As much as I am in favor of trading for a DH like Billy Butler, or Mike Napoli, or Luke Scott, looking at the potential DH free agents, I've found myself ready to do some bargain shopping. There seem to be 3 tiers of DH possibilities. Tier 1 includes Adam Dunn, Vladimir Guerrero. Tier 2 includes Magglio Ordonez and possibly Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome. Tier 3 includes Andrew Jones, Hideki Matsui, Nick Johnson, Russell Branyan, Johnny Damon.
The Rays will not be shopping in the Tier 1 bin. Tier 2 is possible, depending upon cost. Manny Ramirez would be worth the roll of the dice, depending upon cost. Same thing for Ordonez, but he is a Boras client. Most likely the Rays find themselves in tier 3, and that's not a bad thing. These are the guys who should be available for well under 5 mil a year, and most likely on a 1 or 2 year deal. Consider these options:
Russell Branyan - excellent DH vs RHP - .254, 19 HR in 276 AB. All for the price of 1.5 million in 2010.
Johnny Damon - OBP of .355 last year matches his career average--not as good as Johnson, but unlike Johnson, he always gets his ABs. 13 consecutive years of 500 AB or more. Will probably make less than half of the 8 million he made last year.
Nick Johnson - OBP machine, career .401 OBP, ideal #2 hitter, but less than 125 AB in 2 of last 3 years - but would be almost worth the roll of the dice to see if he stays healthy so the Yankees can get screwed twice, once last year by counting on him, and also this upcoming year if he can help the Rays beat the Yankees again. Won't come anywhere near the 5.5 mil he made in 2010. Only turns 33 next September.
Andrew Jones - still produced a 1.8 WAR in part time duty. Good against LHP last year - .256/.373/.558/.931 with 8 HR in 86 AB. Of these options, Jones can still play the field, so maybe he could be signed as a fourth outfielder. Only made 500k with the White Sox in 2010.
Hideki Matsui - very intriguing candidate for the Rays. Hits RHP very well (.289, 14 HR, 60BB-62K (.394OBP)), and is also used to DHing. Did not do well against LHP last year, but has a very good track record against them. Will turn 37 in the middle of the 2011 season. Made 6 million in 2010. If the Angels are not interested, his price tag could drop into the 3 or 4 range with incentives.
The wild card in this year's DHs, is how much can Ramirez fetch after last year's lost cause? Early rumors has Toronto as a possible landing spot, with the eventual hiring of their new manager and his connection to Ramirez. This would move Adam Lind to 1B to replace Lyle Overbay. All in all, a lot of interesting options in this year's market. Further proof you don't need to spend big bucks on a DH to get big production. Of these 5, who would you prefer? How would you rank them from best to worst for best fit for the Rays? How much would you be willing to risk in a guy like Ramirez? Ordonez?