As the top hitters on the free-agent market continue to sign, the list of available options for teams in need becomes smaller and smaller.
So small, in fact, that two batters who I'd put on the third-tier of available bats—those who cannot play on a daily basis and that need to prove themselves before getting a guaranteed deal—cracked our Top 10 list.
That's not to say that there aren't quality bats available, because there are.
But one thing is for sure: The longer that teams wait to fill spots, the slimmer the pickings become.
Let's take a look at the latest surrounding the best hitters remaining on the free-agent market.
Years from now, we will look back on Grady Sizemore's career and wonder "What if Sizemore's body hadn't betrayed him and he was able to stay healthy? How good could he have been?"
Once one of the brightest young stars in baseball, the 30-year-old outfielder has played in only 104 games since the end of the 2009 season due to a rash of injuries.
As MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince reports, Sizemore underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in September—he had the procedure performed on his left knee back in 2010—and Sizemore won't be ready to restart his career until the second half of the 2013 season.
As WEEI.com's Rob Bradford notes, multiple teams, including the Boston Red Sox, have interest in signing Sizemore well in advance of his return to action (via Twitter):
Red Sox still one of numerous teams showing interest in Grady Sizemore. That market won't become clear until much later in offseason— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) December 3, 2012
You'd have to imagine that anyone who signs Sizemore would be doing so on nothing more than a minor league contract, as he's simply too great an injury risk to make a serious commitment to at this point in his career.
There's literally been nothing said about Carlos Lee for months on the rumor mill, which is a bit odd.
While Lee's 13-year streak of hitting at least 15 home runs and driving in at least 80 runs came to an end in 2012, Lee still hit .264 with nine home runs and 77 RBI for the Astros and Marlins in 2012.
A return to Miami or landing with an American League club as a part-time DH are probably Lee's best bets to continue playing in 2013.
Named MVP of the 2012 ALCS for the Detroit Tigers when he hit .353 with two home runs, six RBI and an OPS of 1.186, 27-year-old outfielder Delmon Young has garnered some interest from the Seattle Mariners, according to Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi (via Twitter).
However, as Morosi notes, Young isn't expected to sign until January at the earliest so that he can show teas that his surgically repaired ankle is healed (via Twitter):
Delmon Young may wait until January to sign. He’s recovering well after ankle surgery and wants to demonstrate health for teams in workouts.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 3, 2012
#Mariners have checked in on Delmon Young. As I reported last night he's expected to work out for teams and sign in January.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 3, 2012
During the regular season, Young hit .267 with 18 home runs, 74 RBI and a .707 OPS.
The Philadelphia Phillies have ramped up their efforts to sign the 31-year-old outfielder according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, who points out that the Phillies have competition for Ross (via Twitter):
Ross, who hit .267 with 22 home runs, 80 RBI and an .805 OPS for the Red Sox in 2012, would be a fit on both clubs.
In Philly, Ross would take over one of the two corner outfield spots, pushing John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown into a platoon situation for the other one.
With the Mariners, Ross is an immediate upgrade to Seattle's current options in any of the three outfield positions and would serve as the power bat that the team has seriously lacked over the past few years.
Lance Berkman could reunite with the Houston Astros in 2013 if he so chooses, but the biggest decision facing the 36-year-old is whether he actually wants to continue playing, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter):
Spoke with Lance Berkman. Still undecided about playing in 2013. Chance to be voluntary assistant coach at Rice. Possibility intrigues him.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 17, 2012
Berkman has spoken of retiring to spend more time with his family. #Astros, even with C. Pena, open to his return. Others interested too.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 17, 2012
Berkman, who was limited to only 32 games with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012 due to a myriad of injures, spent the first 12 years of his career with the Astros, appearing in five All-Star games.
Scott Hairston knew that he would have to bide his time, waiting for bigger names on the market to sign before he found a new home for 2013, but as he told ESPN's Adam Rubin, he has no problems with the process:
Things are starting to pick up now that the market is settling in. Still unsure where I'll sign, though. There are a lot of trades happening around the league, so it's possible that interest may rise in the next few days. My agent has been in contact with Sandy [Alderson], so he is aware I want a multiyear deal.
While the Mets are aware that Hairston wants a multi-year deal, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal says that the team isn't interested in giving the 32-year-old a two-year contract.
If a deal cannot be struck between Hairston and the Mets, Rubin says that the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals all have some level of interest in the free agent.
The White Sox want to bring back longtime catcher A.J. Pierzynski, but only at "their price," according to CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes.
