Finding Landing Spots for Top Remaining Free Agents
With both spring training and the World Baseball Classic in full swing as we approach mid-March, front offices league-wide are quietly assessing the talent on their rosters as they look to make final tweaks before Opening Day.
Some big-name free agents still remain as potential options for MLB GMs. While a variety of factors have prevented deals from getting done up to this point, it's not unheard of to see a big contract handed out during spring training.
Here are some players still waiting to make the next move in their careers leading up to the start of the 2013 season.
With 16 years of major league experience under his belt, veteran pitcher Derek Lowe brings plenty to any team looking for an arm to add to the bullpen.
He spent last season with the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees, with far better results (1-1, 3.04 ERA) once he made his way to Yankee Stadium.
We all expected to see the Rangers continue to pursue pitching this offseason, and they did just that this week when they agreed to terms with Lowe on a minor league deal that will pay him $1.25 million if he makes the major league roster.
When he's been at his best, Roy Oswalt is one of the toughest pitchers in the league, evidenced by his four 17-plus win seasons while with the Houston Astros.
He's bounced around a bit since then, spending the past couple seasons in Philadelphia and Texas, where he was relegated to bullpen duty.
The New York Mets were the most recent team to show interest in Oswalt, indicating that a late-inning role would be best for him.
Oswalt didn't seem to warm up to the idea at first, but with limited options out there, he may need to consider it if he hopes to pitch again.
The Reds have done well to hold on to their most talented players, signing Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips to contract extensions before speculation about possible departures could take hold.
With that, the most notable free-agent-to-be on the Reds' roster heading into the offseason was Scott Rolen, who has definitely seen better days.
Should he return to the league in 2013, he'll most certainly need to accept a bench role, with the Red Sox being offered by Rob Bradford of WEEI as a potential option.
After such lofty expectations, it's almost hard to call 2012 a success for the Detroit Tigers as many pegged them as World Series champs in light of their offseason maneuvering.
Jose Valverde's postseason was far from spectacular last fall, and as the Tigers have opted to let him enter free agency, he's found out that the market for late-inning help is thinner than he would like.
The Mets were thrown out there as an option for Roy Oswalt to land as a late-inning reliever. While the team expected Valverde to sign elsewhere, the fact that he hasn't would seem to indicate the door could be open in New York.
Free-agent slugger Jim Thome has made a career of hitting home runs. At 42 years old, you would think he'd be ready to hang up his cleats, but it doesn't appear that's the case.
He spent most of last season with the Orioles after coming over from Philly, and while Baltimore doesn't appear to be a likely destination this season, Thome could resurface in a familiar spot.
The Minnesota Twins are in the midst of a rebuilding process of their own, and while adding Thome wouldn't equate to much in the way of production, his presence during his last stint in Minnesota made a huge impact on the young roster and fans alike.
Both parties seem to be interested in a possible reunion, though a deal seems to be in limbo as the team identifies what it has on its current roster.
After the Milwaukee Brewers surprised much of the baseball world in trading for Francisco Rodriguez during the 2011 season, K-Rod opted to stick around in Miller Park last season, accepting arbitration that would put him back into the Brewers bullpen in 2012.
He went 2-7 with an ERA north of 4.00 last season and didn't leave the best impression on any other suitors, though as Tom Hardicourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted, the Brewers at one point wanted to have K-Rod back in 2013.
The Mets could also be an option for the reliever, though K-Rod may not get the chance to "redeem himself" to the fans in New York as he's hoping for.
At one time, Grady Sizemore was a player who appeared to represent the future of the Cleveland Indians. From 2006 to 2008, he played in nearly every game and averaged 28 home runs per season.
Since then, he's struggled mightily to stay healthy, and after singing a one-year deal for 2012, he didn't take to the diamond once and is now out in Cleveland.
Sizemore has struggled to the point where teams aren't even really giving him any consideration right now. It seems like he'll need to wait until he can prove that he's fully healthy, at which point he'll need to wait for an injury to surface on a MLB roster.
With top pitchers like Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez off the market early this offseason, we expected to see free-agent pitchers like Kyle Lohse come into play shortly thereafter, though that never happened.
Lohse went 16-3 last season with the St. Louis Cardinals with a strong 2.86 ERA and the best winning percentage in the league, but that still wasn't enough to warrant an offer prior to spring training.
There was plenty of talk this week about the Rangers being the most likely suitor for Lohse, though a source with the team quickly put those rumors to bed:
“We are not going to sign Kyle Lohse. I can’t be clearer than that.”
With that, Lohse continues to be an odd man out in most front offices, cursed by the strong season that led to the draft pick compensation tied to his departure.
A few more weeks of spring training could change a lot, but I tend to be in agreement with Jim Bowden of ESPN regarding the notion that Lohse ultimately ends up in a Milwaukee Brewers' uniform.