Andruw Jones

2012 Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 111-91

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With Monday’s option deadline having passed, here’s take two of the winter’s top 111 free agents. Please note that I rank players not on how I rate them but rather on how I believe teams will rate them; essentially, I’m ranking them according to how valuable their contracts will be.

(All ages are as of April 1, 2012. Compensation noted as Type A or Type B when applicable)

Since the original list came out in June, six members of the top 20 have come off the board (CC Sabathia, Chris Carpenter, Brandon Phillips, Nick Swisher, Ryan Dempster and J.J. Hardy). But while this year’s second tier of free agents looks pretty weak (unless one is looking for a closer), there is a fair amount of depth. I’ll be counting them down over the next six days, starting with…

111. Chris Young (Age 32, Mets): Young had a 1.88 ERA in four starts for the Mets before his latest shoulder surgery knocked him out for the year. He expects to be healthy for 2012, but he probably won’t get more than a $1 million guarantee as part of an incentive-laden deal.

110. Mark DeRosa (Age 37, Giants): Because of wrist problems, DeRosa played in just 73 games and hit one home run over the course of his two-year, $12 million contract with the Giants. He turns 37 in the spring, so he may be finished as a useful player. However, if it looks like he’ll be healthy, several contenders will come calling with offers of a bench role.

109. Dan Wheeler (Age 34, Red Sox, Type B): Wheeler got off to a dreadful start last season, rebounded to amass a 1.80 ERA in 30 innings from June through the end of August and then struggled again along with the rest of the Red Sox in September. Boston declined his $3 million option and probably won’t make much of an attempt to re-sign him at a lesser price. It’s time for him to return to the NL.

108. Zach Duke (Age 29, Diamondbacks): Arizona decided it was worth giving Duke a $4.25 million guarantee after he went 8-15 with a 5.72 ERA with the Pirates in 2010 and then seemed surprised when he didn’t pitch well enough to keep his rotation spot. He actually ended the season with a 4.93 ERA in 76 2/3 innings, but it doesn’t look like there are many believers left now.

107. Ivan Rodriguez (Age 40, Nationals): Rodriguez wants to play another three years, but even so, it’s not at all likely that he’s going to get the 156 hits he needs for 3,000. Having batted .255/.291/.341 over 522 at-bats with the Nationals these last two years, he’ll likely be viewed strictly as a backup this winter.

106. Guillermo Mota (Age 38, Giants): Used primarily in low leverage situations, Mota soaked up 80 1/3 innings for the Giants last season, racking up 77 strikeouts along the way. Someone figures to throw $1.5 million or so his way.

105. Reed Johnson (Age 35, Cubs): Johnson turned in his best offensive season since 2006 in his return to the Cubs, hitting .309/.348/.467. He’s become a ridiculous hacker, posting a 113/10 K/BB ratio in 448 at-bats the last two years, but at least he still knows how to work the HBP as well as anyone this side of Carlos Quentin.

104. Aaron Cook (Age 33, Rockies): It’d be a shame if Cook were done, but with ERAs of 5.08 and 6.03 the last two years, it appears as though it might be the case. A gutty performer who managed to tame Coors Field with one of the game’s better sinkers, he’s lost his best stuff due to shoulder problems.

103. Juan Cruz (Age 33, Rays): Often Joe Maddon’s pick to come in when the Rays were down a run or two, Cruz managed to go 5-0 with a 3.88 ERA in 48 2/3 innings last season. His awful walk rate hasn’t gotten any better with age, so he’s a tough guy to trust. Still, there are still several pitching coaches who wouldn’t mind getting a hold of him.

102. Lyle Overbay (Age 35, Diamondbacks): After getting let go by the Pirates, Overbay hit .286/.388/.452 line in 42 at-bats for the Diamondbacks. His season line wasn’t nearly as impressive: .234/.310/.360 in 394 at-bats. He’ll probably come off the board late while waiting to see what teams can do better at first base.

101. Ronny Cedeno (Age 29, Pirates): The Pirates declined Cedeno’s $3 million option after he hit just .249/.297/.339 in 413 at-bats last season, but they may have interest in him at a lesser price. It’s hard to imagine him finding a starting job elsewhere.

100. Ben Sheets (Age 33, free agent): Besides the standard Tommy John surgery, Sheets also had two tendons replaced in his elbow in Aug. 2010, putting his future as a pitcher in doubt. He’s missed two of the last three seasons and he wasn’t very good in 2010 before getting hurt, but if he says he’s healthy, the teams will come running to his tryouts.

99. Kelly Shoppach (Age 31, Rays): Shoppach can offer a team power and defense, but given that he’s batted just .185 in 379 at-bats over the last two years, he’s probably not looking at a starting gig this winter.

98. Todd Coffey (Age 31, Nationals): The team that signs Coffey won’t be doing any cartwheels, but it will be getting a useful cog in middle relief. The big right-hander offers durability and a 3.68 ERA in 205 2/3 innings over the last three years.

97. Kevin Millwood (Age 37, Rockies): Boston’s decision to let Millwood go may very well have cost the team a postseason berth. Upon hooking up with the Rockies in August, he went 4-3 with a 3.98 ERA and a 36/8 K/BB ratio in 54 1/3 innings. That should be good enough to make him some team’s fifth starter entering 2012.

96. Scott Hairston (Age 31, Mets): Playing for a manager in Terry Collins who didn’t seem to appreciate him at all, Hairston was asset for the Mets last season, hitting .235/.303/.470 and driving in 24 runs in just 132 at-bats. He started a mere 25 games all season, though he collected 16 RBI in those games. He should land an expanded role elsewhere this winter.

