Finding 1 Ideal Remaining Free Agent for Every MLB Team
At this point in the offseason, the free-agent market is relatively thin, led by Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn but with little else in the way of true impact options available.
This is the time of year when teams fill out their benches and the bulk of veteran relief pitchers find their home for the upcoming season.
Here is a look at one ideal remaining free-agent target for each MLB team, as teams put the finishing touches on their rosters and turn their attention toward spring training.
Left-hander Joe Saunders could be brought back to bolster the Orioles staff.
Baltimore Orioles: SP Joe Saunders
Joe Saunders joined the Baltimore Orioles at the deadline last season, and in seven late-season starts he went 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA.
He then took the ball in the team's Wild Card Game against the Rangers, allowing just one run over 5.2 innings of work to earn the win. Bringing him back would give the Orioles staff some needed veteran depth.
Boston Red Sox: CF Grady Sizemore
A budding superstar entering the 2009 season, Grady Sizemore has appeared in just 210 games in the four years since then, and he missed all of the 2012 season.
Still only 30, he could make an impact if he can stay on the field, and the Boston Red Sox could be the team to take a chance on him. The team was linked to him in a tweet from Rob Bradford of WEEI.com back in December.
New York Yankees: C Miguel Olivo
After Russell Martin was signed away by the Pittsburgh Pirates on a two-year, $17 million deal, the New York Yankees appear ready to open the season with Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli serving as backstops.
Adding Miguel Olivo would give the team a veteran catcher with some pop who knows how to handle a staff. He has reached double-digit home runs in each of the past seven seasons with a 3.1 dWAR.
Tampa Bay Rays: CF Michael Bourn
Even this late in the offseason, the market for Bourn has yet to take shape and there really is no clear front-runner for his services at this point.
Jayson Stark of ESPN tweeted purely speculatively that Bourn could be a fit for the Tampa Bay Rays, who could then shift Desmond Jennings to left field and move Sam Fuld to the bench. Money is a question, but from a personnel standpoint the move would make a lot of sense.
Toronto Blue Jays: 1B/DH Carlos Lee
The biggest question mark in the Toronto Blue Jays' lineup entering the season is DH Adam Lind, and even when he's put up solid numbers, he's never hit left-handed pitching with a dismal .607 OPS for his career against southpaws.
Without any real right-handed power option off the bench, the team could sign Carlos Lee to serve as a platoon partner for Lind, top pinch-hitter and insurance option of Lind struggles and winds up demoted again.
Jair Jurrjens could be a low-cost, bounce-back option for the Twins.
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Chicago White Sox: RP Francisco Rodriguez
The Chicago White Sox made a move to add Brett Myers at the deadline last season, and with him gone in free agency, the team could look to add replacement for him opposite Matt Thornton in the setup role.
Matt Lindstrom was signed to a one-year deal, but they could still opt to add another arm to a relatively young bullpen. Francisco Rodriguez had a tough year for the Milwaukee Brewers, but could be a terrific bargain if he can bounce back.
Cleveland Indians: 1B/DH Jim Thome
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports, the Cleveland Indians are looking to add one more bat this offseason and are eyeing some ex-players to fill the void.
Even at 41 years old, Jim Thome managed to hit eight home runs in 163 at-bats last season playing for the Philadelphia Phillies and Orioles. He hit .296 BA, 3 HR, 10 RBI in 22 games after rejoining the Indians at the deadline in 2011, and bringing him back again could be a solid option.
Detroit Tigers: IF Ronny Cedeno
The Detroit Tigers are set to enter the season with Ramon Santiago as their utility infielder, but the 33-year-old veteran hit just .206 with a .555 OPS last season for a -0.8 WAR.
Ronny Cedeno hit .259 with a .741 OPS last season, is a solid defensive option at second base or shortstop and is even capable of playing third base. He signed a one-year, $1.2 million deal last season and should be able to be had for a similar price.
Kansas City Royals: 2B Kelly Johnson
The Kansas City Royals addressed their biggest area of need, their starting rotation, with a handful of moves this offseason. As a result, they look like a team with an outside shot at contention, but they still have holes.
One hole is at second base, where the expected platoon of Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella will likely be a major hole in the lineup. Kelly Johnson doesn't hit for much average, but he has some of the best power at the position and plays solid defense.
