Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Because believe it or not I found there to be that many interesting free agents left in late January.
I have spent the last six months covering fantasy football but those dumb-dumbs decided to end their regular season and have a playoffs and offseason I guess. Jerks. Therefore it is time to turn our attention back to the fantasy sport that decides to consume your time on the daily instead on the weekly. Baseball!
It's been a little while since baseball has played baseball games but it's never too far away. Seriously, I'm always amazed how quickly the next season springs (pun intended) on us. How quickly? Pitchers and catchers report as early as February 10th, which is less than three weeks away! It's a good thing that Ronny Paulino just signed with the Mariners because it's almost time to report.
However, not everybody that is likely to sign with a team has actually signed with a team. I mean, can we really imagine that nobody is going to sign Michael Bourn over a few (million) bucks difference? It's about time for these players to start thinking about if they want to play baseball or not and now I feel like I've turned into these players' mother. I'm not a mom though, I'm just a concerned adult onlooker.
Here is part 1 of the best remaining free agents in baseball. It is in alphabetical order as to not offend anyone and because I had to pick some kind of order:
Bobby Abreu, 39, OF/DH
There's almost zero fantasy value left in Abreu, but there is probably some real world value and he has no plans to quit. Abreu has said that he would like to play two more years and rumor has it that the he might want to play for his local team, the Miami Marlins. That might be a fit for now because the Marlins currently have zero players on their 40-man roster besides Giancarlo Stanton. I'm assuming.
Abreu was basically a pinch-hitter for the Dodgers last season and he hit .246/.361/.344 in 230 plate appearances. There is no denying that he is still one of the best in the game at drawing a walk, but there is little else to his game at this point. If you are in a league that only counts "walk %" then you are in luck! You can get Abreu in the 2nd round of that league probably. You should also quit playing fantasy sports.
I do want to take this opportunity to discuss Abreu's chances at the Hall of Fame, because quite honestly he will do nothing else for the rest of his life to help his case. He can only do worse, like testing positive for a drug and at this point in his career, I really hope that he doesn't take steroids so that he can raise his slugging % from .344 to maybe .361. Abreu is a career .292/.396/.477 hitter with 287 home runs, 399 stolen bases and a career walk rate of 14.7% against just 18.3% strikeouts. I said that he could do nothing further to best his chances but I take that back since most baseball writers are stupid and like milestones. Abreu has a chance to finish his career with 300 home runs and 400 stolen bases.
The only two players to do that in the history of baseball? Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonds. Abreu would be just the third to hit those two milestones. Of course, Bobby is not in the hall (neither is Barry...) and he was a career .268/.353/.471 hitter. According to Fangraphs, Abreu has been worth 63 WAR in his career but what really stands out is his career in Philadelphia. When Abreu was with the Phillies, he was consistently regarded as the most underrated player in the game (which of course negates his underratedness) but man was he ever good.
For seven straight seasons, Abreu posted at least 5.6 WAR. By comparison, Austin Jackson posted 5.5 WAR for the Tigers this year, 18th best mark in baseball for hitters. Abreu hit .303/.416/.513 with 195 HR and 254 stolen bases in nine seasons with the Phillies and played very good defense. Kirby Puckett hit .318/.360/.477 with 207 HR and 134 stolen bases in 12 years with the Twins.
I have no idea if Abreu is a "Hall of Fame" player. Apparently right now nobody eligible is a Hall of Fame player. I think the whole process is rather stupid and bad and that should be obvious by now. But I do know that he's one of the best all-around players of the last 15 years, he just won't help you out in any fantasy leagues this year besides that one that only counts walk%.
As a Mariners fan, I am well aware of Bedard. Yes, he represents Adam Jones (and others) to me and it's hard to see him as anything else, but truthfully he is something else; he's a decent pitcher for what he is. What is he?
A soon-to-be 34-year-old lefty that has never hit 200 innings in a season and in fact hasn't hit 130 innings since 2007. Bedard was 7-14 with a 5.01 ERA for the Pirates last year in 125.2 innings but it's also important to note that he struck out 118 batters and made 24 starts. He also made 24 starts in 2011, while striking out about the same amount of batters and posting an ERA of 3.62. What should you expect from Bedard now? Well, I'd say 24 starts, 120-130 innings, 8.5 strikeouts per 9 and 4 walks per 9 is a safe bet. What sort of ERA he posts is anyone's guess but it's not shocking to think of Bedard as a solid #4 starter that just isn't going to go 7 innings in any start.
By signing with Houston, Bedard gets to face off against his old team. The Mariners, not the Pirates. The Astros are in the AL West now! At this point, Bedard has just become a rotating rotational member of bad baseball teams that just needed a guy that might attract seven more fan attendees per start. They need players in the worst way, so if Bedard has a good start to the season, which is entirely possible, he might attract a C+ prospect in return for trade. That is the best case scenario for Houston and for Bedard.
