Part II: What’s Out There?
This list is far from comprehensive. It is a list of many of the premier free agents with any reasonable chance of signing with the Orioles. A few likely trade partners are also exposed.
Ramon Hernandez, 29, Free Agent Catcher
2005 line: .290/.322/.450
Analysis: Hernandez and Molina are the two best catchers on the market. He will likely command around 3 years/$20 mill. His plate discipline is shaky, but he should be worth that money for the duration of the contract.
Bengie Molina, 30, Free Agent Catcher
2005 line: .295/.336/.446
Analysis: May get a better deal than Hernandez due to his post-season exposure, and is therefore less likely to be worth the money, especially if he gets more than three years.
Brian Giles, 34, Free Agent Corner Outfielder
2005 line: .301/.423/.483
Analysis: He didn’t get a fair shake until well into his twenties because of the great Indians outfields of the 90’s, but has been one of the most underrated players in baseball ever since. I see him getting a deal similar to Steve Finley’s this past off-season, around 2 years/20 mill. He may even get three years. Every indication is that he will be worth every penny, but unathletic, old-person skill set outfielders often do not age well. He is also unlikely to leave the west coast, but we’ll see what the Yanks and Sox have to change his mind. Seriously, though, that OBP makes him look about as good as Kris Benson’s wife.
Jacque Jones, 30, Free Agent Outfielder
2005 line: .249/.319/.438
Analysis: Jones has always had a hard time taking a walk. He had an uptick in his walk rate this year, but I suspect that has more to do with the severe lack of protection in the Twins lineup. Regardless, it was negated by his season-long slump. He will command about 3 years/$15 mill and not be worth it. Jones has long suffered from being overrated.
Matt Lawton, 33, Free Agent Corner Outfielder
2005 line (Pittsburgh only): .273/.380/.433
Analysis: I didn’t include his stats with the Cubs or Yankees but, in summary, he went about 150 ABs without a hit. This, coupled with the revelations that he was taking Miguel Tejada’s B-12 shots, may make him a steal. His value is tough to guage because of the lack of precedence of his situation. He could get as low as 1 year/$3 mill or as high as 2 years/ $11 mill. That OBP makes him a perfect #2 hitter.
Preston Wilson, 30, Free Agent Center Fielder
2005 line: .259/.325/.470
Analysis: His slugging percentage is inflated by the time he spent in coorsbut the BA and OBP stayed about the same in the much less hitter-friendly RFK Stadium. He’s probably in the 2 year/$9 mill range.
Mike Piazza, 36, Free Agent Liability
2005 line: .251/.326/.452
Analysis: He could be useful as a DH, spelling Javy for 40 games behind the dish. But do you really want that combination of defensive wizardry handling our young staff? He’ll probably get 1 or 2 years at $3-4 mill per.
Daryle Ward, 30, Free Agent First Baseman
2005 line: .260/.318/.405
Analysis: The O’s brass seems to see some value in him. I don’t. I guess he can play an outfield corner in a spot. That might add to his value. He still hits like my sister.
Brad Ausmus, 36, Free Agent Catcher
2005 line: .258/.351/.331
Analysis: His defensive prowess, along with his ability to draw a walk, will keep him employed for a few more years. My guess is he gets a 1 year deal for about $3.5 mill. Catchers in their late thirties have a tendency to fall off the map fast, even defensively. By the by, he did not save the the Astros pitching staff a run and a half per game, as Jeff Brantley might have you believe.
Adrian Gonzalez, 23, First Baseman (available via trade)
2005 line: .227/.272/.407
Analysis: Texas seems to have soured on him after taking him in the first round of the 2000 draft. He will ultimately be a serviceable, albeit gold glove caliber, first baseman. With their lack of pitching, he might be available for a package including someone like Rodrigo Lopez or John Maine.
Ryan Shealy, 25, First Baseman (available via trade)
2005 line (91 ABs): .330/.413/..473
Analysis: Similar to Gonzalez, with a better stick and less defense. He will be a decent, maybe even good, first baseman for the next six or seven years. Unfortunately, he is blocked by Todd Helton. Hopefully, the O’s can take advantage of the Rockie’s crappy situation and throw a Julio/Maine (or thereabouts) package at them.
Lyle Overbay, 28, First Baseman (available via trade)
2005 line: .276/.367/.449
Analysis: Excellent OBP, some power. Certainly better than any option we have, but do you trust Flanagan in any deal with the man who made a fool of John Schauerholtz this past off-season?
Ryan Howard, 25, First Baseman (available via trade)
2005 line: .288/.356/.567
Analysis: Yes, he’s for real. But I suspect that his value may never be higher than it is right now. He is certainly not the type to age well and have a long CrimeDog-like career. He would likely cost us at least Hayden Penn, maybe with a Jeff Fiorentino thrown in.
