seven HRs in just over 100 ABs.
The former Cubs slugger is only a couple of years removed from a 33 HR, 111 RBI season with Chicago, so he'll get a full time gig somewhere.
Unfortunately for Lee, his contract won't end up being big enough to have paid the bar tab that was accumulated putting together the Albert Pujols contract.
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Despite the fact the entire world thinks Jorge Posada should probably end his fantastic career, it hasn't stopped him from sending out Christmas cards to the Marlins and Mets.
In what appears to be orchestrated by the Posada camp, Jorge has been attached to a couple of openings but there hasn't been much traction.
If he does get a deal, it'll be a backup catcher with some pinch-hitting duties.
If it comes to it, here's hoping that Posada does pack it in rather than ending up like his fellow backstop, Ivan Rodriguez—looking for chance to play anywhere, regardless of the situation.
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In terms of Christmas gifts, Manny Ramirez is the equivalent of the 11:50PM run to 7-11 for a last minute package of lottery tickets and tic-tacs.
Rumor has it, Ramirez is lobbying harder for a job than Emilio Estevez—but he likely won't get one. At least a guaranteed job.
A minor-league contract is an option for an offense-starved team—perhaps a return to Cleveland would be a fit.
Ramirez would have to earn a job in spring training, and he definitely wouldn't come with any fanfare, but he would come really cheap for any team desperate enough to give him a shot.
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