While the free agent market for the upcoming offseason didn’t look overly appealing entering the current campaign, it appears even weaker now that several prominent contract-year players haven’t lived up to their previous standards in 2016. As seen on this list, plenty of impending free agents have endured rough seasons, but the six we’ll highlight have arguably hurt themselves the most.
Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays: Multiple reports during spring training indicated that Bautista, 36 in October, was seeking a long-term pact worth upward of $150MM. If that type of deal seemed like a pipe dream for Bautista back then, it should now be an impossibility. (In a poll conducted yesterday, just 13 percent of MLBTR readers pegged Bautista as the recipient of a free agent deal spanning four or more seasons.) From his out-of-nowhere 2010 breakout through last season, Bautista amassed 3,604 plate appearances and combined to hit a superb .268/.390/.555. Along the way, he accounted for 32.5 fWAR – the majors’ fifth-highest total among position players – walked almost as much as he struck out (15.9 percent to 16.0 percent), and hit 28 more home runs (227) than his nearest competitor, Miguel Cabrera.
The version of Bautista who laid waste to opposing pitchers for six straight years hasn’t been present this season. While he’s still controlling the strike zone with aplomb (60 unintentional walks against 65 punchouts), his .229/.350/.454 line through 380 PAs looks closer to average than to spectacular. Bautista has also gone on the disabled list twice this summer, which would be less alarming if not for his age. Although he vowed in March to defy traditional aging curves, the bottom line is that Bautista has since failed to approach his previous production and dealt with multiple injuries. Those realities don’t bode well for Bautista’s earning power, but he should still reel in a sizable contract from Toronto or someone else. Closing the season on a tear for the World Series-contending Blue Jays would certainly help his cause.
Carlos Gomez, OF, Rangers: Arguably no major leaguer has declined more over the past year than Gomez, who could have lined himself up for a $150MM payday with another excellent season, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes wrote in March. Gomez, whom Houston acquired from Milwaukee for a significant haul last summer, began the season with a .210/.272/.322 line through his first 323 PAs. The Astros then pulled the plug on the Gomez experiment in August, releasing him just over a year after they traded for the erstwhile star.
Gomez caught on with the Rangers shortly after the Astros parted with him, but a change of Texas scenery hasn’t led to anything resembling a turnaround. In his brief stint in Arlington, the 30-year-old has gone 1 for 19 at the dish with 10 strikeouts and no walks. Gomez has never been great at avoiding strikeouts, but the 32.2 percent rate he has put up this year is easily the highest of his career, and it’s 11 percent worse than his clip from 2015. He has shown minimal power in the process, thereby rendering his swing-and-miss spike all the more damning. A plus defender in previous years, Gomez has also experienced a drop-off in the field this season. While he has done well stealing bases (13 of 15), that alone isn’t enough to make the free-falling Gomez a valuable player these days. It also won’t be enough for him to garner much money in the offseason.
Andrew Cashner, SP, Padres: Dierkes placed Cashner seventh in his 2017 free agent power rankings entering the season, but the hard-throwing right-hander has since let down a pair of teams. Cashner came into the year as an obvious trade candidate for the rebuilding Padres, who ultimately dealt him to the Marlins in July. Before that happened, the soon-to-be 30-year-old weakened his stock by recording a 4.76 ERA, 7.65 K/9 and 3.42 BB/9 over 79 1/3 innings. Cashner’s pre-trade strikeout and walk rates were closer to average than poor, but they’ve trended toward the latter description with the Marlins (5.67 and 3.96). Moreover, the 29-year-old’s problems preventing runs have transferred to Miami, where he has logged a 4.61 ERA in 27 1/3 frames.
Cashner also compiled a below-average ERA of 4.34 across a career-high 184 2/3 innings last year, but metrics like FIP (3.85), xFIP (3.84) and SIERA (4.00) indicate that he deserved better. Not the case this season, though, as all three are right in line with his 4.73 ERA. Combine his dip in production with two DL stints, and it’s safe to say this has not been the 2016 either Cashner or teams that will hunt for front-line pitching during the offseason were hoping he’d have.
