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Friday, October 29, 2004

Joe's Free Agency Preview 

I told Chris that I was writing a preview of this Winter's free agents. A couple of weeks later, I'm finally getting around to posting it.

According to the Ken Rosenthal of the Sportingnews.com, the Mariners should have about $29 million to spend this offseason. What hitters should they take a look at? (Pitchers coming soon)

Carlos Delgado-the numbers for this year are skewed by a poor first half (.223/.325/.421); he was back to his normal self (.305/.408/.625)after the All-star break. The good: His home/road splits are virtually identical, indicating he’s not simply a product of the Skydome. His 3-year averages remain fairly consistent as well (.283/.401/.559). Best of all, he has hit well at Safeco (.389/.476/.792 in 19 career games at Safeco). He’s also generally regarded as a great guy to have in the clubhouse, which Seattle values highly.
The bad: he missed 34 games last year, so there’s a higher potential for injury in the future. He’s no gold glover defensively, though he is better than people give him credit for. Finally, he made $19 million last year, and there’s no chance that any team will throw that kind of cash in front of him again.
The skinny: Toronto has already said it will not resign Delgado, so if the Mariners can get a good deal for him (say, 3 years at $12 million per), he should be their top priority. He’s a power bat from the left side who could really thrive in laid-back Seattle. Expect the Orioles to make a push as well.

Carlos Beltran- His numbers (.267/.367/.548) were split between Kansas City and Houston last year.
The good: perhaps the best all-around centerfielder in baseball, Beltran is the total package as a great hitter, excellent defender, and missed only 3 games last year. And he is still just 27, so he figures to get even better. His numbers at Safeco are good (.309/.390/.500 in 18 career games), and he certainly didn’t hurt his value this postseason for the Astros (8 HR, 1.557 OPS).
The bad: Beltran has drawn interest from the Yankees and the Red Sox, which will drive his contract price up considerably. In addition, his numbers compare the closest to Bernie Williams, a fine centerfielder but not worth the $20 million that Beltran will probably get.
The skinny: the Yankees are already starting to send Mickey Mantle comparisons to his agent, Scott Boras. It appears unlikely that Seattle has a chance to get him. In a perfect world, however, he would be at the top of the Mariner’s wish list.

Andruw Jones- His numbers last year were .261/.345/.488. He is not actually a free agent, but the Braves have indicated that they might be willing to trade him.
The good: Jones is on the short list (with Mike Cameron and Torii Hunter) of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball, something very important in spacious Safeco field. He has only 3 games at Safeco, but his home/road splits are good (.851 career OPS on the road, vs. .819 at home). And, believe it or not, he is only one day older than Beltran.
The bad: he has little experience in A.L. parks. His numbers are consistent, but there is the perception that he has peaked as a player. He also has a reputation as somewhat of a head case. Finally, a trade for him would not come cheap; Seattle would likely have to be willing to part with Jeremy Reed or even (gulp!) Felix Hernandez before any negotiation would take place.
The skinny: Seattle’s chances of getting him are not great, but if they catch Atlanta during a period of payroll reduction (see: Kevin Millwood for Johnny Estrada), they might get a great deal for him.

