The Mike Hampton Rule – American League

After taking each NL division a day a time, I’m going to try to wrap up my look at the Mike Hampton Rule with one final post. I’m also going to scale back my breathtaking commentary and pretty much just list the representative and other candidates.

For reference and methodology, here are parts one, two and three.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles

Hampton Ruler: Jay Gibbons. 2 more years at roughly $12 million total. Too much money for a backup DH.

Other Candidates: Aubrey Huff. $16 million through 2009, but at least he’s the starter. Melvin Mora. At least $17 million (plus an option buyout) over the next two seasons to hope a 36 year-old third baseman reverses his decline.

Boston Red Sox

Hampton Ruler: Julio Lugo. Definitely need to hope it was the parasites in 2007, since he’s signed for 3 more years at $27 million.

Other Candidate: JD Drew. He’s rebounded from an off-season before (2002), but Sox need to hope last year was another aberration. He’s signed through 2011 with $56 million remaining (although there are some creative ways the Sox can end the contract sooner based on injuries).

New York Yankees

Hampton Ruler: Johnny Damon. $13 million a year through 2009 is too much for a relatively weak hitting corner OF.

Other Candidates: So many to choose from. Jason Giambi. His contract finally ends after this season, but he’s being paid $21 million to split time as a poor fielding 1B, a DH, and a pinch hitter. Hideki Matsui. Same contract as Damon. A better hitter, but not as good in the field. Looking to spend a lot of time at DH or on the bench. Jorge Posada. Hoping he manages to keep drinking from the Fountain of Youth as his new 4 year / $52 million dollar deal could go south in a hurry. Alex Rodriguez. Too early to worry now, but those years in his late 30′s could be ugly. Carl Pavano. Contract ends this year, but I’d just want to get rid of the reminder of how bad that contract has been – so far $27 million over 3 years for 113 total innings pitched at a below average ERA.

Tampa Bay Rays

Hampton Ruler: This is a tough one. I don’t know. Cliff Floyd? A one year deal at $3 million doesn’t seem like anything to get too worked up over.

Other Candidate: Carlos Pena. Amazing season in 2007. Always had the potential, but the 3 year / $24 million deal could be pretty bad if he can’t repeat.

Toronto Blue Jays

Hampton Ruler: Vernon Wells. Wells has had two great seasons (2003 and 2006), a bunch of good seasons, and then there was last year. His contract is actually set up really, really nicely for Toronto (they’re only paying him $500 thousand this season), but he’s still entitled to $126 million over the next 7 years. I’m not sure I’d want to be risking that much money on an aging CF who is good but not great.

Other Candidates: BJ Ryan. It all depends on how he comes back from Tommy John surgery. Great before he went under the knife, but will he be worth the 3 years and $30 million remaining on his deal? Scott Rolen. Again, a lot depends on his health, and how happy he is to be away from Tony LaRussa

AL Central

Chicago White Sox

Hampton Ruler: Paul Konerko. Signed as a World Series hero after 2005 for $12 million a season, he’s under the Sox control until 2010. He’s now on the wrong side of 30, a poor fielding 1B, and he lost 90 points of OPS last season. He might rebound this s

Cleveland Indians

Hampton Ruler: Jake Westbrook. $11 million a year for 3 years is a little steep for a third starter. That’s not entirely fair, since he’d be the two on a number of teams, but the Indians didn’t give me a whole lot to go on.

Other Candidate: As much as it pains me to say it, Travis Hafner. Hafner has always had trouble staying healthy while hitting the snot out of the ball. Last year, he managed to stay in the lineup all season but slumped tremendously offensively. He’s also on the wrong side of 30 and just signed a new 4 year / $57 million deal. If he can return to being arguably the best pure hitter in the AL, then it’s money well spent. But if he repeats last year, the contract could quickly become an albatross.

