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MLB Free Agents 2013: Position-by-Position Rankings

Joel ReuterFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 24, 2016

MLB Free Agents 2013: Position-by-Position Rankings

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    The upcoming free-agent class lacks the superstar power of last year's class, which was headlined by two of the game's top sluggers in Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, as well as batting title winner Jose Reyes and a number of other impact stars.

    However, it is not without potential multimillion-dollar contracts, with marquee names like Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and Angels pitcher Zack Greinke. Guys like Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn could also command big-money deals.

    The class obviously goes beyond those four names though, so here is a look at the entire free-agent pool with complete position-by-position rankings for every 2013 MLB free agent.

Catcher

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    Starters

    1. Mike Napoli
    2. A.J. Pierzynski
    3. Russell Martin

    It is not often that three starting-caliber catchers hit the free-agent market, as they are a rare commodity and are generally retained by their teams or traded and re-signed before they hit the market.

    Napoli, who came back to Earth after a breakout 2011 season, has the best chance at landing a long-term contract, as he is still just 30 years old and has hit 20 or more home runs in each of the past five seasons.

    Beyond him, veterans Pierzynski and Martin should both still have a few good years in them, and with Pierzynski coming off of the best season of his career, he could command top dollar.

    My guess, however, is that they both wind up re-upping with their current teams.

     

    Backups/Minor League Invitees

    4. Kelly Shoppach
    5. David Ross
    6. Gerald Laird
    7. Yorvit Torrealba
    8. Humberto Quintero
    9. Brian Schneider 
    10. Ronny Paulino
    11. Koyie Hill
    12. Wil Nieves  

    Shoppach and Ross both have plus offensive skills and should have no problem landing jobs. Laird was big for the Tigers this past season, hitting .282 over 174 at bats while Alex Avila battled injury, and the Tigers will likely look to bring him back.

    Beyond those three, my guess is the remaining guys have to win a spot on a big league club this spring.

     

    Players With Options

    1. Brian McCann ($12 million, $500K buyout)
    2. Carlos Ruiz ($5 million, $500K buyout)
    3. Miguel Olivo ($3 million, $750K buyout)
    4. Rod Barajas ($3.5 million, no buyout)
    5. Jose Molina ($1.5 million, $300K buyout)
    6. Chris Snyder ($4 million, $500K buyout)
    7. Henry Blanco ($1.24 million, mutual option)
    8. Matt Treanor ($950K, $150K buyout) 

    Even after suffering through the worst offensive season of his career, don't expect the Braves not to pick up their option on McCann.

    Ruiz should be a no-brainer pick-up as well after he posted the best offensive season of his career, and he's a steal at $5 million.

    After those two, my guess is the remaining guys are all bought out, with Molina and Blanco standing the best chance of having their options picked up.

First Base

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    Starters

    1. Carlos Pena
    2. James Loney

    After seeing superstars Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder hit the market last offseason, this year's crop of free-agent first basemen is certainly a different story.

    You know what you're getting with Pena at this point: a guy who hits .200 with decent power, a good on-base percentage and solid defense at first base. My guess is he stays with the Rays and takes a slight pay cut from the $7.25 million he made last season.

    Loney, traded to the Red Sox in the August blockbuster, is still only 29 and could be a bargain pickup in the right situation. He could also slip to the next tier and wind up a backup/platoon player.

     

    Backups/Minor League Invitees

    3. Lance Berkman
    4. Carlos Lee
    5. Casey Kotchman
    6. Lyle Overbay 
    7. Xavier Nady
    8. Eric Hinske
    9. Jason Giambi 

    After battling injuries all season and playing in just 32 games, my guess is that 36-year-old Berkman retires. If he does decide to return, it seems unlikely anyone will be willing to rely on him as an everyday player at this point.

    Lee still has some offensive skills and could be a low-cost DH option for an AL team (perhaps in a return to the Astros?).

    Kotchman and Overbay are both limited offensively, and will need to land in the right situation to see any playing time.

    Nady and Hinske have proved to be two of the league's better pinch-hitters and role players of late, while Giambi will likely either return to the Rockies or hang it up at the age of 41.


