MLB Free Agency: Creating a 25-Man Roster of the Top Offseason Targets
With each season in Major League Baseball comes a new crop of free agents. This year's class features a group that isn't necessarily top-heavy with elite talent. However, it's a group that is diverse in nature.
In previous free-agent classes, a 25-man team could have been assembled that would rival that of any team in baseball for sure. This year's class is no different.
We will attempt to assemble a roster that features the top talent in this year's free-agent class. The roster will feature a five-man starting rotation, a full starting lineup with a designated hitter, a seven-man bullpen and four bench players.
Maybe we can present a lineup that could be worthy of a dynasty.
No. 1 Starter: Zack Greinke
I have absolutely no issues whatsoever in naming Zack Greinke as the ace of my free-agent All-Star team.
Coming off a year in which he posted a 15-5 record and 3.48 ERA, Greinke not only has the ability to shut down opposing hitters with his electric array of stuff, but he'll also eat up innings and keep his team close virtually every time out.
No. 2 Starter: Anibal Sanchez
After starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez posted a 1.77 ERA in three stellar postseason starts, he elevated his status as a pitcher worthy of pitching in pressure situations.
As the No. 2 starter on my free-agent All-Star team, Sanchez can use his excellent command and superb array of secondary pitches to complement Zack Greinke at the top of the rotation.
No. 3 Starter: Kyle Lohse
With a 30-11 record and 3.11 ERA over the last two seasons, starting pitcher Kyle Lohse has certainly earned another lucrative payday this offseason.
He also earned the spot as No. 3 starter on this list.
Lohse won't blow anyone away with his fastball, but his control and command of the strike zone rival that of any pitcher on this list.
No. 4 Starter: Hiroki Kuroda
One would be hard-pressed to find a pitcher at the age of 37 who eats a lot of innings, strikes out close to seven batters per nine innings, gives up a lot of ground balls and continues to win.
That's what free-agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda offers.
As the No. 4 starter on this particular All-Star team, Kuroda helps fill in a rotation with his experience, excellent command and ability to work out of jams.
No. 5 Starter: Brandon McCarthy
Yes, I'll gladly take starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy, despite his balky shoulder.
McCarthy saw the light during his time with the Oakland Athletics, becoming a control pitcher who limited damage during starts.
He is definitely a risk because of the shoulder history, but when healthy, there's no question he's among the elite pitchers in the majors.
Besides, this is my All-Star team—I'll have a great trainer to keep his shoulder loose and fresh.
Starting Lineup, Leadoff Hitter: Michael Bourn, CF
This year's class of free agents gives us a man who has become a prototypical leadoff hitter: center fielder Michael Bourn.
Bourn has the ability to get on base on a regular basis, is lightning quick on the basepaths and can cut loose with a power stroke from time to time.
The fact that he's a beast defensively doesn't hurt his cause either.
Starting Lineup, Batting Second: Marco Scutaro, 2B
Second baseman Marco Scutaro elevated his status with his incredible performance for the San Francisco Giants.
He was the spark plug over the final two months of the regular season as the Giants padded their lead in the NL West and securing the division title easily.
Scutaro, who hit .362 in 61 games following his trade from the Colorado Rockies, wasn't done there, however.
He collected an LCS-record 14 hits in the Giants' come-from-behind victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, and then he delivered the World Series-winning hit in the top of the 10th inning in Game 4 against the Detroit Tigers.
That's a money performance. And that performance easily puts Scutaro at second base on this list.
Starting Lineup, Hitting Third: Josh Hamilton, LF
Say what you want about free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton and his various issues. I'll still take him as my left fielder and No. 3 hitter on this list.
Why would I ignore 43 HR and 128 RBI? Or the ability to make everyone else on this list pale by comparison?
I'll work on finding the right accountability partner for Hamilton.
Starting Lineup, Hitting Fourth: Lance Berkman, DH
Maybe the wheels are a bit broken, but the man can still hit.
Lance Berkman could certainly qualify as a designated hitter, especially after seeing his lower body break down and seeing him limited to just 32 games last season.
But the bat still plays.
Starting Lineup, Batting Fifth: Adam LaRoche, 1B
In a spectacular comeback year, first baseman Adam LaRoche is looking to get paid this season after hitting 33 HR with 100 RBI and earning first-ever Gold Glove Award.
I have him batting fifth in my lineup, providing more than adequate protection for Josh Hamilton and Lance Berkman.
Starting Lineup, Batting Sixth: Mike Napoli, C
Catcher Mike Napoli had to endure a spate of injuries during the 2012 season.
He came to spring training nursing a sprained ankle suffered during the 2011 World Series and then suffered from knee and quad injuries, landing on the disabled list for over a month. As a result, his production was considerably lower than his career numbers posted in 2011.
I'm banking on Napoli returning to full health in the 2013 season. With only A.J. Pierzynksi as a quality hitting catcher on the available market, Napoli is likely to see a fat paycheck, not to mention a starting spot on this list.
