Free Agent Landmines

Dave · October 13, 2005 at 8:37 am · Filed Under Mariners 

We’ve done several posts outlining free agent acquisitions that we think would be a great fit for the M’s. Don’t worry, we’re not done. I’ve got a few more individual posts to go before we reveal the giant overall offseason plan. Today, though, let’s talk about the guys to avoid, the albatross contracts just waiting to happen. One of the risks of the free agent market is the significant chance of buying a soon-to-be-sunk-cost. There are potential landmines everywhere in the free agent market. Last year, teams flushed money down the drain on Edgar Renteria ($40 million), Russ Ortiz ($32 million), Eric Milton ($24 million), Jaret Wright ($21 million), Corey Koskie ($18 million), and Cristian Guzman ($16 million). Those guys were basically replacement level players, not significantly better than a run-of-the-mill minimum salary performer. And they’re all signed for several more seasons, dragging their teams payroll down and being a millstone around the franchise’s proverbial neck.

These are the contracts you have to avoid. And there are some glaring landmine potentials in this free agent class.

Jarrod Washburn, LHP, Angels

Washburn had the greatest positive difference of any pitcher in the American League between his actual ERA and his fielding independant ERA. His 3.20 ERA was great. His 4.39 FIP is totally mediocre. His expected FIP, which normalizes his home run rate based on the amount of flyballs he allowed, was 5.01. His strikeout rate stinks, he’s an extreme flyball pitcher, and he’s got middling command. Run away, run away…

Matt Morris, RHP, Cardinals

Since the all-star break, Matt Morris has been, well, awful. His numbers across the board have taken a nosedive. His strikeout rate has fallen and he’s getting lit up like a Christmas tree. He has a history of arm problems, and at this point, wouldn’t be a good bet even on a one year contract. Given his reputation and his overall totals, someone is certainly going to overpay.

Kenny Rogers, LHP, Rangers

There’s no way the M’s pursue him, but Kenny Rogers is in for a massive collapse next year. His peripherals across the board this season were poor with one exception; his home run rate. He allowed just 7 percent of his flyballs to leave the yard. That’s not sustainable. His exepected fielding independant ERA was 4.88. I’d be surprised if Kenny Rogers was still a major league pitcher at this time next year.

Bengie Molina, C, Angels

He’s got the rep as the best free agent catcher on the market. That shows just how bad this free agent catching crop is, I guess. Anyone want to pay for the age 31-33 seasons of an out-of-shape catcher who has a career .272/.308/.395 line? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Other potential landmines include Todd Jones, Trevor Hoffman, Mike Piazza, Jason LaRue, and Jason Johnson. Also, Jeff Suppan, if the Cardinals decline his option.

If you see the M’s pursuing any of these players, it’s bad news. These guys are the prime candidates for the bad offseason signings of 2005. Avoid like the plague.


77 Responses to “Free Agent Landmines”

  1. km4_1999 on October 13th, 2005 1:07 pm

    Just a thought of mine. Would it be wise to not spend our money this offseason on marginal pitchers so that we will still have money to spend next offseason when the FA crop is alot better. ALOT. Still go get a Lefty with sock, but save some money for players that will really help us in the long run?

  2. Shoeless Jose on October 13th, 2005 1:13 pm

    You could also use Jōjima, which is the way my Japanese history text does the long O.

    Or — to minimize the diacritics the uniform folks have to deal with, and to honorarily latinize him — how about Jõhjima?

    Wakiri-no-mas, amigo-san.

  3. Mike Snow on October 13th, 2005 1:15 pm

    Would it be wise to not spend our money this offseason on marginal pitchers so that we will still have money to spend next offseason when the FA crop is alot better.

    It might be, but next year’s free agent crop probably looks better while it’s still on the other side of the fence. By the time it actually rolls around, the best guys may have signed extensions, others will have gotten hurt or pitched lousy, and the market will probably have pushed prices even higher. Plus the front office says they don’t carry payroll budget savings over from one year to the next.

  4. Smegmalicious on October 13th, 2005 1:20 pm

    Or we could all just stop talking about how to spell somethign that’s not an english word.

    Hopefully we pick him up and he’s good for the team. With the free agent market as lousy as it is, picking people up outside of the market seems like a really good idea to me.

  5. Ace of Spades on October 13th, 2005 1:20 pm


    The Mets were just an example, as there are a few teams that could use upgrades at the catching position. If the Mets want to get bogged down in their fallacious logic and fear of Japanese players, that’s their own agenda. But if anyone has some gray matter left in that front office, they’d know that Johjima is a better option than Molina and that the disappointment of Kaz Matsui shouldn’t deter them. Piazza is likely gone either way, so that shouldn’t factor into the equation much.

