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Preemptive 2005-06 Free Agent Article

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Plenty of other places have already covered the playoff races, and with so little time left before the season ends there is nothing I can contribute statistically to the understanding of what is going on. As Rob Neyer has said, an extra line drive (or snared line drive) could make all the difference in the world in this small sample left. So instead, I'd like to focus on those players who Peter Gammons recently called "legitimate offensive players" in the free agent portion of his latest article (Insider of course).

Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Paul Konerko, Brian Giles, Jacque Jones, and Nomar Garciaparra (if he is still healthy). These are the names Gammons provides us with, although I automatically differ from his outlook on value. He considers Hideki Matsui to be the best offensive free agent, while I personally would go with (guess who) Brian Giles. Sigh...even Gammons underrates this poor guy. I am completely faithless with Konerko for some reason, probably because his worst season ever came after a successful one, and I had him on my fantasy team both years; otherwise I'd rank him ahead of Matsui as well. We'll see what the numbers tell us though, as my thoughts will most likely sway with the results. For Rate2 I will use the position that they most likely would play with their new team, so Matsui is a left fielder and will not be punished for his poor defensive performance in center field in his evaluation.

And that is why I like Giles over all of these players. Who is the premier hitter on the free agent market in 2006? Brian Giles. Who will receive the biggest contract? Probably Paul Konerko or Johnny Damon. I figured something out by the way, with some help from someone whose work I admire. EQRAA and BRAA are extremely similar in small sample sizes, such as Brian Giles EQRAA total of 47.22 corresponding with his BRAA total of 47. In cases such as this, when we look at one season, the difference is small. When we look at players careers, like I did with Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth in yesterday's article, the difference only amounts to essentially a handful of runs. Using BRAA would save some legwork, but its legwork the spreadsheet does, and as Richard Wade would say, he wants to know why the hell things work like they do when he uses them. Since he'd most likely show up at my door and beat me with a baseball encyclopedia if I switch to BRAA, I'll stay put for now.

By the way, Matsui will be 32 next year, Giles will be 35, Nomar will be 32, Konerko will be 30, Damon will be 32, and Jones will be 31. Matsui or Konerko might be your choice if you want to factor age into this (which would be the intelligent thing to do) but I don't see Giles slowing down just yet either. Here are these players ranked by Wins Above Replacement Level for 2005...

  1. WARP1 Ranks
  2. Giles 8.3
  3. Konerko 6.6
  4. Matsui 6.4
  5. Damon 5.4
  6. Jones 4.8
  7. Garciaparra 0.8

...and Marginal Lineup Value Rate:

  1. MLVr Ranks
  2. Giles .305
  3. Matsui .190
  4. Konerko .132
  5. Damon .110
  6. Jones .008
  7. Garciaparra .003
In Nomar's defense, he will most likely hit better in 2006 than he has in 2005. For him, it will be all about staying healthy and contributing. This year would have been fine, if not for his freak injury. One thing I can see though; if this is all the free agent class has to offer for top flight offensive players, someone better sign up Giles quick and force everyone else to fight over the trade rights to Lyle Overbay, Carlos Delgado, Manny Ramirez and others. Jim Thome or Ryan Howard should also be available, and they are both capable of beating everyone not named Giles on this list in terms of production when healthy. Should be an interesting winter, especially with all the pitching likely to change hands.