Three months into the season, the best and worst free agents emergeYes, agreed. Among them has to be some pretty noteable people. Dunn's defense stinks, but he's killing the ball at the dish. Teixeira's been great. Trevor Hoffman's done work. But of course, who can forget Russell Branyan, and the .325 EqA he's producing for $1,400,000 this season, and one of the keys as to why the M's are shocking everyone by still being in the race. Has to be #1 for the value, at least top 3...
Best Free Agents
1. Raul Ibanez, Phillies OF. Before going on the disabled list, he was outperforming by so much that he spawned an Internet debate about whether he might be doing the juice. He has 22 home runs, 59 RBIs and a .656 slugging percentage, a bargain for $31.5 million and three years, or any price really. Here's my explanation: He's playing in a better ballpark for hitting (no letters please about his current home-road splits -- not playing in Safeco still is a plus), he's with a better team, he works hard and he's good. As for the Internet stories, I think they're unfair without a spec of hard evidence. And no, doing well is not evidence enough.
Oh, okay. Yeah, this makes sense I guess. He's kind of old, though, hurt, and paying him 8 figures when he's 39 and a terrible defender is probably not exactly super great. Whatever, though, he's been good. Bet ya Branyan's next, right?
2. Trevor Hoffman, Brewers closer. He took the chance leaving Southern California (he had an offer to go with the Dodgers) to go for beer and brats, and he hasn't missed a beat. For a bargain $6 million, his 17 saves are only three off the NL lead, and he missed the first three weeks of the season.
3. Francisco Rodriguez, Mets closer. The Mets solved their relief woes by signing one of the very best for $37 million over three years. Worries about him losing his stuff appear wholly unfounded, as he has 20 saves in 22 tries and has allowed just 19 hits in 35 2/3 innings. Plus, he's hit as high as 96 mph on the gun lately. One of only two blown saves came when Luis Castillo dropped a pop fly on the last out.
Oh, okay, going that route with the closers. Sure, both fix a hole, I guess it works. Hoffman was a pretty good deal. K-Rod's fine, but $37,000,000 for a guy who'll pitch like 210 innings over the life of the contract seems like a lot. Seems like a bunch of safe choices so far, but I'm sure you have someone awesome in mind at #4...
Orlando Hudson, Dodgers 2B.
Inexplicably ignored this winter, he's provided excellent two-way play for baseball's best team at a bargain rate $3.38 million (plus incentives). He's batting .307 with five homers and 41 RBIs. Great personality, too. If asked, he'll say he isn't upset about his low deal, at all, that he understands teams were concerned about last year's wrist injury.
All well and awesome. O-Dawg has been good. He's having his best offensive season ever, with a .281 EqA. Pretty good for a 2B making under $3.4 bills. Also does seem like good people.
But he's not the elite defender he used to be. These fine people have Hudson at -4 FRAA. 3.9 WARP-3 projected. Pretty good. But Branyan's making like 40% what Hudson is, and his WARP-3 is 5.3. So he must be next, right?
Mark Teixeira, Yankees 1B.
OK, $180 million for eight years isn't exactly a bargain basement price. But it's all good so far. The best thing isn't that he's second in the American League with 20 home runs after the notoriously slow starter turned in his usual putrid April. Nor is that he's helped the entire Yankees infield, which spent the past several years worrying about Jason Giambi's defensive deficiencies. It has to be that the signing still gets under the skin of the Red Sox higherups -- though Boston has won all its games against the Yankees thus far this year, Red Sox owner John Henry showed he hasn't forgotten, writing on his twitter page, "MT curse.'' That ill-advised tweet may in itself be its own curse.
Okay, sure, Teix is awesome. Rocking a .307 EqA. 21 Homers. WARP-3 of 6.5. But like literally 16x the price per year that the M's are paying Branyan, how about some love?
6. Brad Penny, Red Sox starter. He may not be drawing big attention on the trade market. But he's been a big plus for Boston in the rotation thus far. For $5 million, he's well worth it.
His ERA+ is 99. That's pretty average-ish. Granted he's a starter, and is on pace for 180+ innings, and has been pretty effective recently. But still, this is better than Branyan?
But maybe Heyman will finally mention him now...
7. CC Sabathia, Yankees starter. Some thought the Yankees crazy to pay $161 million over seven years for the heavy lefty. But except for his nervous debut in Baltimore, he's been well worth it. Beyond that, they absolutely had to have him. Without him, their ace is probably Joba Chamberlain, who should be in the bullpen (but that's a debate for another day).
He's going to earn $23,000,000 when he's 35. The Yankees have pretty much hinged their bets on a guy with a DERA about the same as Tim Wakefield. Wakefield earns less than 20% what CC earns.
Now Heyman, you've listed the stars, let's use some actual analysis...
