Here we are just a few days away from pitchers and catchers reporting, yet some big names remain unsigned. Like last offseason, it is likely that most will be forced to sign one-year deals for less money than they had hoped. What is keeping teams from dishing out the dough for these players and how does that affect their fantasy value?
Johnny Damon - This situation looks to be settled soon with the Tigers and White Sox in the lead for his services. Damon was one of the many players that took full advantage of the jet-stream to right in the new Yankee Stadium. His 24 home runs were the most he had hit since he hit 24 back in 2006. It also marked his best AB/HR rate since, well, ever. The Yankees have clearly moved on, so no more home games in the Bronx for Damon. If he lands in Detroit we can definitely expect a strong regression in power production as Comerica Park is a well-known for favoring pitchers. Then we have to consider Damon's age and declining speed. He will be 36-years-old this season and hasn't played in over 143 games since 2006. His 12 steals in 2009 were his lowest since his 188 at bat debut in 1995. In short, he is a player likely to decline and decline fast without the help of Yankee Stadium's right field porch. No matter where he ends up, I would not place a high value on him come draft day.
Jermaine Dye - Also 36-years-old, Jermaine Dye's biggest concern seems to be where, if anywhere, he can play in the field. His UZR has been above or around -20 since 2006 in right field. While that doesn't affect fantasy owners, it does affect is chances of playing everyday. Like Damon, but more pronounced, Dye is in the decline phase of his career. He hasn't been going much higher than the last few rounds in mock drafts and if he lands an every day gig, it wouldn't be wrong to take a late round flier, hope he starts out hot (like last season) and try to flip him early in the year.
Carlos Delgado - Delgado's issues over the past couple years have been injury related (wrist/hip), but when healthy he has been moderately productive. The problem is that he is now 37-years-old and his whipping, wrist-oriented swing may not work well if his hands slow even just a little. Rumor has it that Delgado would rather wait to sign mid-season than accept any offer he has right now. That obviously means that he's not draftable. Even AL-only and NL-only leagues don't know what league he'll be playing in. As a mid-season DH, Delgado could be worth a pickup for a couple of home run streaks, but overall his career and mixed league fantasy value is nearing the end.
Russell Branyan - http://fantasybaseball365.com/2010-articles/january/russell-branyans-best-season.html
Hank Blalock - Blalock was crushing the ball over the first two months of 2009, but soon fell into a slump that saw his AVG drop to .234. His only real position is DH and playing there in 2009 helped him appear in his most games since 2006, but there are not a lot of DH jobs available right now. Should Blalock find a job, he would be likely relegated to a platoon situation as he can't hit lefties. He looks like a lost cause outside of AL-only leagues if he can find a DH job.
Jarrod Washburn - Washburn had a great first half in 2009, but a knee injury (as well as a correction in BABIP) led to a second half struggle. Given the facts (1. His K rate is below league AVG. 2. He's a fly ball pitcher that routinely allows 20-plus home runs per season. 3. His .257 BABIP against in 2009 was the lowest of his career), it is very likely that Washburn's numbers will revert back to what they were the three seasons prior to 2009. That makes him a valuable back-end starter in real life, but there is no need to draft Washburn other than in deeeeeep fantasy formats.
Mark Prior - Just kidding.
Then there are names like Johnny Gomez and Felipe Lopez who are fringe guys, but could have value in the right environment.
Chen-Ming Wang is a guy that could provide value, but he needs to prove healthy and that his sinker is back to what it used to be.
There are plenty of reasons that go beyond finances as to why the players on this list remain unsigned. As fantasy a team GM, follow the lead of the Major League clubs and only acquire these players at bargain prices..if at all.