NL East Free Agents: Who To Keep And Who To Let Go?

Jose Reyes – Reyes had the season of his career, taking the NL batting crown. He had a career-high .337 batting average with 39 stolen bases, 101 runs scored, and 44 RBIs. He also was #1 in triples with 16, and had 31 doubles.

Thoughts/Prediction: Reyes is either the second or third-biggest position player in this year’s free agent class. Considering that great shortstops are hard to come by these days, a number of teams will be clamoring to get this guy. Reyes is a $18-20 million per year kind of guy, especially if he can continue having seasons like this year. But he’s not without risk, though: He’s been injured several times over the course of his career (particularly his 2009 season), and that hurts his overall value a bit. Most Mets fans want to keep him, but I can’t see that happening. He’s too expensive, and the Mets want to lower their payroll by about $30 million. Put two and two together and…

Chris Capuano – He signed a 1-year, $1.5 million deal last offseason. In 31 starts, he went 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA and 168 strikeouts. He also pitched his first complete game since 2006.

Thoughts/Prediction: He’ll give up a good deal of runs (especially home runs), but is capable of striking out a lot of batters with both his slider and changeup. He is also good at picking off runners, a nice little plus. A possible low-money resign or a cheap signing for a team that has a pitcher’s park (Padres, Nationals).

Chris Young – Like Capuano, was signed to a 1-year deal (worth $1.1 million). He went 4 starts before an arm injury led him to the disabled list for the rest of the season.

Thoughts/Prediction: This is the third year in a row in which Young has suffered an injury to either his arm or shoulder. When healthy, he throws effectively as a finesse pitcher, despite his huge 6’10” frame. I can’t see him getting any more than a minor-league deal, but if he can pitch the whole 2012 season, he could be one of the more underrated pitchers in the league.

Scott Hairston – Serving mostly as a defensive substitution, Hairston played in 79 games. In 132 at-bats, Hairston had a .235 batting average with 7 homers and 24 at-bats.

Thoughts/Prediction: Despite playing a limited amount of games, Hairston has a decent amount of power in his bat, and I’m confused as to why he hasn’t received more starts over the past 2 years. Deserves more playing time (and more money as a result). Could go anywhere in free agency as a cheap pickup.

Willie Harris – Signed to a minor-league deal, he made the roster out of Spring Training. In 126 games, he hit .246 with 2 home runs, 23 RBIs, and had 5 steals.

Thoughts/Prediction: Harris is able to play both second base and corner outfield positions, but that’s all this guy really has. His tiny 5’9″ frame will also shun some people away from giving him another opportunity. Minor-league deal at best.

Miguel Batista – Batista started out with the Cardinals on 1-year, $750,000 deal. He played in 26 games, including 1 start. He was released in June and was picked up by the Mets a month later. Batista would play in another 9 more games, four of which he started. In the final home game of the season, Batista managed to pitch a two-hit complete game shutout.

Thoughts/Prediction: Maybe Batista still has something left, if his last game was anything. But he turns 41 in February, and his last several years have been marred with mediocrity. I think after playing for nearly 20 years, Batista’s career is done.

Jason Isringhausen – He was signed to a minor-league deal in the offseason and went through extended Spring Training. He was recalled in April, serving a setup role to Francisco Rodriguez. When K-Rod was then traded to the Brewers, he became the closer. In 53 games, Isringhausen pitched in 46 2/3 innings with a 4.05 ERA. In 11 opportunities, he earned 7 saves, including hid 300th career save.

Thoughts/Prediction: Like Batista, he’s up there in age (39). He went through Tommy John surgery in 2009, and was limited to bullpen sessions with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010. He did an OK job, but I think it’s time for him to retire as well.

Roy Oswalt (club option) – In his first (and now only) full season with the Phillies, was somewhat of a mixed bag. He had a strong start to the season, but took a leave of absence after a series of tornadoes hit around in Mississippi, where his family lives. He came back but then suffered back problems and was put on the disabled list. In 23 starts, Oswalt posted a 9-10 record over 23 starts with a 3.69 ERA.

Thoughts/Prediction: The back problems must be more serious than I thought. The Phillies declined his club option mainly due to it. The Yankees are shying away from him for the same reason. I don’t blame Oswalt though for having them, he’s one of the hardest-working pitchers in baseball. He’s pitched 200+ innings in 7 of his 11 seasons. He throws very aggressively, and likes to throw a lot of fastballs. Despite back problems, he’s still worth around a 3-year contract between $40-45 million. Since the Yankees and the Phillies are not interested in him, I’m guessing another NL team will take interest; Atlanta, especially now that they traded Derek Lowe, may be a possibility. Colorado and even Washington might take the risk too.

Raul Ibanez – Ibanez played in 144 games, hitting .245 with 20 homers and 84 RBIs, the 5th straight year he has hit 80 RBIs in a season, and the 9th in 11 years. He also hit 31 doubles. However, he was walked just 33 times, his lowest since 2001.

Thoughts/Prediction: Even though Ibanez is 39 years old, he is still capable of hitting so many homers and driving in a lot of runs. However, his defensive range is absolutely terrible, so he should only be used as a designated hitter.I think any American League team will benefit from Ibanez’s offensive production on a 1-year deal.

Jimmy Rollins – The Phillies picked up his 2011 club option, worth $8.5 million. Rollins returned the favor with a .268 batting average, 16 home runs, 63 RBIs and 30 steals over the course of 142 games.

Thoughts/Prediction: With Oswalt out the door, the Phillies should have just enough to be able to give Rollins a 3-year contract. J-Roll wants to stay in Philly, the fans love him, he’s a great leadoff hitter that not only has speed but has power. Outside of last year, Rollins has done a lot for this organization; I can’t see him going anywhere else.

Brad Lidge (club option) – Lidge began the season on the 60-day DL. He came back to reassume the closer position, but then lost his spot to Ryan Madson.

Thoughts/Prediction: Had Philly picked up his club option, it would have been worth between $12.5-13 million. However, they have Ryan Madson to use, and would be a lot cheaper to use than Lidge, so the Phillies declining the option is no surprise. However, Lidge could still be used as both a closer and setup man somewhere else, provided Lidge lets his overall salary numbers drop ($4-6 million?).

Ryan Madson – Madson became the new closer for the Phillies after two years of playing the setup role, thanks to injuries to Brad Lidge and Jose Contreas. He appeared in 62 games, and recorded 32 saves in 34 opportunities.

Thoughts/Prediction: No doubt that Madson should and will be the new full-time closer for the Phillies, especially since Lidge’s club option was not picked up. He has shown to be an effective with his new role, is slightly younger, and would be a lot cheaper to pay than Lidge would be, had they taken the option. Resign immediately.

Brian Schneider – For the second year in a row, Schneider has 125 at-bats and played in less than 50 games. In limited opportunities, he hit just .176 and 2 home runs.

Thoughts/Prediction: With Carlos Ruiz starting and Erik Kratz waiting in the wings, Schneider has no place on this roster. Hasn’t done much as a catcher anyway since 2008 with the Mets. Minor-league deal at best.

 

Nate McLouth (club option) – In 81 games, McLouth batted .228 with 4 home runs and 16 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: For the second straight year, McLouth has failed to play more than half the season. The rest of the outfield consists of Michael Bourn (who they got from the Astros), Jason Heyward, and Matt Diaz; all three of them are cheaper than McLouth. And McLouth’s club option for 2012 is worth $10.65 mlllion. Do the math.

Scott Linebrink – Linebrink was traded from the White Sox to the Braves during last offseason, but was still able to improve on his numbers from last year nonetheless. He made 64 appearances, pitching in 54 1/3 innings with a 3.64 ERA. However, he did suffer from a lower back strain near the end of the season.

Thoughts/Prediction: Though Linebrink tends to walk a lot of batters, Linebrink can still serve as a decent reliever, as well as an occasional closer. His age (35) and the recent back strain, however, will create some concern amongst some interested teams, but should get a decent 1 or 2-year contract nonetheless (which should be worth around $2.5 million, in my opinion).

Alex Gonzalez – Gonzalez’s 2011 club option was picked up, which was worth around $2.75 million. In 149 games, Gonzalez recorded a .241 batting average,  with 15 home runs and 56 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: Gonzalez, in my opinion, really deserves a better contract. Though his ability to hit for contact is relatively average, the power that he has offsets that. Plus, he has a pretty decent glove to boot. He had a decent year, and I’m not sure Brandon Hicks is ready to play full-time yet. Should get a 1-year contract (with a club option) worth at least double his previous contract, but obviously won’t.

Eric Hinske (club option) – After a decent 2010 campaign, Hinske resigned with the Braves for a 1-year deal worth $1.35 million. He played in 117 games as a backup, yet even as a backup, had surprisingly few plate appearances (236). Despite his lack of appearances, Hinske still manged to hit 10 home runs and 28 RBIS, with a .233 batting average.

Thoughts/Prediction: Hinske won’t wow you with his ability to hit for contact, but his ability to hit 10-15 home runs a year as a backup (probably 15-20 if given more at-bats) shows that he’s reliable. His ability to field at first base and both corner outfield positions also show that he is versatile. If the positions weren’t already taken, he’d probably start more often; at least he should be used as a DH in interleague matchups. Hinske’s 2012 club option is $1.5 million; a definite pickup.

George Sherrill – After a disastrous 2010 season with the Dodgers, Sherrill signed with the Braves on a 1-year deal worth $1.2 million. He appeared in 51 games, posting a 3.00 ERA over 36 1/3 innings. He also earned 3 wins in the process.

Thoughts/Predictions: The Braves got quite a bargain when you look at this season. After last year, I’m not surprised he was signed for cheap. At the same time, though, I don’t think the Dodgers was the right organization either. Sherrill should be a closer, and having him traded to the Dodgers, despite Jonathan Broxton already closing for them, was a bad idea. However, when you look at his performances when closing for the Orioles, he did rather well.  The Braves should definitely resign Sherrill, there’s no doubt about that, but does Sherrill want to remain with the team? Or does he want to go back to being a closer? If it’s the latter, he needs to look elsewhere, because the Braves already have Craig Kimbrel, with Jonny Venters waiting as a just in case. The Mets, one of the Braves’ rivals, need a closer (unless they think Manny Acosta or Bobby Parnell can do the job); if Sherrill want to go back to being a closer, this might be a look.

 

Jose Lopez – He began the season with Colorado, but was designated for assignment. He was then picked up by the Marlins, where he was on the major-league roster for a month, before once again being designated for assignment. He made $3.6 million this year.

Thoughts/Prediction: At best, he’s a minor-league deal. He is only 27, so he still has time left in his career to make more of an impact on the major league roster (which he did in 2008 and 2009, what happened to that?).

