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January 27, 2009 at 2:30 PM

Free agent mania

CLARIFICATION (11 P.M.): If the Mariners signed a Type A free agent, they would not lose their No. 2-overall first-round pick. The top 15 picks in the draft are protected from the compensation process. They would lose their second-round pick — which is the second pick of the second round, still something they won’t easily give up..
I’d imagine there are some very, very nervous players right now. Spring-training reporting date for the Mariners and most other teams is Feb. 13 — 17 days from now. Ninety-six free agents remain unsigned, an extraordinary number for Jan. 27.
Now, you can scratch a few names off the list (which I’ve included for your perusal at the end of this post), because they’re headed for retirement, the likes of Sean Casey, Todd Jones, Jeff Kent, Curt Schilling, Kenny Rogers (he’s still mulling his future), Mike Mussina, and Greg Maddux. Many others have reached the irrelevant portion of their careers and may be “retiring” whether they want to or not.
But there are some fascinating names on the list — faded superstars who aren’t ready to hang it up, one-time standouts with some productivity left, and some really good players, right now, for whom the market, for whatever reason, didn’t develop the way they envisioned.
I’m talking the likes of Orlando Cabrera, Jason Varitek, Joe Crede, Ken Griffey, Garret Anderson, Jon Garland, Bobby Abreu, Kevin Millar, Ivan Rodriguez, Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske, Juan Cruz, Adam Dunn, Orlando Hudson, Tom Glavine, Jim Edmonds, Livan Hernandez, Luis Gonzalez, Randy Wolf, Nomar Garciaparra, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Ben Sheets, Moises Alou, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, Pedro Martinez, Oliver Perez, Tom Gordon, Jason Isringhausen, Braden Looper, Mark Mulder, and Odalis Perez.
Oh, and Manny Ramirez, too.
That’s a lot of potentially useful, if not impact, players. The last-minute scrambling is going to be extraordinary. The Boston Globe on Sunday quoted an anonymous American League GM speculating that teams will be able to get an All-Star player for a low-risk, one-year deal if they wait. “I think that’s the way it might go,” the GM said. “The prices certainly aren’t going up.”
The Mariners, no doubt, wouldn’t mind some of that action. Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik addressed the slow-moving market at last week’s luncheon. He was asked if he thought some prominent players might be reduced to signing minor-league contracts, as Omar Vizquel did with Texas.
“That could happen,” he replied. “You could go back and look at the Kenny Lofton scenario from a year ago. Kenny had offers and didn’t sign, and he didn’t play. As we move forward in the next few weeks, players might have to settle for something. Not that they necessarily want to, but that might be the reality we’re in.”
There’s another wrinkle to consider. Those players that are ranked “Type A” free agents are in an especially dicey predicament, because, with a few exceptions, teams that sign them have to give up a top draft pick as compensation.
Considering the premium on young (and comparatively inexpensive) talent these days, many teams (including probably the Mariners) would rather go with what they have than give up a coveted high pick. The Type A free agents still unsigned are Jason Varitek, Orlando Hudson, Orlando Cabrera, Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn, Manny Ramirez, Mike Mussina (retired), Oliver Perez, Ben Sheets, and Juan Cruz. To ensure draft-pick compensation, teams had to offer arbitration to their free agents in December. The only ones on the list who weren’t offered compensation — and thus can be signed compensation-free — are Dunn and Abreu. Considering both are left-handed hitting outfielder/DH types with some pop, which the Mariners could use, that would certainly enhance their appeal to Seattle. I’ve been told that Dunn has little interest in the American League in general, and Seattle in particular, but desperation can change one’s mindset. I don’t see Abreu as a West Coast guy, but he’s a Venezuelan, and the Mariners have a large Venezuelan contingent, including Felix Hernandez, Jose Lopez, Carlos Silva, Endy Chavez and Cesar Jimenez. He would feel very comfortable in their clubhouse, I suspect. Just speculating here, mind you.
