Offseason Overpay Candidates

With the offseason quickly approaching, today I’d like to take a glance at a few guys that I feel are prime candidates to be overpaid in free agency this winter.

To clarify, I don’t necessarily mean they can’t/won’t perform to the $5 million per win above replacement level. They may well do that. However, I’d like to present these players with all things considered, such as relative price of an available alternative, platoon splits, compensation, or anything else to that effect.

With this said, here are a few of my offseason overpay candidates.

Wilson Betemit – Detroit Tigers 3B

The pickings are slim at third base, where Mr. Betemit has played exclusively since coming over from the Royals earlier this summer. To contextualize a little bit, there are only six third-sackers league-wide with a WAR over 3.0 — in other words, even fewer than the similarly-shorthanded second base and shortstop spots. As a result, even marginal talents like Betemit appear likely to reel in a more lucrative contract than usual in this third base housing market.

To be sure, the idea isn’t to bag on Betemit. A .288/.347/.416 triple-slash this season is certainly nothing to scoff at, and he does provide some versatility, having stood near six different positions over his career which has spanned parts of nine seasons. So what’s the rub on Betemit? Well, the big detractor for him going forward is that he’s completely outperformed a reasonable BABIP the last two seasons, with a .361 mark last year and a .396 to date in 2011. Absent any spike in line-drive rates, and still below his career ground-ball rate, Betemit appears ready to plummet back to earth any day now, and that’s even before considering that he’s whiffing well above his career rate of once every four plate appearances. He and his agent aren’t going to commandeer a Jose Reyes-esque contract, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t get some long-term security from someone. For a guy who’s donned six uniforms in a short career, that’ll certainly be welcomed. For a GM who expects him to deviate from his Felipe Lopezian career path? Well, that sailing might go less smoothly.

Michael Cuddyer – Minnesota Twins OF/IF

There’s a lot to like about Cuddyer. With Jim Thome out of the picture, he’s unparalleled as the nicest guy in the Twins clubhouse. He’s active in the community, plays through injuries, and is willing to operate whatever fielding glove skipper Ron Gardenhire politely asks him to. As a website that focuses primarily on statistical analysis, FanGraphs doesn’t tend to give too much credit these things typically. In all honesty, it’s unlikely they affect the on-field product much, if at all, but nonetheless, clubs find it noteworthy.

Coupling his reputation and his versatility, Cuddyer would appear to be well sought after on the market. Troy Renck, a Colorado Rockies beat writer for the Denver Post, has reported that Michael is at the top of the club’s offseason shopping list. Additionally, there were countless — though perhaps not as trustworthy — sources that suggested that the Twins fielded a number of calls on “Cuddy” to see if they could pry the versatile everyman from his longtime home prior to the non-waiver trade deadline last month, but to no avail.

So why am I insisting Cuddyer will be overpaid? Well, there are a couple reasons. First, while Cuddyer does play a number of positions, he doesn’t play any of them particularly well. So, while he’d likely hit way better than the aveage bear at second base, his defense would massively curtail his value. The one position that Cuddyer does grade out well at, first base, is a place in which his bat is grossly inadequate. Speaking of his bat, there’s a little disparity there, too. A .289/.356/.476 triple-slash is good for Cuddyer’s third best OPS of his 11-year career, but it comes with a 723/1077 RHP/LHP platoon split. Thus, 67.9 percent of Cuddyer’s plate appearances have come against right-handers, against whom he’s hit .270/.319/.404 against in 2011. Extrapolate to his whole career, and the split is a more palpable 760/877, but midpoint there from a corner guy just isn’t going to be worth the ~$10 million I would imagine he’ll be offered on the market.

Edwin Jackson – St. Louis Cardinals SP

Jackson’s been around forever, hasn’t he? The former number-four prospect in baseball, Jackson, like Betemit, has spent parts of nine seasons with six clubs, with each hoping it can refine his great potential into comparable results. So far, those results have been mixed, as Jackson’s career line to-date shows a 4.51 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, and a K/9 of 6.7, which ranks him right on par with noted contact guru Kevin Slowey. This paucity of strikeouts is certainly troubling for a young man who has struggled with the “thrower” distinction earlier in his career. In my view, someone who averages 94.2 mile with his heater (in addition to good offspeed deliveries) should probably miss a few more bats, and would cause me to look elsewhere with my free agency bankroll.

