Showing posts with label free agents. Show all posts
Showing posts with label free agents. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

This year's free agent class is not real strong

Eric Hosmer
The games are over and baseball withdrawal is setting in, so it's time to start talking about free agency.

This year's crop of free agents, honestly, is uninspiring. Most fans are looking ahead to next fall, when big names such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Dallas Keuchel are scheduled to hit the open market. Some teams, in fact, might not be active in free agency this year because they intend to save money to get involved in next offseason's bonanza.

But in the meantime, we have this offseason to talk about, and a good chunk of the key free agents come from the Kansas City Royals. First baseman Eric Hosmer, outfielder Lorenzo Cain, third baseman Mike Moustakas and shortstop Alcides Escobar all are available.

Need pitching? The best starting pitchers available include World Series goat Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and CC Sabathia. Wade Davis is the top closer on the market. The next-best reliever after that probably is Los Angeles Dodgers setup man Brandon Morrow.

Other hitters on the market include outfielders J.D. Martinez and Jay Bruce and catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

The other intrigue this winter involves Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. The slugger is owed $275 million over the final 10 years of his contract, and it's unclear at this point whether new ownership in Miami will seek to trade him.

If Stanton is traded, that likely will be a bigger impact move than any free agent signing this offseason.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Late, great (and not-so-great) additions, Part 2

The White Sox have a modest record when it comes to late free agent additions, and the Cubs haven't done that much better, if they've done better at all adding pieces after Feb. 1 and before Opening Day .

Here are the five best late free agent additions for the Cubs in recent history (just like with the Sox list, we're excluding the strike-affected 1995 season):

1. Terry Mulholland (Feb. 2, 1998)
Mulholland was no stranger to signing late in the offseason or playing for the Cubs. The left-handed pitcher went to camp on a February contract with the Phillies just a couple years earlier, and played for the Cubs in 1997 before being claimed on waivers by the Giants in August.

Having been primarily a starter in his career, Mulholland was an effective swingman for a surprising Cubs team that made the playoffs. In 70 games -- which included seven starts -- he recorded a 2.89 ERA in 112 innings. It was a pretty good value for the one-year, $600,000 contract.

Mulholland was less of a good deal when he signed a two-year, $6 million contract to stay after that season, posting a 5.15 ERA before being packaged with Jose Hernandez for a pitching prospect (Ruben Quevedo, if you must know).

2. Kent Bottenfield (March 9, 1996)
Bottenfield is probably most famous for being a guy who won 18 games out of nowhere for the Cardinals in 1999 before being traded for Jim Edmonds the following year. Talk about buying low and selling high. The Cubs actually had an opportunity to get in on the ground floor, signing the right-hander after spring training was underway after Bottenfield spent the previous year laboring in the minors for the Tigers.

Without much service time, Bottenfield spent two seasons with the Cubs, appearing in 112 games, all as a reliever. He logged a respectable 3.34 ERA in 145 2/3 innings for teams that finished in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

Figuring they'd seen the best Bottenfield had to offer, the Cubs didn't offer him arbitration after the 1997 season. Instead he went to the Cardinals, where on balance, he was only slightly above average despite the gaudy win total. The year after he was let go, he really only filled the same role for the Cardinals that Mulholland did for the Cubs, only less effectively.

An earlier version of Edmonds than the one the Cubs eventually dragged in years later sure was a nicer return than Quevedo, though.

3. Hee-Seop Choi (March 3, 1998)
OK, this one is cheating. Choi was a international amateur signing and the Cubs had no intention of him playing for several years. He was annually one of the team's best prospects, and even after a rough rookie season, was valuable enough a commodity to be the centerpiece of a trade for Derrek Lee, who we know had some big years for the Cubs.

T4. Jeromy Burnitz (Feb. 5, 2005) / Cliff Floyd (Feb. 1, 2007)
Part of the ongoing efforts by the Cubs to plug a decade-long hole in right field. Since smashing Sammy Sosa's boombox and shipping him and the pieces to the Orioles, the most frequent starters for the Cubs in right field each season have been: Burnitz (2005), Jacque Jones (2006), Floyd (2007), Kosuke Fukudome (2008), Milton Bradley (2009), Fukudome (2010), Fukudome (2011), David DeJesus (2012) and Nate Schierholtz (2013).