    Players With Options

    1. Adam LaRoche ($10 million mutual, $1 million buyout)
    2. Mark Reynolds ($11 million, $500K buyout)
    2. Aubrey Huff ($10 million, $2 million buyout)
    3. Ty Wigginton ($4 million, $500K buyout)

    Huff will be a no-brainer buyout for the Giants, and with the Phillies heading towards a good deal of roster turnover and rebuilding, my guess is Wigginton is bought out as well.

    Reynolds, on the other hand, may have his option picked up by the O's after a terrific final month of the season.

    LaRoche is perhaps the most interesting option candidate of the year, as he and the Nationals both have reasons to decline their end of the mutual option. The Nationals could easily slide Michael Morse into first base and shop for a corner outfielder, while LaRoche could look net a multi-year deal coming off of a 33 HR, 100 RBI season.

    My guess is the Nationals exercise their end and LaRoche declines his. 

Second Base

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    Starters

    1. Marco Scutaro
    2. Kelly Johnson

    As usual, it's slim pickings at second base this season—that is unless the Yankees decline their option on Robinson Cano (they won't).

    Scutaro was quietly one of the best pickups of the deadline, as he hit .362 BA with three homers and 44 RBI while posting a 2.1 WAR in 61 games with the Giants after coming over from the Rockies. He should have no trouble finding a multi-year deal.

    Johnson, re-signed by the Blue Jays to a one-year, $6.38 million deal last offseason, once again provided solid power for the position (16 HR, 55 RBI) but little else. Still, he'd represent an upgrade for a number of teams.

     

    Backups/Minor League Invitees

    3. Freddy Sanchez
    4. Jeff Keppinger
    5. Jeff Baker
    6. Ryan Theriot
    7. Adam Kennedy
    8. Orlando Hudson
    9. Mike Fontenot

    Sanchez has a chance to be one of the steals of the free-agent class, as he will likely sign for a bargain one-year deal after missing the last season and a half with various injuries. At 34, no one will trust him to be their everyday starter to open the season, but he could easily wind up in that role.

    From there, many of these guys are interchangeable role players who will likely fill the role of utility infielder wherever they wind up.

     

    Option Players

    1. Robinson Cano ($15 million, $2 million buyout)

    The Yankees will exercise their option on Cano, end of story. The two sides could look to knock out an extension this coming offseason, as the superstar is set to hit free agency after next year.

Shortstop

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    Starters

    None

    The free-agent class at shortstop is virtually nonexistent, with the only real starting options coming in the form of players who could have their options declined. Stephen Drew will almost certainly be a free agent, but more on that ahead.

     

    Backups/Minor League Invitees

    1. Alex Gonzalez
    2. Yuniesky Betancourt
    3. Ronny Cedeno 
    4. Jason Bartlett
    5. Cesar Izturis
    6. Jack Wilson

    Betancourt has decent pop and Gonzalez has a solid glove. Bartlett could be viewed as a bounce-back candidate after a disastrous two years with the Padres, but no one bothered to sign him after San Diego released him in August and he'll likely have to earn a job this spring.

     

    Option Players

    1. Jhonny Peralta ($6 million, $500K buyout)
    2. Stephen Drew ($10 million mutual, $1.35 million buyout)

    The A's will almost certainly decline their $10 million option on Drew, but he has been solid since coming over in an August trade and the team could look to bring him back on a more reasonable contract.

    Peralta had a down year, but the Tigers will likely exercise his option anyway, as they have no real in-house option and there aren't better choices on the market. 

Third Base

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    Starters

    1. Scott Rolen

    Rolen's days as an All-Star are likely behind him, as are his days with the Reds since Todd Frazier is ready to step into an everyday role. At 37, he still plays a solid third base, and if he decides to play another year, he should be able to find a team willing to offer him a platoon role at the hot corner.

