Free-agent system needs fixing
January, 3, 2014
By Buster Olney | ESPN.com
Getty ImagesJimenez and Santana have received only moderate interest due to draft-pick compensation.The five most prominent unsigned free agents -- Nelson Cruz, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Kendrys Morales, and Stephen Drew -- are being weighed down by more than the draft-pick compensation to which they are tied.
Drew and Morales have each suffered horrific leg injuries in recent seasons, and the medical fallout is detailed in the reports all teams can access. Santana has had elbow trouble, and given all that we know about predicting injuries (read Russell Carlton's work on the topic here), some teams undoubtedly are wary of the possibility of a breakdown for a 31-year-old pitcher.
Cruz was suspended for his connection to Biogenesis in 2013, and given his age of 33 and the fact that he was a late bloomer -- he never had more than 350 at-bats in a season until he was 28 -- has led some executives to wonder, quite naturally, what role the performance-enhancers may have had in his success and what kind of player he is without them.
And Jimenez is seemingly a clone of A.J. Burnett: Spectacular in those periods he is at his best, a bullpen-killer the rest of the time. None of these five is close to a sure thing, and this plays a role in why it's early January and they are all looking for work.
But, as written here recently, the cost of a draft pick for a Jimenez, Santana, et al, is a deal-breaker for a lot of teams.