Burnitz just wasn't much of a hitter anymore at 36 years old, and faded from respectable to bad in the second half. His one-year, $4.5 million deal was an acceptable risk. Floyd, who came on a cheaper-still one-year, $3 million deal, still hit for a good average and on-base percentage as a 34-year-old, but the power he had in his late 20s wasn't ever coming back. He was still a piece of a playoff team, filling a gap in the outfield as a part-time player.

5. Will Ohman (Feb. 11, 2004)
Ohman was actually a draft pick by the Cubs back in 1998 and had spent years in the organization. He also spent years battling injuries, missing all of 2002 and 2003. The Cubs released the left-hander just after the 2003 season, and when he couldn't find a home all winter, welcomed him back on the eve of spring training.

While Ohman was never great, even as a lefty specialist later in his career, he did give the Cubs mostly solid relief work and a 3.97 ERA over 145 innings from 2004-07. He was traded along with Omar Infante to Atlanta for some guy who definitely wasn't as good of a reliever as Ohman, or as good a second baseman as Infante.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Late, great (and not-so-great) additions, Part 1

With players having reported to spring training, teams are pretty much set as far as the major pieces of their rosters. Sure, there's jockeying for starting jobs, along with guys vying for spots on the back ends of benches and bullpens. But there's not really much left on the free agent market, even with the trend of some players signing later and later in the offseason.

This year you still could grab a starting shortstop (Stephen Drew), a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher (Ervin Santana) or a DH/first baseman (Kendrys Morales). That's only because those guys are clinging to the hope that a huge contract is on the horizon. For the most part, what's left are bench players (Kelly Shoppach, Laynce Nix, Andres Torres), organizational depth (Tyler Greene, Casey Kotchman), rehab projects (Jair Jurrjens, Johan Santana, Andrew Bailey), last-gasp attempts (Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre) or various arms to fill up a pitching staff (Jon Garland, Mike Gonzalez, Brett Myers).

The White Sox and Cubs don't look positioned to cull the cream of what's left, even if the price comes down. Even if they were, neither Chicago team has done well with last-minute additions.

By last-minute, I'm talking about a player signed after the start of February, but before Opening Day. That's when most of the good free agents are off the market, but before the season starts and the roster crunch some teams face creates a different kind of market.

We're just looking at the last 25 years, and not counting the post-strike year in 1995, when the work stoppage pushed free agency back and left everyone scrambling.

First here are the top five late-signing players for the White Sox, and later we'll look at the Cubs:

1. Kevin Tapani (Feb. 3, 1996)
Tapani signed late because while he was a solid innings-eater, he lacked overpowering stuff and owned a less-than-spectacular track record. At the age of 33, there were no takers for his services until the Sox offered him a one-year, $1.5 million contract.

The right-hander lived up to expectations, chewing up 225 innings with an average-ish ERA (4.59 -- average back in the swinging mid-90s) for a team that contended for a wild card before folding late. Like the Sox, Tapani also faded down the stretch, posting a 6.81 ERA in 71 1/3 innings from the start of August until the end of the season.

That didn't stop the Cubs from offering Tapani a five-year, $24 million contract the following offseason to be mostly mediocre, though he was very good in 1997 and almost won Game 1 of the 1998 NLDS against the Braves before Cubs manager Jim Riggleman left him in one batter too long.

As far as what the Sox got out of Tapani, though, they couldn't have really asked for more.

2. Danny Darwin (Feb. 7, 1997)
Darwin was the next-year edition of the Tapani signing. A very solid pitcher over most of his career, Darwin had trouble finding a job as a 41-year-old before the Sox gave him a one-year, $475,000 contract hoping he could help the back end of a suddenly needy rotation that had lost Alex Fernandez and Tapani to free agency and Jason Bere to injury.