     

    Backups/Minor League Invitees

    2. Eric Chavez
    3. Brandon Inge
    4. Maicer Izturis
    5. Mark DeRosa 
    6. Miguel Cairo
    7. Jose Lopez 
    8. Geoff Blum 

    The Yankees got more than they expected out of Chavez this season, and if he does not retire they will likely look to bring him back as an insurance option for the aging Alex Rodriguez

    Inge saw his numbers improve significantly after leaving Detroit, and he could find a guaranteed contract from someone looking for third base help.

    Izturis has been one of the league's better utility players the last few seasons and will likely fill that role again.

    The other guys will have to earn their ways onto a roster, though Cairo could find a major league deal. Cairo has the baseball IQ of a future manager, and is an asset without ever setting foot on the field.


    Option Players

    1. David Wright ($16 million, $1 million buyout)
    2. Kevin Youkilis ($13 million, $1 million buyout)
    3. Placido Polanco ($5.5 million mutual, $1 million buyout) 

    The Mets will exercise their option on Wright and begin looking to extend their superstar's contract, but if they are unable to he could be the prize of next season's trade deadline.

    Youkilis will have his option declined despite a solid run with the White Sox, while Polanco may not be deemed worthy of $5.5 million at this point and could be cut loose as well.

Left Field

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    Starters

    1. Josh Hamilton
    2.  Delmon Young
    3. Melky Cabrera

    Hamilton is the premiere hitter on the market this offseason, and it seems fairly possible he could be playing elsewhere in 2013, though Texas will at least attempt to retain him.

    Young has never lived up to his hype as a former No.1 overall pick, but he does have solid offensive skills with 18 HR and 74 RBI. At only 27, there is still time for him to take another step.

    The biggest question mark of the offseason may well be Cabrera, who was headed for a huge payday before a positive PED test ended in a season-long suspension. Now one has to wonder who the real Cabrera is, the All-Star of 2012 or the borderline starter he was with the Braves in 2010.

     

    Backups/Minor League Invitees

    4. Juan Pierre
    5. Scott Hairston
    6. Andruw Jones

    7. Jonny Gomes
    8. Austin Kearns 

    Pierre worked his way up from a minor league contract with the Phillies into fairly regular playing time, as he finished the year with a .307 average and 37 steals over 394 at bats. That could be enough to earn him a big league deal in 2013, despite being 35.

    Hairston could actually earn a multi-year deal, as he had a terrific season in 2012 with 20 HR and 57 RBI over just 377 at bats. He's one of the best platoon players in the game, with an .867 OPS and 11 home runs against left-handed pitching.

     

    Option Players

    1. Ryan Ludwick ($5 million mutual, $500K buyout)
    2. Juan Rivera ($4 million, $500K buyout) 

    After a .239 BA, 12 HR, 34 RBI first half, it looked like there was no chance the Reds would pick up Ludwick's option, but he rallied with a .309 BA, 14 HR, 46 RBI and .959 OPS in the second half and now he appears to be a relative bargain at $5 million next season.

    Rivera will almost certainly be bought out.

Center Field

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    Starters

    1. Michael Bourn
    2. B.J. Upton
    3. Angel Pagan
    4. Shane Victorino 

    Bourn has emerged as perhaps the best leadoff hitter in the game in recent years, and he is headed for a big payday as a result. The Braves will make a run at re-signing him, but they will be competing with a ton of teams for his services moving forward.

    Upton remains as physically skilled as any player in the game, though his production has not reflected that throughout his career.

    Pagan enjoyed a breakout year in 2012, and the Giants will try hard to re-sign him, while anyone signing Victorino will bank on him returning to form. He picked a bad time to have a down season, but is still just 31 years old.

     

    Backups/Minor League Invitees

    5. Grady Sizemore
    6. Reed Johnson
    7. Marlon Byrd
    8. Rick Ankiel

    Until he retires, teams will likely continue to take a chance on Sizemore with one-year deals, and if he can ever stay healthy he still has time to be a productive player. That said, he's not one to rely on as an everyday player at this point.

    The other guys are nothing more than fourth outfielders at this point, though they each bring something different to a team's bench and should be able to find a big league job.

