The 25 Best – and Five Worst – Free Agent Values

Don’t forget – you can view all of the free agents stats and compare them side by side on our Free Agent Leaderboard.

Free Agency officially starts tomorrow, as the kinda-sorta-but-not-really-exclusive negotiating period comes to an end today, and players who haven’t re-signed with their former teams are free to sign with anyone they choose. Well, that’s not really true. They can sign with any team that makes them an offer. I’m pretty sure Jose Valverde couldn’t re-sign with the Tigers no matter how much he wanted to.

With free agency starting up, you’re also about to get inundated with lists of the top free agents. 50 seems to have been the agreed upon number, as Tim Dierkes already has his Top 50 up at MLBTradeRumors, while Keith Law has said that his list goes up on ESPN Insider when the clock strikes midnight. I’m sure there will be others, and some of them will probably ask you to view their list in a slideshow. Those people are the Jose Valverde of list makers. Don’t be one of those people. Slideshows are the worst.

Here at FanGraphs, we’re not giving you a slideshow. We’re not giving you a Top 50 Free Agent list either, because, to be honest, my list would have looked an awful lot like Tim’s, and probably an awful lot like Keith’s. I just didn’t see a lot of usefulness in telling you that I agree that Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton are the two best free agents on the market, nor was I super interested in trying to draw a distinction between Carlos Lee and Carlos Pena. They’re both not good anymore. Does anyone really want to read about those guys today? Me either.

So, instead of producing our own list of 50 best free agents on the market in some order, we’re going to provide a different slant – using the Contract Crowdsourcing results that went up in full this morning, I’m going to provide a list of the 25 players that I would be most interested in signing at those given prices. And, for extra fun, the five players who I would not go anywhere near at the prices you guys projected them to sign for.

You’ll see bigger contracts at the top than at the bottom, even though you can get a better ROI on a smaller deal if the guy goes bananas, as Aaron Hill did last year. That said, those kinds of years are tough to predict, and in general, I think teams are better off getting a good player at a good price rather than a role player at a great price, even if in retrospect, some of those players will turn into good players and provide a lot of value beyond what they’re being paid. The goal here isn’t to provide the best value in terms of $/WAR, but to identify — at least, in my view — which contracts are likely to have the biggest magnitude of effect on a team’s chances of winning going forward. And, on the flip side, the contracts that could do the most harm to a team’s ability to contend over the life of the deal.

So, without further ado, here are my Top 25 Free Agent Values, followed by the Five Free Agent Landmines to avoid this winter.

1. Nick Swisher, OF: 4 years, $56 million

Back at the end of August, I wrote up Swisher’s potential value in response to a report that he was hoping for “a Jayson Werth contract”, and found that to be unlikely at best. In the couple of months since that post was written, Swisher had another awful postseason, and now reports suggest that the Yankees aren’t even going to attempt to re-sign him, which can’t be good for his market value. So, even the 6/90 to 7/100 suggestions of late August seem inflated, but there’s no reason Swisher should have to settle for 4/56.

Swisher’s been a +4 win player for each of the last three years, mixing in consistent offensive performance with solid defense and durability. He’s not sexy, but he’s rock solid across the board, with no obvious flaws or red flags to be found. He’s the safest bet in the entire class, and a four year deal would only take him through age 35. If a team can actually get Swisher for 4/56, they should jump on it before the rest of the league realizes that they’re skipping out on a bargain.

2. B.J. Upton, OF: 4 years, $52 million

Upton hasn’t been as good or as consistent as Swisher, but he’s also four years younger, and a four year deal would barely even extend into his decline phase. Upton’s probably never going to develop into what he was projected to be as a prospect, but there aren’t that many guys who can play center field and post a wRC+ of 107, as Upton has throughout his career in Tampa Bay. For a team that needs a center fielder, Upton’s the best bet on the market, especially at a deflated price like this.

3. Anibal Sanchez, SP: 4 years, $52 million

Sanchez has flown under the radar to some extent, overshadowed by Josh Johnson in Miami and Justin Verlander in Detroit, but he’s a legitimately good starter who has seemingly put his health problems behind him, throwing nearly 600 innings over the last three years. His stuff is good, his results are good, and his durability problems are probably overstated at this point. For essentially the same deal that Mark Buehrle got last winter, this would be a nice addition for any team looking to bolster their rotation.

4. Zack Greinke, SP: 6 years, $114 million

Greinke’s the best pitcher on the market and will almost certainly command the biggest paycheck, especially if Texas, Anaheim, and Los Angeles engage in a bidding war for his services, which could push his final contract quite a bit higher than this. If 6/114 was going to get it done, my guess is he’d already be an Angel. Despite his inconsistencies, he has a chance to be a difference maker, and he’s hitting the market in a year where there aren’t many others who can say the same.

