Leftovers On The Hot Stove
Pitchers and catchers report in less than a month, so the Hot Stove is heating up again as players scramble to find jobs and teams look to fill out their rosters. Even though most of the big names are off the board, there are still a few free agents who can help a team get over the hump next season.
Catcher: The catcher position wasn’t strong to begin with but there are still two names on there that could be starters or at least platoon players, Rod Barajas and Yorvit Torrealba. Neither Barajas or Torrealba are great options, but they are solid veterans who offer a little bit with the bat.
First Basemen: The first base market has dried up pretty quickly and is left to only a handful of viable options. Russell Branyan had a big year last season, but has an inconsistent past as well as some injury history. Hank Blalock is another interesting option (some might think he’s a 3B, but he can’t handle the position) with big power but little else to bring to the table. Blalock’s inability to take a walk put him and Mike Jacobs in the same category. Carlos Delgado is a nice throw back option, but no one is even sure he’s healthy enough to play in the field anymore (or to hold up for at least half the season). Ryan Garko has for quite sometime been an interesting name among first basemen. He’s always been okay defensively and has good plate recognition. His problem is his lack of power, which has decreased each of the last two years. He might end up being the best choice among whats out there given his age and lack of injury concerns.
Middle Infield: The middle infield is actually one position that has a couple decent options for teams looking for a starter or platoon player. Ronnie Belliard (2B, UTL) is a solid veteran, and while he shouldn’t be a starter for a full season he’s a pretty decent option to give 350-400 at bats to. He can back up 3B and 1B as well, though lacks the power to play those positions long term. Belliard is a good choice for a team with a young 2B on the way that might need to start the year in the minors. Adam Kennedy (2B, 3B) had nice season last year, and showed that he can handle the hot corner for an extended look. Kennedy doesn’t have a big bat, but he’s traditionally a pretty good defender at 2B. His biggest problem is his inconsistency, the 2009 version is a great free agent buy, but if he ends up playing like the 2007 Adam Kennedy then that team is in for a big disappointment. Orlando Hudson (2B) is widely considered the best option on the market (though that might be a little high praise). Defensively he makes a number of tough plays, but misses a lot of routine ones at the same time. Offensively though he has more upside and could even be a solid 2-hole hitter. Orlando Cabrera (SS, 2B, 3B) is a former All-star, but his age is catching up with him. A position change to 2B may extend his career by a couple years. He could be a solid option for a team with unknowns at both middle infield spots. Felipe Lopez (2B, SS) is probably the best option on the market. His defense at SS is limited and for a guy with great timed speed he doesn’t get the most out of it (or much of anything), but he’s still a legitimate starter at 2B. He offers plenty of offensive upside and would be a good bottom of the order hitter for a playoff team.
Third Basemen: Talk about a dried up market, the only players that make sense are Joe Crede (who has major health and on-base issues), Melvin Mora (whose age and defense/offense are a concern), and Miguel Tejada (who has never really played the position). Tejada in my book is the best option, his defense might be shaky and his offensive has fallen off some, but I think he can handle the hot corner.
Outfielders: There are a few starting options still out there but lets get through the back-ups. First Randy Winn, Reed Johnson, and Eric Byrnes can all be solid defensive role player options. Jonny Gomes is a nice platoon corner outfield option. Jermaine Dye and Garrett Anderson are past the prime when they should be starting in the outfield (someone give them a DH job), but will get work given their consistent bats. Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady are the best options for teams looking for a starter. Nady is coming off an injury so, he will probably be a cheaper option. Nady offers some solid power and decent hitting numbers. His defense is average so he’s not a big liability in the field. Damon is probably the top overall player still on the market. While his range and arm regulate him to left field now, he’s a pretty good option for a team looking for a good bat. Though never a true power hitter he can hit 20-25 home runs in 550 at bats, he also has the on-base skills to go along with his moderate power. Despite being up there in age (36) Damon has a pretty clean injury history and still gets alot out of his speed (as seen in the World Series). Damon isn’t the perennial All-star he once was, but would be a great signing for 1-2 years.
Check back later for a report on the pitchers still on the market.