Saturday, November 5, 2011
Cold markets in this year's hot stove
By Mark Simon
If you’re a team that needs a catcher, second baseman, or centerfielder, you might struggle to find what you’re looking for in this year’s free agent market. Here’s a closer look at what is available among these positions.
The first thing to know about the market for backstops is that there are no catchers on this year’s free agent market who played in 100 games last season. The only available player who even caught 700 innings was Rod Barajas.
The top-rated catcher available statistically is Ramon Hernandez, who finished last season with 2.0 Wins Above Replacement. His WAR over the past three seasons is 4.4, the best among free-agent catchers.
For perspective on Hernandez’s value, a 2.0 WAR is someone who would barely be considered an everyday player. In fact, his WAR ranked 16th-best among all catchers in 2011.
Aside from his below-average production, another potential reason against signing Hernandez is that he is a Type A free agent. If the Cincinnati Reds offer him arbitration, the compensation for another team signing him could be a first-round pick.
There are plenty of second baseman in this year’s free agent pool, but the market lacks a star player. It does have a large group of players who played a lot of innings, but produced in a limited fashion.
The highest-rated second baseman in Wins Above Replacement are Kelly Johnson, who hit .222 with 21 homers for the Toronto Blue Jays and Arizona Diamondbacks, and Jamey Carroll, who had a .359 on-base percentage but no home runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both players finished with 2.2 WAR last season.
How thin is the second base market? There are four free agents who played at least 100 games last season and finished with a WAR below 1.0: Aaron Hill, Aaron Miles, Adam Kennedy, and Orlando Cabrera.
The highest-rated centerfielder by Wins Above Replacement is Coco Crisp, who finished with 2.2 WAR in 2011, followed by Rick Ankiel at 1.4.
What’s interesting about center field is that there are two players who were formerly great centerfielders, who would be highly coveted and could be put in centerfield if a team is willing to take a risk.
Carlos Beltran showed himself to be an adequate defensive player in right field for the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants, with two Defensive Runs Saved last season. However, a factor that would work against him moving back to center field is his age, as he turns 35 in April.
Beltran also showed that he is still capable of handling himself at the plate. His .910 OPS was third-best among major-league right fielders last year, and his 39 doubles were surpassed only by Joey Votto among all NL players.
When healthy, Grady Sizemore was one of the top centerfielders in the game, averaging 27 homers and 29 stolen bases from 2005-08. However, he’s played an average of just 70 games in the last three seasons and has hit .234 over that span.