Detroit Tigers

Hampton Ruler: Carlos Guillen. With the acquisition of Edgar Renteria, Guillen moves from being a plus offensive shortstop (although nearly Jeteriffic defensively) to being an average to slightly below average first baseman (although he should be much better defensively). For the $48 million the Tigers are paying him over the next four years, they could probably do better.

Other Candidate: Dontrelle Willis. He’s owed $29 million over the next three years under the hopes the magic isn’t gone and two straight years of precipitous decline reverse themselves.

Kansas CityRoyals

Hampton Ruler: Jose Guillen. I know the Royals just signed him, but they’re obviously expecting a whole lot more than I am. He’s an average or slightly above average corner OF with occasional attitude problems who will be pulling in $12 million a year for the next three years. Some of that is probably a KC premium, but he’ll still be hard pressed to carry his weight. Of course I had the same thoughts about Gil Meche last year and so far that’s turned out okay (so far…).

Minnesota Twins

Hampton Ruler: Justin Morneau. Morneau is a pretty good young first baseman. He obviously won the MVP in 2006 and should have legitimately been in the conversation (although I would have put Jeter and Sizemore above him, and maybe Ortiz). But he hasn’t consistently demonstrated that he’s worth the $80 million he’ll be getting over the next 6 years. I’m pretty sure there were external marketing factors that increase Morneau’s value, but if I were Bill Smith, I would have upped my offer to Johan Santana and passed on Morneau.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Hampton Ruler: Gary Matthews Jr. Little Sarge rode one good year (and one amazing catch) to a 5 year / $50 million contract that runs through 2011. Unfortunately for the Angels, he did so well last year (93 OPS+ and arguably the worst CF in the league defensively) that they decided to sign Torii Hunter. $10 million a year is a whole lot to pay your 4th OF.

Other Candidate: Torii Hunter. While he’s better than Matthews, he’s also a lot more expensive. Coming off a career year offensively, Hunter signed a 5 year / $90 million deal that will take him through his mid-30s. A lot of Hunter’s value is in his defense, which has appeared to slip slightly the last few seasons, and will likely continue to as he ages and slows. If he has to move to a corner before the contract is up, it looks a lot worse for the Angels.

Oakland Athletics

Hampton Ruler: Eric Chavez. The last of the big name holdouts from the Moneyball teams of the early part of the decade, Chavez’s game has been ravaged by injuries. He’s got $34 million left over the next 3 seasons, which will likely only be worth the money if he stays healthy AND rebounds some offensively. An interesting thing to keep watch on is that Chavez becomes a 10/5 player towards the end of the season. I wonder if Beane will try to move him if he comes out well to start the season.

Seattle Mariners

Hampton Ruler: Richie Sexson. Sexson’s only got one year remaining on his contract at $14 million, but he was bad enough last year (84 OPS+) that I’m sure the Mariners’ fans would love to be rid of him.

Other Candidate: Ichiro Suzuki. You might not think so, but when his hitless streak (0-21 as of last night) continues all season, you’ll change your tune.

Texas Rangers

Hampton Ruler: Vincente Padilla. A lot of people were wondering why Padilla got a 3 year / $33.75 million dollar deal after 2006 (102 ERA+). After 2007, Jon Daniels is probably among those people wondering why.

Other Candidate: Kevin Milwood. Milwood has never consistently been the great pitcher people were expecting after his 167 ERA+ age 24 season in 1999. He’s had a couple of other good to great seasons, but has mixed in his fair share of stinkers. Last year was his worst of all, and Texas has to worry that might continue since they owe him $31.5 million more over the next three seasons (although they can void the deal after 2009 if Milwood doesn’t pitch enough innings).