5. Angel Pagan, OF – 3 years, $30 million

Pagan probably earned himself some extra cash with his postseason performance, as the switch-hitter showed he can play center field and provide some offense at the top of a championship batting order as well. Two months ago, I called him the most underrated player in the game. This winter, he’ll get some real money, but even at 3/30, he’s got value potential, and could be a great fit on a number of contending teams.

6. Melky Cabrera, OF – 2 years, $16 million

First off, I don’t think Melky would even want a two year deal at this kind of price. He’s the classic “pillow contract” guy, and a one year deal both limits the signing team’s risk and gives Cabrera the chance to re-enter the market next year if he proves he can hit and pass drug tests at the same time. So, my guess is he signs for something more like $6-$8 million on a one year deal, but either way, whoever lands him could get a real steal, as even pre-2012 Melky was worth this kind of contract, and if you believe that any of his improvement will carry over to 2013, he could end up being one of the better performers of the entire class.

7. Josh Hamilton, OF – 5 years, $100 million

You can’t talk about Hamilton’s value without mentioning the long list of risks, but value is a combination of risk and reward, and focusing on one without the other is short sighted. And, of course, the reward for bringing in Hamilton could be quite high, as he’s one of the game’s best players when he’s healthy. He’s basically this year’s Jose Reyes, who many wanted to shy away from at a similar price last year due to injury concerns, but Reyes proved to be a legitimate value in year one of his deal, and Hamilton could easily do the same for whoever takes a shot on his potential without being scared away by the risks.

8. Hiroki Kuroda, SP: 2 years, $24 million

The latest reports indicate that Kuroda will probably accept another one year deal, so even this estimate will probably prove to be a bit too high. Kuroda was a steal for the Yankees last year and remains a quality starter, and any time you can get a quality free agent starter without the risk of a long term deal, that’s a nice addition.

9. David Ortiz, DH – 2 years, $26 million

Why no one wanted to give Ortiz a two year deal last winter is beyond me, but it seems like everyone has realized the error of their ways, and recognize that he’s still got a lot to offer an AL team who needs an offensive upgrade in a hurry. The age and injury concerns limit the length — and risk — of the deal, and at $13 million per year, Ortiz is a bargain. The lack of long term value is the only reason he’s this low.

10. Torii Hunter, OF: 2 years, $20 million

While pretty much everything about Hunter’s career year screams “fluke!” and the stats that measure his core skills are going the wrong way, we can’t ignore the fact that Hunter has put up +11.6 WAR over the last three years, and certainly didn’t look like he was getting old in 2012. On a short term deal at a price that essentially pays him like a league average player, Hunter could provide a nice value buy for any team who wants an short term outfield patch.

11. Ryan Dempster, SP: 3 years, $36 million

Fun fact: Over the last three years, Zack Greinke has a 23% K%, while Ryan Dempster has a 22% K%. Greinke has an ERA- of 96, while Dempster has an ERA- of 99. Sure, Greinke’s better, and he’s younger, but is he that much better than Dempster, to the point where there’s a bidding war for his services while Dempster is basically being seen as a back-end starter near the end of his career? I’d happily take both. At 3/36, Dempster’s basically this year’s Jimmy Rollins – a good player in his thirties who seems to be taking too big of a hit for his age and not getting enough credit for his performance.

12. Brandon McCarthy, SP: 2 years, $20 million

With McCarthy, you can’t talk about him without talking about the fact that his season ended due to brain surgery, and there’s just no way to know if that’s going to have any kind of long lasting effect, either physically or mentally. Juan Nicasio came back from a similarly scary situation, and McCarthy seems like a guy who wants to keep pitching, so but that incident probably is going to keep the offers to short term deals, especially given his arm problems that seem to recur every season. Still, when he’s on the mound, he’s quite good, and I’d imagine most teams in baseball would have to evaluate his medicals if he was available for this price, because 2/20 for a pitcher of McCarthy’s abilities is quite the nice buy.

13. Shane Victorino, OF: 3 years, $30 million

Angel Pagan with a little more speed and a little more fame. They’re very similar players, though Victorino’s reliance on power as a part of his game scares me a little bit, as that seems like a thing that could go away pretty quickly for a little guy in his thirties. Still, at $10 million a year, Victorino would be a nice value for the first year and probably two, and the cost isn’t so high that the third year would be a sinkhole. Any team wanting Pagan that doesn’t get him should look Victorino’s direction.