Brett Anderson, SP, Dodgers: Injuries have hindered Anderson for the bulk of his career, unfortunately, and this season has been more of the same. Last year was the first time the left-hander surpassed the 100-inning mark since 2010, and he set a career high with 180 1/3 frames of 3.69 ERA ball. Behind Anderson’s strong run prevention were a league-best 66.3 ground-ball percentage and a stingy walk rate (2.3 per nine innings). The Dodgers liked what they saw from Anderson in his first year in Los Angeles enough to tender him a $15.8MM qualifying offer after the season. Anderson accepted it, and another quality showing this year likely would have set him up for a more lucrative payday. The back surgery the 28-year-old underwent in March kept him on the disabled list until mid-August, though, and his two outings since returning have been nightmarish.
Anderson exited his Aug. 14 season debut after one inning with a left wrist sprain and then lasted just three frames in his next start before a finger blister sent him back to the DL. In the four innings he has pitched this season, Anderson has allowed 11 earned runs on 14 hits and three walks. Between that and the reemergence of his durability issues, this has been a disastrous contract year.
Colby Rasmus, OF, Astros: After slashing .238/.314/.475 with 50 extra-base hits (25 home runs) in 485 PAs in 2015, Rasmus accepted a qualifying offer to return to Houston for a second season. In hindsight, the Astros probably would have been better off waving goodbye to the 30-year-old. Despite a red-hot April, Rasmus has only managed a .211/.286/.352 line with 22 extra-base hits (12 HRs) in 368 trips to the plate. In fairness to Rasmus, it’s possible the ear cyst that has kept him out since early August has played a role in his unsightly numbers this year. Rasmus underwent ear surgery Aug. 10 and is on the brink of a return, meaning he’ll have an opportunity to conclude the season on a positive note. Still, with his offensive production having cratered, the high-paying, multiyear accord Rasmus is likely hoping to secure during the upcoming winter should be far out of reach.
Matt Wieters, C, Orioles: Like Anderson and Rasmus, things haven’t gone according to plan for Wieters since he accepted a qualifying offer last fall. Although Wieters has never quite lived up to his top prospect status, he has still been a highly useful contributor throughout his major league career. That hasn’t been the case this season, however, with Wieters having batted a career-worst .238/.292/.384 with 11 long balls in 366 PAs. Defensively, both StatCorner and Baseball Prospectus have given Wieters subpar pitch-framing grades, and the latter has also assigned him a minus mark as a blocker.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Just Another Fan
Small sample but Josh Reddick’s .359 OPS (not OBP) in 89 PAs in the big market of LA probably has done him little favors in getting that 4th year he wanted from Oakland.
Gomez could be an absolute steal on a one year prove it type deal this off season. Value is way down, but athleticism seems to still be there at this point.
Gomez could be another Desmond/cruz/trumbo steal
Cruz? He been doing good on for every team he’s been on Rangers, O’s and now Seatte.
His stock had been down because of steroids not lack of playing )).
A steal is a steal. The O’s snagged him for 8 million and got a 40 homer, 100 RBI bat that was an All Star, helped win the AL East, and made it to the ALCS. For 8 million, I’d call that a steal.
Just Another Fan
Cruz has been wildly underpaid for his output, and he has not fallen off due to age. Now you dock the money for PEDs for sure but agreed, he’s been a steal for every team he’s played on, regardless.
17 million for a guy who hit .300 with 44 homeruns last season is a pretty good deal comparing to cano who they were paying 24 mil to hit .280 with 22 homers even tho I still think the Cano deal is working out for Seattle.
I agree with your point. Gomez could be a great catch for someone looking for a comeback player of the year.
Gomez is one of the most disliked players in the league. That was bearable when he was producing but now he is an anchor. Rumor is he is a clubhouse distraction. He either has lost his concentration or has a medical problem. Either way he is a rich man who is not earning his pay. Do not compare him to Desmond. Desmond turned down a QO, a lot of money, and was a producer.. Cruz screwed himself and signed for less in Baltimore because of his agent. Texas offered more and he wanted to stay. That was on top of the steroid mess.
All that may be true, though it’s uncorroborated and as you state a rumor. Regardless, on a one year deal the risk is certainly worth the potential reward. Depending on the team taking the chance and the $ amount it comes out to, cutting him at some point in the season wouldn’t be that difficult to stomach if it didn’t work out.
It doesn’t sound from the Rangers camp like he’s one of the most hated players in the league. I don’t think they would’ve signed him if he was, so I don’t think that’s very accurate
Great comment and observation. I had similar thought I posted before I read yours, you can look a few after yours for my comment.
Why does this site have to be a negative nelly all the time. What about the other class like Justin morneau?
Did you read the title? A discussion on under performers. A negative subject.