While Darwin held up his end of the bargain (4.13 ERA in 113 1/3 IP), the Sox didn't. Other more highly touted (and much higher-paid) free agent pitchers Jaime Navarro and Doug Drabek were disasters, while the offense underwhelmed with a disappointing Albert Belle and Robin Ventura missing to injury.

Controversially, Darwin was packaged with Wilson Alvarez and Roberto Hernandez as part of the infamous "White Flag" trade. Other than that, this signing probably far exceeded what the Sox could have asked for.

3. Kenny Lofton (Feb. 1, 2002)
The Sox needed a center fielder while Lofton, just a few months shy of his 35th birthday, was coming off what would be the worst season of his very good career. That understandably scared off would-be suitors, so the Sox swooped in with a one-year, $1 million contract.

Lofton only disappointed people expecting him to recapture the glory days of his mid-20s. For the Sox he batted .259/.348/.418 and swiped 22 bases before being shipped off to the Giants for spare parts. Lofton went on to be a useful, and affordable, piece for contending teams through his 40th birthday. It's just that the 2002 Sox weren't a contending team.

4. Dewayne Wise (March 5, 2008)
This is where the list takes a turn for the worse. Is it a love affair that's still going on to this day? It's easy to be frustrated to see Wise on your team when he's been pressed into duties beyond his abilities. For a fourth outfielder, he still had his moments for the Sox.

5. Wil Cordero (March 23, 1998)
A domestic assault incident the previous year earned Cordero his release from the Red Sox. After a guilty plea in the offseason, the Sox were the only team to offer him a $1 million contract with a team option, only then because of his ties to then-manager Jerry Manuel from their days with the Expos, and his agreement to submit to tests and ongoing counseling.

If this story has any kind of a happy ending, it's that Cordero has seemingly put his history of violence behind him, at least by public indications. His talent was also rehabbed enough to last seven more seasons in the big leagues as a part-time player, though the rebuilding Sox never had much use for him. With Mike Caruso and Ray Durham ensconced in the middle infield, Cordero's inability to make good throws from third base, and lack of a bat big enough (.267/.314/.446 in 371 PAs) for first base or a corner outfield spot, the team said goodbye at the end of the year. be continued when we look at late Cubs signings...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Teams should be more willing to include opt-out clauses

A prominent feature of both of the massive contracts given to pitchers this month is an opt-out clause.

Left-handed Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw accepted the richest contract ever given to a pitcher, but can choose to become a free agent after five years. Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka was guaranteeed $155 million by the Yankees, but can similarly tear up the rest of his deal after four seasons to hit the market again.

At first blush, this might seem like an awful deal for teams willing to climb on the hook for millions of dollars six or seven years down the road. If either player suffers a career-ending injury this year, their teams will still have to pay them millions of dollars for years after. If they pitch well and the free agent market keeps yielding huge contracts, either guy could opt out for a richer deal than what they have in hand, denying the Dodgers or Yankees the opportunity to collect value on the back end of these risky contracts.

That's the wrong way to look at the opt-out.

To the first fear I'll just say that if you're not offering a player like Kershaw or Tanaka six or seven guaranteed years, you're not really in the game as far as bidding for their services. Opt-out or no, they'll get those years guaranteed when they reach the open market. And opt-out or no, if a player gets hurt in Year 1 of a long contract, the team that signed the player is left holding the bag.

As for getting value on the back end of a huge contract, I have a hard time believing any team that signed a player to deal longer than five years expects to be getting a good value beyond that point. Perhaps Tanaka is an exception, because he's hitting the market as a 25-year-old, but these days teams enter into these massive contracts expecting to be overpaying for what the player is by the end of the deal.

Teams do that because they get a good value on the front end. If Tanaka pitches like an ace for the Yankees, they will be very happy to have paid him just under $90 million for four years, plus a posting fee that doesn't count against the luxury tax.

They might be unhappy to have to negotiate a new deal in four years, one that might be in excess of $200 million if Tanaka lives up to some expectations. But if there's that much money still rolling into baseball to spur that kind of salary growth for players, the Yankees are surely a team that can afford to retain Tanaka if they desire. Or if at that point the Yankees decide to spread their financial risk out a different way than on the right arm of a pitcher entering his 30s, they can do that, too.

