The oddballs of the free agent market

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Let’s take the lull in the hot stove season to think about available free agents. Not the best available ones. That would (a) lead to more Matt Holliday and Jason Bay talk, and who needs more of that right now; and (b) it would take some thinking, and today’s the Monday after a holiday and you’re lucky I didn’t call in sick today, so expecting me to really analyze anything is a laugh.

No, I’m talking about the the ones who have had little or no buzz about them to date. Filler. Guys who used to be big names (or guys who think they’re still big names but believe that the game got small). Weirdos and “that guy filed for free agency?” dudes. Guys like:

Paul Byrd: I figured his little show-up-in-the-middle-of-the-season career path would last longer than a year. I don’t see him getting more than a non-roster invite, but he might have something left, and in a world where pitching is supposedly so scarce, you figure he’d get a try;

Vladimir Guerrero: The lack of any noise about him tells you just how bad the market is for DHs these days. This more than anything has me thinking that the players may one day push for the NL to adopt it. The DH is like the desk job for the guy at your office with seniority but who can’t work a file anymore.

Brad Ausmus: He’s been so bad a hitter for so long but he lands someplace every year. My first impulse used to be to mock him, but I don’t do that anymore. I talked to a writer at the Winter Meetings who went on and on about just how much teams love the guy. Not for rah-rah locker room stuff, but because of his preparation and coaching and the way he’s able to focus younger players on the task at hand. He has giant binders on hitters’ tendencies and studies them all the time. He’s almost definitely going to be a manager some day.  Too bad he can’t hit a lick.

Nomar Garciaparra and Carlos Delgado: I think someone should sign them as a package deal and make a run at the 2000 title.

Tony Clark: Clark is still really active in the Player’s Association, serving on the union’s executive board. I wonder how long you can do that without, you know, having a job?

Joe Crede: A third base free agent with Scott Boras for an agent. Just as Matt Holliday’s situation is complicating Johnny Damon’s, I wonder if Adrian Beltre’s is complicating Crede’s.  He, Damon and a lawyer should probably have coffee one day and talk about it.

Miguel Tejada and Gary Sheffield: whoever loses on the Nomar-Delgado derby can go with this duo to try and keep up.

Willy Mo Pena and Dmitri Young:  Young is only eligible for free agency and has basically retired. But who’s to say that Jim Bowden won’t land a GM job somewhere and get the band back together? Sign these two, trade for Austin Kearns . . .

Ryan Freel: Doug Glanville wrote a column in the New York Times over the weekend about how simply being a pro athlete leads to temptations of the flesh, regardless of whether you’re a real player or not (in every sense of the word).  Case in point: Ryan Freel.  Here he was back when he played for the Reds. I can’t access a current picture of him because I don’t want to spring for an eHarmony membership in order to get it.  Suffice it to say, it seems like a long time since he signed that $7 million extension and moved Ken Griffey, Jr. off centerfield.

Matt Stairs, Mike Sweeney, Jim Thome: if you signed one and they shipped you one of the others, how long would it take you to notice?

John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Jason Schmidt: In April 1996, the Braves were the defending World Champions, and this was 60% of their rotation. Greg Maddux officially retired over a year ago, and I’m fairly certain he could still outpitch all three of them.

Oh well, we now return you to rumors about how someone batted their eye in Jason Bay’s direction and how his agent cant tell if they like-like him or just, you know, like him.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.