Andruw Jones

Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 111-91

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This is the first article in a six-part series looking at this winter’s free agent class.  I’ve included players who might have their options picked up after the World Series, but left out the no-brainers like Adrian Gonzalez and Omar Infante.  Also omitted were the retiring Billy Wagner and Mike Lowell.

Players are ranked based less on personal preference and more on how I believe they’ll be perceived by major league teams.  So while I’d rather have Andruw Jones or Austin Kearns on my team in 2011, Jose Guillen will be ranked higher than either.

Ages as of April 1, 2011 are listed next to each player.

111. Dave Bush (Brewers – Age 31) – It was rarely pretty, but Bush did finish with an acceptable 4.54 ERA in 174 1/3 innings this season. He used to receive strong marks for his WHIP, finishing fourth in the NL in that category in 2006 and fifth in 2008. However, he came in next to last at 1.51 this year (Paul Maholm was the only qualified starter to fare worse). He needs to make the move to a big ballpark to have much chance of surviving going forward.

110. Carlos Delgado (Red Sox – Age 38) – Delgado was unable to make it back to the majors after signing a minor league deal with the Red Sox in August, and he underwent another procedure on his hip in September. When last healthy, he finished ninth in the NL MVP balloting with the Mets in 2008. Still, he’ll probably have to settle for an incentive-laden minor league deal this winter.

109. Craig Counsell (Brewers – Age 40) – Counsell is looking at a paycut from the $2.1 million he made this year, but he remains a viable shortstop and his experience and intangibles will count for a lot in the eyes of many. He’s also excelled as a pinch-hitter the last couple of years. The Brewers will likely make an attempt to re-sign him.

108. Gerald Laird (Tigers – Age 31) – Laird’s defensive reputation will keep him employed, but he’s not going to be signed as a starter after sinking to a new low offensively this year (.207/.263/.304 in 270 at-bats). The fact is that he’s been one of the league’s worst hitters three of the last four years. He’s on the Jason LaRue career path.

107. Joe Crede (FA – Age 32) – Crede opted to sit out the entire season and aim for a 2011 return from his latest back surgery. He was a solid player for the White Sox in 2008, hitting .248/.314/.460 in 97 games, but he slipped to .225/.289/.414 in 90 games with the Twins in 2009. He hasn’t had a fully healthy season since 2006. It’s doubtful he’ll be handed a job at this point, but if healthy, he could be just as valuable as Brandon Inge, who received an $11.5 million commitment from the Tigers.

106. Adam Kennedy (Nationals – Age 35) – Prepared to go with Danny Espinosa at second base, the Nationals figure to buy Kennedy out for $500,000 rather than exercise his $2 million club option. Kennedy hit just .249/.327/.327 this year, and his lack of versatility gives him limited value as a bench player. He might have to take a minor league deal, just as he did before his strong 2009 season with the A’s.

105. Jason Varitek (Red Sox – Age 38) – Before suffering a broken foot on June 30, Varitek was excelling as a true backup to Victor Martinez, hitting .263/.324/.547 in 95 at-bats. He made just five appearances after returning in September and went 1-for-17. The Red Sox catching situation is awfully fluid at the moment, but it doesn’t appear likely that he’ll return. Several teams will have interest in his veteran presence as long as he’s content starting 40-50 games next year.

104. Melky Cabrera (Braves – Age 26) – Cabrera was still two years away from qualifying for free agency, but the Braves released him at season’s end. His career is already at a crossroads at age 26. If he were more consistent, he’d be a terrific fourth outfielder or a decent enough option as the worst starter in some team’s outfield. However, he’s terrible when he slumps and that he’s perceived as having little upside won’t help him find work. He shouldn’t have to accept a minor league deal, but his $3.1 million salary from this year will probably be cut in half.

103. Pedro Martinez (FA – Age 39) – Martinez didn’t lack for opportunities to come back and pitch this summer, but he turned them down. While his agent made it clear that Pedro hadn’t retired, odds are that he’s done at age 39, and if he does come back, it probably wouldn’t be for the full season.

102. Jeremy Bonderman (Tigers – Age 28) – Bonderman’s ERA stood at 4.79 at the All-Star break, but with a 1.32 WHIP, it looked like he had some room for improvement. Instead, he finished up with a 6.50 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP during the second half. He even talked of retirement while struggling, though it’s doubtful he’ll go that route at age 28. I’d like to see him tried as a reliever.

101. Kyle Farnsworth (Braves – Age 34) – Farnsworth was a disappointment after joining the Braves, giving up 12 runs in 20 innings, but he had a 61/19 K/BB ratio and a 3.34 ERA in 64 2/3 innings for the season. Kept in a medium-leverage role, he’ll probably give some team its $2 million worth. There can’t be another GM out there optimistic enough to give him a multiyear deal.

100. Jerry Hairston Jr. (Padres – Age 34) – Given his most extensive action at shortstop ever (53 starts), Hairston acquitted himself pretty well before going down in September with a broken leg. He should be viewed strictly as a utilityman going forward, but since he can play both middle-infield spots and the outfield, he’s a nice player to have around.

