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It's not too late to land big, free-agent stars


It's not too late to land big, free-agent stars
What's the record for free agents still available on Inauguration Day? Can this be found on www.baseball-reference.com? Certainly this year will set the record for most amount of money awarded in guaranteed contracts after the start of Spring Training. Manny Ramirez alone might take care of that.

MLB Hot Stove

C'mon. We all know he's going back to the Dodgers. Why is this so drawn out?

Most teams can't afford him, the Red Sox won't take him back, the Angels said they don't want him and Manny doesn't want to play for the Nationals. That leaves the Dodgers and the Yankees.

The Yankees have more outfielders than they know what to do with. They wouldn't acquire a player without a clear-cut position for him.

No wait, that's not right.

They can't possibly be spending any more money after the scolding they're getting in the media for asking for more taxpayer help with Yankee Stadium II, right?

That doesn't sound right either.

Well at least we know they wouldn't give out a big contract to a player just to stick it to the hated Red Sox.

Strike three. I'm out.

OK, so maybe the Yankees are the dark horse candidate for Manny Ramirez. A 3-4-5 of A-Rod, Manny and Teixeira certainly is a tempting thought. But can Ned Colletti and the Dodgers ownership really let Manny leave Southern California after the way the Dodger faithful embraced their dreadlock wigs and No. 99 jerseys last fall?

Manny made Dodger fans actually care about the results of the game. He made them actually show up to the game on time. He made them buy memorabilia at a time when they should have been back-to-school shopping for their kids.

Oh, and he hit pretty well too.

After clearing former future Hall of Famer Andruw Jones from their payroll (or at least spread out his damages), the Dodgers have some wiggle room to get the big bat that clearly was the difference between them getting to the NLCS last year and getting to watch the playoffs on TV. In a weak division, Manny is the tipping point that shifts the balance of power, and with the Giants reported to be on the Manny/Boras radar screen, the Dodgers need to make a move before they lose out on the sweepstakes to a team within their own division.

Or before the Yankees get antsy again.

Adam Dunn

Best fit: Angels
Likely destination: Washington

Poor Adam Dunn. He's waited his turn. He's been under team control. He's gone through the arbitration process. He's paid the dues that his union has decided are appropriate for him to pay while waiting for his first opportunity for the big payday.

But thanks to some self-serving knuckleheads on Wall Street and a decade full of poor mortgages, Adam Dunn sits at home, counting down the days to spring training without a destination in sight.

If you think the economy has hurt the value of your portfolio, take a look at what it has done to the value of Adam Dunn.

Sure, Dunn strikes out a lot. But last time I checked, Alfonso Soriano struck out a lot and that didn't keep the Cubs from bringing his powerful bat to Wrigley. And Soriano only takes a walk about once a week. Dunn takes one every game.

And yes, Dunn is a slow-prodding defensive liability, but Carlos Lee isn't exactly Carl Yastrzemski out there in left field, and that didn't stop the Astros from doling out $100 million to get his bat in their lineup.

So why should we be so naive as to think that all of a sudden teams would shy away from a guy with five straight 40-HR seasons just because he strikes out a lot and isn't the best defender.

It's a little too convenient that the during the same offseason that money suddenly becomes scarce around Major League Baseball, general managers all of the sudden figure out the defensive metrics that only the "stat guys" were smart enough to comprehend and shy away from long-term deals with the Adam Dunns and Pat Burrells of the baseball world?

The baseball world has always been one of keeping up with the Joneses (or perhaps keeping up with the Steinbrenners), so when one team got their big bopper, every other team had to have one as well or else it looked like they weren't trying. If a team didn't hand out a nine-figure contract to their best player to keep him around, their fans and local media decided it meant they weren't dedicated to winning. Why else would the Blue Jays agree to give Vernon Wells a $126 million contract that didn't start for two years?

But this offseason's economic state has caused a league-wide staring contest between general managers and the flooded power-hitting leftfielder market, driving the price of said hulking hitters down until someone eventually blinks. Pat Burrell blinked first and got two years at well below market value to go play in the Tropicana Dump.

How long until Dunn blinks?

That will depend on who has a spot for him.

The one thing Dunn has going for him is his relative versatility, in that a team could theoretically use him at first base too. It doesn't open many doors, but then again, he only needs one.

The Angels, for instance, could use a first baseman to replace the production they lost when Mark Teixeira put on his pinstripes. If they were willing to sacrifice defense for a few years, they could probably get him for a nice salary and a short commitment. If Burrell got $16 million over two years, then Dunn could command $20 million to $24 million over the same span.

Dunn could fit well in Colorado as a power replacement for the departed Matt Holliday, and that sure would be fun to watch, but the cost of having an air traffic controller employed full time might be too much for the Rockies to handle, as would be the debacle of watching Dunn chase down balls in the expansive Coors outfield. He'd be a triple waiting to happen.

Ultimately he should probably DH, but the list of potential contending teams in need of a DH is few and far between. The Twins could use another big bat, but their best hitters are already left-handed, and most of their offensive talent lies in the OF and the spillover will get at-bats at DH.

Dunn is reportedly still asking for four years, $56 million, which could be attainable if he can find a team that had him ranked ahead of Burrell, Milton Bradley and Raul Ibanez in the LF/DH department. The only team, however, that has shown any interest in approaching that number is the Nationals, who seem to want to make a splash with a big bat. If Dunn is happy playing through the rest of his prime on a last place club in a park where home runs die on the warning track, then he might be able to get his money.

Dunn's best bet, however, is probably to sign a one-year deal with whichever team decides that a low risk commitment for 40 home runs and a .400 OBP is worth taking, and then test the free agent waters again in a more prosperous world.

Why is this so hard again?


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 21, 2009

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