MLB Hot Stove: Where Will the Top 10 Free Agents Still On the Market Land?
As the last dying embers of the Hot Stove flame begin to blacken and fade, let's take one more look at who is still out there.
At this time of the year, free agents can often be had at a discount, hungry as players are to find a team and get down to the work of getting ready for the season to come. There are still a few potential impact players floating around, as well as many more who could prove to be valuable additions in the right place.
We'll wade through the flotsam and jetsam and pick out those ten remaining diamonds in the rough, in this, our late January free agent reset.
10) Justin Duchscherer
Greg Trott/Getty Images
Duchscherer would be far higher on this list if he hadn't missed most of the last two seasons with various injuries.
Hes had surgery on both his hip and his shoulder, and his Major League experience during that time has been limited to five starts last season. But when healthy, he's been more than effective, he's been downright filthy.
With starting pitching options dwindling, taking a chance on Duchscherer becomes more and more appealing to a number of teams. In his last full season in 2008, he went 10-8 with a 2.54 ERA. He's been an All-Star as both a reliever and a starter, but has stressed his desire not to back to the bullpen at this stage in his career.
If his arm holds up, he'll be a bargain basement gem for a team like the Mets, Yankees, or Orioles.
9) Troy Glaus
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
There was a time last June when Glaus looked like an MVP candidate. He hit eight home runs and had 28 RBI in a 24 game stretch, and for a short while was leading the National League in RBI.
The problem was that he got cold real quick, batting just .182 with 16 RBI over his last 59 games, and battling various injuries that kept him out of the lineup for stretches. Still, he showed that even at 34, he can be an affordable power bat for a team looking for some extra run production.
He'd probably be a better fit at this point going back to the American League, where he can serve as a part-time DH and spot starter at first and third base. The Rangers might make sense.
8) Lastings Milledge
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Five years ago, Milledge was the top prospect in the Mets organization, but his career hasn't panned out as it was supposed to. He was traded to Washington, and then to Pittsburgh, and while he's shown occasional flashes of brilliance, he's never been consistent enough to be a full-time starter.
Despite his seemingly long and baggage-laden history, however, he'll still be just 26 years old this season, and might just need to find the right fit to finally unlock all that potential. He's got a good combination of speed and decent power, and could give a number of teams a productive right handed bat off the bench.
He also holds value in the field, as he can play all three outfield positions, and so teams still looking for a fourth outfielder will eventually come calling. Perhaps he can restart his career somewhere like Toronto, Seattle, or Kansas City.
7) Kevin Millwood
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Millwood suffered through his worst season as a Major Leaguer in 2010, as he led the American League with 16 losses, and sported a ghastly 5.10 ERA. But he played for Baltimore. So there's that.
Despite his struggles last year, he remains an intriguing option for any team still looking for starting pitching depth. He's just one year removed from a 2009 with Texas when he went 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA, and he's been a consistent workhorse throughout his career, making at least 25 starts in every season.
Generally, that's all that teams are really looking for at the back of the rotation. He's big, he's strong, and he's still got a live arm. He'll be 36 in 2011, but teams can do a lot worse than a guy who's been an All-Star and has led his league in ERA pitching 25-30 games as a number five starter for a team like the Indians, Royals, or Yankees.
6) Orlando Cabrera
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Cabrera's about as well traveled as they come, having applied his trade in five different cities over the last four years. The 36 year-old may have some wear on the tires, but he's still a professional hitter, a positive influence in the clubhouse, and can play a mean shortstop.
There aren't too many players with his kind of veteran leadership left on the market, and he would be a valuable addition as a utility infielder, pinch hitter and spot starter for a number of clubs on a one-year deal. In addition, his resume boasts extensive postseason experience, and he holds the distinction of having appeared in the playoffs each of the last four years, with a different club each year: the Angels in 2007, the White Sox in 2008, the Twins in 2009, and the Reds last year.
The Chicago Cubs have recently expressed interest, and seem to be the favorites to retain his services at this point. If they do sign him, mark it down: Cubs in the playoffs in 2011.
