Predicting The 2011 Teams For The Top 10 Remaining Free Agents
This off-season's edition of the Hot Stove League has been an expensive one, as noted by ESPN's Jayson Stark in an article detailing the terms and tendencies of the most lucrative contracts in the sport.
Now there aren't going to be anymore deals similar to those of Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee or even John Buck for that matter. But there are still free agents that will be able to pick up a few million bucks before the season begins.
As we are now about a month away from the official start of spring training, let's take a quick look at the top ten remaining free agents, starting with number ten.
10. Scott Hairston: Outfielder
2010 Stats: 104 games, .210/.295/.346, 10 doubles, 10 home runs
Scott Hairston projects as a fourth or fifth outfielder and a guy that could possibly fit into a platoon role against left-handed pitching. He can play all three outfield spots although he did struggle defensively in 2010.
Perhaps Hairston's most valuable asset is his ability to provide some pop off the bench late in the game.
Another outfielder considered for this spot was Marcus Thames as he posted a .288/.350/.491 line with the Yankees last season. I chose Hairston over Thames because Hairston is younger and is still more valuable in the field. Andruw Jones could've been the another option but he is close to signing with the Yankees according to Tim Brown of Yahoo.
2011 Destination: Florida Marlins
Hairston's ability to handle left field and center field while batting from the right side make him a good fit for the Florida Marlins as they are projected to have Logan Morrison in left and Chris Coghlan in center, both of whom bat left-handed. Even if Coghlan makes the move to third base, the Marlins would still have a left-hander in center field in rookie, Scott Cousins.
Hairston could also fit into a left field platoon on the Dodgers but I see them going in a different direction, possibly signing Marcus Thames.
9. Freddy Garcia: Starting Pitcher
2010 Stats: 28 games, 4.64 ERA, 12-6 record
In Freddy Garcia's 17 year career, he has posted a win-loss record at or above .500 nine times. He is a reliable starter that will keep his team in ballgames.
Earlier in his career he was a true workhorse starter and threw over 200 innings every year from 2001 to 2006. The two-time All-Star is now in his mid-thirties but can still be counted on as a back of the rotation guy.
2010 Destination: Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have a young rotation that needs to be protected as far as their workload is concerned. The Mariners will not compete in 2011 and therefore they should limit the wear and tear that their youthful starters experience over the long season.
He would also serve as insurance in case any of their starters take a step backwards in their development, like what happened with Ryan Rowland-Smith in 2010.
He could be traded to a contender at the deadline if he has a strong start to the season.
8. Orlando Cabrera: Shortstop
2010 Stats: 123 games, .263/.303/.354, 64 runs, .977 fielding percentage
The upcoming 2011 season will be Cabrera's 15th in Major League Baseball. The former Gold Glover and World Series champion has been a model of consistency and leadership during his time in the Bigs and is now just 52 hits away from 2,000 for his career.
O-Cab is a proven winner who has made the playoffs in six of the last seven years.
He offers value as a contact hitter with good glovework, though he may now be best suited as a second baseman.
2011 Destination: Washington Nationals
Cabrera would be a good fit as an inexpensive second baseman who would give rookie Danny Espinosa more time to transition to the majors. Cabrera could also get time as a backup at shortstop and mentor to Washington's starting shortstop, Ian Desmond.
7. Johnny Damon- Designated Hitter
2010 Stats: 145 games, .271/.355/.401, 81 runs, 36 doubles
Johnny Damon has played in at least 141 games every year since 1996 when he was a second year player for the Kansas City Royals. Since then he's been a machine as far as getting on-base and scoring runs.
Damon is not a great fielder as his range is in decline along with his arm strength. He is probably best suited as a designated hitter at this point in his career and he can certainly still be an effective hitter in the proper lineup.
2011 Destination: Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto has been looking for a designated hitter since early in the off-season and was even thought of as a potential landing spot for Manny Ramirez. However, their search for a full-time designated hitter has slowed in the recent weeks.
Edwin Encarnacion was brought back to split time between first base and DH alongside Adam Lind. Left field will be split between Rajai Davis and Corey Patterson while Travis Snider figures to hold down the right field job. With their lineup, Damon would only be a part-time DH unless Adam Lind took another step backwards or the team encountered a string of injuries.
I still see this as a fit because Damon still wants to play and he's facing a DH market that doesn't hold many full-time vacancies. Toronto could also be appealing to Damon as a team with a shot to make the playoffs.
6. Jon Rauch: Relief Pitcher
2010 Stats: 59 games, 3.12 ERA, 21 saves
Jon Rauch turned in a great campaign in 2010 out of the Twins' bullpen, serving as their closer for part of the season while racking up 21 saves.
The tall right-hander struck out 46 opposing batters while walking only 14.
If the Twins lose Rauch to another team, he will become the fourth prominent reliever departing from what was one of the best bullpens in the AL, following a similar path of other 2010 Twinkies in Brian Fuentes, Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier
2011 Destination: Tampa Bay Rays
Rauch may be holding out for an opportunity to close and there are still be a handful of closing gigs that are still open or will at least have a competition throughout spring training.
