Top 5 Available Players at Each Position Following Winter Meetings

Doug MeadCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2012

Top 5 Available Players at Each Position Following Winter Meetings

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    With the MLB winter meetings now in the rear-view mirror, the available pool of players in the 2013 MLB free-agency class has dwindled significantly.

    Dozens of players are still looking for work, and several big-ticket stars are also available for teams willing to spend.

    The breakdown by position shows a lack of depth in certain key positions, so teams looking to plug holes will have to act fast.

    The top five available free agents at each position, in some cases, resembles an All-Star cast. In others, it represents bench depth at best.

    Here is a breakdown of the top players at each position who are currently still unemployed.

Catcher

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    1. A.J. Pierzynski

    Clearly the best of this aging group, Pierzynski is still looking to cash in on a career year at the plate. But for a catcher turning 36 years old on Dec. 30, teams are understandably wary of offering more than a two-year deal.

     

    2. Kelly Shoppach

    A backup for most of his career, Shoppach offers a bit of power from the right side but is certainly not a player who will have tremendous impact.

     

    3. Miguel Olivo

    Olivo is looking for his seventh team heading into his 12th season. He plays solid defense behind the plate and has occasional pop with the bat, but teams just won't pay for a catcher who can't seem to hit above .220 anymore. There are already dozens of catchers that fit that description.

     

    4. Rod Barajas

    With an absolutely dismal year at the plate last season for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Barajas will likely be looking at providing bench depth at this point in his career.

     

    5. Henry Blanco

    Blanco has made a career out of backing up someone else. At 41 years of age, he's looking to do it one more time.

First Base

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    1. Adam LaRoche

    LaRoche wouldn't be on this list if the Washington Nationals had offered a third year on his new contract.

    However, it's possible that if the Nats offered a vesting option for that third year, LaRoche would no longer top this list.

     

    2. Nick Swisher

    Swisher is more than likely going to be playing right field for whatever team chooses to sign him, which is currently a list of five suitors.

    His versatility is certainly appealing, especially for the Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox.

     

    3. Kevin Youkilis

    The New York Yankees offered Youkilis a one-year contract to play third base in place of the injured Alex Rodriguez.

    The Cleveland Indians offered Youkilis a two-year deal, presumably to take over at first base.

    Youkilis is expected to make his decision after taking the weekend to mull over his options.

     

    4. Carlos Pena

    Thus far this offseason, there hasn't been much notable news concerning Pena.

    Pena has been linked to the Houston Astros, where he would feature more as a designated hitter with Brett Wallace tabbed for first base.

     

    5. Lance Berkman

    The Astros are apparently looking at Berkman as a DH option as they transition over to the AL West, with other teams like the Phillies seeing him as a potential first baseman. 

    A "hometown" return to Houston makes a lot of sense for an aging player like Berkman, as his body let him down a lot last year with the Cardinals and he may be re-energized as a fan favorite.

Second Base

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    1. Placido Polanco

    One has to know that if Placido Polanco tops this list, the market for free-agent second basemen is pretty thin.

    Polanco again suffered through a rash of injuries in 2012, and at 37 years of age, he's likely to serve a bench role (at best) next season.

     

    2. Ryan Theriot

    The market for Theriot has been virtually nonexistent this offseason. The San Francisco Giants have expressed interest in bringing him back, but only in a reserve role.

     

    3. Freddy Sanchez

    Sanchez last played a game in June of 2011. After suffering a dislocated right shoulder, Sanchez's 2012 season never got underway, and he had surgery to remove a disc from his back last July.

    It's safe to say that the market for Sanchez has been soft.

     

    4. Brandon Inge

    Inge was mentioned as a possible candidate for the New York Yankees after Alex Rodriguez's injury was announced. That talk has cooled considerably with the Yankees' interest in Kevin Youkilis.

     

    5. Ronny Cedeno

    Cedeno hasn't been tied to any one team in terms of interest. However, his 109 games logged at second base during his career and the solid effort he gave in a reserve role last season for the Mets should help his cause for teams looking into utility infielders.

Third Base

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    1. Kevin Youkilis

    As mentioned in an earlier slide, Youkilis is mulling over offers from the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians.

     

    2. Placido Polanco

    Polanco's back and wrist injuries have kept him from receiving any offers at this point. Not to mention the fact that his age and shrinking on-base and slugging percentages don't exactly have teams salivating.

