MLB Free-Agent Rumors: Top Suitors for the Top 10 Hitters Still on the Market

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistDecember 25, 2012

MLB Free-Agent Rumors: Top Suitors for the Top 10 Hitters Still on the Market

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    The bulk of this winter's free-agent hitting crop, led by slugger Josh Hamilton, have already found new homes this offseason. However, the well is not completely dry just yet.

    Michael Bourn and Adam LaRoche are the top remaining hitters still available, but there is a sharp drop-off after them as far as legitimate impact bats.

    That said, here is a look at the top  remaining hitters on the free-agent market, as well as the latest news and rumors surrounding their potential landing spots.

CF Grady Sizemore

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    After missing all of last season and playing just 210 games over the past four years, Sizemore can't be counted on as anything beyond a low-risk, high-reward signing.

    That said, his upside is still tremendous even at 30 years old. He was a 30/30 player in his last full season, and that power/speed combination is still there.

    He underwent micro-fracture surgery on his right knee in September, and is not expected to be ready to start the season (h/t MLB.com).

    Rob Bradford of WEEI.com tweeted that the Red Sox are one of a number of teams interested in Sizemore. The Mets could be viewed as the front-runners right now, though, as they are very interested, according to a tweet from Kevin Burkhardt of SNY.

C Miguel Olivo

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    With A.J. Pierzynski, Russell Martin and Mike Napoli off the market, the catching crop has dwindled down to a handful of veterans who project as little more than backups. 

    The most intriguing of the group may be Miguel Olivo, who has double-digit home runs in each of the past seven seasons. However, he'll likely struggle to hit over .230 and is average at best defensively.

    The Mets had interest in him before their trade with the Blue Jays (h/t ESPN New York), but with Travis d'Arnaud and John Buck now on the roster that interest is likely gone.

3B Scott Rolen

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    At 37, Scott Rolen has slowed down considerably over the past two seasons, hitting .244/.301/.397 and playing a total of 157 games.

    The Reds signed Jack Hannahan to serve as the backup to Todd Frazier at third base, so Rolen would be nothing short of the last man off the bench if he did come back.

    At this point, Rolen remains undecided as to whether he'll return next season or retire (h/t Jon Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer).

    If he does come back, the Reds appear open to the idea of re-signing him as he could be a solid bat off the bench and a terrific veteran presence in the clubhouse (h/t Danny Knobler of CBSSports).

1B Carlos Lee

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    Carlos Lee is no longer the 30-home run, 100-RBI threat he once was, but he is still a capable run producer who could make a solid impact in the right situation.

    He split last season between a pair of tough situations in Houston and Miami, and finished the season with a respectable .264 BA, nine HR, 77 RBI line.

    At 36, he's nearing the end of the road, but he should still be a viable low-cost option for a team looking to add a part-time bat with some pop.

    The market for him is unclear at this point, but he should be able to find someone willing to sign him as spring training draws nearer, and he could find his way into semi-regular at-bats on the right team.

2B Kelly Johnson

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    Kelly Johnson has been unable to match the numbers he posted during his breakout 2010 season, as he's hit just .223/.308/.390 over the past two seasons.

    That said, he still has some of the best power at the position as he has 63 long balls over the past three seasons and at least 55 RBI each season as well.

    Thus far, there has been little interest in Johnson, and he may have to settle for a backup role this coming season, but with such a thin market at second base beyond the already signed Marco Scutaro, he could still find his way into a starting role.

1B/OF Lance Berkman

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    Early on in the offseason, it looked as though a reunion between Lance Berkman and the Astros could be in the works, but the signing of Carlos Pena to fill the DH role may have changed that.

    However, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports the Astros are still among the teams interested in adding Berkman.

    To this point, however, he's undecided as to whether or not he will play this coming season. Rosenthal tweeted that Berkman has a chance to be a volunteer assistant coach at Rice University this coming season, and that along with a chance to spend more time with his family could be enough for him to retire.

DH/OF Delmon Young

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    Once the top prospect in all of baseball and the first overall pick in the 2003 draft, Delmon Young has failed to live up to his immense potential to this point in his career.

    He has decent power and run production skills, but he has zero plate discipline (.317 career OBP, .296 in 2012) and is a defensive liability in the outfield.

    According to a tweet from Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the Mariners have kicked the tires on Young, but he's not expected to sign with anyone until he has a chance to work out for teams in January after undergoing ankle surgery in November.

LF Scott Hairston

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    A platoon player for the majority of his nine-year big league career, Scott Hairston slugged a career-high 20 home runs last season over just 377 at-bats.

    That is likely enough to put him in the running for a starting job next season, and according to a tweet from Jon Heyman of CBSSports, the Phillies, Braves and Mets are among the teams who could be legitimate landing spots.

    It will be interesting to see how he handles everyday at-bats if he is put in that position, as he's always crushed left-handers but has been average at best against righties in his career.

1B Adam LaRoche

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    After playing in just 43 games during his first season with the Nationals before going down with a season-ending injury, Adam LaRoche bounced back in a big way in 2012 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI.

    He declined his end of a $10 million mutual option, but the Nationals appear to still be the front-runners to sign him for 2013.

    According to Bill Landon of MLB.com, the two sides are "inching closer" to a deal, and bringing back LaRoche would almost certainly trigger a subsequent trade of Michael Morse. 

    Two teams believed to be in the running in the Rangers (h/t Jim Bowden of ESPN) and Orioles (h/t Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun) now appear to be out on LaRoche.

CF Michael Bourn

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    The biggest remaining bat on the market, and one of the top free agents of the class, Michael Bourn brings one plus tool to the table, and that is his blazing speed.

    He is a dynamic leadoff hitter and a stellar defensive center fielder, but his lack of plate discipline and high strikeout rate keep him from being a truly elite table setter.

    Still, he'll likely command a contract north of the five-year, $75.25 million that B.J. Upton received. That combined with the fact that Scott Boras is his agent are a big reason why he remains unsigned at this point.

    The Rangers, having missed out on a bevy of other targets, are now reportedly beginning to pursue Bourn (h/t Jon Heyman of CBSSports), but the market remains relatively quiet on him at this point.