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Thursday, December 08, 2005

THE FREE
Checking out the news at Rotoworld is a pretty good way to see what players were offered and not offered arbitration.

I thought I'd go through and see which of these guys might be of interest to the Angels. Almost none of these guys have been mentioned in actual rumors, but this is just an attempt to gauge who might be desirable. The positions I looked for were: middle relievers, fifth starters, center fielders, and right-handed power-hitting DH types. Here we go:

Cal Eldred
How he might fit: Middle relief
What he might cost: He's made less than $1M each of the last four seasons.
Pros: He's a solid but unspectacular middle reliever.
Cons: He's old and not exactly the healthiest guy in the league.
Recommendation: Well, I'd rather have him than Esteban Yan. He wouldn't be the worst choice to be the fourth or fifth guy out of the pen, but the Angels can probably do better.


Nomar Garciaparra

How he might fit: DH, occasional infield backup
What he might cost: I would guess the injury risk would knock him down to the $5M-$6M range, but I don't know.
Pros: It's unlikely that he's forgotten how to hit; as Rally Monkey points out, it's not out of the question for him to pull a Paul Molitor and thrive in a DH role.
Cons: He just can't stay healthy.
Recommendation: He's worth a phone call, at least. Probably not worth getting into a bidding war over, especially with Morales on the way to DH as soon as 2007, but he really could be a steal for someone if he can play in as many as 140 games at anywhere near the level he's shown us before.

Juan Gonzalez
How he might fit: DH/DL
What he might cost: Five cents.
Pros: What if he actually managed to stay healthy?
Cons: And what if Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were marrying for love?
Recommendation: Pass.

Jason Johnson
How he might fit: Fifth starter
What he might cost: $3M or $4M per for a couple, at best.
Pros: Eats innings.
Cons: Allows runs. His strikeout rate also took a big dive last season, which bodes ill.
Recommendation: Pass. He ain't that good.

Byung-Hyun Kim
How he might fit: Fifth starter or middle relief
What he might cost: Hard to peg, because of his odd history. Could make $4M or $5M per, could draw no interest and get picked up for a lot cheaper.
Pros: If he's healthy, he's lights out.
Cons: From the 2003 postseason on, he hasn't been healthy, and hasn't looked pretty.
Recommendation: He's an intriguing guy, because of his electric stuff, but whether he can harness it is a whole other question. The Rockies offered him arbitration, but as I write this it was unclear as to whether or not he'd accept. If he does, forget it, he's not worth the draft pick he gets to hang out in Coors Field and have his stats batted around for another year, driving his perceived value down even further. If he rejects arbitration, he's worth a call to see where the market it, and think about taking a chance if it's really low (he does not appear on the list of players whose loss would award his previous team with a draft pick). If not, pass.

Kenny Lofton
How he might fit: Center fielder and leadoff hitter; he could play center with Erstad in left and Kotchman at first, with Garret at DH and Figgins backing up everywhere
What he might cost: $3M per year max, and likely nothing longer than a two-year deal.
Pros: He can still reach base like nobody's business, and is a high-percentage basestealer. He's still an adequate defensive player.
Cons: Durability. He hasn't played in over 150 games since 1998, and has averaged 96.5 the last two years.
Recommendation: Polite interest. He's probably less valuable than Figgins at this point, but a lot of Figgy's value comes from his versatility. This wouldn't be my favorite thing, and there's zero talk of the Angels pursuing it, but it could be intriguing in my fantasy world.

Kevin Millar
How he might fit: DH, corner "outfielder" and first baseman
What he might cost: No more than $3M per year for a couple of years
Pros: He's an okay hitter.
Cons: He's 34 years old and really crashed last year.
Recommendation: Pass. There's nothing he can do that Juan Rivera and Robb Quinlan can't do better.

