2007 MLB Free Agents Rumors

2007 MLB Free Agents: Designated Hitters

Updated 12/23/06

There are a few players I haven’t covered in my free agent position breakdowns yet – those who are purely designated hitters.

2007 League Averages
AL: .264/.349/.469

In other words, your DH should hit something like Ryan Zimmerman did this year at the least.  I’m going to leave out DH candidates like Barry Bonds and Mike Piazza, as I’ve covered them elsewhere.

Carl Everett – The Mariners made the laughable decision to sign Everett for essentially $4MM to be their DH in 2006.  He was terrible, posting a .657 OPS in 92 games before being waived in August.  Everett may retire.

Dmitri Young – Before the season began, Young lost some weight and hoped to spend time in the corner outfield positions and maybe even third base.  He strained his quad in spring and was on the DL in April.  He came back in May, but the quad was still hurting him. 

Then his misdemeanor domestic violence charge came down on May 18th.  Young had choked his 21 year-old girlfriend.  He went back on the DL a few days later.  He missed his court date in June and a warrant was issued.  He eventually turned himself in and spent some time in AA.  Both Alcoholics Anonymous and Double A. Young came off the DL in late July.  Despite hitting well, Young was released in September and later described as a clubhouse cancer.  I wonder what his World Series share will be.  He’s taken the rest of the year off and will come cheap for his age 33 season in ’07.

Available Impact Hitters

The offseason hasn’t even begun, but already we’re hearing all sorts of teams are anxious to open their pocketbooks/prospect vault to acquire an impact hitter.  The Angels, Cubs, Astros, and a host of others have money to burn.  Let’s take a look through all of the available impact hitters, whether via trade or free agency.  The players are ranked by their 2006 VORP.  VORP is a good stat to use as it takes a player’s position into account when ranking offensive performance.

5. Miguel Cabrera – And next year is his age 24 season.  Miggy made $472K in 2006 but will reach arbitration for the first time this winter.  His salary could jump to the $7-10MM range.  My feeling is that the Fish will choose to build around Cabrera, a Hall of Fame talent.

12. Miguel Tejada – The other Miggy makes $12MM in ’07, $13MM in ’08, and $13MM in ’09.  He’ll be 31 next year and will never shake off the steroid rumors.  His age and related possible decline are worrisome, but his durability is rare.  If the Orioles sign Alfonso Soriano, will that compel them to keep Tejada or trade him?

14. Manny Ramirez – Owed $39MM over 2007-08, Manny is no bargain.  But if anyone deserves that kind of cash, it’s a guy who hits .300/.400/.600 every year.  He’ll be 35 next year and may be best served at DH.  Still, Manny would make a huge difference for any club.  The Red Sox would have a hard time replacing that offense.

19. Vernon Wells – What’s best for the Blue Jays – to try to get a couple of young studs for Wells, or to just let him play out the string for a mere $5.6MM and take the draft picks?  Ricciardi could always wait until June or July to make that decision.

29. Alex Rodriguez – What more can be said about A-Rod?  Recent rumors have the Cubs in the game because of A-Rod’s man-love for Lou Piniella.  A new team would be on the hook for about $16 mil annually over the next four seasons, and Rodriguez is worth it.  Most folks think any deal would require a slew of Major League-ready talent.  There’s really no good reason for the Yankees to trade him.

30. Alfonso Soriano – Sori has been labeled the Cubs’ #1 target.  They’d like to use him as a center fielder, an idea I like.  We all know the price tag will be massive for whoever gets Soriano for his age 31-35 seasons.  At least you don’t have to trade your best young players for him.  A lot of players start taking more walks as they get older, so last year was a good sign.

32. Andruw Jones – Jones’s situation is kind of similar to Wells, but Jones isn’t underpriced at $13.5MM next year.  Boston tried to trade for Jones this summer, but now Jones has veto power.  One facet of his game that shouldn’t be overlooked is his durability – he’s played at least 153 games each year since 1997.

33. Gary Matthews Jr. – Matthews could be a relative bargain considering that he plays center field well and might be had on a three-year pact.  Red flags: he’s 32 next year, ’06 was a career year, and he may be less than durable.

37. Ray Durham – That’s right, Ray Ray was more valuable than Barry Bonds in 2006.  The Giants would like to bring him back for his age 35-36 seasons.  He’s always got aches and pains but stayed pretty healthy the last two seasons.  His .538 SLG this year was by far a career high.

