Free Agency – Who’s Left?

The 2011 Winter Meetings are over.  Three days of tumult, chaos, and rumours galore have come to an end.  Most people survived, though some turned a bit insane (see the Angels of Anaheim – 10 years for Pujols?).

Now that many of the big names are off the table, it’s time to sit back and take a look at who’s still out there.  Peruse the scraps, if you will.  Alex Anthopoulos has gone on record saying that he would still like to add a “middle of the order bat, mid-rotation starter, and an 8th inning guy”.  He has also made it abundantly clear that trades are his preferred method.  But just for fun, let’s take a look at the remaining free agents and see if maybe, just maybe, any of them can work for Toronto.

Hitters

Baseball Reference lists 198 remaining free agent batters.  Obviously, the Jays will have little interest in most of these names, so let’s make a few cuts.

Gone are the catchers, as the trade for slugger Jeff Mathis makes a backup catcher unnecessary.  That eliminates 36 names, such as Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Varitek, Jorge Posada, and our favourite Robinzon Diaz (or “He Who Got Us Jose Bautista”).

I’m making a decision and cutting anybody who is 36 and older.  While many of these guys might be able to hit still, I think as Jays fans we’ve had our fill of the “veteran slugger with diminishing skills” with the disaster that was Frank Thomas.  That gets rid of 23 more, including Omar Vizquel, Hideki Matsui, Magglio Ordonez, and Vladimir Guerrero.

If we’re looking for a potential middle of the order bat, I think we can forget about players with a career WAR of less than 1- they won’t make any difference what-so-ever.  That cuts 83 (!) off the list, including such notables as Reggie Willits, Hector Luna, and Ronny Cedeno.

Next, let’s get rid of players who used to play for the Jays.  We don’t want any repeat failures, so gone are Lyle Overbay, Felipe Lopez, Reed Johnson, Corey Patterson, Bobby Kielty, Fred Lewis, Cesar Izturis, and Jeremy Reed.

Finally, let’s cut the four guys who will be too expensive and not in Toronto’s plans: Carlos Beltran, Jimmy Rollins, Aramis Ramirez, and (sadly) Prince Fielder.

What do we have left?  Unfortunately a very sad list if 44 players that leaves a lot to be desired.  There is a mixture of guys who were top prospects but never panned out (Wilson Betemit, Felix Pie, Angel Berroa), veterans looking for another couple of years before they ride off in the sunset (Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez, Pat Burrell, Edgar Renteria, Juan Pierre), and role players who won’t do much other than provide pinch-hit heroics once in a while (Casey Kotchman, Dan Johnson, Conor Jackson).

There are a few intriguing names on the list, but most come with issues of their own.  Josh Willingham is a nice power hitter, but is looking for an expensive multi-year deal.  Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are in the same boat, and more likely to re-sign with the Twins anyways.  Kevin Kouzmanoff has some pop but mainly plays 3B.  Nick Johnson can barely walk anymore.  Carlos Pena can still hit homers and get on base, but can’t hit above .230 and will likely be looking for a huge payday. 

So who’s the best target still out there?  I don’t think there is one, but if I had to choose, maybe Ryan Ludwick.  He is 33 years old and coming off a terrible season, but is only a few years removed from some productive seasons (37 HR in 2008).  He might come fairly inexpensive, and could provide some pop from the outfield.  But of course, that means taking away playing time from Thames/Snider.

Final Vote: Nobody

Pitchers

Let’s do the same thing for pitchers.  Again using  Baseball Reference, we see a total of 172 remaining free agents.  

First we cut the closers as the trade for Sergio Santos fills that need.  Francisco Cordero, Jason Isringhausen (he still counts as a closer to me), Francisco Rodriguez, Brad Lidge, and Ryan Madson are gone. 

In the age category, let’s make 40 our magic number, as there are still a number of effective late 30’s relievers.  That takes care of Tim Wakefield, Takashi Saito, Arthur Rhodes, Miguel Batista, and Darren Oliver.

Using the same logic as the hitters, let’s go ahead and scrap players with a career WAR of less than 1.  This removes 95 names from the list, big time names such as Justin Lehr, Jason Bergmann, and Garrett Olson. 

Finally, let’s copy the hitters list and get rid of ex-Jays.  Though it’s entirely possible that AA might bring one of these guys back, I don’t want them.  So long Dave Bush, Gustavo Chacin, Jeremy Accardo, Shawn Camp, Trever Miller, and Vinnie Chulk.

That leaves 61 players on our list, and like the hitters list, there isn’t a lot that jumps out.  There are some bigger names that don’t really fit what the Jays want to do (Roy Oswalt, Javier Vazquez, Bartolo Colon, Brandon Webb, Livan Hernandez, Kerry Wood), and there are some guys just trying to hang on (Vincente Padilla, Oliver Perez, Brett Tomko, Dontrelle Willis).  Edwin Jackson could be intriguing but I question whether he’ll ever put it together.  Plus he technically was a Jay for a few hours last summer.

I don’t really see a mid-rotation starter out there, unless you want to take a flier on injury-prone Canadian Rich Harden.  Maybe not asking him to be top-2 starter would benefit him.  In the bullpen, a guy like George Sherrill could be worth a look as a LOOGY type player.  He held lefties to a .608 OPS last year, and allowed only one walk to a left-handed hitter – while striking out 32 of them.  As far as an 8th inning guy?  He’s often hurt and might be a bit of a wild card, but Joel Zumaya is on the list.  This is the guy who used to blow past 100-MPH, and if he can stay healthy might be a good set-up man.

Again, the choices are thin but if forced I would take Harden, Zumaya, and Sherrill.

And that my friends is why I should not be a GM.

And that my friends, is also why we should believe and trust in AA. He will not sign a player if the right player isn’t there.

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