SweetSpot: Jermaine Dye

The bargain bin

February, 4, 2011
Baseball headlines have been sparse over the past week (with the exception of Andy Pettitte calling it quits). Here in early February, many teams have turned their focus away from offseason roster fidgeting and toward spring training preparations.

There are, however, a few intriguing names still available on the free-agent market. This group of players -- overlooked for various reasons and typically willing to sign for a reduced price -- could be referred to as the bargain bin.

Signings at this stage of the offseason typically don't generate much excitement, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to find a player who can help out. Jonny Gomes, Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome are all examples of players who signed in February last year and went on to make meaningful contributions for playoff teams.

So let's sort through the bargain bin and see which of baseball's remaining free agents might be able to make a difference on the cheap for clubs with postseason aspirations.

Vladimir Guerrero: He earned plenty of accolades last year -- All-Star, Silver Slugger, even a few MVP votes -- but the market has been bone dry for Guerrero this winter, to the point that the Orioles appear to be bidding against themselves on a one-year deal. Teams are no doubt scared of his age, his balky knees and his second-half drop-off in 2010. Yeah, Vlad has his flaws, but he can still hit. I'm surprised there's not more interest.

Russell Branyan: The lefty can really only do one thing: hit home runs. His career BA is .234, he strikes out a ton, he's not good in the field and supposedly not very pleasant in the clubhouse. But boy, can he hit home runs. Sixty-eight over the last three years, in limited playing time, with a .515 slugging percentage. You'd think someone would sign him for that reason alone.

David Eckstein: He's lurking. Like a gremlin in the shadows ready to pounce forth in a flurry of grit. Which fan base will become his unsuspecting victim?

Jose Guillen: He was acquired by offense-hungry San Francisco in an August trade, and went on to post a sub-.700 OPS over 42 games. He was left off the postseason roster and forced to watch his team win a World Series from home, and now he remains unemployed in February. It's been a rough few months for Guillen. He can really crank it when he gets in the zone, but his flaws are evident.

Kevin Millwood: There's some value in a veteran who's likely to give you close to 200 average innings, and that's what Millwood is. He's nothing flashy but he's made at least 29 starts in each of the past six seasons and registered a decent enough 4.37 ERA during that span. For a rotation short on depth, he could prove to be a wise one-year investment.

Jermaine Dye: In 2008, he was one of the key figures in Chicago's dramatic run to the postseason. In 2009, he bashed 27 homers and drove in 81 runs. He sat out last year, but at 37 Dye still might have something to offer teams in need of a right-handed bat.

Jarrod Washburn: A 36-year-old junkballer who's 16 months removed from big-league action, Washburn isn't the most appealing commodity in the world but he was a solid innings-eater up until his disappearance. Prior to sitting out the 2010 campaign, he'd strung together nine straight seasons with at least 149 innings pitched and an ERA never exceeding 4.69. He'd probably take a minor-league deal.

-- Nick Nelson writes Nick’s Twins blog, a blog about the Minnesota Twins.

Hard to see where Dye fits in Chicago

April, 30, 2010
Are the White Sox struggling? Yeah. Is Jermaine Dye still out there somewhere, looking for a team that will pay him what he thinks he's worth? Again, yeah. So why hasn't this happened already? Joe Cowley has the nitty-gritty:
"Right now, I don't know where J.D. is," manager Ozzie Guillen said of the possibility of getting Dye off the unemployment line. "Our outfield is playing pretty good. I mean Carlos is struggling, but Andruw is swinging the bat good, and Alex is swinging the bat good. It makes me think, 'OK, where would I put him?'"

Dye feels he's versatile enough to fill three roles for the team.

"I can DH, play the outfield and play some first base," he said. "I still don't want to be just a DH, but I can play there at times."

Guillen isn't the one who signs the contracts, but he sounded like it at least has been discussed recently.

He guessed it would take Dye a month to be ready, and he also has thought about other regulars who could be leadoff hitters with the Juan Pierre experiment failing so far.

"I was thinking about it [Wednesday night]," Guillen said. "Teahen is the only one we might.

"He has a little bit of speed, and he takes his walks. I don't have a legit one."

Adding Dye would mean Pierre becomes a bench player, with the lineup looking like Teahen, Gordon Beckham, Jones, Paul Konerko, Dye, Quentin, Pierzynski, Rios and Alexei Ramirez.