Edgar Renteria-Hit .287/.327/.401 this past year, and is among the favorites for the NL gold glove at shortstop.
The good: Spectacular defensively; Range factor of 4.41 higher than in his gold glove years. His hitting performance from last year was slightly down, but his 3-year averages (.307/.362/.802) are among the best for NL shortstops. He’s missed only 27 games the past 3 years. Has also come through in the clutch in the past (1997 World Series game-winner).
The bad: He has benefited from being in some outstanding lineups during his career, so his hitting numbers may be slightly inflated. He is also considered the best shortstop on the market, with the Red Sox and Cubs (in addition to St. Louis) likely to go after him. He might be too overpriced. The Mariners are also loaded with good shortstops in their minor leagues; in addition to Jose Lopez, there is Adam Jones, Matt Tuiasosopo, and Michael Morse listed among their top prospects.
The skinny: he’d be an excellent addition, but look for the Mariners to try to fill this position from within the organization at a cheaper price. St. Louis will probably get him back, unless he gets an overwhelming offer.
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Adrian Beltre-The numbers speak for themselves: .334/.388/.629, and led the majors in home runs, all while playing his home games in the pitcher’s haven known as Dodger Stadium.
The good: Amazing offensive season last year. At 24, he finally had the breakout offensive season everyone was expecting from him the past few years. Hitting in a pitcher’s park would make the transition to Safeco a lot easier as well. He is also excellent defensively, and might be considered for the NL gold glove at third base if it wasn’t for Scott Rolen.
The bad: last year was great, but it was also far and away his best offensive year (OPS for 2003: a mere .714). This could be due to maturation, but it could also be the result of playing for a new multiyear contract. His plate discipline is also not spectacular (53 walks in 651 plate appearances), and he has virtually no experience hitting in Safeco.
The skinny: He certainly enhanced his value over the past year, but expect his re-signing to be the top priority for the Dodgers in this offseason.

Alfonso Soriano-his numbers took a slight dive last year (.280/.324/.484), but are actually right in line with his 3-year averages. He’s eligible for arbitration next year, but the Rangers will likely make him available.
The good: his offensive production is outstanding for a second baseman. Picture Ichiro swinging for the fences. He has power (averaged 35 HRs the past 3 years), speed (18 steals last year, 35 the year before), and at 28, still has considerable upside. He also has some postseason heroics (too painful to mention) and is a fairly low risk for injury. His numbers at Safeco are right in line with his career numbers.
The bad: the biggest knock on him has been plate discipline; he actually has more homers (126) than walks (124) for his career. Also, his future is in the outfield, since his defense at second base is horrendous. His numbers took a dive last year, despite moving to the Ballpark in Arlington (or whatever it’s called) from the more pitcher-friendly Yankee Stadium.
The Skinny: he has a lot of trade value for the Rangers, so expect them to auction him off to the highest bidder this offseason. The Mariners have plenty of young pitching to deal for him, but bet on the Mets overpaying for his services.

Mike Lowell-his numbers keep improving (.293/.365/.505). Solid defensive Third baseman. Free agent only if Florida fails to get a new stadium deal.
The Good: former Yankee farmhand has gotten better each year both offensively and defensively, and at 30, should be entering his prime. Has shown he can overcome adversity as well (recovering cancer patient).
The bad: he missed Florida’s World Series run in 2003 after breaking his hand in the last month, but seems fully recovered. Even if the Fish don’t get a new stadium deal, he might not want to leave his home state. At 30, he is unlikely to improve too much more.
The skinny: the third base market is loaded this year, which might actually keep his price down. He’d be an excellent alternative to Beltre, but expect him to stay in Florida.

Magglio Ordonez-Yet another big contract coming off the books this offseason, Ordonez missed most of the year with a couple of different injuries.
The Good: he’s one of the best hitting right fielders out there. Before last year, his two-year OPS was .952, and in 2003 he just barely missed out on a fifth straight .300/30/100 season. And before last year, his durability had never been a concern, playing 150+ games each year since 1999. Defensively, he’s merely average, but has a respected arm (11 OF assists in 2001).
The Bad: Last year’s injuries raise a red flag. He’s also been helped out by a fairly good White Sox lineup the past several years. In addition, he made $14 million last year, and while he won’t get that this year, several teams (the Mets, for one) figure to be in the running for him.
The skinny: he’s a poor man’s Vladimir Guerrero. He’d be a good player to sign except for one thing: he plays the same position as Ichiro, who isn’t going anywhere. Still, he’d be a solid signing at the right price and with a switch to left field.

