It's almost February, and that means pitchers and catchers will be reporting to spring training in just a few weeks; it also means that free agent signings are coming to an end.
It's rapidly becoming time for coaching staffs to extend training camp invites to a group of players—a few of whom may be lucky enough to land the last few roster spots on a team.
Even though, for the most part, all the real impact players have long been signed to teams, organizations are still paying attention to some free agents that can make a difference for a contender or fill a vital role/position for any team.
Just look at the San Francisco Giants in 2010 if you're wondering why teams are maintaining interest in the players left unsigned (their World Series run couldn't have been achieved without players like Cody Ross and Pat Burrell).
With that, let's take a look at each team, individually, to see who they're still interested in...
The biggest name still available in the free-agent pool is Vladimir Guerrero, who has been linked to the Orioles in the past week.
Rumors are that Guerrero and the Orioles have mutual interest in each other but are not agreeing on how much his contract should be worth.
Guerrero would add a lot of power to the lineup and definitely make the Orioles offense more threatening. The Orioles have already spent the offseason upgrading their offense (with the addition of power hitter Mark Reynolds, as well as adding Derrick Lee).
The signing of Guerrero would, most likely, force Luke Scott into playing left field, which would leave Felix Pie as the odd man out. It would also add pressure to Adam Jones, the center fielder for the Orioles, to cover more ground, as Scott doesn't have the best defensive range.
All in all, though, Guerrero would make the Orioles fun to watch, if nothing else, as the team would be loaded with firepower with players who can hit the long ball.
There aren't many rumors surrounding the Red Sox these days, but does that surprise anyone? After the offseason they've had in adding both Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox seem set and poised to contend for the AL East division title.
I'm particularly excited to see the Red Sox pitchers this year—specifically Jon Lester and Daniel Bard. Here are two young players who have enormous talent and upside.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Lester show a Cy Young performance this year or Bard replace Jonathan Papelbon as the closer.
Will Andy Pettitte return for another season? The Yankees, Derek Jeter and even Pettitte himself don't seem to know at this point.
It seems Pettitte will not return by the beginning of the season, but a midseason return is still possible. If Pettitte can still pitch effectively, the Yankees sure could use him with their rotation as weak as it is.
With the uncertainty of Pettitte's future, the Yankees have started to look elsewhere for starting pitchers. One rumor suggested that they might pursue Jeremy Bonderman, but I don't see him signing with anyone but the Detroit Tigers.
Another option that the Yankees are known to be pursuing is Freddy Garcia. Garcia has openly stated his desire to pitch for the Yankees. He likes New York and the big stage it provides to play on and has made his desire to pitch there again clear. Garcia was formerly with the Mets but was cut early in the season.
Garcia pitched well enough in 2010 and had pitched very well earlier in his career but has been plagued by injuries from 2007-2009. In the span of those three years Garcia was only able to pitch about 130 innings.
For a minor league deal or an incentive-based contract, he could make a lot of sense for the Yankees.
The Tampa Bay Rays had two big signings recently—Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez—but their executives are still working to put the finishing touches on the 2011 team.
One name that has been tied to the Rays this past week is Manny Delcarmen. Delcarmen, a middle reliever, has certainly showed he is capable of being effective at the major league level and would be a nice addition for the Rays bullpen.
Delcarmen, however, has not had interest from many teams this winter, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him work out a deal with the Rays, who are one of the few teams who have shown interest in him.
The Toronto Blue Jays seem to be interested in adding a veteran infielder to their roster. It is believed the team has shown interest in Eric Chavez.
Chavez has been courted by a number of teams, so the Blue Jays aren't guaranteed to sign him. If they do lose out on Chavez, there are other veteran infielders available, such as Ronnie Belliard, David Eckstein, Felipe Lopez and Cristian Guzman.
One of the other suitors competing with the Blue Jays for Eric Chavez is the Chicago White Sox. However, in addition to Chavez, the White Sox are rumored to be toying with the idea of trying to bring back Freddy Garcia.
The White Sox have a pretty set starting rotation as it is, so it's unclear how Garcia would factor into it, but if he pitches well enough, they'll make room.
We'll see, if the White Sox do sign him, if he gets a minor league deal or a guaranteed roster spot. I cannot imagine him getting a guaranteed roster spot—he'll probably have to compete for a position in spring training if he signs with Chicago.
Much like the White Sox, and many other teams, the Cleveland Indians are exploring options to add a final starting pitcher to their rotation. One of the most common names connected to the Indians recently has been Kevin Millwood.
To say Millwood had a rough season in 2010 may be an understatement. He was 4-16 with a five-plus ERA. Ouch. However, in 2009, Millwood was 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA, so there is a big upside here.
The Indians aren't expected to compete, nor are they looking to take on a big contract, so if Millwood does sign with them, expect it to be incentive-based (but still with a low ceiling).
Although Millwood is 36 this year, I would expect him sign a one-year deal to try to show he can regain better form in 2011 so that he can sign a better contract for 2012—much like Adrian Beltre did in 2010 with the Red Sox.
The Tigers seem to be pretty solid all around, so their involvement in free agent signing at this point with probably be limited. However, one player they still are working on signing is Jeremy Bonderman.
