This is the second in a three part series looking at the remaining free agent players. Today we will focus on the top remaining outfielders and designated hitters.
Matt Holliday and Johnny Damon are the only type A free agent left fielders. Holliday is reportedly close to signing with the Cardinals.
Despite recently turning 36, Damon had a great season in 2009. He matched his all-time high in homers with 24 and posted his third best runs batted in total of his career with 82. Of course it didn’t hurt him to play half his games in the new homer haven in Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees are not showing much interest in bringing Damon back but he could really help a team that needs a leadoff hitter with some power. He stole 17 fewer bases in 2009 than in 2008 but was successful in all 12 stolen base attempts.
Garret Anderson 38, Randy Winn 36 , and Fernando Tatis 35 are the only type B free agent left fielders. Gary Sheffield may have problems finding a team if he expects to be paid anywhere close to the salary he has earned in the past.
The only free agent center fielders that might draw much interest this offseason are Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik.
Ankiel batted only 41 fewer times in 2009 than in 2008 but his homers dropped from 25 to 11 and his runs batted in dropped from 71 to 38. He slugged .506 in 2008 but his slugging percentage fell to .387 in 2009.
The most amazing stat of Ankiel's can be seen by comparing his 2009 and 2007 numbers:
2007: 172 at bats, 11 homers, and 39 runs batted in
2009: 372 at bats, 11 homers, and 38 runs batted in
With 200 more at bats he hit the same number of homers and drove in one less run.
Scott Podsednik returned to the White Sox in 2009 after playing for the Rockies in 2008. He raised his batting average 51 points from .253 in 2008 to .304 in 2009. He added some speed for the White Sox by stealing 30 bases in 2009. He finished the season hitting .340 during September and October.
Jermaine Dye is the only type A free agent right fielder. He will be 36 on Jan. 28. His power numbers fell off from his 2008 season but he still could help a team as a DH since he is not known for his fielding. His extra base hit total of 77 fell to 47 in 2009. He has no speed having only 46 stolen bases since debuting with the Braves in 1996.
Vladimir Guerrero is a type B free agent who has spent a lot of time on the bench with injuries. He has missed 81 games over the last two seasons, which equals half a season.
All his percentage numbers dropped from the 2008 season and are a good reference point since they have nothing to do with fewer at-bats.
His batting average has declined for three consecutive seasons and he hit .295 last season. He had never batted less than .300 during a season with 300 or more at-bats previously. His .334 on-base percentage, .460 slugging percentage, and .794 OPS were career lows for Guerrero.
Guerrero will be 35 on Feb. 9 and he has 2,249 hits. He needs to stay healthy if he is going to join the 3,000-hit club and needs to better the 113 hit total of 2009. He is not known for drawing walks but he walked only 19 times last season.
Brian Giles who will be 39 on Jan. 20 may find it difficult to find a team willing to take a risk by signing him considering he played in only 61 games in 2009 and hit only .191, which was 100 points lower than his lifetime average. His two homers in 225 at-bats is a red flag that may indicate that Giles may be at the end of his career.
I can’t see a team signing Giles unless he is willing to take a huge pay cut with an incentive-laden contract for 2010.
Jack Cust may be an option for a team that doesn’t care about the proclivity of Cust to register high strikeout totals along with his power production.
However since he hit 26 homers and drove in 82 runs in the 2007 season in 385 at-bats, his slugging percentage has dropped each year. He slugged .504 in 2007, .476 in 2008, and .417 in 2009.
His power production may help him find a job soon but he will probably only be used as a DH since his fielding is not Gold Glove worthy.
Jack Cust and Vladimir Guerrero are also on the DH list. Jim Thome and Jason Giambi are two of the top DH free agents available.
Thome will be 40 in August and needs 36 homers to reach the 600-homer plateau. He is already a sure-fire Hall of Famer in my book but 600 homers would leave no doubt that he belongs in the hall.
Thome is through with playing on the field but his main drawback is that if he is a DH, he will still have to run the bases and that may be the main reason teams aren’t lining up to sign Thome.
Aubrey Huff hit 32 homers and drove in 104 runs two years ago but fell to 15 homers and 85 runs batted in during the 2009 season with the Orioles and Tigers in 62 fewer at-bats.
There are some very good baseball players discussed in this post but their age and their salary demands may be working against them. Some of the players like Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, and Jack Cust are likely to sign with American League teams since they are known more for their hitting than their fielding.
Johnny Damon should be signed in the next two weeks because he will make an excellent leadoff hitter for the team that signs him. Any contender needing a veteran presence on their team will be helped by the addition of Damon.