Free Agent Market For Designated Hitters

With so many quality hitters available to fill designated hitter jobs these days, it's embarrassing for a club to get subpar production out of the spot.  Demand might be high too, though – of the 14 American League teams, only the Indians are locked into a player they must use at DH.  Let's examine the free agent market.

Already Full-Time DHs

David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero, and Hideki Matsui each played at least 119 games at designated hitter this year, and won't be looking to transition back to regular field work.  The Red Sox could pick up Ortiz's $12.5MM option after a bounceback season.  Vlad's $9MM option with the Rangers is mutual, but expect the two sides to try to hammer something out after the World Series.  Matsui does not have an option.  The Angels may have to let him go if they'd prefer to move Bobby Abreu or Juan Rivera to DH.

Johnny Damon played 36 games in the outfield this year and 97 at DH.  With his slugging percentage down to .401 this year, he may be a tough sell for Scott Boras as a designated hitter.

Jim Thome picked up just 340 plate appearances this year, but had a big impact with a .283/.412/.627 line and 25 homers.  He's just 11 home runs shy of 600, and he'd like to return to the Twins.  The Twins also must decide on Jason Kubel's $5.25MM option.

Could Occupy Full-Time DH Roles

Manny RamirezLance Berkman, and Aubrey Huff spent much or all of their seasons in the National League.  Ramirez, whose .409 OBP was second only to Thome among free agents, seems a lock to seek a full-time DH job.  Berkman could still be a first base option.  Huff, the Giants first baseman, didn't DH at all this year but has plenty of experience in the role from his time with the Orioles and Rays.  Only Huff is coming off a strong contract year, but any of these three will help on offense.

Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell are a couple of free agents who prefer to play defense, so we won't consider them here.

Fighting For Playing Time

Ten hitters who figure to chase the best opportunity for playing time: Nick Johnson, Marcus Thames, Troy Glaus, Andruw Jones, Brad Hawpe, Jonny Gomes, Russell Branyan, Jose Guillen, Mark Kotsay, and Jorge Cantu.  Some of these guys can still play the field.  A few, such as Thames and Jones, are coming off solid part-time seasons.  Seven of them reached double digits in home runs.

Non-Tender Candidates

Jack Cust had a robust .395 OBP this year for the A's, but they could choose to go in a different direction.  He was non-tendered and then re-signed last winter, but was coming off a worse year.  The Rays have a couple of non-tender candidates in Willy Aybar and Dan Johnson.


American League teams such as the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Orioles could stay in-house at DH, but there are plenty of vacancies.  If Ortiz, Guerrero, and Thome are re-signed early, Manny, Berkman, and Matsui will become the best available.

15 Responses to Free Agent Market For Designated Hitters Leave a Reply

  1. Adam Dunn should be at the top of any list of designated hitters. He is not capable of playing any position in the field.

    • bjsguess 5 years ago

      Yet some team will pay him to play OF.

      The reality is that the market for solid DH’s is around $7m. A team can justify bringing in a guy like Dunn at $12m+ IF he can play the OF/1B.

      For the record, his 1B play this year wasn’t the worst out there. He might be able to transition to a full-time 1B and not kill your team.

      • DH is one of the stronger positions this winter on the free agent market, along with relief pitchers, and possibly first base. Add that there are only 14 teams, not 30 that need a DH, and you almost have a glut there. Some of those guys will be mis-cast as 1B/ OF types, others will have to take bench roles, others will take cheaper deals, and others will go golfing for the summer. It’s not like the market for outfielders or starting pitchers, at all.

  2. Encarnacion's Parrot 5 years ago

    Manny has stated that he’d rather DH to lengthen his career. Blue Jays, Twins, Rangers and Tigers would be my guesses for where he ends up.

    • moonraker45 5 years ago

      I dunno how much the jays trust Lind at 1b to go out and sign Manny.

      • Encarnacion's Parrot 5 years ago

        Well look at it this way, what do you see as being more productive as a whole:

        1B – Lind
        DH – Ramirez


        1B – Overbay
        DH – Lind

        I’ll take option #1 if Bautista plays 3B any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

        • moonraker45 5 years ago

          I’ll take my daughters tee ball coach over lyle overbay.

    • TwinsVet 5 years ago

      Not a prayer he lands in MN. Smith doesn’t even pick up the phone to check the price tag on that one.

  3. Glaus could be a value signing for some team needing a DH. He can’t play the field anymore due to him having some problems with his legs, but when he’s healthy the man can hit.

  4. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Braves take a chance with Andruw Jones. In his “part time” duty he posted better offensive numbers than any other outfielder on the Braves minus Heyward.

  5. shockey12 5 years ago

    It would make sense if the Jays signed a borderline DH/1B like Berkman and have him and Lind split time at first 50/50 between 1st and DH

  6. woadude 5 years ago

    I still dont know why people think the Red Sox are going to pay Ortiz 12.5 million dollars, that option is going to be declined and a small bidding war may take place but for no more than 7 million.

    • Big Papi had a nice line against RHP’s, with a 1.059 OPS, 30 Homers, and 78 RBI in 333 AB’s. He’ll get a tidy sum of money. Boston would be hard pressed to find a better DH on the free agent market.

      • cubfan4life 5 years ago

        I could see Boston possibly doing something along the lines of not picking up his option, especially since there is no buyout, and then resigning him to a 2 yr deal somewhere around 16-18M. If Ortiz wont accept a deal like that then you can either pay up for one more year and go out next offseason and pick up someone or decline the option and make your pitch to SD and MIL for either AGon or Fielder.

        Also a stopgap guy like Thome, Matsui, or Berkman could be serviceable for this year for far less than the 12.5M that would be due if the option was picked up.

        IDK if extending Ortiz is the way to go. I think that going through this year with a DH, whether its Ortiz or someone else, who is only signed through this year gives them the most flexibility. Cause it seems that bringing in a guy like Gonzalez is their priority and if you lock up money in Ortiz over 2 years then you are locked in to playing Youk at 3rd full time as opposed to using the DH spot as a spot to give guys rotating days off from the field.

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