It's too early to give up on Nomar, but beware Burnett
Posted: Tuesday November 22, 2005 2:31PM; Updated: Tuesday November 22, 2005 6:49PM
General managers all around baseball are poised to make million dollar mistakes right now. Book it. Does the name Eric Milton ring a bell? Can you say "five years" and "Chan Ho Park'' or "Darren Dreifort" in the same sentence without choking on the words? Tony [supply your own punch line] Womack?
Welcome to baseball's silly season, when baseball people convince themselves to spend money like there is no tomorrow, or like there are no cheaper alternatives to middling veteran players. It's the free agency shopping season, a sometimes confusing, often confounding time when strange things happen, such as somebody named Scott Eyre being guaranteed $11 million.
"When I saw that," one agent said, "it was good news for everybody. There are a lot of teams out there flush with new revenue and ready to spend money on a [free agent] market that's not so great."
To give these poor spend-a-holics some help, I've drawn up a cheat sheet for free agency: the six most undervalued and six most overvalued free agents. It's not a rank of ability or a forecast of the contracts they'll sign, only a thumbnail guide to potential bargains and others that come with a buyer beware disclaimer.
Brian Giles' keen batting eye makes him a valuable asset for any team.
1. Nomar Garciaparra, 32, INF I asked one assistant general manager at the GM meetings what sort of interest there was in Garciaparra. He replied, "I haven't heard a lot. I don't know anybody who's looking at him as an answer at shortstop. He's more of a third baseman or left fielder now.''
I would not write off the guy that quickly. I realize his body has been beaten up the past two years and that he was never Mr. Reliable at shortstop. But did you notice how Garciaparra hit when he came back from the groin injury last season? His second-half (.318/.347/.531) was nearly in lock step with his career numbers (.320/.367/.544). Garciaparra still can hit, though probably not at the MVP-caliber level he did in his glory days. He's also very athletic, in the way of Robin Yount, which is why I don't think it's crazy for the Yankees to consider him as a center fielder. George Steinbrenner always has liked Garciaparra, and don't you think he'd love to have Jeter, A-Rod and Nomar on the same team?
2. Bobby Howry, 32, RHP The ideal setup man because he keeps the ball in the park (four homers allowed in 73 IP last season), walks few batters (16), can pitch to righties or lefties and can even close in a pinch. He showed in the second half that his elbow is back to full strength: a 0.99 ERA, only four earned runs and a .146 batting average against.
3. Brian Giles, 35, OF Judge him outside of cavernous Petco Park and Giles is an offensive beast (.333/.463/.545). He's also a fierce competitor who grinds out at-bats (.413 career OBP). Giles basically is a slightly better version of Hideki Matsui, who signed a four-year, $52 million deal to remain with the Yankees. Giles, though, is four years older than Matsui. Giles is worth a three-year investment.
4. Ramon Hernandez, 29, C He is adept at handling a pitching staff and provides above-average offense at the position. He makes this list largely because he's a better option than Bengie Molina (see below).
5. Eduardo Perez, 36, 1B A late bloomer, he's this year's David Delucci, only right-handed. Perez is a perfect part-time player at either first base or DH because he mashes left-handed pitching (.897 OPS last year) and hits premier power pitching, which makes him a good late-inning bat off the bench. He popped 11 homers in only 161 at-bats last year. The past three times he was given 100 at-bats in a season he posted OPS marks of .745, . 843 and .865.
6. Mike Myers, 38, LHP He's a disaster against right-handers, but Myers is the ultimate left-handed specialist. Lefties hit .158 against him last year and .195 over the past four seasons.