The Mike Hampton Rule – NL West

Part three of a series where I try to identify which players would be let go if MLB instituted it’s own version of the Allan Houston Rule. Parts one and two are here.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks have to be considered one of the best-run franchises right now. Josh Byrnes has put together a very talented young team and pulled off one of the bigger trades this offseason – netting Dan Haren in the deal. There aren’t many contracts here that are too questionable. I see two possibilities for the Hampton Rule representative: Randy Johnson and Eric Byrnes. Johnson is in the last year of his deal (and likely in the last year of his career) – a year that will pay him $10 million. He still has $8.5 million coming in signing bonuses as well. If his body holds up, he’ll likely be worth the contract. But he missed a fair portion of the season last year and has struggled with injuries over the past few years (even if he hasn’t missed much time). I think there’s at best a 50% shot he lasts all year and a pretty good chance he misses a large portion of the season. Eric Byrnes had a tremendous first half of 2007 and is viewed as the sparkplug for a very young team. Those two facts got him rewarded with a three year, $30 million deal that starts this season. Byrnes is below average with the bat for a corner outfielder, but appears to be quite good defensively. He is a hard-nosed player whose style of play seems like it would lead to a lot of lingering injuries. His history of wearing down in the second halves of seasons might lend some credence to that idea. I could see his effectiveness dropping as he moves into his mid 30′s and his body begins to betray him more. All that said, Byrnes is definitely a fan favorite and losing him would have much greater impact than simply saving some cash. For that reason, if the Diamondbacks wanted to get rid of anybody, I think it would be Randy Johnson.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies, on the back of amazing run the last month of the season, not only snuck into postseason, but bulldozed the other NL playoff teams on the way to the World Series. That they ran smack into the Red Sox juggernaut does nothing to diminish a pretty amazing season for a team that many thought would hover around .500. For a successful team with a low payroll, it’s actually very easy to figure out who would be dropped under the Hampton Rule.* Todd Helton signed a 9 year, $141.5 million dollar deal in 2001. Unfortunately for the Rockies, he’s no longer the Todd Helton of 2000-2004. He’s still a very, very, very good hitter, but he’s under contract for $16.6 million a year through 2010. Then his salary jumps to $19.1 million for 2011. The Rockies hold a $23 million option for 2012 (when Helton will be 38), but I feel confident in saying they’ll probably buy out that year for $4.6 million. Even if Helton would get that much on the open market (although I’d estimate he’d get more like $13 million a year), his $16.6 million was 30% of Colorado’s total payroll last season. While the Rockies have locked up a lot of their young players this offseason, I’m guessing that Dan O’Dowd would like the additional payroll flexibility that Hamptoning Helton would allow.

* I’m sure the Rockies wished there was a Mike Hampton Rule back when they signed Hampton. Although they might have decided to use it on Denny Neagle instead.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are another one of the easy teams to figure out. Despite the riskiness of Jason Schmidt ($12 million each of the next two seasons) or the likely suckiness of Esteban Loaiza ($7 million this season plus a $375 thousand buyout), Juan Pierre is really the only pick. Not only did LA decide to sign another CF (Andruw Jones) only a year after inking Pierre to a 5 year, $44 million deal, but the Dodgers have two stellar OF prospects in Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp – one of which is likely blocked by Pierre. Finally, Pierre doesn’t provide enough offense to hold down a corner spot. He has zero power and a fairly low OBP. His best weapon is his speed, but he’s pushing 30 and many players start to lose their speed at that age. All in all, the Dodgers would be much better off without Pierre – making his selection under the Hampton Rule an easy choice.

San Diego Padres

The Padres have been one of those tough teams to figure out.  I always think they’re going to have a better record than they end up with.  I guess it’s because Peavy, Young and Maddux are some of my favorite pitchers.  And I forget how much of a pitcher’s park Petco really is.  Still, they never quite to live up to my expectations.  Anyway, enough of a diversion.  Back to the contracts.  Kevin Towers has done a pretty good job of limiting the amount of large contracts for San Diego.  Their biggest outlay for 2008 is Maddux at $10 million.  I’m not sure he’ll be worth it from a performance perspective, but there might be some value from having a second pitching coach.  Jim Edmonds is owed $8 million, but $2 million of that is being paid by the Cardinals. I happen to think Edmonds is on his way to done, but it’s probably worth $6 million to see if he can rebound.  My guess is he has close to the same year as last year, but Petco makes it seem a lot worse.  That leaves Brian Giles.  I’ve always had a soft spot for Giles since his time with the Pirates, but he’s definitely no longer the same player he was.  He’s owed $9 million this year and has a $9 million option for 2009 (with a $3 million buyout).  He’s been pretty much the same player the last two seasons, although with more injuries last season.  Unfortunately a 108 OPS+ isn’t going to cut it from a corner OF position, especially when the Padres don’t really have all that much offense at the other positions.  I’d like to see if Giles can bounce back, but I’m not too optimistic and I don’t think San Diego should be either.