In other words, if everything goes as planned, the Yankees have the opportunity to say goodbye to Tanaka when, theoretically, his best days will be behind him.

Where teams have been burned by opt-out clauses hasn't been by including them in the original contract. It's been by signing the player once the clause has been exercised.

White Sox fans around in the 90s can probably remember Albert Belle receiving a clause that allowed him to opt out if he wasn't among baseball's highest-paid players. When salaries escalated quickly in the late 90s, Belle took advantage of that clause to leave the Sox two years into a five-year, $55 million deal that once made him baseball's top-earning player.

Did the Sox regret losing Belle's services? Not after seeing him sign a new five-year, $65 million deal with the Orioles. Belle gave Baltimore one good year, then one poor year before degenerative osteoarthritis in his hip ended his career, though not his steady stream of paychecks.

If the Yankees need a reminder of what second-time buyer's remorse looks like, they just have to look at their payroll right now. After giving CC Sabathia seven-year, $161 million contract with an opt-out after three years, they saw the left-hander exercise that clause. Instead of being satisfied with three years and 705 innings of a 3.18 ERA and a 59-23 record, they chose to give Sabathia a five-year, $122 contract that has yielded a 29-19 record with a pedestrian 4.09 ERA through the first two years.

And of course there's the defamed Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees inherited the opt-out Rodriguez had built into his then-richest-ever-for-baseball $252 million contract he signed with the Rangers. After trading for Rodriguez -- with the Rangers picking up part of the tab -- the Yankees got a .303/.403/.573 batting line with 173 home runs from the shortstop-turned-third baseman over four seasons.

When Rodriguez opted out, the Yankees weren't happy with the house money they could have left the casino with in their pockets. So instead they signed him to a new record-setting deal, 10 years and $275 million. For that money they've gotten an often-injured player with a diminished .279/.369/.498 line who instead of collecting career milestones on the way to the Hall of Fame is instead sitting out this upcoming season as part of a cloud of steroid scandal that's rendered his once-incredible career meaningless to most fans.

For me, the moral of the story isn't that including the opt-out automatically makes things peachy for teams. It didn't make it that way with Vernon Wells' contract.

To state the obvious, signing any player to a massive contract involves risk for the team agreeing to the pact. No matter the player, no matter the team.

Something just as obvious is that signing the same player three or four years later to a massive contract is just that much riskier. So is crossing your fingers and hoping the next three or four years of a massive megadeal go as well as the first three or four.

Short of simply offering free agents higher annual salaries for fewer years, the willingness to include an opt-out clause might be the best chance for teams to avoid the years of these free agent contracts when they become an albatross.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Twins trying to tackle pitching problems

The Twins were arguably a worse team than the White Sox last season despite finishing a few games ahead in the standings. Minnesota scored 16 more runs than the Sox, but with the help of maybe the worst rotation in baseball, the Twins yielded 65 more runs.

With a lack of pitching prospects in the pipeline, Minnesota has committed most of its resources this offseason to make its rotation less-bad. They gave journeyman Ricky Nolasco a four-year, $49 million contract, invested three years and $24 million in former Yankee Phil Hughes, and brought Mike Pelfrey back for two years and $11 million.

The Twins might not be done yet as they've been linked to free agent Matt Garza. Even if they don't hand out another big contract, they'll likely look at the free agent leftovers come January or February to see if they can add additional depth.

How far have the Twins come so far? Here's last year's top five starters by games started and their ERAs, and the projected top five for 2014, with their ages and career ERAs:

Kevin Correia (32) 4.18 (31 GS) Correia (33) (4.49 career)
Pelfrey (29) 5.19 (29 GS) Nolasco (31) 3.70 (4.37 career)
Scott Diamond (26) 5.43 (24 GS) Hughes (28) 5.19 (4.54 career)
Sam Deduno (29) 3.38 (18 GS) Pelfrey (30) (4.48 career)
Pedro Hernandez (24) 6.83 (14 GS) Deduno (30) (4.06 career)

Andrew Albers, Kyle Gibson and Vance Worley each made 10 starts for Minnesota last year with collectively awful results.

