MLB Free Agency: What's on Each Team's X-Mas List?
Today is Cyber Monday, so millions of Americans are getting their Christmas shopping done as you read this article.
Major League Baseball teams are also working on their wish lists. They all know what they want, and this is the time of year to make that happen. The free-agent market is still relatively full, and signing the right player might make all the difference next season.
Therefore, here is a list of the top free-agent priorities for every team as they head into the holiday season.
As a little note, I only listed every player one time. It would not be any fun to read an entire slideshow full of reasons why every team wants Josh Hamilton. It might be true, but I wanted to spread things around. Therefore, I gave every team one player that will fill a need that they have right now.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Randy Choate
Randy Choate is the epitome of a left-handed specialist. He appeared in a National League-leading 80 games last season, but he only pitched a grand total of 38.2 innings.
His job is simple: He is there to get left-handers out.
The Arizona Diamondbacks already traded for Heath Bell, who will hopefully bounce back and solidify the bullpen. Another solid arm from the other side would not hurt whatsoever.
Atlanta Braves: Delmon Young
Delmon Young could play left field for the Atlanta Braves and allow Martin Prado to play third base. That way, they are covered in the possibility that Juan Francisco does not become more productive at third.
Young is a career .284 hitter who averages 16 home runs and 89 RBI per season. Obviously, those numbers would be welcome in the middle of the lineup.
He does certainly have some off-the-field history, and Atlanta should proceed carefully. But if there is evidence that he is able to play a strong role on the team, this move would make a lot of sense.
Baltimore Orioles: Brandon McCarthy
Brandon McCarthy can be a top-of-the-rotation option, and the Baltimore Orioles could use a more established pitcher to upgrade their rotation.
McCarthy's 2012 season was unfortunately cut short because of injury. However, he went 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA.
The American League East would certainly be a challenge, as it is to any pitcher, but an established starter near the top of their rotation would help the Orioles stay near the top of the division.
Boston Red Sox: Josh Hamilton
Signing Josh Hamilton might not be the best move for the Boston Red Sox, but assuming that they act like almost every other big-budget team, when something doesn't work, you go out and sign the biggest free agent you can.
This is not meant to diminish Hamilton whatsoever. Last season, he hit .285 with 43 home runs and 128 RBI.
Red Sox Nation will not settle for another year that far out of the playoff picture.
Signing Hamilton would help solidify their lineup even if making the long-term investment might not be the best idea.
Chicago Cubs: Dan Haren
The Chicago Cubs need to improve many pieces of their team. And if they want to make an immediate impact, they will need to take some risks. Risky players demand less money, but if they all pay off at the same time, the results can be huge.
Dan Haren easily has the potential to return to the top of the pitching rotation. However, 2012 was arguably the worst year of his professional career, as he went 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA.
With a low year, his contract demands will probably be lower, so the Cubs could be able to add more pieces that may bring this franchise back to the top of the National League Central.
Chicago White Sox: A.J. Pierzynski
I definitely recognize that A.J. Pierzynski is getting older. At 36 years old, it is possible that his knees will eventually wear out.
However, the Chicago White Sox pitching staff was excellent last season, and the catcher is oftentimes just as important as the pitcher.
Beyond that, he hit .278 last season with 27 home runs and 77 RBI. Very few catchers can be that productive and handle a pitching staff as well as Pierzynski can.
Cincinnati Reds: Ryan Madson
The Cincinnati Reds do not have an awful lot of weaknesses, but as the old adage goes, you cannot have too much pitching.
Ryan Madson was an effective eighth-inning man for the Philadelphia Phillies, and he could fit into a similar middle relief role with Cincinnati.
Madson might want to become a closer, but after missing all of 2012 with an injury, he may need a season to prove he is healthy. Cincinnati could benefit from his talent as well.
Cleveland Indians: Grady Sizemore
Even though Grady Sizemore has suffered through a lot of injuries as a member of the Cleveland Indians, when he was healthy, he was a consistent threat to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases.
Additionally, given his injury history, his asking price will not be set too high.
When you consider his weakened bargaining position combined with the production that he has proven capable of when healthy, this would be a good move for the Indians.
Colorado Rockies: Eric Chavez
Eric Chavez saw a nice resurgence with the New York Yankees last season, hitting .281 with 16 home runs and 37 RBI.
He has always been a home run hitter. For example, while playing for the Oakland Athletics, he managed to hit 34 home runs in 2002.
I know that that was a long time ago, but he hasn't lost all of that power.
On top of that, the Rockies could use another established weapon in their lineup. It is hard to win with pitching in Colorado, so it makes sense to fill the lineup as much as possible.
