MLB Rumors: Vladimir Guerrero, 10 Free Agents Pricing Themselves Out of Market
We are officially well into the winter doldrums. The luster of the World Series has long since faded and the free agent market's most prized possessions have all signed with new teams. The media will marvel in the news surrounding the likes of Washington's big spending, reeling in Jayson Werth, or the Phillies under-market signing of Cliff Lee. However, many free agents are still looking for new homes.
Who's to blame?
Today's free agent market is summarized by the old euphemism: "Dream big, or go home." Players who had great seasons wait the market out until the last possible moment, sometimes landing that big deal from a desperate team, a la Rafael Soriano signing with the New York Yankees, but more often than not, those players are forced to take deals they aren't so happy with.
Is it a result of greed? Is there simply no market for a player, or are they valuing themselves much more greatly than what the rest of the league considers a fair price? The following free agents remain without homes, but we wonder why. Though there has been considerable interest in their services, they've yet to latch on with a new team. Have the following players actually priced themselves out of the market?
After the 2009 season, Vladimir Guerrero signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Texas Rangers, with a mutual option for 2011, hoping that he wouldn't find himself in his present situation. The thought was, as it is with all deals of the sort, that Guerrero would be able to garner increased value in the 2010 offseason so that he could sign a multi-year contract. Well, he held up his end of the bargain. He hit .300/.345/.496, with 29 home runs and 115 RBI.
When the season ended, there was mutual interest between Guerrero and the Rangers. He had helped them to their first ever World Series and the benefit of having a guy liked Guerrero as your designated hitter is obvious. However, when Guerrero wanted to cash in on that 2010 performance and told the Rangers and other interested clubs that he wanted a multi-year deal, the offers became few and far between.
When the season ended, Guerrero told reporters: "I want a two or three year contract, but I'm not going to say the amount of money I want, just that I want a contract in line with the type of season I had." Well, according to FanGraphs salary generator, Guerrero's 2.6 WAR generated in the 2010 season was worth about $10 million, more than half of what he was paid. Over the course of three years, that's a $30 million deal. An interesting thought, but not happening.
As interest continued to dwindle, Guerrero confessed to reporters that he was looking for a three-year contract, but would accept a deal from the Rangers for just two years. That ship has sailed. Over the course of the offseason, the Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays have expressed interest in Guerrero, but his inability to play the field decreases his value. Now that the Rangers (Adrian Beltre), A's (Hideki Matsui), Orioles (Derrek Lee) and Twins (Jim Thome) have resolved their personnel decisions, Guerrero is looking at an extremely limited market. The Rays seem to be his most likely landing spot, but with his closest comparable, Thome, having signed for one year and $3 million, Guerrero's dream of a multi-year deal worth a large sum of money seems like the longest of long shots. The financially-restricted Rays seem to be the only option left.
Predicted Landing Spot: Tampa Bay Rays
Predicted Contract: One year, $3 million
In regards to the free agent market, Carl Pavano has had quite an interesting off-season. Though he and the Minnesota Twins have reportedly made progress on reaching an agreement, no deal is official and the debacle that has been Pavano's offseason continues.
After a season in which he pitched to a record of 17-11, with an ERA of 3.75, Pavano hit the open market as the second-best starting pitcher behind Cliff Lee. As many experts believed, his market took a while to develop. While the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers, and later the Philadelphia Phillies, slugged it out for Lee, Pavano and his agent waited for his own market to develop, with the assumption being that in a thin starting-pitching market, Pavano was an attractive option.
So where was the interest? It was no secret that the Yankees, after the last disastrous contract they offered the right hander, would not be interested in his services, but what about those other teams that lost out in the starting pitching market? A deeper look into his stats in today's stat-savvy world reveals the answer. Despite a respectable 3.75 ERA, Pavano's FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching on an ERA scale), was 4.02. Though he showed good control (1.51 BB/9), he also showed his inability to strike hitters out (4.76 K/9).
So what does that mean, exactly?
Pavano, 35, was the second best free agent starting pitcher on the market, and as the ace of the Twins last season, he wanted to latch on in the same role with his new team, as a top of the rotation arm. However, his advanced stats note that while the Twins have played him in that role, he is more in line with a middle-to-bottom-of-the-rotation starter.
