MLB Free Agency 2012: The 10 Most Useful Players Still on the Market
We've seen an array of moves made by contenders and also from pretenders, trying to improve their chances of winning a World Series title in 2012. Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish, Jose Reyes and many, many more star-caliber players have inked deals over the winter.
With just a few more days until all pitchers and catchers report to spring training, there are still many useful players that remain unsigned for the 2012 season, whether your team needs another starting pitcher or a DH.
This is the time of the offseason where agents like Scott Boras shine and are able to secure contracts for their clients. Before long, players will start signing left and right.
Let's take a look at who is still on the free agent market.
Yoenis Cespedes, Outfielder
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Cespedes has been the most sought out international position player this offseason and remains the most talented outfielder left on the market. After gaining residency in the Dominican Republic, Cespedes is eligible to sign with whichever team he wants. As of now, the only team that has offered him a contract is the Miami Marlins.
He recently played in the Dominican Winter League, despite not really needing to, and this possibly hurt his stock as he raised questions about his offense. Regardless, Cespedes will play a big role assuming that he can make a quick transition to the major leagues.
*Update: Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that Cespedes has signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the Oakland A's.
Roy Oswalt, Starting Pitcher
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Roy Oswalt is taking a long time to make a decision on which team he would like to pitch for in 2012.
The Boston Red Sox offered him a one-year deal but he was reluctant to agree, citing that he didn't really want to play on the East Coast. ESPN's Jayson Stark reported that the righty will not sign with the Texas Rangers or the Philadelphia Phillies, leaving Boston and the St. Louis as the final options.
Oswalt has pitched the last two seasons for the Phillies, starting 35 games and compiling a 16-11 record and posting a 2.96 ERA. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported that Oswalt is likely to receive a one-year contract within the $5 million to $7 million range.
Brandon Webb, Starting Pitcher
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Despite not pitching in a major league game since April of 2009, Brandon Webb still wants to pitch. CBS's Jon Heyman was told that Webb's agent says his client is "strong and loose." He is expected to throw for teams sometime in March, hoping to win a job on a team's starting rotation.
After winning the Cy Young award in 2006, Webb finished in second place in 2007 and 2008. Shoulder surgery strongly affected his velocity, and even though he is "healthy," a minor league deal is likely in the mix for Webb.
In seven seasons, Webb is 87-62 with a 3.27 ERA and over 1,000 career strikeouts.
Raul Ibanez, Outfielder
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The 16-year veteran outfielder is getting a ton of interest from the New York Yankees, who are hoping Ibanez can fill their DH void as well as play some outfield every once in a while.
The Yankees are currently looking to ship A.J. Burnett out of New York, creating payroll space for a player like Raul Ibanez. FOX's Ken Rosenthal reported the Ibanez would be willing to take less money in order to play for the Bronx Bombers.
Ibanez hit .245/.289/.419 in his third season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, playing in 144 games. Even though he is 39 years old, Ibanez has played in at least 100 games for the last 11 seasons.
Hideki Matsui, Designated Hitter
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Hideki Matsui is another player who is looking for a role either as an outfielder or a designated hitter. This offseason, he's been on the radar of the Yankees, the Detroit Tigers and the Oakland Athletics. Matsui played the first seven years of his MLB career with the Yankees before signing with the Angels in 2010, and then the Athletics in 2011.
Last season, he hit .251/.321/.375 in 141 games with Oakland, recording 12 home runs and driving in 72 RBI.
The 37-year-old will likely sign a deal hoping to crack into the starting lineup of a team, instead of accepting a bench role.
Derrek Lee, First Baseman
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Derrek Lee is currently in a tough spot and could be forced into retirement, according to Joel Sherman of the NY Post.
Lee was traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Pittsburgh Pirates during the middle of last season, playing in 113 games between the two while hitting .267/.325/.446 with 19 home runs and 59 RBI.
As Sherman notes, Lee could be useful but he is asking too much just to play a "minor" role with a team either as a DH or a bench/role player.
Javier Vazquez, Starting Pitcher
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Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote an interesting piece last week that included a bit on Vazquez. Cafardo writes that Vazquez is retired for now but hears that he could be very valuable as a fourth of fifth starting pitcher for a contending team.
MLB Trade Rumors writes that Vazquez would fit well with the Mets, Red Sox or Orioles but he may be reluctant to return to the AL East after pitching for the Yankees in 2004 and 2010.
At 35 years old, it wouldn't be crazy for Vazquez to sign a deal even though he might not want to. Pitching for the Marlins last season, he went 13-11 in 32 starts with a 3.69 ERA.
It'll be interesting to see if Vazquez really hangs up his cleats after 14 seasons.
Arthur Rhodes, Relief Pitcher
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Arthur Rhodes is another player pondering retirement this offseason after winning a World Series ring with the St. Louis Cardinals last season. Rhodes, 42, has played 21 seasons in the MLB and has drawn interest from the Cardinals and the Seattle Mariners this offseason.
Rhodes was released from the Texas Rangers in August of 2011 and then signed with St. Louis, where he finished the season. He appeared in 51 games between the two League Champions, throwing 33 innings and posting a 4.64 ERA.
If a major league contract isn't offered to Rhodes, retirement is the likely path.
Vladimir Guerrero, Designated Hitter
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Vladimir Guerrero intends to play in 2012 and is asking for around $5 million on a one-year deal, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN. Jon Heyman of CBS also notes that Guerrero wants to continue playing to achieve some upcoming milestones. He currently has 449 home runs and 1,496 RBI in his 16-year career.
The former MVP is about as immobile as you can get, and he will not be running out ground balls if he is awarded with a contract. Either a DH or pinch-hitting role is inevitable for Guerrero if he plays in 2012.
Johnny Damon, Outfielder
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Johnny Damon is the final player on the list of possible targets for the Yankees but is still being pursued by the Mets, Tigers, Rays, Orioles and Athletics, according to MLB Trade Rumors. Damon, 38, can be used as either a DH or an outfield option and will receive a one-year deal no matter where he signs.
The 17-year veteran has played in at least 141 games each season since he came up with the Kansas City Royals in 1995. He's a career .286/.353/.435 hitter and is approaching 3,000 hits, currently needing 277 more to achieve the milestone. Last season, playing with the Tampa Bay Rays mainly as a DH, Damon hit .261, his lowest batting average since 2001.