37.5. Carlos Lee – Combining El Caballo’s VORPs from the Brewers and Rangers puts him here, 10th among available impact hitters.  He’ll be 31 next year, and has been connected to the Cubs for some time.  Lee is not quite the offensive beast his recent RBI totals would have you believe, but he’d be an upgrade in left for a lot of teams.

38. Barry BondsNot many players can get on base 45% of the time.  An offseason of rest might allow Bonds to remain in the NL…or maybe that’s just his agent talking.  A big plus here is the low commitment of years.

40. Ichiro Suzuki – Consider him a full-time CF for ’07, and he’d move several ranks upward on this list.  Ichiro is a fine leadoff man and defender, but is he really even available?

41. Aramis Ramirez – Is Aramis lazy, or does he just kind of look that way?  What do we really know about his work habits?  Jim Hendry hopes to retain him, as the free agent market for 3Bs is slim otherwise.  He’s still on the right side of 30.

44. Michael Young – Miscast as a shortstop, but Young has very good power for an infielder and gets on base decently.  He’s also been durable.  He’ll be 30 next year, and Jon Daniels could deal him to shake things up.

46. Carl Crawford – Plenty of teams would love to have him for his age 25 season, especially the Mets.  The Devil Rays have an outfield surplus, so a trade for young pitching makes sense.

49. Frank ThomasThe A’s offered two years, $8MM, not all guaranteed.  Frank scoffed.  His resurgence was impressive, but he’ll be 39 next year.

Just missed: Mark Teixeira, Rocco Baldelli, Julio Lugo, Todd Helton, Rich Aurilia.

2007 MLB Free Agents: Moises Alou

I’ve recommending that about ten teams should look into signing Moises Alou this winter.  I think all of the praise for him warrants a closer look.

Alou will enter his age 40 season in 2007.  All sorts of injuries limited him to just 221 games with the Giants for the life of his two-year, $13.25MM contract.  Despite making only 378 PAs this year, Alou was the 9th best RF in the game according to VORP.  He played left field in ’05, and his offensive output ranked 6th at the position.

The Fielding Bible described Alou’s work in left as adequate, as his speed, range, and arm do not impress.  I can only imagine what they’d say about his work in right field, a tougher position.

It seems clear that Alou would benefit from designated hitting.  It’d be his first time with an AL team.  Alou’s .571 slugging percentage in 2006 was best among all free agent hitters with 300 PAs, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano included.  The beauty of Alou is that his deal would probably be for just one year.  Low risk, high reward, just like Frank Thomas was entering this season.

Almost any AL team could make use of Alou at DH.  The only teams I’d rule out for sure are the White Sox, Devil Rays, and Royals.  The latter two because they’re not a few pieces away from contending, and the Sox because Thome can’t move to first.  It follows that the Red Sox and Indians are unlikely suitors, as Hafner and Ortiz are pretty well entrenched at DH.  I’d still leave those two in the mix as Ortiz and Hafner could still be used at first.

If we take those five teams out we have the Orioles, Blue Jays, Yankees, Tigers, Twins, Angels, A’s, Mariners, and Rangers.  I’ve yet to find whether Alou has made any indication on whether he intends to play in 2007; maybe some Giants fans can help out. 

On a mildly related note, here is Matt Cain‘s face on a tortilla.

Torii Hunter’s Option Exercised

As expected, the Twins exercised Torii Hunter‘s $12MM 2007 option today.  Next year will be his age 31 season.  Baseball Prospectus projects his value at just $3.55MM for 2007.  On this one I will have to disagree with the numbers; I would exercise the option with little hesitation.

The Twins still have roughly $13-15MM to spend this winter; here are the team needs.

With Hunter off the market, the likely free agent center fielder options are:

Jim Edmonds
Gary Matthews Jr.
Juan Pierre
Dave Roberts
Kenny Lofton
Steve Finley
Darin Erstad

2007 MLB Free Agents: Starters

Let’s look at the stat leaders among the 2007 free agent starting pitcher class.

Want someone who’s plain tough to hit?  Good luck with that.  With BABIPs adjusted to the league average, here are the best free agent pitchers in hits per nine innings.  The following group allowed fewer than a hit per inning.

Jason Schmidt
Ted Lilly
Barry Zito
Mike Mussina
Gil Meche
Roger Clemens
Byung-Hyun Kim
Andy Pettitte
Vicente Padilla

Best control?  Here are the rankings.