Detroit Tigers: Jose Valverde
Over the past three seasons, Jose Valverde has accumulated 110 saves in a Detroit Tigers uniform. While 2012 was not his best season, he still posted a 3.78 ERA and 35 saves.
The franchise has already made an important move by signing right fielder Torii Hunter, so it now needs to make sure that the back end of the bullpen is solid.
Even though the World Series did not work out the way that the Tigers must have wanted, the fact of the matter is that they were close. If they maintain the status quo while making a few improvements, next season could easily turn out better.
Houston Astros: Mike Napoli
Mike Napoli would be a dream for the Houston Astros.
First of all, he is an effective, veteran catcher who could help shepherd their young pitching staff. Even though that type of thing does not show up in the statistics, that presence would be helpful.
Beyond that, he is always a threat to hit 30 home runs in a season. For a lineup that needs all the help it can get, adding a powerful presence would be a dream come true.
Kansas City Royals: Shaun Marcum
The Kansas City Royals might not necessarily have the finances to go after a top-of-the-rotation starter, so they need to fill their rotation with several solid if not overwhelming options.
So far, they have traded for Ervin Santana and brought back Jeremy Guthrie.
Adding Shaun Marcum would make quite a bit of sense. Last year, he went 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA. That 3.70 mark was his highest ERA since 2007.
He may not be an overwhelming pitcher, but he should be affordable and could easily put in a solid performance for the Royals.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Mike Adams
2012 was undoubtedly disappointing for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and it became incredibly obvious that they need to improve their bullpen.
As one of the most consistent relief pitchers over the past five years, Mike Adams could help with that.
Adams posted a 3.27 ERA after appearing in 61 games last season. For perspective, that was his worst complete season since 2004.
At his worst, he is still a great relief pitcher who would help the Angels fill in that void.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Zack Greinke
Former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke will easily be the most sought-after pitcher on the free-agent market this season. Even though his arrival did not help the Los Angeles Angels make the playoffs, he proves once again that he is not a one-hit wonder. He is going to continue producing.
The Los Angeles Dodgers apparently have the resources available to pursue the right-hander. They spent big at the deadline in July, and it would not be surprising to see them spend big now.
Greinke could join forces with Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett to create one of the best trios in baseball right now.
Miami Marlins: Russell Martin
Who knows what is really going on with the Miami Marlins. I'm not really sure, but if they're going to continue this type of fire-sale behavior, their pitching staff is going to be young.
Even though Russell Martin did not necessarily have the best year at the plate with the New York Yankees in 2012 (.211, 21 HR, 53 RBI), he is a fine defensive catcher who calls a good game.
At this point, Martin would probably not be a part of the Marlins in the future, but if he can help the pitchers mature while the Marlins worry about developing another catcher in the minors, he can help the franchise transition into a new era.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Dempster
The Milwaukee Brewers already have a powerful offense, but their pitching staff is not that proven beyond Yovani Gallardo.
Ryan Dempster is getting older, but he proved to be highly effective last season with the Chicago Cubs. He posted a 2.25 ERA over 16 starts before being traded.
Returning to the National League Central might bring about similar results, and it would give the Milwaukee Brewers an additional weapon with which to support their offense.
Minnesota Twins: Anibal Sanchez
With the departure of Scott Baker, the Minnesota Twins need starting pitching more than ever. However, they shouldn't just try for average options. They need someone who can solidify the top of the rotation for a long time.
Anibal Sanchez is only 29 years old. He posted a combined 3.86 ERA last year while splitting time between the Miami Marlins and the Detroit Tigers.
His ERA has been under 4.00 every year since 2008, so he is a relatively safe investment.
The Twins are trying to build a better franchise, and adding Sanchez would help make their rotation more competitive.
New York Mets: Scott Hairston
The obvious priority this winter for the New York Mets is locking down R.A. Dickey and David Wright.
However, on the free-agent market, they need to be most concerned with bringing right fielder Scott Hairston back.
Last season, he launched a career-high 20 home runs. While he is 32 years old and, stereotypically speaking, most of his improvement is behind him, he might be able to generate even more power.
As one of the only bright spots for the New York Mets in 2012, it makes sense to bring him back.
New York Yankees: Mariano Rivera
Basically, if Mariano Rivera does not return to the New York Yankees, it probably means that he retired. However, if he is going to be in Major League Baseball, the Yankees better make sure he is with them.
He is the best closer in baseball history with 892 games finished and 608 saves. Both of those numbers are all-time highs.
Even though he is 43 years old, the fact is that he is smart. He knows how to get hitters out, and until someone can handle his cut fastball, he should have a job.
Oakland Athletics: Kevin Youkilis
Kevin Youkilis is a powerful third baseman, and the Oakland Athletics could use a little bit more power.
Youkilis' time in Boston last season was somewhat forgettable, but it is worth noting that he hit 15 home runs in 80 games for the Chicago White Sox.
