MLB Free Agency: 10 Unsigned Players Who Could Play Big Roles in October
With every team readying themselves for a month chock full of spring training games before heading into Opening Day, a number of players find themselves elsewhere.
Many great players signed contracts with new teams this season and are working towards meshing in their new clubhouses, while others are still hanging in the balance.
Some players (like Jason Varitek) have announced retirement after great careers, while others work to stay in shape in hopes of catching on once spring training breaks and the season gets underway.
Here are some players who aren't a part of any roster right now, but may be playing in meaningful games as the year rolls on.
With a limited payroll on an annual basis, the Tampa Bay Rays have always made a living as one of the most economical teams in baseball.
This past offseason they made a big move in acquiring both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, although only half of that proposition worked out.
Damon's pursuit of the 3,000-hit mark appears to be an issue with his free agent status, but he's too good of a player to not provide some value for the right team in 2012.
Having appeared in relief on more than 400 occasions throughout his eight-year career, Michael Wuertz is certainly a consistent arm out of the bullpen.
His career ERA is a solid 3.71 and the right-hander has averaged better than one strikeout per inning during that span.
He battled injuries in 2011 and made only seven appearances, but could quite possibly still be targeted by competitors planning on making a run in October.
During a short stint in Pittsburgh after coming over from Baltimore this past summer, Derrek Lee proved that he still has some life left in this league.
He batted .337 in the 28 games he played, hitting seven home runs and driving in 18 runs.
As he continues to age, his ability to sign an extended deal has decreased, so finding a deal once a team determines a need coming out of spring training or towards the summer appears to be the more likely option.
A number of big name pitchers changed teams this offseason, with players like C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez all finding new teams for the 2012 season.
The 35-year-old right-hander went 13-11 with a 3.69 ERA in 32 starts with the Marlins in 2011, and despite some reports that he could be considering retirement, he could be a valuable veteran presence once again for a contender should he decide to make a return.
After spending the first seven years of his major league career playing for the New York Yankees, Hideki Matsui had two All-Star appearances, a World Series title and a World Series MVP trophy to his name.
He spent the past two years on the West Coast, playing for the Los Angeles Angels in 2010 and Oakland Athletics last year.
Matsui averaged 16 home runs and 78 RBI over the past two seasons, and seems willing to wait for a team to come to him once spring training closes out and the season gets under way.
With Kelly Shoppach signing a contract with the Boston Red Sox, Jason Varitek became well aware that his time with the Sox is over.
He recently announced his retirement from baseball, but given professional athletes' tendencies to make return trips to the sports they've loved for so long, Varitek just might be able to be pulled back in if the right team needs a seasoned veteran like him to provide a presence in the clubhouse.
Vladimir Guerrero's 29 home runs and 115 RBI with the Texas Rangers in 2010 should have been enough to warrant an extension for at least another season.
His price proved to be too high for the Rangers, so he moved on to Baltimore, where he kept up a respectable batting average but saw his power numbers drop significantly.
They may not climb back up in 2012 should he end up with another team, but he definitely has enough to contribute to a contending team in some capacity.
A six-time All-Star, Magglio Ordonez entered this offseason as a type-B free agent, though he has yet to catch on with a team to this point.
The career .309 hitter took a step back in 2011, batting only .255 and playing in under 100 games for the second straight season.
Still, at 38 there's a very good chance he could catch on with a team as they identify a need during the season, although Ordonez has indicated he's not willing to sign a minor league deal.
There's very little doubt that the play of J.D. Drew certainly declined since his best years with the BoSox.
He averaged only 57 RBI per season during his five-year, $70 million contract signed in 2007, and only once batted .280 during that span, a number he had only dipped below once since 2000.
In spite of his recent decision to retire, Drew has contributed to a number of postseason teams and could fit in on one again in 2012 if he can be pulled back in.
Roy Oswalt isn't with a team so far as spring training games are about to get underway, but that in no way means he's looking to hang up his cleats.
He was the topic of much discussion this offseason and was tied to a number of teams, but it now appears Oswalt is waiting to see how things shake out and may not sign with a team until midseason.
Whoever does sign him will be getting the best available free agent, and a pitcher who has notched eight seasons with at least 13 wins and has a career 3.21 ERA.