Free Agent DH’s – Where will they end up?

by JohnBowen

Ah the designated hitter. The most controversial of all baseball positions, excluding “all-time home run king.” Then again, it’s not really a position to begin with. Different American League teams have different approaches to this role. The New York Yankees are intent on giving it to their longtime catcher, Jorge Posada, while their arch-rivals are giving Big Papi another go. Some teams have a rotating system to give position players breaks; others are set on one guy. With that said, there are a number of DH’s still available on the open market, but how much will your favorite team be willing to spend on one?

The gentlemen still available follow a pretty constant pattern: once perennial all-stars, these guys still have the stroke to be productive but are old, battered, and unable to be trusted with the glove:

Jim Thome

Last Season: w/MIN; 340 PA, .283/.412/.627, 178 OPS+, 16 2B, 25 HR

Breakdown: Jim Thome was a bargain last season at 1.5 million dollars. He stepped up to provide a major bat for the Twins after Justin Morneau went down with injury; he slugged .710 in the second half of the season to help propel his team into the playoffs. This year, he is seeking a contract in the range of about eight million dollars. He’s probably worth somewhere in between what he got last year, and what he wants. As impressive as Thome’s statistics look, he only started 18 games against southpaws, against whom he hit just .241. He can – and will – still provide tremendous offensive production for his team, but not every day – and if I’m going to pay what he’s commanding to a DH, they better play just about every day.

Prediction: Most signs point to him returning to Minnesota, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he’ll end up going to Texas, who is also rumored to be in the hunt. The Rangers have an imbalance of righties in their lineup (Kinsler, Young, Cruz, Beltre) whereas the Twins have mainly lefties in the heart of their order (Mauer, Morneau, Kubel). It wouldn’t shock me if the two teams “traded” DH’s with opposite signings.

UPDATE: Jim Thome signed a 1-year contract today with the Twins. He’ll make a base salary of 3M, plus incentives.

Vladimir Guerrero

Last Season: w/TEX; 643 PA, .300/.345/.496, 122 OPS+, 27 2B, 29 HR

Breakdown: A once great rightfielder, Vladimir Guerrero demonstrated in the World Series that he no longer has any business playing the field but he can still rake. He rebounded from an injury-plagued 2009 to win the silver slugger as the American League’s best designated hitter. He’s still a feared slugger who could fit in well in a number of lineups and provide protection, just as he did last year for Josh Hamilton in Texas.

Prediction: As mentioned above, I think Minnesota will sneak into the Guerrero sweepstakes, but ultimately I see him returning to Anaheim, where he won the 2004 MVP and finished 3rd in both 2005 and 2007. The Angels have lost out on both Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford, and could very well try to compensate for that by bringing back Vlad to DH.

UPDATE: Guerrero signed a 1-year, 8 million dollar deal with the Orioles.

Manny Ramirez

Last Season: w/LAD+CHW: .298/.409/.460, 138 OPS+, 16 2B, 9 HR

Breakdown: Manny played in just 90 games in 2009 between LA and Chicago. His .460 slugging percentage was the lowest of any season since his cup of coffee with the Indians in 1993. Over roughly a season’s worth of at-bats between 2009-2010, he put up a 147 OPS+, 70 extra-base hits, 105 RBI, and a 50-game steroid suspension. At the same time, he’s a well-documented clubhouse cancer, a documented steroid-user, and all-in-all, a very controversial figure.

Prediction: Manny said that, because of his injuries, he would either retire in 2011, or DH for an American League team, so there’s no worrying about him insisting on playing the outfield and having a costing his team all the runs he gave them at the plate. That said, I think all fourteen teams are, at least for the time being, going to view Ramirez as damaged goods. At most, he might sign on with a team for a stretch run; and if I must predict a team, I’ll go with Detroit. Another option is Tampa Bay, if only to attempt to drum up attendance.

UPDATE: Manny did indeed sign with Tampa Bay. Let’s see what he’s got left.

