Top MLB Free Agents, Trade Targets Still Available at Every Position

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2013

Top MLB Free Agents, Trade Targets Still Available at Every Position

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    As we approach the end of December, there are still plenty of options on the free-agent market for teams looking to shore up their rosters between now and the start of spring training.

    The position-players market is somewhat thin, but there are still impact bats in Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, along with a number of complementary pieces.

    On the pitching side, the consensus top three starting pitchers available in Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana have all yet to sign, and there are still some decent reliever options as well, even with most of the top closers already spoken for.

    All that said, here is a position-by-position breakdown of how the market looks as things stand right now.

    *All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted. Included after each player's stats is an indication of whether each player is a free agent or trade candidate, with a link to a rumor from a trusted source if they are in fact trade candidates.


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    C John Buck
    C John BuckJustin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Top Available Catchers

    Player (Age) 2013 Stats 
    John Buck (33)110 G, .219/.285/.362, 11 2B, 15 HR, 62 RBI, 39 RFA
    Kurt Suzuki (30)94 G, .232/.290/.337, 13 2B, 5 HR, 32 RBI, 25 RFA
    Jose Lobaton (29)100 G, .249/.320/.394, 15 2B, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 38 RTrade

    Position Overview

    The catching market has been nearly tapped dry, with Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski, Carlos Ruiz, Dioner Navarro and Jose Molina all signing new contracts this offseason.

    John Buck remains available as perhaps the only viable starting option on the market, as he brings veteran experience to the position. His 63 home runs since the start of the 2010 season are fifth-most at the position.

    Kurt Suzuki is a decent backup option with some upside, while Jose Lobaton has become expendable in Tampa Bay—after their acquisition of Ryan Hanigan and re-signing of Jose Molina—and could get a shot at expanded playing time if he's traded.


    According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Minnesota Twins have signed Suzuki to a one-year deal. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted that the deal is worth $2.75 million plus incentives (h/t to Aaron Gleeman of NBC Sports).

First Base

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    1B Kendrys Morales
    1B Kendrys MoralesJim Rogash/Getty Images

    Top Available First Basemen

    Player (Age) 2013 Stats 
    Kendrys Morales (30)156 G, .277/.336/.449, 34 2B, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 64 RFA
    Justin Smoak (27)131 G, .238/.334/.412, 19 2B, 20 HR, 50 RBI, 53 RTrade
    Ike Davis (26)103 G, .205/.326/.334, 14 2B, 9 HR, 33 RBI, 37 RTrade
    Mark Reynolds (30)135 G, .220/.306/.393, 14 2B, 21 HR, 67 RBI, 55 RFA
    Lyle Overbay (36)142 G, .240/.295/.393, 24 2B, 14 HR, 59 RBI, 43 RFA
    Carlos Pena (35)89 G, .207/.321/.346, 13 2B, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 38 RFA

    Position Overview

    With Mike Napoli, James Loney, Justin Morneau and Corey Hart all off the market, the top remaining free agent is Kendrys Morales. It may be some time before he signs, as he has draft-pick compensation tied to him after declining a qualifying offer from the Mariners to start the offseason.

    Beyond Morales, the best options appear to be on the trade market. Ike Davis has been shopped by the Mets for a while now, and despite a rough 2013 he still has 30-homer potential. Following the Mariners' acquisition of Hart and Logan Morrison, incumbent starter Justin Smoak is also available via trade.

    After that group, veterans Carlos Pena and Lyle Overbay provide veteran left-handed bats to fill out someone's bench, and Mark Reynolds still has some of the best raw power in baseball, though he's below average defensively and struggles to hit for a high average.

Second Base

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    2B Daniel Murphy
    2B Daniel MurphyAnthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

    Top Available Second Basemen

    Player (Age) 2013 Stats 
    Daniel Murphy (28)161 G, .286/.319/.415, 38 2B, 13 HR, 78 RBI, 92 RTrade
    Nick Franklin (22)102 G, .225/.303/.382, 20 2B, 12 HR, 45 RBI, 38 RTrade
    Darwin Barney (28)141 G, .206/.266/.303, 25 2B, 7 HR, 41 RBI, 49 RTrade
    Jeff Baker (32)74 G, .279/.360/.545, 8 2B, 11 HR, 21 RBI, 21 RFA 
    Alexi Casilla (29)62 G, .214/.268/.295, 4 2B, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 15 RFA 
    Jamey Carroll (39)73 G, .211/.267/.251, 9 2B, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 26 RFA 
    Elliot Johnson (29)111 G, .209/.255/.283, 3 2B, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 27 RFA 

    Position Overview

    The second base market has been essentially tapped dry, as premier bat Robinson Cano signed a huge deal with the Mariners, and Omar Infante, Kelly Johnson, Mark Ellis and Brian Roberts all signed with new teams as well.

    Utility types Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll and Elliot Johnson could all find their way onto big league rosters when Opening Day rolls around, while Jeff Baker could even land a multi-year deal from an organization after a terrific season off the Rangers bench.