Carlos Silva
Greg Maddux
Jeff Weaver
Woody Williams
Roger Clemens
Jamie Moyer
Jason Johnson
Aaron Sele
Brian Moehler

Home run prevention?  These guys rank the best in a stat I call Expected Home Runs per Nine.  I adjusted the normal HR/9 with a standard HR per flyball rate.

Randy Wolf
Jason Johnson
Mark Mulder
Jamey Wright
Greg Maddux
Andy Pettitte
Shawn Chacon
Miguel Batista
Sidney Ponson
Roger Clemens

These are your best bets to miss bats.  Strikeout rate leaders:

Roger Clemens
Ted Lilly
Mike Mussina
Jason Schmidt
Gil Meche
Byung-Hyun Kim
Andy Pettitte
Vicente Padilla
Randy Wolf

Here are the free agent starters with the best command (K/BB).  Brad Radke excluded.

Roger Clemens
Greg Maddux
Jeff Weaver
Andy Pettitte
Rodrigo Lopez
Jason Schmidt
Vicente Padilla
Carlos Silva
Chan Ho Park

Looking for a horse?  These guys averaged more than six innings per start.

Jason Schmidt
Barry Zito
Jamie Moyer
Jamey Wright
Chan Ho Park
Miguel Batista
Greg Maddux
Mike Mussina
Andy Pettitte
Vicente Padilla
Rodrigo Lopez
Woody Williams

2007 MLB Free Agents: Hitters

I’ll begin work on my Top 50 Free Agents list soon.  I made one last year; it had its ups and downs.  A lot of fun.

Today, though, we’ll take a look at the best the free agent market has to offer depending on your offensive needs.

Need power?  Teams like the Astros, A’s, and Padres could use some pop.  Here are the 2007 MLB free agents with the highest slugging percentages this year.

Moises Alou – .571
Aramis Ramirez – .561
Alfonso Soriano – .560
Barry Bonds – .545
Frank Thomas – .545
Carlos Lee – .540
Ray Durham – .538
David Dellucci – .530
Greg Norton – .520
Rich Aurilia – .518
Nomar Garciaparra – .505
Mike Piazza – .501

I drew the line at 300 plate appearances; that’s why Wes Helms didn’t make the cut.  I think the above list shows that you can find some power on the free agent market without spending $60MM+.  Old, undependable power, but still.

How about on-base percentage?  The Cubs, Giants, and Mariners could use some guys who clog up the bases.

Barry Bonds – .454
Frank Thomas – .381
Frank Catalanotto – .376
Greg Norton – .374
Kevin Millar – .374
Trot Nixon – .374
Gary Matthews Jr. – .371
David Dellucci – .369
Nomar Garciaparra – .367
Scott Spiezio – .366
Gregg Zaun – .363
Ray Durham – .360
Kenny Lofton – .360
Dave Roberts – .360

But what if you don’t buy all those OBPs, because of the fluctuation of batting averages?  These guys had the best walk rates.

Barry Bonds – 23.3%
Frank Thomas – 14.5%
Trot Nixon – 13.3%
Jim Edmonds – 13.0%
Gregg Zaun – 12.1%
Kevin Millar – 11.7% (also gets hit by pitches!)
Scott Spiezio – 11.5%
Todd Walker – 10.9%
Travis Lee – 10.8%
Greg Norton – 10.5%
Frank Catalanotto – 10.4%
Luis Gonzalez – 10.3%

Maybe your GM has some misguided desire to add speed?  These are the guys who stole at least ten bags.

Juan Pierre – 58
Dave Roberts – 49
Alfonso Soriano – 41
Kenny Lofton – 32
Julio Lugo – 24
Adam Kennedy – 16
Craig Counsell – 15
Miguel Cairo – 13
Carlos Lee – 12
Gary Matthews Jr. – 10
Alex Cintron – 10

Daisuke Matsuzaka Video

A little more on Japanese hurler Daisuke Matsuzaka.  Check out this video of him throwing his various pitches.  It’s the best look I’ve had at his breaking ball.  It might be a screwball or something weird, but let’s remember that Jeff Passan has established that it’s not a gyroball.

When we last checked in, there was a 50/50 chance of Matsuzaka being posted by the Lions.  Here’s a rundown on the suitors:

This Boston Herald article informed us that the Red Sox, Yankees, and Mets are currently scouting Matsuzaka in Japan.  As of September 11th, his numbers looked like thisNewsday tells us the Mets will be aggressive in their pursuit.  The Rangers are scouting Matsuzaka as well.  The Orioles expressed interest in August.   

