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Examining The Remaining Free Agent Hitters by WAR

By the end of the week pitchers and catchers should start reporting to Spring Training. Yet, we've still got a great many well known free agents who haven't found a team to sign with. I thought it would be interesting to examine the level of talent that's left on the free agent market as we close up these last few weeks of the offseason.

A few brief assumptions:

  1. I'm once again using CHONE projections for defense and offense in these WAR calculations.
  2. Because WAR is based on playing time, I've tried to project PAs to get a ballpark figure of how much playing time these players should receive. I'm using the Marcel method to project PAs (2008 PAs * .50 + 2007  PAs *.10 + 200 PAs) because it's pretty simple and should suffice for our needs. A good reason to do this is that some players were getting "inflated" WAR scores if I projected everyone at 80% playing time (or 560 PAs). Players like Joe Crede are really valuable if they can stay healthy, but chances are that they won't play a full season or over 500 PAs in a year.
  3. Just a few players like Jeff DaVanon and Jose Valentin didn't have defensive projections, so I basically eyeballed a quick estimate for their defensive worth.
  4. A few of these free agents may have signed minor deals. I started this list last week and I believe a couple of free agents may have found teams.

On to the plot:

(Click to enlarge)

Quick Thoughts:

  • I think the graph does a decent job of depicting the spread of talent left on the market. You've got a few guys like Manny Ramirez, Orlando Hudson, Joe Crede, Adam Dunn, and Orlando Cabrera that are +2 or more win players. But, on the other hand you've got a lot of replacement level parts laying around. Players like Ben Broussard, Pablo Ozuna, Toby Hall, Jose Vidro, Ken Griffey Jr., and Jay Payton are all straddling the line for freely available talent.
  • Our top 5 free agents by projected WAR are: Manny Ramirez (+3.61), Orlando Hudson (+2.22), Orlando Cabrera (+2.21), Adam Dunn (+2.18), and Joe Crede (+2.09)
  • The bottom 5 free agents by projected WAR are: Jose Cruz Jr. (-1.66), Jose Valentin (-0.88), Ramon Martinez (-0.28), Gary Bennett (-0.03), and Pablo Ozuna (-0.02).
  • Some "big name" players like: Garret Anderson (+0.63), Ken Griffey Jr. (+0.09), Frank Thomas (+0.90), and Richie Sexson (+0.52) are going to have a hard time finding work unless they want to sign minor league contracts. They just aren't adding enough value for what they want to get paid. It's pretty amazing when you consider that this group of four players made a combined salary total of $48.8M in 2008. It just doesn't make sense to sign any of them when you can fish around in AAA or claim waiver wire fodder for much, much less. I'll be very interested to see what player-types like these will sign for -- if they sign at all. 
  • As much as Andruw Jones has plummeted, at the $500K deal he signed with the Rangers, he's not a bad gamble at all. CHONE still thinks his bat has something left and the price to find out was so low, it was basically free. In a projected 378 PAs, Jones has a projected WAR of +1.8 wins. Of course, if he shows up in terrible shape and continues to tank, I doubt the Rangers will let him get that many plate appearances. You can't argue with the price.
  • Ivan Rodriguez could still help a team out that's thin at catcher. He's projected to add +1.5 wins making him by far the most desirable free agent catcher left on the market.
  • Jose Cruz Jr. might want to hang 'em up.

Comment Starter: Any projection jump out at you? Just how many of these guys will remain unsigned by the time Spring Training starts?