Johnny Damon

Last Season: w/DET: 613 PA, .271/.355/.401, 106 OPS+, 36 2B, 8 HR

Breakdown: Johnny Damon received a lot less press than he generally has, but he played about as well as he always does, just not for one of the two teams that 80% of the baseball media pays attention to. He put up decent leadoff-hitter type numbers, but it is questionable how much – or how many years – a DH with career 104 OPS+ can get. Then again, Damon can still wield a glove (though neither well, nor with a complimentary arm) and can probably be counted on for about 50 games in leftfield.

Prediction: I’m guessing he re-signs with the Tigers for about half of the eight million he made last season. He’ll be in more of a platoon situation than last year and probably play around 120 games with under 500 PA.

UPDATE: Damon signed with Tampa; with Manny DHing, Damon will actually see most of his PA as a left fielder.

Jason Giambi

Last Season: w/COL: 222 PA, .244/.378/.398, 98 OPS+, 9 2B, 6 HR

Breakdown: Jason Giambi showed a patient eye at the plate, putting up 15.7% BB/rate in a 1B/PH role with Colorado. His power stroke has fallen off in his post-Yankee career, however; in 581 PA since leaving the Bronx, Giambi has slugged under .400.

Prediction: Honestly, I think Giambi’s done. Over/under is 2% for the 2016 Hall-of-Fame ballot.

UPDATE: Giambi re-signed with Colorado to be a bench player yet again.

Russell Branyan

Last Season: w/CLE+SEA: 428 PA, .237/.323/.487, 125 OPS+, 19 2B, 25 HR

Breakdown: In terms of bang-for-your buck, this is a pretty good guy to have. He has hit 56 homeruns in under 1000 plate appearances the last couple seasons with Seattle and Cleveland; last year, he either drove in or scored 41 runs in 57 games with Seattle, which is especially impressive considering how that team scored the fewest runs of the DH era. His downsides are fairly clear: he strikes out a lot (roughly the same career AB/K as Mark Reynolds) and he cannot hit lefties (.207 with 237 K’s in career 619 PA and .190 last year).

Prediction: He’ll get passed up in the off-season (again) and sign with Oakland around June, but he won’t be a DH as God intended, but rather a 3B to platoon with Kevin Kouzmanoff.

Carlos Delgado

Last Season (2009): w/NYM, 112 PA, .298/.393/.521, 142 OPS+, 7 2B, 4 HR

Breakdown: This one I just kind of threw in for kicks. Carlos Delgado hasn’t played since early 2009, but he was considered for the Red Sox, even signing a minor league deal with the team in late 2010 after Kevin Youkilis was lost for the year. The 39 year old’s ability to play the field is probably suspect, but it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibilities for a team to take a low-risk shot on him.

Prediction: I say he finds work with Tampa Bay. He’s going to be cheap, and so are they.

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27 Responses to “Free Agent DH’s – Where will they end up?”

  1. Lefty33 Says:

    Delgado is not an option for playing the field at all.

    I saw one of the two games that he played first base last year for the Paw Sox and he had the mobility of a blocking dummy.

    I can’t imagine that he’s signed to anything more than a minor league deal if at all. He’s very limited because he’s soooo slow and can’t really play the field.

    As for Giambi I agree that he’s done and with your HOF over/under, I’ll take the under.

  2. Cameron Says:

    I’ll take the over, and even go ballsy by saying he doesn’t fall off the ballot until the 3rd or 4th year for Giambi. Is he a HoF’r? God no, but he was Very Good (still constructing that Hall of Very Good in my head.)

    I think Manny may find work before the offseason’s over. I think Texas might get in on him when Ron Washington gets coked up and tells Nolan Ryan he can handle hime. Ryan, being the hard-noser he is, thinks he can keep Manny in line too. A media circus ensues, and I will laugh.

    All hail the Cocaine Bear.

  3. Cameron Says:

    Er… For the record, that last post was not implying that Nolan Ryan does cocaine. Only Ron Washington. Though, if Josh Hamilton relapses, I’d love to see his numbers.

    …God, I feel terrible for saying that.

