Olney On Saunders, Hairston, Hanrahan, Howell

In today's column, Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) looks at the best second-tier and third-tier free agents remaining.  Here's a look at the highlights..

  • Joe Saunders is receiving interest from four clubs and the Orioles have ramped up their efforts to retain him.  It seems Saunders would be in position to get more than the two-year, $15MM deal signed by Joe Blanton.
  • Scott Hairston is looking for a significant raise over the $1.1MM he earned last season and he might wind up being too rich for the Mets' blood.  Jonny Gomes is a similar player and got $10MM over two years from the Red Sox.
  • Some teams see the significant increase in walks allowed last season by Joel Hanrahan as a red flag.  After posting a 2.1 BB/9 rate in 2011, Hanrahan jumped to 5.4 in 2012.  There is also some concern among rival evaluators that his diminished control is a sign of an arm issue.  Hanrahan would argue that the control problems may have stemmed from the inconsistent save chances that a Bucs closer gets.
  • Free agent reliever J.P. Howell should sign soon, perhaps with the Nationals.  Other interested clubs include the Phillies, Cubs, Mariners, and Rangers.
  • Travis Hafner would be a classic make-good guy to bring to spring training, but he won't fit all rosters because he can't play a position.
  • Executives have reservations about Lance Berkman, including his health, overall shape, and motivation to play.
  • Some have said that the Cubs overpaid for Edwin Jackson ($52MM over four years), but new financial restraints in the draft and international market have forced clubs to pay more.  In short, the Cubs basically paid the going rate for a 29-year-old healthy pitcher of his caliber.


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