With just about a month remaining until pitchers and catchers start reporting to spring training, one thing has become increasingly clear for Shaun Marcum and those players still without a contract for the 2013 season.
Time is running out.
Whether it's age, injury history, personalities or draft pick compensation required to sign them, there are a handful of players still available as free agents who can step in and help a team win games in 2013 and beyond.
These players belong on major league rosters, and chances are that they all will find a new home—but it will be on a deal that doesn't reach their true market value.
Let's take a look at the impact, undervalued, free agents who very well could be forced to settle for a one-year deal and go through the free agency process all over again in 2014.
Other than hitting for power, there's not much that Michael Bourn doesn't bring to a team.
He's the prototypical leadoff hitter with with a knack for getting on base—and he knows how to handle himself once he gets on.
A phenomenal defensive player who was robbed of the Gold Glove in 2012, Bourn immediately improves any team's outfield defense.
Bourn is easily the best free agent—regardless of position—left on the market.
Teams have concerns about signing a 30-year-old that is heavily reliant on his speed as Bourn is, and that's fair.
But it's still no reason for him to be without a team heading into 2013.
Braves GM Frank Wren has yet to shut the door on a return to Atlanta for Bourn, who spent the past year-and-a-half patrolling center field at Turner Field, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, though O'Brien doesn't believe it's likely to happen.
With very few exceptions, Bourn could easily fit in with any outfield trio in the league.
A shoulder injury limited him to only 21 starts for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012, but Shaun Marcum still posted a solid 3.70 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 124 innings of work, averaging three walks and almost eight strikeouts per nine innings.
From 2010 through 2011, Marcum averaged 198 innings per season, a 3.59 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with similar walk and strikeout ratios: 2.3 BB/9 and 7.3 K/9.
As long as his shoulder checks out, Marcum is a solid No. 3 starter for any team and, with an annual salary in the $7-to-9 million range, could be one of the real bargains on the free-agent market.
According to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, Marcum may not remain unsigned for long, as the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers are all said to be pursuing him.
Travis Hafner's options are limited, as the 35-year-old has battled a myriad of injuries for years and is no longer an everyday player.
He needs to serve as a designated hitter, but as part of a DH platoon hitting against right-handed pitching, Hafner can still be very productive at the plate.
Hafner still has power (10 of his 12 home runs in 2012 came against right-handed pitchers), is still a patient hitter (a .346 on-base percentage last year) and can still help an American League club in part-time duty.
He could be [an option], potentially. I think some of that is going to depend upon other opportunities for Travis and his thoughts on returning, as well as what opportunities we may have for him compared to other guys.
Hafner, who has spent 10 of his 11 major league seasons with Cleveland, may not have any other choice but to take a below-market deal to stay in Cleveland.
He's not an ace, but Kyle Lohse would be a solid No. 2 starter in a so-so rotation and an excellent No. 3 starter in any rotation.
Coming off a phenomenal season for the Cardinals—one that saw him go 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 33 starts—it's a bit surprising that Lohse remains available.
That he's yet to receive an offer, as reported by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, is shocking.
We can presume that the reason he has drawn no interest is that he's tied to draft-pick compensation, but as his agent Scott Boras (who represents three of the players on this list: Lohse, Bourn and Soriano) told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, Team Lohse isn't concerned:
"People call me all the time and say, 'Man, your players aren't signed yet.' Well, it doesn't really matter what time dinner is when you're the steak."
Whether Scott Hairston can replicate his 2012 season remains to be seen, but he is a solid hitter and adequate defender that won't hinder a team's chances of winning a game.
Hairston posted a .263/.299/.504 slash line with 20 HR and 57 RBI for the Mets last season, and is sure to receive a raise from the $1.1 million salary that he earned last year.
Ideally, a team would bring in Hairston to platoon in left field or as a fourth outfielder. While his power numbers were solid, his inability to get on base consistently was exposed with increased playing time.
According to ESPN's Jim Bowden, a decision on his future is forthcoming:
Scott Hairston expected to make a decision this week
— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) January 15, 2013
Multiple teams have been linked to him this winter, including the Mets and Yankees, according to ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews.
UPDATE: Tuesday, Jan. 15
Shortly after this was published, Soriano agreed to terms on a two-year, $28 million deal, intially reported by Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan:
Source: Rafael Soriano agrees to two-year, $28M deal with Nationals. Deal contains vesting option for third year. Story coming on Y! Sports.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 15, 2013
---End of Update---
After filling in admirably for the legendary Mariano Rivera with the Yankees in 2012, Rafael Soriano wants to close in 2013.
Unfortunately for Soriano, it doesn't appear that anyone is interested in his services.
ESPN's Buster Olney says that a return to the Bronx as a setup man isn't in the cards:
The Yankees want the draft pick/draft dollars they'll get when Soriano signs elsewhere more than they want him back, no matter the contract.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 7, 2013
As a matter of fact, the only team that has even shown the slightest bit of interest in the veteran reliever is the Los Angeles Dodgers, and landing in the City of Angels seems to be a long shot, according to Olney:
Dodgers have been looking into possibility of signing Rafael Soriano, but it's probably still a longshot - say, 20 percent chance.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 14, 2013
With the vast majority of bullpens around the league already full, Soriano is quickly running out of potential landing spots.
Yet there's little doubt that, as a reliever (not necessarily a closer), Soriano could make a positive impact in the late innings for a number of clubs around baseball.