Javier Vazquez – After his 2010 season with the Yankees, I wouldn’t have believed you last offseason if you said Vazquez would have the most wins for the Marlins franchise. Thanks to injuries to both Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco, though, Vazquez did just that! He started off poorly, going 3-6 with a 7.06 ERA at one point. However, he turned around it in the second half, going 10-5 with a 1.92 ERA. His season totals come out to a 13-11 record in 32 starts, with a 3.69 ERA and 162 strikeouts.

Thoughts/Prediction: As a Yankee fan, I do not like Javier Vazquez (BOTH tenures). That being said, when he’s pitching in the National League (see his tenure with Montreal, 2010 with Atlanta), he does very well. What makes Vazquez good is his ability to strike out batters, particularly with a curveball that has proven to be difficult for batters over the years. Will his next contract be with the Marlins? Doubt it, because this is the Marlins we’re talking about. But his time in Miami has probably gotten him a possible shot at a 2-year contract (at least a decent, 1-year contract, worth the $7 million he made with Florida this year, or close to it)… but for Vazquez’s sake, it needs to be with a team in the National League.

Greg Dobbs – Dobbs signed a minor-league deal with the Marlins after four years with the Phillies. He made the roster, and played in 134 games, mostly at third base (though he did make occasional starts at first, and in both outfield positions). He posted a .275 batting average, with 8 home runs and 49 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: Dobbs is an above-average hitter. Though he lacks a lot of power, he has a knack of driving a decent amount of runs in, as well as getting doubles. With Emilio Bonifacio on the roster though, and Matt Dominguez, Dobbs will likely enter free agency. However, he should warrant some looks for teams looking for a decent and cheap pickup; Astros and Padres are two teams that quickly come to mind.

 

Ivan Rodriguez – In the second year of a $6 million deal, Rodriguez played in just 44 games, platooning the catcher position with Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores.

Thoughts/Prediction: With Ramos and Flores on the roster, and the hyped-up prospect Bryce Harper sure to make waves for the team sooner rather than later, Ivan’s services are no longer needed with the team. However, he has been quoted as to saying he still wants to play 3-4 years before retiring. Though 39 and having nothing left to prove (owning just about every catcher record both offensively and defensively), he has been healthy throughout his career, can still provide on both offense and defense, and serve as a mentor to future catchers. A cheap, 1-year deal at best obviously, but one that shouldn’t hurt any team’s roster.

Jonny Gomes – Gomes began his season with the Reds, who picked up his $1.75 million club option. However, he was then traded to the Nationals in July. In 120 games, Gomes posted a .209 batting average with 14 homers and 43 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: Though Gomes has trouble hitting and strikes out a good amount, he’s got a decent amount of pop in his bat and commits very few errors. The Nationals have two other outfielders entering free agency, alongside Gomes (Rick Ankiel and Laynce Nix, both of which are talked about below), but also have a ton of outfield prospects. I would like to give Gomes props though, the kid’s got a lot of guts for continuing to play baseball, after suffering a heart attack in 2002 (when he was in the minors). Gomes, with his defensive abilities and hitting power could be used as a defensive substitution for the Nationals or even be used to platoon alongside a fellow prospect. I think the Nationals will resign him. Ankeil and Nix, meanwhile…

Rick Ankiel – Ankiel signed a 1-year, $1.5 million deal with the Nationals after spending 2010 with the Royals and Braves. In 122 games, Ankiel posted a .239 batting average with 9 home runs and 37 RBIs. He also had a career-high 10 stolen bases.

Thoughts/Prediction: Ankiel is a slightly better batter, but has less power than Gomes. Also, Gomes is 2 1/2 years younger, which is something the Nationals will look at when comparing the two. Ankiel will get a minor-league deal, and will likely make a roster elsewhere out of Spring Training.

Laynce Nix – Nix signed a minor-league deal with the Nationals but made the roster out of Spring Training. In 124 games, he recorded a .250 batting average with 16 homers and 44 RBIs. He also recorded his first stolen base since 2005.

Thoughts/Prediction: When giving more playing time, Nix shows that he has a decent amount of power in his bat, despite being average when getting on base. As of this post, Nix decided to enter free agency. Should warrant looks for a few teams: Giants and Dodgers are two places I can see him going to, depending on their situations; Mets are another option, though more likely to be used as a backup.

Livan Hernandez – Hernandez managed to only post a 8-13 record this year, the first time he didn’t hit double digits in wins since 1999. He had a  4.47 ERA and 99 strikeouts.

Thoughts/Prediction: Hernandez will have double digits in losses, but that’s because he eats a ton of innings, and will pitch complete games; at the same time, he gives up a lot of hits in the process. As I’ve said, this was his first time hitting only single digits in the win column since 1999; with a better team, Livan would probably be able to get 13-15 wins, as he typically does. If you don’t mind him giving up a ton of hits but need a guy that chews up innings, he can make for a good back-of-the-rotation guy for a decent team (or better); Nationals are improving (they did finish third in the NL East division this year) but they’re not there, and I don’t think he’ll spend the last couple years of his career in Washington anyway.

Alex Cora – Wait, wait, wait a second. Alex Cora?! He still plays in the majors?! Well, he was signed to a minor-league contract and managed to play in 91 games for the Nationals this year. He posted a .224 batting average, playing at both second base and shortstop.

Thoughts/Prediction: He’s 36 and hasn’t had a decent season since 2004 with the Dodgers. Again, he still plays in the majors?!

 

Last but not least will be the AL East.

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Mike Quade deserves a second chance in the majors

I’m going to take a break from the free agent posts for a minute because I wanted to talk to you about Mike Quade.

I’m sure most of you by now, if you’ve been paying attention to ESPN, that the Cubs have just fired Mike Quade as manager of the team.

Now let me first say that I completely understand why Epstein fired him. The team, as a whole, as Epstein has said, wants to have a “clean slate.” Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and the Cubs organization want to get rid of everything they possibly can from the Jim Hendry era. This includes Mike Quade too.

Here’s the thing, though: While yes, Mike Quade went 71-91 in his first full season as manager for a team that has spent 130 million dollars the past three straight years, he’s also managing a team that has severely overpaid many of the players on this $130+ million team. He, and the Cubs organization, have had to deal with guys like: Alfonso Soriano, a $136 million bust who has been injured a number of times and has failed to produce a single year in which he’s been worth the $19 million a year they spend on him (and by the way, they still have him for another 3 MORE years!); there’s Carlos Zambrano, who certainly has the talent, but has also had hid share of anger management and clubhouse problems over the years, and he’s getting paid $19 million); you paid Carlos Pena $10 million to serve as a transitional player in order to prepare for the attempt at getting Pujols or Fielder in this year’s free-agent market; you have a  catcher in Geovany Soto, who has a good deal of power in his bat, also does a poor job fielding (committed most errors at the catcher position this year with 13) and has a batting average and on-base percentage that goes up-and-down each year…

Anyway, I think you get my point. In short, this team is a huge mess. Quade,, despited finishing 10 games under .500, still did it with a team that’s just a huge mess. I don’t think any manger, even if they did bring in Ryne Sandberg in, would have been capable of taking this team and make it a contender. I honestly don’t.

So yes, I think Quade does deserve another chance to be a manager in the major leagues. Give him a more capable team, a team that’s not a mess, and I’m sure he can succeed. He’s spent the last 25 years as a minor-league manager, first/third base coach, and bench coach for a number of team. He’s a former two-time minor-league manager of the year, has won a Caribbean World Series, and a AAA World Series, as well. Heck, back in 2007, Quade was one of five finalists to get the position as Cubs manager before Lou Pinella came out of retirement and took the job. I’m pretty sure Quade knows what he’s doing. Quade’s accomplishments and experience shouldn’t be overlooked by one bad year with a team that was already a mess before and during his tenure (and possibly after).

Now I’m not a general manager or an owner of a baseball organization, but if I need a manager for 2012, I would actually take a look at Quade now and at least have some interest in hiring him as manager of my team. I’m just saying…

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AL Central Free Agents: Who To Keep And Who To Let Go?

Now it’s time to cover the AL Central free agents.

As of this post, the Indians have already accepted Fausto Carmona’s club option for 2012, so I won’t be talking about him. However, they have declined Sizemore’s club option, so…

Grady Sizemore (club option) – Cleveland played in 71 games, posting just a .224 batting average with 10 homers and 32 RBIs. He suffered a number of injuries this year, including two to his right knee, and required a sports hernia surgery in September. Had his club option been picked up, he would have been paid $8.5 million, with incentives that would have allowed to earn him an additional $2-2.5 million.

Thoughts/Prediction: Sizemore certainly has a lot of talent. While his ability to hit for contact is average, he possesses some power in his bat, the ability to steal bases, and is probably the best center fielder defensively. The problem is that he seems to get injured every year. His oft-injured status is a big risk to any team that’s interested. He’ll get a multi-year contract, for sure, but it should be somewhat low ($5 million a year?). Also, in a similar vein to Carlos Beltran, interested teams should think about moving him to one of the corner outfield positions as a way to minimize injury.

Kosuke Fukudome – Fukudome, earning $14.5 million this year, began with the Chicago Cubs. However, he was traded to the Indians in July. In a total 149 games, he batted .262 with 8 home runs and 35 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: His contract, signed by the Cubs in 2008, has been largely a bust. He was not worth the $48 million he’s been paid in the four years in MLB. I don’t truly blamed the Cubs for signing him to a contract at the time, as he was doing so well playing for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan; he was nearly on par with Hideki Matsui at one point. However, his tenure in the majors has shown that he is a relatively average hitter. He draws a decent number of walks, but that’s about it. The Indians do not need him for 2012, as they have Shin-Soo Choo to play in right field (until 2014), as well as guys like Trevor Crowe and even Shelly Duncan to use. I don’t think there will be many teams interested him for 2012, compared to other Japanese players on the market, and I don’t think he’ll want to sign a minor-league contract. I think he’ll return to Japan to finish out his career.

Jim Thome – Thome was able to reach his 600th home run this year, while he was in Minnesota. He was then waivered to the Indians, his old team, and continued to play as their designated hitter. In 93 games, he batted .256 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: Thome has been of the most popular, likeable guys throughout the course of his career. In an era marred with steroids and PEDs, Thome was one the clean power-hitters of the generation, alongside guys such as Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell. And you know what? Even though, he’s 41, he can still play as a DH. Despite playing in less than 100 games, he was still able to manage good numbers. Thome wants to still play, and Indians fans love the guy. Let him finish out his career with at least one more year of service on a “hometown discount” contract.

Chad Durbin – Durbin signed a 1-year, $800,000 deal with the Indians. In 56 games, he recorded a 5.53 ERA over the course of 68 1/3 innings. He allowed the most home runs in his career as a reliever (12) and opponents’ batting average was a high .306.