    In general, a smart GM will look at Johjima’s 850+ OPS that’s continued to climb for the past three years, look at his great defense behind the plate, and realize that they could pay four million for an above average offensive and defensive catcher, much in the same way Williams did when he saw Iguchi on the market.

    Additionally, a team wouldn’t necessarily be tied down to Johjima like the Mets are to K-Mat. In general, Japanese players who are posted sign long-term contracts while the Japanese free agents are likely to get short-term deals so that the team can test the waters before making a commitment.

  6. PCW on October 13th, 2005 1:25 pm

    A commitment to the previously suggested JoeJima could solve this problem.

  7. km4_1999 on October 13th, 2005 1:26 pm

    #53 I agree with that

    It just seems to me that it would be wise not to spend our money on the best FA pitchers when they aren’t #1 type starters. I understand that we won’t carry the money over, but why sign a Burnett type pitcher for 5 year 50mil if we can even get him at that. that 10mil out of 90 budget that is locked up for 5 years. No disrespect to Burnett but if he was a FA next year he would be had for less money.

  8. Jim Thomsen on October 13th, 2005 1:26 pm

    Dave, you forgot to add Ryan Franklin to your list.

    Jarrod Washburn is for people who value “wins” over performance. Remember when they always gave the Cy Young Award to the pitcher who had the most wins, no matter how crappy he was? Steve Stone, Pete Vukovich, LaMarr Hoyt. A lot of people — and a lot of organizations are still mesmerized by guys who once won 18 games in a season.

  9. msb on October 13th, 2005 1:30 pm

    #56– or just using Kenji.

  10. Evan on October 13th, 2005 1:31 pm

    I studied Japanese for one term at University – reading hiragana and katakana is pretty much all I can do.

    I’ve been trying to learn Kanji through, but I’m, still lousy at it.

    Even though I now understand why the name is spelt Johjima, I still think Jojima (or Jyojima) makes more sense. I’d try to avoid Jyojima just because or how badly westerners tends to pronounce any of the *y* syllables, too, leaving us with Jojima.

    For an example of how badly westerners pronounce the *y* syllables, think back to Ryu, that character from Street Fighter. That should be one syllable. Try to pronounce it as just one syllable.

    No, I can’t do it either.

  11. matt on October 13th, 2005 1:39 pm

    What about Billy Wags? I think he’ll be a good bet to be overpaid for a few years of steep decline/breakdown. I do think the M’s will be smart enough to avoid him.
    What about Nomar? You could make a case for him being a huge risk, with his recent injury history. On the other hand, he is the only opportunity I see for a potential 2001 Bret Boone signing – MVP talent on an affordable one-year deal. It would raise the opportunity for a cool offense / defense / platoon split arrangement between Ibanez / Snelling (God willing) / Nomah / Betancourt / SS / DH / LF. But if he gets a three-year guaranteed deal, he probably belongs on the AVOID list.
    What about Paul Byrd? I don’t really know what to make of him. He gets the ball over the plate and uses his defense. But guys like him go away really quickly when their marginal stuff starts to go.

  12. Phildopip on October 13th, 2005 1:56 pm

    Everytime I see “Jojima” I try to pronounce it like the Spanish-speaking people would…”Ho-hima”…and then I think of Ho-Hos…and then I want to eat one.

  13. Colm on October 13th, 2005 2:12 pm

    Hostess Ho-Hos?!

  14. pensive on October 13th, 2005 2:26 pm

    Dave- As always appreciate your posts. This was late for me so will only observe that it is very SAFE to print that Ken Rodgers will not be pitching in MLB at this time next year.

    Odds are King Felix will not be pitching at this time next year either. Now if June or July is your bet will reconsider.

  15. Colm on October 13th, 2005 2:30 pm

    Pensive. You doubt the M’s big, Felix-led rebound to the ALCS? Shame on you.

  16. Colm on October 13th, 2005 2:31 pm

    How valuable a tool is VORP for predicting future pitching performance?
    ’cause Kenny Rogers is right there in 2005 alongside our wish-dream AJ Burnett.

  17. mark from Oly. wa. on October 13th, 2005 2:50 pm

    1) nice.

    2) ???? if anyone on this site does see the M’s going for a player that has been black listed here. Is there an email or reg. mail address we can send our thoughts to?

    3) I have the feeling all the players mentioned will find a home somewhere. Seems like “gut” feelings tends to lead a GM’s motivations more than the numbers do.