Troy Glaus-Your basic slugging third baseman, he is unlikely to resign with Anaheim for next year. Can also play first base. At either position, he’d be better than whoever Seattle dragged out there last year.
The good: has 182 homers in 827 games, or one every 4.5 games. Still only 28. Signing him would also hurt division rival Anaheim.
The bad: has missed 175 games the past 2 years, and 47 of those homers came in his rookie year. Not spectacular defensively. He was one of baseball’s most overpaid players last year ($10.45 million).
The skinny: Seattle should not break the bank for this guy. I would hesitate on even giving out a multiyear contract to him. Call it the Scott Spiezio effect.

JD Drew-enjoyed the biggest breakout year this side of Adrian Beltre (.305/.436/.570) after coming to Atlanta in an offseason trade with St. Louis.
The Good-he’s always been considered a five-tool player with excellent outfield defense. In addition to his power, he has excellent plate discipline (118 walks). He turns 29 in November, so his best years should come soon.
The bad: he’s been an injury risk virtually every year in the pros. Also, there’s the contract year effect. He also played right field last year, but has played all three outfield positions in the past.
The skinny: interesting case. If he stays healthy, he could be a bargain. But if I were running the Braves, I’d let him go and extend Andruw Jones’ contract.

Nomar Garciaparra-Split last year between Boston and Chicago, going .297/.364/.455 with the Cubs.
The Good: one of the best hitting shortstops out there, his career numbers (.322/.370/.549, with 182 homers) are as good as they get at the position now that A-Rod is a third basemen. He’s 31, meaning he should have at least 4 more productive hitting years ahead of him.
The bad: he played in only 81 games last year due to various injuries, and always seems to be hurting in some small way (though surprisingly he missed only 12 games combined the previous two years). His hitting numbers have gone down steadily the past 3 years, during which he hasn’t hit his career averages. His plate discipline isn’t great, either (80 walks in 2002-03 combined). Defensively, he is a liability, though he might look pretty good as a third baseman (a la A-rod) or at second.
The skinny: Memo to Seattle: not worth it. He’s too fragile, declining offense, and average, at best, defensively. Let Anaheim overpay for him, and go after Renteria if you want to upgrade short.

Richie Sexson-He missed virtually all of last year with a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury that required surgery, but had a .914 OPS before he went down.
The Good: before last year, his numbers were steadily improving year-to-year. His 2001-03 numbers include an .894 OPS with 119 homers and 351 RBIs. As a fielder, he’s no slouch (.993 career percentage). He also happens to be from the Northwest (born in Portland, raised in the Seattle area).
The bad: obviously, there’s an injury risk, though not quite as much as people might think (it was his non-throwing shoulder). He did put up great numbers in the past… in Miller Park, an excellent hitter’s park, though with a generally horrible lineup around him.
The skinny: even with his injury, he should be in pretty high demand, but should also be available at a fairly reasonable price. But remember: sometimes going home to play can backfire on the player (see: Cirillo, Jeff).

Jason Varitek-One of many free agents for the Red Sox this offseason, his numbers (.296/.390/.482) are excellent production for a catcher. He is one-half of the worst trade in Mariner history (thank you, Heithcliff Slocumb).
The good: he’s a catcher who can hit. Last year was a career year, but his career .798 OPS is very solid. He’s also excellent defensively, posting a .998 fielding percentage last year with only two errors and five passed balls. As far as catchers go, he’s relatively low-risk as far as injuries go.
The bad: the biggest negative is that he’s 32, which is the age when most catchers start breaking down. He’s put up great numbers in a great Boston lineup, but his numbers at Safeco are horrible (.686 OPS in 22 games).
The skinny: He’s the heart and soul of that Red Sox team. Don’t expect him to be going anywhere. The Mariners should give Miguel Olivo a chance and not worry about upgrading catcher too much.
*numbers off of Yahoo! Sports

Comments:
That's a really good free-agency preview, Joe! Very professional! I agree that Delgado would probably be a good fit--possibly even a bargain unless someone steps in and stupidly overpays him. I prefer Sexon with the M's though. He may still have his best days ahead of him, and the injury makes him likely to be underpaid.
 
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