Thoughts/Prediction: Durbin, like some other relievers in this free-agent class, has the ability to serve in a variety of roles, including setup and closer. But his continually fluctuating ERA has to make some GMs feel that he’s not worth it. He was good with Philadelphia in 2008 and last year, but then you look at his number this year, with Detroit in 2007, and in Cleveland/Arizona in 2004, and it’s a whole different story. I see him signing a minor-league contract, and but will probably make the roster out of Spring Training.

 

As of this post, Joe Nathan’s option was declined; however, the team is still interested in resigning him. As for the Twins themselves, I find it very surprisingly that they finished last in the division and with almost 100 losses. Though they don’t have many free agents this year, you do have to wonder who they’ll be able to sign/resign, with Joe Mauer making $23 million and Justin Morneau making $15 million for another two more years.

Joe Nathan (club option) – Nathan began the season with Matt Capps taking over the closer position, after blowing two saves. He reassumed the closer position in July. In 48 appearances, Nathan posted a 4.84 ERA over 44 2/3 innings. In 17 save opportunities, he saved 14 times.

Thoughts/Prediction: As I said before, Nathan declined his club option, which would have been worth $12.5 million if it was picked up. They’re still interested in him, but they also have Matt Capps, who’s a free agent to-be this year, as well. Nathan has more experience, but suffered a season-ending injury last year and would likely be worth more. Capps, though he relinquished his position this year, did decent for the Twins last year, after being traded from the Pirates (he earned an All-Star appearance for his efforts), and would likely be the cheaper option. I think they eventually go with Capps. The Mets have shown interest in Nathan over the past week, so I think he’ll end up there.

Matt Capps – Capps appeared in 65 games, posting a 4.25 ERA over 65 2/3 innings. He saved 15 out of 24 times, before relinquishing his closer position back to Nathan.

Thoughts/Prediction: As I’ve said before, Capps is younger, injury-free, did very well the year before, and is likely to be less expensive. Though his ERA seems to be a bit high, it’s really because he tends to walk batters; he doesn’t give up as many hits as one would think. Capps stays with the Twins, I would think (however, if Nathan resigns, I think he’ll be let go then).

Michael Cuddyer – The Twins picked up his $10.5 million club option for this year. He earned his first All-Star appearance as a pick by Ron Washington. In 139 games, he posted a .284 batting average with 20 homers and 70 RBIs. He also stole a career-high 11 times.

Thoughts/Prediction: Though he doesn’t pack as much power as Pujols or Fielder, Cuddyer has the ability to hit 20-25 homers a year and is capable of hitting around 90 RBIs a year. Also, he is a pretty speedy first baseman, capable of not only getting the occasional steal here or there, but also to hit for extra bases (and the ability to get into scoring position is always good!). As an added bonus, not only can he play first base, but also right field, a la Lance Berkman. A definite resign, in my opinion; his value should be worth around $11-13 million a year, for 3 or 4 years.

Jason Kubel – As with Cuddyer, the Twins picked up his club option this year, worth $5.2 million. He played in 99 games, before hurting himself. He recorded a .273 batting average, with 12 homers and 58 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: You think that Kubel would be gone after this year, especially considering that his new contract will be a lot more expensive and they can use the cheaper and defensively better Ben Revere. Not so fast, Kubel still has use as a designated hitter, especially now that they don’t have Jim Thome. Similar to Cuddyer, he’s a guy who can put up 20-30 homers and 80-100 RBIs a year. The injury this year will hurt his overall value, but his ability to hit and the fact that he’s only 29 (which means he should be in his prime) should allow for him to be resigned nonetheless for 3 years and $25-28 million.

Mark Buehrle – Though he failed to pitch a complete game in 2011, the first time since 2000, he did post a 13-9 record in 31 starts for a mediocre White Sox team, with a 3.59 ERA and 109 strikeouts.

Thoughts/Prediction: The White Sox are the only team this guy has ever played for, and I can’t see why he would want to change anytime soon. Problem is, can the White Sox afford him? They have Peavy for another year and $17 million, Alex Rios (who is garbage) for three years and $38.5 million, Adam Dunn (who was even more garbage… at least this year) three years and $44 million, and Paul Konerko for two years and $25.5 million. They may have to work in some offseason trades, but I still see them resigning Buehrle. Odd? Yes. But I can’t imagine him elsewhere, he represents the heart and soul of this organization right now.

Juan Pierre – In 158 games for the White Sox, Pierre batted .276, stealing 27 bases, and hitting 175+ hits for a second straight year.

Thoughts/Prediction: Pierre is your prototypical leadoff hitter. Gets you on base, steals a lot, and hits few (if any) homers. He gets to home instead of getting other people home. Though he didn’t have as many steals this season as he normally does (often a 40-45 base stealer), the rest of his stats remained the same, though his number of sacrifice flies increased considerably. He’s 34, but there’s no one else that’s perfect to put at the top of the lineup. He should be resigned, but is not nearly worth the $8.5 million he made this year (thanks to the 5-year contract extension he had with the Dodgers back in 2007); instead, he’s a $4-6 million kind of guy, who can probably continue to steal and hit well for 2 or 3 years.

Jason Frasor (club option) – Frasor began the 2011 season as a member of the Blue Jays, before being a part of that big three-team trade with the Cardinals and White sox, that included Colby Rasmus and Edwin Jackson. Over 64 appearances, he posted a 3.50 ERA in 60 innings. He also failed to save in 2 opportunities.

Thoughts/Prediction: His club option isn’t too much, worth $3.75 million. However, despite his salary not worth a whole lot, I think the Sox will be too busy trying to keep Buehrle and Pierre to bother giving him a contract. However, Frasor will find work, possibly under the setup role. I can see him moving to the Angels, as a replacement for Fernando Rodney. A return to the Blue Jays may also happen, especially considering they recently declined closer Jon Rauch’s club option.

Omar Vizquel – Can you believe Vizquel is still playing in this league, after 22 years? He served mainly as a backup to guys like Gordon Beckham, Dayan Viciedo, Brent Morel, and Mark Teahen (before being traded). In 167 at-bats, he hit .251 with 8 RBIs, and had a steal as well.

Thoughts/Predictions: Despite being 44, Vizquel is still one of the better defensive shortstops in the league and still looks so physically fit. So yeah, even with the influx of youth, I still think the White Sox should resign him to a veteran-minimum contract. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for guys like Vizquel, but his defensive abilities still make him a more-than-decent substitution in big, late-inning games. Yes, his glove is what keeps him in this league, but he’s so good with it – even though he’s in his 40s – that he’s worth the low-key contract.

 

As of this post, closer Jose Valverde’s $9 million club option has been picked up. He led the American League in both saves and appearances. He is definitely worth the option.

Carlos Guillen – Guillen was hit with injuries for the third straight year, playing in even fewer games than he did in 2009 and 2010 (28 games).

Thoughts/Predictions: He’s gone, no doubt about it. His contract has been a bust, mostly due to his oft-injured status. However, even when healthy, he hasn’t been up decent numbers; he had pop in his bat but the ability to get on base was diminished considerably. Plus, the Tigers have Scott Sizemore and Will Rhymes to play at second base as cheaper replacements. A waste of money and roster space.

Magglio Ordonez – Like Carlos Guillen, Ordonez was marred by injuries. Like Carols Guillen, he played a limited amount of time (though more than Guillen). In 92 games, he batted .255 with 5 home runs and 32 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: Like Carlos Guillen, Ordonez is not only expensive but is also surrounded by younger outfielders on the depth chart. But here’s the difference between Ordonez and Gullen: Ordonez still has value. The power, for the most part, appears to be gone, but can still be a .300 hitter, as he has done all but twice in his career. However, seeing as how he as fractured his knee for the second time in two seasons, it might be best if he were to be used as DH or a platoon role with a right fielder in the American League. Provided Ordonez’s value drops considerably, the Rays could be an option.

Brad Penny – The Tigers signed him to a 1-year deal worth $3 million last offseason. The results were… well, mixed. He posted a 11-11 record in 31 starts with a 5.30 ERA.

Thoughts/Prediction: The Tigers took a shot at him after doing a decent job in the first half last year for the Cardinals (before falling to an oblique injury). It didn’t pan out to what they were expecting. He went from the #2 guy in the rotation, behind Justin Verlander, to the #4 by season’s end, and that’s what he is now these days. A veteran guy to put in the back of the rotation. Penny’s services are no longer needed with the Tigers though, as most of the rotations is already set (depending on what happens with additional free agent to-be Rick Porcello). Where does Penny end up? Not sure, as he appears to be one of those journeymen that just pops up from team to team each year.

Rick Porcello – And speaking of Porcello, his 2011 club option (worth $1.536 million) posted a 14-9 record in 31 starts,with a 4.75 ERA. His 2012 club option is worth $1.344 million.

Thoughts/Prediction: In what I find to be odd, his club option is actually worth less than his 2011 club option. His numbers are somewhat similar to Penny, though he is more capable of eating up innings than Penny. Plus, he’s only 22 has plenty of time in his career to improve, unlike the 33-year old Penny. Most of all, he’s cheap. No doubt his option gets picked up.

Joel Zumaya – He failed to appear in a game this season, as a screw in his right elbow had to be replaced.

Thoughts/Predction: Zumaya throws heaters like no other in the majors. unfortunately, that’s what keeps getting him injured. Is his future still with the Tigers? Hard to say. Despite being injury-prone, will his ability throw heaters and strikeout, earn him a higher salary than the $1.4 million he earned this year? Probably, but not by much. Plenty of interested teams will look for a potential, low-money, high-reward player ni Zumaya. But only time will tell if he can actually remain healthy.

Wilson Betemit – Betemit began the 2011 season in the minors for the Royals, but was then recalled. After 57 games, he was then traded to the Tigers, playing in another 40. His combined totals for the season came out to a .285 batting average with 8 home runs and 46 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: Still not much more than a backup. Has decent pop, and can play at both first and third base (the latter being the primary position), but his defensive abilities still leave much to be desired.

 

Joakim Soria – Though playing for the Royals, Soria still managed to record 28 saves. However, over 60 appearances, his ERA was an abnormally high 4.03 ERA.

Thoughts/Predictions: Despite this off-year, Soria is still one of the better closers in the MLB and would probably save 40-45 games on a regular basis, if he were on a better team. The Royals have three club options, starting with $6 million in 2012, and $8-8.75 million for 2013 and 2014. They’ll pick up at least the 2012 option, but I think they will likely trade him for prospects either during the trade deadline (depending on what happens to other closers/setup men) or next offseason (though he has limited no-trade protection; can’t be traded to Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Dodgers, Rockies, or Braves).