     

    Option Players

    1. Curtis Granderson ($15 million, $2 million buyout)

    Granderson has seemingly sacrificed average for power in reaching the 40 HR mark the past two seasons, but there is no reason for the Yankees not to pick up his option as they start to decide whether or not to lock him up long-term.

Right Field

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    Starters

    1. Nick Swisher
    2. Cody Ross
    3. Torii Hunter
    4. Ichiro Suzuki

    Swisher will be an interesting candidate this offseason, as reports have indicated that he could be seeking a contract in the neighborhood of the $126 million deal Jayson Werth earned (h/t Jon Heyman).

    Ross has set himself up for a multi-year deal, and the Red Sox could look to bring him back after a strong 22 HR, 81 RBI season as they begin to retool their roster.

    Hunter has indicated he'll take less money to stay in Los Angeles (h/t LA Times), while Ichiro no doubt boosted his stock with a strong showing since being dealt to the Yankees. It will be interesting to see where he wraps up his Hall of Fame-worthy career.


    Backups/Minor League Invitees

    5. Matt Diaz
    6. Kosuke Fukudome

    Diaz and Fukudome are nothing more than fourth outfielders at this point, and Fukudome could very well retire and return to Japan after being released by both the White Sox and Yankees last season.

     

    Option Players

    None

Designated Hitter

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    Starters

    1. David Ortiz
    2. Raul Ibanez

    It's tough to imagine Ortiz playing anywhere but Boston at this point, and after signing a one-year, $14.58 million deal last offseason, the Red Sox could look to bring back again on a one-year deal. He hit .318 with 23 HR and 60 RBI over just 90 games.

    He'll have to prove his Achilles injury is healed before they shell out that kind of money again.

    Ibanez, who's now 40 years old, continues to produce offensively. He enjoyed a solid year (240 BA, 19 HR, 62 RBI) and proved a bargain on a one-year, $1.1 million deal.

     

    Backups/Minor League Invitees

    3. Jim Thome
    4. Bobby Abreu
    5. Johnny Damon
    6. Hideki Matsui 

    These four veterans may have reached the end of their impressive careers, though if they decide to return they should be able to find clubs willing to give them a minor league invite.

     

    Option Players

    1. Luke Scott ($6 million, $1 million buyout)
    2. Travis Hafner ($13 million, $2.75 million buyout) 

    The Indians will be happy to be out from under Hafner's contract, as he will no doubt be bought out.

    The Rays could at least entertain the idea of returning Scott, but will likely look for other, cheaper options.

Right-Handed Starters

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    Rotation Locks

    1. Zack Greinke
    2. Kyle Lohse
    3. Edwin Jackson 
    4. Ryan Dempster 
    5. Hiroki Kuroda 
    6. Brandon McCarthy 
    7. Anibal Sanchez
    8. Shaun Marcum 

    Greinke is the prize of the free-agent class on the pitching end, and should have no problem finding someone willing to give him a $100 million contract to front their rotation.

    From there, everyone in this group has their questions. Lohse enjoyed the best season of his career at the age of 33 and will likely look for a raise over his $11.875 million salary in 2012.

    Jackson will again be looking for a multi-year deal after settling for a one-year contract last offseason. Dempster and Kurdoa are getting on in years and McCarthy has flashed ace stuff over the past two seasons, but struggles to stay on the field.

     

    Fifth Starters/Minor League Invitees

    9. Jeremy Guthrie
    10. Kevin Correia
    11. Aaron Cook
    12. Joe Blanton 
    13. Bartolo Colon
    14. Chien-Ming Wang
    15. Kevin Millwood
    16. Jason Marquis
    17. Carl Pavano
    18. Derek Lowe
    19. Chris Young
    20. Carlos Zambrano
    21. Roy Oswalt
    22. Daisuke Matsuzaka
    23. Freddy Garcia
    24. Rich Harden
    25. Kip Wells 

    Veteran starters always find their way into minor league camps, and there are always a handful who pitch their way into rotation spots. Kevin Millwood did it last season and wound up sticking in the Mariners rotation all year.

