MLB Rumors: Which Available Free Agents Are MLB Teams Still Fighting Over Most?

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistDecember 25, 2012

MLB Rumors: Which Available Free Agents Are MLB Teams Still Fighting Over Most?

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    Most bidding wars revolve around heavily hyped free agents, but lower quality MLB players are attracting interest in the offseason’s waning weeks.

    Michael Bourn, Kyle Lohse, Adam Laroche and Rafael Soriano round out some of the bigger names left in free-agency, but they are not drawing as much attention from teams weary of doling out long-term deals and sacrificing compensation draft picks.

    That leaves smaller role players getting the star treatment from teams looking for a cheap veteran to temporarily fill a hole.

    Teams are especially swooning over starting pitchers, regardless of their ability. If Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey can get paid, these hurlers could also land a generous contract from a desperate squad.

    None of these players will capture triple-digit salaries or significantly alter a franchise's path, but they are at the center of a frenzy from interested MLB teams.

1. Shaun Marcum

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    After Lohse, Shaun Marcum tops a lackluster list of free-agent starting pitchers searching for a new team.

    Much like his 90 mile-per-hour fastball, Marcum gets the job done even though his numbers won’t blow anyone away. His career 3.76 ERA may not dazzle, but his 1.22 WHIP, 7.32 K/9 ratio and 2.77 walk rate are all higher marks than Edwin Jackson has posted.

    With a few more strikeouts, he’d also fare favorably to Anibal Sanchez, who just received a five-year, $80 million deal.

    An active market is brewing for Marcum, with several squads expressing interest in the 31-year-old. The New York Post's Ken Davidoff cited the New York Mets as a potential suitor, NESN.com’s Doug Kyed said the Boston Red Sox are interested and Bill Center from the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the San Diego Padres will pursue him.

    Had Marcum remained healthy throughout 2012, he would have earned a massive payday near the likes of Jackson and Sanchez. Now, he might settle for a short-term contract to earn a larger deal later.

2. Scott Hairston

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    Talks surrounding Laroche have not created much traction, but another big power bat is becoming a desirable commodity. 

    According to Jon Heyman, the Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves are all vying for Scott Hairston's services.

     

    Scott Hairston tougher fit for #yanks since at moment have 3 starting OFs. Phillies, braves, mets, #others also in play

    — Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 22, 2012

     

    After witnessing slugging outfielders Johnny Gomes and Cody Ross ink lucrative deals, Hairston should collect millions as well.

    Initially serving as a platoon player against lefties, Hairston secured more playing time by outhitting everyone else in a bleak Mets' outfield. The 32-year-old needed just 398 at-bats to crush 20 home runs.

    His .241 ISO rate tops Laroche and every other remaining free-agent hitter on the market. While he strikes out frequently and doesn't field too well, his flaws keep him alive as an option for clubs who can't afford to empty their pockets.

3. Joe Saunders

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    Remember that part about free-agent starting pitchers not looking too good?

    Teams struggling to assemble five capable starters are now settling for a temporary stopgap. Now that all the game-changers are gone, clubs are scouring the market for an innings-eater who can buy time for an emerging prospect to wet his feet in the minors.

    While a career 4.15 ERA and 5.13 K/9 ratio are nothing special, it's enough when attached to an arm that has logged 974 innings over the past five seasons.

    Ken Rosenthal tweeted that a few teams are negotiating with Joe Saunders, who posted a 4.07 ERA and 1.34 WHIP last season with the Baltimore Orioles.

    Sources: Saunders talking to #Orioles, #Padres, #Mariners. #Pirates also had been in, presumably out with addition of Liriano.

    — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 22, 2012

    Davidoff also said that the Mets, in addition to Marcum, could target Saunders. Based on this offseason's recent developments, Saunders could easily nab a two-year deal worth around $10-15 million.

4. Carl Pavano

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    Widely known for his underwhelming tenure with the New York Yankees, where he earned $40 million despite only starting 26 games, Carl Pavano quietly turned his career around with the Minnesota Twins.

    According to FanGraphs, Pavano posted a 3.0 WAR or higher in three consecutive seasons from 2009-11. In 2012, however, he registered a 6.00 ERA in 63 innings.

    Despite striking out batters at a microscopic affinity, Pavano helps offset his inability to create swings and misses by limiting his walks. He's walked less than two batters per nine innings in each season since 2009.

    Newsday's Marc Craig reported that the Mets, looking to replace R.A. Dickey and kill time before Zack Wheeler's upcoming debut, are once again one of the teams attached to this veteran starter.

    The Miami Marlins are not enthralled with bringing Pavano back to Florida, but they are considering him at the right price, according to ESPN's Phil Mackey.

    This is not a bidding war as much as some teams showing lukewarm interest in a potential No. 5 starter, but Pavano should find a home in a major league rotation this season. 

5. Derek Lowe

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    Seriously, some teams will take just about anyone at this point.

    Scrapping the bottom of the barrel, not just one, not two but five teams are interested in obtaining Derek Lowe, according to The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo.

    A 39-year-old, fresh off a 5.11 ERA, 1.62 WHIP season should deem such interest miraculous, but these teams want to implement Lowe as a long reliever rather than his preferred role as a starter.

    Lowe has posted WHIPs higher than 1.50 in three of the past four seasons, and his one real glimpse of success occurred in the Yankees' bullpen. So Lowe's getting greedy by expecting more.

    As 7.9 percent of the United States' workforce remains unemployed, an aging, ineffective worker is being offered a job from five separate organizations. 

    Oh what a wonderful time it is to play professional baseball.