Jason Kendall – Kendall missed the entire 2011 season, due to a tear in his rotator cuff.

Thoughts/Prediction: Kendall is age 37 and with a tear in his rotator cuff, may not have the arm that he once had, which is what made teams like him so much in the first place. I believe his career is done.

Bruce Chen – Chen signed a 1-year, $2 million contract with the Royals. He started the season very well, but fell into a no-decision spell midway through. He finished with a 12-8 record, a career-low 3.77 ERA, and 97 strikeouts.

Thoughts/Prediction: Chen has arguably the best season of his career since 2005 with Baltimore. Unlike in the past, he hadn’t given up as many hits this season, which is nice to see. Though 34, Chen will certainly get some looks. Could service as a decent #3 guy worth around $3-4.5 million.

Jeff Francis – The Rockies couldn’t take Francis’ mediocre pitching after 6 years, so he went to the Royals for a 1-year, $2 million deal. He slightly improved – in fact, like Chen, was doing really well in the opening months – but in the end, faltered to mediocrity. In 31 starts, he recorded a 6-16 record and a 4.82 ERA over 31 starts.

Thoughts/Predictions: As of this post, Francis elected free agency. Not sure how many teams will be interested in a team that posts mid-to-high 4 ERAs, and hasn’t won more than 6 games since his breakout year in 2007. Minor-league deal at best for him.

 

And that’s it for the AL Central. Next up is the AL East.

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NL Central Free Agents: Who To Keep And Who To Let Go?

Considering that Albert Pujols is the biggest free agent in a long time, it’s time to take care of him and the rest of the AL Central free agents. And so, it’s time to start with the Cardinals…

Albert Pujols – Pujols, whose club option was picked up for this year, continued to deliver. Though he didn’t .300 for the first time in his career, he still he hit 37 home runs and 99 RBIs. He suffered a fracture in his left wrist in July, but it didn’t stop him from tearing it up. In the postseason, he continued to be effective, blowing the Brewers when up to the bet and setting records in the World Series

Thoughts/Prediction: Love him or hate him, Albert Pujols isn’t  just the face of the Cardinals, but the face of baseball, period. Fans, players, and coaches are intimidated yet in admiration for a player such as him, a player that only comes around once in a generation. Just about every team with money will, or at least rumored to try getting him; that includes the Cardinals, Cubs, Yankees (despite Teixeira), Red Sox (despite Gonzalez/Ortiz), and even teams like Toronto and Washington. There’s not doubt in my mind that he should, and will, make the most money in MLB. If he is not making $28-30 million or more a year, I will honestly be shocked. However, here’s the problem: He’ll be making $28-30 million. If the Cardinals resign him for that much money over a 8-10 year contract, you have to wonder how the front office will be able to spend on signing and resigning free agents in the future., especially when you consider the other players they have locked up. Matt Holliday will be making $17 million a year until 2016 (plus 2017 if they use their club option). Carpenter and Wainwright are each being paid $21 million over the next two years. Lance Berkman was signed for an additional year for $12 million. Yes, Pujols is the main reason Cardinals fans come to your games, but at what cost, in terms of sacrificing other pieces to the whole roster? That being said, I can’t see Pujols moving elsewhere. Pujols is St. Louis, and as interesting a story it will be to see him in a Cubs or Yankees (or some other team) uniform next year, I don’t think it will happen.

 

Love him or hate him, Albert Pujols IS the face of baseball, and should make more money than anyone else in this sport. Only problem is: How much will he cost, both in terms of money and being able to acquire future players?

Rafael Furcal (club option) – Furcal continued to spend time on the disabled list in 2011. He only played in 37 games with the Dodgers before being traded to the Cardinals. He played in another 50 games and played in the postseason, winning his first championship ring.

Thoughts/Prediction: Furcal has been getting injured often throughout the past couple of years. In addition, his 2012 club option is worth $12 million. He’s not worth it, especially when you consider’s Pujols soon-to-be huge jump in salary, and having Ryan Theriot, Tyler Greene and/or Nick Punto as cheaper, viable replacements.

Edwin Jackson – Jackson began with the White Sox. Despite the White Sox’s poor first half, he managed to record a 7-7 record in 19 starts with a 3.92 ERA. He was then traded to the Blue Jays, only to be traded a couple of hours later to the Cardinals. He started in another 12 games, going 5-2, with a 3.58 ERA.

Thoughts/Prediction: Jackson, this year, made $8.75 million, and you have to wonder if he’s worth that much or more to the Cardinals. Most of the rotation is already set with Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, and the much cheaper Jaime Garcia. If they are somehow able to resign him, their rotation is set for several years, but the price will come at a cost for getting free-agent position players. Jackson is a great pitcher, but gives up way too many hits, as evidenced against the Brewers in the NL Championship series.

Gerald Laird – He served as backup to Yadier Molina for the Cardinals this year, after 2 years in Detroit. He played in 37 games with a .232 batting average.

Thoughts/Prediction: He continues to play as a backup catcher, as is not worth more than that. His place is not with the Cardinals, though, with Yadier continuing to be one of the best catchers currently in baseball, and guys like Tony Cruz and Bryan Anderson waiting on the depth chart.

Corey Patterson – Patterson began as a backup in the Blue Jays, hitting 6 homers in 89 games. He was then traded with Edwin Jackson to the Cardinals, playing in another 44 games, serving mainly as backup to Matt Holliday.

Thoughts/Prediction: He has a decent pop in his bat for someone who serves as a backup. However, he has had defensive troubles over the years, which is worrisome when serving as a substitution. That being said, I can see him being resigned with the Cardinals, and can continue to serve as backup to either Matt Holliday or Lance Berkman (if he still plays in right field, and that’s if Pujols is resigned).

Nick Punto – In 63 games, Punto had a .278 average, his best year since 2006 with the Twins (.290).

Thoughts/Prediction: Punto is not a particularly good hitter, despite hitting .278 this year. However, he has good defensive prowess, which makes him perfect as a late-inning defensive replacement. With Theriot and Greene on the roster, though, I can’t see him sticking with the Cardinals. He’ll likely get a minor-league contact, but nothing more than that.

Arthur Rhodes – After 19 seasons, Rhodes finally earned his first World Series ring. He began his season with the Rangers, playing in 32 games. He was then traded to the Cardinals and played in additional 19 games (which means, either way, he was going to earn a World Series ring; similar to Bengie Molina last year). In his first World Series, he played in 3 games, and didn’t give up a hit nor walked anyone.

Thoughts/Prediction: It’s nice to see a guy like Rhodes finally earn a championship ring after such a long career. Rhodes has a $4 million option for next year, but at the age of 42, I think Rhodes will leave out on top.

 

Prince Fielder – Probably the second-biggest free agent in this year’s class, Fielder posted similar numbers to Pujols, hitting .299 with 38 homers and 120 RBIs. He played in all 162 games this year, the second time he’s done that in his career (2009).

Thoughts/Prediction: Say what you will about Fielder and his weight, but Prince Fielder not only can hit, but is both healthy and durable. Since 2006, he’s played in at least 157 games, which means you can count on him to play in all, or close to all of your games (something that not even Albert Pujols can say). But he’s also going to be really expensive, to which the Brewers cannot keep him (especially when you throw in the long-term contracts of Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and Yovani Gallardo). So where does he go? Cubs are the most likely destination, as they are in need of a 1st baseman the most. Blue Jays could also use him and do have the money.

Francisco Rodriguez (club option)- Man, has this guy fallen. From saving 62 games in 2008, to now. He began with the Mets, and did well, saving 23 games in 26 opportunities. He was then traded to the Mets, serving instead a setup role to John Axford.

Thoughts/Prediction: K-Rod is a good closer, and likes striking out a lof of batter in the process. There are three problems with him, though: First, is that he has had share of personal problems, dating back to years ago, having problems with Yankee reliever Brian Bruney. Then there’s the whole situation with his girlfriend’s father last year. This year, he has been known to having problems playing as a setup man for the team, wanting more opportunities to save games. You see the problem? His share of personal problems and overall attitude will make interested teams a little nervous and you have to wonder if he will keep having more, especially if signed to a longer-term deal. Second, similar to Fernando Rodney, there’s the question of whether K-Rod will be willing to play other reliever roles, besides closer (my guess is that he won’t); if he just wants to close, the number of interested teams shorten. And third, the money. As of this post, the Brewers declined his $17.5 million club option. And really, there’s no surprise to that at all. $17.5 million?! Ha! K-Rod right now is a $4-5 million a year guy, maybe $6 million if he returns to becoming a full-time closer. Teams will be interested, I’m just not sure as to who.

LaTroy Hawkins – Hawkins improved on his 2010 campaign, playing 52 games. Over 48 1/3 innings, he posted a 2.42 ERA, allowing only 1 homer and a 1.24 WHIP.

Thoughts/Prediction: Though 38, Hawkins still did a decent job as a reliever.  My only gripe is that he fades pitching with two outs in the inning, compare to no outs/1 out. Not sure as to why on that, I can only assume the pressure of finishing the inning gets to him? That being said, Brewers should resign hm to a 1-year contract worth $2-2.5 million.

Takashi Saito – Saito played in 30 games, playing in 26 2/3 innings. He posted a 2.03 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP.

Thoughts/Prediction: Though no longer the closer he was with the Dodgers, Saito did a decent job as a reliever. However, at age 41, I don’t think the Brewers nor any team will be interested in signing him to a new contract. His age, plus the fact that he walks a number of guys over the past couple of years creates concerns.

Yuneisky Betancourt (club option) – Betancourt was traded from the Royals to the Brewers as part of the big Zack Greinke deal. In 152 games, Betancourt hit .252, with 13 homers and 68 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: Betancourt is not your typical shortstop. He doesn’t hit for a high batting average, but instead hits with power. He’s more of a guy you see in the middle of the lineup rather than at the end. However, that being said, Betancourt does a pretty good job as shortstop. His club option is worth $6 million in 2012. Take it.

Mark Kotsay – As a backup first baseman and outfielder, Kotsay played in 104 games. In 233 at-bats, he posted a .270 batting average, hitting 3 homers and 31 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: Though he’ll turn 36 in December, considering the uncertainty of what the Brewers will do without Prince Fielder, I think they should keep him for 1-year and $1-2 million. Kotsay can serve as a transition and phase out as a backup for future first baseman Hunter Morris.

 

Aramis Ramirez (club option) – Ramirez had yet another great season, despite the fact that the Cubs wanted to trade him (but were unable to as Ramirez used his no-trade clause. This year, he hit 26 home runs and 93 RBIs, with a .306 batting average.

