Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Willingham and the future

Josh Willingham's
2013 slash line:

Mike Berandino of the Pioneer Press had an item Monday: Josh Willingham's agent says the outfielder is eager to re-up with the Twins and finish his career in Minnesota, "but nothing's ever been discussed."

Nobody should be surprised that Matt Sosnick is angling for an extension for his client already, or that the Twins are not jumping at the opportunity.

One of my pet theories on free agents is that the guys who start campaigning for an extension with a year left on their deal are the guys to stay away from. They're the guys who can feel the game slipping a bit from their grasp and have a legitimate fear that their upcoming season will likely hurt their value in the market. Better to get what you can now.

Willingham is 35 (his birthday was Monday). He was never fast, and he's coming off knee surgery. And he and Sosnick must have taken note of how little interest there's been in free agency this year for Nelson Cruz, another right-handed corner outfielder with power and limited defense.

Willingham and Cruz are not perfect matches, to be sure. Cruz's market is held down by the draft-pick compensation attached to him, by his link to performance-enhancing drugs, by the fact that, having turned down a $14 million qualifying offer, he's looking for at least twice Willingham's current salary. These are all reason Cruz remains unsigned.

Still, it figures to be a daunting market for Willingham next winter. One cannot blame him for hoping the Twins will bite early. But given the wealth of outfield prospects in the Twins system, and the limitations to Willingham's game and expectations, one also should not expect the Twins to take the bait.

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