Over the course of the offseason, Pavano generated interest from the Twins, Brewers, Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers.The problem was that, like most of the other "top free agents" in this year's weak class, Pavano wants a multi-year deal worth more money than he's actually worth. Pavano has also stated that while there is interest in his services around the league, he's only interested in playing for a contender. That effectively eliminates the Orioles, Nationals and Pirates. The Brewers, on the other hand, have since acquired Kansas City Royals' ace Zack Greinke and they were willing to offer Pavano a two-year contract. While the Tigers remain a long shot, the Rangers appear content with their rotation and Pavano may not play favorably to their ball park any how.
That leaves the Twins with a ton of leverage against the right-handed starter. So while they seem like a fit, you have to wonder if using the Nationals and Pirates' offers, which had legitimately player-friendly deals on the table according to sources, as leverage would have helped Pavano in his negotiations with the Twins. While a deal seems imminent now, he may have missed the target.
Predicted Landing Spot: Minnesota Twins
Predicted Contract: Two years, $18 million
Bengie Molina represents an interesting case. After a historic World Series run with the Texas Rangers in 2010, the catcher stated that he wouldn't mind retiring this offseason. However, nothing ever came of that and Molina is still on the open market "looking for the right deal."
Interestingly enough, Molina was the one player in baseball guaranteed a World Series ring this year. After re-signing with the National League Champion San Francisco Giants after the 2009 season, he was traded to the American League Champion Texas Rangers during the season, to make room behind the plate for Buster Posey in San Francisco. Though his slash line of .240/.279/.320 was largely unimpressive, he provided the Rangers with stability behind the plate and, believe it or not, was an upgrade over the likes of interim catchers Taylor Teagarden and Matt Treanor.
After hitting just two home runs with the Rangers, bringing his season total to five, Molina entered the offseason with an extremely slim chance of getting a starting job somewhere. More likely, he would join a contending team as a solid back-up catcher. As he said, however, the situation would have to be right, since he wouldn't mind retiring.
Over the course of the offseason, the opportunities began to dwindle. The Florida Marlins had interest in adding Molina at one point in time, but they have since added John Buck. The most realistic fits for the 36-year-old catcher are the Colorado Rockies, which lack an experienced back-up catcher, and the St. Louis Cardinals, for more obvious reasons.
The Cardinals starting catcher, Yadier Molina, is Bengie's younger brother. Yadier told Latin reporters earlier in the offseason that the Cardinals had interest in Bengie as a back-up catcher, and for Bengie, one would imagine that is the right fit. However, conflicting reports out of St. Louis disguise the team's actual level of interest and, at this point in time, the right fit for Bengie might be retirement.
Predicted Landing Spot: Retirement
Predicted Contract: N/A
Nick Punto is a classic example of a player and his agent believing that they are more valuable to other teams than they actually are. After spending the last seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins, a majority of the time as a starting player, Punto hit the open market as one of the more attractive super utility players. However, Punto may have had his eyes on a larger prize.
After yet another injury-plagued season in 2010, Punto managed a slash line of .238/.313/.302. With little power, and over the past couple of seasons, showing his inability to hit for average, Punto's days as a starting infielder have come and gone. However, that didn't stop he and his agent from trying.
When the season ended, the Twins declined their contract option on Punto, and he hit the free agent market as one of the lone shortstops. Though he has been an above-average defensive player, his lack of offense may have soured him to most teams. The only team that appeared to be willing to offer him a starting job was the Cleveland Indians, and they aren't expected to contend. With limited payroll, it's doubtful that they sign Punto at all, despite "mutual interest" between the two sides. On the other hand, Punto is more likely to latch on as a utility infielder. Thought the Twins do not have any interest at all, the St. Louis Cardinals are rumored to like Punto. According to reports, Nick Punto is "a popular name" in the Cardinals' organization.
That may be good for Punto, since his name isn't popular, at least in a positive sense, nearly anywhere else.
Predicted Landing Spot: St. Louis Cardinals
Predicted Contract: One year, $2 million
Johnny Damon seems to be making an annual appearance on this list, and that doesn't bode well for he or his famed agent, Scott Boras. After his whole offseason debacle last year, Damon agreed to sign with the Detroit Tigers for one year and $8 million, a mere fraction of the contract he was seeking. After his 2009 season with the New York Yankees in the friendly confines of new Yankee Stadium, Damon may have been justified in his request. However, his 2010 numbers, moving into the much more challenging Comerica Park, took a huge dip. He posted a slash line of just .271/.355/.401, and hit just eight home runs, down from the 24 home runs he hit in 2009.
