Ranking the Top 15 MLB Free Agents Still Up for Grabs

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2013

Ranking the Top 15 MLB Free Agents Still Up for Grabs

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    With the regular season underway, the free-agent market has understandably cooled down and is not something that will be talked about much over the next several months.

    That said, last season saw veterans Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu and Roy Oswalt all find homes after Opening Day.

    Here are my rankings of the top 15 MLB free agents still up for grabs.

15. Miguel Batista

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    2012 Stats: 35 G, 5 GS, 4.61 ERA, 36 K, 52.2 IP

    Miguel Batista spent the bulk of last season as a swingman with the New York Mets before being released and signing with the Atlanta Braves for the stretch drive. In five games for the Braves, the 42-year-old pitched exclusively in relief. 

    The veteran has 18 big league seasons under his belt with a 102-115 record and 4.48 ERA, and he was in camp with the Colorado Rockies this spring. He allowed 14 hits and seven earned runs over seven innings of work.

14. Derrek Lee

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    2012 Stats: Did Not Play

    After hitting .267/.325/.446 with 19 home runs in 2011 while playing for Baltimore and Pittsburgh, Derrek Lee did not play last season when he was unable to find a major league deal to his liking.

    The 37-year-old is not officially retired at this point, and he was approached by the injury-riddled New York Yankees earlier this spring, according to MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. In the end, he opted to stay retired, but a midseason return in the right situation is not out of the question.

13. Carlos Zambrano

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    2012 Stats: 35 G, 20 GS, 4.49 ERA, 95 K, 132.1 IP

    The Chicago Cubs finally dealt the volatile Carlos Zambrano last season, shipping him and a good deal of cash to the Miami Marlins for Chris Volstad. 

    He was 2-2 with a 1.96 ERA through his first eight starts last year, but he went 3-7 with a 6.90 ERA over his next 12 and eventually found himself in the bullpen.

    Just 31, Zambrano was one of the top arms in the game not all that long ago, and he is 132-91 with a 3.66 ERA in his 12-year career. His personality is what's keeping him unemployed right now, but someone could be desperate enough to take a risk at some point.

12. Ryan Theriot

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    2012 Stats: .270/.316/.321, 0 HR, 28 RBI, 45 R, 13 SB

    Our third consecutive former Chicago Cubs player here, Ryan Theriot spent last season with the title-winning San Francisco Giants. He went 3-for-10 with three RBI in the postseason.

    Capable of playing both middle infield spots, though better suited at second base, Theriot is a .281 career hitter with 121 steals, so he has some offensive value. 

    According to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle, the 33-year-old Theriot seems perfectly content calling it a career if the right situation doesn't arise. If a contender needs a utility guy at midseason and he has stayed in shape, he could get a look.

11. Johnny Damon

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    2012 Stats: .222/.281/.329, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 25 R

    After a surprisingly productive 2011 season with the Tampa Bay Rays (.743 OPS, 16 HR, 73 RBI), Johnny Damon signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Cleveland Indians shortly after the 2012 season started.

    However, he was significantly less productive in Cleveland and wound up getting released on August 9, ending the season as a free agent.

    The 39-year-old has 2,769 career hits, so he has plenty of motivation to try to catch on somewhere. He may not get the chance, though, after his poor numbers last season.

10. Bobby Abreu

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    2012 Stats: .242/.350/.342, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 29 R

    One of the most underrated players of his era, Bobby Abreu is far from the player he once was, but he still has some viable tools to help a team out.

    The 39-year-old has a .396 on-base percentage over his 17-year career, and even with his diminished power, he still managed to post a solid .361 OBP for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

    He accepted a minor league assignment from the Dodgers last August, so he seems more open to a lesser role than most aging stars. He could help a team looking for a professional left-handed bat off the bench.

9. Scott Podsednik

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    2012 Stats: .302/.322/.352, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 19 R, 8 SB

    Out of the majors in 2011, speedster Scott Podsednik caught on in Boston last season when the team was hit by injuries and turned in a solid season.

    Granted, he played only 63 games and saw just 199 at-bats, but the 37-year-old still has many of the same tools that once made him a dynamic leadoff hitter.

8. Jim Thome

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    2012 Stats: .252/.344/.442, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 17 R

    Slugger Jim Thome is nothing short of a legend at this point, as he has piled up 612 home runs and 1,699 RBI over his illustrious career.

