The All-Bargain 2012 MLB Free Agency Team
Monday November 21, 2011
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: Every baseball offseason, we all seem to fall into a familiar trap. The focus always seem to be on the “prize” free agents, while bargains always seem to be had (especially when the big spenders have reached their budgets). So while Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, C.J. Wilson and company are the majority of the headlines- are they truly the difference makers? Getting quality players that are more economical may in fact have a stronger impact on a team that is looking to compete. It allows for a team to fill needs while devoting financial resources to other resources, including scouting, signing draft picks and locking up younger players before they hit free agency. Remember: a team has many expense areas but only a certain amount of money to go around. Devoting $100 million+ to 1 player tends to significantly limit a team, regardless of the strength of such a player. “Spreading the wealth” so to speak, will limit the risk of putting all the eggs in one basket. It is a similar to diversification of stocks. A well-rounded portfolio will tend to outperform most others. But if those assets can be acquired at a reduced cost, the return will look even better.
Now, imagine that we were going to build a starting lineup based purely on free agents. What available free agents would give a team the best bang for the buck? If we were to look at the 2012 MLB free agency list, our All-Bargain team would probably look a little something like this:
C: Ryan Doumit (starter) and Jose Molina (backup): At approximately $5 million combined, Doumit and Molina should offer fairly solid production at a reasonable rate. Doumit also offers versatility by playing first and some outfield. If (and when) Doumit gets injured, Molina can handle the starting chores for a stretch with a minor leaguer backing up. In my estimation Doumit has the potential to breakout in a Mike Napoli manner. He has the skills and power. The guy just has to stay healthy. As far as overall offense and defense from the catching position, there are fewer solid backups that Jose- part of the great “Catching Molinas.”
1B: Carlos Pena: This one area that I am prepared to splurge. For all the talk of the low average, Pena should offer good power, a solid OBP and gold glove defense. At approximately $10 million per season, he will still be a bargain to the other heavyweights at the position. This is one area that you need top-notch offense and Pena should deliver again in 2012.
2B: Kelly Johnson: See Carlos Pena but at a more reasonable ticket price. Johnson has a strong knack for getting on base and has excellent power for the position. He is a gamer that will always have a spot on my team.
SS: Ramon Santiago: You can’t fully appreciate what Santiago offers unless you watch him on a daily basis. Few infielders have a glove as strong as his. While not the most gifted offensive player, he can chip in the occasional big hit while holding his own as a #8 or #9 hitter. Another versatile player to have on the roster. Options are always good.
3B: Kevin Kouzmanoff: The “Crushin’ Russian” is on the squad. Yes, I am still holding out hope that he will come together. I would take a chance on a breakout. At the very least you will get good “D” and some offense at a bargain basement price. If he doesn’t come together, I would grab Casey Blake or Wilson Betemit to sit on the bench if they come dirt cheap.
CF: Grady Sizemore: I like the style of Ruben Amaro Jr. and Pat Gillick. I would have been at Sizemore’s house on the first day of free agency as well. Given his high upside and apparent health, I would sign him as quickly as possible. If you get even 75% of the old Sizemore, you still have a likely All-Star.
LF: Raul Ibanez: I’ve heard about his defense. But I am still signing him. Rauuuuul will come at a fraction of his last big contract. The man owns his own rejuvenation chamber and still has the body of a 35-year old. Strong leader, 20+ home runs and all at a maximum of cost $5 million per season. Mark him sold.
RF: J.D. Drew: Hungry for one more big contract? With Scott Boras as his agent, this on-base machine should be hungry to prove that he is healthy and productive. He may cost $3 million per season. Well worth the risk. Just to cover ourselves, Johnny Damon is also coming on board as a 4th outfielder. Between Sizmore, Ibanez, Drew and Damon, we should be able to run out an outfield most days. If David DeJesus or Rick Ankiel are prepared to hang around as 5th outfielders/designated hitters, we may find some spare cash for them as well.
DH: If we are talking non-National League team, then we HAVE to grab Josh Willingham as our designated hitter. Or even a right fielder if we must. The Hammer still carries a heavy bat and should anchor the offense. He still has a couple of more productive years in him. He should come at a relative bargain price considering 25+ home run bats are not easy to come by.
SP: Chris Capuano, Bruce Chen, Aaron Harang, Paul Maholm, Brad Penny, Dontrelle Willis: From these six selected starters, we should have ourselves a fairly decent rotation. Pitching is one of the most difficult areas on any roster to fill, especially starters. You have to catch lightning in a bottle and hope many factors, especially health, work out. Maholm and Harang should be our “aces” with approximately 12 wins a-piece. Capuano will be the third starter, who should be even better with another healthy year under his belt. Between Chen, D-Train and Penny, we will count on veteran inning-eaters who are able to squeeze out wins. Not the team’s greatest source of strength, but all six of these pitchers combined will cost less per season that C.C. Sabathia on his own.
RP: Matt Capps, Jonathan Broxton, Jeremy Accardo, Shawn Camp, Fernando Rodney, Damaso Marte, J.C. Romero: Going with the Tony La Russa formula, we are putting together a veteran pen with several closing options. If at full strength, Broxton should be the ninth inning guy. Otherwise, the role will fall to Capps or Rodney. Accardo and Camp should be decent middle relievers with Marte and Romero balancing out the pen. Used to their capabilities, our pen should help us contend.
Conclusion: Building a team on a budget is not the easiest process. This team will cost us likely north of $80 million dollars, but should stay under the magical $100 million mark. Considering it is a team built from scratch and based on availability, “Team MLB Reports” should be a veteran squad that stays in the pennant race. Even with the relative slim pickings in some areas, this year’s free agency squad offers value at most positions. While no teams will be built based solely on free agency this year, there are enough complimentary parts that any Major League team can find good value. It is just a question of shopping smart and buying at the right time.
Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
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Posted on November 21, 2011, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged baseball, broxton, capps, capuano, chen, damon, doumit, drew, fielder, free agency, harang, johnson, kouzmanoff, maholm, mlb, molina, pena, penny, pujols, rodney, santiago, sizemore, willingham, willis. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.