14. Edwin Jackson, SP: 3 years, $36 million

Jackson hasn’t really changed at all since hitting the market last winter, but the sense is that he’ll get his three year deal this time around, given that he’s still going to be just 29-years-old next year, and he put another quality season on his resume in 2012. He’s not an ace, but he’s a durable innings eater who keeps runs off the board at an above average rate, and there are a lot of teams who could use 200 above average innings at a reasonable price.

15. Roy Oswalt, SP: 1 year, $6 million

2012 was basically a lost year for Oswalt, and he probably learned his lesson about trying to sit out half the season and then come in ready to pitch in a pennant race. I doubt he wants to end his career on that kind of low note, so expect him to be less picky about where he plays this winter, and with a full spring training in a better environment to pitch, he could be quite the nice bounce back option.

16. Joe Blanton, SP: 2 years, $14 million

Over the last three years, Blanton has an xFIP- of 90, which is the fourth best among free agent starting pitchers. The problem is his ERA- of 121 hasn’t come in a particularly small sample size, so we’re dealing with 400 innings where Blanton’s hits and home runs have basically undone all the good he’s accomplished by limiting walks and racking up strikeouts. You generally want to bet on guys with this kind of BB/K rate, and Blanton might turn out to be a steal in a big ballpark with good defensive teammates, but he’s definitely a risk. At this price, it’s a risk worth taking, but you have to know that you might end up with an overpaid BP thrower.

17. Marco Scutaro, IF: 2 years, $16 million

The hero of the Giants postseason is in line for a bit of a raise after his monstrous second half performance, but his age is going to keep the paycheck from getting too out of control. He’s still a slap-hitting 37-year-old with marginal power and some durability question marks, but as he showed for the Giants, contact skills and defense up the middle are a valuable package. The pixie dust will eventually wear off, but $8 million a year for an avearage-ish second baseman, even one at the end of his career, is a decent deal.

18. Maicer Izturis, IF: 2 years, $10 million

I’m pretty sure this is the only Top Free Agent list you’ll see Maicer Izturis on, since he’s an aging utility player coming off a poor season, but for a team that has 400 plate appearances and a weak starting infielder at either second or third, Izturis could be a valuable 10th guy. From 2009 to 2011, he was basically a league average hitter who could handle all three IF positions, and while everything got worse last year, we’re dealing with a half season’s worth of playing time. The larger sample of Izturis’ career peg him as a great part-time guy who won’t kill you if he has to play regularly. $5 million a year for roster flexibility and depth is worth it for a team with some resources.

19. Kevin Youkilis, 3B: 2 years, $18 million

Youkilis’ body seems to be breaking down in front of our eyes, so a two year commitment to a 34-year-old with health problems and regressing skills is a bit of a risk, but we should remember that a downgraded Youkilis is still a pretty decent player. His power is still hanging around and he’s always going to draw his walks, so as long as he can even play a respectable third base and stay in the line-up, he’s a value at this price. I’d rather have him on a one year deal, but if push came to shove, I wouldn’t be a afraid of 2/18.

20. Adam LaRoche, 1B: 3 years, $36 million

I endorse this price with some hesitation, as LaRoche is clearly coming off a career year at age 32, and this could look like a silly overreaction to recent performance if some of the improvement isn’t real. Still, the increased power and reduced K% (relative to league average) give some hope that there’s been sustainable changes made, and he doesn’t have to carry them over for that long to be worth $36 million. If he’s even a +3 win player in 2013 and then ages normally, this is a deal worth doing. If he goes back to being a +2 win guy, then it’s probably a bit of an overpay, but there’s enough potential there to make it worth a shot.

21. Stephen Drew, SS: 2 years, $16 million

Like with Izturis, you’re betting on 2012 not being overly predictive, and going more off his overall body of work than what he was last year. Injuries and the loss of power are concerning, but there aren’t a lot of good shortstops in Major League baseball anymore, and Drew has been one before. This might seem a bit rich for a bounce back guy, but given how thin SS is, he doesn’t have to hit much to be worth $8 million, and if his offense rebounds back to prior levels, there is some upside here.

22. Jeff Keppinger, IF: 2 years, $10 million

Keppinger is essentially Marco Scutaro with terrible defense. Like Scutaro, he almost never swings and misses, and while his offense is based on a quantity of singles, he can get enough of them to be a decent hitter. The problem is that he’s really probably best suited to DH, which isn’t exactly where you want a slap-hitting singles guy, but he can fake it at first and third well enough to be a backup corner infielder, and his skillset makes him an ideal pinch-hitter. He shouldn’t be an everyday guy, but like Izturis, he has value in a 10th man role.