Better? Who knows, but it couldn't get any worse.

Hey, let's not overreact here. The White Sox are 11th in the American League in scoring. Do you remember where they finished last year?


They were 12th last year, and added Juan Pierre and Mark Teahen to the lineup, along with a full season of Alex Rios and Mark Kotsay and Omar Vizquel as bench players. Was there any reason to think they would improve much this year?

Yes, regulars Pierzynski, Beckham, Ramirez, Pierre, and Quentin have all been worse than awful ... but Teahen's been better than expected, Konerko leads the league in home runs and Andruw Jones is hitting like a future Hall of Famer. On balance, the White Sox figure to hit a little better, but just a little. The real problem is their pitching, which was supposed to be excellent but ranks just 10th in ERA; starters Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, and Freddy Garcia have combined for one (1) win and a 6.88 ERA.

As for Dye, where's he going to play? Being able to "DH, play the outfield and play some first base" doesn't mean you're versatile; it means you have to out-hit the five or six other guys on the roster who are limited to those same positions.

Is Dye going to out-hit Paul Konerko? No. Andruw Jones? Probably not.

Carlos Quentin? Probably not, but Quentin's 27 and will have a long leash anyway.

Mark Kotsay? Sure. But swapping Kotsay for Dye would essentially give the White Sox two right-handed-hitting DHs. The White Sox do need less Kotsay, but it's not clear how more Dye would help.

Juan Pierre? Of course. But that would mean playing Dye in left field, or tossing Andruw Jones out there. Fortunately, the White Sox aren't paying all of Pierre's salary; the Dodgers are paying most of it. But the Sox are still into Pierre for $8 million: $3 million this season, $5 million next season. Are the White Sox ready to eat that $8 million and sink $2 million (or thereabouts) into Jermaine Dye?

Probably not. Not yet, anyway. They're not yet that desperate, and shouldn't be. Might as well wait and see if Peavy gets things turned around, because if he doesn't pitch decently it really won't matter who's playing in left field.

Is Orlando Hudson right?

April, 14, 2010
In case you didn't see Orlando Hudson's comments ...

    "You see guys like Jermaine Dye without a job," Hudson told Yahoo. "Guy with [good numbers] and can't get a job. Pretty much sums it up right there, no? You've got some guys who miss a year who can come back and get $5 [million], $6 million, and a guy like Jermaine Dye can't get a job. A guy like Gary Sheffield, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, can't get a job."

    "We both know what it is. You'll get it right. You'll figure it out. I'm not gonna say it because then I'll be in [trouble]," Hudson said.

One cool thing about living in 2010: We can check stuff like this. All you'd have to do is compare pre-season statistical projections -- cold, calculating projections that don't know the color of a man's skin -- with the money free agents actually got this winter.

But you don't have to do it, because Peter Hjort already has:

    First impression, outside the Hideki Matsui aberration, Black free agents were given more money ($3.72 million) per projected WAR (by CHONE) than any other race. If any group has a legitimate complaint, it's Hispanic players, who were compensated only $2.96 million per projected WAR.

    But the question has never been "which group got the most?" or "is there an observed difference?". We're only observing samples, not populations, here, so the appropriate question is, "is the difference statistically significant?".


    None of these sample sizes is as big as I'd like, but given the data we have, I can't comfortably say there was any racial bias in the free agent market this off season. At the 0.05 level, none of these T-values are statistically significant. In essence, the differences can all be attributed to random variation.

    As for Dye, well, my conclusion hasn't changed. He's probably unemployed for the same reason Joe Crede and Bartolo Colon are -- the market has a different idea of what their services are worth than the FA does.

Yeah. Probably. As I've said before, it's hard (for me) to blame the players. Dye made $11.5 million last season, and hit 27 home runs. We shouldn't be surprised if he (and Hudson) can't understand why there's not an offer on the table for at least half what he made last year. Of course, the problem is that Dye was just a league-average hitter and a truly awful fielder, which means he's not -- I'm now speaking of cold, calculating statistical projections -- worth more than $3-4 million. If he bounces back some with the bat and mostly DHs.

Over at MLB Trade Rumors, Tim Dierkes wonders, "Are these agents failing to value their clients properly? Are they not explaining how the market has changed in recent years? Or are they just trying to preserve the players' confidence?"