Thoughts/Prediction: As much as Ramirez wants to say in Chicago, it’s not going to happen. But here’s what I think: He’s one of the few guys that should stay. Yes, Cubs will be in rebuilding. But unlike all those other veterans with ridiculous contracts (see Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Dempster), Ramirez actually delivers what he’s worth. A guy who hits in the .290s-.300s, 25-30 homers, and 90-105 RBIs a year is incredibly solid. Now is he worth $16 million, as his 2012 club option has him for? No. But he’s still worth double digits, a $10-12 million per year kind of guy who still has a good 3-4 years left, I believe. Plus, the other third basemen on the free agent list this year are not even as close to this good as Ramirez is. Cubs should decline his club option but resign him anyway. However, seeing as those won’t happen, a team like the White Sox could use him (plus he stays in Chicago, which is a plus for Ramirez). Dodgers could also be in the running, provided they have enough money in the long-term to actually afford him (and other players).

Carlos Pena – Pena signed a 1-year, $10 million deal with the Cubs in the offseason. In 153 games, he hit 28 homers and 88 RBIs this year, to go with his .225 batting average.

Thoughts/Prediction: Pena, despite hits terrible batting average and high strikeout rate, has a lot of power in his bat and has the ability to draw a lot of walks. He’s a fearsome, there’s no doubt about it. However, whether he likes it or not, Pena served as merely as a transition for this year’s free-agent class. Cubs are not doubt going for Albert Pujols and/or Prince Fielder, and will likely land either one of those (Fielder being the more likely candidate). That’s not to say Pena is a bad hitter (despite what his batting average will tell you), it’s just he’s not as good as those two guys. That being said, Pena is still a perfect guy for those in need of a first baseman/consolation prize in the Pujols sweepstakes or to those that need a DH. So, I think Pena will make a return to the American League; Red Sox (if they can’t get Ortiz back), Orioles, and Twins, appear the most viable options. Yankees could take interest too, if they don’t get Andruw Jones and/or Eric Chavez back.

Jeff Samardzija – He played in 75 games, all as a reliever. He posted a 2.97 ERA over the course of 88 innings, and posted a 8-4 record in the process. He made $3.3 million this year and has two club options in his contract that must equal out to $16.5 million.

Thoughts/Prediction: I believe that Samardjiza is about ready to become a full-time starting pitcher within the Cubs organization. I think that’s what they were hoping for last year, but Ted Lilly took his place after 4 starts. He has an effective pitching repertoire, ranging from a high-90s fastball, to a mid-80s changeup and low-80s slider; he also has a splitter. The Cubs should and I believe will pick up his club option… at least for 2012. Considering how thin the Cubs’ farm system, I have to wonder if Samardjiza will be used as trade bait during the course of next season. In an earlier blog post a couple of months ago, I said how he should be picked up in a trade to bolster a pitching rotation that will most likely not have Freddy Garcia and/or Bartolo Colon next year; plus, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were willing to give up on A.J. Burnett. His club options make him an interesting piece to use in a trade, in order to get prospects. So, yes, his 2012 option will be picked up; the question is whether or not he’ll stick with the team in the long-term…

Kerry Wood – Despite being offer longer-termed deals with more money, Kerry Wood signed a 1-year, $1.5 million “hometown discount” deal with the Cubs, as he wanted to keep his family in Chicago. In 55 games, he pitched in 51 innings, he posted a 3.35 ERA with 57 strikeouts.

Thoughts/Predictions: He’s not the pitcher that he once was in the late 90s/early 200s, but Wood still can be used as an effective reliever, and can even close games if need be. And as said before, he wants his family to stay in Chicago. All signs point to him signing another 1-year (maybe 2), low-cost contract.

John Grabow – Grabow signed a 2-year, $7.5 million extension with the Cubs after the 2009 season. While he was limited in 2010, in 2011 he returned to form. In 58 games, he pitched in 62 1/3 innings, posting a 4.76 ERA.

Thoughts/Prediction – His unusually high ERA has to bring up some concern. However, his ability to serve under any role in relief, plus the fact that he’s a lefty, will certain allow for more teams to be interested in him. The Cubs lack lefties in their organization, so I think he’ll stick with the team with a relatively similar contract.

 

Clint Barmes – Barmes was traded last offseason from the Colorado Rockies for Felip Paulino, and resigned to a 1-year, $3.925 million deal in arbitration. This year, he played in 123 games, posting a .244 batting average, with 12 homers and 39 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: Barmes hits for a decent amount of power, but his batting average seems to fluctuate after every couple of seasons, from the good (2005, 2008) to the bad (2006, 2010). Also, you have the cheaper Matt Downs and Jose Altuve to use in the depth chart. He’ll be let go in free agency, for sure. I can see him being signed to a 1 or 2-year contract with Seattle or Tampa Bay.

Jason Michaels – The Astros picked up on his $900,000 club option this past offseason. In 89 games, he hit .199.

Thoughts/Prediction: He’s 35, can’t hit for neither contact nor power, and there’s a boatload of young outfielders within the Astros organization looking for a chance to play. Drop him, won’t get a look from another team unless they’re desperate. I believe his career is done.

 

Brandon Phillips (club option) – Phillips had possibly one of the better seasons of his career. Though he didn’t hit as many homers and RBIs as he did in 2007, he did post a career-high .300 batting average and was still able to hit 18 homers and 82 ribbies. He’s due to make $12 million in his 2012 club option.

Thoughts/Prediction: He’s a keeper. I think he’s worth the $12 million. He’s got a mix of both power and speed. If it weren’t for Joey Votto, he’d probably be the team’s franchise player. But a solid #2 team-member behind him isn’t that bad. He’s worth the option, pick him up.

Ramon Hernandez – Despite playing in only 91 games, Hernandez still managed to hit 12 homers and 36 RBIs, with a .282 batting average.

Thoughts/Prediction: Hernandez still has the ability to hit, despite the fact that he turns 36 in May. With Devin Mesoraco still developing, I think resigning him to another 1-year, $2.5-3 million contract should happen. If not, I think the Dodgers or Royals will take interest.

Edgar Renteria – Renteria signed a 1-year, $2.1 million last offseason. In 96 games, he batted .251, with 5 home runs, 36 RBIs, and just 4 steals.

Thoughts/Prediction: I think Renteria’s days as a starter are done. Instead, he should be used as a veteran defensive replacement. Both his ability to hit and run are mostly depleted. He’ll get another major-league contract, but it should be a very low-cost one (no more than $1.5 million). With Paul Janish, though, I don’t think it will be with the Reds.

 

It’s too bad there’s no half-year awards because if there were, Clint Hurdle should have won Manager of the Year… for the first-half year anyway. For the first time in so many years, he and the Pittsburgh Pirates were actually relevant. I honestly thought they had a shot of making it into the playoffs. However, in the second half, they just couldn’t hold on in the division, and the Brewers and Cardinals took over. Give props though to them for actually being relevant this year. Now we’re just waiting for the Kansas City Royals to do the same thing…

Derrek Lee – Lee signed a 1-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles, before being traded to the Pirates, as for the first time, the team was actually buying during the Trade Deadline rather than selling. In a combined 112 games, Lee has 19 homers, 59 RBIs, and a .267 batting average.

Thoughts/Prediction: Lee, like Carlos Pena, suffers similarly to the whole Pujols/Fielder sweepstakes. While Lee is lacking the power that Pena still has, Lee has been a much better hitter over his career than Pena. In fact, when he joined with Pittsburgh, his batting average during his tenure was .337, so he can still hit the ball rather well. However, he’ll be yet another consolation prize in the sweepstakes and will go to a team that tried to get either of the big ones but failed. He won’t be with the Pirates next year though; he’s too expensive, plus the Pirates already have Garrett Jones and Steve Pearce to play at the position. His value should be still worth around $7-8 million.

Ryan Ludwick – Ludwick began on a 1-year deal with the Padres, but he too was traded to the Pirates in an attempt to make a run at the postseason. In a combined 139 games, he had a .237 batting average with 13 homers and 75 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: Ludwick’s stats took a bit of a hit this year, although I blame that on the fact that he has to play most of his games at Petco Park (despite playing there, he accounted for more than a quarter of the Padres’ anemic offense). While he’s a very average hitter when it comes to hitting for contact, he still has some pop in his bat, and is a decent 5 or 6 guy in the lineup. Again, like Lee, he won’t play with the Pirates next year, due to him being too expensive and because they already have a ton of young outfielders already. Instead, he’ll move on to a 1 or 2-year deal that should be worth $8-10 million overall. Indians, Nationals, Mets, and even the Red Sox are teams that I think will be the most interested.

Chris Snyder (club option) – Snyder only played in 34 games in 2011. He hit .271 with 3 homers and 17 RBIs. His club option for 2012 is worth $6.75 million.

Thoughts/Prediction: Considering he’s had a history of back problems, his typically low batting average, and the fact they have Ryan Doumit and Jason Jaramillo on the depth chart, he’s not worth it. Drop him!

Jason Grilli – Grilli signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies to start out the season. He didn’t get far, pitching in Triple-A before being released in July. The Pirates decided to give him a shot, though, and he did pitch in the majors. He pitched in 28 games, posting a 2.48 ERA, and even won 2 games in relief.

Thoughts/Prediction: After not pitching through all of 2010, Grilli has seemed to make a comeback. He doesn’t tend to walk a lot of batters, but does appear to hit some when doing so instead, but that’s the only thing that worries me. He should return to having another major-league contract. Are the Pirates interested? I can see them resigning him to a 1 or even 2-year deal around $1.5-2 million a year. They could use a veteran/mentor pitcher, considering the only pitcher on their team that has played 3+ years in the majors is Kevin Correia (one of the bigger surprises in baseball this year, and was a big part of why the Pirates were able to do so well in the first half of the year).

 

Next division is the AL Central!

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NL West Free Agents: Who To Keep And Who To Let Go?

Next, I’m covering the NL West. I figure from now on, I’m just going to group all of the teams in each division, rather than make individual posts to save time. Anyway, on to the free agents:

First up is the Dodgers. Frank McCourt still holds control of the team, so how much of an impact towards the market the team will make this season is undetermined. In addition, the team will have to take care of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw’s arbitration. However, I should make note that opening day payrolls have gone up the past two seasons.

Also, before I begin talking about the free agents, let me just say that if it weren’t for Kirk Gibson and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Don Mattingly should get a few votes for the Manager of the Year. I say that considering not only the McCourt battles, but the fact that he had both near-hitting Triple Crown and near-pitching Triple Crown winners in Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, respectively (both of which should definitely should get votes for the MVP and Cy Young awards, even if they played for a team that only finished 3 games above .500).

Anyway:

Hiroki Kuroda – Don’t let the 13-16 record fool you, his ERA was 3.07, good for 9th in the National League. While his home runs and WHIP have gone up a year ago, he did go 200+ innings for the first time in his four-year tenure here in the Majors. There was speculation throughout the year that he would be traded, but Kuroda decided to use his no-trade clause because he wanted to stay with the team for the whole season.