    Even at 41, he remained a legitimate power threat last season as the Baltimore Orioles acquired him at the deadline to add some punch to their postseason push.

    Though he appeared in two World Series during his time with the Indians, Thome has yet to win a ring, and that could be motivation enough for him to look for work come midseason.

7. Grady Sizemore

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    2012 Stats: Did Not Play

    Following a 2008 season in which he had 33 home runs, 38 steals and posted a 7.2 WAR (h/t FanGraphs), Grady Sizemore was one of the game's brightest stars.

    In the four years since, however, he's played a grand total of 210 games and has been a shell of the dynamic player he once was. 

    He was out all of last season following spring back surgery, and now the 30-year-old is recovering from knee surgery. At this point the chances seem remote, but if Sizemore can ever get himself back to 100 percent, the tools are still there for him to be an impact player.

6. Roy Oswalt

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    2012 Stats: 17 G, 9 GS, 5.80 ERA, 59 K, 59 IP

    With concerns over the health of his back, Roy Oswalt was unable to find a contract to his liking last offseason. He eventually signed with the Texas Rangers in May, making his season debut on June 22.

    Though he struggled as a starter (6.36 ERA), he was markedly better out of the bullpen in eight relief appearances, posting a 3.65 ERA and striking out 20 in 12.1 innings.

    According to Tim Dierkes of MLBTradeRumors, Oswalt is open to pitching in late-inning relief this time around, though he'd still prefer to start. 

5. Scott Rolen

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    2012 Stats: .245/.318/.398, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 26 R

    After showing he still had something in the tank with an .854 OPS and 20 home runs in 2010, Scott Rolen was limited to just 157 games over the past two seasons and had a .698 OPS when he was on the field.

    One of the best all-around third basemen in the history of the game, the 38-year-old Rolen would be a terrific veteran addition to any team's bench. My guess is his career is over, but he's not officially retired yet and could help a contender in the second half.

4. Juan Cruz

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    2012 Stats: 43 G, 1-1, 3 SV, 2.78 ERA, 8.3 K/9

    A starter early on in his career, Juan Cruz has posted a 4.00 ERA and 9.7 K/9 in 409 career relief appearances while pitching for seven different teams.

    Still only 34, Cruz initially signed a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies this offseason but opted out after the team added another veteran reliever in Chad Durbin.

    He's the best middle-relief option on the market right now, and one has to think he'll catch on somewhere if he does in fact want to pitch in 2013.

3. Carlos Lee

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    2012 Stats: .264/.332/.365, 9 HR, 77 RBI, 53 R

    Once one of the league's premier run producers, Carlos Lee has seen his skill set decline significantly over the past three seasons.

    However, he still managed to drive in 77 runs playing for some terrible Houston Astros and Marlins teams last season, so there is value in his veteran bat.

    For a team looking to add a right-handed first baseman/DH type to its bench, he's the best option available and one capable of stepping into everyday at-bats and holding his own.

2. Brian Wilson

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    2012 Stats: 2 G, 0-0, 1 SV, 9.00 ERA, 9.0 K/9

    Brian Wilson hit the DL after just two appearances last season, eventually undergoing his second Tommy John surgery that spelled the end of his season and eventually his time in San Francisco.

    As he continues to recover from surgery, he remains as intriguing an option as any on the market, as he could be a major addition for someone if he returns to his pre-injury form.

    He's opted not to work out for anyone until he feels he's at 100 percent (via CBS Sports), and he assessed himself at about 80 to 85 percent in early March. He's certainly one to keep an eye on, as he could be one of the key additions of midseason.

1. Francisco Rodriguez

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    2012 Stats: 78 G, 2-7, 3 SV, 4.38 ERA, 9.0 K/9

    Once one of the game's elite closers, and the single-season saves record holder with 62 saves in 2008, Francisco Rodriguez spent last season setting up John Axford in a terrible Milwaukee Brewers bullpen.

    Though his ERA was high, he still put up a good strikeout rate, and his walk rate (3.9 BB/9) was right in line with his career numbers. 

    At 31, he's far from the end of the line in his career, and of anyone still available on the market at this point, he is the most capable of stepping in right now and making an impact.


    Joel Reuter is a National MLB Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report.