Damon, the least attractive of the designated hitter options this offseason, is going to have a tough time finding a starting job. Over the course of the offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have expressed interest in Damon. However, even those options appear to be dwindling. The Rays, which still have an open landing spot at DH, could be in the mix, but the Dodgers, which have added Marcus Thames, and the Yankees, which are close to an agreement with Andruw Jones, appear to be out of the bidding.
That leaves the Rays and Angels bidding over the two remaining DH candidates, Damon and Vladimir Guerrero. Reports from earlier in the offseason indicated that a Guerrero to the Angels reunion was unlikely, and Damon has identified the Angels as one of his top three choices. However, like most other teams, Damon's role on the Angels is questionable.
Though the chance of Damon signing with a team that isn't in contention, like the Pittsburgh Pirates or Washington Nationals, exists, it's more likely that he'll latch on with a contending team in some role. After all, his 1.9 WAR generated in 2010 suggests he still has some value to a team.
Predicted Landing Spot: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Predicted Contract: One year, $2-3 million
Like a few other players on this list, Scott Podsednik signed a one-year deal last offseason hoping to improve his stock this offseason. Unlike some of these other players, however, Podsednik actually did that. After not being able to find a multi-year deal despite an excellent 2009 season, he signed a one-year deal with the Kansas City Royals last year and was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline. He posted a slash line of .297/.342/.348 and stole 35 bases. You would think that teams would be tripping over their own feet to sign a speedy outfielder like Podsednik. However, the interest just isn't there.
Though the Dodgers had interest in re-signing the outfielder at one point during the offseason, they've since backed off, preferring to sign the right-handed hitting Marcus Thames. Though there are teams that have voids in the outfield, there aren't many suitors for Podsednik remaining. Earlier in the offseason, it was rumored that he wanted to play for a contender. That would make sense as to why he is still unsigned. Though the Los Angeles Angels and Cincinnati Reds have expressed interest, neither seems like an ideal fit. The Angels have a crowded outfield, and though they've spoken to Podsednik's agent, the Reds have since signed outfielder Fred Lewis.
Projecting a landing spot for Podsednik is no simple task. If he really wants to play for a contender, the Angels and Reds seem like the only logical fits. However, you must also factor in playing time, and things of the sort. He may have shot himself in the foot by waiting for a call that never came.
Predicted Landing Spot: Cincinnati Reds
Predicted Contract: One year, $1.35 million
And then there was Manny Ramirez.
Ramirez, 38, simply isn't used to being in this situation. After spending many years with the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, and some time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ramirez waited out the market well into Spring Training following the 2009 season. He and agent Scott Boras somehow negotiated a two-year, $45 million deal with the Dodgers. After many misadventures in the outfield, teams won't make that mistake again. National League teams want no part of him, and like Vladimir Guerrero and Johnny Damon, he'll be strictly a designated hitter in 2011.
Which team will he be a designated hitter for, is the real question.
Despite falling out of favor with the Dodgers and being traded to the Chicago White Sox, Ramirez still had a relatively successful season, offensively. He posted a slash line of .298/.409/.460, with nine home runs. With solid offensive numbers like those, he should be the second most appealing DH option on the market, behind Guerrero and before Damon. However, his clubhouse antics may not sit well with some teams, and that is probably part of the reason he is still unsigned at this moment.
Of course, he is Manny Ramirez, so he's not sitting at home due to a lack of interest.
With the teams who were in need of DH's filling those positions quickly, Ramirez has been training in Arizona, preparing to play defense if necessary. Don't hold your breath, though. That won't be necessary. The only teams that have expressed interest in the offensive powerhouse have been American League teams. The Baltimore Orioles expressed interest, but they have since signed Derrek Lee, pushing Luke Scott into the DH role. The Tampa Bay Rays have also expressed interest, but they aren't happy with his clubhouse antics and prefer a better role model in a younger clubhouse, according to rumors. With the Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins having already filled their DH roles as well, and the Los Angeles Angels rumored to be moving in other directions, who is left?