23. Travis Hafner, DH: 1 year, $5 million

With Hafner, we have a DH who simply can’t play more than 100 games a year without something hurting. Last year, he only managed 66 games. Anyone signing Hafner is signing up for a half season of playing time, and maybe less. But, he’s worth having for what he can do when he does play. Last year, he posted a 119 wRC+ while his BABIP sunk to .233, which hasn’t been any kind of career trend for him. His BB/K/ISO were still at elite levels, and while you’d expect an old slow DH to have BABIP problems, even a modest return towards his career average sets him up as a pretty nifty hitter. For a team that can plan on replacing him in-season when he hits the DL but wants the upgrade when he’s healthy enough to play, a low risk one year deal is a nice way to improve the offense.

24. Carlos Villanueva, SP: 2 years, $12 million

Villanueva is this year’s Chris Capuano; a guy who misses more bats than his stuff would suggest and can be a good performer if you think the home run problem might fix itself after a change of scenery. His reputation for wearing down in the second half will likely keep his price down, but any team that wants a lower cost strikeout pitcher with some upside, Villanueva’s a nice fit.

25. Kelly Shoppach, C: 1 year, $3 million

Shoppach’s rising strikeout rate is a concern, and his time as a decent bat against lefties may be coming to an end, but a team looking for a nifty backup catcher who wouldn’t embarrass himself in full-time action could do a lot worse than Shoppach, especially at this price. Given the amount of lousy catchers in baseball right now, Shoppach should be able to do better than this.

And now, for the five crowdsourced contracts that I wouldn’t want to go anywhere near.

1. Delmon Young, DH: 2 years, $16 million

It’s not clear that Delmon Young should even get a Major League contract this winter. He definitely shouldn’t be anyone’s starting DH next year. He’s basically a platoon player at this point in his career, and as a right-handed bat, that means he should play a couple of times per week. Giving him $8 million a year is just lighting cash on fire. Giving him $8 million a year for two years would be one of the dumbest decisions in recent history. I think the game has gotten smarter than this, and I don’t see Young coming anywhere near this price. Which is good, becuase this price is nutso.

2. Kyle Lohse, SP: 4 years, $52 million

Who wants to pay $13 million per year for the age 34-37 years of a pitcher whose career year was based on a low BABIP? Not me. Lohse is a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter who can soak up innings and occasionally give you a strong season when things go right, but at his age, that’s worth $10 million a year for a couple of years, not $13 million for four. Run away, GMs, run away.

3. Mike Napoli, C/1B: 3 years, $36 million

If you think there’s a good chance that 2011 Napoli will re-emerge, this kind of deal would make sense, but 2012 Napoli should scare teams away from a three year deal. His strikeout went went up 50%, and while he still hit 24 home runs, the doubles went away entirely, so his distribution of extra base hits probably overstates his actual power levels now. He’s the classic old-player-skills type, so while he’ll be just 31, he’s also got a catcher’s wear and tear on his body. Just too many red flags for me here. I think he ends up in Boston on a one year deal that makes sense for everyone, but if the price is really three years, look elsewhere.

4. Michael Bourn, CF: 5 years, $70 million

I wrote about my concerns with Bourn’s future performance a month ago, as I just don’t see a lot of historical precedent for guys succeeding in their thirties with a high K/low power offensive skillset. Those things don’t go together, so if Bourn is going to remain an offensive threat, he’s going to be something of a trailblazer, which isn’t really what you’re looking for when giving out five year deals. As mentioned, there are quite a few average bat/decent glove CFs on the market this year, and most of them will come a lot cheaper than this. Given his contact problems and price tag, I’d rather go another direction.

5. Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP: 1 year, $4 million

Sure, it’s just a one year flier, so why not? How about becomes there’s no evidence that even a healthy Dice-K is any good, and he inflicts pain on everyone watching him pitch. The terrible command combined with 10 minutes between pitches make his starts torture for fans of both sides, and there’s just not enough potential here to justify sucking the life out of the game every five days. There are better, younger, cheaper pitchers who aren’t horrendous to watch. Sign one of them instead. Boycot Dice-K. Please.

So, there you have it – the 25 best and five worst values of the off-season, based on the crowdsourced projections and my best guess as to how these guys will perform going forward. Given that there are five times as many values as landmines, you can probably guess that I think the crowdsourced values are too low, and I expect prices to be higher across the board for most of these guys. But, even with that expectation, I still think there are going to be some decent buys in free agency, especially for a team looking for a center fielder or a back-end starting pitcher. This is a pretty deep free agent class, even if it’s not strong at the top, and an organization willing to wait until January will likely find themselves picking from some decent leftovers.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

107 Responses to “The 25 Best – and Five Worst – Free Agent Values”

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  1. nik says:

    Madson not on the list? He should still be an elite reliever available on a fairly friendly deal. Some team is going to get a bargain.

