As the lives of the retired go, Jermaine Dye's isn't bad. He has a nearly 10,000-square-foot Scottsdale, Ariz., dream home, thanks to the $75 million he earned in 14 seasons as a big league slugger, and plenty of time to coach, with fellow former major leaguer Rich Aurilia, his son's Little League team. The only problem is that the 36-year-old Dye, who in the past five seasons with the White Sox averaged 33 home runs and 92 RBIs, has no desire to be retired.
That Dye remained an unsigned free agent as the season entered its third week was a source of consternation to his many friends within the game. In February, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen tweeted, in his inimitable way, "going to eat in half hour why dye no have a job?" Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson sparked something of a brouhaha last week when he suggested to a Yahoo! Sports reporter that Dye's race—both Hudson and Dye are black—had something to do with it.
It's impossible to say if Dye's unemployment is racially motivated, but it's clear that other factors are at play. "I don't think there's much to the race issue," says one AL G.M. "I think it's a combination of his bad second half, unrealistic demands [by Dye] at the beginning of free agency, an unwillingness to settle later on and a glut of corner outfielders available."
Dye entered a free-agent market almost perfectly aligned in his disfavor. Belt-tightening clubs were fearful this off-season of being stuck paying an aging slugger with potentially nosediving skills; last season Dye hit 27 home runs, but his post-All-Star break slugging percentage of .297 ranked 204th among the 206 players with 200 second-half plate appearances. Many clubs were also obsessed with players' fielding, so while the A's spent $5.25 million on the oft-injured defensive whiz Coco Crisp and the Orioles threw $4.5 million at the recently offensively inept Garrett Atkins largely because of his ability to fill holes at both first and third, Dye—whose outfield range has deteriorated—was left out in the cold.
Dye began the winter confident that he would find a gig at a salary not terribly diminished from the $11.5 million he earned in '09. In January he turned down a $3 million offer from the Cubs, and he has since rejected comparable offers from the Nationals and the Brewers. (Meanwhile two other one-dimensional sluggers found jobs: Jason Giambi with the Rockies for one year and $1.75 million, and Jim Thome with the Twins for a year and $1.5 million.) Dye declined to comment, but his agent, Bob Bry, says he remains hopeful. "Jermaine is staying in shape, waiting for a phone call, hopefully from a contending team," says Bry.
His defensive shortcomings aside, there are teams that could use Dye: the Mariners, for instance, who through Sunday had hit fewer home runs (five) than Dye himself did last April (six). If he grows tired of coaching Little League—and perhaps relaxes his salary requirements—Dye could go from reluctant retiree to slugging bargain.
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