Finding 1 Ideal Remaining Free Agent for Every MLB Team
The MLB offseason thus far has seen little activity in the way of free-agent signings thus far.
In addition, the Chicago Cubs inked former Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Baker to a one-year deal, and the San Francisco Giants locked up one of their own, signing reliever Jeremy Affeldt to a three-year deal.
Other than that, little movement has been seen other than a whole lot of speculation for the rest of the 150-plus free agents still looking for work.
With the dozens of free agents still unemployed, which of them would be the ideal fit for each team?
Let's take a look.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Stephen Drew
The Arizona Diamondbacks traded away shortstop Stephen Drew to the Oakland Athletics last season, mainly out of the belief that he wasn't going to be a part of their future plans.
Now, the Diamondbacks are left with a trio of players who don't hold a candle to a healthy Drew.
Willie Bloomquist, John McDonald and Cliff Pennington are the current internal candidates, and I can't imagine for one second that general manager Kevin Towers is drooling at the possibility of any of them being his everyday shortstop.
Drew was still lacking lateral mobility after the gruesome ankle injury that ended his 2011 season and kept him out of action for a full year.
If that lateral mobility returns almost two years removed from his surgery, Drew could be back to the form that led the Diamondbacks to draft him back in 2004.
Atlanta Braves: Michael Bourn
If we're really going to discuss who the perfect free agent left on the market is for each team, then the Atlanta Braves should look no further than their own backyard.
Center fielder Michael Bourn is the ideal player for the Braves. It's hard to show he wasn't what they needed last season.
Bourn is a more than solid leadoff hitter who is an excellent bunter, has blazing speed and offers tremendous defense. Seriously, why wouldn't he be the Braves' ideal candidate?
Baltimore Orioles: Zack Greinke
While the Baltimore Orioles have a need to fill at second base, they currently don't have in their possession a staff ace—that one shutdown pitcher they can absolutely count on every fifth day.
For that reason, Zack Greinke would be an ideal fit.
Greinke can certainly handle life in the American League, posting a 6-2 record and 3.53 ERA in 13 starts with the Los Angeles Angels last season.
Greinke is a horse as well, posting over 200 innings pitched in four of the last five seasons. At 29 years of age, Greinke would certainly be worth the investment, and the O's starting rotation would then have an anchor to count on.
Boston Red Sox: Mike Napoli
The Boston Red Sox will be looking to bounce back from their worst season in 47 years, and general manager Ben Cherington has just a few holes to fill.
One of those holes is at first base, and free agent Mike Napoli could be the perfect fit.
Napoli certainly offers versatility with his skill behind the plate as well, but the right-handed swing at Fenway Park could be a real weapon for an offense needing more firepower.
Chicago Cubs: Brandon McCarthy
The Chicago Cubs are on a slow rebuild, and to get to their ultimate goal, they will be prudent with their free-agent signings.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have both said that financial flexibility is there for the Cubs, but they talked about the need to be efficient with that flexibility.
“We will have financial flexibility,” Hoyer said. “We’ve been diligent to make sure we do have flexibility and we’re efficient going forward. We’ll obviously be active in the free agent market. That’s a big part of our research and work now is evaluating free agents. We have some money to spend and we’ll focus on it heavily.”
That money is more likely to be invested in more high risk/high reward guys. Starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy certainly fits that description.
McCarthy's shoulder issues have been a concern ever since his debut back in 2005, and they were certainly an issue again in 2012. He spent time on the disabled list twice with shoulder woes before ending his season after being struck by a line drive.
McCarthy also has shown himself to be a very efficient pitcher during his two seasons with the Oakland Athletics, displaying a sharp command of the strike zone to go with his 3.29 ERA.
Teams will likely shy away from committing years and big dollars to McCarthy. But for the Cubs, the risk may be well worth the reward.
Chicago White Sox: Kevin Youkilis
The Chicago White Sox declined the 2013 option on the contract of third baseman Kevin Youkilis for $13 million.
But that doesn't mean Youkilis isn't a fit for them in 2013.
The White Sox acquired Youkilis from the Boston Red Sox largely because of the lower back injury suffered by Brent Morel. There's certainly no guarantee that Morel can be the long-term answer at the hot corner for the Sox at this point.
