As rabid baseball fans, Shaun and I certainly didn’t want to wait with our takes on free agency. I’d come up with funnier stuff to lead into this but… I can’t find my gin and tonic… Without further ado, the biggest bargains available in free agency, and biggest impending disasters.
Aaron Hill: Above average fielding, decent slugging second baseman failed to find his form of yore after being traded to the D Backs last season, and hits the market after being awful the last two seasons. His utter brutality will lend him to someone at a cut rate, incentive laden deal, and he can’t possibly be as awful as he has been after his brilliant ’09 with Toronto. Don’t expect another 30+ homeruns, but pretty good defense and 20 round trippers are on tap if you can stomach the sub .250 average. My hope, the Dodgers give him a shot. Reality, the bankrupt Mets will probably take a shot at him.
David DeJesus: Was absolutely putrid in Oakland after a quietly stellar career in Kansas City. You can’t be very good for the better part of a decade and instantly suck from one year to the next. He defends well, doesn’t have an ego and is bound to recover. My guess, no good team will give him a shot, but he could go some place like Pittsburgh and hit around .300 with double digit home runs.
Takashi Saito: Yeah, he’s ancient. But even in his 40s, his low 90s fastball hasn’t lost a single tick since his heyday with the Dodgers and his slider is still quietly one of the best in baseball. The list of pitchers with an era lower than his 2.03 last season is a short and esteemed one. Need more convincing? Never in his MLB career has his ERA been over 3. Not once. Yeah, he’s brittle and needs to be limited to about 50 games, but it’s not his arm that ever hurts. Still need more convincing? He was untouchable this postseason for Milwaukee. Still need more convincing? 389 career strikeouts in just over 300 innings pitched. More? .199 career batting average against. Still more? Last season, it was .216, only a smidge above his career level. Just trust me already, he’s really good. Really really good. My guess… no bleepin idea, but he’ll be a steal wherever he signs, whether it’s the Yankees or Toledo Mud Hens.
Jimmy Rollins: He’ll never be the same guy that was the epitome of MVP. But with Jose Reyes getting the headlines as the best shortstop available in free agency, a team with realistic expectations will get a guy who hits .275 with 30 steals, 15 home runs, excellent defense, and walks enough to annoy opposing teams. In other words, the anti-Rafael Furcal.
Rod Barajas: I know, I know, you are all crying, “Homer!” So I’ll preempt your negativity. Somewhat flimsy arm lands him in the bottom third in runners caught stealing, though notorious slowpokes-to-the-plate Ted Lilly, Chad Billingsley, and the entire Dodger bullpen didn’t help. However, it bears mentioning that he never fails to sacrifice his body to block a pitch in the dirt, and almost never gives up a passed ball. Sure, Yadier Molina has the best arm around, but watching him merely swipe at pitches in the dirt all post season as they rocketed to the backstop for wild pitches made me take pause. Yeah, the Cards are deserved champs, and even though Yadi came up with some clutch hits, it’s really no thanks to him. Oh, and Barajas is good for 15-20 dingers if you can stomach the sub .250 batting average.
J.D. Drew: If he doesn’t retire, he’d make a decent DH somewhere, right? How can you get hurt just swinging the bat?
Russ Branyan: It’s about expectations. Live with the strikeouts, platoon him, and you get about 20 taters. There has to be an AL team that can use him, and then use him correctly.
Albert Pujols: .357, .327, .312, .299. His batting averages the last four years, in order. See a trend? Sure, he’s the best hitter of the last ten years, and a surefire Hall of Famer. But doesn’t that trend disturb you a little? Especially at the money he is gonna get? Maybe he hovers around .300, or even .320 for a few seasons, and he’s a lock for 35+ home runs for another half decade, but do you want to be the team that has him 6 years from now with three more remaining at 25 million+ per? I don’t. My guess, St. Louis. You don’t win the World Series and then let the biggest baseball icon your city has had since Stan Musial walk. You don’t. You can’t.
CJ Wilson: If he stays in Texas, I disown this part of this smear. But someone with deeper pockets is going to overpay, and he’ll crumble under the pressure. He still should have pitched the bottom of the tenth in Game 6, and that might have changed everything… But someone is going to pay big, and only the big teams can pay really big, and they’re going to get bitten really big. Shaun says Yanks, I say the other big team in the AL East. Someone has to take John Lackey’s place in the rotation, right? Ow. OW! Stop hitting me, Shaun!
Yu Darvish: Is he good? Oh, you betcha. Is he as good as advertised? Good question. Is someone going to overpay for him? Without a doubt. Even though he has better “stuff,” expect numbers like Hiroki Kuroda except with better run support leading to a few more wins. This would be excellent if he was making Kuroda money. But he’ll be making Cliff Lee money so the expectations will be higher. My guess, Atlanta? Why? I don’t know, but it’s getting late and I found my gin and tonic.
Jeff Francis: Someone is going to see the double digit win campaigns he put together for Colorado a while back, and wistfully imagine he is still that guy. Has incredible command, but when you throw nothing but strikes with tepid stuff, you get smoked. My guess, he re-ups in KC after not finding any bigger money takers.
Derek Lee: Pittsburgh got him for a playoff chase, which they were surprisingly in the thick of at the All Star break. How did he respond? With his best right-handed Roy Hobbs impersonation, of course. And he did it with enough aplomb that someone is going to forget how positively mediocre he’s been since a collision with Hee Seop Choi (speaking of which, whatever happened to that guy!!!) pulverized his wrist. My guess, San Diego. Anthony Rizzo, who happens to be the TRUTH, just isn’t quite ready yet.
Jonathan Papelbon: Great heater, albeit without much movement, and an overrated splitter have garnered him some success, though never convincingly enough for me to rate him among baseball’s best closers. A couple of rings put up an erstwhile argument to me, but ask any die-hard Sox fan if they wouldn’t rather have someone less flashy yet equally or more effective closing for them… say, your average Brian Wilson type… or Jose Valverde… Huston Street, anyone? Look, every closer takes one on the chin from time to time, sometimes epically, but I can’t remember anyone not named Francisco Rodriguez who has given fans as many heart attacks as Pap has since the days of Mitch Williams. My guess, the Red Sox pony up and regret it. I can’t blame them though. As awesome as Daniel Bard’s arsenal of stuff is, he suffers from something… lack of focus perhaps, that makes him a dodgey ninth inning proposition.
Non-baseball random blurt:
Fantasy football pickup of the week, Rams defense. I know, I know, homer. Still, playing against the hapless Cardinals with their rickety offensive line, I’m saying 15 or more points. Buy me a beer after my prediction wins you your week. Cheers.