  4. Says:

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  5. Hartvig Says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that any team that pays more than middle reliever money for a DH is just asking to be disappointed. To use someone like the Twins used Thome: platoon DH, pinch hitter & just in case of injury body mixed in with position regulars is going to be far better off than someone who commits more than $5 million to the position. I’ll predict that Big Papi will be the big winner of this years Travis Hafner award and Detroit may have already secured the position for 2013 & 14 unless someone commits to Vlad for more than 2 years.

  6. Hartvig Says:

    And Cameron is spot on about Manny. If anyone commits more than Thome money (2010 money that is) to him they will not only have to endure Cameron’s scorn when it blows up in their face but mine as well.

    “I fart in your general direction!”

  7. Chuck Says:

    “The most controversial of all baseball positions, excluding “all-time home run king.”

    Line of the year.

  8. Cameron Says:

    …Am I the only one who somehow didn’t notice that Billy Wagner retired this year?

  9. Jim Says:

    Didn’t you get invited to Billy’s retirement party? Hell of a time, but I can’t remember much about it.

    Maybe there was a reason you weren’t invited.

  10. Chuck Says:

    “…Am I the only one who somehow didn’t notice that Billy Wagner retired this year?”

    And five years from now, about 94.9% of the BBWAA wouldn’t have, either.

  11. Chuck Says:

    That’s not meant to be a compliment.

  12. robert mitchell Says:

    Branyan’s production value over 162 games is 450 at bats[roughly 115-120 games played] 31 homers&75 ribs.Not bad for a dude who has only been a part time player.knock,he can’t hit lefties.When with Brewers color man Bill Schroeder mentioned he averaged a dinger every 13.8 ab’s vs.lefties,which was better than the 15.4 against righties at the time.Was 2nd to Matsui in 2009 with 10 homers in about 160 at bats against lefties.Last year with the.190 b.a.vs lefties,still had 5 taters&15 rib-eyes in 99 at bats.Russ is now 14th all time with a homer every 14.8 at bats.Why should he have to wait till June to hook on with a big league club?What play in AAA like he did in Milwaukee for the 1st 2 months before being called up 1n at 32,after hitting 56 h.r’s in 807 at bats the last 2 seasons? Needs 11 big flies for 200&47 ribs for 500.And has never played 1 full season or had 500 at bats in a season.

  13. Bob Says:

    Willie Bloomquist signed with the Diamondbacks.

  14. raul Says:

    I agree that teams should not spend much more than “reliever money” for Designated Hitters.

    Especially since I’ve seen the Yankees pay Giambi 20 million. Sure, he wasn’t a DH, but he was meaningless in the field, so we basically paid him for his bat. The Yankees will continue to pay upwards of 15 million for future Designated Hitters Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada.

  15. Bob Says:

    Raul, after Posada retires, is that the plan? Move Jeter to DH for 2 years and then ARod? Acyually sounds like a decent plan.

  16. raul Says:

    I think the Yankees will let Jeter start at SS for all of 2011, and probably most or all of 2012. But the sooner they move him, the better it will be for the team.

  17. John Says:

    I have no problem with paying dh’s a boatload of money if they can produce. I would have a hard time voting for one to be mvp, but if the skills they provide just on offense provide a lot of extra wins, no reason to not pay’em well.

    That said, none of these guys should make more than 6 million.

  18. raul Says:

    I do think that Jeter will have a better season in 2011 than he did in 2010.
    And I think to a degree, that will take some of the media pressure off him to change positions. But the move is coming.


    I don’t think any contending teams will consider Manny Ramirez at this point. It isn’t about the money. Contending teams simply have no need for him. Texas, New York, Minnesota….Giants, Cardinals, Phillies. None of them have a need for a DH, and Manny can’t play OF or 1B in the NL.

    I would consider Thome, Vlad, and Damon…in that order.

    Damon’s in a bad spot though, because if you have a minor leaguer who can catch the ball and slug .425, he’s a better option…especially considering the cost. So whoever signs Damon….in my opinion….is getting him for veteran leadership, and maybe some power. Damon could still hit 10-15 homers and he’s good for about 30 doubles. And he might be able to coach the kids a bit.

  19. Jim Says:

    After Posada’s gone, I’d move ARod to DH and put Jeter at 3rd.