It makes sense for the Sox to re-sign Youkilis, although certainly not at a rate above eight figures annually. Youkilis provides the support at third as well as an insurance policy for Paul Konerko at first base. It also gives manager Robin Ventura options for his lineup.
Cincinnati Reds: Michael Bourn
The biggest problem for the Cincinnati Reds in the 2012 season was their complete inability to produce anything from the leadoff spot in the batting order.
Acquiring free agent center fielder Michael Bourn certainly takes care of that need.
Bourn hit close to 70 points higher and his on-base percentage (.348) was 94 points better than all Reds leadoff hitters combined.
Signing Bourn and finding a suitor for current center fielder Drew Stubbs is the option that Reds GM Walt Jocketty should be focusing on this offseason.
Cleveland Indians: Ryan Ludwick
Left field has been a black hole for the Cleveland Indians for much of the past two seasons. One particular free agent can fill that hole—Ryan Ludwick.
Ludwick hit .275 with 26 HR and 80 RBI last season for the Cincinnati Reds. That's a far sight better than the .215 average with 11 HR and 54 RBI offered up by a collection of 10 players for the Indians in left field last season.
Colorado Rockies: Nick Swisher
The Colorado Rockies absolutely need pitching, but finding an ideal fit will be a tall task.
Another fit could be in their outfield with the addition of free agent right fielder Nick Swisher.
Swisher actually helps to fill two needs—offensive punch in the outfield and the ability to play both right field and first base. With Todd Helton vowing to return again until another substantial injury takes hold, Swisher helps to provide insurance.
The Rockies will then be armed with two very capable outfielders—Swisher and Michael Cuddyer—who are interchangeable in both the infield and outfield.
Detroit Tigers: Joe Saunders
The Detroit Tigers feature a solid starting rotation starting with one of the best in the business—Justin Verlander.
While Anibal Sanchez was a huge help to them in the postseason, his likely cost for the next few seasons is prohibitive for many teams, including the Tigers.
A less expensive option to add to the back end of the rotation just could be Joe Saunders.
Saunders has shown the ability to log quality innings while constantly pounding the strike zone. Saunders may not have the cache of other pitchers on the market, but he certainly fills a need for the Tigers behind Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister.
Houston Astros: Lance Berkman
There may be no fit that's more ideal than adding Lance Berkman to the Houston Astros.
With their move to the American League West next season, the Astros need a solid-hitting designated hitter.
As a hitter, Lance Berkman still clearly has the skills—it's the legs that aren't cooperating quite as well. It's the perfect opportunity for Berkman to return to his old team and compete at a level that's comfortable for him and his aging body.
Kansas City Royals: Jeremy Guthrie
When starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie returned to the American League with the Kansas City Royals last year, he saved his 2012 season.
Guthrie posted a 5-3 record and 3.16 ERA in 13 starts, a far cry from his miserable first half with the Colorado Rockies.
For a team desperate for solid pitching, it doesn't get much more solid than that.
Los Angeles Angels: Zack Greinke
If you have read any of my previous articles about Zack Greinke and the Los Angeles Angels, than you likely already know my stance on this one.
But I'll say it again.
Angels GM Jerry DiPoto would not have given up three top-25 organizational prospects last year for Greinke, and he wouldn't have erased the salaries of Ervin Santana, Dan Haren and Torii Hunter if he didn't think he had a better than 50/50 of signing Greinke long-term.
Greinke is the right fit for the Angels, and DiPoto is well aware of that fact.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Anibal Sanchez
The Los Angeles Dodgers have six veteran starters returning in 2013 (Clayton Kershaw, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly), yet the clear perception is that the Dodgers need pitching.
Billingley and Lilly are both returning from injury, and Billingsley's elbow is cause for concern. GM Ned Colletti will be on the hunt for reinforcements.
Anibal Sanchez could be the perfect solution.
Sanchez has been a horse since arm issues early in his career derailed his progress. With an average of 195 innings pitched the last three seasons, those issues clearly seem to be behind Sanchez now.
Money obviously is no longer an issue in LA, and Sanchez is only 28 years of age. Slotting him into the Dodgers rotation at this point clearly has them contending next season.