  18. Long Suffering on October 13th, 2005 2:54 pm

    I, for one, do not see the free agent class after 06 as much better than this class. It might be a little deeper and that’s before extensions are signed.

  19. Colm on October 13th, 2005 3:41 pm

    67 – yes, like Jim Bowden’s gut feeling that Christian Guzman was a contributor.

    That deal bugs me more than any of the other examples of wasted money that Dave cites above. With Renteria and Koskie GMs paid big money for average players; with Wright, Ortiz and Milton, GMs looked at some superficially good numbers and ignored the other stats that pointed to their utter mediocrity. With Guzman, what was there ever to see other than mediocrity? His complete worthlessness with the bat has been obvious for years. No gaudy HR totals to blind a GM, no ‘clutch’ hits – nothing. $16M for four years for a AA player… it actually offends me anyone could be that stupid.

  20. Pete Livengood on October 13th, 2005 4:01 pm

    Colm — not defending the move here, but Guzman was a classic “toolsy” player — very fast, at least was a decent defender in seasons before this one (+14 FRAA in ’04, before regressing to -11 this season), and was coming off his age 26 season in which his translated/park-adjusted averages were .273/.312/.388. Bowden had to have known he wasn’t getting OBP, but can be pardoned for thinking Guzman had yet to hit his peak and would deliver singles, speed, and defense. Of course, it didn’t work out that way, and many people argued the “logic” of signing Guzman to such an outlandish contract at the time, but that’s my best stab at trying to explain what Bowden might’ve been thinking.

    Ahhhh, who am I kidding? Everybody knows Jim Bowden doesn’t think.

  21. mln on October 13th, 2005 4:02 pm

    I read in a Milwaukee rag (believe it was the Journal-Sentitel or something like that) that Washburn would be very interested in signing with the Brewers since he is from Wisconisn. So you don’t have to worry about Bavasi signing this ex-Angel player.

  22. jtopps on October 13th, 2005 4:29 pm

    I am pretty sure the Mariners will not go for Molina. For one, Bavasi has said in interviews that the catcher position is not his priority. If they were to go for a catcher, I would much rather see Ramon Hernandez. He was hitting pretty well (in a pitcher’s park 1/2 the time) before he got hurt. Plus he plays for our trading partner/MLB-enforced rivals…not that that really matters in signing a free-agent, but still.

    Besides Spiezio, has Bavasi signed any former Angels?

  23. Feldor on October 13th, 2005 4:52 pm

    I think Aaron Sele sort of qualifies.

  24. Jim Thomsen on October 13th, 2005 5:16 pm

    Eric Owens.

  25. eponymous coward on October 13th, 2005 8:27 pm

    Lemme get this straight.

    Kevin Brown has more seasons in the past 4 where he’s pitched less than 100 IP than more than 150 IP.

    Kenny Rogers has been healthy ALL of those seasons (that is, when he isn’t punching out photographers), with lousy peripherals (248 H in 211 2/3 IP for 2004 means LOTS of balls being put in play).

    So, naturally, the guy who’s going to collapse and shouldn’t be offered an incentive-laden one year contract, is, of course, Kenny Rogers. ’cause, you know we have xFIP for Brown based on a teeny tiny sample size of 75 or so IP that say’s he’s gonna be good next year. Ignore that other stuff about how he can’t stay off the DL.

    Uh, yeah.

    But hey, I thought Jamie was a good candidate to collapse in 2005, so who knows? That’s why this is baseball- you end up learning the stats you use for projection aren’t all-powerful and are merely predictive but not perfect, and you get the pleasant surprises of Raul Ibañez, or unpleasant surprises like watching Olivo be wrose than anyone could imagine.

    So we’ll see. I don’t think Rogers will be signed for longer than a one year deal with a vesting option based on innings pitched, any more than Jamie or Kevin Brown will, but who knows…

  26. Joel on October 13th, 2005 8:29 pm

    It doesn’t make sense to pay big money for a catcher like Molina when you have serviceable cheap alternatives (read Yorvit/Rivera) until Clement arrives.
    Use the money on starting pitching and “left handed sock”.
    I like Huff. I don’t like Dmitri Young. I like Arizona’s Chad Tracy (if he’s cheap).

  27. Adam S on October 14th, 2005 11:46 am

    On Brown vs. Rogers, it isn’t really who will be better, it’s who will be better relative to salary.

    Your choices are Rogers at something like 2/$13M or Brown at 1/$1+$4 in incentives. I’ll take Brown every time.