No teams want to make a mistake in free agency, as a bad contract can hamper a franchise for years (although the world champion Giants overcame bad deals for Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand). Nobody wants to add the wrong person to their clubhouse, either. Here's a list of 10 free agents to be avoided, or at least be very wary of.
1. Carl Pavano. He was said to be fine in the Twins clubhouse, but it's risky business dealing with someone who has been self-centered elsewhere (some Yankees people were amazed at how little he tried after getting a $39.95 million contract from them). Should stay in Minnesota, where he has thrived.
2.Jorge de la Rosa. Talented pitcher is only 29. But he's apparently seeking a five-year deal. His numbers might justify it, but he has been inconsistent. Some see another Oliver Perez waiting to happen. He was a 16-game winner two years ago and averages eight strikeouts every nine innings over his career. His WHIP has improved in each of the last three seasons (to 1.315 this past season), but only once has he won more than 10 games. He'll be enticing in a very weak free-agent market, but there's a reason why the Rockies didn't want to go more than two years (for around $15 million total).
3. Mike Hampton. The Rockies once made a $120 million mistake with him. Signing him now -- at any price -- would be an error.
4. Nick Johnson. An injury waiting to happen. Has good numbers (.401 lifetime on-base percentage), so undoubtedly he'll fool someone.
5. Jose Guillen. On top of the fact that he's a nightmare in the clubhouse, he's got an HGH investigation to worry about now.
6. Felipe Lopez. Be forewarned about guys released by teams still contending, as Lopez was last year by the Cardinals.
7. J.C. Romero. Be skeptical when guys with failed steroid tests have down years.
8. Pat Burrell. He helped the Giants tremendously in the regular season but looked lost in the World Series. That's a small sample size, but no one should be fooled by a good regular season to match his $8 million salary.
9. Kerry Wood. Great talent was very good with the Yankees (0.69 ERA), but this is a case of buyer beware; someone's going to think he's sound again and then possibly be disappointed.
10. Miguel Tejada. Did fine with the Padres, but he's another guy losing his power (.381 slugging percentage this year).
1. Jon Garland. He has signed two straight one-year deals but turned down his $6 million player option with the Padres and should do better this time around. A consistent innings-eater and performer, he won 18 games in two straight years under pitching coach Don Cooper's tutelage in Chicago. He may not blow away scouts with his radar readings or stuff, but he's having a very nice career.
2. Joaquin Benoit. Had a superb year with the Rays but has barely been mentioned as a free agent with Tampa expected to lose Crawford, Soriano and maybe Carlos Pena. Had great numbers (1.34 ERA, 0.68 WHIP) after being picked up by Tampa Bay's very smart front office.
3. Orlando Hudson. He has signed a late one-year deal two straight winters after out-pricing himself with the Diamondbacks a few years back, but he can hit and run, and he brings a nice spirit to the clubhouse. The Mets could use a second baseman for the third straight winter, and with Luis Castillo seeming to be a candidate for release, maybe Hudson will finally wind up in New York.
4. Derrek Lee. He was once a big star, and at 35 he's not so old that he can't recover from a weak 2010 performance (career-low .774 OPS). He did rally once he got out of Chicago and played decently for the Braves. He's also an excellent defender at first for a right-handed thrower. Maybe a fallback for Washington if Carlos Pena falls through?
5. Hideki Matsui. Not sure how under-the-radar the 2009 World Series MVP can ever be, but while he didn't have the best of seasons in Anaheim, he still has tremendous drive (word is, he made it a goal to hit higher than Derek Jeter, and he did beat Jeter, .274 to .270). Also quietly hit 21 home runs with 84 RBIs. Would never bet against him.
6. Jim Thome. He turned out to be one of the biggest bargains last year when he signed with Minnesota for $1.5 million and saved them after Justin Morneau went down with a concussion, hitting 25 home runs in 340 at-bats. He probably solidified his Hall of Fame candidacy with his 2010 season, and the big fellow appears to still have something left in him.
7. Juan Uribe. The 2010 postseason hero seems to have a knack for the big hit. Still looks pretty solid at shortstop and third base, as well.