     

    3. Scott Rolen

    Rolen has yet to decide whether or not retirement is his next move. Considering the shoulder woes of the past several seasons, it may be his best decision.

     

    4. Ty Wigginton

    After hitting .235 with 11 home runs last season for the Philadelphia Phillies, Wigginton hasn't drawn many looks this offseason. At 35 years old and with a slugging percentage that barely tops the .400 mark over the past four seasons, Wigginton's value is clearly as a utility man.

     

    5. Chone Figgins

    How the mighty have fallen. Figgins' disastrous three seasons in Seattle has him at the bottom of this list. The Phillies checked in at some point before the start of the winter meetings, but that was before the Michael Young trade.

Shortstop

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    1. Stephen Drew

    As the top dog on an already thin list, Drew has received more than his share of interest.

    The Oakland Athletics are still keen on bringing Drew back. However, the Boston Red Sox are looking at Drew, and the Yankees could still be in the mix as well.

     

    2. Alex Gonzalez

    Gonzalez is coming back from a torn ACL, so the team that eventually signs him will get him on a discounted price.

    The Milwaukee Brewers have an offer on the table for Gonzalez, and the Cardinals have expressed interest as well.

     

    3. Hiroyuki Nakajima

    With a .310 average and .381 on-base percentage during his time in Japan, Hiroyuki Nakajima presents as an intriguing option.

    The Oakland Athletics have looked at Nakajima, keeping their options open if Drew doesn't come back.

    The Arizona Diamondbacks have entertained the thought of signing Nakajima, and even the New York Yankees have been mentioned as possible suitors.

     

    4. Ryan Theriot

    Theriot's biggest saving grace is his versatility. Given the relative dearth of options at second, third and short, that has to have some value.

     

    5. Ronny Cedeno

    Cedeno showed value as a utility man last season for the Mets. That will come in handy this winter.

Left Field

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    1. Cody Ross

    After a stellar bounce-back season with the Boston Red Sox at the bargain basement rate of $3 million, free-agent outfielder Cody Ross has garnered his share of interest this offseason.

    Despite the signing of Shane Victorino, the Boston Red Sox could still have interest. The Seattle Mariners have recently ratcheted up interest, and there's been speculation that the San Francisco Giants could be looking to bring Ross back as well.

    However, the Giants represent the most unlikely of scenarios, since Ross would have no interest in platooning with Gregor Blanco.

     

    2. Delmon Young

    One would think that teams would have interest in adding a player who hit .267 with 18 home runs and 74 RBI. However, with Young's baggage, the offers haven't been flowing in as of yet.

    The Seattle Mariners reportedly have interest, but the market for Young has been quiet otherwise.

     

    3. Scott Hairston

    Hairston has drawn considerable interest. The Detroit Tigers view him as an option to replace Young.

     

    4. Matt Diaz

    Diaz had an injury-plagued 2012 season in which he appeared in just 51 games and hit just .222. No interest yet for Diaz, but there's likely a bench role waiting for him sometime in the near future. 


    5. Endy Chavez

    Chavez provided some relief last season for the Baltimore Orioles in the wake of the injury to Nick Markakis. However, the .203 average for 2012 won't help his cause. Chavez has received no looks as of yet, and much like Diaz, he is likely looking at a fourth of fifth outfielder spot, possibly even a minor league contract.

Center Field

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    1. Josh Hamilton

    Just a thought: With the Texas Rangers losing the services of both Mike Napoli and Michael Young, is there any doubt that the Rangers will now bring him back?

    The Seattle Mariners could still stop that from happening, as they're apparently willing to offer Hamilton more years.

     

    2. Michael Bourn

    The Cincinnati Reds keep saying that the price tag for Bourn is still too rich for their blood. Larry Jones of The Seattle Times believes that Bourn could be a fit for the Mariners if they go after a slugger as well. At this point, Bourn is quickly running out of options.

     

    3. Ichiro Suzuki

    On Sunday, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported that the New York Yankees were "all over" Suzuki and that a deal is almost a certainty.

     

    4. Grady Sizemore

    Amazingly enough, Sizemore may still have life next season, even after microfracture surgery on his knee. Cleveland Indians GM Chris Antonetti refused to shut the door on the possibility of Sizemore returning to Cleveland next year.