Minnesota Twins: SP Jair Jurrjens
The Minnesota Twins have worked to improve their pitching staff this offseason, adding Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Rich Harden.
Taking a flier on Jair Jurrjens, who was non-tendered by the Braves, could be another low-risk option for the team. Still only 26 years old, Jurrjens was an All-Star as recently as 2011 and is as good a bounce-back candidate as anyone entering the season.
Could Jose Valverde return to Houston as a fall-back closing option?
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Houston Astros: RP Jose Valverde
As the Houston Astros continue their rebuilding process, they have once again kept the spending to a minimum this offseason, adding a handful of veterans to fill out the roster but no one significant.
Unproven Jose Veras is expected to be the team's closer, and bringing aboard someone like Jose Valverde as an insurance option and possible bounce-back play makes sense. Valverde served as the Astros closer in 2008 and 2009, saving 69 games with a 2.93 ERA.
Los Angeles Angels: RP Matt Capps
The Los Angeles Angels have had a busy offseason, highlighted by the signing of Josh Hamilton and the overhaul of the starting rotation behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.
The team has also added Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson to the bullpen but could still look to add another arm. Matt Capps would give the team an experienced late-inning guy and added insurance in the closer's role if Madson struggles in his return from Tommy John surgery.
Oakland Athletics: SS Alex Gonzalez
The Oakland A's signed Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima this offseason to take over at a position that has been a constant headache for them over the past few seasons.
While he has a solid track record overseas, middle infielders have had mixed success in the states and he could just as easily be the next Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Alex Gonzalez gives the team a fallback option if he struggles and a better backup infield option than Adam Rosales.
Seattle Mariners: C Kelly Shoppach
After trading John Jaso to the Athletics, the Seattle Mariners only catching option entering the season is Jesus Montero, and his defensive skills have always been a question mark.
Prospect Mike Zunino could claim the position at some point this season, but adding Kelly Shoppach as depth would be a good move for the rebuilding Mariners.
Texas Rangers: SP Kyle Lohse
The Texas Rangers missed out on Zack Greinke and James Shields this offseason, and as a result prospect Martin Perez would likely be the team's No. 5 starter if the season opened today.
With money to spend, bringing Lohse aboard on a short-term deal would give the staff a major boost and would help off set the significant losses the Rangers have endured this offseason.
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Atlanta Braves: LF Scott Podsednik
The Atlanta Braves have made a strong offer for Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton (h/t CBSSports), but if they are unable to land him, they may have to turn their attention to a low-cost option in left field.
Scott Podsednik hit .302 in 199 at-bats with the Red Sox last season, and adding him to the mix this spring would give the team a low-cost option capable of seizing an everyday job. Think Juan Pierre in Philadelphia last season.
Miami Marlins: RP Brandon Lyon
With the departures of Randy Choate, Chad Gaudin and Heath Bell this offseason, the Marlins bullpen is lacking in experienced arms behind closer Steven Cishek.
Brandon Lyon has been a reliable late-inning reliever throughout his career, and last season he appeared in 67 games and posted a 3.10 ERA and 9.3 K/9.
New York Mets: RP Brian Wilson
After non-tendering Brian Wilson early this offseason, many believed that the San Francisco Giants would look to bring him back on a low-cost deal. However, it now appears all but a sure thing he'll be playing elsewhere in 2013.
According to a tweet from Adam Rubin of ESPN, the New York Mets are open to adding him on a minor league deal and will wait to see if he is willing to accept that later on in the offseason.
Philadelphia Phillies: IF Ryan Theriot
The Phillies are without a true utility infielder entering the season, as Kevin Frandsen will back up third base but is a stretch to play at shortstop and second.
Ryan Theriot is capable of playing both middle infield positions moderately well and has solid offensive skills with a .281/.341/.350 and would be a solid addition to the Phillies bench capable of starting if someone is injured.
Washington Nationals: SP Javier Vazquez
Javier Vazquez sat out the 2012 season, but he is eyeing a comeback after pitching well in during winter ball in Puerto Rico.