What about Holliday with the Cards? I feel like they pick up his $17 million. Any thoughts? How about Wade Davis and his $10 Million option with Royals?
I don’t necessarily think the Cards pick up his 17m option, but I can’t really see him going anywhere either…
They will most likely decline his option, and resign him to a new deal …
No clue about Wade Davis…, but I hope the Royals decline so the Braves can pounce on him as he will probably as close to a gaurenteed as possible from a relief standpoint…I mean, other than Kenley or Aroldis, but they will undoubtedly put themselves in a situation where only a handful of teams can afford their services…all not named the Braves…Davis, while still expensive, should be a bit more affordable..
To see players like Bautista, Gomez and Rasmus have such down years, it makes my heart smile.
Also, bravo on the use of the word aplomb! Gold star for you, Connor!
Just Another Fan
“To see players like Bautista, Gomez and Rasmus have such down years, it makes my heart smile.”
If seeing people enduring hard times makes your heart smile, you are a horrible person.
The funny thing is Bats is having a “down year” with a wRC+ of 115 with a month to go. While it’s nearly impossible to get his numbers in line with the previous 5 seasons, there’s still plenty of time to see his numbers improve significantly.
Also, being happy over other’s misfortunes makes you a numpty.
I feel you can root for players to perform poorly, you just can’t root for them to get hurt. I’m not really rooting against anyone, but I would imagine they’re hated for A) bat flip, B) acting unprofessionally after a HR. Not sure about the Rasmus hate.
You can’t tell me Yankee fans don’t root for Ortiz to have a miserable season or Giants fans wish Kershaw was just a little less dominant. Again, I don’t think anyone in their right mind were rooting for an injury.
I love how bautistas still having a well above average season and it’s considered a down year
You know at some point I wish Baseball and maybe the people who cover it would just accept reality as fact and wishes as fiction.
The truth of Colby Rasmus, is that he’s had more bad seasons than good, more mediocre stretches with glimpses of potential and he’s 30 and an 8 year MLB veteran. That’s not a player worth thinking too hard about. The Cardinals figured it out, but everyone whined and said they were making a huge mistake trading someone with that much potential. It’s just a rough start to the year he’ll turn it around.
He sorta didn’t. He’s had two out of 6 above-average seasons, and one good season in eight years. He’s not worth a big contract when you could just slot in a AAA guy for less money on any team. I feel like MLB will wise up to these fringe “potential” 30 year old dudes and just cut them free sooner or later collectively.
Yeah, he could go on and have a great season with the A’s next year or some other team willing to throw him in the mix if their farm system is that terrible, I guess. But he probably won’t, and with the money involved these days why make that gamble? Just gamble on your own kids and maybe that 24 year old guy with a lot of potential turns into your breakout all-star instead?
Gomez is a malcontent with a Bad attitude. He gets all up in opposing teams faces when he isn’t doing well. Normally that might not be a bad thing but he’s the type of guy to stir up a team just waiting to be beaten. In my opinion any team signing him for more that 3mm and 1 year is crazy. He seems to explode at some point every season. Whoever signs him I just hope it’s not the Yankees.
At 36 why a team would give Bautista more than 3 years is crazy. Do you really want to pay a guy over 20mm when he’s into his 40s. He was a late bloomer and certainly a great player over the last 5 years but some of these guys need to come back to earth with their asking prices. Agents like Scott Boras are detrimental to the game. They squeeze every ounce of blood you have and desperate teams give in. While I certainly think Joeybats has something left, over 3 years is very risky.
I just don’t get the Boras hate. Would you prefer he not do his job? As soon as desperate teams stop giving in, the prices will come down. So long as teams are willing to bid, then prices will continue to rise. I think everyone knows by now that the length of these contracts especially is bad for teams, but someone usually gives in anyways. That’s their fault, not the player’s or his agent’s.
Joey bats wanted 150mil at 36. WTF is he smoking? he’ll get maybe 30 mil for 2 years with a third year option.
That was reported by a no name tsn employee. Jose shot down the report in spring when asked about it. Then Ken rosenthal I think said Bautista wanted more than the 150 and nothing’s really happened since. I highly doubt he ever asked for 150, during spring training 100 would realistically be the absolute max he’d get, and that’s on the open market, not from the jays
Joey Bats isn’t worth 20 million a year. What 36 year old bets on himself. Steroids is the only thing that can bring him back.