Cliff Lee, Manny Ramirez and 10 MLB Stars Playing For a Contract This September
Every year we wind up hearing about a group of MLB stars that are reaching for the stars, so to speak, when it comes to playing for either a new gig in another town or an extension in their current digs.
This year there are plenty of players out there who are swinging for new deals, and I thought I would highlight a few of them for you today.
Interestingly enough, it will be where these players land and for how much that will inevitably take over the headlines, but for now, it's what they are doing to shop themselves in an otherwise volatile FA market.
10. Jose Guillen: Giants
Guillen, one of the biggest journeymen in the majors and the former 2003 Ernie Lombardi MVP winner, is playing for either an extension in San Francisco (unlikely) or another gig elsewhere in the majors.
What’s interesting about Guillen is that this guy averages 21 home runs and 87 RBI as a lifetime eighth and ninth hole hitter, so imagine how much better those numbers would’ve been had he moved up the lineup—speculation I am surprised no one has thought of yet.
Even so, Guillen can only really command about $6 to 8 million at best, so at that price, there aren’t a whole lot of options for the 14-year veteran.
9. Prince Fielder: Brewers
The face of the Brew Crew started this season in his traditionally slow fashion, and you can imagine the contract issue was a big part of that, as it was surely hanging in his closet.
Now, despite avoiding arbitration, Fielder is still playing for something to negotiate with in 2011, and things haven’t exactly gone his way this season.
While Fielder has smacked 30 dingers, his RBI count (74) and average (.274) are not exactly where he would like them to be.
But there is a strong chance that Fielder will be a Brewer for life, no matter how he plays.
8. Cliff Lee: Rangers
First off all, how the Rangers ever got Lee for $8 million is beyond me—just putting that out there.
Here’s a big name that is sure to make headlines at the end of the 2010 season, and much like his year in Philly, I don’t even think his pending performance in the postseason will solidify a place in Texas, although they can afford to offer a new deal.
Lee is known for his penchant for strikeouts (1,066 in nine seasons, averaging out to 167) and being a workhorse of a pitcher (he has seven complete games this year alone).
If the Rangers are smart, they would considering offering Lee a new deal, especially since newcomer Tommy Hunter is having a solid year and the two as a tandem could bring years of divisional success to a team that has always been on the cusp of something great.
7. Javier Vazquez: Yankees
Vazquez may have moved around a bit in the majors, but wherever he went he wound up being a one-man wrecking crew on the mound.
From 1998 to the current year this guy has averaged—keep in mind, averaged—over 180 strikeouts in any given season, and last year’s performance in Atlanta was enough for the Yankees to bring him in.
But Vazquez hasn’t been able to repeat his success from last year and has basically played poorly all year long in New York, and in the Big Apple, a poor player gets shipped, shopped, or shut down.
The chances of Vazquez coming back to New York are thin at best, and the chances of him playing elsewhere are equally thin as well if he continues to trend this way.
6. Victor Martinez: Red Sox
The longtime face of the Indians is nearing the end of his contract, and at 31 all eyes are on the Red Sox as to whether or not Martinez will be brought back or shipped out.
The Red Sox have already extended a lending hand with a new two-year contract, but Martinez wants more than that, allowing the neat little cat and mouse game to continue between the two clubs.
Martinez is hitting .292/.339/.466 with 14 HR and 61 RBI, so he may want to be careful when negotiating if you ask me.
5. Ben Sheets: Oakland
Talk about sad stories. Sheets went from the top of the mountain to being a ditch digger in literally the blink of an eye. His journey to Oakland, after TJ surgery and an unnecessary issue with money demands, was supposed to be his comeback year.
Yeah, that never happened.
It isn’t as if Sheets can’t pitch, as he holds an 83-83 record with a 3.72 ERA (a bit misleading so you know), but what is really interesting is his 1,206 SO:313 BB ratio, which equates to an astonishing 151:39 ratio each year.
Unfortunately, injuries have decimated his career, and his hopes of gaining a bigger contract in 2011 are more than likely not going to happen, if he even plays at all again.
4. Hideki Matsui: Angels
The one-time Yankee great entered the 2010 season with many questions that encompassed his knees, the drop in power over the years, his age, and of course, his overall value.
While he has played marginally well in Los Angeles (.270, 19 HR, 76 RBI as a DH), the Angels will have to make a decision as to whether or not to bring back the legendary 36-year-old.
His time as a Yankee can best be described as an integral part of the franchise when he was healthy, hitting .292, 140 HR, and 597 RBI, which averages out to 20 HR and 85 RBI a year, so he isn’t too far off his average.
Now as an Angel, especially this month, Matsui has really turned up the heat and is hitting over .400, which is to be expected from a player in a contract year. Matsui is a high risk, high reward player in that any team that can ink a player for $6 million and still get 20 HRs and at least 75 RBI in a DH gig—at 36 no less—is getting a bargain, but with that comes the risk of something breaking down along the way.
3. Vladimir Guerrero: Rangers
Ah, the glory days of old Vlad—the monster power hitter who sent trembles into the hearts of younger pitchers, the once pride and joy of the Los Angeles Angels, and the AL nightmare that hit 30-plus HRs for eight seasons and never had a BA below .300.
Vlad says he isn’t worried about his contract negotiation in Texas right now and says he just needs to keep playing, which is very smart on his end since he’s been smoking the ball in a DH role this season, hitting .305 with 26 HR and 104 RBI—at 36 mind you—and makes a very strong case for himself no matter where he goes.
But Texas would be a great place for him to stay, as he is having much success and Arlington is very hitter-friendly.
2. Manny Ramirez: White Sox
Well, the tricky little plan of bringing in Manny to help the White Sox to the postseason backfired, and Manny has been occupying rental space on the bench with a small injury. Considering the recent boo-boo history Manny has made for himself this season, the likelihood of him staying in Chicago is very unlikely.
The other issue is, who is going to take a chance on him?
I am sure that Manny will find a home somewhere (some say he even laments for his old Red Sox jersey), but the fact of the matter is Manny the New is not Manny of Old.
He isn’t too far away from his last great season, which was in 2008 as a Dodger, hitting .332 with 32 HR and 121 RBI, but a lot of people are wondering if age has finally caught up with him at 38.
The $20 million contract afforded to him by Chicago is probably a number no one else will be willing to pay for him in 2011.
1. Paul Konerko: White Sox
Adding to the Manny dilemma—in a small way—is the issue with Paul Konerko, who has basically been the face of the White Sox organization since 1999, and if there is anyone who will want to stay in Chi-Town, it’s this guy.
Konerko is best known for his 2004 breakout season, where he hit 41 HRs and 117 RBI, and even better, his 2005 season where he hit 40 HR and 100 RBI, blasted a moon shot in Game 2 of the World Series against the Astros, and ultimately helped the White Sox sweep those Astros to win the Fall Classic.
He does have a NTC, and Konerko is actually creeping up on his career totals this year, hitting .324 with 36 HR and 104 RBI. If he keeps going, he could conceivably top his 2004 season totals.
He’s only 34, so the White Sox have options with the guy, and it would only be fitting to at least tender him, affording him the ability to perhaps retire as a White Sox great.