A agent who tells his player, "Player, I know you still feel like a kid, but you're 38 and you're just not that good anymore" won't be that player's agent for a whole lot longer. Agents tell players they're still good enough because that's what they want to hear, and agents tell us the same things for the same reason. What, we should expect an agent to be honest with us? That's not his job.

Dye wants job with M's (also: world peace)

April, 13, 2010
This made me LOL:
Jermaine Dye is interested in playing for the Mariners. The only question is whether they would have any interest in him.

The 36-year old slugger hit .250 last year with 27 home runs for the White Sox but is still unsigned. He has reportedly turned down offers from both the Cubs and the Nationals, but would be interested in becoming a Mariner.

"Seattle is a team he focused on this off-season," said Bob Bry, Dye's agent. "He was disappointed that there was not more interest from the club."

Despite his disappointment, Seattle remains on the (presumably short) list of teams that Dye would consider. And whereas there have been reports that he has been unwilling to accept a lesser role (either as a platoon player or a designated hitter), he has either softened his demands or would be willing to in Seattle.

Bry sees Dye as a fit as a "platoon partner for Ken Griffey Junior at DH, a backup right-handed option at first base and another option in left field."


... Dye is also known as a clubhouse leader.

In other news, I'm interested in getting Bill Simmons money without having to do all that work.

Except for the Royals' bullpen, this is the most unintentionally hilarious thing I've seen this season.

Shall we make a list of things the Mariners already have too many of?
  • clubhouse leader (check)
  • platoon partner for Junior (check)
  • right-handed option at first base (check)
  • another option in left field (check)
  • left fielder who can't play left field (check)

lf you ranked all 30 teams by their need for a player like Jermaine Dye, the Mariners would come in 30th.

Hey, I don't blame Dye for wanting to play for the Mariners, or his agent for grasping at a really thin straw; Seattle's a lovely place to spend the summer and agents have to eat, too. But if Dye wants this to happen, he'd better start praying that Mike Sweeney or Milton Bradley gets hurt. And even if one of them does get hurt (or released), the M's would just summon Ryan Garko or Ryan Langerhans from Tacoma.

If Dye really wants to play, he may have to decide between retirement or taking less money than he wants, from a team that doesn't play in the shadow of Mt. Rainier. Wouldn't we all like the luxury of that choice?

Update: Ha! I've already forgotten that Garko's a Ranger. Let's just replace him with Tommy Everidge and call it good, OK?

Five reasons why Jermaine Dye is unemployed

February, 11, 2010
Why is Jermaine Dye, just one season removed from 34 home runs and 96 RBI, still looking so desperately for lucrative employment? Joe Pawlikowski offers four reasons:

1. Lousy second half of 2009
2. No longer hitting the ball hard to right field
3. Line-drive rate in 2009 the lowest of career
4. Maybe the worst defensive right fielder in majors

Those are pretty good reasons, though I have to wonder how many teams are even aware of them.

Dave Cameron's got a fifth reason: Dye is right-handed. I'll let him explain ...
    At this point in his career, Dye is essentially a DH who might be able to fake it at first base, depending on how hard he works at it. He’s not an outfielder anymore, not at 36-years-old and coming off a four year stretch of -20 UZRs. And, because of the physics of throwing across the infield, right-handed 1B/DH types just aren’t all that appealing.


    Even if Dye can outproduce a comparable left-handed hitter by 5 or 10 percent, managers are going to prefer a balanced line-up, so that opposing managers can’t just shut down their offense with specialist relievers in every close game. And as a right-handed 1B/DH type, Dye threatens every team he may join with a lack of balance in their line-up.

    Not only does he need to find a team that is interested in an aging DH, but he needs to find one that doesn’t have too many right-handed infielders on the roster. It should be no surprise that, given how many restrictions there are on teams who may be interested in his services, that there just isn’t much of a market for him.

    If you’re a right-handed hitter, you don’t want to end up in the 1B/DH pool. Do whatever you can to sustain your defensive abilities at another position, because once you’re down that far on the defensive spectrum, your career as an everyday player is probably close to being over.

I have no idea if there's any empirical basis underlying Cameron's explanation. It's one hell of a theory, though.