It is unusual to see so many quality, impact free agents still available for the taking in the middle of January. Yet, in 2013, there are easily 10 players on the free-agent market who can make a team better.
Quickly, here are the top eight free agents and the team which would provide the best fit for their services in 2013 and possibly beyond.
OF Michael Bourn
Michael Bourn was an All-Star in Houston before being traded to Atlanta in the summer of 2011. He made $6.8 million in 2012. The production didn’t match the money.
Bourn was quite effective hitting leadoff—scoring 96 run, stealing 42 bases and averaging an on-base clip of .348. His biggest issue is his representation—Scott Boras, the evil super-agent who scrapes every last penny out of an organization for each player he negotiates on behalf of.
Best Fit: Seattle
The Mariners are looking for an impact outfielder who can hit atop the order. Speed and on-base percentage are ideal. It works for Bourn since he isn’t a home run threat in the most friendly of parks, much less the homer-proof Safeco Field.
RP Bobby Jenks
Jenks was not a great fit in the combustible 2012 Boston Red Sox clubhouse. He was never truly healthy, which was ever apparent by the way he threw the ball.
Best Fit: Set-up Man—Anywhere
Jenks is best in a seventh or eighth inning role. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees give him consideration. He is inexpensive compared to the man who occupied that role in 2012, Rafael Soriano, promises to be.
SP Francisco Liriano
Francisco Liriano has no-hitter stuff—he’s thrown one in his career. The enigmatic lefty split 2012 between Minnesota and the White Sox. He had a deal with Pittsburgh done, but according to Aaron Somers at SI.com, an arm injury has placed the deal in jeopardy.
Best Fit: Pirates
Even if Liriano is not able to pitch until midseason, the Pirates should have the depth necessary to remain in the pennant chase. They've been in position until the All-Star break only to fall apart in the second half of the season.
Adding Liriano then would be just the shot of energy the team needs.
SP Kyle Lohse
Lohse was the Cardinals' best pitcher in the 2011 postseason, en route to the franchise's second World Series title in five seasons. He followed it up last season with a 2.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP while pitching 211 innings for St. Louis.
He did not follow up with postseason success in 2012, but his overall body of work stands. His WAR was 3.9—hands down the best of his career.
Lohse is 34, which makes it tough to gauge just what kind of deal is appropriate.
Best Fit: Cardinals
The Cardinals' lack great depth in their starting rotation. Even for one or two years, Lohse would be a great value.
SP Shawn Marcum
Marcum missed a large chunk of time in 2012. When healthy and in the rotation, Marcum was solid with a 3.70 ERA in 124 innings. His 1.266 WHIP leaves a lot to be desired and his WAR was the lowest it had been since his second year in the majors.
Still, Marcum is a pitcher who can give a team effective innings as a fourth or fifth starter. That’s a worst-case scenario.
Best Fit: Milwaukee
It’s always favorable to return to the team you’ve earned acclaim with, as a player. Milwaukee isn’t bursting out the seams with pitching depth. They need a pitcher like Marcum if they’re to stay competitive in 2013.
SP Joe Saunders
Joe Saunders was at his best in Anaheim with the Angels. Since leaving, he has been a fairly average to below-average pitcher. But he started and won some key games in 2012 for the Baltimore Orioles—most notably the O’s one-game playoff victory over the Texas Rangers.
The southpaw is crafty and has learned to pitch as he’s matured.
Best Fit: Los Angeles Angels
As mentioned already, Saunders was at his best with Mike Butcher in Anaheim. Plus the Halos have expressed a desire to acquire more pitching this offseason after trading away Ervin Santana and allowing Zach Greinke and Dan Haren go in free agency.
RP Rafael Soriano
Soriano was next to amazing in 2012 while replacing future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera. His brilliance in Rivera’s absence provided him leverage to seek a significant pay raise over what he was earning in 2012 ($1.5 million).
His 42 saves and 2.26 ERA make him the top relief pitcher remaining on the market.
Best Fit: Detroit
Detroit has shown a willingness to spend money. Of course, the Tigers’ biggest issue in 2012 was the back end of the bullpen in Jose Valverde. A better bullpen would make a World Series victory in 2013 more likely.
OF/DH Delmon Young
Delmon Young has been clutch in the past two postseasons for the Detroit Tigers. In fact, he’s played his best baseball since he went to Minnesota back in 2007.
Young has finally displayed some of the power he was expected produce when drafted No. 1 overall out Camarillo High School in Southern California in the 2003 draft.
He is not a great defensive outfielder, but his bat will allow him to find somewhere to play by the time spring training arrives.
Best Fit: Yankees
Young has killed the Yankees, especially at Yankee Stadium. It’s no wonder, as his swing is perfectly tailored for the short left field fence in the Bronx. The Yankees lack the great hitters the team once possessed. It’s almost a no-brainer.