For those among us who yearn for baseball season and all the happiness that comes with it, good news: We are closer to the first day of pitchers and catchers reporting (54 days until Feb. 19) than we are the last day of the World Series (56 days since the Royals beat the Mets).
The not-so-good news for a bunch of players out there is that they are about to start a new year without new jobs. That's normal, of course, with free agency's biggest names (the David Prices and Zack Greinkes and Ben Zobrists of the world) highlighting November and December and the next tier (the Justin Uptons and Alex Gordons) seeing action any day now.
So with a couple of dozen quality, established big league free agents still to be had, a reminder: They come with tremendous risk, and some more than others. Here's a bit of a closer look at a handful of those seemingly brand-name free agents and why they might not be as attractive as one might assume, in the hopes of explaining why the market isn't moving very fast.
Let's start with this: Cespedes is a very good player. We saw late last summer how he can carry a team for a certain amount of time. But he's probably not somebody you want to break the bank for, not quite worth an exception to the don't-give-older-players-huge-contracts rule of thumb employed by many organizations.
Since his Major League debut in 2012, Cespedes has hit for a decent average (.271), hasn't walked a lot (.319 on-base percentage) and shown quite a bit of power (.486). Last season was his best to date (137 OPS+ and 6.3 WAR, per Baseball Reference). Taken as a whole, though, his resume isn't overwhelming. His 121 wRC+ since 2012 ranks 47th among qualified batters. That's the same as oft-injured Alex Rodriguez and since-retired Josh Willingham, and a little worse than Adam Lind, Carlos Santana, Brandon Moss and Lucas Duda. It's barely better than Khris Davis and Steve Pearce.
That's just a cursory look at it, but would you give those players the sort of contract Cespedes is looking for? Or anything close to it? Cespedes said in September he wants at least a six-year deal, and the fine folks at MLB Trade Rumors projected him receiving $140 million over six years.
Teams don't seem to dig it. The Mets reportedly didn't want to go past two to three years -- and didn't even exchange figures with Cespedes' side -- while the Tigers are said to be waiting until Cespedes lowers his asking price.
You almost have to feel bad for Desmond. The dude turned down six figures prior to the 2014 season, then rejected the Nationals' $15.8 million qualifying offer this fall, which means the team that signs him will have to give up a Draft pick, thus lowering his value further.
It isn't quite accurate to say Desmond fell off a cliff, since his offensive decline has taken place over the course of several years, so maybe we should describe it as Desmond tumbling uncontrollably down a pretty steep hill in the middle of the woods, with no one around to hear his screams for help. He hasn't been the same since a spectacular 2012 All-Star campaign in which he hit .292/.335/.511 with a 125 OPS+.
That's when the tumbling began, to a still-solid 2013 (113 OPS+), an approximately average 2014 (103 OPS+) and then a brutal 2015 (80 OPS+). Desmond had a higher strikeout rate (.292) than on-base percentage (.290) in 2015.
Desmond's best hope at this point is the Nelson Cruz route: Sign a one-year deal somewhere -- perhaps San Diego, if the buzz is to be believed -- in the hopes of re-establishing his value and giving free agency another go in a year.
It's a shame Fister wasn't a free agent a year ago. In 2014, he posted a 2.41 ERA (albeit with a 3.93 FIP) while striking out four batters for every one he walked and garnering some National League Cy Young Award votes. It was the second time in four years he was traded and gave his new team a big-time performance, following a 1.79 ERA over 11 games for Detroit in 2011.
This past season treated Fister less favorably. His ERA shot up to 4.19, and his FIP was an even-worse 4.55. He gave up more hits per nine innings than he had in any previous campaign, plus more home runs per nine and walks per nine than any other time except his rookie year. He lost his spot in the Nationals' rotation in August.
All of a sudden, Fister enters his age-32 season with an 86-mph four-seamer and sinker and a declining ground-ball rate. He's pitched a full season just once since 2011.
Like Desmond, his fellow assumed-to-be-former National, Fister would be best off with a one-year contract. Unlike Desmond, it might be all Fister is offered.
It's hard to get a read on Kazmir. Five months ago, he looked like a potential All-Star for the second year in a row and was among the biggest names moved at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Three years ago, he wasn't even in affiliated baseball.
It's a feel-good comeback story, sure, but how long will it last? It feels like the soon-to-be 32-year-old lefty is playing on borrowed time. Kazmir has two factors working against him: his checkered health history (which hasn't been in issue the last three seasons, but can't be ignored) and the fact that he's faded down the stretch each of the last two years (less so in '15).
In this age of bloated pitcher contracts, Kazmir will probably still make bank. It should come with an advisory for fans of the club that takes the plunge: A deal of three or four years for $13-15 million per year could sour in a hurry.
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Follow Tim Healey on Twitter @timbhealey.