8. Ivan Rodriguez, Astros C.
Oh my Christ.
Before they signed him, the Astros were practically guaranteed to get nothing offensively out of the catching position. He's hitting .254 with six homers and 29 RBIs, but consider the alternative. Rodriguez has hit better than he did with the Yankees last year. Plus, he brought a couple big moments, when he tied and broke the other Pudge's record for games caught.
His EqA is .233 right now. That guy he replaced is currently sporting a .249 in LA in 60 PA's (aren't small sample sizes fun?). But let's go through Heyman's perfectly infallable reasons:
1) He's hitting better than he did with the Yankees.
By this logic, grabbing a rattlesnake by the tail is less dangerous than wrestling a hungry grizzly, therefore, grabbing the rattlesnake is good judgment.
2) Big moments.
Just like it was probably epic when Jesse Orosco broke the record for most games pitched in a career. Wouldn't know about it, though, never watched baseball.
But I'm sure Branyan's coming, right?
9. Brian Fuentes, Angels closer. "He doesn't have closer stuff,'' one NL scout said. Well, who cares? He does have 20 saves to lead the American League. While he isn't K-Rod, he's good enough. Plus, the rest of the Angels' pen has been so awful, without him they'd be done by now.
New criticism of Heyman...WHY ISN'T THIS GUY HIGHER? First off, that NL scout probably needs a head exam, given Fuentes posted a 3.38 ERA and a 1.238 WHIP over 400+ career IP's in Colorado. The same Colorado that normally eats the careers of pitchers for dinner. His ERA+ was a sweet 143. His K rate was 10.3 in Colorado. As of right now, he's 25 for 28, so his save rate's about the same as Heyman's 2008 MVP K-Rod's was. His pay structure is a bit weird, but right now he's giving you almost everything K-Rod gave you for about 1/2 the money. Seems like a sweet sign to me.
Just like Branyan was, who I'm sure is about to appear...
10. Randy Johnson, Giants starter.
Back in his hometown, he's throwing better than he did a year ago. Amazingly effective (7-5, 4.68) at close to 46.
Ironic I'm writing this hours after Sanchez's no no - should've been perfecto. Yeah, it's amazing how he's still rolling at 46. But his ERA+ is 90. And he's earning $8,000,000. Or double what Wakefield's earning for a 112 ERA+. Technically the Red Sox "sign" Wakefield every year, why isn't he on here? Same with Tek, technically a Free Agent signing.
But of course, where's Branyan? Sure he's coming...
11. Adam Everett, Tigers SS. For $1 million guaranteed, he solidified the Tigers' infield. It's true he's not much of a hitter (though his .267 average threatens his career high of .273). But his defense has enabled the Tigers' pitching staff to get off to a great start.
BP has Everett at -8 FRAA / -0.3 WARP-1 (Fangraphs has him at +3.4 UZR / 0.9 WAR. Got to love fielding stats!). Depending on what you look at, this is either a really overrated or underrated deal.
But Branyan's earning just $400,000 more and playing way better. He must be next...
4 things wrong with this.
1) Wolf's numbers are all better than Johnson's. His ERA now is 3.45, a cool 121 ERA+ He makes $3,000,000 less. He's still just 32. Somehow RJ's deal is better. What?
2) Saying Jeff Weaver's a bigger bargain, aka a better contract/signing, in the same list where he doesn't appear. What the f***?
3) Really want to hang your hat on a 40 2/3 inning sample size to say Weaver's the man?
4) His WARP, usually inflated for a pitcher (though not so much NL ones) is 1.2. He only strikes out 6.67 per 9. Walks 2.6. Gives up 1.2 HR/9. Fangraphs has him outperforming his projected ERA by almost 3/4ths a run. Going forward, that's kind of dicey. Still forgetting Branyan, too...
13. David Eckstein, Padres 2B. Always inspirational, at least the rebuilding Padres have had moments. Hitting .268 and making just $850,000.
14. Adam Dunn, Nationals OF. He can't play the outfield. But he's providing exactly what he's paid ($20 million, two years) to do. Has 18 home runs and 50 RBIs with .258 batting average. Very consistent at bat, year to year.
Oh Christ, it's like he did this one on purpose.
Dunn is a miserable fielder. One can argue that's a bit trivial with a .315 EqA. He has 22 HR now, and a .931 OPS. He's having a great season.
Sure, you can argue I'd rather have Eckstein and his middle infielding, slightly albinoful .251 EqA for $850,000 than Dunn for $10,000,000 / year, but that's not been the rules of these evaluations. Why change it up now?
Okay, I'm sure Branyan is next, what with all the mediocre players no one cares about already listed...
15. Felipe Lopez, Diamondbacks 2B. Arizona's awful start isn't his fault. Is hitting .304.
I can't even tell you who he played for in 2008.
Cardinals, I guess.
