Free agent busts happen every single year. They are unavoidable. Somebody's going to age out of effectiveness. Somebody's going to get hurt. There's always a lemon or two or twelve. It's not always possible to identify these guys ahead of time, especially in the case of injury. I mean, nobody predicted the collapses of Pablo Sandoval or Hanley Ramirez to hit this soon. Others, like Ricky Nolasco two offseasons ago or Billy Butler last year, are far easier to identify. As we get started in earnest with the offseason, here are a few of the free agents I would want no part of:
Catcher - Alex Avila
Concussions and knee problems have turned Avila from an All Star into a replacement level backup. He still has a little pop in his bat and is patient, but doesn't make enough contact to post anything like an acceptable OBP. A move out from behind the plate would help his overall health, but he probably couldn't hit enough to make it worth it. Anybody signing and counting on Avila is likely to be sorely disappointed.
First Base - Justin Morneau
Morneau is a tragic story. He was having an MVP caliber season in 2010 when a concussion knocked him out for the rest of the year, and really killed his production for another two seasons. He rebounded with the Rockies, winning a batting title, before another concussion (suffered just by diving for a ball in the field) ended his season early last year. At this point, even normal baseball plays are dangerous for Morneau, and the risk is too high for anyone to give him more than a minor league deal. I'd never urge a player to retire, but at some point you have to start worrying about his quality of life 20 years from now.
Second Base - Daniel Murphy
Anybody looking for Murphy to repeat his postseason heroics over the course of a full season is going to be sorely disappointed. Murphy is a good, but not great, second baseman because his bat is an asset. He did an interesting thing in 2015 where he cut his strikeout rate from 13.5 percent down to just seven percent, a massive change that could signal that he could hold his offensive value in the near future. His glove, however, is in decline and he really should be moved off of the position soon. It's not that he won't be worth the money, it's that the money could probably be spent better elsewhere.
Third Base - N/A
It's not a strong market, but it's one that offers a good deal of reliability. Both David Freese and Juan Uribe look like relatively good bets on short-term contracts, and nobody else is poised to sign for anything like decent money or to play a huge role.
Shortstop - Jimmy Rollins
Somebody hungry for a shortstop and veteran leadership is going to give Rollins a guaranteed deal this offseason to be replacement level in 2016. I can feel it.
Corner OF - Yoenis Cespedes
Cespedes is a very good player, but will be looking for a giant deal after his second half heroics with the Mets. The dirty secret is that Cespedes has never been this good before, and probably will never be again as he enters his 30s. If he really is looking for a six year deal, probably at $18-20 million per year, I'm looking elsewhere.
Center Field - Denard Span
You won't find a bigger Denard Span fan than me, but the center fielder is going to be 32, has been sidelined with concussions and a torn labrum in the past. His defense has declined over the last two years to the point where he would be better playing in a corner, but his bat won't carry the position. He would be a good option for a short term contract, but I think he's going to get a Coco Crisp type deal.
Starting Pitcher - Marco Estrada
I wanted to put Johnny Cueto in here, but I'm not quite worried enough about him. His velocity held steady, and the biggest difference is that his BABIP somehow went through the roof when he got to the best defensive team in baseball. Estrada, on the other hand, is a red flag wrapped in a shrieking siren on top of a giant CAUTION sign. Estrada allowed just 6.7 hits per nine innings in front of the Jays' strong defense, a ridiculous .217 BABIP that is completely out of line with the rest of his career and totally unsustainable. He also stopped allowing home runs despite still allowing two fly balls for every grounder. Also, he saw his strikeout rate drop, threw a career high 181 innings, and (believe it or not) is already 32 years old. Despite winning 13 games, putting up a great 3.13 ERA, and making three strong starts in the postseason, I would want nothing to do with him.