On a less-illuminating side note, the “similar list” pitchers that appear at BaseballReference.com for Jackson are also troubling. Names such as Frankie Rodriguez, Kyle Lohse, Jeff Weaver, Javier Vazquez, and Sidney Ponson all evoke different, although perhaps not that different emotions.

The one situation that may be best for Jackson is the exact one he’s in, under the tutelage of Dave Duncan. It’s easy to see that as the walks and strikeouts converge, Jackson becomes a much less effective pitcher. Of course, he’s just like any pitcher in that respect. It just seems a bit more magnified with a pitcher who struggled mightily with control early in his career, and still has less sporadic bouts with wildness. Nonetheless, whichever club takes a gamble on Jackson’s talent will certainly be banking on getting the Jackson from the second half of 2010 rather than the first (which I feel are the poles for him going forward). That’s not a gamble I think I’d take as an executive.




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In addition to Rotographs, Warne is a former Minnesota Twins beat writer for 1500 ESPN Twin Cities, and current sportswriter for Sports Data LLC in downtown Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Warne, or feel free to email him to do podcasts or for any old reason at brandon.r.warne@gmail-dot-com


88 Responses to “Offseason Overpay Candidates”

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  1. Pelly says:

    Papelbon!

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  2. Cole Train Hamels says:

    Don’t forget Cole Hamels. He is a great pitcher, probably a great #2 instead of a true ace. He isn’t a top 5 pitcher in the league like his numbers this year have shown, though. He should commandeer about 10 years, 250 million this offseason.

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  3. SF 55 for life says:

    michael cuddyer seems like a person Brian Sabean would overpay for. He was interested in him at the trading deadline, he can play multiple positions, he’s a “gritty veteran”.

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    • He’d be on my shortlist of GM’s I’d anticipate would overpay for Cuddyer.

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      • joshcohen says:

        i think you’ve id’ed a really interesting question with cuddyer.

        IMO you’re too quick to dismiss the multi-position thing. not because that makes him gritty or full of heart or whatever, but because he’s been playing out of position (not maximizing his personal value) for the past few years. you really can’t fault him for his manager’s or organization’s lack of luck/preparedness, can you? this kind of reminds me of polanco playing 2nd for the tigers all those years when he should have been playing 3rd.

        you should do a contract crowdsource on him.

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      • In my view it’s more of an extrapolation. He won’t magically get better in RF by simply playing there 150 games a year. At least not in my view.

        But, you bring up a great point and one that I’ll definitely bring up to the staff.

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  4. JimNYC says:

    All time greatest candidate for an offseason overpay: Russ Ford, who (had free agency existed at the time) utterly dominated through what would have been his last arbitration year… but then in the offseason MLB outlawed his signature pitch (which involved, uh, cutting the leather open with a razor), and he was out of the league.

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  5. SC2GG says:

    Jose Reyes will likely get paid as though he plays 162 games a year.

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  6. bluejaysstatsgeek says:

    And some schmuck of a GM will open the vault for Prince Feilder, who will earn his contract for about 3 seasons and having fans crying “Why? Why? Why?” for the next 5-7 seasons.

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  7. Dave says:

    Prince Fielder

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  8. drewcorb says:

    I agree Cuddy will be overpaid, and as a Twins fan, I hope the Twins aren’t the team that will do it. However, I think traditional fielding metrics short-change his skill in right field. He doesn’t have much range, but he has a strong arm and throws very accurately, even from the pitcher’s mound. He also plays balls off the wall really well. I don’t think that skill is reflected in any stats (correct me if I’m wrong), so I think he saves more runs than he is given credit for.

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    • He’s got a rocket of an arm, but that’s easily neutralized by not being run on as much.

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      • Cliff Lee's Changeup says:

        It is working if people aren’t taking the extra base. its valuable to keep people from trying to take the extra base, because it means they can’t take the extra base.

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      • I can’t speak to this statistically, but I feel like that makes his arm more of a ‘break even’ entity rather than a positive thing, if that makes sense.

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      • JTC says:

        So that means that stolen bases really aren’t worth much? And errors that allow extra bases have little negative value?

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      • JDanger says:

        I feel like that is an insane thing to say, “because his arm is so good, nobody takes the extra base. Therefore his great arm has no effect.”

        that’s nuts.

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      • JTC, I don’t know what point you’re trying to make.

        Austin, that would be pretty nuts, but that’s not what I’m saying.