Even with $84 million invested, the Twins look like they have to cross their fingers here.

It's conceivable that Nolasco figured something out last year. It's also possible that he and Hughes, who is coming off a rough season by his standards, will both be helped by Target Field, which dampens the bats of left-handed hitters. Both have had a harder time against lefties in their careers. Hughes in particular may have been hurt by the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium.

It's also possible that Pelfrey, another year removed from the elbow surgery he had in 2012, will get closer to his career ERA than the mark he posted last year. And the offseason is still young, so maybe they'll find a better option for the fifth spot than Deduno and the others.

That's a lot of stuff that has to break right for the Twins. That's a lot of wish-casting on pitchers who have never been considered above-average, much less elite, and are entering the age at which players exit the prime of their careers.

Give Minnesota credit for attempting to be more competitive. They went out and invested in guys who fit their philosophy of throwing strikes, who might be a good fit in their park, and acquired them the most expedient way possible by dipping into the free agent pool.

I'm still skeptical that this set of gambles will work out in a way that is a net positive for the Twins. Not when they could have done some more bargain shopping. Jake Westbrook and Bronson Arroyo are two guys who also could have been helped by Target Field. Because they are older, and in Westbrook's case coming off an injury, they would have commanded much less money than Nolasco.

Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Garza -- all still free agents -- might not command much more than $50 million, despite having much more impressive resumes, which makes me wonder why the Twins felt the need to strike so early on Nolasco.

With Nolasco, Pelfry, Hughes and Correia locked into four rotation spots, the Twins have less room to take a flier on other rehab, change-of-scenery, journeyman-filler or last-hurrah projects like Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, Clayton Richard or Chris Capuano.

A veteran on a shorter deal might also be easier to flip for younger talent at the trade deadline if that's the position the Twins find themselves come July. The current pitching additions won't prevent that.

They will make Minnesota marginally better, and with MLB teams flush with money, none of these contracts will hamstring the team going forward, even if all of them are colossal failures.

Still, I can't help but think the Twins could set themselves up for more long-term value by taking a more creative approach to fixing their pitching.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Boone -- er -- Boom times for reliever market?

As if the dump truck full of money the Mariners drove to Robinson Cano's door wasn't evidence that MLB teams are flush with cash, take a look at what left-handed reliever Boone Logan just got.

Smile, Boone! You're rich!
If you only paid attention to Logan when he was on the White Sox, you might not have noticed he's been better since since those days of getting battered around U.S. Cellular Field. In fact, after pitching to a career 5.27 ERA and a staggering 1.69 WHIP with the Sox and Braves, Logan has had a 3.38 ERA over 176 innings with the Yankees the last four years.

That's why the Colorado Rockies have decided to give him a three-year, $16.5 million contract.

That's a lot of coin for a guy who you only really want to see face left-handed hitters (.243/.312/.378 career), and rarely face right-handers (.297/.397/.475). That's if the 1.6 HR/9 he allowed -- way above his career norm -- was just a blip, and not a reversion to his homer-happy results with the Sox. Baseball humidor or no, that won't play well in Colorado.

 Logan just got more money than Javier Lopez got from the Giants (3 years/$13 million), and Lopez was maybe better (2.38 ERA the last three years vs. 3.51 ERA for Logan, though Logan did work in the AL and was charged with facing left-handers that benefited from the Yankees' home park).

With a lot of relief pitchers left to sign, it's really too early to say yet if the market is going a little crazy. I don't think it's too early to say the Rockies probably overpaid for what Logan will be able to do for them.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A position-by-position look at this year's free agent class

The free agency period has already begun in Major League baseball, so I figured we should take a look at the top players available at each position. I think I'm up-to-date on all the signings, but forgive me if I list someone who has already been inked to a deal.

The Philadelphia Phillies have been active early, picking up outfielder Marlon Byrd and resigning catcher Carlos Ruiz. Veteran pitcher Tim Hudson is also off the board; he was picked up by the San Francisco Giants on Monday.