Thoughts/Prediction: Though 36, Kuroda is still capable of pitching effectively in the Majors, as if his ERA and innings pitched weren’t enough. The Dodgers certainly felt that way when they signed him to a 1-year, $12 million deal last year. However, Considering the Dodgers’ financial situation, I don’t think the team will be able to pay him a salary that he’ll be looking for (likely somewhere between $9-11 million a year) and will have to let him go. Kuroda would make for a good, veteran #3 pitcher for another team; Texas would be a good place, especially if Wilson and/or Lewis is gone.

Jonathan Broxton – He started off the season well, going 7-for-8 in saves, but suffered pain in his elbow in May and was put on the disabled list. He didn’t return after that, despite hopes of returning in September.

Thoughts/Prediction: Broxton has been one of the more consistently good closers in the majors the past couple of years. Despite his massive frame (at 6’4″, 295 pounds, this guy is huge), he throws an overwhelming fastball and slider, which is why he’s been so effective during his tenure. He was paid $7 million last year, so despite not playing most of this season, I still think he’s worth it. Broxton is 27, so I’d say the Dodgers should give him a 3 or 4-year deal, between $25-$35 million.

Rod Barajas – After claiming off waivers last year, the team resigned him to a 1-year, $3.25 million deal. He played in 98 games, hitting .230, with 16 home runs.

Thoughts/Prediction: Despite just turning 36, Barajas still has the ability to hit for power, as his home runs and slugging percentage have been relatively consistent for the past 3 years. Whether he’s resigned depends on how much faith the team has with A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz waiting on the depth chart. I don’t think either are ready to assume more time as starting catcher (particularly Ellis), so I’m going to assume that the Dodgers will resign him to yet another 1-year deal, worth $3-3.5 million.

Juan Rivera – Rivera was a part of the blockbuster trade last offseason that sent Vernon Wells from the Angels, while Rivera went to Toronto. In 70 games, he didn’t do so hot, hitting only .243, before being designated for assignment. From there, he was picked up by the Dodgers a week later. He fared better, hitting .274 in 62 games.

Thoughts/prediction: Though a fairly average hitter in terms of batting average and on-base percentage, the great thing about Rivera is that he can still hit for contact. His career strikeout rate is a very low 11.3% (compared to 18% for the rest of the MLB). His ability to play both corner outfield positions, as well as 1st base is also a nice little bonus. Dodgers have a boatload of young outfielders though (including Tony Gwynn, Jerry Sands, and Trent Oeltjen), so he’ll most likely let him go. Teams that are looking for a player capable of playing multiple position will surely look at him, but Rivera should also not expect to be paid the $5.25 million he was this year; depending on where he goes and how he’s used, his value is somewhere between $2.75-3.5 million.

Casey Blake (club option) – Blake was marred by injuries throughout the year, limiting himself to just 63 games. In September, he underwent surgery on his neck to relieve a pinched nerve.

Thoughts/Prediction: On October 4, the Dodgers decided to decline his option, paying his $1.25 milllion buyout. So what’s next? Well, despite being marred with injuries all year, he’s been mostly healthy throughout his career, 2006 being the only exception. And despite not being a .275-280 hitter the past couple of years, he still has the ability to hit around 16-22 homers a year. He can be a good #6 hitter, or even #5 in the lineup, wherever he goes. And though he’s 38, the free-agent market for third baseman is pretty weak; outside of Aramis Ramirez, there’s not really much after (and maybe Edwin Encarnacion, but only if the Blue Jays decline his option). If he’s healthy by Spring Training, I can see him platooning 3b/DH roles with Brandon Inge and the upcoming Danny Worth in Detroit, on a one-year deal.

Vicente Padillia – He began the season on the disabled list. However, upon his return and with Broxton out, Padillia pitched in 9 games, and was a perfect 3-for-3 in saves. Unfortunately, he went on the disabled list again in May, first for his forearm and then in his neck.

Thoughts/Prediction: Well, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Padillia is no longer a starting pitcher. However, on the bright side, if he can return healthy, he can certainly have a good rest-of-his-career playing as a closer or setup man. If the Dodgers keep him, he can certainly provide as both, and would likely be a cheaper repalcement for Broxton, should they not resign him. Either way, I think the team resigns Padillia; what he’ll earn though all depends on what happens to Broxton though.

Jamey Carroll – Carroll probably wasn’t expecting so much playing time at age 37, and with most of the infielder set. However, injuries plus the trade of Rafael Furcal allowed him to play a combined 146 games at second and third bases, and shortstop.  He went homerless for the second straight season, but did bat .290 and stole 10 bases (and wasn’t caught all year).

Thoughts/prediction: Here’s a guy who’s perfect to put at the end of your lineup. He won’t knock in runs for ya, but is ability to get on base, plus occasionally steal is good. He also can play at all infield positions (except for first base). Though 37, he’s still a got bit of speed left in him too, stealing 10 bases for the second straight season, and seems to have a knack for being able to get triples (and getting into scoring position is always good). Considering the team has a lack of depth at shortstop (unless they go big in getting Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins, in which I can’t see either happening), I think he’ll get a 1-year deal worth around the same he received last year ($2.3 million).

Jon Garland (club option) – They tried Garland in 2009 after a trade with Arizona. It worked then, going 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 6 games. They lost to him against San Diego in 2010, but got him back this year, in a 1-year, $5 million deal. It didn’t work this time, he went 1-5 in 9 starts and had a 4.33 ERA before being sidelined for a shoulder injury in June.

Thoughts/Prediction: As with Casey Blake, the Dodgers declined his club option. So where next? Considering his status, he’ll be a bit of a risk. He can certainly go the distance, going 200+ innings six times in his 11-year career. At the same time, he gives up a lot of home runs, and thus, his ERA has been 4-4.50 a number of times, as well. He’d be good on a 1-year deal for a team with a pitcher’s park stadium (i.e. – Mets, Rockies, or even a return to the Padres). His value is likely somewhere around $3.5-4 million, as a #3/#4 starting pitcher.

Mike MacDougal – After what’s had to have been a up-and-down four years for Mike MacDougal, he returned to good form (at least for this year). Making just $500,000 on a 1-year deal with what was originally a minor-league deal with the Dodgers, MacDougal pitched in 69 games, posting a 3.25 games, winning three games as a reliever, and earned a save (his first since 2009. In addition, his WHIP was his lowest since 2005, when he was with Kansas City.

Thoughts/Prediction: He certainly had a great year, but interested teams have to be looking at his up-and-down career the past few years, and wonder how much of a risk he’s worth. He can certainly provide as a reliever, including as both a setup man and/or closer, and has a pretty good repertoire. But is a team, including the Dodgers, willing to pay more, knowing his history. If so, $2 million should be about right ($$2.5-$4 million for the Dodgers, depending on what happens with Broxton and/or Padilla).

Aaron Miles – Like Carroll, Aaron Miles probably wasn’t expecting much playing time after signing a minor-league contract this past offseason. But thanks to injuries from Casey Blake and Juan Uribe, he got to play in 136 games. He hit his first home run since 2008, and knocked in 45 RBIs too.

Thoughts/prediction: Miles didn’t exactly have a huge year, but thanks to those injuries, I think he did enough to at least earn himself one more major-league contract. Compared to Carroll, he lacks a little bit of hitting for contact and speed, but has a bit more power. That being said, I think he can provide as a pinch hitter for the Dodgers for another year, with playing time available if Uribe/Carroll are injured or slumping.

 

Before I begin, I would like to say it was smart of the Rockies front office to not only resign Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, but to get them for long-term.(they have Tulo until 2010 and Gonzalez until 2017). Gonzalez, especially, because they got him relatively cheap, in my opinion (7 years/$80 million for a batting champ/gold glove/silver-slugger winner, capable of hitting 25-30 homers and steal 20-25 bases a year is a STEAL in this day and age).

Aaron Cook (mutual option) – Oh boy, this guy. In 2011, he went 3-10 in 17 starts (18 games) and his ERA was an eye-twitching 6.03 ERA. If Cook and the Rockies mutually agree, he’ll make $11 million in 2012.

Thoughts/Prediction: You know, at first, his 3-year $30 million contract extension after the 2008 season made sense on paper. He posted a 3.96 ERA and went 16-9 that year, good for 7th in the NL in wins. But that ERA kept going up afterwards, to 4.16 ERA in 2009, 5.08 in 2010, and now 6.03. He is nowhere near $11 million, he’s not even worth touching. DO NOT SIGN HIM!

Mark Ellis – After a slow start in Oakland, they had enough of him after 9 years and traded to the Rockies, where he did much better. In 70 games for Colorado, he batted .274.

Thoughts/Prediction: I feel bad about Mark Ellis. Like Eric Chavez, I thought he would be one of those guys that spends his whole career with one team; in this case, the Athletics. Then, of course, I realized… this is the Athletics we’re talking here. What the heck was I thinking? Anyway, with the young Eric Young Jr. likely to serve a full-time role, Ellis will likely look somewhere in which he can continue to serve as a starter. If he wants the most time, Houston and Cleveland are probably the best cases. Ellis is a decent hitter, but his defensive range is what interested teams should be looked at; his career range factor per game is the third-best amongst active second basemen, behind only Ian Kinsler and Orlando Hudson. If he starts, he should be worth around $3-4.5 million.

Kevin Millwood – What a year for Millwood. He began with a minor-league contract with the Yankees before opting out and signing a minor-league deal with the Red Sox. That didn’t work out either, so he signed a deal with the Rockies and finally got a chance to play, when Juan Nicasio went down with an injury. In 9 games, he went 4-3, averaging 6 innings a game, and recording a 3.98 ERA.

Thoughts/Prediction: He’s not the same guy he was when he played for Atlanta or Texas, but it’s certainly a whole lot better than last year in Baltimore. Despite the fact that he will turn 37 in December, he can still pitch 180-200 innings a year (heck, even last year, he went 190 2/3 innings). He’s also been very healthy throughout his career, starting at least 25 games every full year, with the exception of 2001. He’ll certainly warrant a lot more looks than he did last offseason. I don’t think he’ll stay in Colorado but he certainly can provide a veteran presence at the back end of the rotation for any ballclub.

J.C. Romero – Romero signed a 1-year deal with the Phillies this past offseason. After 24 games, he was released. He then pitched for both the Nationals and the Yankees in minor-league deals before finally signing a deal with Colorado, where he pitched in another 12 games. In total, he posted a 4.01 ERA in 24.2 innings.