95. Willie Bloomquist (Age 34, Diamondbacks): Bloomquist can still exercise his half of a $1.1 million mutual option to return to the Diamondbacks, but he’s expected to hold out for more money. Arizona’s starting shortstop after Stephen Drew got hurt, he hit .266/.317/.340 in 350 at-bats. While I wouldn’t put him in a top 111 on merit, his versatility and scrappiness may well get him a multiyear deal.

94. Jason Isringhausen (Age 39, Mets): Izzy had a 2.70 ERA at the trade deadline last season before struggling in August and sitting out most of September with a back injury. He wants to return for another season, and it’s likely he’ll be back with the Mets after he asked the team not to trade him over the summer.

93. Fernando Rodney (Age 35, Angels): Firmly entrenched in Mike Scioscia’s doghouse by the end of the year, Rodney pitched just twice in September. His season-ending ERA of 4.50 wasn’t particularly terrible — he actually finished at 4.40 in 2009 before the Angels gave him a two-year, $11 million contract — but it came with a dreadful 26/28 K/BB ratio in 32 innings. There certainly shouldn’t be any interest in him as a closer.

92. Andruw Jones (Age 34, Yankees): Jones has struggled against right-handers while occupying reserve roles with the White Sox and Yankees the last two years, but he’s been terrific against left-handers and he managed to finish with an .851 OPS in his 190 at-bats last season. It’d be interesting to see what he could do if given another shot to play regularly. The Yankees will likely welcome him back if he’s interested in playing a limited role again.

91. Jerry Hairston Jr. (Age 35, Brewers): Hairston took over the Brewers’ starting third baseman in the postseason and upped his stock by hitting .385/.422/.538 in 39 at-bats. While he’s nothing more than an emergency option at shortstop, there is going to be a great deal of interest in him as a utilityman.

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

Joel Peralta
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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.

White Sox sign Mat Latos

Mat Latos
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Jerry Crasnick reports that the Chicago White Sox have signed Mat Latos.

Latos was pretty spiffy between 2010-2014, posting sub-3.50 ERAs each year.  Then the injuries came and he fell apart. He pitched for three teams in 2015 — the Dodgers, Angels, and Marlins — with a combined 4.95 ERA in 113 innings. And he didn’t make friends on those clubs either, with reports of clubhouse strife left in his wake.

In Chicago he gets a fresh start. It doesn’t come in a park that will do him any favors — Latos and U.S. Cellular Field don’t seem like a great match — but at this point beggars can’t be choosers.

 

Jason Castro loses arbitration hearing against Astros

Jason Castro
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Veteran catcher Jason Castro and the Astros went through with an arbitration hearing over a difference of $250,000 and the three-person panel ruled in favor of the team.

That means Castro will make $5 million this season rather than his requested amount of $5.25 million. This is his final year of arbitration eligibility, so the 29-year-old catcher will be a free agent after the season.

Castro showed a lot of promise early on, including making the All-Star team at age 26 in 2013, but since then he’s hit just .217 with a .650 OPS in 230 games. His power and pitch-framing skills are a valuable combination even within sub par overall production, so 2016 will be a key year for the former first-round draft pick.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Eminent Domain and the history of the Rangers Ballpark

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump addresses supporters at a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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Eminent Domain — the right of a government to take/buy private property for public use — and its implications has always been a controversial topic. It became far more controversial in the 1990s and early 2000s, however,  as the practice, which is intended for public projects like roads and stuff, was increasingly used in ways to help developers and businesses.

The controversy came to a head in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London in which the Supreme Court held that general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth — not just direct public works — qualified as a “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The upshot: if someone had a good argument that a shopping mall would benefit the community, Mr. Developer and the government can force you to sell them their house.

This led to a HUGE backlash, with property rights people freaking out about what seemed like a pretty clear abuse of governmental power serving the interests of developers. Some 44 states have since passed laws outlawing the use of Eminent Domain for purely economic development. Some of that backlash has gone too far in the other direction, with some laws getting passed which not only required compensation to landowners if land was taken, but merely if land was diminished in value.  Like, if the government passes an environmental regulation which makes your private, for-profit toxic waste dump less lucrative than it was, the government has to pay you. It’s crazy stuff, really. And all of those laws notwithstanding, the topic continues to be a controversial one, with battles over what, exactly, is “public” what is a “public good” and all of that raging on. It’s rather fascinating. At least for boring nerfherders like me.

In the recent GOP presidential debate Donald Trump and Jeb Bush got into it on the topic, with Trump — a real estate developer, or course — defending the use of Eminent Domain to take land for economic development and Bush — a really desperate dude who at this point will take ANY position he can if it’ll give him traction — opposing it. In the days since they’ve continued to fight about it, with Trump charging Bush with hypocrisy since his brother, George W., was an owner of the Texas Rangers when they built their new ballpark with the help of Eminent Domain.

Ahh, yes. We finally get to baseball.

Today Nathaniel Rakich of Baseballot digs into that project and looks at how it all played out against the Eminent Domain debate. It touches on stuff we talk about a lot around here: are ballparks engines of economic development or merely for the enrichment of ballclubs? If they are built by a municipality, are they public goods? Wait, how can they be public goods if you can’t just walk into them for free? And the arguments go on.

It’s fascinating stuff showing, once again, that the real world and baseball intersect all the dang time and it’s handy to have a handle on just how, exactly, it does so.