The Nationals have shown serious interest, according to a tweet from Bob Nightengale of USA Today, and adding him would likely mean a shift to the bullpen for Ross Detwiler. The team's only left-handed reliever as of now is Zach Duke, so Detwiler would be a welcome addition to the 'pen.
Rich Hill is among the better under-the-radar options still on the market.
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Chicago Cubs: RF Scott Hairston
UPDATE: Just before publishing this, the Chicago Cubs reached a two-year deal with Scott Hairston according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
The Cubs outfield is a big question mark heading into he season, with Alfonso Soriano on the trade block and veterans David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz competing with prospect Brett Jackson for playing time.
Seeing as DeJesus, Schierholtz and Jackson all hit left-handed, adding a right-handed platoon bat would make sense, and there are few hitters who crush left-handed pitching like Hairston does.
Cincinnati Reds: RP Rich Hill
The Cincinnati Reds have a solid bullpen, but the only left-hander slated to make the staff as of now if setup ace Sean Marshall.
Rich Hill was solid last season for the Red Sox, posting a 1.83 ERA and 9.6 K/9 in 25 appearances, but injuries cost him nearly all of June-August. He returned in September and threw six scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts over eight appearances.
Milwaukee Brewers: RP Jon Rauch
The Brewers had the worst bullpen in baseball last season, and they've taken steps to improve it this offseason with the additions of Mike Gonzalez, Burke Badenhop and Tom Gorzelanny.
Still, they could use another late-inning arm to help protect leads and no pitcher in baseball has made more appearances than the workhorse Jon Rauch since 2006.
Pittsburgh Pirates: SP Chris Young
The Pirates have endured second-half collapses each of the past two seasons due in large part to their pitching staff falling apart down the stretch.
The team has added Francisco Liriano and will have Wandy Rodriguez for a full season, but adding another low-cost veteran arm may not be a bad idea. Chris Young went 4-9 with a 4.15 ERA in 20 starts with the Mets last season.
St. Louis Cardinals: RP Jason Isringhausen
After adding Randy Choate to the bullpen and Ty Wigginton to bolster the bench, the St. Louis Cardinals really have no remaining areas of need.
For the sake of storyline, re-signing Jason Isringhausen to a minor league deal to compete for a bullpen spot would be a nice story. He posted a 4.14 ERA in 50 appearances with the Angels last season.
Shaun Marcum could give the Padres the solid third starter they are lacking.
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Arizona Diamondbacks: IF Yuniesky Betancourt
The Arizona Diamondbacks have an unimpressive mishmash of options to play shortstop this coming season, with Cliff Pennington, Willie Bloomquist, John McDonald and Didi Gregorius all potential options.
Yuniesky Betancourt is not necessarily a better option than any of those guys, but he has some pop and is capable of playing across the infield, so he may be worth adding to the mix.
Colorado Rockies: SP Derek Lowe
The Colorado Rockies have added a pair of low-cost veteran starters already this season on minor league deals in Chris Volstad and Miguel Batista.
However, the team could still stand to add some depth to the staff, and the sinker-balling Derek Lowe could be a good fit in Colorado and can likely also be had on a minor league deal.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 3B Scott Rolen
The Los Angeles Dodgers have spent big on pitching this offseason, adding Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon League and J.P. Howell to the staff.
Now before spring training starts, the team could look to upgrade their offensive depth. Luis Cruz is at least a moderate question mark at third base, and the team has shown interest in adding the veteran Scott Rolen to the mix (h/t Los Angeles Times)
San Diego Padres: SP Shaun Marcum
While Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard are solid arms, the rest of the San Diego Padres staff is a question mark. Jason Marquis and Tyson Ross were brought aboard, but neither inspire much confidence behind those two.
Shaun Marcum is the best arm still on the market behind Kyle Lohse, as he went 20-11 with a 3.60 ERA over the past two seasons with the Brewers.
San Francisco Giants: RP Kyle Farnsworth
Though their bullpen is deep, the Giants could still look to add another arm following the non-tender of Brian Wilson to compete with George Kontos, Jose Mijares and Chad Gaudin for the final spots in the bullpen.
Kyle Farnsworth was a revelation as the Rays closer in 2011 with 25 saves and a 2.18 ERA, and while he missed the start of last season with an injury, he still had a solid season with a 4.00 ERA in 34 appearances.