Take Them, They're Free (Agents)! Please!

Managing Editor James Renwick has discovered that the Diamondbacks have lost nary a free agent this off season. It wasn't hard to figure out, it's just that nobody cared enough about these guys to look.

Here's a fun fact you can take out with you to the local Sports Bar.

The Diamondbacks haven't lost a single player this off season to free agency.

Sounds good.  A perfect optimistic Diamondbacks fan line.

"We haven't lost anybody!"

Problem is, it isn't for lack of trying.  The Diamondbacks have 12 players with Major League Baseball experience that have declared free agency, and not a single one of them has been signed by either the Diamondbacks, or by any one else for that matter.

Yes, this free agent season has been particularly slow.  The Mets resigned Kris Benson, and the Giants picked up light hitting 37 year old shortstop Omar Vizquel, but outside of those (and a few other) signings, most of the free agents (and more to the point, the free agents' agents) are taking a 'wait and see' attitude to this off season.  Uber-agent Scott Boras, who seemingly represents just about every major free agent except Richie Sexson is the man with the master plan.  He's got Carlos Beltran, who will get the biggest payday, and he's got Alex Rodriguez, who got the biggest payday in history.  Everyone wants to see what Beltran gets, and the dominoes will fall after that.  It isn't Beltran who will set the market, it's Boras, and when that happens expect the cash (and the egos) to start flying.

The thing is, outside of Sexson and Danny Bautista, virtually none of that cash will be directed at any of the D'Backs free agents.  The Diamondbacks roster was not exactly stocked with marquee names, and as a rebuilding team, their youngsters aren't going anywhere for at least a year or two.  It is telling that that outside of Sexson, the player with the most heat around him is one they do have under contract, Randy Johnson.  

There is the question of what to do with those guys, if the Diamondbacks are going to do anything at all.  There are advantages to signing guys like Mike Fetters, Quinton McCracken or even Jeff Fassero.  Well, one advantage.

They are cheap.

You know what you are going to get with these guys.  It might not be much, but you know what you are going to get, and you're not going to get ripped off if you sign them.  An agent wants $2 million a year for Fassero?  The Diamondbacks can respond by saying, "We're not giving him a dollar for every year he's been in the league."

Carlos Baerga--He's been in the league longer than most of the parks he plays in.  While he was a nice fill in guy, and a great clubhouse guy, by now he'd almost have to be listed as a 'player/coach.'
Danny Bautista--Along with Shea Hillenbrand, he was one of the most productive hitters on the Diamondbacks last year...but did you see the Diamondbacks offense last year?  Bautista might very well resign with the Diamondbacks, but only if he can't get a better deal somewhere else.  It seems likely that there will be a team out there willing to give him at least comparable money for more years, so expect to say 'Bye Bye Bautista.' 
Jeff Fassero--He's the living embodiment that a left handed pitcher who throws strikes can pitch forever.  Fassero already has, and wants to keep going.  Let him go...somewhere else.
Richie Sexson--Obviously the gem of the group.  He comes with a lot of weight on his shoulders, or more to the point his right shoulder, which was dislocated twice last year and might never be 100% again.  As good as Sexson is, resigning him is almost more important from a public relations standpoint than from a baseball one.  After all, this is the guy we gave away six players (including Lyle Overbay and Junior Spivey) for.  The Diamondbacks have looked like they were close, then looked like they had no chance, and now it looks like they have a shot again.  Whether or not they resign Sexson also ties into whether or not they keep Randy Johnson...we've all heard this story before, nothing new here.  Up on the Jumbotron in the BOB one of the popular chants is, 'Get 'er done.'  The Diamondbacks should listen.
Quinton McCracken--A nice little utility outfielder.  Problem is, the Diamondbacks farm system has about 300 outfield prospects they'd like to take a look at.
Steve Sparks--Usually the question with knuckleball pitchers is if they can throw the ball over the plate.  The question with Sparks was usually can he keep the ball in the yard.  A knuckleball that doesn't knuckle is just a ball.
Alan Zinter--Um, who's this guy again?  Once a promising prospect, Zinter never reached the potential some have given him credit for.  The Diamondbacks have officially given up on him, and there is virtually no chance he'll be back.
Mike Fetters--For better or for worse, much of Fetters' value was that he was a fan favorite.  After arm surgery he came back and was mildly effective, but since he's dropped the whole, 'Cheek blow, snap turn' delivery he's lost some of his popularity.  If he is resigned the Diamondbacks should give him some sort of incentive bonus for a return to that delivery.
Scott Service--He's bounced around, he's was given a chance at the closer's spot last season, and he was less effective than half a Tums after an authentic Mexican dinner.  Goodbye.
Greg Colbrunn--A power hitting right handed first baseman who left the D'Backs for Seattle, and then came back home only to have his season shortened by injury.  The Diamondbacks might actually resign him if Sexson leaves, because, say it with me now, he's cheap.
Matt Mantai--We've been paying this guy an ridiculous amount of money and gotten almost literally nothing out of him.  Unless his contract states that he's paying the Diamondbacks, he's gone.
Shane Reynolds--The Diamondbacks took a chance last year on the aging right hander, who had a miraculous comeback year with Atlanta in '03.  He appeared in only one game for the Diamondbacks last year because of injury.  It was worth the shot in '04.  Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...

That's the list right there.  At least half of these guys will likely start the season without a team, and with the exception of Sexson and Bautista (and Fassero, because he is a southpaw), it seems unlikely any will see regular playing time.  

If I were the GM:  Give Sexson what he wants.  I don't care if what he wants is the BOB to be renamed the RICH, give him what he wants and get it done.  If you can get Bautista to agree to two years at less than $2 million a year, take it, otherwise, thank him and bid him a fond farewell.  Ask Baerga to be a minor league hitting instructor, or maybe just give him the Manager's job in (Hi A) Lancaster.  He's great to have in the organization, not in the field.  Hire Colbrunn to beat Mantai about the head and shoulders for an extended period of time, he's big, and would do enough damage to at least approximate the pain Mantai's contract has caused the Diamondbacks.  Last, if Shane Reynolds will sign for half of what he made last year (he made $1 million in '04) then take him.  Perhaps, like New York Mets starter Steve Trachsel, he's only good every other year.  If he's healthy, at least the Diamondbacks won't have a starting rotation with seven combined years of major league experience (not counting Randy of course).  If he wants more than that, tell him to call back when he's 25 years old again.

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