Supply always exceeds demand in the market for designated hitters, since only 14 such jobs exist. Well-paid declining sluggers David Ortiz, Pat Burrell, and Travis Hafner seemingly have locks on three of those 14 spots for 2010. Three more will disappear if Mike Jacobs, Adam Lind, and Jason Kubel maintain their principal '09 roles. Plus, certain teams prefer to keep the DH spot open to give aging players a break. If the free agent hitters below can't muster up tolerable first base/left field defense and good health to match, they may be limited to eight or fewer open American League DH spots.
- Hideki Matsui leads DHs with a .369 OBP. Jim Thome is next at .367. Gary Sheffield is up there at .369, and he even managed 501 innings in the outfield this year. Manny Ramirez, should he decline his $20MM player option, might be best-served bringing his .422 OBP to the DH market.
- Manny would be the SLG leader at .559. Then we have Russell Branyan at .520, though he spent most of his time at first base in 2009. Next is Matsui at .515, Thome at .484, Vladimir Guerrero at .472, and Hank Blalock at .469. Aubrey Huff spent most of last season at DH and posted a .552 SLG.
- Carlos Delgado would be a wild card if the 37-year-old decides to make the transition from first base to DH. He hit .298/.393/.521 in 112 plate appearances for the Mets before going down for hip surgery.
- Vlad and Manny project as Type A free agents. Matsui, Huff, and Delgado project as Type Bs. Manny is the only Scott Boras client in the group.
- We have not been trying to predict non-tendered players or trade candidates in these free agent market discussions. But keep in mind that Jacobs, Jack Cust, and Milton Bradley may also be in the mix.
- Teams hold a clear advantage over those vying for DH jobs, so low-risk one-year deals should be the norm. Guerrero, an intriguing option after missing much of '09 with a torn pectoral muscle, could sign for two years or one year with an option.