    Guthrie pitched really well after being traded to Kansas City (14 GS, 5-3, 3.16 ERA) and may have played his way into a guaranteed deal, but beyond him all of these guys are rotational depth at best.

     

    Option Players

    1. R.A. Dickey ($5 million, $300K buyout)
    2. Jake Peavy ($22 million, $4 million buyout)
    3. James Shields ($9 million, $1.5 million buyout)
    4. Tim Hudson ($9 million, $1 million buyout)  
    5. Dan Haren ($15.5 million, $3.5 million buyout) 
    6. Ervin Santana ($13 million, $1 million buyout) 
    7. Gavin Floyd ($9.5 million, no buyout) 
    8. Scott Feldman ($9.25 million, $600K buyout)
    9. Scott Baker ($9.25 million, no buyout) 
    10. Roberto Hernandez ($9 million, no buyout) 

    Dickey, Shields and Hudson will surely have their options picked up, but the rest of this group could be hitting the open market.

    Peavy, despite his resurgent season in 2012, will likely have his excessive $22 million option declined. Haren may be the biggest question, as he's certainly capable of pitching up to $15.5 million worth of value but did not last season.

    Santana, Feldman, Baker and Hernandez will decline for sure, while the White Sox will have a tough decision to make with Floyd at $9.5 million.

Left-Handed Starters

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    Rotation Locks

    1. Joe Saunders

    Saunders proved to be a solid pickup for the Orioles down the stretch, going 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts, including a strong starting performance in the wild-card playoff game in which he allowed just one run in 5.2 innings of work.

     

    Fifth Starters/Minor League Invitees

    2. Francisco Liriano
    3. Jeff Francis
    4. Erik Bedard
    5. Jonathan Sanchez
    6. Randy Wolf
    7. Jamie Moyer 

    Liriano may be able to secure a major league deal on potential alone, but he was a big disappointment in a contract year. Left-handers have a way of finding themselves jobs, and all of these guys will likely wind up pitching somewhere in 2013.

    Moyer is the big question mark, though my guess is someone at least takes a shot on him for the publicity that comes along with it.

     

    Option Players

    1. Paul Maholm ($6.5 million, $500K buyout)
    2. Jorge De La Rose ($11 million, $1 million buyout)

    Maholm was solid enough in 2012 that the Braves will likely pick up his option, while De La Rosa missed most of the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and will likely be bought out of his big $11 million option.

Right-Handed Relievers

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    Closers

    1. Mariano Rivera
    2. Jonathan Broxton 
    3. Francisco Rodriguez 
    4. Jose Valverde 

    Rivera's free agency is nothing more than a formality, as he will either re-sign with the Yankees or retire.

    Broxton was closing at an All-Star level before being traded from the Royals to the Reds, with 23 saves and a 2.27 ERA. He's been a reliable setup man in Cincinnati, and should be able to find a multi-year deal in either role.

    K-Rod will likely get back to closing after setting up John Axford in Milwaukee for the last year and a half, while Valverde may have hit the end of the line as a legitimate ninth inning guy. If nothing else, he will have to settle for substantially less than the three-year, $23 million deal that just expired.

     

    Setup Men

    1. Mike Adams 
    2. Luis Ayala
    3. Jason Grilli
    4. Joel Peralta
    5. Brandon Lyon
    6. Brandon League
    7. Jon Rauch  
    8. Ramon Ramirez
    9. Francisco Cordero

    Adams is the best setup man in baseball, and he could get the biggest contract of any reliever on the market this offseason. The Rangers will no doubt look to retain him, but there will be a number of teams vying for his services.

    The rest of the guys on this list have proved to be reliable veterans, with Ayala (66 G, 2.64 ERA) and Grilli (64 G, 2.91 ERA) in particular boosting their stock with solid seasons. All of these guys should be able to land major league deals.

     

    Middle Relievers

    1. Shawn Camp
    2. Chad Durbin
    3. LaTroy Hawkins
    4. Jason Frasor 
    5. Juan Cruz
    6. Jamey Wright
    7. Kyle Farnsworth
    8. Clay Hensley
    9. Kevin Gregg
    10. Mark Lowe 
    11. Chad Qualls 

    Camp inked a minor league deal with the Cubs last offseason and wound up leading the league appearances with 80, posting a 3.59 ERA. 

