Baseball stars still on market

By Dave Fultz

Having just watched the inaugural address, it seems like it would be rather convenient for me to write a column illustrating my – and President Obama’s – support for a playoff system in college football and speculating on what he may or may not do to solve this problem.

But I’ve already written that column (take a look back at our archives) and Obama has quite a few other issues to deal with before the BCS even crosses his mind. With this in mind, I’ll stay on task this week and get back into the swing of winter baseball coverage with a look at some of the talent still available to teams that are looking to upgrade before spring training.

Before we all left campus for the (sometimes) greener pastures of home cooking and laundry machines that aren’t coin-operated, I listed my top 10 players available this offseason. Three of those guys — starting pitcher Jake Peavy and outfielders Manny Ramirez and Adam Dunn – are still available.

Peavy is still a member of the San Diego Padres, but the rumor mill surrounding a possible deal to send the righty to the north side of Chicago has once again come to life. With the Cubs clearing payroll and acquiring the young pitching talent that the Padres covet, some feel that the final obstacle is the announcement of Chicago’s new owner. It is rumored that the Tribune Company – the Cubs’ owner – plans to make the sale official at some point in the next week, but it’s been delayed this long so it wouldn’t surprise me if this gets put off yet again. Tribune owner Sam Zell has angered many fans by dragging his feet on the sale, but it looks as if this saga, and the Peavy saga, might finally come to an end soon.

It isn’t very surprising that the combination of Ramirez’s monetary demands and the perception of “Manny being Manny” have kept the slugging outfielder on the free-agent block this late into the offseason. Despite his age, he was still probably the best overall hitter on the market and will be a great signing in a short-term deal.

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    But Ramirez and his agent, Scott Boras, turned down the four-year deal that the Dodgers offered him last fall and now here he sits, without a team, in late January. Most teams’ budgets are getting tight and it doesn’t seem as if anyone will offer the exorbitant price that Manny is looking for. That said, he will sign somewhere, probably at a relative discount, and his new team will get a great talent at the plate.

    Everyone who has ever read my column knows that guys like Dunn, and Ramirez for that matter, are the type that I value very highly. Their ability to reach base (OBP) and hit for power (SLG) are exactly what teams should value in any hitter.

    While Dunn and Ramirez are both great hitters, they certainly have their shortcomings in the field. I think this is one reason they’ve both lasted on the free-agent market this long. Neither is great in the field, and Dunn is so inept in the outfield that most teams would be hesitant to use him as a full-time corner outfielder.

    Dunn will never get credit for how great of a player he really is, and will almost surely sign for well below his value because of this. Any team that has an opening at DH or first base should seriously consider snatching him up. After these three big fish, there are also a number of lesser talents available that could likely be had for a lower price now that the list of suitors with money has dwindled down to a select few. Ben Sheets, Bobby Abreu, Oliver Perez, Orlando Hudson, Juan Cruz and Brandon Lyon might all have something about them to make a potential employer nervous, but if the price is right they could all end up being the steal of the winter.

    Dave Fultz is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]