99. Justin Duchscherer (Athletics – Age 33) – Duchscherer missed 2009 with an elbow injury and then a case of depression. He was able to open 2010 in the rotation, going 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA before a sore left hip put him on the DL. He later underwent season-ending surgery. Duchscherer was an All-Star in 2008, going 10-8 with a 2.54 ERA in 22 starts, but he’s basically been healthy for six months in four seasons. That’s not worth more than a $1 million guarantee.

98. Gregg Zaun (Brewers – Age 39) – Signed to replace Jason Kendall in Milwaukee, Zaun played in just 28 games, hitting .265/.350/.392, before requiring season-ending shoulder surgery. The Brewers hold a $2.25 million club option on his services that they’re expected to decline, but Zaun will play somewhere next year. As long as his rehab goes well, he can be an asset while starting 80-100 games.

97. Chad Qualls (Rays – Age 32) – One of the NL’s most underrated relievers for half a decade, Qualls fell apart in his second year as the Diamondbacks’ closer, posting an 8.29 ERA in 38 innings before being dealt to the Rays at the trade deadline. He wasn’t a whole lot better then, finishing with a 5.57 ERA in 21 innings. He hasn’t lost much velocity, but hitters were definitely making better contact with his sinker than ever before. He won’t be signed as a closer, but some team could wager $2 million that he’ll bounce back.

96. Cesar Izturis (Orioles – Age 31) – Long one of the game’s worst hitters, Izturis truly bottomed out this year, coming in at .230/.277/.269 in 473 at-bats. The Orioles may want him back as their starting shortstop anyway, but they shouldn’t give him another multiyear contract. His glove is merely good, not great, at this stage of his career.

95. Jose Contreras (Phillies – Age 39) – Contreras was babied in his first year as a reliever and still lost stuff as the year went on, but he finished with a nice 3.34 ERA and a 57/16 K/BB ratio in 56 2/3 innings. He also allowed just one hit over four scoreless innings in the postseason. Some contender should sign him, stash him on the DL for two months and then plug him right into a setup role come June.

94. Andruw Jones (White Sox – Age 33) – It’s worked out the last two years that Jones has played his best ball when he’s not penciled into the lineup regularly. He got off to a fast start with the White Sox, hitting six homers in April, suffered in May and June and then reemerged as a bit player in the second half, hitting .272/.380/.565 in 92 at-bats after the All-Star break. His overall .230/.341/.486 line would make him a fine regular if he could do it for a full season. However, he’s likely looking at another part-time role.

93. Felipe Lopez (Red Sox – Age 30) – Lost in the shuffle after a fine 2009 season in which he hit .310/.383/.427, Lopez was guaranteed just $1 million when he signed with the Cardinals in late February. He never rediscovered the late-2008 magic in his second go-round with St. Louis, and he was released in September due to habitual tardiness. The Red Sox, who picked him up in late September, may choose to offer him arbitration, figuring he’d be a nice piece to have around at $1 million-$1.5 million. Lopez, though, would probably prefer to look for a starting job elsewhere.

92. Chad Durbin (Phillies – Age 33) – Durbin had a better season this year than in 2009, but while he was one of the Phillies’ most trusted relievers in the past, he appeared in just two postseason games this time around and he took a very costly blown save in one of them. Durability works in his favor, as he’s averaged 75 innings as a reliever the last three years. He should have plenty of one-year, $2 million offers to pick from. The team that goes to two years will get him.

91. Jorge Cantu (Rangers – Age 29) – Cantu drove in 100 runs in 2009 and it looked like he’d get there again two months into 2010, but he collapsed utterly and finished the year with a .256/.304/.392 line in 472 at-bats. He drove in just two runs in his two months with the Rangers to finish with 56 RBI for the year. Cantu is a subpar defensive third baseman, and while he has a history of producing runs as a No. 4 or No. 5 hitter, his career-best OPS stands at 808. It’s likely that he’ll land a first base job somewhere, but there’s certainly no good reason to pay him more than $2 million or so.

Adams homers in 16th to lift Cardinals over Dodgers 4-3

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ST. LOUIS — Matt Adams homered in the 16th inning to lead the Cardinals to a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night for St. Louis’ season-best fifth straight victory.

It was the second consecutive game that the Cardinals won in their final at-bat. They beat the Padres on Thursday after scoring a run in the ninth inning.

Adams homer came with one out off Bud Norris (5-9), who gave up six runs as a starter in an 8-1 loss at Washington on Wednesday.

Seth Maness (1-2) picked up the win with a scoreless inning of relief for St. Louis, which was playing its longest game of the season.

Jedd Gyorko hit a two-out homer off closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth to tie the game 3-3.

Justin Turner and Howie Kendrick homered for the Dodgers. Los Angeles has lost four of six. The red-hot Turner has seven homers and 17 RBI this month. He hit two homers in a 6-3 win over Washington on Thursday.

Turner blasted his career-high 18th homer of the season off Seung Hwan Oh in the ninth to break a 2-2 tie.

Corey Seager had four hits and drove in the first run of the game. He had hit in seven successive at-bats before flying out in the ninth.

