Potential free-agent busts (Pavano, Wood) and bargains (Garland, Lee)
Plenty of veteran hitters could pay off as pickups, like Jim Thome and Juan Uribe
Pitchers who may provide good bang for the buck are Jon Garland and Jeff Francis
Blue Jays relievers Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg and Jason Frasor are on the market
No teams want to make a mistake in free agency, as a bad contract can hamper a franchise for years (although the world champion Giants overcame bad deals for Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand). Nobody wants to add the wrong person to their clubhouse, either. Here's a list of 10 free agents to be avoided, or at least be very wary of.
1. Carl Pavano. He was said to be fine in the Twins clubhouse, but it's risky business dealing with someone who has been self-centered elsewhere (some Yankees people were amazed at how little he tried after getting a $39.95 million contract from them). Should stay in Minnesota, where he has thrived.
2. Jorge de la Rosa. Talented pitcher is only 29. But he's apparently seeking a five-year deal. His numbers might justify it, but he has been inconsistent. Some see another Oliver Perez waiting to happen. He was a 16-game winner two years ago and averages eight strikeouts every nine innings over his career. His WHIP has improved in each of the last three seasons (to 1.315 this past season), but only once has he won more than 10 games. He'll be enticing in a very weak free-agent market, but there's a reason why the Rockies didn't want to go more than two years (for around $15 million total).
3. Mike Hampton. The Rockies once made a $120 million mistake with him. Signing him now -- at any price -- would be an error.
4. Nick Johnson. An injury waiting to happen. Has good numbers (.401 lifetime on-base percentage), so undoubtedly he'll fool someone.
5. Jose Guillen. On top of the fact that he's a nightmare in the clubhouse, he's got an HGH investigation to worry about now.
6. Felipe Lopez. Be forewarned about guys released by teams still contending, as Lopez was last year by the Cardinals.
7. J.C. Romero. Be skeptical when guys with failed steroid tests have down years.
8. Pat Burrell. He helped the Giants tremendously in the regular season but looked lost in the World Series. That's a small sample size, but no one should be fooled by a good regular season to match his $8 million salary.
9. Kerry Wood. Great talent was very good with the Yankees (0.69 ERA), but this is a case of buyer beware; someone's going to think he's sound again and then possibly be disappointed.
10. Miguel Tejada. Did fine with the Padres, but he's another guy losing his power (.381 slugging percentage this year).
1. Jon Garland. He has signed two straight one-year deals but turned down his $6 million player option with the Padres and should do better this time around. A consistent innings-eater and performer, he won 18 games in two straight years under pitching coach Don Cooper's tutelage in Chicago. He may not blow away scouts with his radar readings or stuff, but he's having a very nice career.
2. Joaquin Benoit. Had a superb year with the Rays but has barely been mentioned as a free agent with Tampa expected to lose Crawford, Soriano and maybe Carlos Pena. Had great numbers (1.34 ERA, 0.68 WHIP) after being picked up by Tampa Bay's very smart front office.
3. Orlando Hudson. He has signed a late one-year deal two straight winters after out-pricing himself with the Diamondbacks a few years back, but he can hit and run, and he brings a nice spirit to the clubhouse. The Mets could use a second baseman for the third straight winter, and with Luis Castillo seeming to be a candidate for release, maybe Hudson will finally wind up in New York.
4. Derrek Lee. He was once a big star, and at 35 he's not so old that he can't recover from a weak 2010 performance (career-low .774 OPS). He did rally once he got out of Chicago and played decently for the Braves. He's also an excellent defender at first for a right-handed thrower. Maybe a fallback for Washington if Carlos Pena falls through?
5. Hideki Matsui. Not sure how under-the-radar the 2009 World Series MVP can ever be, but while he didn't have the best of seasons in Anaheim, he still has tremendous drive (word is, he made it a goal to hit higher than Derek Jeter, and he did beat Jeter, .274 to .270). Also quietly hit 21 home runs with 84 RBIs. Would never bet against him.
6. Jim Thome. He turned out to be one of the biggest bargains last year when he signed with Minnesota for $1.5 million and saved them after Justin Morneau went down with a concussion, hitting 25 home runs in 340 at-bats. He probably solidified his Hall of Fame candidacy with his 2010 season, and the big fellow appears to still have something left in him.
7. Juan Uribe. The 2010 postseason hero seems to have a knack for the big hit. Still looks pretty solid at shortstop and third base, as well.
8. David Eckstein. A two-time World Series champ, this all-time scrapper is a big plus for any clubhouse.
9. Scott Downs. The Blue Jays held on to the lefty at the trade deadline after failing to receive the haul they sought. The Giants showed what a strong bullpen means (and nobody else has starting pitching like the Giants). Dominant vs. lefties, who hit .152 against him last year.
10. Adam LaRoche. He must regret turning down a big offer last winter from the Giants to sign with the Diamondbacks, who discarded him after a change in their hierarchy following a decent year. He's a great second-half player, and his overall numbers (25 home runs, 100 RBIs, .261) weren't too bad, either.
11. Kevin Gregg. Solid closer could also work as a setup man for a contender. Bounced back from rough year with Cubs to save 37 games in Toronto last year.
12. John Buck. A lot of Toronto hitters had big years in 2010, but in a weak catching market Buck and A.J. Pierzynski stand out.
13. Pedro Feliciano. Ironman reliever is very tough on left-handers (lefty batters have hit .214 against him in his career).
14. Orlando Cabrera. Productive shortstop is a feisty competitor who will want to come back with a big year after his rival Edgar Renteria was a World Series hero.
15. Ty Wigginton. Versatile player showed some pop (22 homers) for the Orioles last year.
16. Jason Frasor. The Jays had a lot of good arms in their pen, and this is yet another.
17. Andruw Jones. He showed signs of continuing to regain his hitting form with the White Sox, but was hurt by a glut of hitters after Manny Ramirez was acquired.