San Francisco Giants

As the Giants prepare for their first season since 1993 without Barry Bonds, they find themselves bowing under the weight of another Barry’s contract. Barry Zito really hasn’t been a great pitcher since his Cy Young season in 2002.  He clearly was a good pitcher in his last years with Oakland, but he hadn’t shown anything that indicated he should be the highest paid pitcher ever. That didn’t stop Brian Sabean from signing him to a 7 year (!) / $126 million contract before the 2007 season. Barry Zito came out and promptly put up a 98 ERA+.  That’s around average for a starting pitcher (actually a little bit above), but not what you expect from your ace.  And the Giants are the proud owners of Zito for the next 6 years at a total of at least $116 million.  I’m hoping that if Sabean were given a do-over, he’d rethink this deal.  Of course, the 5 year / $60 million dollar deal he gave to Aaron Rowand off of his career year doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

Well, there’s the entire National League.  I’ll continue with the American League this week, although it may not be daily as actual work gets in the way.

The Mike Hampton Rule – NL Central

Today, I continue my team-by-team look at their worst contract – the player the team would choose to release if MLB granted a one player amnesty. Since this whole idea was brought about by realizing how little Mike Hampton has pitched under his current contract, I’m calling it the Mike Hampton Rule. Yesterday, I looked at the teams in the NL East. As with yesterday, all contract and performance data is from Cot’s Baseball Contracts or Baseball Reference.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

The Cubbies have a lot of big contracts that could be considered for the Hampton Rule. Aramis Ramirez is owed $67 million over the next 4 years, but he’s been consistently one of the top third basemen in the league since he came to Chicago, and the contract only runs through his age 33 season. Alfonso Soriano‘s contract, on the other hand, runs until he’s 37, and still has $127 million over 7 years to go. I think that’s going to be probably 3 years and $54 million dollars too long. Soriano has a strange set of comps, but not too many of them held their productivity into their mid-to-late 30′s. I didn’t think I was going to choose Soriano when I started this post, but I think I’ve talked myself into him. My original guess was going to be Jason Marquis. He’s owed $16 million over the next two years, and has expressed his discontent at pitching out of the pen*. Yes, Soriano is currently a much better player, but that $16 million is less than a single season of Soriano’s deal. And the difference in money, as well as the fact that I envision Soriano hitting a cliff in the next 3 years, makes him the easy choice.

* The current rumor has Marquis going to the Red Sox for Coco Crisp. The Sox must be really hurting for starting pitching depth. It’s strange that a few months ago Crisp might have been the centerpiece of a Johan Santana deal and now he might be traded straight up for Jason Marquis. Of course the other players the Sox were talking about adding to the Santana deal probably had something to do with that.

Cincinnati Reds

Looking over the Reds’ contracts, I’m tempted to argue that Dusty Baker should be the one to go. He’s only being paid about $10 million over the next three years, but some of his statements this spring are indicating he might not be the best manager to lead the current team. But, really, managers aren’t part of this game. And I’m pretty sure Krivsky knew what he was getting when he signed Baker. Beyond that, there’s not a whole lot to quibble with in terms of contracts. I think the Francisco Cordero deal is a little risky, but he’s being paid close to market rate for a free agent closer. Both Griffey and Dunn come off the books after this season. Well, not really in Griffey’s case. He deferred a bunch of money over the course of the deal ($57.5 million to be exact) which is owed him over the next 15 years. I think the Reds would love to be clear of that money. And so Griffey will be their savior.