One such location is in Tampa Bay after they lost Rafael Soriano to the division rival New York Yankees. The Rays have brought in many relievers this off-season but none with significant closing experience in recent years.
If Rauch were signed, he would be the favorite to win the closing job in a competition that could also involve Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Mike Eckstrom, J.P. Howell and others.
According to mlbtraderumors.com, the Blue Jays signed Jon Rauch to a one year deal just as I published this article. The move was posted on mlbtraderumors.com at 2:31pm CST while this article was officially published at 2:33pm CST. Rauch will be the favorite to win their closer competition this spring.
5. Jorge Cantu: First Baseman & Third Baseman
2010 Stats: 127 games, .256/.304/.392, 11 home runs, 56 RBI
Last season Jorge Cantu encountered a drop-off in production after a solid season in 2009 when he reached the 100 RBI plateau. 2010 was still a respectable season, however, and Cantu is not yet 30 years of age.
Cantu offers defensive flexibility with significant playing time at first and third base in recent years in addition to a couple seasons as a second baseman earlier in his career. He has been great with the glove at first base.
2011 Destination: San Diego Padres
The Padres made one of the biggest trades of the off-season when they sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston for a return focused mainly on highly touted prospects. This move created a large hole both defensively and offensively for San Diego.
So far, they have addressed this hole with the signing of Brad Hawpe, who only has only played first base nine times in his major league career. Hawpe is also coming off of a poor season at the plate.
With first base prospect Kyle Blanks expected to miss the early portion of the season, it makes sense for the Friars to bring another first baseman on-board. Cantu could get starts at first base against left-handed pitchers and could be an important defensive replacement late in games.
4. Scott Podsednik: Outfielder
2010 Stats: 134 games, .297/.342/.382, 63 runs, 35 stolen bases
Scott Podsednik is still able to get on-base and take another base while he's at it. Speed always has a certain value and it's a little surprising to see him still on the free agent market after a good year between Kansas City and Los Angeles.
I was surprised to see the Reds pass on Scotty Pods, who could've played left field and slotted into the leadoff spot atop Cincinnati's lineup.
2011 Destination: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels have missed on most of their rumored targets this off-season, seeing Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre and Rafael Soriano all sign with other teams. After missing on these big names, the Angels will look to fill their needs from the bargain bin.
Podsednik would be able to play left field and bat leadoff on a regular basis for the Halos while moving Bobby Abreu to the designated hitter spot with Peter Bourjos in center and Torii Hunter in right.
The team could still play Juan Rivera against lefties or look to trade him.
3. Manny Ramirez: Designated Hitter
2010 Stats: 90 games, .298/.409/.460, 9 home runs, 42 RBI
Whether you like him or not, Manny Ramirez is one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball history.
Last year he struggled through adversity and injuries but still put up a good average and on-base percentage. I expect Manny's power to return in 2011 and he would be a great addition to most lineups as his presence makes everyone in front of him better.
2010 Destination: Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays lost offensive mainstays Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Jason Bartlett earlier this off-season and need to replace their production somehow. One way of doing that would be to buy low on Man Ram.
Ramirez could slot into the cleanup spot behind Evan Longoria or into the five hole behind Ben Zobrist.
And I'm sure he would enjoy going back to Boston a few times a year to play pepper with the Green Monster in left field.
2. Andy Pettitte: Starting Pitcher
2010 Stats: 21 games, 3.28 ERA, 11-3 record
In 2010 Andy Pettitte failed to make 30 starts for the first time since 2004 but posted his lowest ERA since 2005. His early season success helped him make his third American League All-Star team.
Due to the fact that his level of play hasn't dropped off and the amount of money that the Yankees are prepared to offer him, I see him returning to the mound in 2011, even if it isn't at the beginning of the season.
2011 Destination: New York Yankees
The Yankees surprisingly missed out on Cliff Lee and that left a hole in their rotation. They need Andy Pettitte to be able to contend in what has become a deep AL East.
The Yankees seem to be the only team he is interested in playing for at this point in career and I predict that he'll be back for one more season, making a mid-season debut for the Yankees similar to what Pedro Martinez did a couple years ago for the Phillies.
1. Vladimir Guerrero: Designated Hitter
2010 Stats: 152 games, .300/.345/.496, 29 home runs, 115 RBI
Vladimir Guerrero has a .320 career average which was lower than .295 only once in his 15 year career (and that was during his first season in which he played in nine games).
Vlad "The Impaler" added to his potential Hall of Fame resume in 2010 when he drove in 115 runs in 152 games with the Rangers. He only struck out 60 times in 593 at-bats.
2011 Destination: Texas Rangers
The Rangers have already added one prominent slugger in Adrian Beltre this off-season, which moved Michael Young into yet another role with the team.
Young is currently projected to DH and serve as a super utility player but I suggest they move him to first base. He still displays a solid glove and would be receiving clean throws from Adrian Beltre across the diamond, which would make Young's transition to first base a little easier.
This would allow the Rangers to once again bolster their offense. The team was a possible fit for Jim Thome before he re-signed with the Twins so Texas may now be interested in bringing back Vlad on a one year deal.
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