        I’m saying that all of the value that he added by throwing people out is mostly neutralized by those players not attempting at taking the extra base. I’m suggesting, while that is a positive in and of itself, it then lessens the amount that his arm counteracts his lack of range in the outfield. Which is another way to go all the way around the block to prove my point, I suppose. Does that make sense, though?

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      • JTC, I don’t know what point you’re trying to make.

        Austin, that would be pretty nuts, but that’s not what I’m saying.

        I’m saying that all of the value that he added by throwing people out is mostly neutralized by those players not attempting at taking the extra base. I’m suggesting, while that is a positive in and of itself, it then lessens the amount that his arm counteracts his lack of range in the outfield. Which is another way to go all the way around the block to prove my point, I suppose. Does that make sense, though?

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      • JDanger says:

        So the baserunners not running as much brings the effect of his arm “closer to zero”, but it does not “make it zero”. I suppose I over-reacted to the word “nuetralize,” taking it to mean “make zero”.

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      • I don’t disagree. He ‘seems’ to pass the eye test as someone who watches the club play frequently (I live in Plymouth, Minn.).

        But with that said, last season the Twins’ rotation member that I checked out (as I recall, Baker, Slowey, and maybe it was Pavano) allowed much worse than league average triple-slashes on line drives and fly balls.

        I can only attribute that to poor LF and RF play. Denard Span by most accounts was sterling in CF.

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      • JTC says:

        Brandon,

        I am saying that the value of an extra base should be the same regardless of if it is taken (a steal), given (an error), or denied (a throw out, or simply a player doesn’t try when he normally would on Mr. Replacement Player. I am not saying that this would be very easy to quantify, but the intrinsic value should be the same. Therefore, to dismiss the fact that baserunners are less likely to take an extra base on Cuddyer as of minimal value equates to steals and extra-base errors as having the same minimal [absolute] value.

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      • JTC says:

        p.s. I realize that a throw out also involves an out, but, hopefully the point comes through.

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    • Bill says:

      His arm has been good for a whopping 6.9 runs over the course of his career. Perhaps more if you count the times when runners don’t challenge it. Still, his lack of range is only getting worse and probably far outweighs any “strong arm” benefit.

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      • The reverse Ben Revere?

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      • drewcorb says:

        A point I was trying to make is that although he has poor range, he still plays the position well. He is not clumsy and doesn’t often make avoidable “errors” by misplaying balls hit to right field. So although his fielding metrics are low, he is not nearly as poor of a fielder as they indicate.

        I realize my argument doesn’ t fit well on a statistical analysis website, but I typed it out already so deal with it.

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      • Bill says:

        As a fellow Twins fan, I’d really like to re-sign Cuddyer since he has at worst a heavy platoon value, and at best is a reliable bench guy for when the other china dolls on the team hurt themselves. But I know the Twins already place a premium value on his “leadership” and “grittiness” and “goes bowling with Gardyness” that they don’t need to also overvalue his truly average outfield arm.

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      • drewcorb says:

        Don’t forget about the magic tricks he does at Twins charity dinners. That’s easily worth another 1-2 million per year.

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  9. Matt says:

    Andre Ethier. Somebody’s gonna pay him, and he’s gonna be just as ‘meh’ as ever.

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  10. Gibbles says:

    Albert Pujols

    Sure he’s worth a ton now, and probably will be for a few years. But 4,5,6 years into his contract when he’s 35+ (ahem, 38+) and his elbow finally disintegrates? Somebody is going to have some buyer’s remorse.

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  11. John R. says:

    Can Francoer get grandfathered onto this list or something?

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  12. Havoc says:

    I will LoL if Betemit gets a lucrative deal.

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    • So will I, Javier. So will I.

      But honestly, I could see him getting three years from someone.

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      • The Nicker says:

        I gotta disagree with you on this one. His defense is atrocious. At all positions. And not atrocious in the sure-handed-but-no-range Jeter-esque way. More like atrocious in the booting-balls-everywhere-every-bunt-is-an-adventure E5-way.

        I will be very surprised if he gets 3 years from anyone, much less 3 lucrative years.

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    • I never said anything in regards to his defense. In fact, his “standing near x number of positions” was a subtle jab.

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      • The Nicker says:

        I got that, but teams aren’t going to pay somebody with a (perceived) slightly above average bat if they are truly awful at all positions.