Okay, sure. Slightly above average offense (.264 EqA) plus slightly above average defense (+1 FRAA) plus slightly above average difficulty in position (2B) makes him at $3,500,000 not too bad. But I must state again:
Lopez: WARP-1 of 1.6, $3,500,000
Branyan: WARP-1 of 2.7, $1,400,000
So, who's next, Branyan? Oh, wait, you're on to the bad, no mention of him...
Worst Free Agents
1. Bradley, Cubs OF. Who else? He doesn't always count outs. Of course, if he did, he'd know he's made plenty of them, way more than his share. An absolute train wreck, he showed his ability to get hurt in spring training, and since then, he's showed all the other myriad issues. No one should give this man a three-year deal. One good thing, if he doesn't reach 75 games, the third year is wiped off the books and the $30-million, three-year contract is only a $20-million, two-year deal (still too much for him, though).
2. Oliver Perez, Mets starter. If Mets fans look at that 9.97 ERA, their reaction would be: he's pitched that well? He's also being hit at a .315 clip. Omar Minaya liked the fact that he's young, lefthanded and talented. He's also a bit of a head case with a knee problem.
Fine. I'd argue Perez is hopeless and Bradley looked like a star after last season so they should be reversed, but yeah, they've been terrible in so many ways in 2009. If Bradley starts hitting again, though, this kind of looks stupid.
#3 was Burrell, he's been blah, too. Now take a guess who #4 is. Keep in mind #4 has an EqA of .382. Now analyze it.
4. Manny Ramirez, Dodgers OF.
That $25-million deal may still pay off big if the Man-child does anything big in the postseason (good chance of that, considering his history). But at the moment, despite the .348 start, it doesn't look too good with him working way back from 50-game suspension. Currently, a 66er.
Yeah, that much bills for Manny is pretty obscene. The 50 game suspension makes him lose appeal. But here's the thing, the Dodgers are still, like, dominating the NL. They are heads and shoulders the best in the league right now. I can assure you no one will call Manny's deal "bad" when he goes .375/.480/.700 in the NLDS and NLCS. It's cool if you don't like him. But his presense isn't exactly killing the Dodgers.
5. Kerry Wood, Indians closer. Poor ERA (5.68) and WHIP (1.62) are par for the course in Cleveland's disastrous start. Thus, both "Manny'' and "Wood'' make the list.
Just posting to ask why this disaster is behind Manny? Anyone know?
#6 is Farnsworth. Skipping #7 for now, you'll see why later.
8. Jason Giambi, A's 1B. He's a lot of fun to have around. And unlike some other ballplayers (ahem), if he ever gets called into a grand jury room, he will tell the truth. Does have 10 home runs and .343 on-base percentage, but that .204 batting average sticks out. A lot to like, just not on a ballfield right now.
Giambi has stunk, sure. Down to .195 right now, too. .258 EqA. Amazing dropoff from 2008. Seems like this list went about 5 guys too long, though; Giambi's getting $5.25 million this year in a one and done try before the A's start calling up their loaded farm system to run at the West. Didn't work. Oh well.
9. Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners OF. It's been a nice reunion. And he's beloved on the team as well as the community. But that .222 batting average isn't great. Is this the swan song?
And I am about to stun every person that reads this (approximately a dozen people, mom included).
The kid is only earning $2,000,000 in 2009. That's it. His slash stats are .215/.338/.402, EqA of .268. Not exactly superstar DH, but he's not exactly embarassing himself out there. He's a big upgrade from Vidro, too.
But more importantly, are the things that aren't showing up in the stats.
Yes, I know. I said it.
People care about the Mariners a little more now. A city that's been absolutely miserable with sports in recent history had a fan base that needed some energy. What better way to do it than bringing Griffey back? For just 2 bills, too. Improve the team a bit while you're at it.
Also, all reports say that Ichiro is, like, way happier now that he has a guy he's actually good friends with on the team. Ichiro, in case you don't watch ESPN ever, is having a wicked good year (.307 EqA, 4 WARP-1, already higher than the whole 2008 campaign). Maybe it's coincidence, since Ichiro's style lends itself to streaks and variance, but maybe there is some causation there.
Griffey's been fine in Seattle. Paid him a small ball to help the team a bit and make the fans smile. He's 2 for 2 in that. He should not be on this list.
So now I will return you to #7
7. Orlando Cabrera, A's SS. He said it himself. "I suck.'' So far, he does. A very good player at what seems like a bargain rate $4 million. Yet, he isn't playing like himself. That .612 OPS is ugly. Maybe he's depressed over what happened to the free agent market.
Folks, this means one of two things.
1) Heyman's brain actually is capable of processing new knowledge, and understanding its meaning.
2) The end of the world really is coming in 2012.
I will be sure to keep you posted, as this is a very serious, newsworthy event.