Michael Bourn, Mike Napoli and 7 MLB Free Agents to Keep Your Eyes on
Among the free agents left in this year's class are a man who stole 42 bases and scored 96 runs last season, and another who saved 42 games with a 2.26 ERA and K/9 over nine. There is a catcher coming off five straight 20-plus home run seasons and a pitcher who finished 16-3 last season with a 2.86 ERA.
Needless to say, with Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke off the board, there are still plenty of reasons for fantasy owners to be paying attention.
While many fans could probably rattle off the players referred to above, probably fewer will realize there is a batter with four 20-20 seasons and a 30-30 year on his resume. Another current free agent once had four straight seasons over 100 RBI.
Do not be fooled. There are still fantasy gems looking for homes.
Michael Bourn, Best Fit: Atlanta Braves
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A promising free-agent market dried up quickly on Michael Bourn when the Nationals acquired Denard Span from Minnesota, Atlanta signed B.J. Upton, the Reds traded for Shin-Soo Choo and Oakland traded for Chris Young.
Signing Bourn is further complicated by the sacrifice of a draft pick, something many teams looking for a leadoff hitter or outfield help are not willing to do.
Bourn has averaged 51 stolen bases and batted .272 since 2008, scoring over 90 runs in three of the last four years. But with limited options, his best choice might be to return to Atlanta, where he would sit atop a lineup full of run producers and score runs to his fantasy owners content.
Rafael Soriano, Best Fit: Los Angeles Dodgers
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In the last three seasons, there have been eight 40-save seasons in the American League. Two of them belong to Rafael Soriano, who stepped in after the devastating injury to Mariano Rivera and did his best impression, saving 42 in 2012, with a 2.26 ERA.
Soriano turned down a $14 million option for 2013, instead looking for a multi-year deal akin to the 4-year, $50 million deal Jonathan Papelbon received from Philadelphia. Instead, he has run into the same draft pick-compensation wall that is stalling Bourn-enthusiasts.
The Dodgers, ever since their sale to Magic Johnson and Company, have opened their well-endowed wallets to anyone who needed a home, most recently to Zack Greinke (six years, $147 million).
The Dodgers have Kenley Jansen coming off a 25-save, 2.35 ERA season, but Soriano could make for appreciated, if expensive, insurance.
Mike Napoli, Best Fit: Boston Red sox
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Mike Napoli had a deal with the Boston Red Sox for three years and $39 million. And then, all of the sudden, he didn't.
Despite questions about his hip, Napoli has 80 home runs over the last three years. And he brings those bombs to a position very hard to fill in fantasy. Wherever Napoli lands, he will hit for power and be appealing to fantasy owners.
Though it is still more likely he lands in Boston, fantasy owners can daydream about him turning up in Baltimore, where the Orioles are looking to fill first base, vacated by Mark Reynolds.
Kyle Lohse, Best Fit: Baltimore Orioles
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Fantasy owners who drafted Kyle Lohse before 2011 were likely laughed out of the room. Going into 2011, he was 88-98 with a 4.79 ERA and a WHIP over 1.4. Over the last two seasons, he is 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA.
Like Bourn and Soriano, Lohse will cost a first- or second-round draft pick to sign, and this has stunted the market for him. Greinke and Anibal Sanchez received long, rich deals while Lohse is still looking for the multi-year offer he wants.
Ultimately, Lohse's landing spot may impact his fantasy value as much as anyone. If he goes to a pitcher-friendly division like the AL West, where both Texas and the Angels could use him, then playing in Angel Stadium, Oakland and Seattle would be helpful.
If he goes to Baltimore and the death trap that is the AL East, he would be risky fantasy pick.
Grady Sizemore, Best Fit: New York Yankees
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Grady Sizemore hit 33 home runs and stole 38 bases in 2008. He has not played in over 110 games since, appearing in just 104 games since the beginning of 2010.
Sizemore may be ready for opening day, or he may not play until midseason. He has already seen the effects of coming back too soon from serious injuries, having been unable to fully return to form since the initial injury in 2009.
The Yankees made efficient use of Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and Ichiro Suzuki last season and may be willing to buy in on half a season from Sizemore, even if he never again is the player that he once was. Fantasy owners may pick him up as a lottery ticket late in drafts or on waivers if his return is delayed.
Travis Hafner, Best Fit: Tampa Bay Rays
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Travis Hafner topped 100 RBI every season from 2004 to 2007. Like Sizemore, injuries derailed the train, as Hafner has since played in 100-plus games in a single season just once.
On the flip side, Hafner does have 30 home runs and 102 RBI per 162 games played and is a .278 hitter over his career, and even if he manages to appear in 90-100 games in 2013, fantasy owners could get 15 and 60 out of it for very little investment.
Bobby Abreu, Best Fit: New York Mets
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Every year between 1998 and 2010, Bobby Abreu had 15-plus home runs, at least 74 RBI and 19 or more stolen bases. Even in 2011, when he hit only eight homers, he stole 21 and knocked in 60.
Abreu is 38 years old and will be hard pressed to find a landing spot with full-time at-bats, but if he is willing to accept a decreased role, there is value to be had late in fantasy drafts. And if he were to earn some regular at-bats, Abreu has enough power and speed to be useful in most fantasy leagues.