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Bargains and busts (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday November 22, 2005 2:31PM; Updated: Tuesday November 22, 2005 6:49PM
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Most Overvalued

Kevin Millar never could field, and lately he hasn't been able to hit either.
Kevin Millar never could field, and lately he hasn't been able to hit either.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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1. A.J. Burnett, 29, RHP
Watch Burnett throw and it's easy to see why teams are throwing five-year offers at him. Premier power arms like Burnett just don't get on the open market very often. Now the bad news: he is 49-50 with a 3.73 ERA for his career, and has made 30 starts in a season only once. Take him away from the spacious alleys of Dolphins Stadium and there's even less to like about him: 15-23 with a 4.02 ERA on the road over the past four seasons. And what happens to those numbers if he switches to the AL? Burnett could be either Jason Schmidt or Carl Pavano. At about $60 million, you'd like a little more certainty than that.

2. Kevin Millar, 34, 1B
He's a flyball hitter who can't play defense, run well or hit home runs outside of Fenway Park. (He hit one homer and slugged a feeble .314 away from Fenway last year). Actually, I'm not sure exactly what premium he provides on a roster.

3. Tom Gordon, 38, RHP
He can still contribute, but beware his age (38) and workload (159 games in just the past two seasons). His strikeout rate last year (7.7 per nine innings) was the lowest since he converted to the bullpen full time in 1998, and his eight home runs allowed were the most in that span.

4. Royce Clayton, SS, 36
OK, he's a good guy and a good glove, but he's played for six teams during the past eight years and somehow been granted a full-time job at every stop despite a .313 career OBP. The Diamondbacks used him mostly in the No. 2 spot in the batting order last season, where Clayton rewarded them with a predictably low .300 OBP. And forget about power any longer from a guy who was compared to Barry Larkin as a youngster. Clayton hit two homers last season, none after June.

5. Bengie Molina, C, 31
He's developed a reputation as a good hitter with runners in scoring position because he makes contact frequently. He also has been voted the Gold Glove, though he doesn't move very well behind the plate. (His throwing is excellent.) The problem here is that, assuming a three-year deal, you'll be paying big money for seasons in which a big-bodied catcher with a career high of 27 walks and with only 30 doubles the past two years combined turns 32, 33 and 34. Hernandez, two years younger, is the better buy.

6. Jarrod Washburn, LHP, 31
Like Whitey Herzog and Jim Leyland, I'm a big believer in the advantage of left-handed pitching, so Washburn does have value as the best free agent lefty starter. But he's not close to being the pitcher who was 18-6 for the world champion Angels in 2002. Washburn is 29-31 since then and has been less durable and far more hittable. The batting average against him has gone up every year since 2002 (.235, .256, .269, .274) while his strikeout rate has declined almost annually as well (6.07, 5.12, 5.18 and a career-worst 4.77 last season).


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