Earlier today, we began our analysis of the eleven hitters classified as Type B free agents. Milton Bradley projected to be the most valuable of the initial six players, at +2.9 wins, while Griffey the Kid’s +0.10 win projection clocked in as the bleakest. Bradley also ended up the youngest of the group, as Garret Anderson, Moises Alou, Mark Grudzielanek, Luis Gonzalez, and Griffey are all pretty up there in the years department. That trend continues as the remaining five players are added to the mix.
Jeff Kent and Frank Thomas are both 41 years old, and Paul Lo Duca and Ivan Rodriguez are 37 years of age apiece. This leaves Juan Uribe, just 29, but who perhaps plays like an older declining player.
R.J. covered The Big Hurt this morning and wondered if his injury from a few years ago is the reason behind his decline last season, or if his power is simply gone. I would be more inclined to think he bounces back with the stick if given the opportunity in 2009. Maybe not back to the +2-3 win seasons produced in 2006-07, but his projection calls for around +1 wins. If a team can sign Thomas to a one-year deal under $5 mil, it would definitely be worth the risk.
His 41-yr old counterpart, Kent, is coming off of an injury-plagued season in which he realistically lost his job. With Blake DeWitt, James Loney, and Casey Blake all returning, Kent does not fit into the scheme of things for the Dodgers. He still has value, though, as prior to the injury suffered in 2008, his wOBA marks still made him quite effective. The same cannot be said for his defense at the keystone, though, which has consistently been worse than -10 runs for four years running. At +10 offense and -12 defense, Kent could be worth anywhere from +1.5 to +1.8 wins next year, depending on playing time. An $8-9 mil deal for a 41-yr old second baseman showing big signs of decline may not be realistic, but under the right circumstances, Jeff could still be right around a league average player.
Due to position scarcity and the adjustment he receives for playing time, Pudge may end up being the second most valuable player of this entire 11-man group. His offense is almost a win below average, but if we assume +3 run defense in 130 games and near 500 PA, Rodriguez comes out to +2.05 wins and $9.8 mil. Will he get a deal paying him close to $10 mil/yr? Who knows, but projected production level in 2009 makes the 37-yr old backstop worth that price.
This leaves Uribe and Lo Duca, the former of whom tops out at +1 win as a shortstop and a bit lower at second base or third base. Lo Duca is nothing more than a backup catcher these days, but, in that role, he could be worth +0.80 wins. A team in need of a backup catcher with experience could do much worse than signing Paul to a 1-yr deal paying him $4 mil or under. He made $5 mil last season for the Nationals and Marlins. He is nowhere near an all-star anymore, but catchers with experience and some semblance of talent always have value.
All told, Bradley still ranks #1 at +2.9 wins, with Pudge in second at +2.05 wins, and Kent in third at +1.80 wins. They are Type B free agents for a reason, with that reason being that they fell out of the top twenty percent at their position in 2008, meaning these are not going to be elite players. Teams will not have to surrender a draft pick if they choose to sign any of these players, but this group is old, features some players who will or should retire, and doesn’t scream “sign me!” outside of perhaps Bradley. There are definitely a few Hall of Fame players in this mix, but they are at the very ends of their careers.
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