Free Agency Report: American League, Part I
One again, we will kick off our hot stove lounge season with examination of the MLB free agent front, in typically exhaustive RotoRob style. We’ll start with the American League, going through team by team and discuss the outlooks of each player.
To date, 168 players have filed, and there’s another few days before the deadline to declare free agency. Of course, this doesn’t include the wave of players who will become free agents during the non-tendering period.
But for now, we’ll focus on players who we know are on the market.
The O’s only have four free agents, which is a good thing considering this sinking squad can ill afford to lose much this offseason. B-More appeared headed in the right direction last season, but with just 19 wins in their final 62 games – including an awful 1-11 stretch to end the campaign – the Orioles failed to reach 70 wins for the second straight season.
We’re now talking about 11 straight sub-.500 seasons for a franchise that was once among the model organizations in the game.
Juan Castro, SS: Hmmm, he’s 36, has no speed, no power and can’t even reach the Mendoza Line. There’s sure to be a serious bidding war for his services, especially given the great amount of shortstops on the market this offseason. If he gets a minor league deal, Castro should count his lucky stars.
Alex Cintron, SS: Cintron actually showed a bit more gap power and cut his strikeout rate, but he’s a bit player at best, and will have to compete with a deep shortstop free agent class.
Kevin Millar, 1B: I keep expecting him to evolve into a role player, but Millar continues to get everyday playing time, despite his waning production. Obviously, the fact that he’s such a great team player is a factor, but he reached 145 games and 20 homers for the first time as an Oriole last season. At this point, his value as a clubhouse presence vastly outweighs his very limited fantasy use, and while it’s nice to root for good guys like Millar, chemistry means crap on our fantasy team.
Jay Payton, OF: Since arriving in Baltimore, Payton’s role keeps slipping, and so does his power, now unacceptably low for a corner outfielder. I can’t see anyone giving Payton a full-time job ever again, so his days of fantasy use are over.
Although Boston lost one win on the ledger from 2007 and failed to advance to their third World Series in five years, it’s hard to consider this season a failure. However, this organization faces another transition with nine free agents looming. Fortunately, most of them played lesser roles on the team, but there are a couple of key cogs in the Red Sox machine that may be missing in 2009.
Paul Byrd, RHP: There’s nothing fancy here, just a veteran arm who will make his 30 starts year in and year out and be perfectly middling. Inning eaters really don’t grow on trees, especially ones that are such a relatively affordable option. Byrd doesn’t offer much fantasy value, but there’s a legitimate chance Boston may bring him back. Otherwise, look for a team like the Giants, who could use a veteran presence, to pen him for a year or two.
Sean Casey, 1B: The BoSox are not expected to re-sign Casey, reduced to a peripheral role last season. He struck out more than usual, but was still quite productive, which makes me wonder how he could do if he lands another full-time gig. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening.
Bartolo Colon, RHP: Colon returned from injury and did a good job limiting the long ball and walks, showing enough that he should generate some interest this offseason. I could see the Jays taking a look at Big Bart.
Alex Cora, SS: Cora’s role has been reduced each season he’s been in Beantown, but he was productive when he did play last year, and is certainly far from being an automatic out, defensive replacement-type. Boston may opt to bring back the slick-fielding Cora, but there’s talk that the Sox will look for a younger and cheaper utility option. Given that there are plenty of shortstops out there, Cora may have a tough time finding a similar role.
Mark Kotsay, OF: Kotsay stayed healthy and did a good job as the fourth outfielder, bringing his usual great contact rates and gap power to the mix. The fact that the centrefield market is barren will play into Kotsay’s hands, but Boston is unlikely to bring him back, possibly targeting Rocco Baldelli as his replacement.
David Ross, C: Ross lost his job in Cincy and was DFAed, landing in Boston for an unimpressive late-season cameo. Overall, he didn’t hit horribly, and would make a decent back-up catcher. In fact, there’s a chance that if Jason Varitek doesn’t return, Boston will re-sign Ross and give him a full-time gig on a short-term basis. Clearly, it’s a situation the Sox need to address.
Curt Schilling, RHP: His bloody sock will live in Red Sox folklore forever, but his days in Boston are done. Could Philly bring him back for a last hurrah? Many think Schilling is done like dinner, but he says he wants to pitch for one more year, and chances are, someone will give him that opportunity.
Mike Timlin, RHP: Timlin was way too hittable last year, and his control is faltering. He’s definitely done as a Red Sox, and perhaps should think about calling it a day considering he’ll turn 43 during Spring Training 2009.
Jason Varitek, C: Although he still flashes occasional gap power, watching the disintegration of Varitek’s once fine offensive game has been painful. Still, the captain and his Gold Glove defensive skills have been such an integral part of the current Red Sox dynasty, that it’s hard to imagine a Boston team without Tek. Scott Boras is starting the bidding at four years and $52 million for Varitek, which makes me wonder where exactly he gets his crack. Boston will try to re-sign him, but not at that price. Even Boras couldn’t convince a major league team that a 36-year-old backstop who no longer hits his weight is worth that.
Next up, we’ll continue the American League free agent report with a look at the White Sox and others.