Though the visits weren't baseball related, Ramirez was spotted in Toronto on more than one occasion (said to be visiting his girlfriend). Interestingly enough, however, the Toronto Blue Jays are one of the few teams still interested in Manny. With almost no leverage, he better hope they can work something out.
Predicted Landing Spot: Toronto Blue Jays
Predicted Contract: One year, $3 million
Jermaine Dye may have just become the king of waiting out the market. He waited out the market so long last offseason that he missed the 2010 season! In all seriousness, Dye, now 36, has reiterated the fact that he still has interest in playing in the MLB. With that being said, however, it would have to be a deal on his terms, and teams just don't seem to be operating that way any longer.
In 2009, Dye compiled a slash line of .250/.340/.453, with 27 home runs. By all standards, those are respectable numbers coming from a corner outfielder. However, upon further review, Dye has become an absolute butcher in the outfield, scaring off National League teams that would otherwise be willing to give him an everyday job in the outfield. Despite that, Dye wanted to be paid for his offensive production, and though the Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs all had varying levels of interest, Dye turned down a one-year, $3 million deal from the Cubs in favor of sitting the season out.
I'd hate to be the one to break the news to him, but there hasn't been much of a change since then.
With Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon still on the market, Dye would have trouble finding work as a designated hitter, especially after missing the entire 2010 season. The Cubs have moved in a different direction since their 2009 offer, and though the Phillies and Rockies both contacted Dye's agent this offseason, no deal has come to fruition. In his own words, "I'm not going to a bad team, and I'm not playing for $1.5 million."
Good luck finding a job then, Mr. Dye.
Predicted Landing Spot: Retirement
Predicted Contract: N/A
Believe it or not, Jeremy Bonderman is one of the most talented free agent starting pitchers left on the market. However, that's not saying much. Though injuries have racked his career, in a healthy season Bonderman can provide solid innings at the back end of a rotation, and with Cliff Lee and (seemingly) Carl Pavano having found homes, teams are beginning to realize just that.
Though his 2010 record of 8-10, and 5.53 ERA (4.90 FIP) are largely unimpressive, Bonderman did make 29 starts in 2010, a sign of his improved health, and pitching in one of baseball's unfriendliest pitching parks surely didn't help his numbers. A move to the National League would certainly help improve that, however, teams from all over baseball have been monitoring the right hander. Over the course of the offseason, the Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, and Texas Rangers have all expressed varying levels of interest in Bonderman.
So why hasn't signed with a new team?
According to sources, Bonderman was waiting out the market for a specific purpose. Earlier in the offseason, Bonderman told reporters that if he could not find a job near his home in Pasco, Washington, or didn't return to the Tigers, he was seriously considering retirement. If it's proximity to his home that he's waiting for, he may be in trouble. However, that isn't the same as saying there isn't legitimate interest in his services. He should have found a home by now, and should sign before he doesn't reach a deal at all.
Predicted Landing Spot: New York Yankees
Predicted Contract: One year, $3 million
According to FOX Sport's Ken Rosenthal, when the offseason first began, Orlando Cabrera was already drawing more interest than he did in 2009, before the Cincinnati Reds swooped in and signed him to a team-friendly, one-year deal. After a season that saw the Reds win the National League Central Division, and Cabrera post a slash line of .263/.303/.354, Cabrera hit the open market again, with relatively scarce competition on the free agent market at the shortstop position.
Though there has been little news about the shortstop as of later, early in the offseason, teams made their interest clear. The Reds, Minnesota Twins, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants all expressed interest in his services. However, he may have waited around a little too long. The Reds have since added Edgar Renteria, and the Giants have re-stacked their infield with Miguel Tejada. The Twins, which added top Japanese infielder, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, also appear to be out of the running.
In short, Cabrera watched his suitors drop from "many" to "one." Looking around the league, there aren't many teams, especially contenders, that are in need of a starting shortstop and Cabrera most likely isn't interested in sitting on the bench. If that is the case, he may have to consider playing for a non-contender, and the Pirates, in that case, seem like a logical fit. While he isn't going to stun anyone with his offensive numbers, Cabrera will still play above average defense and be a veteran mentor to a young team. He'll just have to accept the fact that he won't be the starting shortstop on a contending team.
Predicted Landing Spot: Pittsburgh Pirates
Predicted Contract: One year, $2 million