The Josh Hamilton's and Zack Greinke's of the world are off the free-agent market, but there are still some quality guys available.
Why are quality guys still available?
It's a mixture of things that serve to complicate the situation. One major hurdle is the draft-pick compensation baggage. Some players that have turned down qualifying offers from their 2012 club, require the surrender of a draft pick for other teams to sign them.
Age is another concern for teams. Each of the players listed has already turned 30.
Perhaps the biggest issue is agents placing high price tags on their client's services.
Many players are getting rude awakenings when they compare their initial asking price to the current interest level from teams.
All of them will eventually find a home.
Though these players may be late signings, they could still be valuable assets in a pennant race in 2013. Here is the latest on the top four free agents available, and the best spots for them to sign.
Michael Bourn - OF
Obviously, Bourn's best quality is his speed.
His stolen base total dipped a bit in 2012 to 42, but he is still one of the three best thieves in the game. I wouldn't call him a conventional leadoff hitter because his OBP is just .339 for his career and he struck out 155 times in 2012.
However, he's as good as most teams will get at the top of the order. Ideally, he could be a No. 2 hitter in front of boppers in a balanced lineup.
Best Fit: Rangers
Texas will be looking to replace Josh Hamilton in center field, and though Bourn will never be the run producer Hamilton was, he has value as a table-setter.
He could bat leadoff and deally get on base for Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz.
This would still be a very solid lineup in Arlington.
Kyle Lohse - SP
Lohse was 16-3 in 2012 and with starting pitching always at a premium, that type of recent production from a starter will always draw interest.
He's 30-11 in the last two seasons; that consistency will also tell teams that 2012 wasn't a flash in the pan. Lohse is 34 years old, so teams may not be interested in inking him to a long-term deal.
He is a proven innings eater, though. He has given the St. Louis Cardinals just under 200 IP per year over the last two seasons. The downside is that he isn't a dominant pitcher.
He only strikes out 5.6 batters per nine innings, but he may ultimately command a salary above what his talent can produce because of the pitching shortage. Being attached to draft pick compensation further muddies the free-agent outlook on Lohse.
Best Fit: Cardinals
Lohse has had a great run with the Cardinals. Though he had two good seasons with the Minnesota Twins, the last two years in St. Louis have been the best of his career.
The Cardinals have a solid defense behind him, and Lohse's contact-based pitching style doesn't get exposed too often at Busch Stadium. His 0.8 HR allowed per nine innings could jump in a more hitter-friendly ballpark.
Lohse would be better off staying in familiar surroundings.
Adam LaRoche - First Base
LaRoche rebounded from another injury-plagued season in 2011 to hit 33 HR and tally 100 RBI for the Washington Nationals in 2012. Despite being a power hitter, LaRoche struck out 17 fewer times than Bourn.
The fact that he offers this type of production from the left side of the plate is just an added boost to his free-agent appeal.
The two biggest concerns about LaRoche should be his durability, and the draft-pick consideration attached to him for teams aside from the Nationals.
Possible Suitors: Nationals and Boston Red Sox (Fox Sports)
Best Fit: Nationals
LaRoche reportedly still wants to return to the nation's capital (Washington Post), and the Red Sox are reportedly looking at LaRoche as a secondary option. Mike Napoli appears to be tops on their list of available first basemen.
LaRoche would be best suited returning to the Nationals. That organization is building something special, and LaRoche's left-handed bat can be a major part of the next step in 2013.
Rafael Soriano - Closer/Reliever
Soriano has been consistent as a closer, saving 45 and 42 games in his last two seasons. He is still looking for a job because of the trend against paying top dollar for premier closers.
Gone are the days where the top closers command huge contracts. Soriano tuned down a qualifying offer of $14 million dollars from the Yankees (ESPN insider account), obviously thinking he'd get more on the open market.
Good luck with that.
He and Jose Valverde are finding themselves victims of the closer squeeze this offseason. Soriano also carries draft-pick compensation parameters for every team except the Yankees.
At 33, he still has something left in the tank. Someone will give him a shot, and likely reap the benefits.
Possible Suitors: New York Yankees (CBS Sports), Los Angeles Angels, Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays (ESPN, referenced link)
Best Fit: Yankees
The Yankees are the only team that won't have to give up a piece of their future to sign Soriano. Though he's been productive, he isn't exactly a missing piece to a championship puzzle.
It will be hard to substantiate giving up a high draft pick for him. The Yankees will likely bring him back, but it'll be for much less than what was originally thought to be his asking price.
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