Houston Astros

Cough… Carlos Lee… cough. Sure, he’s an ok hitter for a corner outfielder. But have you seen him try to play defense? And he’s just going to get bigger and slower out there. Overall, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were just an average player today. I don’t think I’d want to be paying $86 million over the next 5 years for a player who’s only average right now and will likely be getting worse. The Astros do have some other possibilities for the Hampton Rule though. Miguel Tejada is still a very good player, but he’s been trending downhill and there are obvious steroid questions. Still, he’s only owed $26 million through 2009 and should be good for that. Beyond that, the rest of the possibilities are small, but confusing contracts. Kaz Matsui at $5 million for three years? Woody Williams at $6.25 million for his age 41 season? And Brad Ausmus as a third catcher for any amount of money (1 year / $2 million)? I guess they’re hoping he can teach J.R. Towles a lot.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers are a tough team to identify anyone for. They don’t really have anyone signed long-term for big money. Jeff Suppan has another 3 years and $35 million to go, but as long as he keeps doing what he’s done for the last nine years, he should be worth it. The biggest risk I see isn’t David Riske (haha, I kill myself) but Eric Gagne. But even here, Doug Melvin has done a good job limiting the downside with a 1 year deal. I suppose it could come back and bite him if Gagne somehow pulls out an Eric Gagne season of old. But if the Brewers get that kind of year from Gagne, they’ve probably made the playoffs and I can’t imagine Melvin would be too upset. Jason Kendall is signed for $4.25 million for this season and his 2009 option automatically vests at 110 games started. He’s definitely not a plus offensively anymore* but there’s not a whole lot of risk here either. I’m going to admit defeat here. I don’t see any contract that the Brewers would be trying to get out from under.

* Apparently Kendall will start the season batting ninth. It’s nice to see someone other than LaRussa willing to experiment like this. I wonder how long it will last if the Brewers start off poorly. And whether it will reflect badly on Ned Yost if things go bad.

Pittsburgh Pirates

I don’t think it’s much of a surprise who’s going to be named here. It’s not like the Pirates have a lot of big contracts. You know, I know it, Matt Morris‘ family knows it… he’s really the only choice. I’m not saying Matt Morris is a bad pitcher. And he’s probably not even that overpaid at $9.5 million this year. He just doesn’t make much sense for the Pirates. Unless Morris is the next Leo Mazzone, and can get Ian Snell, Zach Duke and Tom Gorzelanny pitching like Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, he just doesn’t really fill a need. The one thing the Pirates have going for them is their depth of youngish starting pitching. Besides the three already mentioned, Paul Maholm and Bryan Bullington probably should be starting full time. That’s a rotation with a lot of question marks, but it’s not like Pittsburgh has a shot at the playoffs. I suppose you could argue that Morris could provide some consistency there, but he was pretty inconsistent from game to game last year himself. Plus, on a team that’s going to struggle to win 75 games, I’m not sure consistency is worth $9.5 million.

St. Louis Cardinals

I hate to say it for the Cardinals because he’s one of my favorite players, but I’d have to think long and hard about letting go of Chris Carpenter under the Mike Hampton Rule. Carpenter has been amazing when healthy, but hasn’t been healthy enough recently. He’s owed another $55 million through 2011 and there have to be questions about whether he’ll be worth it. If he comes back from missing almost the entire season last year and pitches like Chris Carpenter the rest of the contract, then he’s probably a steal. If he pitches like Karen Carpenter, then not so much. Probably the only other option is Troy Glaus, who exercised his 2009 player option as part of the trade that brought him from the Blue Jays, and is therefore owed $24 million over the next two years. As with Carpenter, Glaus has some injury concerns, but he’s been pretty consistent with the bat and should continue to be for the next few years.

Well, there’s the NL Central. Tune back in tomorrow for the NL West. Prepare to be surprised by the choice for the Giants (or not).