5) Jeremy Bonderman
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
When Detroit made their surprise run to the World Series in 2006, Jeremy Bonderman was talked about in the same breath as Justin Verlander as part of the nucleus of young starters that would lead the Tigers into the future.
While Verlander has gone on to become one of the American League's top pitchers, it hasn't been the same story for Bonderman. He regressed in 2007, and injury woes began to take their toll in 2008. He made just 13 starts between 2008 and 2009 combined.
As for 2010? Well, at least he was back to being mostly healthy. But he struggled mightily to the tune of a 5.53 ERA, and went into the offseason with an uncertain future. As with Milledge, though, the main thing he has going for him is the fact that he's still relatively young, just 28, and the promising potential is still there.
Detroit hasn't completely severed ties, but would only want to commit to a minor league deal. Other suitors might include the Cardinals, Rockies, and Cubs.
4) Freddy Garcia
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
For years Garcia was a consistent and effective workhorse, averaging 15 wins and 220 innings pitched a season between 2001 and 2006.
In 2007 though, he began to be beset by shoulder injuries that would limit him to just 23 appearances and five wins over the next three seasons. When he was released by the Mets without having appeared in a game in 2009, his career appeared to be over.
He was eventually able to latch back on with his old team the White Sox, however, and miraculously, made the most of his last chance, and was one of the team's more consistent starters in 2010, going 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA.
Recently, the White Sox have expressed interest in bringing the 35 year old back into the fold, and the move would make sense. With Jake Peavy out for at least a month (and maybe longer), Garcia can fill in and stay in the place he has always seemed most comfortable.
3) Nick Johnson
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Johnson has always struggled to stay on the field, being dogged throughout his career by various injuries that have forced him to miss significant time in three of the last four seasons (including all of 2007, and all but 24 games last year).
But if (and that's obviously a big 'if') healthy, he has always provided an excellent lefty bat, and his patience at the plate allows his to post superlative OBP numbers every year; his career on-base percentage is .401.
That's going to be an irresistible number for some team looking for a lefty bat off the bench in 2011, and that team could be an old home for Johnson: the Nationals. They've been very active in free agency this winter, and Johnson enjoyed his most productive years as a Nat.
2) Andy Pettitte
Al Bello/Getty Images
Pettitte continues to be a leaf in the wind when it comes to choosing a direction, and still has not been able to officially decide once and for all whether he wants to play one more year, or retire to his family in Texas.
As I've said before, the fact that he hasn't committed to returning yet tells me that he won't be back at the start of the season, but the fact that he hasn't officially closed the door yet tells me that he will be back before the summer is out.
He'll turn 39 in 2011, but his 2010 numbers were excellent, even though he missed some time due to injury. He went 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA, and his ERA and WHIP were the lowest they had been since 2005. He feels a tremendous pull of loyalty to the Yankee organization, and I can't see him turning his back on them.
And he's been confirmed to have started a workout regime at home in Houston. Count on seeing him in pinstripes again come June or July.
1) Vladimir Guerrero
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Vlad the Impaler deserves better than this.
After batting .300 with 29 home runs and 115 RBI while helping to lead Texas to its first World Series appearance in franchise history, the team has mostly given him the cold shoulder this winter. Instead, they pursued Adrian Beltre, lavishing $96 million on him to play third base, and plan on moving Michael Young to the DH spot.
They've been mentioned as being open to Vlad's return, but in a reduced role, and the only other teams he's been linked to, the Angels and the Orioles, have only shown marginal interest so far. This for someone who's been one of the best hitters in baseball for much of the last decade, and is almost a sure fire Hall of Famer.
The latest is that Baltimore has offered a one-year deal for between $3 to $5 million, but he's holding out for something a little better. On his Twitter feed, Buster Olney reports that Guerrero's representatives report having an $8 million offer in hand.
Nobody knows whether that's true, or where that offer is from, but if so, it looks like Baltimore may have to spend a bit more than they thought to bring the Vlad Man on board.