Thoughts/Prediction: He’s prone to giving up a good chunk of runs. Fortunately, he doesn’t give up a whole lot of home runs (only giving up 1 this year). The Rockies don’t necessarily need him, considering who they have in relief, but if it’s for a similar deal (1-year, $1.35 million), I don’t think it would hurt. If not, I can see him going to either the Rays or the Cubs.

Jason Giambi – Despite mostly playing as a pinch hitter/DH (on the road against AL teams), he managed to play in 64 games and even played 1st base in 23 of them. He hit 13 home runs, including 3 against the Phillies in May.

Thoughts/Prediction: Say what you will about Giambi and his use of performance-enhancing drugs, but the guy still has pop in his bat, even at 40. Of course, at this point in his career, he’s merely a pinch-hitter/DH. However, he has served as a mentor to a number of young Rockies players and is very liked not only in the clubhouse, but among Rockies fans. Another 1-year, $1 million contract wouldn’t hurt. It’s not as if any young 1st baseman is going to come by soon anyway, considering they have Todd Helton, their aging but still franchise player, for the next couple of years.

 

Heath Bell – Bell is the only true to-be free agent this year for the Padres (the rest are either club or mutual options). He began the season with seven saves, tying for fourth-time for consecutive saves (41 over the course of 2010-11). He played in 68 games, posting a 2.44 ERA and went 43-for-48 in saves.

Thoughts/Prediction: Bell is one of the top closers in the game, having 40+ saves for the third straight season. Though his ERA was higher than last year’s and the strikeout rate a bit low, he did lower his WHIP, which is good. Bell wants to stay with the team. Jed Hoyer had said he wanted to sign him to a long-term contract if they couldn’t trade him during the season; although now, Hoyer has moved on to become GM of the Cubs. Bell is definitely worth more than $7.5 million and would be a keeper, but the problem is that the Padres are not a big-spending team; if his contract is going to be big (I figure his new contract will be around $9-11 million per year), it means less money to sign/resign free agents not only this offseason but for subsequent offseasons too. That being said, I think the Padres will keep him, seeing as he’s the only  big star this team really has left right now.

Aaron Harang (mutual option) – After three terrible season in Cincinnati, Harang found new life in San Diego, going 14-7 in 28 starts, posting a 3.64 ERA in the process.

Thoughts/Prediction: Harang was good this year. I thought the $4 million the Padres used for him was a bit of a risk. I honestly thought he was going to post similar numbers to last year (in fact, considering he was on the Padres, I figured the win-loss record to be even worse than it was in Cincy) but I was proven wrong. If the option is picked up, Harang will earn $5 million. The Padres need someone behind Mat Latos; Tim Stauffer is getting there, but he’s not a #2 yet. This option should and will be picked up.

Brad Hawpe (mutual option) – Hawpe signed with the Padres on a 1-year, $3 million deal. He played in 62 games, but then had to undergo Tommy John surgery in June, sidelining him for the rest of the season.

Thoughts/Prediction: My oh my, whatever happened to this guy? Four years ago, in Colorado, he was hitting 29 homers, 116 RBIs, and a near .300 batting average. And now… *sigh*. Hawpe can play both first base and right field, and has had a great throwing arm, but after undergoing Tommy John surgery, how much power does he left in that arm, and for that matter, with his bat? Plus, his defensive range isn’t particularly good. I think his days as a starter are done, but could still manage as a pinch-hitter. He’s definitely not worth the $6 million club option (if Hawpe’s in for the money, no doubt he’ll want to stay, but still…). Let him go. A new setting would probably be good for him, so no NL West teams. Pirates, maybe? Twins?

Chad Qualls (club option) – Qualls made $1.5 million this year. He appeared in 77 games this year, posting a 3.51 ERA over the course of 74 1/3 innings. He also closed in several games, but blew all 5 of his save opportunities.

Thoughts/Prediction: Qualls is 33, but like Pedro Feliciano, can relieve in many games throughout the course of the season, and his numbers (except for 2010) have been relatively consistent throughout his career. That being said, the Padres won’t pick up his club option, because it’s worth $6 million. $6 million?! What?! Unless they are letting Bell leave for free agency and plan on using Qualls as closer, $6 million is waaaaaaay too much. Decline the option for now, negotiate to keep Bell; if you can’t keep Bell, get him back for around $4-4.5 million.

 

Talk about a massive jump in payroll; they went from $96 million last year, to $118 million this year. Then again, they have guys like Barry Zito and Carlos Beltran on their rosters. Speaking of Beltran…

Carlos Beltran – Quite a year for Beltran. He played well for the Mets, who as a team continue to baffle me as to how they can perform so poorly then do really awesome (and continuously do that throughout the season, never staying consistent). He was then traded to the San Francisco Giants for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. In 142 games, Beltran hit .300 with 22 homers.

Thoughts/Prediction: It appears Beltran is back. After being marred with injuries the past couple of years, he’s back to being healthy. And when he’s healthy, he’s good. Though 34 (turning 35 in April), he can still give you a 20 home run, 80-85 RBI season, and is a definite improvement at right field than both Cody Ross and Nate Schierholtz. Giants should keep him Now, of course, he’s not worth $20 million a year anymore, but a 2-year, $20 million deal is still pretty darn good.

Cody Ross – And speaking of Cody Ross, let’s talk about “Ross the Boss.” He played in 121 games, posting a .240 batting average, 14 home runs, and 52 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: For a guy with such a mediocre batting average, he doesn’t strikeout as much as you think he would. In addition, he has great fielding ability, a good arm, and is mostly liked by Giants fans. I’d keep him for 2 or 3 years worth about $5 million each.

Jeremy Affledt (club option) – 2010 was a bit of a hiccup, but came back this season, appearing in 67 games. In 61 2/3 innings, he posted a 2.63 ERA and had 54 strikeouts. He also had 3 saves.

Thoughts/Prediction: I like Affledt, he’s a very capable setup man, and would be a suitable replacement for Brian Wilson, should he go down with an injury. My only gripe is that Affledt will walk a lot of guys, which at times, make things worrisome. That being said, his $5 million club option for 2012 is worth it; can’t see the Giants declining it.

Mark DeRosa – Injuries have plagued DeRosa for three years now. In 2010, he had “wrist failure” from a 2009 surgery, then reinjured it this year, before coming back in August. He played in 47 games at the major-league level.

Thoughts/Predictions: He’s come off yet another wrist injury, he’s 37, and doesn’t give much in terms of offense. At the same time, he’s a super-utility player, able to play at both the infield and outfield (though his main position is second base). He’s certainly worth no $6 million to any team, but a 1-year deal worth $2.5 million would be pretty decent. I don’t think he’ll be sticking with the Giants, as both their infield and outfield looks pretty set (with Aubrey Huff/Brandon Belt at first; Freddy Sanchez/Jeff Keppinger at second, Emmanuel Burriss/Keppinger at shortstop; Pablo Sandoval/Conor Gillapsie at third; Beltran (should they keep him)/Schierholtz at right field; Andres Torres at center; and Ross (should they keep him)/Schierholtz at left).

Orlando Cabrera – This past offseason, he signed a 1-year, $1 million deal with the Cleveland Indians. In 91 games, he recorded a .244 batting average. He was then sent to the San Francisco Giants, where he did worse in another 39 games, going 28-for-126 at bats.

Thoughts/Prediction: Quite a ways off from just a couple years ago, where he was posting high .280-low .290 batting averages. His ability to get on base has dropped considerably, although he doesn’t strikeout very often. The only thing he really has going right now are his defensive abilities, which are still gold-glove caliber, and can play at either second base or shortstop (his normal position, but moved to second base for Cleveland in place of Asdrubal Cabrera). That’s what’s allowing him to earn another 1-year major-league contract. It’s not with the Giants, though, it’ll go to a team in need a of a cheap, veteran presence with defensive ability; See: Houston, Pittsburgh, NY Mets (if they can’t keep Reyes). Detroit also a possibility.

Pat Burrell – A 1-year, $1 million deal for Burrell in his second season with Giants. He started off well early in the season. However, by May, he lost his starting job to Cody Ross. He was put on the disabled list in July with a possibly career-ending foot injury, before returning one last time in September.

Thoughts/Prediction: See the words “career-ending.” Burrell asked manager Bruce Bochy to start him in the final game at left field, because he felt it was his potential final game. I think his baseball career is over. Burrell has a pretty good career overall; near 300 home runs, 2 World Series rings, legacy with the Phillies as a “Met Killer.” All in all, not too shabby. If this is the last we see of Burrell on the field, I wish him the best.

Javier Lopez – Javier was very solid in 70 games, not only posting 2.52 ERA, but winning 5 games, and lowering his opponents’ batting average to a career-low .221.

Thoughts/Prediction: As of this post, the Giants resigned him to a 2-year contract worth $8.5 million, which is what he is definitely worth. Though 34, he’s a very effective pitcher, and doesn’t give up a whole of home runs (or even runs in general). All of this while pitching left-handed and with a sidearm delivery (and I’m not a big fan of sidearm pitchers, to be honest, I just don’t like that). Would service as a viable replacement to Affeldt as setup man, should Affledt’s club option be declined. A keeper in my books.

Guillermo Mota – Appearing in 52 games, Mota posted a 3.81 ERA in over 80 innings, with 77 strikeouts (his most since 2004).

Thoughts/Prediction: First off, let me just say that I do NOT like Mota. Why? Because this guy hits a lot of batters. From Mike Piazza (though what he did was unjust) to Prince Fielder. Mota always says it’s unintentional, but often, I find that hard to believe. In addition, he’s been known to be a troublemaker in the clubhouse. More reasons to not resign him would be that he’s 38, and has an easy-to-hit fastball. What allows him to keep playing in the Majors is his ability to eat innings up as a reliever. That’s all he has going though. If he does receive another contract, it’ll likely be a minor-league with an invitation to Spring Training, as it was this year.

 

Before I begin, Kirk Gibson deserves NL Manager of the Year. With such an underrated team that many likely chose to finish last in the division (including myself) with another terrible season, he and the D-Backs did a great job, winning the division and making it to the playoffs, before losing to the Brewers. Also, major props to Ian Kennedy, former Yankee prospect, who will be getting looks for the NL Cy Young award, alongside Clayton Kershaw.

Jason Marquis – After a mess of a 2010 season with the Nationals, Marquis returned and began well, going 8-5 in 20 games, with a 3.95 ERA, before being traded to the D-Backs. He started 3 games, doing miserably (a 9.53 ERA), before breaking his fibula, ending his season.

Thoughts/Prediction: Though he doesn’t give up too many homers as he used to, his ERA has typically been in the mid 4s, and is prone to giving up many hits with each start. He also doesn’t strikeout a whole lot either. All of this despite throwing a pretty sharp and hard sinker, which to me is odd. At the same time, he eats up a good chunk of innings, and is pretty good on defense, He is also one of the few NL pitchers that can hit too. Thought not worth the 2-year, $15 million deal he received with the Nationals, he can make for a good #3/#4 veteran starting pitcher for a team like the Padres. A 1 or 2-year deal worth $4 million a year should be about right.