    "We wouldn't close any doors,"Antonetti said. "What we've talked about with Grady is if there's a right fit, and it made sense, we wouldn't close any doors on it."  

    Wow. Really?

     

    5. Nyjer Morgan

    Will Tony Plush take his act on the road next season? It won't be with the Milwaukee Brewers, and no other team has expressed more than a passing interest at this point.

Right Field

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    1. Nick Swisher

    Swisher's versatility can't be understated, especially for teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners.

     

    2. Cody Ross

    Ross' ability to play both left and right field gives him an edge in a dwindling corner outfield market.

     

    3. Ichiro Suzuki

    Suzuki could be off this list shortly if the New York Yankees have their way.

     

    4. Scott Hairston

    Hairston showed last season for the New York Mets that he could be an everyday option, and he is worth more than a one-year contract.

     

    5. Xavier Nady

    Absolutely zero talk of any interest in Nady, who hit just .184 last season in 59 games for the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants.

Designated Hitter

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    1. Raul Ibanez

    At 40 years of age, Ibanez certainly showed his worth for the New York Yankees last season, hitting two huge home runs against the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS and another 19 in the regular season.

    The Seattle Mariners could be looking to bring Ibanez back to the place where it all started back in 1996. Ibanez has also expressed his desire to remain right where he is in the Bronx.

     

    2. Lance Berkman

    Berkman is entertaining the thought of extending his career, and it could be with the team where he began, the Houston Astros.

     

    3. Travis Hafner

    If Berkman and the Astros can't come together on a contract, Hafner could be Plan B. Despite the myriad of injuries Hafner has endured since 2008, several teams are interested nonetheless.

     

    4. Delmon Young

    He can't play left field very well, so Young certainly fits on this list. Thus far, interest has been tepid at best.

     

    5. Luke Scott

    Scott signed a $6 million contract to drive in runs for the Tampa Bay Rays last season. What they got was 66 games on the shelf and just 14 home runs and 55 RBI. There has been absolutely no mention of interest from anyone at this point.

Starting Pitcher

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    1. Anibal Sanchez

    Now that Zack Greinke has nailed down a $147 million contract, what does that do for Sanchez?

    There was talk that the Los Angeles Dodgers could still be in on Sanchez if they didn't come to terms with Hun-Jin Ryu, but that certainly seems unlikely now. The Texas Rangers might be the team of choice at this point.

     

    2. Kyle Lohse

    The Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox are both reportedly taking a hard look at Lohse. At this point, Lohse could also benefit from Greinke being off the market as well.

     

    3. Ryan Dempster

    Dempster turned down a two-year, $25 million offer to join the Boston Red Sox. The Chicago Cubs spoke with Dempster's agent last week, so a return can't be ruled out.

    The Milwaukee Brewers could be an option, but not if Dempster continues to hold a hard line on a minimum three-year deal.

     

    4. Edwin Jackson

    It's a case of deja vu all over again for Jackson. Much like last offseason, his phone hasn't been ringing too much.

     

    5. Shaun Marcum

    The market for Marcum has been soft thus far as well. The Minnesota Twins checked in last week during the winter meetings, as did the Kansas City Royals. The Royals would appear to be out now that they've landed James Shields and Wade Davis.

Relief Pitcher

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    1. Rafael Soriano

    Even with 42 saves and a 2.26 ERA last season, no one is beating down Soriano's door to sign him this offseason.

    Agent Scott Boras would love the Detroit Tigers to take Soriano, but they seem completely unwilling to do so.

    Soriano may have made a colossal mistake in opting out of a guaranteed $14 million.

     

    2. Mike Adams

    One of the most reliable relievers of the past five seasons is recovering from surgery to repair Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. That won't stop Adams from earning a nice payday.

    The Los Angeles Angels were mentioned as an interested party, but that was before they inked Sean Burnett.

     

    3. Jason Grilli

    Grilli is apparently still deciding over multiple offers. The Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays were among the finalists.

    UPDATE: Grilli is reportedly set to sign with the Pirates.

     

    4. J.P. Howell

    With Sean Burnett signing with the Angels, the Washington Nationals have honed in on Howell as a replacement. Howell's former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, have interest as well.

     

    5. Jason Frasor

    The Milwaukee Brewers are looking to replenish their bullpen, and Frasor is on their list of candidates.

    The Blue Jays could look to bring Frasor back, but only after exhausting other options.