MLBdirt recently featured a guest post by William J. Tasker, the first of our many guest articles. Presenting our second guest post, we have an article by blogger Rich Daniels. Rich is a very passionate baseball fan and played college baseball for Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland. He went on to work as the Public Address Announcer for the Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League. You can find more of his work on his blog Hit Away. Without further ado, here is Rich’s first article for MLB Dirt.
Ever notice players who are out of the lineup a great deal season after season then seem to put together one of the best years of their careers right before they become a free agent? These contract-year miraculous recoveries happen every season and are often noticed but seldom spoken about to any degree. There are always players like Gary Matthews, Jr. who cash in a career year for a five-year, $50m contract and 2011 will have its share. Here are a few names to keep an eye on as Opening Day approaches.
Suspect #1: Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs. The Dominican native has played only two full seasons out of the last six and one of those, 2006, was his last elite year of production (38 HR, 119 RBI, .291 BA, .913 OPS). Since signing his last contract, a five-year, $75m ditty, Ramirez has played a full season exactly once. Don’t be surprised to see him in the lineup in 2011 despite the little dents and dings he has sat in deference to in past seasons. The reasons? Next season will be the last on his contract and it carries a $16m club option. Ramirez will turn 33 near mid-season so look for 2011 to be a concerted push to get probably his last monster contract.
Suspect #2: Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies. With all the attention on the Phillies’ rotation few have taken time to examine the case of the team’s de-facto captain. Rollins signed a five-year, $40m deal after the 2005 season and proceeded to have the two best years of his career. Then his performance began a progressive slide over the next three seasons (BA, OPS and SB all declined from 08’-10’). At 32 Rollins has maybe a year or two left in his prime and one last chance at multi-year, big money deal. With Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge coming to the ends of their contracts, Rollins will be aimed firmly at the opening budget area the Phillies have coming.
Suspect #3: Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers. Another shortstop on the verge of leaving his prime behind and with all the motivation any player would need to produce. At 33 Furcal has battled hamstring and back ailments since the 07’ season highlighted by appearing in only 38 games in 08’. He is in the last year of the three-year, $30m contract he signed following the 08’ season and has one more chance at the big money. The Dodgers hold a $12m club option on him for the 12’ season, but with the incredibly shaky financial status of the team due to the McCourt divorce saga and the pending development of prospect Dee Gordon, the Dodger shortstop will be looking for the greenest pastures possible somewhere else.
Suspect #4: Jose Valverde, CL, Tigers. When he’s good, they say that he’s a bit quirky. When he’s off, he’s just plain weird. The constant distraction of Valverde’s personality has been outweighed by his ability in the past but that’s not likely to come into play this year. The fact is that he hasn’t recorded 40 saves in a season since 08’. The soon to be 33 closer has battled numerous physical issues and topped 70 appearances and 70 IP only once making one wonder about his conditioning and commitment. But look for all that to change in 11’, however, since Valverde has a $9m 2012 club option to pitch for, what would be the highest single season salary of his career. But be assured that “Mound Manny” is well aware that another 40 save, sub 3.00 ERA season will get him big bucks next year.
Others to watch for: Xavier Nady, 1B, Diamondbacks; Jason Marquis, SP, Nationals; Scott Kazmir, SP, Angels; Erik Bedard, SP, Mariners; J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox; Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets.
Bonus Prediction! Big contract flame-out of 2011: Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers.
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis, Fantasy Tagged: | Adrian Beltre, Angels, Aramis Ramirez, Brad Lidge, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Erik Bedard, Gary Matthews Jr., J.D. Drew, Jason Marquis, Jimmy Rollins, Jose Valverde, Luis Castillo, Mariners, Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Rafael Furcal, Rangers, Raul Ibanez, Red Sox, Scott Kazmir, Tigers, Xavier Nady