Wednesday, May 13, 2009

'09 Bargain Free Agents- How are they Doing Now?

Well I am back on the road getting ready to settle into a new job. For those of you keeping score at home, this is my third move since this blog started less than a year ago, and it has taken an unanticipated turn- I have gone back to the midwest for a job I had no idea would be there and (hopefully) will be able to settle down in this economy for a little while. While there are some signs of a rebound, no one knows how long it could last or what will happen when the government runs out of our money to spend. It has been hard on all of us in one way or another, and even the world of sports has been affected. There are very few players being handed pink slips, of course, but there have been a host of so-called bargain players that were forced into slow-end contracts at the end of the MLB offseason. I worried at the time that the bitterness engendered from these players over signing low-end deals in bad situations could overwhelm their desire to make the next paycheck bigger. I decided to take a look at some of these players who had to sign deals below their true value and see how they are doing so far this season. Enjoy.

Orlando Cabrera signed on with the Oakland A’s for just $4 million for the season, and I loved the deal at the time. Cabrera, at 34, still hit in the high 200’s range and played excellent defense at a tough position at shortstop. The result so far? The A’s have dragged him down with their offense, as Cabrera has hit a paltry .238 this season, and has been caught stealing 3 times to only 1 successful steal. This is not like him- and it seems like all of the Oakland offensive acquisitions are struggling. It isn’t like Cabrera can get away unnoticed, however- the shortstop is hitting in the leadoff spot.

The other Orlando in baseball had a similar dilemma after Arizona couldn’t keep their hot-hitting second baseman.* Orlando Hudson, in any other offseason would commanda big veteran contract- in fact, this likely was supposed to be his big payday. The bad news is it will have to wait a year, after the $3.8 million deal he signed with the Dodgers. The good news is he is with the Dodgers, who even without Manny have a great number of offensive threats. Hitting in the 3rd spot he has garnered a .424 on base percentage with 20 RBI, along with hitting for the cycle earlier this season! While it has yet to be seen how the loss of Ramirez will affect his production (he is 6-20 at the plate since Manny was in the lineup while the team has lost 4 of 5 games), it is clear that the rising tide lifted everyone’s game on the Dodgers.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one Oriole on this list. Ty Wiggington was a deal that garnered a lot of praise among O’s fans, if for no other reason than it gave another big bat to a lineup that (still) sorely needs more of a power presence. Able to play both corner outfield and corner infield spots, his 2 year $6 million contract was a boon for such a talented utility man who, at age 31, is still in the prime of his career. However, so far Wiggington has not been able to catch on in his part-time role the way he did coming off the bench with his first 4 teams. The career .270 hitter prior to this season, who only had one season hitting lower than .255 in his career, has barely cleared the Mendoza line while hitting in the 6th spot. The O’s don’t have a lot of other options, but they are fortunate that “Wiggy” isn’t a full-time starter at this point in the season.

*As an aside, the economy has given us some very odd contracts. The Diamonbacks (and Hudson) went their separate ways because Arizona simply couldn’t afford to pay him what he wanted. His replacement Felipe Lopez, however, is making just $.5 million less than Hudson wound up with with the Dodgers. Lopez is a quality player so far this eason, but he is no Orlando Hudson.

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