Bonderman was a Tiger last season, and it seems both parties want to find a way to make a deal, but so far nothing has happened.
Expect to see this deal done before Bonderman has to report to camp.
The Kansas City Royals have shown interest in signing starting pitcher Kevin Millwood. Millwood didn't have the best season in 2010: He went 4-16 with a five-plus ERA.
However, Millwood has shown the ability to pitch effectively; in 2009 he was 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA.
In the case of Millwood, he will probably look to sign an incentive-based contract, reestablish his value and try to get a better deal in the 2011-2012 offseason (much like Adrian Beltre did with the Red Sox in 2010).
The Minnesota Twins are another team that seems to be done with free agent signing this winter. Unlike many teams at this time of year who are looking for pitchers, the Twins have a surplus of starters and a filled bullpen.
Also, with the recent signing of DH Jim Thome, the offense seems to be locked.
I'm excited for the 2011 season for Minnesota—I think this could be a big year for them (if they can stay healthy, of course).
One of the biggest concerns the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have had this offseason is the leadoff role. However, even into almost February, the Angels still have not addressed it.
With that said, however, the Angels don't have much room on the field to add a player to slot into the leadoff role. I would think the only real choice is a platoon role with Bourjos in center field. That leads me to thinking the Angels may heat up talks with Scott Podsednik.
Podsednik would be a great addition to the team, as he can still run the bases and hit for a good average. While he won't patrol center field with the most range, his offense can definitely be used. Thus I would see him as an excellent platoon partner, or even late-inning hitter/runner, for the Angels.
Ah, the good ol' days of Rickey Henderson. As much as I'm sure the Athletics would love to find another Rickey Henderson type hiding in the remaining free agent pool, I'm sure they'll settle for a solid veteran infielder.
The Oakland Athletics have been known to be looking to add an infielder, as their desire to trade for Chone Figgins has been no secret. However, as of right now a trade does not appear likely, so some other options for the Athletics may include Cristian Guzman.
Guzman has shown he still has some range left in him defensively and maintains a good batting average at the plate. However, some downsides include his lack of ability to walk. Although Guzman is no stranger to posting a BA near .300, his OBP has been declining more and more because his plate discipline seems to be disappearing.
If the Athletics were to get Figgins, he would most certainly be starting for them; Guzman, on the other hand, would probably be best off coming off the bench.
Most of the rumors surrounding the Seattle Mariners these days are whether they are going to be trading Chone Figgins or not. As I wrote already, it appears unlikely right now (especially since reports are saying Figgins wouldn't approve a trade), but crazier things have happened.
Another rumor involving the Mariners is their interest in Eric Chavez. While the Mariners may be looking to add another veteran player, especially one who has a high reward possibility like Chavez, I have to imagine that this signing would most likely occur only if they were able to trade Figgins.
With a bunch of other suitors trying to get Chavez to sign, the Mariners don't seem to have a lot of time to get a deal done if they want to trade Figgins and then sign Chavez.
The Texas Rangers are another team that seems to be pretty satisfied with its current roster. With the recent addition of Mike Napoli, the Rangers have been solidified at all positions—from the position players to the back of the bullpen.
Instead of trying to re-sign Vladimir Guerrero, the Rangers opted to sign Adrian Beltre and move Michael Young to the DH role.
Beltre is a solid defender, but I have my doubts about his offense. While Arlington is a great hitter's ballpark and will help inflate his numbers, I'm betting the 2010 season won't be repeated by Beltre. Beltre strikes me as the kind of player who only plays well in his contract year, and now that he has his long-term contract, I wouldn't be surprised to see a massive decline in his production.
The Atlanta Braves have mostly been quiet for the past week or so, but one player they remain actively pursuing is pitcher Rodrigo Lopez.
Lopez underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008, and 2010 was his first full season back, in which he went 7-16 with a 5.00 ERA. He also posted a league-high 37 HR and 111 earned runs allowed.
As I've said before, Eric Chavez has many teams expressing interest in obtaining his services for the 2011 season, and the Florida Marlins are another team to add to this list (and they won't be the last ones).
The Marlins, however, are concerned about keeping the payroll low, so they might have a hard time landing Chavez with all these other suitors raising the asking price.
New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he doesn't expect to see any more signings this winter, but that hasn't stopped him from keeping an eye on the Rodrigo Lopez situation.
Much like the Braves, the Mets seem to be interested in Lopez as a possible final acquisition this winter. Otherwise the Mets seem set to go to their Florida training facility with their team as is.
The Philadelphia Phillies have been linked to two free agents in the recent days: Mike Sweeney and John Maine.
Sweeney's re-signing has been fueled by Phillies fans, as many of them have grown fond of him. It remains to be seen whether a contract offer will be extended to him, but the fans certainly seem to want him to return.
Maine, on the other hand, is trying to take the final spot in the Phillies rotation. Maine has been plagued by injuries the past few seasons but has said he is healthy and has held auditions for teams. If the Phillies were to sign Maine, then Joe Blanton would be left in the dark.