8. David Eckstein. A two-time World Series champ, this all-time scrapper is a big plus for any clubhouse.
9. Scott Downs. The Blue Jays held on to the lefty at the trade deadline after failing to receive the haul they sought. The Giants showed what a strong bullpen means (and nobody else has starting pitching like the Giants). Dominant vs. lefties, who hit .152 against him last year.
10. Adam LaRoche. He must regret turning down a big offer last winter from the Giants to sign with the Diamondbacks, who discarded him after a change in their hierarchy following a decent year. He's a great second-half player, and his overall numbers (25 home runs, 100 RBIs, .261) weren't too bad, either.
11. Kevin Gregg. Solid closer could also work as a setup man for a contender. Bounced back from rough year with Cubs to save 37 games in Toronto last year.
12. John Buck. A lot of Toronto hitters had big years in 2010, but in a weak catching market Buck and A.J. Pierzynski stand out.
13. Pedro Feliciano. Ironman reliever is very tough on left-handers (lefty batters have hit .214 against him in his career).
14. Orlando Cabrera. Productive shortstop is a feisty competitor who will want to come back with a big year after his rival Edgar Renteria was a World Series hero.
15. Ty Wigginton. Versatile player showed some pop (22 homers) for the Orioles last year.
16. Jason Frasor. The Jays had a lot of good arms in their pen, and this is yet another.
17. Andruw Jones. He showed signs of continuing to regain his hitting form with the White Sox, but was hurt by a glut of hitters after Manny Ramirez was acquired.
18. Lance Berkman. He has been overpaid the past few years but could be a bargain after a so-so season. Showed strong signs after returning from injury with the Yankees.
19. Bill Hall. Has versatility and power (18 homers last year). Boston seems to want him back after he became a bigger player than they wanted following their injury-riddled year.
20. Jeff Francis. Ultra-smart former ace was still working his way back last year (4-6, 5.00) from shoulder issues.
21. Jose Contreras. Seems to have found a home as a reliever in the National League. Very effective for both the Rockies and Phillies (6-4, 3.34) in relief roles after previously starring for the White Sox.
22. Rick Ankiel. Has the skills to be a star, but poor 2010 numbers (.232 batting average) should keep the price down.
23. Edgar Renteria. His $18.5 million, two-year deal looked like a miracle for agents Barry Meister and Jeff Lane, but Renteria was the biggest surprise World Series MVP ever. Will never get that kind of loot despite his incredible week.
24. Xavier Nady. The solid hitter gained more playing time once Mike Quade came aboard for the Cubs, but was limited by a crowded outfield. He's a year removed from his second elbow surgery, so perhaps he'll show improvement in 2011 after batting an uncharacteristic .256 this past season. He could always hit.
25. Javier Vazquez. He'll get back to business about finding a National League team.
26. Eric Hinske. He seems to be a good-luck charm, making the World Series with Boston, Tampa Bay and the Yankees before only reaching the first round last year with the Braves. He's a clutch hitter and a team player who would have had a big game-winner against the eventual champion Giants if not for poor Brooks Conrad and his fielding foibles.
27. Jeff Weaver. He was all-overpaid for years, but the Dodgers keep getting him on very reasonable deals lately, considering his productivity. Probably has so much money socked away that he's just happy to play at home (he's from Simi Valley, Calif.).
28. Yorvit Torrealba. After turning down a $5 million, two-year deal with the Rockies, he aided the Padres' cause at a much lower rate. Solid player who seems underrated.
29. Gabe Kapler. Solid fifth outfielder keeps coming back for more after previously retiring.
30. Craig Counsell. Has been a contributor to two World Series winners. Good team man and backup somehow finagled $2 million from the Brewers last year, but that seems unlikely again.
Sandy Alderson has been busy hiring, firing and interviewing folks in his first weeks as GM of the Mets, and so far we can draw these conclusions:
• It helps to have been associated with Alderson's old A's teams. He has hired J.P. Ricciardi and is reportedly trying to lure Paul DePodesta. Can't really blame him too much as he's charged with putting together a front office on the fly after not being a GM since 1997, so it makes some sense to call upon the old gang. The casualties are friends of Omar Minaya, who are being fired or forced out. Can't imagine Minaya will want to re-join this team now, after Alderson showed so little interest in his guys. Also, what becomes of John Ricco, the well-respected assistant GM who was in on the interview process that identified Alderson (though he had a good head start with the endorsement of both Bud Selig and Fred Wilpon)?