Miami Marlins: Kyuji Fujikawa
The Miami Marlins now have a guaranteed payroll of approximately $16 million for the 2013 season, courtesy of the mega-trade that was finalized on Monday.
Considering that they will now likely have an issue signing American players who don't want to play for an owner who reneges on promises, how about turning to Japan?
Kyuji Fujikawa was a lockdown closer in Japan who is now ready to try his hand at American baseball.
Maybe he hasn't yet heard about Jeffrey Loria.
Milwaukee Brewers: Mike Adams
The Milwaukee Brewers have developed a solid core of young starters, and they're committed to John Axford as their closer.
Now they have to work on getting the ball from their rotation to Axford.
Enter Mike Adams.
Adams is coming off surgery to repair Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, but no one has been better in relief in recent years.
From 2008-2011, Adams posted a sterling 1.71 ERA—only the great Mariano Rivera was able to match that number.
Adams would be a terrific—and likely better—replacement for the departed Francisco Rodriguez.
Minnesota Twins: Edwin Jackson
If there is one thing that Minnesota Twins GM Terry Ryan values above all else, it's fielding a team that competes day in and day out.
To that end, Ryan is on the search for affordable yet quality pitching, and he's looking for leaders. The affordable part may be hard to find, however.
If he's looking for a guy that is durable and is becoming more efficient at limiting baserunners, Edwin Jackson might be his man.
Jackson won't come cheap, likely looking for at least $12-$13 million for the next few seasons. But in a more pitcher-friendly environment in Target Field, and a strikeout rate that seems to be increasing as he gets older, Jackson could be a great fit.
New York Mets: Rafael Soriano
Other than the question of signing David Wright and R.A. Dickey to contract extensions, there's been very little activity on the part of the New York Mets this offseason.
However, one glaring need is their bullpen. Rafael Soriano would absolutely help fix that need.
Yes, Soriano will not come cheap. But with the Madoff business finally behind them, it's time for the Mets to make some bold decisions and start putting fans back in the seats at Citi Field.
Acquiring Soriano gives the Mets a fighting chance at the end of each game, and will help give fans a reason to start coming back to Citi Field.
New York Yankees: Hiroki Kuroda
The New York Yankees don't have many obvious glaring needs with the exception of the starting rotation. They will likely re-sign Andy Pettite for one more year to help fill that need, but at least one more signing will be in order.
That signing should come in the form of Hiroki Kuroda.
Kuroda's lone season in New York was a resounding success—a 16-11 record and 3.32 ERA in 33 starts.
Kuroda would sign for just one year again, and the Yankees would again be players in the ever-competitive AL East. This should be a no-brainer.
Oakland Athletics: Stephen Drew
The Oakland Athletics certainly showed the baseball world that they were for real in 2012. A's general manager Billy Beane is hoping to show that 2012 was not an aberration.
Beane would like to keep his team intact as much as possible, and to that end, Stephen Drew should be the obvious choice here.
With the trade of Cliff Pennington to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the A's have no one to fill the void left behind by both Pennington and free-agent Drew. Drew appeared to be making strides in his comeback from his gruesome ankle injury in 2012, hitting .250 in 39 games following his trade from the Diamondbacks.
If Drew is completely healthy next season, there is no better shortstop on the free-agent market. He is the fit the A's need right now.
Philadelphia Phillies: B.J. Upton
I absolutely love the idea of the Philadelphia Phillies signing free agent center fielder B.J. Upton.
Upton is just reaching the prime years of his career at just 28 years of age. As a right-handed hitter, he would be a great complement in the batting order to left-handed hitters Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
He's younger and athletic, two traits that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is currently seeking for his aging ballclub.
Seems like a perfect fit to me.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Kyle Lohse
The Pittsburgh Pirates are just a couple of pieces away from finally breaking free of their long-standing record of consecutive losing seasons and becoming contenders in the National League Central Division.
One of those pieces is in the upgrading of their starting rotation, and free agent Kyle Lohse could certainly help in that regard.
With a 30-11 record and 3.11 ERA in his last two seasons, Lohse has been dominant and has the experience of pitching in the NL Central as well. Teaming with A.J. Burnett at the top of the rotation, the two veterans could be a terrific tandem that could help the Pirates finally break their string of 20 consecutive losing seasons.
