I remember years ago, back when he was only 5'2" (he's 5'3" now), ohad was keen for the A's to go after a young, promising Zach Duke. Duke went on to spend a little time as Pittsburgh's ace, but to put that in proper context he has never had an ERA under 4.00, and now has fallen so far from grace that yesterday he was designated for assignment. How you give up 1,168 hits 964.1 IP pitching in the National League is a question only Duke (and perhaps Livan Hernandez) can answer. But if you still think he can be any good, well, he's available.
Who else did the Pirates just designate for assignment? Andy LaRoche, once thought to be the potential answer to the A's post-Chavez nightmares at 3B, then a huge bust in multiple major league trials, then a guy who might have finally turned it around and figured it out...but ultimately a guy whose career slash line currently stands at .224/.304/.338 (a whopping .641 OPS). Now, finally, you can have him ... if you still want him...
The reality is that guys tend to become available when they are most likely to be deemed "never good again if they ever were." The A's found out the hard way that the 38 year old Jason Giambi they could afford wasn't quite as good after all the miles he put on with the Yankees. And Billy Beane's obsession for a healthy 24 year old Conor Jackson appears to be paying the whatever-the-opposite-of-dividends-are when Jackson became available as a sicker, older shell of himself yet apparently Beane fondly remembered the name, picked him up and seems to be having separation anxiety about letting him go.
Bottom line: You can't easily get Andy LaRoche when he's a top prospect, but you can get him when he appears to suck "beyond a reasonable doubt." You can also shrug and be the 6th team to take a flier on Carlos Peña and enjoy a 46 HR season.
Is there anyone you really liked a few years ago, who now looks like a failure, but you still want them when they're available for a fraction of what they used to be worth? Is it Duke or LaRoche? Do you believe in Conor? Or who is it? Because there's a jewel out there somewhere, or at least a Jose Bautista ready to make a mockery out of every sensible projection. But who is it?