Every free agent class has positions of strength and weakness. For reasons that are nothing more than cyclical, there’s always a group of similar players who hit free agency at the same time. This year is no different – there is one player type that is found in abundance, and that is the Overrated Run Producing Out Fielder Who Sucks At Defense. The ORPOFWSAD is the new black.
Obviously, the main attraction is Manny Ramirez. His monster finish to the year in Los Angeles has Scott Boras calling him a franchise player and talking about a contract that runs into his 40s. Manny can obviously still hit – Marcel has him projected at a .389 wOBA, which translates into 30 runs above an average hitter over 600 plate appearances, but his defense is miserable. Even if you charitably call it -15 runs over a full season, he’s giving back a huge chunk of his value with his lack of range. While Manny may get paid like a superstar, in reality, he’s more like a +3 win player.
For those who aren’t into the Manny Being Manny show, you can move right along to Adam Dunn. Like Manny, he can hit (Marcel projects a .372 wOBA), but his defense is miserable and he really should sign with an AL team where he can DH. Since he’s not as good a hitter as Manny but has similar struggles in the field, he ranks as a league average player (+2 wins compared to replacement level). You can bet he’ll get paid more than the $10 million or so he’s worth, though.
For owners who don’t want Manny’s antics or Dunn’s strikeouts, have no fear, there’s always Pat Burrell. Like Dunn, he makes up for a low average with a lot of walks, and he’s a pretty solid offensive player whose defense makes him a league average player overall. Not a bad guy to have on your roster, but if teams continue to overpay for RBIs like they have in the past, he’s not going to earn his money for his next employer.
If that’s enough options, or you just don’t like any of those three, Bobby Abreu might appeal to a team that wants a guy who can get on base and has some power. He isn’t the longball threat that the first three are, but he’s every bit as bad with the glove. He’s a decent enough hitter (Marcel projects him at .357 wOBA), but not good enough to be more than a slightly below average player.
Last, and probably least, Raul Ibanez has been lumped in with this group despite being a massively inferior hitter. He hits for a higher average, but he doesn’t have the same kind of power or patience as the others, and Marcel projects him for just a .344 wOBA in 2009. Combined with atrocious defense, Ibanez is a below average player in the +1 to +1.5 win range, but his reputation as a good clubhouse guy, hard worker, and run producer will get him a contract that he just doesn’t have the ability to live up to.
Historically, this player type gets paid very well in free agency. Guys like Carlos Lee and Jose Guillen have cashed in the last two winters, and their teams have simply not benefited from their presence as much as they expected, because this is probably the single most overrated player type in all of baseball. The good hit/bad glove corner outfielder is simply not an impact player, and almost always commands more money than they are worth.
If you find your favorite team bidding for one of these guys, you have my sympathy.
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