San Diego Padres: Zack Greinke
Does anyone else see the San Diego Padres as major players in this offseason's free-agent market?
Armed with new ownership, the Padres have made it clear they intend to contend in the 2013 season. What better way to announce that intention with the signing of free agent pitcher Zack Greinke?
Greinke would be a great fit at Petco Park—a ground ball pitcher with a high strikeout rate and a small-market feel, a definite fit for Greinke's delicate psyche.
Can't be much better of a splash to make for the Padres than that.
San Francisco Giants: Marco Scutaro
This really should be no-brainer of all no-brainers.
Infielder Marco Scutaro was the spark that led the San Francisco Giants in the second half of the 2012 regular season.
He was the spark that helped them overcome a three games to one deficit in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals with a record-setting effort.
He was the spark that lifted the Giants to victory in the World Series with his game-winning hit in Game 4.
Like I said, an absolute no-brainer.
Seattle Mariners: Josh Hamilton
If there is one thing the Seattle Mariners absolutely need, it's offense.
Finishing last in runs scored for the past four seasons in the American League, the Mariners are desperate for run producers.
I think it's safe to say that free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton has proven himself capable of producing a few runs.
Despite the obvious issues—substance abuse history, injury history, streaky nature of play—one would be hard-pressed to find a free agent currently on the market better at producing runs than Hamilton.
St. Louis Cardinals: Scott Hairston
St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bernie Miklasz recently wrote that the needs for the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals are complementary.
I happen to agree.
One need would be for a fourth outfielder, specifically one who has the ability to generate some offense.
Scott Hairston could easily fill that need.
Hairston hit .263 with 20 HR and 57 RBI in just 377 at-bats last season for the New York Mets. He also did it at the economical price of just $1.1 million.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak could quickly fill a need at an affordable price, allowing him to use resources to take care of other complementary needs as well.
Tampa Bay Rays: Mike Napoli
The most glaring need for the Tampa Bay Rays is run producers.
The Rays are looking at filling holes both at catcher and at first base, both positions that were seriously lacking in run production in the 2012 season.
Free agent Mike Napoli can certainly help to upgrade at either position.
Napoli will be healthy after a 2012 season marred by knee and quad injuries, limiting his production to just 24 HR and 56 RBI and a .227 average.
That's still a whole lot better than what Carlos Pena delivered in a full season.
Putting a healthy Napoli in that Rays' lineup will be an upgrade worth the asking price.
Texas Rangers: Josh Hamilton
The Texas Rangers will have a huge hole to fill if free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton accepts a contract with another team this winter.
But why let that happen?
Hamilton's arrival in Texas certainly coincided with the Rangers' rise to power in the American League. The Rangers already have a support network in place for Hamilton in terms of his sobriety maintenance.
They can try to replace Hamilton's offense with stars such as B.J. Upton, Nick Swisher and others, but for just a few million more, they can retain Hamilton and continue contending for pennants and World Series championships.
The Rangers did nothing to impress anyone before the arrival of Hamilton. Why not continue the relationship and by extension continue the success?
Toronto Blue Jays: Ryan Dempster
The Toronto Blue Jays have already made themselves relevant for the 2013 season with the additions of Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and Melky Cabrera.
I'd be satisfied with just one more addition—another impact starting pitcher.
The addition of Ryan Dempster would give the Blue Jays a rotation consisting of Johnson, Buehrle, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Dempster.
Provided Romero can come back from a shaky 2012 season, that's a rotation I'll put up alongside any other in the majors.
Washington Nationals: Dan Haren
The Washington Nationals could be saying good-bye to Edwin Jackson this winter as he seeks a long-term contract from any team willing to take a chance.
To that end, a hole in the rotation will need to be filled. Dan Haren could be the right fit.
Haren suffered through back issues last season that put him on the disabled list for the first time in his career and caused a reduction in fastball velocity.
However, Haren was much better in the second half of the regular season, and if the back is indeed healthy, no one offers better durability and sharper command than Haren.
The Nationals intend on contending for years to come, and they intend to do it with a stellar pitching staff.
Haren could help provide the Nats with a solid option in the middle of the rotation every fifth day.
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.