Defense Hits The Market

This upcoming free agent class has generally been derided as one of the weaker groups in recent history. After seeing the likes of CC Sabathia and Derek Lowe hit the market last winter, this group lacks the same pizazz. However, there is one area where this group of free agents is particularly strong – defense. Those in the market for premium defensive players will have a lot of options this winter.

Need a second baseman? Placido Polanco is arguably the best defensive player at the position in baseball. Felipe Lopez can field the position fairly well, too.

Shortstop? Jack Wilson, again perhaps the best defender at the position in the game, may be available (if the Mariners don’t pick up his pricey $8.6 million option). Even if Wilson doesn’t hit the market, Adam Everett will be available.

Third base is more loaded than any others. Adrian Beltre, Chone Figgins, Pedro Feliz, and Joe Crede are among the very best glove guys in the game at the hot corner.

How about the outfield? Mike Cameron, Randy Winn, and CoCo Crisp (assuming KC turns down his option) will be available.

That is a lot of premium defenders all hitting the market at the same time. Last year, we saw a glut of players with the opposite skillset – big power hitters who belong at DH. Teams forced those guys to take huge pay cuts, though it’s tough to determine how much of that was the recession and how much was a new appreciation for defense.

This winter will be a better test. Defense has been remarkably undervalued for the last decade or so, but it’s making a comeback, thanks to the successes of teams like Tampa Bay and Seattle. With a surplus of elite defenders all becoming free agent eligible at the same time, we’ll get a better view of just how much the value of defense has shifted in the eyes of major league baseball teams.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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