There’s a whole lot of wheeling and dealing going on prior to the December 3 winter meetings, and Latino players are right in the middle of the action. Disgraced Dominican Melky Cabrera found a new home in Canada, signing a two-year deal with the cash-crazy Blue Jays for a cool $16 million. Also going north of the border is former Los Angeles Angel Maicer Izturas, who inked a three-year, $10 million pact with Toronto.
As for pitchers, Joel Peralta, 36, hit the jackpot by agreeing to a two-year, $6 million heist with the Tampa Bay Rays. Reinvented lefty Oliver Perez will get another chance with the Seattle Mariners, approving an incentive-laden contract that could reward him with as much as $2 million. And Bartolo Colon, who like Cabrera is coming off a 50-game suspension, will stay in the Bay area for one more season. Bartolo’s salary with the Oakland A’s will be $3 million, basically earning him a raise after he was busted for using a banned substance.
Fat cats like Colon, who will be 40 next May, and the above-mentioned players should count their lucky stars, because there are a lot of capable veterans looking for work these days. As usual, this year’s free-agency list is loaded with aging stars. In case you haven’t noticed, baseball superstars are getting younger and younger. For older Hispanic players who become accustomed to a lifestyle of luxury, this is a huge problem. Last year’s casualties included Ivan Rodriguez, who is certain to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Eventually, Vladimir Guerrero bit the dust, although he currently plays for the celebrated Licey club in his home country.
The following is a summery of the best veteran free agent players, the Latino version, and if they have a shot at landing a job:
Freddy Garcia, 36 (age)
He could pitch for five more years if he developed a knuckle ball.
Roberto Hernandez (aka Fausto Carmona), 32
Too many headaches, but for the Cleveland Indians, the investment is extensive.
Vicente Padilla, 35
Carlos Zambrano, 31
Big Z might jump leagues so he can DH. The Kansas City Royals need pitching.
Miguel Bautista, 41
It’s time to go home for the much-traveled Dominican.
Jose Contreras, 40
He has rings and plenty of money. Adios.
Pedro Feliciano, 36
Damaged goods. Just ask the Yankees.
Guillermo Mota, 39
His ball still moves with decent velocity.
Juan Carlos Oviedo, 30
Could return to Kansas City.
Ramon Ramirez, 31
Still useful for the Mets.
Mariano Rivera, 42
Francisco Rodriguez, 30
He wants to stay in Milwaukee, but do they really want him?
Rafael Soriano, 32
He will likely be pulling out his shirttail for the Tigers. Detroit needs a bullpen upgrade as bad as Jim Leyland needs a cigarette.
Jose Valverde, 34
The Los Angeles Angels or Texas Rangers might find Papa Grande useful.
Rod Barajas, 37
Henry Blanco, 41
The perfect bullpen receiver, and he could set up shop as a tattoo artist.
Miguel Olivo, 34
Still good enough to play on Sundays.
Yorvit Torrealba, 34
Best free-agent catcher available.
Yuniesky Betancourt, 30
The Royals have a shortstop, but Betancourt would still be useful.
Carlos Lee, 36
El Caballo can still hit. Could resurface with the Astros in the AL as a DH.
Carlos Pena, 34
Pay cut with Rays or nada. But the club will employ him in some capacity.
Juan Rivera, 34
He can still hit a fast ball, but so can any other major league player.
Marco Scutaro, 37
No brainer for the world champs.
Bobby Abreu, 38
Bat speed is gone.
Endy Chavez, 34
Best bet is he re-signs with the Baltimore Orioles on a minor league deal. Not much left in the tank.
Raul Ibanez, 40
Executives will soon forget about his playoff heroics … except the Yankees.
Angel Pagan, 31
Another player the Giants need to reward.
As of this post, there are plenty of players in in their prime who remain unsigned. I will mention Latinos like Anibal Sanchez, Jonathan Sanchez, Joakim Soria, Francisco Liriano and Carlos Villanueva who remain unsigned and are waiting for the highest bidder. And for most clubs, payroll allowances have a way of evaporating.
It’s not the end of the world if these veterans fall off the vine. Most guys are treated like royalty in their native countries. But they’re kings who must survive on a pauper’s income.