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December 16, 2011

Fantasy Beat

All-Free Agent Team

by Jason Collette

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Yu Darvish has finally been posted. Finally. What we do not know is which team has the winning bid nor do we know how much that winning bid. What we do know is that he is holding up the rest of the free agency purchases that are seemingly stacked up like a bunch of customers waiting to get into Wal-Mart for a $2 waffle-maker.  We are just over two months from pitchers and catchers stumbling out of rental cars in Florida and Arizona, and yet there is quite a body of talent still waiting to find out where they will play in 2012.

In fact, you could put together a fairly competitive roster for a 15-team 5x5 league right now with free agents that are still available.  I know several fantasy players that have made an in-season game of joining a random free Yahoo! league, drafting the worst team possible, and then dumping everyone to pick up free agents after the draft to see how the team will do.  The fun in this is that it does not cost any money but it also keeps you sharp on the free agent pile for your competitive leagues since you are watching every possible free agent in this freebie league, as opposed to just honing in on your own players that you’ve rostered in your competitive leagues.

One friend in particular, Adam, did this in an early February league this season, and his first five picks in the regular draft were Sam Fuld, Pedro Ciriaco, Josh Reddick, Scott Cousins, and Steven Hill. In the end, he dumped all 23 draftees in this 12-team league and picked up guys such as Lance Berkman, Freddie Freeman, J.J. Hardy, David Freese, Alex Gordon, Peter Bourjos, Raul Ibanez, Nyjer Morgan, Edwin Jackson, Derek Holland, Brandon League, and Kyle Farnsworth immediately after the draft.  He did not win the league as he only came in ninth place, but a team that blew off the draft and picked up free agents was able to place ahead of three other teams that actually put time and effort into the draft.

I would argue that is the type of talent that is out there on the free agent market right now as teams wait to hear who won the Darvish courtship as the rest of the free agent dominoes wait to fall quickly thereafter.

Using dollar values from our own Player Forecast Manager for a 15-team league, I’ve created a team of players who are still without a job.  Below, you’ll find names and 2011 values (using 15 games as the eligibility benchmark):

C:  Chris Snyder ($0)
C:  Jorge Posada ($4)
1B: Derrek Lee ($6)
2B: Michael Cuddyer ($15)
SS: Jimmy Rollins ($23)
3B: Wilson Betemit ($0)
CI: Carlos Pena ($10)
MI: Ryan Theriot ($0)
OF:  Carlos Beltran ($18)
OF: Coco Crisp ($24)
OF: Jason Kubel ($1)
OF: Johnny Damon ($17)
OF: Raul Ibanez ($9)
U: Prince Fielder ($30)
U: Luke Scott ($0)
P: Edwin Jackson ($2)
P: Hiroki Kuroda ($10)
P: Roy Oswalt ($0)
P: Joel Pineiro ($0)
P: Aaron Cook ($0)
P: Jeff Francis ($0)
P: Kerry Wood ($0)
P: Chad Qualls ($0)
P: Francisco Cordero ($19)
P: Ryan Madson ($15)

The roster admittedly has the look and feel of a stars-and-scrubs product, but that logjam of talent is making it rather difficult to finish off-season prognosticating for teams with so much playing time unsettled. As someone that has helped produce content for several fantasy baseball magazines, I know how frustrating this can be, but it seems to be at a higher level this season than it has been in the past.

First base is particularly unsettling with Fielder, Lee, and Pena all remaining out there along with other names like Betemit, Cuddyer, and Casey Kotchman. The Darvish situation is holding up anything that Fielder is going to do because the two teams rumored to be the highest bidders on Darvish—Toronto and Texas—have also been rumored to be in on Fielder’s services. One wins the pitcher while the other gets to try to convince Scott Boras that a three-year deal is in the best interest for Fielder?

Starting pitching is on hold too as teams will decide after learning whether they lost out on the Darvish posting whether Jackson or Kuroda are worth the money or if the trade market is the stronger way to go. Meanwhile, the outfield situation does not seem to be hung up on big dollars as much as guaranteed years as each player on that list has a flaw, whether it be age (Ibanez, Damon), health (Beltran, Crisp, Scott), or poor performance (Kubel). Madson and Cordero have to wait around to see which mid-to-large-budget payroll team wants their services, with Cincinnati and Boston still potentially unsettled on who exactly will be their closer. Lastly, the Rollins and Amaro Jr. game of chicken is likely to end here at some point.

Simply put, there is entirely too many unsettled plate appearances to begin to take any kind of fantasy projections without heaping grains of salt right now. Rather, focus on the skills and the trends in those player’s secondary statistics and starting framing out depth charts in pencil because things are likely to change quite drastically over the next few weeks. That ball could get rolling as soon as Wednesday, as the Darvish process has to be announced by Tuesday night.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Scott Cousins

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