Kendrick’s solo shot in the sixth tied the game 2-2. He has hit in 14 successive games trying Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the longest current streak in the majors.

Los Angeles starter Brandon McCarthy allowed one hit and two runs over 6 1-3 innings, the longest of his four starts this season. He left with leg cramps. McCarthy struck out four and walked three.

St. Louis starter Michael Wacha allowed two runs on 10 hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked one.

Dodgers reliever Adam Liberatore recorded his 28th successive scoreless outing by retiring two of four batters in the seventh. He has not allowed a run in 41 of 42 appearances this season.

Minor League Players’ Wage Suit against Major League Baseball suffers a huge setback

The judge's gavel is seen in court room 422 of the New York Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street February 3, 2012. REUTERS/Chip East
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A judge handed minor leaguers looking to hold Major League Baseball liable for underpaying and exploiting them a huge setback today, ruling that the case cannot go forward as a class action. Minor leaguers who want to sue over their pay and treatment still can, but they’ll have to do it individually. The ruling saps the minor leaguers of their leverage, as Major League Baseball would likely be able to fend off individual cases which, by themselves, might only amount to several thousand dollars per claim.

The background: in 2014, former Miami Marlins player Aaron Senne sued Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, and three major league clubs claiming that minor leaguers are underpaid and exploited in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. He was later joined by former Royals minor leaguer Michael Liberto and Giants farmhand Oliver Odle. Eventually others joined and the suit had been expanded to 22 teams as defendants.

The upshot of the case is that, while the minor league season lasts only part of the year, players are required to do all sorts of things outside of merely playing games for which they are not compensated. Training, meetings, appearances and the like. When all of that time is added up, the players claim, their already low salaries are effectively far below minimum wage in violation of the law. Major League Baseball has countered this by claiming that minor leaguers are basically part time seasonal workers — like landscapers and pool boys — who are not subject to federal labor laws.

Last year the judge gave the case conditional certification, allowing the players to try to establish that it should go forward as a class action. This would streamline the case from the plaintiffs’ perspective and give them the power of collective action by asserting hundreds or more similar cases into one proceeding. The judge’s ruling today, however, was that the cases really weren’t factually similar and thus collective action was not appropriate because figuring out how many hours each player worked and what was required of him varied too greatly among the players.

From his order:

“The difficulties associated with determining what activities constitute ‘work’ in the context of winter training are compounded by the fact that there appear to be no official records documenting these activities. Because it may be impossible to determine from official records the types of conditioning activities in which the players engaged, membership in the state classes based on winter training would depend largely upon the players’ ability to remember, with a reasonable amount of detail, what they did during the off-season (often for multiple years and for many, several years in the past) to stay fit.”

The judge said that, in light of this, each case would be unique and would require “individualized inquiries” to find damages and liability. That phrase –“individualized inquiries” — constitutes magic words which sink would-be class actions. If a company overcharges all of its customers by $8 due to an error repeated a million times, it’s easy to look at one set of facts and judge them together. If you had to look at a million different wrongs, that’s no class action. And so it is not a class action for the players.

As many courts who have dealt with these sorts of cases have noted, for many plaintiffs, a class action is the only practical method of adjudicating Fair Labor Standards Act cases because individual plaintiffs are frequently unable to bear the costs of separate trials. They are, by definition, (allegedly) exploited workers. They’re not going to be able to pay legal costs and fight off a multi-billion dollar business in order to collect the few thousand dollars they were underpaid. At the same time, however, the defendants have rights too and, if the facts of each players’ treatment truly differ (e.g. the Yankees make their minor leaguers do more than the Brewers do) it’s not fair to bind one defendant’s defense to the acts of another.

So, where does this leave the players? Not dead. Not yet, at least. Their claims have not been dismissed on the merits. They have only been denied the right to act collectively. The individual plaintiffs can now file separate lawsuits against their former employers and Major League Baseball under the same theories. It would be harder to land a big blow in such a scenario, but if enough do, it could end up being death by a thousand cuts for the clubs and the league. Their legal fees might go up and, eventually, if they lose enough of these cases, more might be filed. There are a lot of former minor leaguers, after all, and once there’s some blood in the water, more of them — and their lawyers — may enter the frenzy. Decertification is certainly a win for the league right now, but it’s not necessarily a permanent win.

There are likewise some other quasi-collective forms this case could take such as multi-district litigation in which the cases, while individual, are coordinated in a loose fashion. That could lead to some efficiencies for suing players even if it’s not as robust as a class action.

We’ve written quite a bit about minor league pay and treatment in this space by now, so you probably know where we stand on it. We believe that minor leaguers are exploited and underpaid and we believe that Major League Baseball has been happy to exploit and underpay them for some time. Ultimately we believe that this state of affairs cannot and will not persist and that eventually, somehow, baseball will either see fit to pay its workers fairly or, more likely, will be forced to do so by a court or by collective bargaining of some fashion.

Today, however, was a big setback for the minor leaguers. Today’s ruling will give Major League Baseball and its clubs more time and more comfort in which to underpay them. There’s no doubt about it.