• The Mets may be skimping on players this year, but they are spending big on front-office imports. Ricciardi was lured after working one day in the Red Sox front office, and DePodesta is another former GM who was thought to be one of the highest-paid non-GMs in anyone's front office in San Diego.
• It appears that Alderson's looking for a manager with some experience, as his outside interviews so far include Clint Hurdle and Don Wakamatsu (he's also interviewing well-regarded Red Sox coach DeMarlo Hale). But he's showing respect for uniformed Mets people by interviewing several, in addition to field coordinator Terry Collins, who has connections to several key figures, including DePodesta and Wilpon's childhood friend Sandy Koufax, and is believed to be at or near the top of Alderson's list, he's interviewing at least Bob Melvin, Chip Hale, Wally Backman and Dave Jauss from in-house.
Collins looks like an early managerial favorite due to his vast upper-level connections, but Melvin, Wakamatsu and Hurdle seem to fit the criteria, as well, and a Collins appointment won't necessarily be well-received, considering he has yet to make the playoffs in six previous seasons managing in the bigs with the Astros and Angels.
• The Pirates are thought to be choosing between Hurdle and well-respected organization man Jeff Banister as their new manager. Hurdle was seen as the favorite, and someone close to him thought he would take the Pirates job if he didn't get the Mets' job, as Hurdle is "ever the optimist.''
• The Pirates, by the way, seem active in early free-agent calls. They are believed to be showing interest in some surprising free agent prizes, such as Beltre. Whether this is because they are being encouraged to spend more by MLB isn't known.
• Brewers owner Mark Attanasio at first wanted to hire Bobby Valentine but was talked out of it be people "outside the organization,'' Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reported. That seems very likely, as Attanasio was telling people that he wanted Valentine, then turned away from him after making calls. Instead, the Brewers hired untested Angels coach Ron Roenicke, who showed some humor in his press conference and was well-liked in Anaheim. Mike Scioscia, in addition to being an excellent Angels manager, is turning out a manager factory there, with Bud Black and Joe Maddon already succeeding in San Diego and Tampa.
• The one-year deal in Florida for Edwin Rodriguez makes him quite possibly the longest-running interim in history. Marlins people seem to want to hire Ozzie Guillen, who was the third base coach previously, still lives in Miami and wasn't extended by the White Sox recently after he went to the press with his desire. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is said to still love Guillen, who is currently starring in a long-running South Side soap opera that includes GM Kenny Williams. But Guillen's contract expires after the 2011 season.
• The Yankees were intent on putting on an early press release for top target Lee. They also want to keep their own stars Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, but there were early signs that the Jeter talks could take awhile. Jeter's agent, Casey Close, responded to Hal Steinbrenner's early claim that negotiations are all about winning by telling AOL FanHouse that baseball is a business, too. The Yankees can't claim that Jeter's 3,000-hit march (expected to be completed in June) isn't relevant, as they are contracted to pay Alex Rodriguez as much as $30 million based on potential home run milestones. The Jeter talks may not go quickly or easily, but it would be a shocker if they didn't work it out.
• The Giants reportedly have told Pablo Sandoval that he risks being sent to the minors if he doesn't get in better shape. He is listed at 245, but that seems a tad generous (to the downside).
• The Yankees will consider Gil Patterson for pitching coach after being denied permission to talk to their No. 1 choice, Don Cooper, by the White Sox. Cooper, a New York native, would have been a natural. But Chicago understandably wants to hold on to him.
• Someone close to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said he runs "hot and cold'' on Adam Dunn. The Nationals reportedly made Dunn a three-year offer, and he wants to stay in the National League. But the Nats like defense, so it would surprise no one if they signed Carlos Pena instead, and let Dunn go to the Cubs or elsewhere. Dunn has told everyone who'll listen that he abhors the DH role, though, so some AL teams that could have interest, such as the White Sox and A's, are probably out of luck.
• Hall-of-Famer-to-be Trevor Hoffman will come back to pitch if he can find a closer's job.
• Funny that two straight years -- first Matsui, then Renteria -- the World Series MVP wasn't treated like royalty by the championship team. Matsui was allowed to go elsewhere, and Renteria's option wasn't picked up. Another reminder that baseball is indeed a business.