To extrapolate, he could hit 30 home runs in 160 games if he continued on the same pace.
The Oakland Athletics played very well last year, and they only need a little bump to get them over the top. Youkilis' power and run production could help with that.
Philadelphia Phillies: Jeff Keppinger
The Philadelphia Phillies need hitters that have a knack for getting on base, but one who doesn't necessarily cost a lot of money.
Jeff Keppinger is both of those things, and he can play third base, which will fill a gap in their lineup.
Keppinger is a career utility man with a .288 batting average. He has some power and is definitely underappreciated.
Philadelphia fans are used to major moves in the winter, but adding Keppinger makes a lot of logical sense.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Joe Blanton
Joe Blanton is a durable starting pitcher who can be counted on for a steady, average level of production.
Last season, he went a combined 10-13 with a 4.71 ERA. More importantly, though, he averaged over six innings per start.
This durability is so important that the Pittsburgh Pirates could use him to fill out the middle or bottom of their rotation. The bullpen will have more rest when he is out there, and their team might finally be able to break their streak of sub-.500 performances.
San Diego Padres: Edwin Jackson
The San Diego Padres are improving. Some of their pieces are starting to come together. Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso will create a decent core next season.
Now, they need to address their pitching staff, and adding 29-year-old Edwin Jackson would be a nice place to start.
Jackson went 10-11 last year with a 4.03 ERA while helping the Washington Nationals toward the playoffs.
He is young enough to help the Padres for a long time, but he is experienced enough to have value as a proven veteran.
San Francisco Giants: Marco Scutaro
Right now, the San Francisco Giants do not have a second baseman. But Marco Scutaro is obviously so versatile that he can play anywhere.
Last season, he played an important role with the Giants in the middle of the season and hit .306 with seven home runs and 74 RBI overall.
The Giants need to basically maintain the status quo and stay on top of the baseball world. Scutaro was vital to their success, and it is almost definite that he will be back.
Seattle Mariners: Joe Saunders
The Seattle Mariners are still rebuilding. They have some great young talent coming through the minor leagues right now, so it is particularly important for them to surround those young players with affordable veterans.
Joe Saunders has never blown away the competition, but he is definitely good enough to round out the rotation. Last season, after he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles, he posted a 3.63 ERA down the stretch.
The American League West is in such a strong position right now that the Mariners need to develop their youth with veterans to guide them along.
St. Louis Cardinals: Kyle Lohse
Kyle Lohse has come into his own as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, and it's important for St. Louis to keep him around.
Last season, he went a remarkable 16-3 with a very low 2.86 ERA. Both of those numbers were career bests.
Despite battling with some injuries last season, the Cardinals will be ready to play at full strength this season and should be able to compete for the top of the division. Keeping their best players will make that process much easier.
Tampa Bay Rays: Shane Victorino
With the imminent departure of B.J. Upton, it seems as if the Tampa Bay Rays will need a new center fielder.
Shane Victorino is coming off of a difficult season, so he will likely be available at a discount. Since the Tampa Bay Rays do not have a huge budget, it could be worthwhile to take a risk on a rebound.
If Victorino was able to get back into his 20-20 form, he could be a steal and fill in a hole for Tampa Bay. He can perform at an All-Star level at his best, and the Rays should take the risk.
Texas Rangers: Michael Bourn
If the Texas Rangers are not able to bring back Josh Hamilton, they might as well go after the next best thing.
Michael Bourn is all about speed, and he has stolen over 40 bases every year since 2007.
On a team full of power like the Texas Rangers, he could add an interesting element to the top of their lineup and put himself in run scoring opportunities.
Of course, if the Rangers can bring back Josh Hamilton, they probably will. But with such an unpredictable market, they are probably not holding their breath.
Toronto Blue Jays: Francisco Rodriguez
The Toronto Blue Jays addressed many of their weaknesses through the blockbuster with the Miami Marlins. However, it never hurts to have more pitching.
In this case, Francisco Rodriguez seems like an interesting fit.
Last season was frustrating, as he posted a 4.38 ERA over 78 games. But if he's able to get his game back, he could be one of the better relief pitchers in baseball. He is not in a very strong position to bargain for much money, but he has quite a bit of potential still.
Toronto does not want to finish near the bottom of the division, and it has made several moves this winter to ensure that that doesn't happen.
Washington Nationals: B.J. Upton
The Washington Nationals are young and exciting. With young phenoms like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, this team seems to have incredible potential.
B.J. Upton has been that center of attention. He has been expected to be the next big thing. So he would fit right into this atmosphere and would probably feel comfortable.
Beyond that, Washington does need a center fielder, and adding one who can hit between 20 and 30 home runs is not a bad thing.
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