Baseball BeatAugust 27, 2008
Sneak Preview of the 2009 Free Agents: Outfielders and Designated Hitters
By Rich Lederer

On Monday, in the first of a three-part series on the free agent class of 2009, we took a look at the catchers and infielders. Today, we will break down the outfielders and designated hitters.

The list below includes a number of big-name players, most of whom are well into their 30s and past their peaks. In fact, Rocco Baldelli and Adam Dunn are the only free agent outfielders under the age of 30.

Bobby Abreu        NYY
Moises Alou        NYM
Garret Anderson*   LAA
Rocco Baldelli     TB
Willie Bloomquist  SEA
Emil Brown         OAK
Pat Burrell        PHI
Endy Chavez        NYM
Adam Dunn          ARI
Jim Edmonds        CHC
Cliff Floyd        TB
Brian Giles*       SD
Ken Griffey Jr.*   CWS
Vladimir Guerrero* LAA
Raul Ibanez        SEA
Mark Kotsay        ATL
Jason Michaels*    PIT
Greg Norton        ATL
Jay Payton         BAL
Scott Podsednik    COL
Manny Ramirez      LAD
Juan Rivera        LAA

The Yankees exercised their option on Bobby Abreu last winter and the veteran outfielder has responded by producing at a slightly better clip in 2008 (.297/.369/.467) than in 2007 (.283/.369/.445). However, despite seeing as many pitches per plate appearance as ever, Abreu's walk (10.1%) and BB/SO (0.61) rates are the lowest of his career. His secondary average (.291) and stolen base rate (58%) are also at all-time lows. Add in the fact that he is a below-average right fielder and will turn 35 next March and one can't help but to be skeptical of Abreu, especially if his contract demands call for a multi-year deal at an average of eight figures per season.

Moises Alou is out for the season following hamstring surgery. Now 42, he may never play again. If so, Alou will retire with a line of .303/.369/.516 and 332 HR. Based on his comps, Felipe's son seems like a worthy candidate for the fictional Hall of the Very Good.

The Angels are unlikely to pick up a $14 million team option on Garret Anderson (.284/.318/.426) and will either send him packing with a $3M gold watch (the cost of his buyout) or try to negotiate a short-term contract that would be more representative of his current playing ability. The Halos showed their loyalty when they signed him to a four-year extension back in April 2004 for a whopping $48M so it's time for GA, now 36, to do likewise if he is interested in finishing his career in Anaheim.

The Rays declined their team option on Rocco Baldelli on April 1 and will instead pay him a $4M buyout. After sitting out the first four months of the season with a mitochondrial disorder, the sixth overall pick in the 2000 draft returned to action two weeks ago and has gone 8-for-23 with 2 HR. Baldelli can help out Tampa Bay down the stretch and his marketability this off-season as the soon-to-be 27-year-old has only played 135 games since the end of the 2004 campaign.

After nine seasons with the Phillies, Pat Burrell, who turns 32 in October, will become a free agent for the first time. The No. 1 overall draft pick in 1998, Burrell signed a five-year MLB contract that summer, then inked a six-year extension prior to the 2003 season. Pat the Bat can hit and ranks in the top ten in the NL in OBP (.388), SLG (.548), OPS (.936), HR (30), and BB (89). Not too dissimilar to Adam Dunn in terms of production and position, Burrell should reap huge financial rewards this off-season for the third time in his career.

Arizona acquired Adam Dunn earlier this month in a waiver deal that sent Dallas Buck, Wilkin Castillo, and a player to be named later to Cincinnati. While Dunn may be nothing more than a seven-week rental (and maybe longer if the Diamondbacks make the playoffs), don't rule out Arizona in the free agent sweepstakes should he play well down the stretch. The 6-6, 275-pound slugger, who is on pace to hit 40 homers and draw 100 walks for the fifth consecutive season, is 11-for-40 with 2 HR and 18 BB (.500 OBP) for his new team.

Ken Griffey Jr. is in the final year of a 9-year/$116.5M contract. The White Sox will undoubtedly pass on a $16M club option for 2009 and split the cost of the $4M buyout with the Reds. If and where Junior plays next year is up in the air, but, either way, he will retire with more than 600 career home runs, 10 Gold Gloves, and as the sixth-best center fielder of all time.

Although Vladimir Guerrero (.287/.352/.500) is experiencing the worst season of his career, there is little doubt as to whether the Angels will exercise their $15M club option for next year. Bringing Vlad back for one more campaign and then letting him go could be a stroke of genius in terms of timing. He has clearly slipped at the plate, in the field, and on the basepaths, and his knees require an occasional day off, yet the 2004 MVP is still productive (123 OPS+) and likely to hold up for another year.

The Dodgers acquired Manny Ramirez (.314/.413/.549) in a three-way trade shortly before the deadline. The Red Sox volunteered to pay the remainder of his 2008 salary (about $7M) and agreed to eliminate the 2009-10 club options in exchange for Manny waiving his right to block the trade as a 10-and-5 player. While Ramirez has stated that he would like to finish his career in Los Angeles, everyone knows that will only happen if the Dodgers outbid the competition for his services. Handing the enigmatic outfielder a four-year contract for $80-100M for his 37-40 year-old seasons seems like a risky bet to me. Stay tuned.

Designated Hitters
Frank Thomas       OAK
Jim Thome*         CWS

Jim Thome (.253/.376/.525) seems like a much better bet than Frank Thomas (.226/.339/.362) at this point. Pay attention to Thome's playing time between now and the end of the season as his $13M club option is guaranteed with 1,100 plate appearances in 2007-08. He needs 82 PA in the White Sox's final 30 games to reach that mark.

* subject to club and/or player options


Great article!

For most of these guys it looks like: wait and see who doesn't get a long term deal then sign that guy.

I'm dying to see what kind of deal Dunn gets, I think a lot of people will be shocked.

McCann, do you think Dunn is going to clean up with a huge LTD or get like a 1 year contract.

Dunn's going to get a huge deal, at least 3 years. Every year I keep thinking this will be the one where the owners ease off on the long term deals, but then somebody gets 7 or 8 years.

Slim pickings in the outfield sector. Heck, some of those guys can go into the DH list (I'm looking at you, Vlad!).

I look for Dunn to sign a four- or five-year deal for an average of roughly $15 million per season.