In the previous installment of this mini-series, I took a look at Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, and John Lackey. In this installment—with two more on the horizon—I now analyze the predictions offered by Jon Heyman, an unnamed GM and an anonymous scout, in relation to the following free agents: 1) Chone Figgins, 2) Bobby Abreu, and 3) Jarrod Washburn. While some are more interesting than others, all three are truly noteworthy names that may generate interest in the Yankees’ front office. First, we begin with Figgins.
4. Chone Figgins, Angels infielder. Versatile player is expected to draw interest from many teams. The White Sox and Yankees might top the list.
Agent: $40 million, 4 years (or $30 million, 3 years).
GM: $35-40 million, 4 years.
Me: $50 million, 4 years.
Chone Figgins is a solid offensive player. He’s a speedster that hits for a high average and, although he took a step back in ’08, he has generally improved upon his on-base abilities since 2006. This season he is hitting .301/.395/.390 with a .356 wOBA, while stealing 42 bases and accounting for 108 of LA’s runs. What he lacks in power—only 4 HR this year—he makes up for in fielding versatility, as he can play practically any position outside of catcher. The Angels have let him man third for most of the year, though, and he has more than settled in there, defensively (15.8 UZR). Taking his defensive diversity and offensive tools into account, I think he’ll ultimately receive a 3-4 year deal worth $10 million per (Fangraphs has him valued at $25.6 million this year).
Buster Olney recently speculated that the Yankees would sign Figgins to play left field. He makes sense in that he’s a versatile guy, something the Yankees seem to want, especially if they keep their DH slot open as a resting chair for their other players. However, while Figgins can play left field, in limited playing time, he has never posted great defensive numbers there. Frankly, he has always been a better infielder than an outfielder. In fact, when compared to other third basemen in the AL, much of Figgins’ value this season is tied up in his defense (second best defensive 3B in the AL, middle of the pack offensive 3B).
Therefore, I don’t think that the Yankees will want Figgins for left field. Sure, he can play the position when needed, but he has never really played there full-time and has never shown that he can be an above average outfielder. If he’s a mediocre outfielder and his bat isn’t particularly good, then he what’s the point of signing him? For that reason, I think the Yankees will either pursue another player, or they’ll resign Damon for left (Damon’s not a good defender anymore, but his offense is still valuable). In addition, I doubt the Angels will let Figgins go since he has been central to their team’s success and their overall style of play.
In the end, Figgins makes a lot of sense for a number of teams, however, the Yankees could certainly do better in their search for a left fielder.
6. Bobby Abreu, Angels outfielder. One of baseball’s most consistent players made $16 million in 2008 before inexplicably having to take a pay cut of nearly 70 percent. The GM sees Abreu as comparable to Raul Ibanez, who received $31.5 million for three years last winter.
Agent: $6 million, 1 year.
GM: $30 million, 3 years.
Me: $30 million, 3 years.
There’s not much to say about Bobby Abreu, another Angel and a player that Yankee fans know very well. He has performed above his $5 million contract in 2009, hitting .295/.393/.428 with a wOBA of .365. His power has faded considerably, however, his eye is still strong and his wheels are still working (29 stolen bases on the year). He has proven to be one of the better free agent pickups of the winter and $30 million over 3 years seems fairly reasonable.
When the Yankees let him walk in 2008, it was primarily because of his age and defense (both of which are still concerns). However, since the Yankees will likely need a regular DH with the ability to play the field every once in a while, they could do worse than Bobby Abreu. Will he end up with the Yankees? Probably not. I truly doubt that they would be willing to pay him $30 million over 3 years, although he’ll most likely get that from someone (i.e., Mets). Abreu also didn’t like the way the Yankees handled his exit, so he may not entertain their offers even if they do show an interest in him.
7. Jarrod Washburn, Tigers pitcher. Huge performance in Seattle, not so much in Detroit. Could go back and rejoin the Mariners.
Agent: $18 million, 2 years.
GM: $18 million, 2 years.
Me: $36 million, 3 years.
This season, Washburn pitched well in Seattle, thanks, in part, to an improved two-seam fastball and the Mariners’ excellent defense. Before being traded to the Tigers, Washburn’s ERA was 2.64. However, ever since he arrived in Detroit, he has struggled, posting a 7.33 ERA over 8 games. In his defense, Washburn’s Motown blues appear to be brought on by a significant knee injury. Given his age—he’s 35—the injury, and the way he is performing down the stretch, I believe he’ll receive a contract similar to what the GM and the agent have proposed at $18 million over 2 years.
The Yankees have been interested in Washburn for a few years now and they could look to him as an option if Andy Pettitte doesn’t return. And, even if Andy does return, Brian Cashman could choose to pursue Washburn for the back-end of the rotation. A Washburn signing would ultimately depend on what the Yankees want to do with Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. Given that Hughes could certainly start the season in Scranton in order to build up his innings, having Washburn as your number 5 starter to begin the season could be an effective plan.
Of these three players—Figgins, Abreu, Washburn—all of them make some degree of sense, yet, each one appears to be a secondary option. Before signing Figgins, I’d like to see the Yankees pursue Matt Holliday and bring Johnny Damon back as the DH on a short-term deal, whereas Abreu will seek a multiyear contract. Also, a Washburn signing would be dependent upon a number of in-house moves regarding Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. Again, all three players would be useful to the Yankees, however, none of them seem like the best fit.
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