    The trade market has a few interesting options, as Daniel Murphy provides a plus offensive option who brings some decent power and speed to the position. Darwin Barney is an elite defender, though he really doesn't hit enough to be an everyday option. The newest name to join that group is 22-year-old Nick Franklin, who was the second baseman of the future in Seattle before the acquisition of Robinson Cano, and he now looks like a safe bet to be moved.

Third Base

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    3B Michael Young
    3B Michael YoungChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Top Available Third Basemen

    Player (Age) 2013 Stats 
    Michael Young (37)147 G, .279/.335/.395, 26 2B, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 52 RFA
    Kevin Youkilis (34)28 G, .219/.305/.343, 7 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 12 RFA
    Wilson Betemit (32)6 G, .000/.000/.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 RFA
    Chris Nelson (28)64 G, .227/.273/.327, 4 2B, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 19 RFA
    Placido Polanco (38)118 G, .260/.315/.302, 13 2B, 1 HR, 23 RBI, 33 RFA

    Position Overview

    The only real everyday option at third base heading into the offseason was Juan Uribe, and with him re-signing on a two-year deal with the Dodgers, there's not much left to work with on the open market.

    Chase Headley looked like a trade candidate early on this offseason, but it's now more likely the Padres will hold on to him until July in hopes of boosting his stock after a disappointing 2013 season.

    Michael Young and Wilson Betemit both provide some defensive versatility and should be able to find bench jobs, while Kevin Youkilis looks to prove he still has something left in the tank after missing most of last season with a back injury. Chris Nelson could be the wild card here, as he hit .301/.352/.458 with nine home runs and 53 RBI over 345 at-bats for the Rockies in 2012 but did little this past season.


    According to a tweet from Patrick Newman of Nippon Baseball Tracker, the Rakuten Golden Eagles have come to terms with Kevin Youkilis on a one-year deal, as he'll become teammates with right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.


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    SS Stephen Drew
    SS Stephen DrewElsa/Getty Images

    Top Available Shortstops

    Player (Age) 2013 Stats 
    Stephen Drew (30)124 G, .253/.333/.443, 29 2B, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 57 RFA
    Jimmy Rollins (35)160 G, .252/.318/.348, 36 2B, 6 HR, 39 RBI, 65 RTrade
    Munenori Kawasaki (32)96 G, .229/.326/.308, 6 2B, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 27 RFA
    Cesar Izturis (33)63 G, .209/.259/.271, 8 2B, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 6 RFA

    Position Overview

    Shortstop is always a thin position in free agency, and with Jhonny Peralta signing with the Cardinals and defensive specialists Clint Barmes and Brendan Ryan re-signing with the Pirates and Yankees, respectively, it's slim pickins at this point.

    Stephen Drew enjoyed a nice bounce-back season with the Red Sox in 2013, but the draft-pick compensation tied to him after he received a qualifying offer has no doubt scared more than a few teams off. A reunion with Boston still looks like a real possibility at this point, as they remain interested, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

    Speaking on WEEI radio's Hot Stove show on Thursday, Red Sox manager John Farrell said there was definitely still an interest to bring Drew back.

    "Both sides would like to see this come together," Farrell said. "But at the same time, as we all know, he's looking to see what best opportunities would be out there for him."

    News broke on Monday morning that the Phillies are "very willing" to trade Jimmy Rollins, according to a tweet from Buster Olney of ESPN, and he could certainly draw some interest in the days and weeks ahead. Aside from those two, Blue Jays fan-favorite Munenori Kawasaki and veteran Cesar Izturis could land bench roles somewhere.


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    OF Shin-Soo Choo
    OF Shin-Soo ChooJared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Top Available Outfielders

    Player (Age) 2013 Stats 
    Shin-Soo Choo (31)154 G, .285/.423/.462, 34 2B, 21 HR, 54 RBI, 107 RFA
    Nelson Cruz (33)109 G, .266/.327/.506, 18 2B, 27 HR, 76 RBI, 49 RFA
    Alejandro De Aza (29)153 G, .264/.323/.405, 27 2B, 17 HR, 62 RBI, 84 RTrade
    Grady Sizemore (31)*71 G, .224/.285/.422, 21 2B, 10 HR, 32 RBI, 34 RFA
    Andres Torres (35)103 G, .250/.302/.342, 17 2B, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 33 RFA
    Jeff Francoeur (29)81 G, .204/.238/.298, 10 2B, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 20 RFA

    *2011 stats 

    Position Overview

    Top free-agent outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran have both signed with the Yankees, while the likes of Curtis Granderson, Marlon Byrd, Nate McLouth, Chris Young and Michael Morse have found new teams as well.

    That said, the top bat left on the market is undoubtedly Shin-Soo Choo, who reportedly turned down a seven-year, $140 million deal from the Yankees prior to their signing of Carlos Beltran, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.

    Nelson Cruz is an impact bat as well who will no doubt command a multi-year deal, but after him the market has thinned considerably. The White Sox could look to deal Alejandro De Aza after acquiring Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks at the winter meetings, while Grady Sizemore is "healthy" and could be worth a flier.