    Paying DH’s a ton is a fools errand unless you’re talking about a younger player, late 20’s and even then not more than $10M a year. Damon, Vlad, Thome, 5-6 max.

    Agreed that no one will take on Manny at any price. Why invite the headache? You sign him for a one year deal and he plays well, he’ll likely start politicking for an extension and a big raise in the middle of the pennant race. If the team doesn’t come through, Manny is likely as not to quit.

  20. Chuck Says:

    I think the Angels are a great fit for Damon…he could split LF/DH with Juan Rivera and get himself 350-400 PA’s.

    Although it does look like Arte Moreno wants to bring Vladdy back for a farewell tour.

  21. Cameron Says:

    I really made this list for Manny, but here’s a list of teams that could use an upgrade at DH with the available veterans and the folks who would lose the most playing time because of it.

    Baltimore Orioles
    Losing Their Job – Felix Pie
    How the New DH Fits In: Luke Scott isn’t exactly the kind of fielder that Pie is, but he’s a much better hitter and the new DH could make this revamped offense not suck.

    Tampa Bay Rays
    Losing Their Job – Matt Joyce
    How the New DH Fits In: Joyce is kind of this fourth wheel as it is. Their OF is set and he’s not good enough to muscle in there, but not a serviceable bat for DH unless your name is Ozzie Guillen. Joyce goes to the bench and Tampa gets an actual DH.

    Toronto Blue Jays
    Losing Their Job – Edwin Encarnacion
    How the New DH Fits In: Encarancion’s already lost his job with the Jays once and I think if they got a good DH bat to help that young core contend even more than last season, Edwin tries to force Jose Bautista back to the outfield.

    Kansas City Royals
    Losing Their Job – Kila Ka’aihue
    How the New DH Fits In: I’m starting to lose faith in Kila and he’s already expendable with Hosmer in the wings. Butler doesn’t exactly have a gold glove, but he can take the field if there’s a good enough hitter to be the every day DH here.

    Cleveland Indians
    Losing Their Job – Michael Brantley
    How the NEW DH Fits In: While I’m terrified of giving Travis Hafner a glove, Hafner and LaPorta both in the lineup is better than Brantley and LaPorta. Matt LaPorta knows how to play LF and honestly, they can’t get rid of Travis Hafner outside of free agency, so he’d stay realistically. Brantley might end up trade bait to help shore up the abysmal pitching.

    Texas Rangers
    Losing Their Job: Mitch Moreland
    How the New DH Fits In: Let’s face it, Michael Young’s gonna be playing the field in some capacity by getting guys’ off-days anyway. Moreland’s the obvious weak link in the outfield and if Young had a good glove up the middle and at third, he can damn well play first. If I’m Texas, I look at the DHs and weigh my options.

    Seattle Mariners
    Losing Their Job: Michael Saunders
    How the New DH Fits In: While the Mariners offense is pitiful and Saunders does have some high points from what I’ve heard, guy hit .211. Jack Cust is a DH/OF by trade and you have Franklin Guttierrez and Ichiro, just shift them a little to the left to negate Cust’s glove and you’ll have some punch by adding a good DH.

    Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
    Losing Their Job: Jeff Mathis
    How the New DH Fits In: LA is a good team in a tough division now and they need some more pop in that lineup. Peter Bourjous could be on this list too if they move Torii back to center, I dunno. Mathis is the weakest link in this offense and Napoli could move back behind the plate if they get good punch in that DH slot.

  22. Bob Says:

    I do not think Vlad can play the field anymore. I saw him play right field against the Giants, and man he looked like crap out there. Based on pure talent, I would rank Damon first, since he still has speed, then Manny. Although really, no more than 4 million for any of them.

  23. John Says:


    Did the Blue Jays release Adam Lind? I mean, he was shitty last year, but he was damn good in 09.

  24. Cameron Says:

    Lind’s their everyday 1B, John.

  25. John Says:

    No – Overbay is. Right?

  26. Chuck Says:

    Overbay was a free agent..signed a one year deal with the Pirates.

  27. John Says:

    Wow, completely missed that, thanks Chuck.

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