Starting Lineup, Batting Seventh: Nick Swisher, RF
When it comes to the regular season, right fielder Nick Swisher is good for somewhere around 25-28 HR and 85-90 RBI. As a free agent in a market thin on quality hitting corner outfielders, Swisher will garner attention this offseason.
I have no problem with Swisher batting seventh on this particular list. However, if my team makes the postseason, I'm inserting Ichiro Suzuki in right field.
Starting Lineup, Batting Eighth: Kevin Youkilis, 3B
Third baseman Kevin Youkilis makes this team by default—there just aren't a whole lot of quality third basemen available this offseason.
Youkilis has seen injuries take away from his production over the past three years. At one time one of the most undervalued players in baseball, Youk will have to prove in 2013 that he still has the ability to rake.
Starting Lineup, Batting Ninth: Alex Gonzalez, SS
Much like third base, the shortstop position is not well-represented in this offseason's class of free agents.
I went with Alex Gonzalez here over Stephen Drew. Gonzalez is still an outstanding defensive shortstop with the ability to hit 15-20 homers.
Drew appeared to be more comfortable during his time with the Oakland A's, but I'll take a healthy Gonzalez with some pop.
Bullpen: Rafael Soriano, Closer
With 42 saves in 46 opportunities in place of the injured Mariano Rivera last season, Rafael Soriano decided to opt out of his contract that called for $14 million in the 2013 season.
Who can blame him? With Rivera announcing his intentions to come back for one more season, Soriano certainly doesn't want to be relegated to his former setup status in the Yankees' bullpen.
He can close on my team. No problem.
Note: I did not consider Rivera—mainly because I don't see him being a free agent much longer, closing out his career with the Yankees.
Bullpen: Jonathan Broxton, Setup
Jonathan Broxton reestablished himself as a top-flight closer in 2012 while with the Kansas City Royals, posting 23 saves with a 2.27 ERA.
He also looked pretty solid as a seventh- to eighth-inning guy for the Cincinnati Reds, posting a 2.82 ERA in 25 appearances.
If the Reds attempt to move Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation, Broxton could be the main man in the bullpen for Cincinnati, provided the two can come to terms on a contract.
On this team, I'll use Broxton as my setup man and backup closer.
Bullpen: Jeremy Affeldt, Reliever
For the past three seasons, Jeremy Affeldt has established himself as one of the premier left-handed relievers in baseball.
While skeptics will point to the fact that he succeeded mainly because of pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, it's important to point out that Affeldt's ERA+ since 2009 is 139.
Throw in the fact that Affeldt threw 10.1 scoreless innings during the postseason, and you have a pitcher that's proven he's up for any challenge.
Bullpen: Mike Adams, Reliever
Over the past five seasons, Mike Adams has established himself as a reliable right-handed setup man, and he figures to get paid for that ability this offseason.
No doubt several teams will be interested in Adams' services. I know I am for this list.
Bullpen: Randy Choate, Left-Handed Specialist
Every team needs to have that one southpaw who can come into a game at any point and work on retiring a dangerous left-handed hitter.
For my team, Randy Choate is that guy.
This past season, Choate held lefties to a .158 batting average and .461 OPS.
That's what I call getting the job done.
Bullpen: Brandon Lyon, Reliever
Brandon Lyon appears to be fully recovered from his biceps surgery that cut short his 2011 season. He posted a solid 3.10 ERA in 67 appearances in the walk year of his contract.
Lyon will garner interest this offseason from teams looking for veteran relief help. I like him as a sixth- to seventh-inning guy on my team as well.
Bullpen: Brett Myers, Swingman
During his 11-year career, pitcher Brett Myers has been asked to do it all—start, spot-start, close and relieve in any situation.
On my team, he'll be asked to do the same.
It never hurts to have a pitcher with versatility. Myers can serve as an emergency starter or be asked to close, and he can do both with efficiency.
Bench: A.J. Pierzynski, Backup Catcher
A.J. Pierzynski enjoyed the finest season of his career in terms of offensive production with 27 HR and 77 RBI.
The defense may be starting to suffer as he continues to age, but Pierzynski's offensive surge this season easily puts him on the bench of this team.
Bench: B.J. Upton, OF
Center fielder B.J. Upton is only 28 years old and likely still has his prime years ahead of him. For that reason, he will be highly sought-after this offseason.
Upton blends speed with power, along with a solid glove—a perfect reason to have him on the bench of my free-agent All-Star team.
Bench: Ichiro Suzuki, OF
He may be 39 years old, but Ichiro Suzuki clearly showed during his time with the New York Yankees that he's not quite ready to be put out to pasture.
Suzuki gave Yankees manager Joe Girardi a tremendous weapon—the ability to play all three outfield positions with speed and a bat that can still hit above .300.
Bench: Maicer Izturis, Utility IF
For the 25th and final spot on my roster, I wanted a guy who could capably fill in at three different positions and who could provide enough offensive punch to get the job done.
That guy for me was utility infielder Maicer Izturis.
Izturis was Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia's go-to guy when he needed to give any of his infielders a break or to start when any of them were injured.
Izturis can field at second, third and shortstop with equal aplomb and carries a .273 lifetime average. That's the utility guy that will round out my free-agent All-Star roster.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.