    Durbin was also impressive in a deep Braves bullpen, making 76 appearances and posting a 3.10 ERA. Beyond him, all of these guys have been viable relievers throughout their careers and should be in line for big league deals in the right situations.


    Swingmen

    1. Brett Myers
    2. Carlos Villanueva

    3. Vicente Padilla
    4. Miguel Batista 
    5. Livan Hernandez 

    Myers spent the past season pitching in relief, closing for the Astros and setting up for the White Sox, but he has proven capable of being a solid starter during his career as well and could return to that role.

    Villanueva proved vital for the Blue Jays this season after a number of their starters went down with injuries, as he moved from the bullpen to rotation and made 16 starts. He was better as a reliever, but has proven a capable starter and that versatility should make him an attractive option.

    The other three guys are all aging veterans who would no doubt prefer to start, but may have to settle on bullpen spots to continue their careers.

     

    Option Players

    1. Fernando Rodney ($2.5 million, $250K buyout)
    2. Rafael Soriano ($14 million, $1.5 million buyout)
    3. Grant Balfour ($4.5 million, $350K buyout)
    4. J.J. Putz ($6.5 million, $1.5 million buyout)
    5. Joakim Soria ($8 million, $750K buyout)
    6. Ryan Madson ($11 million mutual, $2.5 million buyout)
    7. Octavio Dotel ($3.5 million, $500K buyout)
    8. Matt Capps ($6 million, $250K buyout)
    9. Matt Lindstrom ($4 million, $200K buyout) 
    10. Todd Coffey ($2.5 million, $300K buyout) 
    11. Jose Contreras ($2.5 million, $500K buyout) 

    Rodney was arguably the best closer in baseball this season, and he'll be a steal at $2.5 million next season. Balfour and Putz are both relatively inexpensive and have proved reliable, so they should have their options picked up as well.

    Soriano will likely opt out of his contract and look to negotiate a long-term deal with the Yankees before hitting the open market.

    Soria and Madson both missed the entire 2012 season with injuries, so it's likely that their options will be declined, as will Capps' $6 million option on the rebuilding Twins. The rest of the group is relatively inexpensive, so it's a toss-up as to whether they'll be retained.

Left-Handed Relievers

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    Closers

    None

    Jeremy Affeldt has split time as the Giants' closer this season, and Mike Gonzalez and Brian Fuentes both have significant experience in the ninth inning role, but they'll be signed to setup rather than closer roles this season.

     

    Setup Men

    1. Jeremy Affeldt
    2. Mike Gonzalez
    3. J.P. Howell
    4. Brian Fuentes 

    Coming off of a three-year, $14 million contract, Affeldt has done nothing to diminish his value and should get a similar contract this time around. The Giants will no doubt try their best to retain him, as he's proved to be an important cog in their bullpen.

    The other three guys will likely find homes based simply on the fact that they're proven left-handed options, something that is always in demand.

     

    Middle Relievers

    1. Randy Choate
    2. Tim Byrdak 
    3. Will Ohman 
    4. Hisanori Takahashi 

    Choate joined the Dodgers as part of the Hanley Ramirez trade, and he's been one of the game's best lefty specialists throughout his career. The other three will compete for big league jobs this spring.

     

    Option Players

    1. Sean Burnett ($3.5 million, $250K buyout)
    2
    . Darren Oliver ($3 million, $500K buyout)
    3. Pedro Feliciano ($4.5 million, no buyout)

    Burnett (70 G, 2.38 ERA) was a vital part of the Nationals' terrific pitching staff this season and is a shoe-in to have his option picked up.

    Oliver, despite being 41 years old, was fantastic again this season with a 2.06 ERA in 62 appearances. Feliciano has not pitched at the big league level since signing a two-year, $8 million deal with the Yankees, and they'll be happy to be rid of his contract this offseason.

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