It's always tough for a player when he hits free agency coming off an injury, but it's even tougher when it's a major injury. That's exactly what happened to Xavier Nady last winter, when he was recovering from his second Tommy John surgery after coming to the plate just 29 times for the Yankees in 2009.
The Cubs rolled the dice and signed Nady to a one-year deal worth $3.3MM in late January, though incentives based on games started and plate appearances have put another $350K in his pocket this season. Let's break down his stock heading into free agency…
- After a slow start, Nady has rounded into form down the stretch, hitting .317/.351/.423 in his last 131 plate appearances. Not coincidentally, that hot streak almost directly coincides with the trade of Derrek Lee, which is when Nady took the first base job outright.
- He's now more than a full year away from his surgery and hasn't shown any ill effects.
- Nady is versatile, capable of playing first and both outfield corners regularly, as well as third in an emergency.
- He is not projected to be a Type-A (or even a Type-B) free agent, meaning a team would not have to surrender a draft pick to sign him if the Cubs offered him arbitration after the season.
- Always known for his ability to mash lefthanded pitching (.298/.369/.455 vs. LHP in his career), Nady has hit just .250/.295/.375 against southpaws this year.
- He's also striking out more than ever, in exactly 27% of his at-bats, and his power numbers are down as well; Nady's .380 slugging percentage is his lowest since 2003.
- He hit just .225/.298/.344 in 171 plate appearances before taking over at first base full-time, perhaps suggesting that he needs regular playing time to remain productive.
- Nady will turn 32-years-old this November, so he's teetering on the edge of his prime and decline phases.
Despite what shaped up to be the worst season of Nady's career, he still has value as a platoon player that won't fall on his face if pressed into full-time duty. It would appear that staying in the NL makes the most sense, but perhaps the more hitter friendly parks of the AL would benefit Nady the most. There's no reason to think he'll be able to find a multi-year deal or get a considerable raise on the open market, so I would expect him to sign for a contract very similar to what he agreed to last winter.