The Dodgers and Mariners are often linked to Matsuzaka, but I haven’t seen anything lately on those clubs.

2007 MLB Free Agents: Woody Williams

Last year, one of the "in the bag" free agent signings was Frank Thomas to the Athletics.  It had been long-rumored, and both sides wanted to make it happen.  This year, Woody Williams and the Astros may be a similar match.

Said John P. Lopez of the Houston Chronicle on August 31st:

"And that front-line starting pitcher the Astros will try to land come the winter? He’s out there, watching. His name could well be Woody Williams, the Padres starter and long-rumored Astros acquisition who’s apparently keen on making it happen this time."

Williams is thought to be intent on becoming an Astro because he is a Houston native.  If Williams is truly looked at as a front-line guy in this winter’s market, perhaps he won’t be the fourth starter for my All-Bargain Free Agent rotation after all.  Woody’s making about $5MM this year, and could be in line for a deal similar to the one Kenny Rogers received before this season.  Rogers inked a two-year, $16MM contract with the Tigers.

Baseball Prospectus projects Williams to be worth about $5.6MM from 2007-08, but you have to overpay for starting pitching.

Wells, Meche Giving Home Team Consideration

It’s a common refrain among impending free agents: "I’ll give my current team every chance to re-sign me before hitting the open market."  Recently, it’s been Vernon Wells and Gil Meche singing that particular tune.

Here’s the thing about Wells: he’s not an impending free agent.  He’ll be a free agent after 2007; he’ll earn $5.6MM next year.  The standard superstar practice is to start the contract negotiations a year early.  Almost as if the Blue Jays owe Wells something because he’s playing at a below-market price in 2007.  Which is silly, because it was the Jays taking on the risk of giving Wells a five-year, $14.7MM contract after one full season in the bigs.

Then there’s Gil Meche, whose career year should earn him the big bucks.  Among free agent starters, Meche has had the 15th best overall season so far according to Baseball Prospectus.  He owns the 7th best strikeout rate, 9th best ERA, and 13th best WHIP.  It’s the solid K rate and the fact that he just turned 28 that places Meche among the cream of the free agent starter crop.  The downside is that he’s yet to pitch 200 innings in a season.

In case you were curious, here are the top fifteen free agent starters ranked by 2006 VORP:

1. Jason Schmidt
2. Barry Zito
3. Mike Mussina
4. Roger Clemens
5. Tom Glavine
6. Andy Pettitte
7. Miguel Batista
8. Jamie Moyer
9. Vicente Padilla
10. Greg Maddux
11. Woody Williams
12. Ted Lilly
13. Brad Radke
14. Jeff Suppan
15. Gil Meche

2007 MLB Free Agent Market: Middle Relievers

Updated 1-9-07

Is there anyone useful left among the free agent relievers?  At this point, it’s a mixed bag.  Take a look at the available free agents.

Mike DeJean – He had shoulder surgery in June and barely pitched in 2006.  He was useful in 2005 so someone will bring him aboard.

Dustin Hermanson – The White Sox declined their $3.65MM option on him after his back limited him to less than seven innings with the big club this year.  The Yankees took a look at his medical records earlier this month.

Dan Kolb – Despite two full seasons of lousy pitching, the Cardinals, Marlins, and Rockies have been on his tail this winter.

Brian Meadows – Another guy who fell into some save opps when no one else was left.  He could be decent in the NL for a million bucks.

Arthur Rhodes – To his credit, Rhodes was used in high leverage situations this year.  He had a poor season in Philly, which ended with a strained elbow in September.  If he can come back healthy he might be worth a look.

Scott Schoeneweis – He’s left-handed, and he did good work in 15 inning stint with the Reds.  Maybe the Tigers will bring him aboard.

Rudy Seanez – Seanez had a rough year with the Red Sox and Padres, but his strikeout rate remained strong.  He’s approaching 40 but may have a little bit left.

Jorge Sosa – Under 30, won 13 games in 2005?  Why hasn’t Jim Hendry thrown $10 million at this man?  He doesn’t really have any skills to speak of.

Ron Villone – He didn’t accept the Yankees’ offer of arbitration.  The lefty’s stats look ugly but he was excellent in the first half.

A laundry list of projects.  I left Kent Mercker and Eddie Guardado off the list, as the Reds plan to invite them to spring training.