Most of the best players are gone.
Oh, sure. Edwin Jackson is still out there. Hiroki Kuroda, Javier Vazquez, Roy Oswalt, and of course the biggest prize of them all, Prince Fielder ... There are still some pretty interesting fellows looking for work. And they'll get it.
But we just don't know yet, about all of them. Which got me to thinking about some of the still-available free agents who I'll really miss if they don't wind up in the majors next season. Because we never figured they wouldn't be back, and so never had a chance for a proper goodbye. Below, the guys who I hope we've not seen the last of ...
Career Wins Above Replacement: 72
Hall of Fame Chance: 18%
Yeah, 72 Wins Above Replacement for Andruw Jones. Hard to believe, isn't it? But if you believe Ultimate Zone Rating, for roughly a decade Jones was perhaps the greatest defensive center fielder that anyone had ever seen. And of course he was a pretty good hitter, too. Jones was just as good as Kirby Puckett, but the "tail" of Jones's career has been so long and unimpressive that I think his greatness has been largely forgotten. And isn't likely to be recalled by the Hall of Fame voters. He's sort of like Alan Trammell that way.
Career WAR: 73
Hall of Fame Chance: 95%
I'm not going to say 100 percent Cooperstown because Rodriguez might take a steroids hit, whether based on real evidence, or flimsy evidence, or no evidence at all. However, I do think that eventually everybody with the numbers will be elected, one way or another. And Pudge has the numbers.
Career WAR: 48
Hall of Fame Chance: 3%
Hey, anything's possible. But Drew's Hall of Fame talents have been accompanied by Sam Jackson's constitution in Unbreakable; the combination has allowed Drew to earn a great deal of money, but Hall of Fame numbers are essentially no longer possible. And after last season's debacle, there's no guarantee he'll get another shot unless he's willing to take a huge pay cut. And some guys aren't.
Career WAR: 43
Hall of Fame Chance: 1%
Another player with Hall of Fame talents. Through his Age 30 season, Kendall was a catcher with a .306 career batting average; since then, he's been a catcher with a .260 batting average and very little power.
Career WAR: 46
Hall of Fame Chance: 23%
In the days of nine- and 10-man pitching staffs, there would definitely have been a place in the majors for Johnny Damon. Because he can still hit. Not a lot. But some; he's got a .266/.340/.409 line over the last two seasons, and those numbers are perfectly fine for a fifth outfielder / platoon DH / lefty pinch-hitter. But in these days of 12-man pitching staffs, there just isn't as much room for those guys as there used to be.
Which isn't to say Damon won't be able to find work this winter. But even if he does find work, it probably won't be the steady work he's always gotten before. And without steady work, he's not likely to get the 277 hits he needs to reach 3,000. Which is sort of a shame, because I was really looking forward to the Hall of Fame arguments if Damon were to reach that milestone.
Career WAR: 48
Hall of Fame Chance: 20%
Are the Rays really interested in Posada? Perhaps they really are. After all, Posada did bat .269/.348/.466 against right-handed pitchers last season. Which suggests he might still be useful in a platoon role. But Posada was actually better against left-handed pitchers in 2010, and over his whole career has shown no pronounced platoon splits. Perhaps the Rays just think Posada's 2011 was fluky. Which it might have been. Certainly, his 6-for-65 performance against lefties last season was a fluke.
He's 40, though. And I'm not at all sure that he's got enough left to justify a roster spot on a contending team.
Career WAR: 36
Hall of Fame Chance: < 1%
Hernández has been around for so long, it's somewhat shocking to realize he won't turn 37 until later this winter. And it's highly possible that we've not seen the last of him. We probably should see more of Hernández. After all, he's the champion innings-eater of our time. He started 29 games for the Nationals last season; it was the first time since his rookie season, all the way back in 1997, that he failed to make at least 30 starts.
The more I think about it, the more I think of course Hernández will be back in 2012; he's been around forever already, but his 2011 numbers were right in line with his career numbers. If he's been good enough to start 474 games in his career, he's good enough to reach 500 starts in 2012.
Career WAR: 48
Hall of Fame Chance: 35%
There are a lot of people who think Omar Vizquel belongs in the Hall of Fame someday. There are a lot of people who believe Omar Vizquel will be in the Hall of Someday.
I'm not so sure about either of those things. As you can see, he doesn't have the WAR of a Hall of Famer. Ozzie Smith, to whom Vizquel is so often (and incorrectly) compared, finished his career with 70 Wins Above Replacement. Ozzie was a better fielder, a better hitter, and a better baserunner. These are objective truths. Vizquel's obviously enjoyed an amazing career -- which is why I nominated him for the Wing of Amazing -- but it's not really a Hall of Fame career unless you award a huge bonus for uniqueness. I think we've probably seen the last of Vizquel, but then we might have said the same five or six years ago. And I would love to see him playing again next season, at 45.
Career WAR: 39
Hall of Fame Chance: < 1%
Earlier this month, Ben Cherington said of Wakefield and Jason Varitek, "I feel the best thing for the team and the best thing for them is if there's not a real role on the team, I'm not sure it's the right thing for them or the team, but we haven't gotten to that point yet."*
* Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Diagram that sentence.
The good news last season was that Wakefield did reach 200 career wins; 200 exactly, as he hit the milestone on the 13th of September and didn't win again. The bad news was that he was not able to catch Cy Young and Roger Clemens, who remain tied atop the franchise list with 192 wins.
Still, it's been one hell of a run.
Career WAR: 60
Hall of Fame Chance: 90%
Do you think of Guerrero as a Hall of Famer? Most do, I think. He did some things that Hall of Fame voters like. Most especially, he knocked in 100 runs in 10 different seasons. He won an MVP Award, and finished in the top five three other times. His .318/.379/.553 is mighty impressive.
Those 60 Wins Above Replacement, though, are not particularly impressive. Carlos Beltrán and Lance Berkman are sitting on roughly the same WAR, and they're not nearly finished yet. Luis Gonzalez and Brian Giles are on the same level. Andre Dawson -- another right fielder who spent the early part of his career with the Expos -- finished with slightly more than 60 WAR, and I militated against his enshrinement in Cooperstown.
If Guerrero doesn't have another two or three good seasons, I believe I will be militating against his enshrinement, too. Not that it's likely to make any difference. But I gotta try.
Actually, I hope he comes back and does have two or three more good seasons. But if Guerrero doesn't rediscover the power that deserted him last season, he's not going to get that chance.