With Cliff Lee bleeding Philly red, serving the needs of his family and Phanatics, what free agents remaining could possibly take a team into playoff contention? Adrian Beltre appears to be ready to sign with the Texas Rangers, does that return the Rangers to the playoffs or World Series? Here are eight remaining free agents could be the missing pieces in the postseason jigsaw puzzle for certain teams.
Freddy Garcia is out there. His numbers were impressive last year and he appeared to have regained his form despite losing some velocity. He went 12-6 last season and struck out 89.
He can shore up the rotation of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. Jeremy Bonderman remains a question mark following his life-saving surgery to remove a blood clot in his axillary vein in 2006 and remains a free agent but with continuing shoulder issues.
Garcia seems to have regained his stamina and the Tigers could capitalize on that complementing their rotation. The Tigers have been busy picking up Joaquin Benoit for the bullpen, retained Brandon Inge and Magglio Ordonez, got Jhonny Peralta for shortstop and Victor Martinez for catcher. Freddy Garcia may be the man to take them back to playoff contention, staying afloat with the White Sox and Twins.
Teaming Willy Aybar with his brother Erik Aybar with he Angels can be a jigsaw puzzle piece lifting their chances to the playoff hunt. Willy has played first, second and third base and can DH, batting from both sides of the plate. At times he has shown decent numbers and will not be that expensive.
His defense does not suffer at all. Last year, in only 309 plate appearances, he hit .230 but he had a .309 on base percentage. He appears ready to have a breakout season given the opportunity.
The Angels have worked on acquiring pitching to shore up the bullpen with Scott Downs and, Hisanori Takahashi (who can spot start) and are not looking to make a big slash. Aybar may be able to keep them in the hunt at a low cost.
Jorge Cantu has a solid bat, can DH and has a glove at 1B that won't hurt you at all. This makes him a clutch acquisition for the Rays, who find themselves Pena-less. Cantu certainly can do better than Pena's off year last year.
With Florida and Texas, he hit .262 and .235 respectively. He is an able situational hitter. Cantu may be the man to fill the void at 1B, keep the Rays in a tight divisional race and perhaps over the top in the East.
Keeping pace with the apparent powerhouse Red Sox and the ever present Yankees, who lost out on the Lee sweepstakes, will be no easy trek. Slide Cantu in with the bullpen acquisitions J.P. Howell and Joel Peralta and we are back in the swing in a red hot division.
Joe Beimel could certainly be the missing cog in a bullpen that has some pop. Matt Thornton appears to be the unusual lefty closer upon the departure of Bobby Jenks. J.J. Puttz is in the mix as a set-up man who certainly wants to close given the money difference.
Then you have Santos, Pena, and Sale. Sale may be moved into the rotation. Beimel can eat up innings and usually signs late in the free agent period to see what other relievers are signed for. He may just put the White Sox arms and team into the race with the Tigers and Twins.
To complement the addition of Jake Westbrook and give the Cardinals an upper hand in the National League Central, Chris Young may be the arm that gets them postseason status. Apparently healed from torn labrum surgery and in some stalled negotiation with the New York Mets Young remains available.
The rotation currently looks like Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook. Chris Young fills the fifth spot in the rotation nicely. Young could have the Cards in a position to pitch their way into the division lead or wild card spot.
The Nationals have been active and are close to offering Andy LaRoche the three year deal he is seeking. LaRoche might just be the bat and glove at first base that put the Narts over the top in a difficult NL East. This at least makes them competitive with the Braves. So far this year the Nationals have added:
Rick Ankiel Center Field
They are going to make a serious offer to Carl Pavano, who reports indicate would prefer to stay in Minnesota, and for less money. He would really have them bidding for contention if his form from last year was no fluke and his back remains dormant in terms of problems.
Chad Gaudin is a right-handed reliever who agreed to a minor league deal, as did slugger-for-hire Matt Stairs. They are a phone call away.
The starting rotation in 2011 looks like this so far:
1. John Lannan
2. Jason Marquis
3. Chien Ming-Wang
4. Livan Hernandez
5. Garrett Mock
Steven Strasburg will get a spot and may unseat one of the above after several minor league starts to test surgery. The bullpen finished strong and can eat innings.
LaRoche, in 151 games last year, hit .261 with 25 homers in 560 at-bats. He whiffed 172 times and that is the one drawback. His glove certainly does not hurt and is an upgrade.
Has Lastings Milledge matured? If so he may be the piece of the puzzle for the Dodgers fitting the need for a right-handed hitting left fielder to platoon with Jay Gibbons. Milledge can produce and play right field as well. The Dodgers can also use his speed on base and in the outfield. He has shown pop and can hit for average. Perhaps playing under Don Mattingly will bring this player with untapped potential to a desired level and the Dodgers closer to clinching a playoff spot.
Brian Fuentes could be the set-up man or closer and is a lefty out of the bullpen that can make the Red Sox breathe easier in the quest for the playoffs or the division title.
It also allows the Red Sox some breathing room to unload Papelbon. The Red Sox have acquired Matt Albers, Carl Crawford, Bobby Jenks, HIdeki Okajima, Adrian Gonzalez and are bringing back Jason Varitek. Fuentes rounds out an excellent squad.