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Bargains and busts (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday November 8, 2006 10:56AM; Updated: Wednesday November 8, 2006 4:05PM
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14. Orlando Hernandez, starting pitcher. He's a threat to win an October game or to come up with a calf tear out of nowhere. He's a rarity in the modern game in that he's never been paid what he's worth.

15. Bengie Molina, catcher. Minaya, a pretty good judge of talent, was prepared to pay him $20 million last year before Molina overplayed his hand into a one-year, $5 million Blue Jays deal. Things didn't work out in Toronto, so it could be two years in a row that Molina doesn't get what he wants on the free-agent market.

16. Greg Maddux, starting pitcher. He's looking for a two-year deal, which seems like a lot for a man who already has pitched long enough for 333 victories. But a team could probably get two years of Maddux for what it takes to sign Roger Clemens for four months.

17. Mike Piazza, catcher. The man can still hit. And he still can't throw. He's basically the same guy who left New York, just with a much lower pricetag attached to him.

18. Chan Ho Park, starting pitcher. With the albatross of the $65 million contract removed (not that all of us wouldn't like a similar albatross), maybe he'll go back to being the pitcher he can be.

19. Jose Guillen, outfielder. Tremendous talent, terrible year, attitude questions ... just the sort of recipe for a bargain.

20. Richard Hidalgo, outfielder. He took the year off to clear his head. But he's still only 31, and not all that far removed from being a $10 million-a-year player.

The market, such as it is, will produce quite a few busts, as well. Or if not busts, players who don't come close to living up to their enormous contracts. Here's a guess as to who they might be:


Carlos Lee has hit more than 30 home runs in each of the past four seasons.
Carlos Lee has hit more than 30 home runs in each of the past four seasons.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

1. Carlos Lee, outfielder. He's a threat and he can hit, and he'll get his money, quite possibly even from a National League team (the Astros, Cubs and maybe even the Mets will be bidding). But he looks like a DH waiting to happen, and that wait might be shorter than you'd imagine.

2. Mark Loretta, second baseman. Maybe someone will notice that .309 slugging percentage on the road, maybe not. In any case, he doesn't look like he's going to get back to the man who compiled 200-plus hits for the Padres in 2004.

3. Gary Matthews Jr., outfielder. Give the guy credit for his superb '06 season. But be forewarned, he's had only one big year. He'd be better off staying in Texas with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo but it doesn't look like that's happening, not when someone's going to open the coffers and pay like crazy for someone who may turn out to be a one-year wonder.

4. Jeff Suppan, starting pitcher. He made himself millions in October, when he was a playoff hero and political pitchman in Missouri. You couldn't turn your TV on in St. Louis without finding out how he and Kurt Warner really dislike stem-cell research. But I digress. The smart money says never to pay for one monster month when there's a whole career to weigh. Sometime in the midst of his heroics we started hearing how he might make "Carl Pavano money.'' I suppose that refers to $10 million a year given to a lifetime .500 pitcher. Just hearing that name might give teams pause, however. My two cents: Both Suppan and Jeff Weaver might be wise to stay on Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan's program.

5. Julio Lugo, infielder. Looked like a star with the Devil Rays, but by the end he was behind Marlon Anderson in the Dodgers' playing-time hierarchy. He's a versatile player. But is he worth the $8-10 million he might seek?

6. Ted Lilly, starting pitcher. He's tough, no question about that, as evidenced by his TKO over Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. We can be pretty sure Lilly's not returning to Toronto. But there are a lot of teams chasing serviceable pitching, probably a little too hard.

7. Craig Wilson, first baseman. Showed all the spark of a 15-watt bulb after getting out of Pittsburgh and getting a chance with the Yankees.

8. Gil Meche, starting pitcher. Looks from here like the classic underachieving big right-hander, the West Coast's version of Kris Benson. Someone's going to pay an arm and a leg to get a pretty good arm. Yet, even throwing 95 mph with great breaking stuff, he's never been the consistent winner he should be.


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