Caveat Emptor No More – The Mike Hampton Rule

In completely unshocking news, Mike Hampton’s hurt again. Now, he’s saying it’s just a minor groin strain and he won’t miss his next start, but you have to think the Braves are a little worried since Mike hasn’t thrown a pitch for them since 2005.

The fact that Hampton has been paid $29 million dollars the last two years not to pitch got me thinking about all the contracts that teams wish would just go away. Let’s say MLB instituted their own version of the Allan Houston Rule (let’s call it the Mike Hampton Rule), but instead allowed each team to completely void one contract (and paid it out of the central fund to avoid any grievances). Who would each team choose to get rid of?

For this exercise, past performance doesn’t matter. It’s a completely unscientific attempt to pick the one player on each team who is most overpaid for his likely performance going forward. Notice I didn’t say projected performance because that would require me to look at something like PECOTA, and that would take a lot of the fun out of this.

We’ll break this down by division and cover them all over the next few days. All contract information is from Cot’s Baseball Contracts and Baseball Reference.

National League East

Atlanta Braves

Well, this is last year of the aforementioned Hampton contract*, since I can’t imagine the Braves picking up the $20 million option for 2009. But they’re still on the hook for $15 million this year, although Colorado pays the $6 million buyout for 2009. And judging by the fact that he hasn’t pitched in two and a half years, it’s not like the Braves are going to miss his contribution. The only other possibility is Mark Kotsay who’s in the last year of a contract that will pay $8 million this season. He’s going to be overpaid unless he bounces back both offensively and defensively, but his contract doesn’t really put up much of a contest against Hampton.

*How crazy is that Hampton contract by the way? He never once pitched for Florida, but ended up costing them $23.5 million. And Colorado, who already put in $23 million dollars for just two years of below average pitching (98 and 78 ERA+), owes him the $6 million buyout and then $19 million of deferred money (plus interest) for his signing bonus.

Florida Marlins

Florida is completely different ballgame. According to Cot’s, they have one player under contract beyond 2008*. And since Andrew Miller was a core piece of the Miguel Cabrera deal, I don’t see him going anywhere. So it comes down to the three highest paid players on the team: Kevin Gregg at $2.5 million, Luis Gonzalez at $2 million and Mark Hendrickson at $1.5 million. Yes, you read it correctly. The highest paid player on the team is making $2.5 million dollars.

Gregg is a pretty good relief pitcher who was the Marlins’ closer last year. He should easily be worth the $2.5 million. Gonzalez is an aging OF who doesn’t seem to have a lot left in the field, but is still passable at the plate. For $2 million, you can’t complain too much. Mark Hendrickson, on the other hand, has had one good half season and gives up a lot of hits. In front of Florida’s putrid defense (although it almost has to be better this year… right?) I can’t see Hendrickson putting up an ERA much south of 6.00. So even though he was just recently signed as a free agent, he’d be the one I let go.

*Wow, you have to be thinking Loria is either milking the revenue sharing (well, duh) or looking to sell the team after the new stadium is built. I can’t believe there’s only one player with a multi-year deal on the team. And that was signed by the Tigers. I can only think he’s trying to hold down the team’s long-term liabilities so the balance sheet will look better when he sells the team. Or he’s just an immoral d-bag. One or the other.

New York Mets

There’s really no contract on the Mets that is too outlandish. Obviously Johan Santana‘s monster deal carries some risk at the back end, and he’s one torn ligament away from making this list, but that can be said about almost any highly paid pitcher. Carlos Beltran is signed to a pretty reasonable deal for arguably one of the top players in the league. I’m not sure he’ll be worth $18.5 million a year in 2011, but it’s too early to forecast his decline. That leaves Carlos Delgado. He had a pretty bad year in 2007 (by his standards) and was definitely not worth the $14.5 million he was paid. He’s owed $16 million this year with an option for 2009 that will cost $4 million to buyout*. If I were the Mets, I don’t know if I take the chance he rebounds. His offense has dropped pretty precipitously over the last two years and he’s already gotten hurt this spring. However, it’s the Mets. They have money and right now they need warm bodies who can be propped up at the plate and hit. I’m not sure the Mets would take advantage of the Hampton rule, but if so, then Thin Carlos is their man.

