|Older Players Deserve Spots to Play||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on February 09, 2012
It's hard to look at the remaining free agents without some degree of surprise at the veteran names remaining: Roy Oswalt, Vladimir Guerrero, Javier Vazquez, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Derrick Lee. While all are older players without a doubt, pretty much each and every one has something left in the tank -- and I find it hard to believe that there is so little interest in these guys that Manny Ramirez is getting consideration from three or more teams, but guys like Guerrero isn't.
Guerrero is the best bat of the bunch by far, but he's not really much of a fielder anymore. But does that matter, since there are so many lame duck teams who could use his bat to put some butts in the seats and help the hometown nine play some entertaining baseball?
And that's only looking at American League teams who wouldn't have to put him in the field. There are plenty of National League teams that could use a bat of that quality.
Guerrero isn't the only useful bat out there. Damon and Matsui can both offer a little pop, decent average and Damon can steal some bases and play a solid outfield too.
Then there is Lee, a decent first baseman who can hit for both average and power (think 20-25 HR) and tore the cover off the ball when he was traded back to the NL towards the end of last season. It's hard to imagine that there is no suitor for a guy like that.
Then there are the pitchers -- Oswalt and Vazquez, who seems he'll retire. While neither at this point in their careers are aces, they are both solid pitchers, possibly No. 2 or 3 starters and better than a lot of the batting practice fodder starting in numerous cities. Drop either of them into a pitcher's park and the results could be dramatic.
So why are these guys unsigned? The answer more than any other is money, and the new blueprint of building from youth that so many non-contenders are following. In the past plenty of these teams would have reached out to veterans like these to plug holes and keep things exciting for the fans. That pattern has seemingly slowed as money in many cases has trumped putting on a good show, or even pretending to field a team who had a small chance at contending.
That's not to say that some of the players above won't find a home before opening day. But it's looking more and more like retirement, not another good season or two, is being offered to veterans who still have skill and the ability to contribute.