Today, we'll finally be wrapping up the 'Who's Left' series when we cover the remaining free agents at the positions of center field and shortstop. You can read the first three parts to the series, here: C/1B, 2B/3B, and LF/RF.
Isolated Power vs. On-base Percentage: 2009 Free Agent Center Fielders
- I was shocked to see Jim Edmonds project so well -- offensively -- for the '09 season. After quickly looking at his stats from last year, I had totally missed that he hit 20 HR's in 2008. Edmonds started '08 with the Padres and it looked like his career was starting to wind down after he hit: .178/.265/.233 in a small sample of 90 AB's. By early May, he was cut, and signed with the Cubs as a free agent. Edmonds rewarded Chicago with a line of: 256/.369/.568 in 250 AB's. Getting out of Petco and into Wrigley Field surely helped Edmonds to regain some of his previous form. Edmonds has always had a sterling -- if not debatable -- defensive reputation in center field. He's going to make our list of free agent center fielders but any team that signs him might want to consider moving him into the corner. According to bUZR data, in 2008 Edmonds was a -11 run defender in center field. In 2006-2007 he was actually much closer to average on defense, but next season he'll be 39-years-old. It's possible that he's lost a little more than a step in the outfield and could be closer to a -5 to -10 run defender there now. Edmonds has both the highest projected OBP and ISO among our CF candidates. If a team believes he can still handle CF defensively, he might be an interesting 1-year buy.
- It's recently been announced that Rocco Baldelli has signed with the Red Sox on a 1-year, $500K base salary with incentives that can take his total earnings all the way up to $5.25M. Most know Baldelli for his mitochondrial disorder, but it turns out that his condition might not be as severe as originally thought. Baldelli projects for above-average power in both terms of league and positional average for 2009. Because of his health problems, he was purely a DH in '08 but his new diagnosis might give Boston some hope that he can get back in the field on a more regular basis, where in the past, he's shown to be a good defender. In over 3,000 career innings in center field, by bUZR/150, Baldelli scored slightly below average at -2.3 runs. If Baldelli's medical condition has improved and he can handle CF defensively, you've really got to like this deal for the Red Sox.
- Gabe Kapler pops up again in our CF list after getting some action in the LF/RF post. Kapler is essentially a league-average hitter who can defend well in the corners but might be a little stretched in center. His career bUZR numbers in center aren't impressive but he might be able to fake it for 300-400 innings in a season. I still like him a lot of a handy 4th OF.
- The rest of our group includes the speedy Scott Podsednik, the super-utility man Willie Bloomquist, So Taguchi, and Mark Kotsay. None of them are starting material but might end up on someones bench somewhere along the way.
- The center field market is pretty slim when you consider guys who can legitimately field the position. Jim Edmonds projects quite well at the plate but his defense in center may have eroded too much. Rocco Baldelli, if he can stay healthy, might be the best option on the market -- well, when he was on it -- to actually defend the position well enough. But, it depends on his health which might be a little iffy.
Isolated Power vs. On-base Percentage: 2009 Free Agent Shortstops
- If Nomar Garciaparra wasn't held together by twine, packaging tape, and bits of sawdust, he would be a really intriguing option at shortstop. He stacks up quite well against the average shortstop but his lack of durability means that many teams won't consider him for the position, which they probably shouldn't. Of our light-hitting group, Nomar projects for the best ISO by a good margin with a score of .162. Only Juan Uribe's ISO of .152 comes close. Defensively, Nomar would have trouble playing shortstop full-time, but he might soak up a couple hundred innings at the position if he's healthy enough.
- Orlando Cabrera is probably the most desirable shortstop left on the free agent market. He can defend his position -- career bUZR/150 of +7.2 runs at short -- and he's not going to kill you with that bat. According to FanGraphs' win values, Cabrera has been worth around +3 wins above replacement from 2005-2008. He'll cost whichever team signs him a draft pick, but he's clearly the best shortstop talent left on the market. His projected OBP of .325 is right at the league average for shortstops. His projected ISO of .107 is a little below positional average, but nothing like Omar Vizquel (0.071), Willie Bloomquist (0.072), or David Eckstein (0.083).
- If you need OBP, and don't care much about defense or power, then David Eckstein is your man. Eckstein has played more 2B in recent times, which is a good thing, because he's less-awful at 2B than he is at SS. I'm not sure how many teams would consider him a shortstop at this point. Eckstein's projected OBP of .342 is the best among our FA SS's. Though, as we noted above, his power is non-existent.
- Omar Vizquel sits quietly alone in the lower-left quadrant of our plot, indicating that he neither gets on base or hits for power. But, the one thing that Vizquel can still do is defend his position, even at 41-years-old. From 2005-2008, Vizquel has posted bUZR/150's of: +10, +7.4, +20.2, and +13.8 runs. The Padres are rumored to have some interest in Vizquel. I would love to watch him hit in Petco.
- The rest of the group is rounded out by utility players like: Alex Cintron, Alex Cora, Willie Bloomquist, Chris Gomez, Craig Counsell, Angel Berroa, and Juan Uribe or which, Uribe might be the most interesting because of his projected ISO.
- Outside of Orlando Cabrera, there isn't much on the free agent market at the position of shortstop. This is especially apparent after the signings of Edgar Renteria and Rafael Furcal. If a team thinks it's pretty close to contending and needs major help at shortstop, a Cabrera signing makes some sense, even if you have to kick a draft pick. Other than that, you'll be stuck with playing some of the left-overs on the market.