Trucking Day has come and gone for baseball teams and pitchers and catchers started reporting for duty and will continue to increase in the coming days. Spring Training engines are revving up in Florida and Arizona as teams try to ready themselves for the upcoming 2012 baseball season. How exciting is that!? But it's not so exciting for some fairly well known free agents that have yet to find jobs for the upcoming season. To say these players might be getting a bit antsy is an understatement. Who will be this year's Jermaine Dye?
Why Jermaine Dye? Dye was a two-time All Star who also won a Silver Slugger Award and twice made the top 20 in MVP Voting. Dye made over $74 million during his career. But after 2009, Dye became a free agent and his phone never rang. Well, it might have a few times, but there was never a connection on what Dye was willing to make and what a team was willing to offer. His career was over just like that one year after a fifteenth place finish in MVP voting in 2008.
Dye was a casualty of baseball's new valuation analysis. Armed with all kinds of new data, teams know what players are worth and rarely allow themselves to pay above that valuation. No team saw Dye as a good option. Dye was used to making $11 million a year and never heard the new reality coming until it whacked him in the forehead.
So at least in this mind, Dye is a symbol of sorts--enough so that a new award is named after him: The Jermaine Dye Award, given to a player each year that ran headlong into the slammed door of the evaluation machine. Who are this year's candidates? Well, there is Roy Oswalt. Oswalt is one of the better pitchers of his generation. But thus far, Oswalt has limited the scope of teams he will deal with and unfortunately, those limited amount of teams haven't bit the bullet on Oswalt's price tag. But Oswalt will likely get a deal. He is still too good a pitcher in a market that covets such things. The only question is how much money he'll get.
So who else is there? Pat Burrell retired, so we can't count him. How about Johnny Damon? Hmm...that's an interesting call. His status might depend on if the Yankees can trade A.J. Burnett. But there are whispers that his desire to reach 3,000 hits have compromised his value at the plate as his quest makes him less patient. Damon is a strong contender. It's been rumored that he wants $5 million and most teams won't want to pay him that kind of money.
How about J.D. Drew? Reports are that Drew is going to retire. But no official word has come forth. In fact, no words have been written about Drew at all, which is kind of fitting as he's always been the silent type. Until Drew's announcement comes, he's a contender.
Vladimir Guerrero might be the winner of the award. Vlad is one of the best players of his generation. But his bad wheels caught up to his free-swinging ways in 2011 and his value has gone way down. It's hard to imagine a player of his magnitude settling for a cheap little deal somewhere.
Derrek Lee? Another strong candidate. Lee had a strong finish with the Pirates but that was after a sluggish stint with the Orioles. Lee has made over $90 million in his career including $7 million last year. Count on your fingers the number of teams that need a first baseman. Not many, right? He's worth a flyer as a DH, but not for any kind of significant money. Would Lee accept that?
Ivan Rodriguez might not get an offer, which is sad. It's hard to think of baseball without him. But he's been fading for so long that he doesn't quite fit our criteria here. The same can be said for Edgar Renteria. The rest of the unsigned free agents are fringy at best unless you want to include Jason Kendall. Uh. No. Skip that.
It appears that our candidates are Guerrero, Damon, Lee and Oswalt. Of the four, Vlad seems to be the most vulnerable. And that's a shame. He was amazing in his prime.