Most of the rumors surrounding the Nationals this week were about their interest in acquiring Fausto Carmona and Grady Sizemore from the Indians. However, such a trade is unlikely to occur before the middle of the season, if ever.
The Nationals have also mentioned an interest in adding another veteran player, and one possibility that has been discussed in the past is David Eckstein. Eckstein's skills are definitely diminishing, but his heart is as big as ever, and he'd make a great player-coach for many of the young players on that team.
On another note, I'd love to see Eckstein as a manager one day.
As many other teams are, the Chicago Cubs have been spending the final weeks before the start of spring training looking for a veteran utility player.
A few names that have been mentioned as possibilities for them include Cristian Guzman, Ronnie Belliard and Felipe Lopez.
Lopez and Belliard are the best choices defensively because they can play a number of positions, while Guzman is probably the best BA hitter among the three.
The Cincinnati Reds are the other team showing interest in Scott Podsednik. Much like the Angels, Podsednik will probably be joining this team in a role as a utility player/coming off the bench to pinch-run and hit.
Podsednik would be a great fit for the Reds, and I think both he and the organization could benefit from this. The Reds would get a great veteran who has been to the playoffs before, while Podsednik gets to join a solid team that will be competing for a playoff spot this season.
The Houston Astros lost out on signing Jorge Cantu, so they will begin to look for an infielder elsewhere. One possibility for them will be Ronnie Belliard.
Much like Cantu, Belliard can play a variety of positions (more than Cantu, actually) and also has experience in the postseason.
In addition to Belliard, as we've seen, there are infielders still available, including Felipe Lopez, Cristian Guzman and David Eckstein.
The Milwaukee Brewers are one of the few teams actively known to be looking for a utility outfielder. As they reach out to a few players, it seems most probable that the Brewers and Mark Kotsay agree on a contract.
Kotsay played for the White Sox in 2010 and was able to amass a measly .239 BA with a .306 OBP.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are another team not making much chatter on free agent signings, although they recently signed left-handed reliever Joe Beimel.
Another reason as to why the Pirates aren't making much talk in the free agent realm is because they will probably invite a lot of their minor leaguers to spring training and fill their remaining roster spots with the ones that play the best this spring.
The Cardinals are another team not in on many of the remaining free agents; in fact, I haven't heard them connected to any particular player. However, they did just sign Nick Punto as a utility/veteran infielder.
With that said, the Cardinals' executives are spending all of their time on offering their superstar first baseman Albert Pujols a contract extension.
It is widely believed that Pujols isn't looking to offer the Cardinals a discount (he already did on his last contract, which was still worth $100 million-plus). If that's the case, the Cardinals may have a tough time retaining Pujols because he will likely seek a contract that exceeds Alex Rodriguez's recent deal.
I'm sure every fan is rooting for Albert to sign with their team—after all he may be one of the best hitters ever by the time he retires—but I'm hoping he stays with the Cardinals. Too rarely do players have their entire career with one organization and I think Pujols can become the new Stan Musial for the Cardinals organization (not that Stan "The Man" could ever be replaced).
Only time will tell what Pujols does, but I have to believe that if he hits free agency and gets to hear contract offers from other teams, he will walk from the Cardinals (since they won't be able to match other teams' offers).
Also, if Pujols becomes a free agent, would the Yankees move Mark Teixeira to DH so they could sign Pujols? Would the Yankees really let the best player in baseball become available and not try to sign him?
The Arizona Diamondbacks remain interested in bringing back reliever Scott Schoeneweis. Schoeneweis has had a rough time the past few seasons (including losing his wife to a drug overdose), but his stats show he can still be an effective left-handed specialist.
If nothing else, I'm rooting for the Diamondbacks to sign Schoeneweis because he deserves it after all the suffering he has had to go through in his personal life.
The Colorado Rockies have been tied to two free agents in the past few days: pitcher Rodrigo Lopez and infielder Cristian Guzman.
Lopez is deciding between the Rockies, Mets and Braves, while Guzman has drawn interest but doesn't seem close to signing with a team right now.
Frankly, I don't like either option for the Rockies, as Lopez would be very dangerous in Coors Field given all the home runs he already gives up and Guzman doesn't really fit what they need.
As promised, the Los Angeles Dodgers are another team that can fall under the Eric Chavez category.
The Dodgers, just like all the other teams in on Chavez, will turn their attention to players like Felipe Lopez, David Eckstein, Cristian Guzman and Ronnie Belliard should they miss out on signing Chavez.
The San Diego Padres have just recently signed Jorge Cantu, and with it their roster seems to be nearing completion.
The Padres, much like the Pirates, will probably fill any other needs with spring training invitees, although the number of roster spots available may be limited.
The San Francisco Giants remain the most likely destination for infielder Orlando Cabrera. Although Cabrera doesn't seem ready to take a bench role, it seems he doesn't have a choice.
With spring training drawing near, he may be forced to take any job he can, and the Giants seem like the most likely suitors. After the Reds signed Edgar Renteria away from the Giants, the Giants will look to replace him with Cabrera.
One criticism Cabrera has drawn is his lack of ability to play other positions. Cabrera has been playing shortstop for almost his entire career, so his role as a utility player is limited because of his lack of defensive options.