Blog Entry

Buyer Beware: Soon-to-be overpaid free agents

Posted on: November 2, 2011 8:39 am
Edited on: November 2, 2011 11:59 am

By Matt Snyder

Another free agent crop means we have another group of players about to be woefully overpaid by some franchises trying to make a big splash. Here's a handful of players who will likely be paid more than they're going to be worth over the next year to half-decade.

C.J. Wilson, SP
He'll be 31 when next season starts and he's only been a big-league starter for two seasons. Considering the market for starting pitchers, some team is going to have to give him ace money. He has been good in long stretches over the course of the past two seasons, but it's still not a huge track record. Plus, he's been playing in front of one of the best defenses in baseball, especially strong at second, third and short. What if he signs to pitch for a team with range issues? Lots of those groundouts become base hits and he's a bust, that's what.
I would rather sign: Mark Buehrle. He's more consistent and he'll probably only need a two- or three-year deal for much cheaper. Sure, he doesn't have the upside, but you won't have to commit $75 million to him, either. And he's a workhorse, averaging 220 innings per season in the past 11 years.

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Position rankings
Jimmy Rollins, SS
The soon-to-be 33 year old hasn't been more than a major-league average offensive player for the past four seasons. His defense is on the decline, too. Yet because of playing in every postseason and being a one-time MVP, Rollins' name carries a ton of weight. He earned it, that's for sure, but he shouldn't get a lifetime pass. Some team that loses out on Jose Reyes will probably throw a four-year contract at Rollins and that's a mistake.
I would rather sign: I'd obviously rather have Jimmy Rollins than Clint Barmes if given the choice between the two for the 2012 season at the same price, but c'mon. Barmes could possibly be had for a one-year deal at a fraction of the cost of Rollins. I'd go Barmes and save the money to use elsewhere.

Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell, Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Joe Nathan, etc., closers
Paying big money for a closer to all of a sudden come in and solve late-inning problems rarely works. It does work at times, and someone will probably get lucky with one of the above names on the list, but the problem is that shelling out eight figures for one of these guys has a track record of crippling payroll, while new closers emerge every single year. I'm not just talking about young, elite arms like Craig Kimbrel and Neftali Feliz. I'm talking about Joel Hanrahan, Brandon League, Sergio Santos, Kyle Farnsworth, Jason Motte, Javy Guerra and more. This happens every single season. Knowing it's possible, there's no reason to try and solve the problem by throwing barrels of money at an aging veteran.
I would rather sign: Starting pitchers or position players

Roy Oswalt, SP
Let's see ... a 34-year-old pitcher who battled back issues during 2011 while allowing the highest hit rate and accruing the lowest strikeout rate of his career? I'd pass anyway, but keep in mind Oswalt has talked about an early retirement before and the rumors keep popping up. His name certainly has cache, but I'd let someone else pay.
I would rather sign: Edwin Jackson is six years younger. Easy choice.

Derrek Lee, 1B
So who are you going to get, the guy who was lackluster for 85 games in Baltimore or the guy who tore it up in 28 games for Pittsburgh? The smart money is on the former, as Lee is 36 and well past his prime. Some non-contender will likely add him as a patchwork, temporary "solution" at first base, when he's going to be overpriced and pretty much just an adequate bat. This is where teams would be better served to just save the money and play a kid.
I would rather sign: Casey Kotchman is 28 and just hit .306 with a .378 on-base percentage for Tampa Bay. Because he plays first base and doesn't have much power, he'll be overlooked, but he's a nice cheap option -- especially for teams with power at second or short.

Honorable mention: The "big three" of Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes all carry a certain amount of risk. Pujols likely lands at least a six-year deal, meaning he's going to be getting paid like the best player in baseball into his late-30s. Fielder's body type resembles Mo Vaughn, who was elite only until age 30, and then just good for three more seasons before being cooked. Fielder is 27, but he's also shorter and weighs more. Prince's father, Cecil Fielder, had his last big power year at age 32, also. And, of course, we know about Reyes' hamstring history.

Look, all three are going to get paid and they have earned it. And there's a good chance any of the three are still studs when their new contracts run out, just as there's a chance any of the above players pan out and prove to be good signings. But when you see contracts like Barry Zito, Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano, you have to keep in mind those guys were once elite players, too. There's risk everywhere.

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Since: Apr 19, 2009
Posted on: November 6, 2011 12:34 am

Buyer Beware: Soon-to-be overpaid free agents

Pujohs is hardly the best ever to play and he certainly was not underpaid. 7 years at $14mil per season is def the poverty line, LMAO.

Since: Jun 18, 2011
Posted on: November 5, 2011 8:23 pm

Buyer Beware: Soon-to-be overpaid free agents

Albert is the best to ever play.  I don't see how you could overpay him when he's been underpaid his entire career.  If he maintains his machine status, he's worth $30m a year.  If he slides after four or five more years, consider it a back payment on his first eleven years if the Cardinals can keep him.

Since: Jan 16, 2007
Posted on: November 5, 2011 11:08 am

Buyer Beware: Soon-to-be overpaid free agents

They've got Tanner Scheppers and Martin Perez waiting to join the rotation. And they have several interesting bats in Profar and Leonys Martin. If C.C. had opted out, they would have made a huge push for him, I just don't see them forking up big money to keep C.J.