AJ Burnett, 28, SP
2005 line: 209 ip, 198 k, 79 bb, 3.44 era
Analysis: He’s going to get at least Carl Pavano money, and he really is a better pitcher than his former teammate. However, I don’t see it being the right move for the Orioles to invest $45 mill or so over 4 years in a serious injury risk. I could very well be wrong, but this has all the makings of an albatross at some point. I will say, though, that this guy is a front-of-the-rotation guy. Some people will argue that Dontrelle Willis is the better pitcher. They are idiots.
Jarrod Washburn, 30, SP
2005 line: 177.3 ip, 94k, 51 bb, 3.20 era
Analysis: Think Rodrigo Lopez. Don’t let the era fool you, this is a mid-rotation starter. He’ll probably be overpaid at about 3 years/ $21 mill.
Jeff Weaver, 28, SP
2005 line: 224 ip, 157 k, 43 bb, 4.22 era
Analysis: I am coming around on this guy. He is a pretty good #3 starter. He’ll give you a ton of innings and he makes guys hit the ball. My biggest concern is that he allowed 35 home runs in spacious Dodger Stadium. He’ll probably get about the same as Washburn, maybe a little better. My best guess is 4 years/ $30 mill. That’s a lot of money for a guy you know won’t be starting game 1 of any playoff series, but he is about as safe a bet of anyone this side of Livan Hernandez to give you 200 innings a year, however average they are.
Kevin Millwood, 30, SP
2005 line: 192 ip, 146 k, 52 bb, 2.86 era
Analysis: What is this guy’s deal? Seriously, Kevin Millwood is an asshole. He has two bad years, then a brilliant one. Go ahead and give him the 3 year/$27 mill or more he might command; you’ll get one all-star caliber year (if that) and a whole lot of Sidney Ponson.
Matt Morris, 30, SP
2005 line: 192.7 ip, 117 k, 37 bb, 4.11 era
Analysis: Matt Morris came back from the dead to look like his old self in the early part of 2005 for the Cardinals. I suspect his 5.00 era after the all-star break is closer to what we can expect from him from here on out. Hell, if Kris Benson got 3 years/$21 mill, why can’t Matt Morris? OK, I just wanted to share that link again (and again…).
Tom Gordon, 37, RP
2005 line: 80.7 ip, 69 k, 29 bb, 2.57 era
Analysis: Another super year for this old fella. He’ll probably get rewarded with 2 years/$10 mill or so and will likely perform to his employer’s satisfaction. Still a lot of money to pay to block Chris Ray
Trevor Hoffman, 37, RP
2005 line: 57.7 ip, 54 k, 12 bb, 2.97 era
Analysis: When I looked up Hoffman’s stats for this year, I was surprised at how good of a year he had. I suspect the Padre’s will hang on to him (ie overpay) for sentimental reasons. 2 years/ $12 mill sounds right.
Paul Byrd, 34, SP
2005 line: 204.3 ip, 102 k, 28 bb, 3.74 era
Analysis: Byrd is efficient enough, throwing strikes and getting hammered by lefties. He’ll see about $14 mill over the next two years and might help a team shore up the back of its rotation.
Kyle Farnsworth, 29, RP
2005 line: 70 ip, 87 k, 27 bb, 2.20 era
Analysis: Haven’t we all expected this season from Farnsworth since 2001? I don’t think he’s as good as he was for the Braves this year, but he’s certainly not as bad as he was in the playoffs. He’ll catch on somewhere for about 3 years/ $14 mill. In three years, he’ll either be a good set-up man or a second-tier closer (or rehabbing his shattered right arm).
Ugueth Urbina, 31, RP
2005 line: 79.7 ip, 97 k, 39 bb, 3.60 era
Analysis: Barring any unforeseen kidnappings, Urbina will probably try to reestablish his value next year with a 1 or 2 year contract at about $4.5 mill per. That K rate looks enticing.
Todd Jones, 37, RP
2005 line: 73 ip, 62 k, 14 bb, 2.10 era
Analysis: What the hell am I supposed to say? Find me someone who knows what this guy is gonna do next year and I will kiss a homeless man on the mouth. My very best guess; he gets a 1 year deal for $4 mill to go all Danny Kolb.
Julian Tavarez, 32, RP
2005 line: 65.7 ip, 47 k, 19 bb, 3.43 eraAnalysis: Will likely command a deal similar to what we gave Steve Kline, about 2 years/$5 mill. Doesn’t have overpowering stuff but has been a consistent set-up man for the Cardinals