Offseason Underpay Candidates

To borrow a phrase from an inferior sport, I think it’s a slam dunk to do a follow-up on offseason overpay candidates with a column of those I feel might fly under the radar this winter. The same rules apply from last week’s column, but still feel free to nominate your own or openly question my sanity. I work for Carson Cistulli, so you can’t hurt my feelings. After all, coming up with under the radar candidates for free agency is harder than writing a Penny pitch f/x article, man.

Rich Harden – Oakland Athletics SP

I’ve long been accused of being a Harden fanatic, but as a follower of a club with a strict disdain for the whiff, I’ve been rebuffed in my hopes that the club would acquire such a piece. Harden poses an interesting dilemma to general managers. First, there’s the inherent injury risk that goes along with Harden, who has only once made 30 starts in his nine big league seasons. Next, there’s bullpen stress factor, as Harden is typically a six-and-shower kind of guy, leaving the final three to the guys keeping the bleacher creatures company.

Alas, with all boom or bust candidates, one should also consider the boom factor. After a rocky season in the Lone Star state, Harden has returned home to his initial digs in Oakland and has turned in a pretty good run. The 4.74 ERA is unsightly, but the 10.8 K/9 and the 3.7 BB/9 – both better than career marks – may foreshadow a return for form for the Canadian righty. With an xFIP of 3.53, there seems to be ample evidence that, given a full season, Harden could be a nice buy-low candidate for a bunch of clubs. There are certainly worse hurlers making more money to toss 150 innings. As a GM, I’d certainly take a shot with Harden, if he’s willing to leave Oakland, and especially if my club played in a home run-neutralizing environment.

Chris Capuano – New York Mets SP

It’s been an excruciatingly long road back for Capuano, who underwent Tommy John surgery for the second time in 2008 and didn’t pitch in the major leagues for nearly two-and-a-half seasons. There was optimism that Capuano had gained everything back following a pretty solid 24-game run last season, and now, with 220-plus innings under his belt, it looks as though he’s fully back from any ill effects from the surgical procedure. If there was any doubt, have a peek at his 2011 marks against his career marks: 1.35 WHIP (1.36 career), 9.6 H/9 (9.3), 1.2 HR/9 (1.3) and 7.9 K/9 (7.6). Basically, he’s exactly the same pitcher that he was before the arm surgery, albeit on the wrong side of 30 this time.

Despite his age, Capuano ought to be a valuable commodity on the free market. Like Harden, his 4.63 ERA doesn’t tell the whole story, as his xFIP checks in at 3.72. In my view, Capuano can fly under the radar a bit like Scott Baker as a guy who fans his fair share of hitters, limits the walk pretty well, but is also susceptible to the big fly. I think someone will grab Capuano to fill out the hind end of their rotation and be very pleased, especially if he signs for less than $7-8 million per annum.

Coco Crisp – Oakland Athletics CF

Just to get it out of the way, let me say that I really like what Crisp brings to the table. At the end of last season, when I was more a fan and less of an impartial journalist, I was pining for the Twins to deal for Crisp and use him in center field, flanked by Denard Span and one of the other vagabonds in a huge Target Field outfield. Nevertheless, it wasn’t to be, as Crisp’s team-friendly option was exercised last November, locking up the fleet-afoot centerfielder for just $5.75 million in 2011. Now a free agent to-be, it’s Crisp’s time to test his market value.

Now it’s certainly true that Crisp has had more ‘meh’ years than good recently, but good defensive centerfielders –by and large, Crisp qualifies – with a fair amount of pop (career .131 iso) and a decent K/BB rates don’t usually come cheaply, so if they do, a GM ought to take note. There’s probably no chance that Crisp signs for around $5 million per season again, but if a team can pull him for anywhere in that neighborhood, and gets the midpoint of his production that past two seasons (~2.7 WAR), that’s going to be a good deal for both sides. One request: Just don’t let him lead off, please.



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In addition to Rotographs, Warne is a Minnesota Twins beat reporter for 105 The Ticket's Cold Omaha website as well as a sportswriter for Sportradar U.S. 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


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Mitch
Guest
Mitch
4 years 10 months ago

Capuano would be an asset. Not a commodity. Middle relievers are commodities; utility infielders are commodities; 4th outfielders are commodities. Left-handed starting pitchers with 3.72 xFIPs are not commodities.

Brandon Warne
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

Fair enough. I figured given his injury-history I didn’t want to oversell his value.

Still, he’s a heck of a lefty.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
4 years 10 months ago

Are you the same person who posts this silly correction in every thread in which someone uses that term?

James
Guest
James
4 years 10 months ago

For any team that didn’t need significant offense from CF, I think Tony Gwynn Jr. would be an excellent starting CF for a pretty low price (based on this year’s salary – $650k or so). He’s basically a lock for 2-3 WAR over a full season if he plays every day based purely on his defense/range, and if he has a good offensive year (i.e., a higher BABIP) would provide additional surplus value. He could probably be signed for half the price of Crisp (if not much less).

Brandon Warne
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

I could see him being pretty useful, for sure. Cheaper yet would be Jason Repko.

gnomez
Guest
gnomez
4 years 10 months ago

Except Gwynn’s 2010-2011 to date have been more valuable than Repko’s entire career.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
4 years 10 months ago

That’s projection only makes sense if you think his absurd UZR numbers are accurate. Total Zone and b-r.com, for instance, have him at 2.3 WAR for his career.

If you’ve got a guy who depends on defense to have any value at all, I want to see a long track record (sample size) and consistency across the different defensive metrics.

James
Guest
James
4 years 10 months ago

There is a reason his UZR numbers are absurd – I don’t think it’s a sample size issue. Put him on a team that doesn’t need a lot of offense at the position, let him bat 8th or 9th, get some walks, steal 20-30 bases, and play gold glove defense, all for probably $1m or so. Repko might be cheaper, but that’s because he’s not as good.

Eric Dykstra
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

Agree w/ Harden and Capuano
Would also add:
Javier Vazquez
Carlos Pena
JJ Hardy

Mike
Guest
Mike
4 years 10 months ago

Hardy re-signed.

Eric Dykstra
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

I had forgotten about that. I just scanned through the FA list on Cot’s and saw his name.
Seems like he’s basically getting underpaid by the Orioles. I’d take the over on whether or not he will hit those value marks any day.

Dan
Guest
Dan
4 years 10 months ago

JJ Hardy was extended

gnomez
Guest
gnomez
4 years 10 months ago

Vazquez definitely. Lance Berkman is a good bet to be underpaid, even if he does get paid quite a bit.

Eric Dykstra
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

I thought about including Berkman, but I think with the season he’s had he might get a multi-year deal and a little too much money.
It’s definitely a possibility, though.

Greg
Guest
Greg
4 years 10 months ago

Someone is going to overpay Capuano if they just look at his FIP/xFIP. He always has given up a lot of home runs, and that has not changed this year despite pitching half his games in Citi Field, which is a huge pitcher’s park.

Oh, and he sucks from the 6th inning onwards: .330/.376/.681 against in the 6th inning, .467/.500/.633 in the 7th inning and .571/.571/.714 in the 8th inning. As someone who has watched every start he has made this year, I can tell you that he’s not just getting unlucky or small sample size is killing him. He is legitimately awful the moment the 5th inning ends. He can’t hit his spots and tends to leave belt high 88 mph fastballs over the middle of the plate.

Mac
Guest
Mac
4 years 10 months ago

Billy Beane, master of combing the scrapheap for 2-3 WAR players.

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