Jorge Posada

2012 Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 90-71

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Continuing this week’s countdown of the top 111 free agents, here’s the exciting part two, which features our first Type A free agent.

Free agents Nos. 111-91

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

90. Jason Varitek (Age 39, Red Sox, Type B): With a .225/.297/.440 line and 18 homers in 334 at-bats, Varitek has outhit most backup catchers the last two years. He doesn’t have much of an arm anymore, but it’s not as though he’s coasting on intangibles; he’s still well worth having as a second-stringer. The Red Sox have to decide whether it makes sense to bring him back for another year and keep Ryan Lavarnway on the farm.

89. Michael Wuertz (Age 33, Athletics): One of the AL’s better relievers when he fanned 102 batters in 78 2/3 innings in 2009, Wuertz has fallen on hard times. He had a 4.31 ERA in 39 2/3 innings in 2010 and a 6.68 ERA in 33 2/3 innings when healthy last season. The good news is that his injuries in 2011 were to his hamstring and thumb. He managed to finish the season on the active roster, so he’ll probably get some guaranteed money as part of an incentive-laden deal for 2012.

88. Livan Hernandez (Age 37, Nationals): Hernandez can still soak up plenty of innings; the only reason he didn’t top 200 last season is because the Nationals wanted to look at younger pitchers in September. He’ll have to wait for things to shake out, but some team will come calling with a fifth starter gig.

87. Nate McLouth (Age 30, Braves): McLouth rebounded a bit from his awful 2010, hitting .228/.344/.333 in 267 at-bats before a sports hernia shut him down. Still just 30, he should be a perfectly reasonable fourth outfielder for a few years.

86. Laynce Nix (Age 31, Nationals): Nix faded badly as the year went along, hitting just .202/.269/.349 in 109 at-bats after the All-Star break. Still, he came in at .263/.306/.475 in 297 at-bats against right-handers on the year. His power will make him attractive to a few teams, though others will probably write him off because of the career .288 OBP.

85. Mike Gonzalez (Age 33, Rangers): Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt are staying in San Francisco and Darren Oliver figures to re-up with Texas, so even though his stock is well down from a couple of years ago, Gonzalez is probably the best left-handed reliever changing teams in free agency this winter. George Sherrill is the primary competition.

84. Jorge Posada (Age 40, Yankees): The big question here is whether anyone is going to want Posada as a one- or twice-per-week catcher. He’s not going to be worth signing as a full-time designated hitter, but some team could carve out a niche for him if it thinks he could catch.

83. Takashi Saito (Age 42, Brewers, Type A): Saito remains a force, as he demonstrated while pitching seven scoreless innings in the postseason for the Brewers. He’s probably not going to be healthy enough to give a team more than three good months, but one can hope they’ll be the right three months.

82. Jonny Gomes (Age 31, Nationals): Gomes has finished with OPSs of .914, .856 and .863 against left-handers the last three seasons, so he definitely has his uses. If he’s willing to embrace a bench role, he can help a contender. Maybe a lesser team will offer him a starting job in left field, but he’s probably going to have to settle for $2 million or so regardless.

81. Chris Snyder (Age 31, Pirates, Type B): Snyder is a fine starting catcher, but since he’s missed the bulk of two of the last three seasons with back problems and he’s coming off surgery, no one is going to pay him starter’s money.

80. Jon Rauch (Age 33, Blue Jays): Rauch struggled in his year in Toronto and is coming off knee surgery, so he’s due a cut from the $3.5 million he made last season. He needs to find his way back to a bigger ballpark.

79. Raul Ibanez (Age 39, Phillies, Type B): One wonders if Ryan Howard’s torn Achilles’ tendon may have bought Ibanez another year in Philadelphia, albeit at a big pay cut. He shouldn’t be a starting left fielder any longer and he probably doesn’t offer enough as a DH, but he could serve as a stopgap at first base for the Phillies until Howard returns.

78. Jeff Francis (Age 31, Royals): Francis put together his first full season since 2007, but the end result was a 6-16 record and a 4.82 ERA. His peripherals were better than his ERA, but since shoulder problems have robbed him of velocity, his upside appears very limited.

77. Chad Qualls (Age 33, Padres): A bust as a closer for the Diamondbacks in 2010, Qualls was better as the Padres’ seventh-inning guy last year, finishing with a 3.51 ERA in 74 1/3 innings. Of course, it needs to be noted that he had a 5.05 ERA away from Petco Park. Also, his strikeout rate was well down from previous seasons. He’d be a mistake on a multiyear deal.

76. Rod Barajas (Age 36, Dodgers, Type B): Barajas gets big points for consistency; he’s hit .225-.240 with 16-19 homers each of the last three years. He won’t be any team’s top choice to serve as a starting catcher, but he’ll probably be in an Opening Day lineup anyway.

75. LaTroy Hawkins (Age 39, Brewers): Little was expected from Hawkins after he missed most of 2010 following shoulder surgery, but he ended up amassing a 2.42 ERA in 48 1/3 innings for the Brewers and then pitching four scoreless innings in the playoffs. Here’s a fun stat: even though he made 98 starts at the beginning of his career, Hawkins is third on the appearances list among active pitchers, trailing only Mariano Rivera and Arthur Rhodes.

74. Brad Penny (Age 33, Tigers): Penny’s 5.30 ERA was the worst among all qualifiers last season, and he struck out just 74 batters in 181 2/3 innings. He’s still throwing 91-94 mph and getting a fair number of grounders, so he could bounce back in the National League. It’s doubtful he’ll have much in the way of AL suitors.

73. Jamey Carroll (Age 38, Dodgers): With a .290/.359/.347 line in 452 at-bats, Carroll was just as good as ever at age 37. He was miscast as a shortstop for the Dodgers after Rafael Furcal went down, but he makes plenty of sense as a cheap option as at second base.

72. Kosuke Fukudome (Age 34, Indians): It was another fast start and slow fade for Fukudome, who finished with a career-low .712 OPS in his fourth year in MLB. I’d take my chances with him over a few of the outfielders ahead of him on this list of free agents, but he’s looking at going from a $13.5 million salary to a $2 million-$3 million salary if he stays in the US.

71. Yuniesky Betancourt (Age 30, Brewers, Type B): Betancourt has long been a sabermetric whipping boy because of his awful defensive metrics and terrible OBPs, but while he’s still the master of the first-pitch out, his defensive numbers have progressed from horrible to merely poor the last two years. On July 1, I would have guessed that he’d be out of a starting job in 2012. Since he played a whole lot better in the second half, it’s now a given that he’ll get one more chance.

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.