There's always a few MLB players that slip through the free-agent cracks. This year, Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn remain unsigned, while the rest of the free-agent pool still contains guys that were starters at the MLB level this past season.
Of those remaining players, there's a slew of guys that haven't gotten free-agent interest from clubs because of age, injury history, attitude problems or maybe simply because there isn't enough space left on the current roster to add another player.
Some will get signed before spring training starts, and some won't. Some will retire.
Either way, there's a small group of players that have some major concerns surrounding their ability to play consistent baseball at the major league level. Here's a look at three guys that have the most to prove to clubs before they can sign on the dotted line for the 2013 season.
OF Delmon Young
Prove is a word that is now associated with Young in more ways than one. He's yet to prove he was worthy of his designation as the top draft pick, showing flashes of greatness here and there with Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Detroit.
Now, he's in trouble with the law, further complicating what's been a seemingly troubled career for 2003's No. 1 draft pick. Young still faces hate crime charges stemming from his April 2012 arrest, when New York police picked him up for comments during a fight that were anti-Semitic in nature.
He still performed well for his World Series runner-up squad, hitting 18 home runs and driving in 74 RBIs in a lineup that included 2012 American League MVP Miguel Cabrera and National League move-over Prince Fielder, and continued that into the postseason—winning MVP of the 2012 ALCS.
Still, he remains unsigned this late in the game, and with Victor Martinez set to return to the Tigers in 2013, it appears Detroit is going to hold-out on this situation before making anything final—a decision the rest of baseball is following, too.
From on-the-field consistency to off-the-field maturity, Young is at a point where he needs to be playing 162 games to seize his true potential. This period of 27-to-32 is usually the prime of many big-leaguer's careers, and it would be a shame to see him lose out on that for reasons that are fixable.
SP Joe Saunders
Saunders has been the epitome of just above average during his eight-year MLB career. He has a record of 78-65 in those eight seasons, and his ERA comes in right at 4.15.
Those aren't bad numbers, and when you look at some of the rotations around baseball, there will be teams that come calling in the wake of injuries and under-performing—specifically if they re-watch the tape of his performance in both the one-game wild-card contest and ALDS against the New York Yankees.
He gave up just two runs over those two outings, putting his team in position to emerge victorious against two opponents that were supposed to wipe the floor with the Baltimore Orioles.
After seeing him pitch at a high level on baseball's biggest stage, much will be expected from Saunders, maybe part of the reason why he hasn't come to terms with the Orioles or any other club.
Saunders is still in contact with the Orioles, and the two sides appear amicable to a return, but much can happen between now and that conclusion. Saunders will likely get a raise, but after seeing what he can do for two big games, the team that signs him will expect 35 or so games in the same mold in 2013.
OF Grady Sizemore
Starting in 2006, Sizemore burst on the scene with the Cleveland Indians and produced three seasons of All-Star baseball that included two gold gloves. He was penciled in for about 20 home runs and 75 RBIs from 2005-2009.
He's on the list of players that likely won't be signed by spring training, simply because he likely won't be ready to go by then.
Still, he's already garnering the interest of teams like the Yankees, as reported by YES Network on Twitter:
Of the three, Sizemore easily has the most to prove. Since being the star in Cleveland for a few years alongside Travis Hafner, Sizemore has slipped into nothingness. Injuries robbed him of parts of the 2010 and 2011 season, and a bad knee and back forced the Indians to pay his $5 million 2012 salary without any return on investment.
Can he stay healthy? Have surgeries and bad luck ruined a promising career?
We don't know the answer to those questions, and won't know the answer until he finds a way to get back on the field. There's plenty of talent, but not enough good luck so far, and that's why Sizemore has much to prove to a team before they take a flyer on upside alone.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team. Check him out on Twitter.
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