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  2. Tomcat says:

    Texas ought to jump hard on Kuroda.

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  3. GrassRockFish says:

    FanGraphs is the Cliff Lee of list-makers

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      …it gets better with age, has freakishly great control, and somehow never wins?

      +35 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • CaR says:

      Cameron still sucks, and now has signed his death warrant to a contract,,,Sullivan was always the superior writer. Thankfully, you all will get to bask in his glory, while watching dave get shrilly.

      -58 Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Brian says:

    This is a very good list. I can’t believe that was the contract Delmon Young was crowdsourced to get. Delmon Young is a depth bat and emergency outfielder at this point in his career. He could make a decent platoon partner at DH or as a PH/OF in the NL, but other than that he isn’t very useful. I think 1 year and 3 million is a reasonable expectation for the type of deal he would sign.

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    • Spike says:

      I can’t believe Napoli’s or Victorino’s crowdsource result frankly. Who is going to commit $36M or $30M to those two?

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    • Clifford says:

      “at this point in his career”……

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    • Colin says:

      Delmon Young has a very high pedigree that some GM will use to justify signing him to a 2 year deal at those rates. People love to believe that the former #1 overall prospect will turn it on when they sign him.

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  5. SecondHandStore says:

    “I’m sure there will be others, and some of them will probably ask you to view their list in a slideshow. Those people are the Jose Valverde of list makers.” Awesome

    +41 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • joser says:

      That may be the single funniest paragraph Dave Cameron has ever written (I’ve read a lot of Dave Cameron). Dead-on perfect take-down, dead funny.

      +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Eminor3rd says:

    Dempster at 3/36? I can’t believe you think that’s a deal. Didn’t he basically flop as soon as he went to the AL in a hitter friendly park? Isn’t he like 36?

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    • Hizouse says:

      If only there were some way to look that up….

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    • Dempster at 3/36 and Jackson at the same price are both headscratchers.

      Actually, Dempster was OK with the Rangers, but he had a lucky career half-year. Jackson is, in reality no better than Lohse, and the only deal diff is $1M per year and one more year.

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  7. Brian says:

    I get the feeling that Nick Swisher probably considers Nick Swisher very sexy.

    +19 Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Steve 1 says:

    Nice shot at Bleacher Report being the Jose Valverde of ‘blogs’

    +39 Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Jesse says:

    I would take victorino over pagan at those prices, as we’re talking about a guy who has 10 more career war. The market’s actually pretty deep at center field.

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    • joser says:

      But it’s future WAR, not past WAR, that you should be paying for.

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      • Anonymousse says:

        They’re the same age. If Victorino has produced significantly more WAR up to this point, hes probably going to produce more going forward.

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    • SF 55 for life says:

      Pagan is actually 8 months younger. Not playing in Philadelphia is really going to hurt Victorino’s power totals.

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  10. Doug B says:

    “Dempster’s basically this year’s Jimmy Rollins – a good player in his thirties who seems to be taking too big of a hit for his age and not getting enough credit for his performance.”

    Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

    I will not be happy if the Brewers give Dempster 3/36. I realize he’s pitched well against the Brewers. But he’s 36. That’s the kind of thinking that landed them Jeff Suppan. Maybe 2/20 would be worth the risk. But not 3/36.

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    • JaysinSD says:

      Past performance is not a guarantee of future results…

      Then no one should get anything but entry level contracts, right? If you don’t like the guy, say that, but don’t throw out some blanket cliche that attacks the idea of salary negotiation. No one would get paid anything but the minimum wage, if we went your route

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    • Doug B says:

      I meant you pay for the future, not the past. Any team that thinks Dempster is going to earn a 36 million dollar contract over the next 3 seasons is welcome to have him. I just hope it’s not my team making that gamble. Because I don’t think that is money well spent. The Brewers have other pitchers who could go 30-30 with a 4.00 ERA over the next 3 seasons. And they don’t cost 12 million a season.

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  11. Chummy Z says:

    Keppinger is simply NOT a Scutaro w/ “terrible” defense, as Keppinger is passable by UZR/150 at 2B and 3B (with 1100+ inning samples for each). His SS defense may be bad, but the more important point is that Scutaro isn’t better. By UZR/150, he’s about average at every position he’s played a decent chunk of time at.

    Keppinger is a bit like a younger Scutaro, but their defense is not different enough to use as a contrast, especially with how imprecise we know defensive metrics to be.