Mike Piazza
How he might fit: DH, sometime catcher to relieve Mathis
What he might cost: It's hard to imagine him making a whole lot
Pros: There's a chance he might recapture his old offensive magic; marketing.
Cons: He's probably toast. His OPS+ the last two seasons is 106, he's 37 years old, and his body has been bashed from years of catching.
Recommendation: Pass.

Jeff Nelson
How he might fit: Middle relief
What he might cost: He made the minimum last year.
Pros: Though he's dropped off the past few years, he's still been decent, posting a 111 ERA+ the last three seasons.
Cons: He's old, increasingly inconsistent, and has not pitched a lot of innings the last couple of seasons.
Recommendation: Last resort.

Reggie Sanders
How he might fit: DH and corner outfield
What he might cost: He's never made more than $4M in a year, so a one-year at around $3M might be doable.
Pros: He can still hit (a 121 OPS+ the last three years) ...
Cons: ... when he's healthy (a max of 135 games in that span).
Recommendation: Given how good a hitter he's been at times, and how injury-prone he's been, it's odd that no AL team has just handed him a DH job to see what would happen. He's 38, but didn't show any signs of slowing down last year ... there are actually a lot of things the Angels could do worse than give Sanders $3M to DH for a year and then let Kendry take over. I guess the question is: will he out-produce Juan Rivera? I think he might, but it's close.

Rudy Seanez
How he might fit: Middle relief
What he might cost: I can't see him getting more than $1M or $2M per year; San Diego had him at just above minimum last year, though he pitched very well and that might push his price tag up.
Pros: He can pitch; since an injury-shortened 2003, he has a 140 ERA+ in 106 1/3 innings, along with 130 strikeouts and 41 walks.
Cons: His arm could always blow up again.
Recommendation: The guy has always been able to pitch when healthy. He'd likely surpass Donnelly as the team's #3 reliever, and if you can get that cheaply, it's not a bad chance to take.

Julian Tavarez
How he might fit: Middle relief
What he might cost: Probably in the $2M-$3M per range for a couple of years.
Pros: He's pretty good; he has a 137 ERA+ since becoming a full-time reliever (again) over the past three years. He has solid peripherals as well.
Cons: Should you really spend that much on a middle reliever?
Recommendation: If the Angels want to go outside the organization to shore up the bullpen, and aren't targetting a lefty, Tavarez might be one of the better choices. But I wouldn't pay him over $3.5M per for two years, and even that's the high end.

Brett Tomko
How he might fit: Fifth starter
What he might cost: A max of $3M-$4M per for a couple of years
Pros: Can throw close to 200 innings and be league average.
Cons: Mediocre at best.
Recommendation: He's less than thrilling, but if signed cheaply he might be okay. He practically has no upside, though, so what you see is what you get.

Rondell White
How he might fit: DH and corner outfield
What he might cost: Probably around $3M-$4M per for a couple of years
Pros: Not a bad hitter.
Cons: Not a great hitter, either.
Recommendation: Pass. Juan Rivera's better, and can play defense.

As you see, there might be a few cheap options for the Angels to shore up the bullpen and maybe even the DH position. Still, finding cheap guys who are demonstrably better than Rivera might be tough; the only guy in that above list who I think has a good shot at outperforming him is Reggie Sanders, and even then it's close, and you still have Sanders' durability to worry about. Nomar certainly could do very well, but his health is the hugest question of all.

Looking at the pen guys, Rudy Seanez might have the best combo of upside and cheapness, as long as the Angels aren't looking specifically for a lefthander. The LOOGY free agents are uninspiring guys like Alan Embree and Buddy Groom; the Lads are likely better off just giving the job to Jake Woods.

Comments:
I can't believe you didn't mention Kenny Lofton's defense as a con. His glove is one of the reasons why the Angels were able to come back in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, and he has been at least as bad since. Because of this, he ONLY has value as a DH.
 
I don't know, he's rated pretty average for a CF statistically the past few years, both looking at zone rating and by Clay Davenport's figuring over at the Prospectus. I don't see any of him, so that's really all I have to go on.
 
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