Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

With the A's releasing Jason Giambi today, it got me thinking back to this past off-season. As was well documented, the Blue Jays didn't sign any major league free agents and made only minor league deals with the likes of Kevin Millar and Matt Clement (with Clement quitting before the season started and many fans wishing Millar had done the same). With the recession in full swing, there were a lot of bargains to be had, but the Jays stood pat, in spite of many thinking that signing one of the available players would have helped address what were seen as the team's weaknesses before the season began. Obviously, free agency can be a crapshoot, especially when you go bargain hunting, but let's take a look at some of the guys that Jays fans coveted before the season began.

Manny Ramirez
This was mostly a pie in the sky idea, as there was little chance that ownership was going to pony up the cash it would have taken to ink Manny. After boosting the Dodgers into the playoffs in 2008, he eventually re-signed in LA to the tune of $45 million over 2 years. Despite testing positive for PEDs and missing the requisite 50 games, he's still having a typical Manny-like season. Though his stats are down a bit from the lofty ones he produced in his half-season in Hollywood in 2008, he's again helping a very good Dodgers team run away with the NL West.

Raul Ibanez
Signed in December, before most teams decided to take it a bit slower because of economic concerns, the Phillies inked Ibanez to a 3-year/$31.5 million deal, replacing Pat Burrell as their left fielder. And, although he has slowed down a bit recently, Ibanez is currently at career high numbers in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and, as a result, OPS. A lot of this is due to leaving spacious Safeco Field and moving to homer friendly Citizens Bank Park, yes, but even his Seattle numbers look pretty good, too, when compared to some players on the Jays.

Pat Burrell
The man who's spot in Philadelphia Ibanez took, however, is not having such a good go of it. Leaving the Phillies and going to the team he had just help beat in the World Series, signing a 2-year/$16 million contract to play in Tampa. Burrell is on pace to post career low marks in most major offensive categories, meaning he would probably would fit right in in Toronto, I guess.

Bobby Abreu
In spite of his track record, Abreu waited much of the off-season before being forced to settle on a 1-year/$5 million dollar offer from the Angels. Although his power numbers may be down a bit, he's still posting numbers mostly in line with is career norms.

Jason Giambi
Giambi returned to the A's, the site of his steroid-fueled glory days after the Yankees declined his option and bought him out, instead. The A's signed him to a 1-year deal worth $5.25 million (with an option for 2010) and hoped that him and Matt Holiday would spark their offense. It didn't work, as Giambi's OPS dropped nearly 200 points from his '08 pace before he was let go.

Adam Dunn
Not that this was ever going to happen after the remarks Ricciardi made about him, but that obviously didn't stop fans from wanting him, despite his hatred for the game of baseball. Dunn's doing what he always does after Washington picked him up on a 2-year deal worth $20 million. He's currently at a career high OPS pace and even his batting average is 30 points above his career number.

Orlando Cabrera
Another perceived area of weakness on the Toronto club was shortstop. Fans were leery of handing the full-time job to Marco Scutaro and wanted the Jays to go sign a proven performer to man the position. While Scutaro proved all the naysayers wrong, Cabrera struggled quite a bit early in the season in Oakland, who signed him to a 1-year deal late in the off-season that would pay him $4 million. He was traded to the Twins at the trade deadline and his offensive numbers across the board are less than what the Jays are getting from Scutaro.

Orlando Hudson
Another idea fans had was to sign former Jay Hudson to play 2B and shift Aaron Hill over to shortstop, the position he played in college. Eventually, Hudson signed a 1-year/$3.38 million dollar contract with the Dodgers. Hudson's having a solid season in LA, but would not provide an offensive upgrade over Scutaro, either.

That takes care of the offensive side of things. There were a number of starting pitchers that a lot of fans wanted them to pursue, as well, after A.J. Burnett opted out of his deal and skipped town. Pedro Martinez has yet to pitch in the majors this season, but is getting ready in the Phillies minor league system. Derek Lowe signed a 4-year/$60-million contract with the Braves, but has been nothing special. While, at times, the rotation has looked a bit shaky behind Halladay, most of the rookies that the Jays have plugged in there have performed very well at times.

Looking over it, it seems like the Jays probably weren't hurt too much by not making a relatively big splash in the free agent pool. Ibanez signed for more money than they were likely to shell out at that time and probably wasn't seen as having a place to play, with Snider, Wells, Rios, and Lind tying up the outfield and DH positions going into the season. And while Abreu would definitely be an upgrade over the offensive contributions they've gotten from most players this season, they could have just as easily gone after Burrell or Giambi and be in about the same place they are now and wasting $5 to $20 million in the process.

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