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  13. MikeS says:

    I realize Dave Duncan is a Certified Wizard (TM) hut so was his last pitching coach – Don Cooper. So if Coop couldn’t turn him around, maybe Dunc can’t either.

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    • His 2010 run with Coop was probably his best stretch of baseball in his career.

      That, extrapolated (I feel like I’m using this word a lot) out over a contract would probably make him among the 5-10 most valuable pitchers in the game.

      There’s a lot of boom or bust potential with Jackson, but I just think as an exec. I’d expect it to be more bust.

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  14. MNzach says:

    @drewcorb

    You nailed it sir. Anyone who follows closely (or has season tickets in section 102, right field corner, like myself) can see that while his range is poor, his strong, accurate arm helps cover some of that ground. He is also a master at playing the tough bounces off the facade. He is abysmal at second and looks like his cleats were dipped in concrete prior to the game. He is improving at first but is merely average and as was stated before, the bat doesn’t play.

    I’m really worried as the stupid braintrust in Minnesota loves clubhouse guys and MN lifers so I think we’d love to overpay for him, that being said, I don’t think we have the coin lying around.

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    • Lots of money coming off the payroll in Minnesota after the season. Something could work out.

      But unless he’s willing to take ~5 million a year, if I were Bill Smith, I’d pass.

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  15. Colin says:

    Betemit is the worst defensive 3b I have ever seen!!

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  16. jetsfan28 says:

    Sorry to be off-topic, but curiosity is killing me… are you the same Brandon Warne as the one on PSD? If so, hope you’re doing well, I’m sure the Twins forum misses you. If not, you have no idea what I’m talking about, so I seem really strange right now.

    Anyway, good article. I could definitely see Betimit especially being considerably overpaid. Also, it seems like this list is made for Frenchy, who is almost a lock to get some decent money.

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  17. austin says:

    How can you say Cuddyer’s bat is “grossly inadequate” at first base? MLB first basemen have an OPS of .798 this year compared to Cuddyer’s .832.

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    • jim says:

      first you type out “cuddyer’s bat is grossly inadequate at first base” then hit publish

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    • If your prerogative would be to spend $10 million on a guy like that, well…..cheers to ya.

      But, my notion is that his platoon splits will become more disparate as he ages. That, and I think lefty mashers without any real position are easier to come by than $10 million and/or multi-year deals.

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      • austin says:

        What gave you the idea that I think he’s worth ten million? You might as well have asked me why I don’t marry Cuddyer if I love him so much. I’m trying to help you out – when you use needless hyperbole like “grossly inadequate” it makes me wonder if maybe you might not know what kind of offensive value to expect from an average MLB first baseman. Moreover, there’s no need for it as your overall argument is sound without it.

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  18. RC says:

    “in other words, even fewer than the similarly-shorthanded second base and shortstop spots”

    It seems like we hear this every year, which to me, says the positional adjustments aren’t nearly large enough. Too many 1Bs with extremely high WAR.

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  19. Mike K. says:

    Too be picky…there are actually nine 3B with 3+ WAR this year. Lower the cutoff for PA. That adds Beltre, Sandoval, and ARod. Since WAR is more of a counting stat rather than a rate stat, I don’t think we should limit it to qualifiers for rate-stat awards.

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  20. Great conversation starter, Brandon. Betemit doesn’t add anything to a team and it’s amazing he’s had this long of a career. But you’re right about the lack of third basemen.

    Another overpay might be Freddie Garcia after this season.

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  21. Ben says:

    Lance Berkman.

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  22. Ted Lilly says:

    Does anyone know why Shaun Marcum has a higher strikeout rate in 2011 as Edwin Jackson.

    Marcum 2011: 7.18 K/9, BB/9 2.55, HR/9 0.90. GB% 36.3%, FB/HR% 7.8%, FBv 87.6 mph

    Jackson 2011: 6.68 K/9, BB/9 2.75 HR/9 0.81. GB% 45.6%, FB/HR% 9.4 %, FBv 94.7.

    For comparison with ground balls and home runs, Ted Lilly has a similar GB% (34.7%), but his FB/HR% (12.4%) is higher than Marcum. I think luck explains why Marcum isn’t a right-handed version of myself. My hypothesis for Marcum’s relatively high strikeout rate for his velocity is that he reduces his GB% in exchange for more Ks. However, Edwin Jackson doesn’t have to trade a high strikeout rate for a high GB%, because he has the inherent talent (velocity) to miss bats.

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