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: November 4, 2011 12:47 pm

Buyer Beware: Soon-to-be overpaid free agents

Maybe not as an everyu year guy, but Soriano came off of a 40-40 season that put him in the company of Fielder (for that year) or Reyes.  Pujols is the best hitter of his generation, a Ted Williams type guy.  But by the time his 6 or 7 year deal is up, he will look like Soriano does now.  Players do not hit like Pujols hits into their late 30s early 40s without some extra "juice".  He will kill pitchers for 2 or 3 more years and will begin to slide down.  It happens to everyone.  Yes, he is legendary and a first ballot hall of famer, and 100 times the player Soriano is, but that does not mean that you won't look at that contract in 4 or 5 years and see as an albatross the way people look at Soriano's contract now.

Since: Aug 12, 2006
Posted on: November 4, 2011 11:40 am

Buyer Beware: Soon-to-be overpaid free agents

This is a good comment. Do the Rangers have anything on the farm that could be ready in the next year or two?

Since: Jan 13, 2009
Posted on: November 4, 2011 12:05 am

Buyer Beware: Soon-to-be overpaid free agents

17 million a year and he is "Underpaid"?  Spoken like a true Cardinals fan who never goes to a game beacuse ticket prices are too high.

Since: Sep 29, 2006
Posted on: November 3, 2011 2:04 pm

Buyer Beware: Soon-to-be overpaid free agents

Wells or Soriano were never in the elite class of the Prince and the King!  Pujols has been underpaid and deserves every penny not only for his on field contributions but by being the great ambassador of the sport, team, and city that he is.  LEGENDARY! 

Since: Oct 20, 2006
Posted on: November 3, 2011 1:55 pm

Buyer Beware: Soon-to-be overpaid free agents

I think its a bigger stretch to compare him to Mo Vaughn than you think.  He does a lot of things better than Mo did (AVG, R, HR, RBI, OPS).  I think he stays durable and strong.  I am sick of hearing about Fielder's weight when he shows the raw strength at the plate.  I also thought Derrek Lee might be an underrated pick.  I thought a lot of people would look at him as injury prone and nearing the end of his career.  My final thought is that Jose Reyes will be overpaid no matter what.  He will play only 125 games next year and get paid 18-22 million for it...not worth it.

Since: Jan 19, 2007
Posted on: November 3, 2011 10:56 am

Buyer Beware: Soon-to-be overpaid free agents

Last month I might have agreed that CJ Wilson might be a little overhyped going into Free Agency, but after the playoffs I belive that the backlash is so overdone that he may be being slighted too much.  While it is true that he has only been a starter for two years, he is a proven major leaguer with aa great arm that has been getting out good hitters for several years as a reliever.  31 is not that old, especially with less innings than alot of starters that age.

While he may not be an ace in the sense that Roy Holladay, and a very few others are; he is an ace in the sense that he would be the best starting pitcher on 20 ballclubs.  Washington added him to the All Star game over Ogando (who later got in) even though Ogando had better numbers at the time, because it was CJ who came up big when Texas needed a losing streak stopped.  People don't realize how good Texas pitching was this year...our offense is always overrated because of the Ballpark in Arlington, and therefor our Pitching never gets the credit it deserves.  In 18 road starts this year CJ averaged 6.8 innings per start with a LEAGUE BEST 2.31 ERA.  With almost a 3:1 K/W.  This guy can flat out pitch.

That said he has not pitched well on the big stage, as he looked uptight in the AS Game and the playoffs.  Will he ever?  Thats the $80-$100mm question.  However, if someone gets 4 more years out of him like his last 2, it would definitely ensure that he was not overhyped.

As a sidenote- Yes the Rangers have great range in the infield, and can be a real pleasure to watch turn the DP, but please stop talking about what a great defense this team has, no matter how great all the new def stats show us to be we make way to many errors to be considered a great defense.

Since: Sep 22, 2006
Posted on: November 3, 2011 7:35 am

Buyer Beware: Soon-to-be overpaid free agents

wow ...

a Tigers' fan who wants Cabrera at 3B?   Have you taken a look at Miggy lately?  Great hitter--perhaps the best in the game right now, but he's having enough trouble fielding his position at 1B; putting him back at 3B would be disastrous for the defense.  His bat is big, but it will not compensate.

a Cubs' fan who envisions signing Pujols, AND Fielder?  and just where will you play these two, given that the NL has not yet caved into ESPN and "popular demand" to adopt the DH?  would you, in the spirit of the above, like to see Prince dancing around the hot corner instead of Aramis?  Or would you just put him in the OF and rely on the "it got stuck in the ivy" clause?

Yes, team needs should be considered more directly; note, however, that the article didn't speculate on where these guys are going (that's a separate piece).

Personally, I think Barmes isn't a bad player and might be a better signing than Rollins, given the fact that Rollins will command more $ and (as even the Philly fans admit) a contract that is probably two years too long for his ability.  As a non-Phillies fan (yes, we exist), I still like Rollins.  He's not a proto-typical lead-off hitter, but he's clearly the spark for the Phils and they'll lose a club-house presence if he goes.  Were I them, I'd rather lose Howard than Rollins.  Maybe Manuel can talk Rollins into hitting second, behind the Flyin' Hawaiian.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or