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    • Templeton1979 says:

      Keppinger is one of the toughest to strike out, definitely.

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      • yuniform says:

        Scutaro has that exact same skill. They are players you can compare.

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      • Chummy Z says:

        They’re very comparable–Keppinger is just 5 years younger. I just don’t know why Dave pulled that nonsense about Kepp’s “terrible” defense out of his ass, especially relative to Scutaro. The numbers say otherwise. That’s all I’m criticizing.

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    • Shankbone says:

      Dave Cameron speaks the truth. Jeff Keppingers defense is indeed terrible. Cement shoes terrible.

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      • Chummy Z says:

        But numbers say otherwise. And this is kind of a numbers-based website.

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      • SF 55 for life says:

        Keppinger has a -4.3 UZR/150 at second base for his career. That isn’t good. He also doesn’t pass the eye test at all, his range is terrible.

        A very large percentage of his value comes from batting average. As Giants fans saw in 2011, if he doesn’t hit for average he is basically worthless. Scutaro at least has shown an ability to take walks and he is also a better fielding second baseman.

        Scutaro also has consistency on his side. He has been worth more than 2 WAR every year for the past 5 seasons.

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    • Naveed says:

      Your last sentence indicates that you realize that defensive statistics aren’t gospel, which makes it odd that you’re quoting them as though they are. In the last two years, Jeff Keppinger and Marco Scutaro were both the regular second baseman in San Francisco, which provides a direct means of comparison; the eye test indicates that Scutaro is unspectacular but decent, whereas Keppinger has no range to speak of and certainly won’t be gaining any as he ages.

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      • Anonymousse says:

        The point is that we’ve had an entire statistical revolution based on the simple idea that the “eye test” is unreliable, and fraught with bias.

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        Do you know what else is unreliable? The one year of UZR data that says Keppinger is a league average fielder.

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    • Anonymousse says:

      I don’t understand why people think Scutaro is a good defender. He hasn’t been one for years.

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  12. Templeton1979 says:

    HAHA The best are the DH signings. 5 mil a year should be the top value for someone who only plays 1/10 of the time a position player does, and that’s if they play full-time!

    -13 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • SKob says:

      Very few people can generate runs like Ortiz!

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      • joser says:

        And those people all are on the ’04-’08 Red Sox. On a different team in a different ballpark, Ortiz can’t generate those same runs either.

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    • AK7007 says:

      Were you already old and crotchety in 1973? Ortiz is a top hitter – you would have to have to have a hole in your head to turn that down for below market value just because “he plays 1/10 of the time”

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  13. Phantom Stranger says:

    People are severely underestimating the risk of signing Zack Greinke. People don’t like talking about it, but his history of mental health issues is a serious consideration when you are committing over $125 million to a single player. In my view his issues pose as much of a problem as Josh Hamilton’s history.

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    • Nick says:

      Josh Hamilton’s history broke down his body to the point that he’s chronically injured. Zack Greinke has averaged 32 starts for the last 5 seasons. It’s not even close.

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    • Colin says:

      They do? When has Greinke ever missed a ton of games because of his “mental health issues”? (Issues which in all likelihood are shared by at least 15 other major leaguers based on societal prevalence) Honestly, your ignorance in proclaiming his issues a “risk” without any justification is absurd.

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      • Chris says:

        Greinke has already quit playing altogether once. Maybe he’s got his social anxiety disorder under control, but he does have risk, and there is justification.

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        When has Greinke ever missed a ton of games because of his mental health issues? Is that a serious question? He wasn’t injured in 2006.

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        And I don’t even think his SAD is that big of a deal, anymore. It’s just ridiculous to say it’s never been a baseball issue.

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    • jim says:

      please point to a conclusive recent instance of greinke’s social anxiety disorder negatively affecting his performance

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        Playing devil’s advocate here, but maybe it’s why he has a terrible strand rate, which means that he’s worth closer to 3 wins a year than he is to 6. After 8 full seasons, is it that outlandish to say that the 72.5% strand rate is his true talent level and that we should stop expecting it to get closer to 80%?

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      • KDL says:

        Devil’s advocate or over-eager Psych 101 student?

        The strand rate of 72% may indeed be Greinke’s personal level, for whatever reason…but you’ve got to give me something other than: “maybe it’s the only thing I know about him that’s super-different than all other pitchers”.

        Besides if we were going to ride this silly theory out…shouldn’t there be other noticeable effects? Better performance with low attendance? Better performance with more early run support? Shouldn’t his home/road split be bigger than everyone else’s since the comfort of home MUST be better for his pitching than the awkward interactions of life on the road? Or does this theory only pertain to one or two negative things that don’t have any other explanation at the moment?

