Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ten Free Agents Who Need to Sign Soon

One of the situations that's challenging to any forecaster is projecting a player's performance when you don't even know where or even if he'll play in the season in question.  So much of the outcome is determined by the role a player will have and the home park in which he'll play approximately half of his games.

In particular, the first of those two, knowledge of a player's role, is a critical element for any forecast.  These next statements are relatively obvious but let's review: A pitcher who is in the starting rotation is usually going to get many more innings than when he is expected to pitch in relief.  A player signed to close games is usually going to end up with more saves than when he is signed for some other purpose.  A player signed to be a regular in the lineup is, on average, going to get more at bats than if he is signed by a team looking for a bench player.  A veteran player signed to a big league contract is a safer bet to get playing time than when he is signed to a minor league contract.  And so on...

I restate those well-known facts here because as it stands with spring training fast approaching, there happen to be ten free agents left in our currently-published projection set who had previously been given pretty significant forecasts, in terms of playing time, who need to find a team soon if they're to sustain the sort of projections we offered.  In other words, if exhibition games get underway and these players are not signed, the forecasts we had previously published for these ten are in jeopardy.

By the way, we're not talking about the Carlos Delgados of the world.  Delgado, for example, isn't projected to end up as anyone's regular first baseman (or DH) in our previous forecasts and so his forecast isn't really the kind we would give to a player signed for that purpose.  Of course, if he happens to find a team who needs him to play regularly, and if he's proven healthy, then his forecast could go up.

Today, we're focusing on ten players whose previously forecasted playing time is very much in jeopardy if they don't land a team and a clear role soon.  I'm sure I could have found others in our set (there were still 59 prominent free agents for whom we had published a forecast in the previous set) but the forecasts for these ten really jump out:

Garrett Anderson, of: He's coming off a year that saw his average drop to the lowest level of his career (.268), he's going to turn thirty-eight this year and his skills defensively have declined enough that his best shot at playing time would seem to be as a DH or maybe a move to first base.  He's still good enough to help someone but his particular blend of skills must limit his options.

Hank Blalock, 1b/dh: The moment Vladimir Guerrero signed with the Rangers, Blalock's future as a Texas Ranger seemed to come to a more definite conclusion.  National League teams would likely be justifiably concerned about his durability as a first baseman and in the AL, there aren't many teams left who need at help at DH.

Johnny Damon, of: We mentioned Damon earlier this week and his is a forecast that could actually go up compared to where it is now, this if he finds a team that is willing to give him fairly regular playing time.  We'd be surprised if he doesn't choose his 2010 destination, which could still be heading home and retiring, within the next two weeks.

Jermaine Dye, of: Coming off a season that saw him hit .250 with 27 home runs, 78 runs scored and 81 RBI, you have to believe he will find a new home soon.  Throughout the off-season, we've heard rumblings related to the Cubs, Texas and Boston at different points but nothing concrete ever materialized and all of these teams have lined up other options by now.

Livan Hernandez, p: He always seems to eventually find a team.  He then ends up spending an entire season in the starting rotation without ever having the ability to settle in one place for too long nor without producing much results-wise.  Now about to turn thirty-five and with a career ERA of 4.45, he has started at least 31 games every year since 1997, this as he's played for six different teams in the past four years (seven if we count separate stints in Washington in 2006 and 2009).

Braden Looper, p:  The market level for him was semi-established the moment the Brewers decided not to pick up an option year for 2010 worth $6.5 million.  Since that November announcement, his name hasn't come up much in any rumors of real substance and we had previously expected he would end up as a regular starter.  He gave up a league-leading 113 earned runs and 39 home runs last year and his 5.22 ERA was the worst of his career other than his 4 game major league debut back in 1998.

Felipe Lopez, 2b: Like Dye, there really hasn't been much reported interest for Lopez and I'm not sure why.  He's thirty years old, is coming off a season that saw him hit .310 in more than 600 at bats and .283 the year before and he took 71 walks last year as well (a .383 OBP).  Even if he played the outfield rather than second base, he'd still be of value to someone as a hitter so why he remains unsigned is a mystery.

Mike MacDougal, p: We haven't currently projected MacDougal to end up as a full closer but we had given him a handful of saves and a lot of games and both get less likely the closer we get to the start of the season without him having a new home.  He had an acceptable year last year (20 saves, 4.31 ERA) but he still walked more than he struck out.

Pedro Martinez, p: It's still possible that he does as he did last year and sits out the first portion of the season but his starts with Philadelphia last year demonstrated, to at least a small degree, that he's still good enough to be a regular member of a big league rotation.  He's not the Pedro of ten years ago but he doesn't need to be either.

Jarrod Washburn, p: While he was awful in the portion of last season that he spent with Detroit, his recent career implies that he should be good enough to help someone.  He's started at least 26 games every year since 2000 so I fully expect he'll find a new team soon, likely as a regular member of someone's rotation.