|Free Agent Bargains|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on December 08, 2008
A Google search will tell you who the most expensive free agents will be this offseason: CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Mark Teixeira and Derek Lowe. But just because they sign for the gross domestic product of third-world countries doesn’t mean they’re going to produce. Here are a few free agents teams should sign for bargain prices. (Note: By no means is this a comprehensive list, but rather a look at a few free agents.)
OF Bobby Abreu – While he may not be a bargain in the sense he’ll sign a cheap contract, Abreu could be a valuable No. 2 hitter for a contending team. He has always gotten on base and has a little bit of pop. Abreu has declined a bit defensively, but he was also a 20-20 player last season. It’s very likely he’ll be undervalued because of the perception of his recent decline, but people must keep in mind that batting eye is one of the last things to go. A team would be sage to sign him to a two-year deal worth around $20-24 million.
OF Rocco Baldelli – This one comes with a caveat because of Baldelli’s injury concern, but if he should overcome it, he’s a legitimate center fielder. Baldelli has a quality glove and projected back in the day to be a Bobby Abreu-like (there’s that name again) player, providing a little bit of pop and speed. A team with in need of some outfield help, a team that quickly pops into mind is Cincinnati, should try to sign Baldelli for $2 million with incentives and hope that as he enters the prime of his career, Baldelli will reward it.
OF Milton Bradley – It may be difficult to think one of the better hitters in the American League will be a bargain, but the market just has not developed for him and teams may shy away because of his history of blowups. However, Bradley has shown the ability get on base (career OBP of .370) and hit for power (.457 career SLG). If someone could snag Bradley for $6-7 million per season over the next two or three seasons, that could turn into a steal.
RP Juan Cruz – There has been a little bit of discussion about Cruz before, which probably limits the insight value of selecting him here. However, this right handed reliever has the stuff to be a dominating guy out of the bullpen. He averaged over 12 strikeouts per nine innings last season and should be given the closer’s role on any number of teams. His price range will likely be a little less than Bradley’s only because he has never closed over an extended period of time before, but he deserves to.
2B Ray Durham – Yes, he’s 37 years old and can’t field worth a lick, but Durham still gets on base and has decent power for a second baseman. There are many offense-starved teams that should take a gamble on him and hope he can provide enough walks to continue making himself in the No. 2 slot of the lineup. There’s bound to be something left in his tank, but probably just one more good season.
SP Freddy Garcia – There were some concerns about Garcia’s shoulder after he left a Venezuelan League start, but that problem should be behind him soon. Garcia, who pitched okay in three late-season starts with the Tigers, should be on people’s radar screens. It wasn’t that long ago that he was a quality pitcher and next season he will likely be back there again. In a market where Mike Hampton signed a two-year deal, Garcia won’t cost much more than that in guaranteed money.
DH Jason Giambi – His batting average probably will never be pretty again, but Giambi still can get on base and club the ball. His OBP last season was .373. Combine that with 32 home runs and a .502 slugging percentage, and you’ve got the makings of one solid DH for a small-market team. The Tampa Bay Rays make a ton of sense here, but maybe another team, like the Angels or (if he’s cheap enough and probably won’t be) the Twins, could make sense.
SP Carl Pavano – This is probably going to draw a few surprises, but Pavano has a legitimate chance to surprise some people this season. It takes Tommy John surgery patients about 18-24 months to get back to where they were pre-surgery, which means Pavano should be about right toward the beginning of the 2009 season. If a team could sign him to a Mike Hampton-like incentive-laden deal, there is an opportunity to have a quality No. 3 or 4 starter rather cheaply.