It’s been a pretty slow past week in baseball, as teams get prepared for the Hot Stove season to begin. So to tide you over until the real action begins(the wheeling and dealing. Not counting Dayton Moore, who always shows up early to the party), here are a look at some players who are on the market and won’t be signed by the Royals(I think;get back with me in 2 months).
Maybe the biggest free agent out there this winter is Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. Hamilton is a one of a kind talent that can carry a team on his back and take them to the promised land. The problem is he also comes with a cargo plane full of baggage. Everyone knows of his drug and alcohol past and how it cost him a number of years on his baseball career. He’s had a few relapses over the past couple years, so his past looks to continue to haunt him. Add in his lackluster play late in the season, which at times seemed almost lethargic, and his age(31) and you can see a few of the obstacles any team has if they are interested in bringing Hamilton into the fold. Supposedly Josh is looking for a seven year deal, which seems like a lot considering age, a long injury history and the aforementioned baggage. Milwaukee has been the team mentioned the most in the Hamilton sweepstakes and there is a link there, as the Brewers hitting coach, Johnny Narron, is Hamilton’s former “accountability coach”. It’s easy to see how they might target Hamilton, as Narron gives him a comforting spot. The Rangers have acted very lackluster on their interest in bringing Hamilton back, while the Giants have been mentioned as a “dark horse” candidate. Hell, one GM mentioned they thought Kansas City could be in the hunt. I got a good laugh out of that. Hamilton is at a crossroads in his career and needs to prove to people he wants to play. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with a 4 or 5 year deal for over $20 million a year.
Speaking of available outfielders, BJ Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays is an interesting subject this offseason. Upton is only 28 and a former number one draft pick of the Rays. For years, people in the game keep expecting Upton to show his true potential, as it seems he has all the tools needed to be a top notch player. Unfortunately, he has only shown flashes of this talent, which has got to be frustrating for Tampa Bay management. It’s a pretty sure bet he will be leaving Florida, but to be honest I don’t understand why team’s are so high on him. Okay, I get WHY they are high on him. Scouts still think he will tap into his capabilities and be an All Star. The thing is, the numbers say otherwise. Since 2008, he has hit for more power, but his OBP has nosedived. To make a long story short, he is hitting for more power, but not getting on base as much, which is an important part of the game. In my eyes, Upton is what he is; a guy with pop in his bat, above average defensively, with a lack of plate discipline. Some team will overpay for Upton, and will be hopeful he will figure it out. But I wouldn’t put my money on that happening.
Oh, Melky. The story has been told again and again, so we won’t get into his fall from grace this season. Instead, lets focus on what could happen with Cabrera. I’m pretty sure some team will sign him, but instead of a multi-year deal for over $10 million a year, Cabrera will probably get stuck with a one year deal for possibly as low as $2 million. Basically, Cabrera has a lot of goodwill to rebuild. Teams have to be concerned about a few things with Melky. For one, we don’t know how much of his success the past two years was hard work and how much was added substances. He will have to prove that the Melky we saw the first half of 2012 was for real. The other issue is the website problem that popped up after his positive test this summer. If it looks like Cabrera might have a court date in his near future, it will be less likely a team will want to take a flyer on him. There is also the issue of his clubhouse presence. He has never been a favorite in the locker room over the years, but seemed to change the last two years. But when his positive test came out, he bolted the Giants clubhouse, which did not sit well with his teammates. Most felt he should have apologized to them in person instead of bolting. If a team can get around all of these obstacles, then Melky could be worth their time. A team like Seattle seems like a good landing spot for the Melkman, but only time will tell.
Last Friday, the Angels cut pitcher Dan Haren free, as a proposed deal with the Cubs fell apart at the last minute. Haren was actually a target of the Royals at one point before deciding on his teammate, Ervin Santana. To say I was relieved that Kansas City didn’t get Haren would be an understatement. Look, at one point Haren was an elite starter, probably one of the top ten in the game. I would even say if the trade was offered back before 2011, I’d be excited about acquiring Haren. Unfortunately, Haren struggled throughout 2012, and watching a couple of his starts, it seemed apparent that he was not healthy. Haren has had back issues in the past, which is a giant red flag for any team thinking of picking him up. Back issues are notorious for lingering, and could bother a starting pitcher for years. If you throw in all the innings Haren has thrown over the years, and it is very possible that he is on the downside of his career. Sure, Haren could go out there and prove everything I just said wrong. Or his back issues could linger throughout the rest of his career. When it is all said and done, signing Haren would be a gamble for any team taking a chance on him and even a bigger gamble for a team like the Royals. I will breathe easier knowing the Royals aren’t thinking about bringing Haren into the fold.
Last week, the Kansas City Royals cut loose longtime closer Joakim Soria. This wasn’t really big news for us Royals fans, as we all knew the team wasn’t going to pay him the rate he was at, not after going through his second Tommy John surgery. Both sides have said they would like for Soria to come back and be a part of the Royals in 2013, but word came out this week that a number of teams are in the hunt for him as well. As a Royals fan, it would be great to have Soria back, as it only seems appropriate for him to only play for one team in his career. But I am also realistic and understand the Royals don’t NEED Soria. Greg Holland is the closer and proved that he deserves that job. Add in the plethora of young arms in Kansas City’s bullpen and you can see how the Royals could afford to lose Soria. I know I will be upset if Soria signs elsewhere, but I get it. No way should the Royals overspend on a guy who will be a setup guy at best. The Royals need to make their decision more with their head than their heart on this one.