(Teams that lose Type B free-agents also get draft-pick compensation, but not at the expense of the signing team. They just get an extra pick between the first and second round. Unsigned Type B players (as ranked by Elias, who does the official rankings for MLB) are Paul LoDuca, Ivan Rodriguez, Mark Grudzialanek, Jeff Kent (retired), Moises Alou, Garret Anderson, Luis Gonzalez, Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, Jon Garland, Braden Looper, Randy Wolf, Paul Byrd, Joe Beimel, Luis Ayala, Eric Gagne, Jason Isringhausen, Dennys Reyes and Brian Shouse. All other — that is to say, non-ranked — free agents can be signed without compensation lost or gained).
ESPN’s Buster Olney speculated last week that some Type A free agents might be willing to wait until after the amateur draft, June 9-11, to sign, because baseball’s rules stipulate there is no draft-pick compensation attached to the player at that point. But I can’t see any player wanting to wait another 4 1/2 months to earn half a season’s salary, even if they can leverage a good deal out of a desperate team.
Naturally, whispers of collusion are coming from the union side. Normally, I’m pretty sympathetic to the Players Association, being an oppressed worker myself (Note to my bosses: Kidding!). But in light of the collapsing economy (the front-page headline in today’s Seattle Times says it all: “Cascading job losses hit 55,000 in one day”) I’ve got to think that pragmatism and reality are at work here, not some evil plot to hold down salaries.
REMAINING FREE AGENTS (courtesy of Associated Press)
AMERICAN LEAGUE
BALTIMORE (4) _ Juan Castro, ss; Alex Cintron, ss; Kevin Millar, 1b; Jay Payton, of.
BOSTON (5) _ Paul Byrd, rhp; Sean Casey, 1b; David Ross, c; Curt Schilling, rhp; Mike Timlin, rhp; Jason Varitek, c.
CHICAGO (6) _ Orlando Cabrera, ss; Joe Crede, 3b; Ken Griffey Jr., of; Toby Hall, c; Horacio Ramirez, lhp; Juan Uribe, 3b.
CLEVELAND (3) _ Brendan Donnelly, rhp; Scott Elarton, rhp; Sal Fasano, c.
DETROIT (2) _ Todd Jones, rhp; Kenny Rogers, lhp.
KANSAS CITY (1) _ Mark Grudzielanek, 2b.
LOS ANGELES (2) _ Garret Anderson, of; Jon Garland, rhp.
MINNESOTA (2) _ Eddie Guardado, lhp; Dennys Reyes, lhp.
NEW YORK (5) _ Bobby Abreu, of; Chad Moeller, c; Mike Mussina, rhp; Sidney Ponson, rhp; Ivan Rodriguez, c.
OAKLAND (3) _ Emil Brown, of; Keith Foulke, rhp; Frank Thomas, dh.
SEATTLE (1) _ Miguel Cairo, inf.
TAMPA BAY (2) _ Cliff Floyd, dh; Eric Hinske, of.
TEXAS (2) _ Jason Jennings, rhp; Jamey Wright, rhp.
TORONTO (2) _ John Parrish, lhp; Brad Wilkerson, of.
___
NATIONAL LEAGUE
ARIZONA (3) _ Juan Cruz, rhp; Adam Dunn, of; Orlando Hudson, 2b.
ATLANTA (4) _ Elmer Dessens, rhp; Tom Glavine, lhp; Will Ohman, lhp; Julian Tavarez, rhp.
CHICAGO (4) _ Jim Edmonds, of; Chad Fox, rhp; Jon Lieber, rhp; Daryle Ward, 1b.
CINCINNATI (5) _ Paul Bako, c; Josh Fogg, rhp; Kent Mercker, lhp; Corey Patterson, of; Javier Valentin, c.
COLORADO (1) _ Livan Hernandez, rhp.
FLORIDA (2) _ Luis Gonzalez, of; Paul Lo Duca, c.
HOUSTON (1) _ Randy Wolf, lhp.
LOS ANGELES (8) _ Joe Beimel, lhp; Gary Bennett, c; Nomar Garciaparra, ss; Jeff Kent, 2b; Greg Maddux, rhp; Pablo Ozuna; Manny Ramirez, of; Mark Sweeney, 1b.
MILWAUKEE (4) _ Ray Durham, 2b; Eric Gagne, rhp; Ben Sheets, rhp; Brian Shouse, lhp.
NEW YORK (10) _ Moises Alou, of; Tony Armas Jr., rhp; Luis Ayala, rhp; Damion Easley, 2b; Orlando Hernandez, rhp; Pedro Martinez, rhp; Ramon Martinez, 2b; Oliver Perez, lhp; Ricardo Rincon, lhp; Matt Wise, rhp.
PHILADELPHIA (2) _ Tom Gordon, rhp; Rudy Seanez, rhp.
PITTSBURGH (3) _ Chris Gomez, 3b; Doug Mientkiewicz, 1b; Luis Rivas, ss..
ST. LOUIS (6) _ Juan Encarnacion, of; Jason Isringhausen, rhp; Braden Looper, rhp; Mark Mulder, lhp; Russ Springer, rhp; Ron Villone, lhp.
SAN FRANCISCO (1) _ Rich Aurilia, 1b.
WASHINGTON (1) _ Odalis Perez, lhp.

Comments | Topics: Oliver Perez

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