MLB Free Agency 2012: Predictions for Where 11 Remaining Free Agents Will Land
Though the remaining unsigned free agents are linked to numerous clubs, it's always fun to speculate which one they will end up with.
From Derrek Lee to Roy Oswalt, the free agents on this list are grizzly veterans on the decline. Old age, bad ankles and deteriorating batting averages could force some into retirement.
But most have something left to offer, even if a small amount. It just depends on if there's a team out there willing to take the chance.
Here's a look at 11 free agents and their predicted 2012 destinations.
Thirty-six-year-old first baseman Derrek Lee has already stated retirement is a consideration at this point. But because he hasn't made it official, he's still worth a speculation.
Last season, Lee hit .267, 19 home runs and 59 RBI with the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates. But there's more to the story than the .267 batting average tells.
After hitting just .246, Baltimore traded him to the Pirates where he hit .337 and seven home runs in 18 games.
It might not be much, but he's still got something left in the tank.
Predicted Destination: Chicago Cubs
Bryan LaHair is the current starter at first base, with Anthony Rizzo waiting in the wings. If the Cubs don't feel sold on LaHair as an everyday starter and Rizzo needs more time in the minor leagues, Lee makes sense.
Lee was a .298 hitter in Chicago and is a lifetime .283 hitter in the National League.
New Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was surely hired to blow things up and rebuild. But bringing in Lee could provide veteran reliability and a mentor to the younger options.
It'd also be a nice touch to send him off in a Cubs uniform where he spent the majority of his career, in his most productive years.
Johnny Damon has been in the league for 17 seasons, all of them in the American League.
At 38 with diminishing skills and a terrible arm, there's no reason to believe 2012 will be the first year Damon enters the National League.
At this point he'll hit in the .255 to .275 range with 16 home runs and 70 RBI. He's a serviceable option for teams in need of a DH and a possible fourth outfielder.
Predicted Destination: Cleveland Indians
Current DH Travis Hafner has averaged 91 games in the last four seasons. Center fielder Grady Sizemore averaged 70 games in the last three seasons.
Damon could spell either one and hit just as well. He just has to wait until the inevitable spot opens up.
DH and outfielder Hideki Matsui won't sign anywhere until Johnny Damon leaves the market.
Matsui's batting average has steadily dipped in the last four seasons, as have his home runs and RBI. Last year his fielding percentage in the field was .982.
Predicted Destination: Baltimore Orioles
With Wilson Betemit likely to pursue the spot of DH, there's murmurs the Orioles are quietly searching for other options. Signing Matsui would lend a bat of equal caliber and put the Japanese born player back in the AL East where he spent the majority of his career.
With most clubs hesitant over Magglio Ordonez' ankle injury, he's going to have a very difficult time finding a job. Like the last two players, he's been reduced to DH duties.
Ordonez' unwillingness to accept a minor league role proves his chances to be even more slim.
Predicted Destination: Retirement
Maybe the Tampa Bay Rays if their DH struggles or goes down with injury. But it's unlikely.
In 2010, Aaron Miles signed a minor league deal with the St. Louis Cardinals and earned his way to the Cardinals' bench with a .281 average.
In 2011, Miles began the season with another minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He once again found his way to the big league club and hit .275.
He's got no power and doesn't steal bases. But he'd be a perfect fit for an NL team in need of a reliable pinch-hitter, as he has been the last few years.
Predicted Destination: Philadelphia Phillies
Miles would be drawn in more by a contender. The Phillies need infield depth.
Why the Baltimore Orioles didn't re-sign Vladimir Guerrero is beyond me.
Guerrero hit .290 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI. These are more than respectable numbers for a 37-year-old player.
"Bad Vlad" wanted to play for the New York Yankees, but with the recent signing of Raul Ibanez, New York is no longer a destination.
Like many others on the list, he's relegated to DH duties and all of the DH slots are filling up. But there is one team that could decide against their current incumbent.
Predicted Destination: Minnesota Twins
Guerrero could make sense with the Twins. There are a lot of young players who could lean on Guerrero for hitting advice and technique. If Ryan Doumit does not prevail as a quality DH, Guerrero would fill the slot perfectly.
Utility infielder Felipe Lopez had an absolutely awful season in 2011, hitting .206 in 48 games.
Fortunately for Lopez, he's one of the younger free agent options at 31 and can play all over the infield.
It'd take a desperate team lacking depth.
Predicted Destination: Atlanta Braves
At this point, unless anyone previously considered to start in the minors truly shines during spring training, the Braves need depth around the horn.
Last season Ivan Rodriguez hit just .218 in 44 games. Injury sidelined Pudge for most of the season, however.
In the three seasons prior, Rodriguez bounced around between .249 and .276.
He's no longer a starter, there's no arguing that. But it's more than plausible he can still hit .250 and spell a squad's starting catcher every once in awhile.
Predicted Destination: Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays will depend on Jose Molina as the primary catcher. He's caught 100 games once in 12 years. The Rays need a reliable game-caller to both break Molina and provide effectiveness behind the plate for the young pitching staff.
Javier Vazquez was supposed to make an official decision last December regarding his future. Three months later, Vazquez still hasn't informed anyone of his future plans.
There's speculation linking Vazquez to a few contending AL teams who could use him as a fourth or fifth starter in the rotation.
The Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Angels appear set in their rotation. The Texas Rangers wanted Roy Oswalt to pitch from the bullpen, so they're standing pat on their starters as well.
Predicted Destination: Retirement
If Vazquez wanted to pitch still, he would have said something by now. The baseball season is already in the thick of spring training when most teams would want to have a look at him. Most contenders have their rotations already aligned with options in place behind them.
Arguably the best left-handed reliever left on the market, it's no wonder Mike Gonzalez has been linked to about a half dozen teams.
It all comes down to Gonzalez.
The Texas Rangers wanted to bring him back on a minor league deal, but he declined.
Other teams are interested but may not be able to provide much in dollar figures. Gonzalez is a Scott Boras client, so turning down a low offer wouldn't be shocking.
Predicted Destination: Chicago White Sox
If the Rangers traded Koji Uehara as planned, Gonzalez would be a Ranger. The trade didn't happen and doesn't look like it will before the trade deadline. The White Sox are in play as recently as last Wednesday for Gonzalez and Arthur Rhodes. Rhodes is cheaper but almost a decade older.
So far pitcher Roy Oswalt has made two things clear: He's open to waiting until midseason to return and he wants to pitch as close as possible to his Mississippi home.
In Oswalt's case, the team most desperate to secure a playoff spot will be the team that throws the most money at him.
Linked to the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, each fit his requirements.
The Rangers and Red Sox likely will be competing for one of the last wild-card spots. The Cardinals, in their first season without Albert Pujols, still have a dangerous team on both sides of the ball.
Predicted Destination: Texas Rangers
With so many question marks in the rotation revolved around Yu Darvish's arrival and Neftali Feliz' transition from bullpen to rotation, Oswalt could be the midseason security blanket the Rangers need in case anyone falters.