While Chicago continues to assert that Tyler Flowers is ready to take over as the primary catcher, the the 26-year-old has hit only .205 with a .695 OPS, 12 home runs and 29 RBI in 318 plate appearances over the past four years.
Hayes points out that Pierzynski, who is coming off of a career year at the plate, took a hometown discount the last time that he hit free agency and is looking for a fair-market deal this time around.
ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that the Rangers could be an option for Pierzynski:
Geovany Soto has been told by TEX he's the everyday catcher, but you wonder if this helps A.J. Pierzynski's chances of going to TEX, as DH-C— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 13, 2012
Considering that Soto hit only .196 with five home runs, 25 RBI and a .591 OPS in 164 plate appearances with the Rangers in 2012, it's easy to see why the team would potentially be looking for an upgrade.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports says that the Yankees, who lost starting catcher Russell Martin to the Pittsburgh Pirates as a free agent, remain on the outside looking in with Pierzynski (via Twitter):
#yankees hesitating on pierzynski because they view him as only average defender. AJ had big yr but market a mystery— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 8, 2012
Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post reported that Washington has offered 1B Adam LaRoche a two-year deal for $25 million, a deal that the 33-year-old has not been quick to jump on.
The prevailing thought is that LaRoche wants a three-year deal, and as Boswell's colleague Adam Kilgore reports, LaRoche is no rush to settle for a contract that he doesn't like.
Should the Nationals and LaRoche, who hit .271 with an .853 OPS, 33 home runs and 100 RBI for Washington in 2012, not be able to reach an agreement, Washington would simply slide OF Mike Morse into LaRoche's spot at first.
Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun says that while the Orioles have interest and would be willing to give LaRoche the third year he desires, the team isn't interested in surrendering the 24th overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft, something that executive vice president Dan Duquette is vehemently against doing.
LaRoche would be a major upgrade over current Orioles 1B Chris Davis.
CSN Washington's Mark Zuckerman says that LaRoche's name was one of the first that was bought up in the Rangers front office when Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels (via Twitter):
LaRoche would replace the streaky Mitch Moreland at 1B for the Rangers, a move that would bring talk of possibly moving 2B Ian Kinsler to 1B to an end, leaving the Rangers with three middle infielders (Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar) and only two spots to play them.
Nick Swisher a member of the Cleveland Indians?
It very well might happen, as the Indians are making a concerted effort to bring Swisher into the Tribe, as ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted on Monday:
The Indians are making a push in their effort to land Nick Swisher.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 17, 2012
A push is an understatement, according to Nick Camino of WTAM 1100 in Cleveland (via Twitter):
Source: Nick Swisher coming to Cleveland tonight. Having dinner with #Indians team president Mark Shapiro this evening.
— Nick Camino (@CaminoTribe) December 17, 2012
Swisher would fill a number of different roles for the Indians: a quality right-handed bat with power, a corner outfielder and a veteran leader in the clubhouse.
Last week, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweeted that the Indians and five other clubs were interested in the 32-year-old (via Twitter):
@yagottagotomo Indians, Phillies, Red Sox, Mariners, Rangers and Orioles all interested in Swisher. Big market for switch-hitting power OF.— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) December 13, 2012
Swisher would be a fit for all of those teams as well, though as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe points out, Swisher has never expressed an interest in playing in Boston (via Twitter):
Swisher, I've been told, has never viewed Boston as a likely landing spot.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) December 13, 2012
The top hitter remaining on the free-agent market, things have been relatively quiet around 30-year-old Michael Bourn.
Earlier this month, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweeted that the Philadelphia Phillies, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers had interest in adding Bourn:
#mariners like bourn very much. Other possibilities include phillies and rangers (tho tex is in many, many other things)— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 5, 2012
With Ben Revere now in Philadelphia, there might not be a fit for Bourn, but the Rangers, on the heels of losing Josh Hamilton, could choose to add the speedy CF—though doing so would bring Texas' long-term plans for 24-year-old OF Leonys Martin into question.
Seattle, also having lost out in the race to sign Hamilton, makes sense as well.
While Bourn wouldn't be the power bat that the team so desperately needs, he immediately improves Seattle's outfield defense. An added benefit would be that 2B Dustin Ackley could bat second in the lineup, which would fit his skill set far better than the leadoff spot that he currently occupies.
One team not to sleep on is the New York Yankees, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, who could get involved in the bidding should Bourn's price drop.
With Curtis Granderson currently entrenched in CF for the Bronx Bombers, a trade of the Grandy Man would likely need to occur before a Bourn signing was possible.
Rick Weiner is a Featured Columnist covering all of MLB and a member of B/R's Breaking News Team.