This winter, there’s a banner crop of free agents available. No, I’m not talking about Mark Teixeira, Ben Sheets, or CC Sabathia, the guys who will get the most money in their new contracts. I’m talking about a group of free agents who share something beyond expiring contracts – a space reserved in Cooperstown. Today, both of my posts here will look at the remarkable crop of certain Hall of Famers that will be filing for free agency this offseason. We’ll start with the hitters.
Ivan Rodriguez, Catcher – .288/.339/.477, 3.80 WPA/LI
Without a doubt, Pudge is one of the best catchers of all-time. A defensive star who could also hit, he’s had a great career that has spanned 17 seasons, and over the years, he’s racked up impressive totals. He already has 2,500 hits and is 7 home runs away from 300. Among catchers since 1956, only Mike Piazza and Carlton Fisk have amassed a higher Runs Created total. Add in the defense, and he’s easily one of the best to ever don the tools of ignorance.
Manny Ramirez, OF – .299/.409/.590, 52.52 WPA/LI
Manny is in constantly in the news for the wrong reasons, and as happens every year, he’s back on the trade block as the Red Sox wonder if he’s worth the trouble he causes. He’s a defensive liability and a bit of a side show, but he’s also one of the best right-handed hitters of all time. Even after adjusting for the difference in offensive eras that they played in, his numbers stack up favorably with the likes of Henry Aaron. We haven’t see many better pure hitters in our lifetime, and despite the fact that his personality often overshadows his play, he’s a Hall of Famer.
Ken Griffey Jr, OF – .288/.373/.549, 52.13 WPA/LI
Despite the unfulfilled potential, the what-could-have-been-if-he-would-have-stayed-healthy questions, and the less than glorious return to his home town of Cincinnati, Junior is one of the all time greats. He earned the nickname The Natural at a young age for a reason, and always made the game seem easy. Even today, as his body betrays him, his swing still looks effortless as the ball sails off into the night sky. There can be no doubt that, when you watch him play, you’re seeing someone with a gift.
Frank Thomas, 1B – .302/.420/.588, 69.53 WPA/LI
Before Pujols, there was Thomas – the feared right-handed first baseman with prodigious power but also a remarkable command of the strike zone. The Big Hurt was the guy that pitchers couldn’t get out, and for a stretch in the mid-90s, he was the dominant offensive force in the American League. He’s 52 hits away from 2,500, has more than 500 home runs, and more walks than strikeouts. Even with more games spent as a DH than a first baseman, Thomas is an easy choice. Hitters this good live forever in upstate New York.
If you think this crop of hitters is impressive, wait until you see the pitchers.
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