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        Never taken Psych, as a matter of fact. Half of it is bull. I was playing devil’s advocate. You were clearly playing “pedantic prick.”

        and for that matter, his Home/Away splits show that he has roughly double the difference between Home and Away as compared to the league average, so you might have a point there, despite your best efforts.

        Good job.

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  14. Bookbook says:

    I’d bet on Greinke’s continued success over Hamilton’s at just about any odds you want to give.

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  15. Bip says:

    Lohse is a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter who can soak up innings and occasionally give you a strong season when things go right, but at his age, that’s worth $10 million a year for a couple of years, not $13 million for four. Run away, GMs, run away.

    Yes, run away so Ned Colletti can swoop in. *sigh*

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  16. Bip says:

    I can see how five years for Bourn is a little much, but you’re selling him a bit short in just about every way. His career UZR/150 at CF is over 10, which makes him more than just a “decent glove” I think. Over the past 4 years he’s averaged about 10 runs in baserunning alone. His BABIP and BB% are both well above average. His main problems are are lack of power and a high K%, but the K% may actually decrease as plate discipline tends to increase with age. He’s 30, so we’re talking about his age 31-35 seasons, not 35-39. It’s totally reasonable to expect he can keep a lot of his value over that time.

    I agree that he’s probably a little overvalued, while Upton and Pagan are definitely undervalued, but neither Upton nor Pagan are nearly as good a fielder or baserunner as Bourn, which means Bourn can afford to lose a little value on offense. If he keeps his speed, I think he can maintain his BABIP, which, when paired with his BB% rate, will make him the best all-around CF of this class.

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    • Psychump says:

      Just about, may.may actually,probably, a bit,a little,I think,and IF. Sheesh.

      -9 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Agreed. It is crazy of Bip to use words expressing uncertainty when everyone is completely certain of what Michael Bourn’s future holds.


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      • joser says:

        Way to miss the point. Psychump is noting that all the hedging in Bip’s comment suggests he acknowledges his assessment is essentially exactly the same as Cameron’s, within the very real and very large error bars that are present in any projection. So it’s a criticism that effectively is hedged all the way back to being an agreement, thus adding very little. By their very nature projections incorporate a great deal of uncertainty, so hedge words are implicit, and using them in a dissent doesn’t give it added weight; if anything, it makes it weaker.

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      • Bip says:

        Well my point is one of degrees, so there’s your explanation. My point is Dave describes him as a decent glove when he’s actually a very good glove, he doesn’t really acknowledge his baserunning, he doesn’t note his demonstrated BABIP ability or his above average walk rate. None of those things alone are enough to totally contradict his assessment, nor are they certain to be sustained, but they are likely to be sustained and together they add up to a better player than Dave described.

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  17. Snoth says:

    I don’t remember which ESPN analyst said it but I will never forget reading:

    “Dice-K will be the greatest Japanese import in MLB history. And no, I’m not forgetting Ichiro.”

    Well that worked out

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Bobby V says:

      I’ll take credit for that and by the end of their careers, I’ll be proven correct. I guarantee it.

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  18. TKDC says:

    Nice list, but to be honest only Delmon Young’s contract is one that if my team signed I would be like “what the $%&@ are you doing!?!?” Even the next 4 on the bad list, which I can’t really disagree with, aren’t that bad.

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  19. AK7007 says:

    Any thoughts about Ichiro’s value going forward? The crowdsourcing has him at Melky pay, and he should be able to provide surplus value at 8mil/season. Seems like a good choice for a team trying to keep a spot warm for a prospect while fielding a decent player, even if he doesn’t get on base much these days.

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    • joser says:

      And for certain teams, particularly on the west coast, he may still give a small but real bump at the gate.

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    • Doug B says:

      bidding for Ichiro:

      Mariners: 2 years 10 million
      Yankees: 2 years 11 million
      Dodgers: 3 years 30 million

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  20. Steve says:

    Delmon Young… yikes. I love how he showed up for a game or two in the NLCS and everyone was like “Young!” And I’m like… he sucks.

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    • JaysinSD says:

      He sucks overall, yes, but he was still the most productive hitter for the Tigers this post-season… So of course people get excited.

      If the worst pitcher in the world throws a perfect game in game 7 of the World Series, they will be forever immortalized for that, regardless of how they otherwise performed.

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  21. terencem says:

    I can’t believe how low some of those contracts came out. These were supposed to be predictions, not “what you’d pay”, right? #’s 1 and 2 specifically strike me as being out of whack with the predictions I’ve seen elsewhere.

