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 Bonds – Not 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 Thomas – The 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.