* Delgado’s contract carries a $16 million option for 2009 that vests based on his rank in the MVP voting. Cot’s doesn’t have any details on where he needs to place, but Delgado finished 6th in 2005 and 12th in 2006. Does anyone know the status of that option?

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies’ Hampton Rule representative would likely differ based on who you asked. If you asked the Philly Phaithful, they’d probably say Pat Burrell. He’s finally in the last year of the 6 year / $50 million contract he signed back in 2003, and the fans have never thought he lived up to it.* Still, he’s only owed $14 million more and he’s delivered an OPS+ in the mid 120s for the last three years. Now, that’s no great shakes for an adventurous fielding corner outfield, but there’s a far more egregious thief of Bill Giles’ money.

For some reason, Pat Gillick thought it would be a good idea to sign Adam Eaton to a 3 year deal that will pay him a total of $16.5 million dollars over the next two seasons (including the $500 thousand buyout of the 2010 option). Now $8 million a year for a starter isn’t too much above market price, but you’d want that starter to at least be somewhere close to league average, right? About the only positive for Eaton is that he did make 30 starts last year, a number he hadn’t hit since 2004. The bad news is he gave up 117 runs in those 30 starts for a sparkling 6.29 ERA. It makes you wonder how the Phillies won the division last year running Eaton out there every 5 days.

* I know it’s cliche to talk about Phillies’ fans, but they really do seem to have trouble appreciating what they have. Pat Burrell is obviously nothing special, but he’s not worth the derision some fans seem to have for him. I mean I can understand it somewhat. I was in college in Philly when he came up and he was viewed as a potential superstar. He never reached those heights, despite being paid like he had. Of course, I wouldn’t mention how he’s a disappointment to Mets fans. Anyway, Burrell is just another link in a long chain that reaches back to Mike Schmidt. Schmidt was obviously never driven out of town, but Scott Rolen and Bobby Abreu were, if not pushed out the door, at least very strongly encouraged to leave. And I’d consider Rolen and Abreu to be the team’s two best players between Schmidt and Utley. Sometimes I just don’t understand people.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals are a team that don’t really have too many albatross contracts, especially considering they’re about to get a huge revenue jump from moving into a new stadium. Austin Kearns is somewhat overpaid at $13 million over the next two seasons (with a $10 million option for 2010 or a $1 million buyout). But he’s shown some potential in the past and he’s a toolsy outfielder – there’s no chance that Bowden will get rid of him*. The easy choice for the Nats is Cristian Guzman. Brought in as one of the first “big” signings of the Washington era, he couldn’t even hold his starting job beyond one season (to be fair he missed the entire 2006 season, but that was probably a good thing for Washington). In that one season, Guzman managed an OPS+ of 53. And lest you think he made up for it with defense, he was rated one of the worst shortstops in the majors. He’s in the last year of his deal now and only owed another $4.25 million, which really isn’t too much. But there shouldn’t be much expectation he repeats his performance from last year (which was actually pretty solid in a small sample size). And really, who else was there to choose from. Paul LoDuca and Dmitri Young** aren’t paid much more than Guzman and should deliver quite a bit more.

* Does any team have a more intriguing set of youngish toolsy outfielders than the Nats? Between Kearns, Lastings Milledge, Wily Mo Pena and Elijah Dukes, there’s a whole lot of unrealized potential there. The Dodgers with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have a lot of promise, but who knows if they’ll both play. The Diamondbacks with Chris Young and Justin Upton and the Rays with B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli are contenders as well.

** I just saw on Dmitri Young’s Baseball Reference page that his nickname is “Meat Hook”. I don’t really have anything to add, I just thougt it was pretty cool.

Check back tomorrow or Monday for the NL Central.

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