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  22. Tim says:

    Surprised AJ Pierzynski at 2/$18 didn’t make the worst list. He had a great home run year out of nowhere, but he’s still a 36-year-old catcher.

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  23. joser says:

    A couple of these players are going to be getting qualifying offers from their current teams, thus ensuring that anyone else who takes them loses a draft pick. That ups the price a bit.

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  24. marlins12 says:

    Brandon League 3/22.5 is already a start on the terrible.

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  25. ODawg says:

    Slideshows are the worst.

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  26. Ben Hall says:

    Any chance of getting projections on the leaderboards? That would seem like the best way to compare free agents.

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  27. MBD says:

    To summarize the best lines of the week:

    Through a massive,

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  28. MBD says:

    I somehow managed

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  29. I was really surprised to see how close Dempster and Grienke are to each other statistically. Could someone put me together a slideshow please? :) :)

    PS. Speaking of Bleacher Report, I’m glad others share my sentiment. I really dislike how if I type anything into Google the search results are overwhelmed with their silly slideshows. Great call Dave. (Even though you didn’t do so directly.)

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  30. GM Mega Man says:

    Your #1 and 2 are contracts I would want no part of. I don’t get the fascination with BJ Upton. His amazing all star future was and still is an illusion of his raw athletic skills and nothing more.

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    • Stuck in a slump says:

      I’d pay that money for a 28 year old who looks like he can consistently hit around .245/.330/.450 and be a defensive asset in CF, he’s like a healthy Grady Sizemore light.

      Now with that said 4/52 isn’t bad, but, I’d try to go longer on years and lower on annual cost with a 5/55 or 6/60 offer. Even at 6/60 you’re spending an average of 10 mil a year on a solid player through his age 34 season, that’s not bad.

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  31. ben says:

    surprised Marcum didn’t crack the list. he could be a great sleeper pickup.

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  32. james wilson says:

    There is one thing that stands out on this otherwise excellent list like a bugger hanging off a pretty girls nose. Youk. If he could ever play at a mediocre level again, which he can’t, he’s too ugly to watch. And the faces. Even Ortiz wanted to hit him, and Ortiz is as laid back as it gets. I’d rather watch Matsuzaka pitch, and I only ever made that mistake once.

    This is the kind of mistake for which you ought to be bound and gagged and put in a dark room for a week.

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  33. Earl Nash says:

    Napoli is a very good 1b and the Red Sox have a vacancy for a year or two…

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  34. wiggy365 says:

    Delmon Young is not the world’s worst deal as DH, a 5th/corner outfielder. Yah, Detroit overpaid salary for him, but he did hit with some power, and like Prince Fielder, hit more opposite way than before. And, watching Cabrera everyday, was not quite the dead pull-hitter, he seemed to be before… and he has hit the last two post-seasons… Reg season- a 265-270 avg, with power, and not exclusive DH, but occasional outfielder. 2 year 6-10 mil, 3-5 mil a year; and has seemed to have matured and aged some, and had not heard of him being locker room poison. [Okay, so he’s not quite a josh hamilton or tory hunter, and is not 10 mil a year hitter…]

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  35. Mike says:

    “How about [because] there’s no evidence that even a healthy Dice-K is any good, and he inflicts pain on everyone watching him pitch”

    Yes. This. Exactly.

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  36. Luke says:

    Great write up as always but it seems like you’ve undervalued a lot of these contracts. I really don’t think Sanchez for 4/52, McCarthy 2/20 or Izturis 2/10 are all that realistic, maybe McCarthy considering his situation. I point out those 3 because those are guys I think would fit great in Milwaukee. Hell at those rates they could sign 2/3 of them. Getting McCarthy and Izturis for 30 million over 2 years would be a bargain for any team.

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  37. Doug B says:

    OK, wild idea so someone can tell me why it wouldn’t work.

    Josh Hamilton – sign him for 6 years with a 14 million base salary and 20 million bonus for 1st in MVP ticking all the way down to 1 million for 20th MVP. He could be getting 14 mil for a bad season and 34 mil for a great season. A solid season with 10th in MVP and he gets his 25 million. Any reason they couldn’t do this?

    Is there a cap on incentives? Does anyone really think the BBWAA would somehow fudge the balloting if there was so much at stake?

    It’s not like the risk would be too high for the club. Hell… if he averages 5th place in MVP for the next 3 years are you telling me they would be made about paying him 180 million? No. They’d be fine with that. If he repeats exactly what he’s done the last 6 years (assuming 5th in MVP in 2012) he’d earn 134 million over 6 years. Which is about what I expect him to sign for. But it removes this whole cloud of risk and let’s him earn his money.

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