Michael Bourn, 30, OF
It seems shocking that Bourn is still a free agent, but I think I understand it. You know exactly what you're going to get with Bourn, but there is probably a divide on how valuable that really is. Per fangraphs, Bourn has been worth a minimum of 4.1 WAR in each of the last four seasons. Last year with the Braves, he was actually worth 6.4 WAR, one of the most valuable position players in baseball. However, a large chunk of that is tied to his 22.4 UZR in the field and there's still plenty of question about the value of UZR or any other defensive metric.
If you didn't count defense at all, what would you have? A player that hit .274/.348/.391, 9 HR, 42 SB, 10% BB, 22% K. Now, what is that worth? You wouldn't deny that he's got value but you definitely wouldn't say that he's one of the most valuable hitters in baseball. Not to mention the fact that a team is likely going to have to give up a draft pick to sign him and that's probably been a sticking point in negotiations. It's not Bourn's problem that you have to give up a pick, but it's probably a problem to the team. At some point, Bourn and a team will reach a compromise, but what team?
There are plenty of rumored suitors: Braves, Rays, Mariners, Mets, Phillies, and even the Blue Jays for some reason. It's about time Toronto did something this offseason! The Mariners are likely out after acquiring Michael Morse. It would seem unusual for Tampa to make this kind of move. Philadelphia has an awful big payroll already for a .500 team but it's been awhile since they've signed someone over 30 to a big contract. Right now it seems that the Phillies or Braves make the most sense and when he does sign, he should be worth what he's always worth in fantasy: a lot of runs and a lot of stolen bases. And that's about it. His nine home runs in 2012 was an anomaly, he had 13 career home runs going into the year.
Johnny Damon, 39, OF
Two seasons ago, Damon actually hit 16 HR and stole 19 bases for the Rays. However, he's pretty bad now. I just want to say that if Damon managed to stick around long enough to collect the 231 hits needed to reach 3,000 for his career, it would basically eliminate any "rule" that 3,000 hits was an automatic bid to the Hall. Johnny Damon is not a Hall of Fame baseball player.
Chone Figgins, 35, 3B/2B/OF
It's probably entirely unfair for people to tie the fear of signing Bourn to a big contract to the career of getting Figgins, but it certainly has something to do with him staying on the market this long.
Someone is going to invite Figgins to Spring Training. Over the last two seasons, Figgins has played in 147 games and come to the plate 507 times. He has hit .185/.249/.253 with 90 strikeouts, 40 walks, and 15 stolen bases. He's quite possibly the worst hitter in baseball, but certainly some team will look at him as a possible super utility that just needed to get out of Safeco.
Many players hit in Safeco. Chone Figgins was the only one that literally could not hit.
Freddy Garcia, 36, RHP
The Mariners once traded Randy Johnson for Garcia, Carlos Guillen, and John Halama. They sent Guillen to Detroit after awhile and then sent Garcia to the White Sox for Michael Morse, Miguel Olivo and Jeremy Reed. The M's brought in Guillen to ST last year before he retired. They brought back Olivo after awhile and now he's gone and teams should probably force him into retirement. They brought back Morse less than a week ago. I don't know what any of this means, but Seattle still needs a fifth starter.
I wonder if Reed is interested in another comeback with Seattle. (Signed with the Diamondbacks on a minor league contract.)
Travis Hafner, 35, DH
You might think that it's just about time to give up on Hafner after he hit .228 last season, but don't be so quick to judgment. How would you like it if I judged you based on that shirt you're wearing right now? Maybe it's laundry day and all you had left was one Tommy Bahama shirt that your grampa bought you for Christmas two years ago.
Hafner hit .280/.361/.448 with 13 HR in 94 games in 2011.
Hafner hit .228/.346/.438 with 12 HR in 66 games in 2012.
He actually walked more in 2012, struck out less, had a higher ISO (.210 compared to .169) and his BABIP dropped from .332 to .233. All things being equal, if Hafner was a DH in 2013 and played in 110 games, it's not out of the realm of possibility to see him hit .270/.360/.460 with 15 HR and 60 RBI. That's not a lot but it's probably more than you would have expected out of him.
Jair Jurrjens, 26, RHP
It's really rare that you ever see a 26-year-old hit the free agent market one year removed from being an All-Star and receive almost no interest. Jurrjens went 13-6 in 2011 with a 2.96 ERA for the Braves. He posted an ERA of 6.89 in ten starts in 2012 and was demoted to the minors where he had a 4.98 ERA in 14 starts but struck out just 4.9 batters per nine innings and allowed 9.8 hits per nine.
The Rockies are reportedly interested because why wouldn't they be. Jurrjens will play for the Netherlands in the WBC and try and prove that 2012 was flukier than 2011. He was never an exciting prospect but he won 27 games over his first two seasons and posted a 2.60 ERA in 2009, so there's optimism that at his age there is plenty of time for him to be a perfectly-fine #4 starter.
Coming up next time: The rest of these guys.