Right-Handed Starting Pitcher

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    SP Ubaldo Jimenez
    SP Ubaldo JimenezDavid Maxwell/Getty Images

    Top Available Right-Handed Starting Pitchers

     Player (Age)2013 Stats 
    Ubaldo Jimenez (29)32 GS, 13-9, 3.30 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 194 K, 182.2 IP FA
    Ervin Santana (31)32 GS, 9-10, 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 161 K, 211 IP FA
    Matt Garza (30)24 GS, 10-6, 3.82 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 136 K, 155.1 IP FA
    Jeff Samardzija (28)33 GS, 8-13, 4.34 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 214 K, 213.2 IP Trade
    A.J. Burnett (36)30 GS, 10-11, 3.30 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 209 K, 191 IP FA
    Bronson Arroyo (36)32 GS, 14-12, 3.79 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 124 K, 202 IP FA
    Jason Hammel (31)23 GS, 7-8, 4.97 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 96 K, 139.1 IP FA

    Position Overview

    The chips have yet to fall atop the starting pitcher market, where the trio of Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Matt Garza all remain unsigned. Garza is the most attractive option of the three, due to the fact that he has no draft-pick compensation tied to him. He'll likely be the first to sign and could cause a domino effect once he does.

    After those three, most of the mid-level arms have already signed, with a pair of 36-year-old veterans in Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett representing the best of the rest, if you will. Jason Hammel has also received interest from a number of teams as a decent low-cost, high-upside option.

    The top trade chip remains Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija, and while his asking price remains high, the team will continue to shop him unless they can come to terms on an extension. With plus stuff and two years of team control, it's understandable why the Cubs are looking for so much in return.

Left-Handed Starting Pitcher

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    SP David Price
    SP David PriceJim Rogash/Getty Images

    Top Available Left-Handed Starting Pitchers

     Player (Age)2013 Stats 
    David Price (28)27 GS, 10-8, 3.33 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 151 K, 186.2 IP Trade
    Paul Maholm (31)26 GS, 10-11, 4.41 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 105 K, 153 IPFA
    Joe Saunders (32)32 GS, 11-16, 5.26 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 107 K, 183 IP FA
    Bruce Chen (36)34 G, 15 GS, 9-4, 3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 78 K, 121 IPFA
    Chris Capuano (35)24 G, 20 GS, 4-7, 4.26 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 81 K, 105.2 IP FA
    Johan Santana (34)*21 GS, 6-9, 4.85 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 111 K, 117 IP FA

    *2012 stats

    Position Overview

    The southpaw starter market was thin to begin with this offseason, and with the top two arms in Jason Vargas and Scott Kazmir now signed, the remaining options are by no means exciting.

    Paul Maholm should come relatively cheap and has mid-rotation upside when he's pitching well, while Joe Saunders has proven to be a durable innings eater if nothing else. Bruce Chen was solid as a swingman for the Royals last season, while Chris Capuano is still a decent back-of-the-rotation option. Johan Santana is an intriguing reclamation project.

    The real question here is if and when David Price will be dealt by the Rays, as he is one of the few legitimate ace-caliber arms in the game and would be a huge addition to whomever picks him up. It seems unlikely that he'll finish the 2014 season as a member of the Rays, but the team could hold off until midseason if they don't get the package they want.

Relief Pitcher

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    RP Fernando Rodney
    RP Fernando RodneyMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Top Available Relievers

     Player (Age)2013 Stats 
    Fernando Rodney (36)68 G, 5-4, 37 SV, 3.38 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 11.1 K/9FA
    Jonathan Papelbon (33)61 G, 5-1, 29 SV, 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 8.3 K/9Trade
    Jesse Crain (32)38 G, 2-3, 0 SV, 0.74 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 11.3 K/9FA
    Francisco Rodriguez (31)48 G, 3-2, 10 SV, 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 10.4 K/9FA
    Andrew Bailey (29)30 G, 3-1, 8 SV, 3.77 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 12.2 K/9FA 
    Eric O'Flaherty (28)19 G, 3-0, 0 SV, 2.50 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 5.5 K/9FA 
    Kevin Gregg (35)62 G, 2-6, 33 SV, 3.48 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 8.1 K/9FA 
    Oliver Perez (32)61 G, 3-3, 2 SV, 3.74 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 12.6 K/9FA 
    Chris Perez (28)54 G, 5-3, 25 SV, 4.33 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 9.0 K/9FA 

    Position Overview

    Like most positions, a number of relievers have already been plucked from the market. Closers Joe Nathan, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour and LaTroy Hawkins have been signed, along with several other late-inning options in Edward Mujica, Brian Wilson, Joe Smith, Jose Veras, Boone Logan, Javier Lopez and Scott Downs.

    As far as closers go, Fernando Rodney is the only proven option still available, while guys like Francisco Rodriguez, Kevin Gregg, Andrew Bailey and Chris Perez all have experience in the role but are likely better suited as setup men at this point. The Phillies would love to move Jonathan Papelbon and some of the $26 million he is owed over the next two years, but that may be easier said than done.

    Jesse Crain and Eric O'Flaherty are intriguing options coming off of injuries, while former starter Oliver Perez has enjoyed a nice career renaissance as a setup man and was having a great 2013 season before a rough final month.