For purposes of this list, I will not include international free agents, because I find players I've never seen play before impossible to rank.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 19, these are the best guys available, sorted by position:

Starting pitchers

1. Ubaldo Jimenez -- The right-hander made quite a contract push the second half of 2013. Jimenez had a better ERA than all pitchers not named Clayton Kershaw after the All-Star break. He regained the form he showed when he was with Colorado and was Cleveland's ace coming down the stretch.

2. Matt Garza -- Can you tell it's a weak crop of free agent pitchers this year? It must be if I have Garza at No. 2 on this list. The guy has plus stuff if he's healthy. That's a big if.

3. Hiroki Kuroda -- Might be a available on a one- or two-year deal. He tapered off in the second half this year, which hurts his value. Throws a lot of ground balls, which might make him appealing to teams that play in hitters' ballparks.

4. Ervin Santana -- He'll get paid because he had a solid year for Kansas City, but I wouldn't trust this guy. He has trouble putting together more than one good season in a row, which means it doesn't make much sense to offer him a multiyear deal.

5. Bartolo Colon -- Eventually the magic has to run out, right? Based upon his 2013 numbers (18-6, 2.65 ERA), he probably should be higher on this list. But the dude is 40. The decline has to start sometime.

Relief pitchers

1. Joe Nathan -- Speaking of old guys, Nathan will be 39 on Opening Day, but I can't find any relievers who are better than him on the market this year. The Tigers need a closer and are reportedly hot on the trail for Nathan.

2. Grant Balfour -- He's always had the power arm. He's got a great fastball, and he's effective as long as he controls his craziness on the mound. Throws a lot of fly balls and pop ups. Teams with short porches in their home stadiums should probably stay away.

3. Brian Wilson -- His late-season performance with the Dodgers was enough to convince me he's made it back from Tommy John surgery. He'll be an effective reliever for somebody, provided they can live with the fact that he looks like an ax murderer.

4. Joaquin Benoit -- The career setup man got forced into the closer's role this year in Detroit. He held up well enough that he'll get closer's money on the open market. Whichever teams pays him will be overpaying in my opinion.

5. Fernando Rodney -- His mechanics stink. He has trouble repeating his delivery. He walks too many guys. But, if he gets in a groove, he can dominate hitters for an extended period of time with his fastball-changeup combination.


1. Brian McCann -- It seems like McCann has been around forever, but he's only 29 years old. He's a left-handed power bat at a position where it's hard to find players who can hit. He proved he was healthy this year, and you have to figure he's got at least three more prime years in him.

2. Jarrod Saltalamacchia -- Not the best defensive catcher in the world, and he strikes out a ton. But he's a switch-hitter with power, and he's only 28. Those two factors should net him a nice payday this offseason.

3. A.J. Pierzynski -- He's going to be 37, but his offensive skill set still seems to be there. Still an agitator, still one of the smartest players in the league.

4. Kurt Suzuki -- Hey, somebody has to be fourth on this list. Why not Suzuki? He's a decent defensive catcher.

5. Dioner Navarro -- Showed surprising power with the Cubs last season, hitting 13 home runs in a part-time role. I wouldn't count on that happening again.

First baseman

1. Kendrys Morales -- Can anyone tell me why Seattle didn't trade this guy for prospects last July? He's finally healthy, he's a switch-hitter who produces from both sides of the plate, and he's got good pop. He can't run a lick, and he's probably better suited to DH than first base. But I'd take him on my club for the right price.

2. Justin Morneau -- I don't think he'll ever regain the MVP form he had with the Twins in the past, but he can still be a productive hitter. If a team is looking for a left-handed bat to hit fifth or sixth in its lineup, it could do worse than picking up Morneau.

3. Mike Napoli -- Someone will overpay here. People think Napoli is a better player than he actually is because he just won a championship as a member of the Red Sox. In 2014, look for Napoli to hit 20 home runs, strike out about 180 times and make a lot more money than he's worth.

