The November 15 issue of Sports Illustrated carried a short but interesting piece, Attention Shoppers, about how teams capitalized in 2010 signing cheap veterans like Aubrey Huff and Darren Oliver. The article speculated who the next of these players could be, offering possible candidates like free agent pitchers Frank Francisco and Aaron Harang and Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who’s signed through 2011.
This got me thinking, and I have a few more players in mind:
Carlos Pena: After hitting .196 in 2010, Pena is unlikely to reap a large payday in Tampa Bay with teammate Carl Crawford also due to hit free agency and the Rays possibly needing all available funds to resign him. Pena, who’s a free agent, could do well to sign a Huff-esque 1-year deal in a hitters park like Texas, whose first baseman this year, Justin Smoak, didn’t hit much better. With a resurgent 2011 season, the 32-year-old Pena could score a contract next offseason to cover him the rest of his career.
Matt Murton: Is Murton the next Cecil Fielder? Like Fielder, Murton left a nondescript career stateside and became a star with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan. Fielder followed his 38-home-run, 1989 season for Hanshin by hitting 51 homers for the Detroit Tigers in 1990. Murton’s .349, 214-hit Japanese debut ought to be more than sufficient to get him a job with any number of MLB teams.
Jorge Julio: One of many ex-big league relievers currently in the independent circuit (which, I’ve noted before, is packed with veterans), I like Julio’s prospects more than Armando Benitez or Antonio Alfonseca, among others. Julio saved 36 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 2003 and was an effective middle reliever as recently as 2008, before he had delivery problems. Due to turn 32 in March, he’s young enough to rebound and spend several more years in big league bullpens.
Elijah Dukes: If Mike Williams can get a job in the NFL, his baseball equivalent deserves another shot in the MLB. Dukes is another supremely talented prospect who’s found himself out of the bigs due to personal problems. Like Williams, Dukes is 26 and could have a lot left if he gets his head straight and finds a supportive team. As it stands, the speedy outfielder is overqualified for his current environs, the independent Newark Bears.
Erubiel Durazo: Even though he’ll be 36 in 2011 and has bounced around Mexican ball in recent years, I haven’t forgotten Durazo. He was once supposed to be big in Oakland, and while he never met the hype in three injury-plagued seasons, he hit .281 in his career with 94 home runs. An AL team could seemingly do worse than to use Durazo as a pinch hitter or a DH.
Jose Guillen: For shoppers, free agent outfielder Guillen is like a week-old steak marked to bargain basement prices. Due to turn 35, coming off a .258 season with a below-average OPS+ of 98, and implicated in an HGH scandal, he’ll come cheap. There’s the chance he could recreate his power-hitting numbers of old and be the 2011 version of Vlad Guerrero. But things could also go horribly wrong.
Who else belongs here?