It should be no surprise that a light hitting, great fielding third baseman with back problems is having trouble getting play in this market. Joe Crede hardly warrants a second look, after all, compared to Chone Figgins, Adrian Beltre, Mark DeRosa, Troy Glaus, and Pedro Feliz. Figgins, Feliz, and Beltre are all great defensive players. Figgins and Beltre are better hitters than Crede, and Feliz isn’t as injury prone. DeRosa and Glaus can outslug Crede.
This means that Crede could once again be a great target for some team to swoop in and steal for cheap. Despite only playing in 90 games last year, his great fielding (+12.5 UZR) was enough for him to be worth nearly 2 wins, making him well worth the 2.5 million dollar contract the Twins signed him to. FanGraphs has UZR data dating back to 2002. Crede has posted a positive UZR in each of those 8 seasons, and has never posted a UZR below +3.8.
His hitting is more suspect. Crede’s career BABIP is .249, well below the major league norm of .300. Part of this can be attributed to his fly ball tendency, as the fly ball has the lowest BABIP of any batted ball type. He also has minimal speed — as his 4 SB/12 CS and 5 career 3B in 10 ML seasons suggest — which would lower his BABIP on the ground ball. Still, 2007 and 2009 were still unlucky years for Crede, as both years saw BABIPs near .230. 2007 also saw an extremely low HR/FB rate for Crede. 2008 is probably the more representative year for Crede, as his .242 BABIP and 10.8% HR/FB were right near career norms, and his wOBA was .330.
In summary, Crede is certainly capable of posting wOBA’s near average. Bill James projects him at -7 RAA/600 PA, and CHONE projects him at -3. Either way, Crede’s fielding at a premium position makes him average at worst. Even if he only manages 300 plate appearances, he can provide nearly 5 million dollars worth of value. It’s unlikely that he sees a substantial raise over his 2009 salary. Given his skill and his lack of leverage given this year’s 3B market, that makes him a perfect candidate for a low-risk, incentive-laden deal for a team that needs to shore up its 3B situation.