4. Corey Hart -- He didn't play in 2013 due to knee problems, which makes him a risk. It also means he'll come on a one-year deal. If healthy, he's a good bet to hit 25 home runs.

5. James Loney -- He got off to a hot start last season, but in the second half he turned into, well, James Loney. He hit only four home runs after the All-Star break. He's left-handed, but he doesn't have enough pop for an everyday first baseman.

Second base

1. Robinson Cano -- There is only one superstar available in this free agent class, and Cano is it. Typically, you see the Yankees find a way to retain their own free agents. I don't think that is anywhere close to a given with Cano, who is asking for $310 million over 10 years. The Yankees are offering $160 million over seven years. Can they bridge the $150 million divide?

2. Omar Infante -- His main value is his ability to play multiple positions. He also hit over .300 last season, which can't hurt him as he hits the open market.

3. Kelly Johnson -- Another guy who can play multiple spots. He hits left-handed and has some extra-base power.

4. Mark Ellis -- He plays good defense, and there is value in that when we're talking about middle infielders.

5. Brian Roberts -- He's been a good player when healthy. Problem is, he's never healthy.


1. Stephen Drew -- He struggled offensively in the playoffs and caught a lot of crap from Boston fans, but he's a strong defender at the most important position in the middle of the diamond. No, the bat isn't great, but he's the best of a weak crop.

2. Jhonny Peralta -- He can hit. That's the best thing you can say about Peralta. Defensively, he has no range whatsoever, and he's probably looking at a position change sooner rather than later. Put a bat in his hands, though, and he'll give you production.

3. Rafael Furcal -- Yes, he is still alive. He figures to be back from Tommy John surgery in 2014. Some team will roll the dice on him.

4. Clint Barmes -- He plays good defense, and there is value in that when we're talking about middle infielders. Oh yeah, I said the same thing about Mark Ellis, didn't I?

5. Ramon Santiago -- Can't play everyday, but can play multiple position. Useful in a backup role.

Third base

1. Eric Chavez -- Can you tell there are no good third basemen on the market? Chavez can't field the way he used to, but his bat is still good enough to make up one half of a platoon for somebody.

2. Juan Uribe -- The former White Sox shortstop can still play defense. He's best suited for a utility role at this stage of his career.

3. Michael Young -- The veteran could be a nice pickup for some team looking for a guy who can play three times a week and pinch hit. Might come cheap for a contending team.

4. Kevin Youkilis -- Yes, the former White Sox rent-a-player is still alive, although he barely played because of back issues in 2013.

5. Mark Reynolds -- Streaky power, tons of strikeouts. Somebody has to be No. 5 on this list.


1. Carlos Beltran -- He'll provide the best value among available outfielders. Yeah, he's getting old, but that means he can be had for a reasonable number of years and dollars. Not only does he still hit, he hits good pitchers well. He's as good as anyone in the postseason. He could benefit from a switch to the AL, where he could DH some to keep his legs healthy.

2. Shin-Soo Choo -- He does what a team needs its leadoff hitter to do: He gets on base. I think he was out of position playing center field in Cincinnati. A move back to right field will do him good. He's got some power, good speed and he's a good outfielder. The only drawback is his agent is probably going to demand a six- or seven-year deal.

3. Jacoby Ellsbury -- The most overrated player on the free agent market this year. Some stupid GM is going to give this player over $100 million, even though guys who make their living with their legs always start to decline around age 30. Guess what? Ellsbury is 30. Aside from one season (2011), Ellsbury has never been a power hitter. His two best skills are his basestealing and his ability to play center field. Those are two things that leave with age. Caveat emptor.

4. Curtis Granderson -- Injuries ruined his 2013, but he hit 40-plus homers in both 2011 and 2012. Even though his numbers were aided by the short porch at Yankee Stadium, a healthy Granderson figures to provide some power production. Would be a decent value for somebody, if the injuries are behind him.

5. Nelson Cruz -- His stock fell because of his Biogenesis suspension. Some will ask whether his power production is a mirage. Maybe it is. But some team is going to get him for cheaper than the usual market rate for a player with Cruz's numbers, and that could pay off.