Aaron Hill (club option) – An odd year with Hill. He only posted a .225 batting average and could only manage 6 homers in 104 games with Toronto. He was then traded to Arizona, where in 33 games, posted a .315 batting average. Also, after stealing no more than 6 bases in one season, he stole a combined 21 this year.

Thoughts/Prediction: I liked Hill in Toronto, he was one of my favorite players, which is why I found it odd when he traded him for Kelly Johnson. Even odder, is that his power just dropped out of nowhere (from 36 in 2009 and 26 in 2010) and now all of sudden, can steal bases. Weird. I don’t know which Hill will be which in 2012. Either way, he can still be used effectively, just in different manners. If he hits for power, he can be used in the middle of the lineup alongside guys like Justin Upton and Ryan Roberts. If he keeps stealing bases, he can be used at the top. Or heck, maybe he’ll do both, and show he’s a five-tool second baseman. Good news for the D-Backs is that if they’re willing to pay $8 million, they have club options for both 2012 and 2013. They can certainly take the risk for at least one year; if it doesn’t work next year, then let him go. I say D-Backs keep him, I see no reason not to, especially since there’s a lack of depth in terms of second baseman, both on the depth chart and in the free-agent market.

Lyle Overbay – Overbay started off the season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but was eventually designated for assignment. The Diamondbacks then picked him up to use for th rest of the season, while Xavier Nady was injured. He hit a combined 9 home runs and a .234 batting average in 121 games.

Thoughts/Prediction: Overbay is not the typical first baseman. By that, I mean a lot of the first baseman are 25+ home run monsters hitting third or fourth in the lineup. Overbay is not that kind of guy. He can hit 15-18 homers though, and has a knack for hitting doubles. With the upcoming Paul Goldschimdt and the cheaper availability of Xavier Nady, I don’t think he’ll resign with the team. I expect Overbay to return to the American League, mostly as a DH. Baltimore, I think, is the most likely choice.

Xavier Nady – Nady signed a 1-year, $1.75 million deal with the D-Backs. In 82 games, he hit .248, with 4 homers and 45 RBIs. He went down with an injury in August.

Thoughts/Prediction: All the power he had back in 2008 appears to be gone at this point. However, Nady is still capable of playing both 1st base and the corner outfield positions. He’ll be a lot cheaper than Overbay and can serve as a transition at 1st base from him to Paul Goldschmidt. They sign him for a $1-1.5 million deal; he possibly starts Opening Day and then phases out to Goldschmidt in the process.

Zach Duke (club option) – Duke got out of Pittsburgh right away, signing a 1-year, $4.25 million deal with a club option. In Arizona, Duke was all over the place. He started, he relieved, he even closed. He was also injured briefly. Duke was in 21 games, and starting in 9. He posted a 3-4 record with a 4.93 ERA.

Thoughts/Prediction: Duke is an… um… interesting one in the free-agency market. His ERA has been pretty high throughout his career, and gives up plenty of hits. However, he can be used as a spot starter, a la Tim Wakefield. When he starts, he eats innings too.  He’s also still under 30 (currently 28). I would decline his $5.5 million club option, but instead would sign him for a cheaper, slightly longer-term contract; say, a 2-year, $6/$7 million deal?

John McDonald – McDonald began the season with the Jays. He played in 65 games, before being traded to the Diamondbacks with Aaron Hill for Kelly Johnson. He played in another 19 games.

Thoughts/Prediction: Throughout his career, McDonald has not been much of a hitter, though he hasn’t had many opportunities to hit to begin with (he went 300+ at-bats only once, in 2007). However, he is a great defensive player, to the point where he was dubbed the “Magic Man” and “The Prime Minister of Defense” in Toronto. A suitable substitution for Stephen Drew late in games, I think. McDonald doesn’t really have much left in his career, just turning 37. A 1-year, $1 million deal doesn’t sound too bad. If he leaves, I’m not sure where he gets really any true opportunity, and might be stuck with a minor-league deal if he goes elsewhere.

Willie Bloomquist (mutual option) – Bloomquist signed with the Diamondbacks on a 1-year, $900,000 deal. In 92 games, he hit .266, and stole 20 bases. He started 84 of those games (59 at SS, 25 at left field), and did well on defense, making only 5 errors.

Thoughts/Prediction: With the injury of Stephen Drew, Bloomquist was a serviceable replacement for Drew. He also the ability to play in the outfield and at second base as well. The fact that he can still steal 20+ bases is a nice touch, as well; definitely a good top-of-the-order type of guy. The problem with this signing is Stephen Drew; he’s in the way, but only after 2012 (at the earliest, with a mutual option for 2013). However, if Hill is not signed, Bloomquist can certainly move back there. If not, he can be used in a variety of positions. At 33, I’d sign him 2 years and $4 million total. That way, Bloomquist can be used in a variety of different ways, depending on the situation both during the offseason and the regular season.

 

Next up on the list is the NL Central, and the big free agent himself, Albert Pujols.

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Congratulations Cardinals!

Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals on their 11th World Series title. It took all 7 games, but you did it in such historic fashion. Even when you were one strike from elimination in Game 6, you held on and never gave up. Celebrate because you deserve it!!!

What a season. They had to compete with the Braves for a spot in the wild-card, then take on the Phillies and Brewers just to even make it to the Series. Impressive job.

Texas, you gave it your best shot, but you just couldn’t pull it off once again. However, you did reach the Series twice in a row now, which is no easy feat.

And now that baseball season is over, let the free agent madness (and more specifically, the Pujols sweepstakes) begin!!!

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Impending Rangers Free Agents: Who To Keep And Who To Let Go?

Last on the AL West list is division winner and AL Champions, the Texas Rangers. As of this post, the Rangers are up 3-2 in the World Series, with Game 6 to be played tonight.

The Rangers made a major jump in payroll since Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan have owned the team, from $65 million last year to $92 million this year. Let’s see who’s on deck.

C.J. Wilson – After a 15-8, 3.35 ERA season last year, Wilson actually improved on that. He went 16-7 in 34 starts, and threw a shutout in one of his 3 complete games. He threw 200+ innings in the second straight year, and also threw 200+ strikeouts for the first time in his career.

Thoughts/Prediction – There’s no doubt in my mind that Wilson is the ace of this staff. He’s both durable and effective when he starts, and his first all-star appearance this year was much deserved. What’s also cool about Wilson is his ability to throw a gyroball, something that’s more attributed to Japanese pitchers rather than American. He’s likely going to be #1 most looked-at starting pitcher in the market, outside of C.C. Sabathia (if he does opt out). He’ll make a big jump from his $7 million this season; I’d say in the $14-18 million range. He’s 30, so right now he’s in the prime of his career. A 4-5 year contract wouldn’t be surprising. But considering he’s likely the #1/#2 pitcher in this free agent class, where does he go? Well, the Rangers will definitely try to resign him, considering that without him, they lack a true ace; considering that, plus the fact that his whole career has been spent with the team, makes Texas the favorite.

Wilson is not only the clear ace of this team, but will be one of the most looked-at pitchers this offseason. To keep him, the Rangers will have to probably give him a $85-90 million deal, which is definitely what he's worth.

Colby Lewis (’12 club option) – Thank goodness for Lewis that he played for a team with such a high-powered offense. He went 14-10 with a 4.40 ERA, but allowed more hits and homers than he did the previous year (including a league-leading 35 home runs allowed, ouch!). However, in the postseason, he has been a lot better. He pitched well in Game 3 of the ALDS, going 6 innings, allowing just one hit and run (it was a homer, go figure!).  In Game 3 of the ALCS, he wasn’t as fortunate, allowing 4 runs and 8 hits in 4 2/3 innings. In Game 2 of the World Series, he pitched a one-run, four-hit game in 6 2/3 innings. Barring something happening, he’s scheduled to pitch in Game 6 of the Series.

Thoughts/Prediction: A mixed bag on this one. He does a great job during the postseason (including last year, winning 3 of his 4 decisions) and has the ability to strike out a lot of batters. However, he needs to work on not giving up so many home runs; you can’t give up 35 homers in one season, regardless of where you pitch. That number just makes me shudder, and if the Rangers don’t pick up his club option, I’m sure the front offices will look at it and do the same thing. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), I see the Rangers picking up the option anyway; it’s relatively cheap at $3.25 million. I think it’s worth the risk, as #2, 3, or even #4 guy in the rotation.

Brandon Webb – It’s been a rough three years for Brandon Webb. In 2009, with the Diamondbacks, he suffered a season-long injury on opening day. He didn’t play any games in 2010. The Rangers picked him up on a 1-year, $3 million deal, hoping they’d get something out of him. It didn’t happen. He began the season on the 60-day DL. He did make his first appearance in a ballgame since Opening Day 2009, pitching for Rangers’ Double-A affiliate Fresno. He then went back on the DL in August, and he won’t be ready until the beginning of next season.

Thoughts/Prediction: He hasn’t played a game in the majors in three seasons, and is too oft injured for the Rangers to resign him, nor is it a good idea for any team for that matter to take him. I’m sure there might be some offers those willing to sign him for the bare minimum, though I’m not sure who. If I was a GM though, I’d look away.

Endy Chavez – The Rangers signed him last year to a minor-league deal with a club option. He didn’t play a game in the majors that year, as he was recovering from an ACL injury he suffered the year before. However, he did enough in the minors that the Rangers picked up that option. This year, he did play at the major league level, covering all three outfield positions, particularly center field. In 82 games, he hit .301 with 5 homers.

Thoughts/Prediction: Ranges really had not much to lose with the option on Chavez, worth $1.25 million. This year, he was able to provide in games, able to hit for contact and provide defense as a substitution. He surely can continue to do so, so long as his doesn’t collide with anyone (as he did in 2009, tearing his ACL in the process). I can’t see why the Rangers won’t resign him as backup for guys like Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, although since he was able to perform this year, he may ask for a slight raise (about $2 million, which seems fair).

Matt Treanor – Quite an odd year for Treanor. He was traded from the Rangers to the Royals for cash considerations but was then traded back (again for cash considerations) in August. In a combined 72 games (65 with Royals, 7 for Rangers), he had a .214 batting average, and hit 3 home runs with 22 RBIs.

Thoughts/Prediction: At 35, and with Mike Napoli, Yorvit Torrealba, and Taylor Teagarden on the depth chart, there’s no place for him on this roster. I think his days in the majors are over. He hasn’t done enough off the bench in his 7 years in the majors to really warrant a look.

That’s it for the AL West. Next up, I take on the NL West.

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