MLB Free Agents 2012: Power Ranking the Top Five Shortstops
The 2012 MLB Free Agent class is riddled with talent. While first base has the biggest bats, shortstop is a position that is perhaps deepest in free agency and deserves a power ranking of its own.
Teams like the San Francisco Giants are especially in need of filling the shortstop position via free agency.
While shortstop Brandon Crawford is a young defensive talent brought up through the farm, he's hardly able to fill the shoes of this 2012 MLB free agent class.
No. 1: Jose Reyes
There's no doubt that Jose Reyes is the top free agent shortstop in 2012.
Coming off of a National League batting title, Reyes is also the youngest shortstop available via free agency.
Even with nagging injury concerns (mostly of the hamstring variety), there is talk that Reyes can expect $20M per year on a lengthy contract.
Reyes's production at the plate and on the base-paths means he's earned it.
His on-field play and marketing appeal/perceived value will increase the cost to at least $20M and should eliminate teams like the San Francisco Giants from bidding on him, while opening the door for other unsuspected clubs like the Detroit Tigers.
No. 2: Rafael Furcal
Rafael Furcal holds a $12M team option for 2012 and could find himself on the free agent market.
With the Cardinals looking to find a way to keep Albert Pujols in the mix, this may be a luxury St. Louis can't afford, although the $1.5M buyout would create a net cost of $10.5M in order to pick up the option.
That being said, Furcal's hurt for about two thirds of every season.
When he's healthy, he's got one of the best arms at the shortstop position and is a powerful leadoff hitter.
Look for the Cards to try and hang onto him even if they have to cut him and sign him again at at a more reasonable price.
The Giants could go after Furcal and play him when healthy, while cultivating Brandon Crawford at the same time. Crawford would surely get a chance to step in when Furcal is injured.
That said, something about signing this ex-Dodger doesn't feel right for the Giants. If I had to guess I would say that it's probably not going to happen.
No. 3: Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins falls to No. 3 on this list of free agents for one reason. Speed.
Jimmy Rollins doesn't have the premiere speed he once had, and many people don't consider him a leadoff hitter anymore.
A leadoff hitter playing shortstop is a boon to any team and, while teams can put him there, he's not going to have the same impact from that spot as a Reyes or a Furcal.
That being said, unless the Giants bring in a lead-off hitter like Coco Crisp, don't expect them to pick up Rollins.
According to Sports Illustrated, Jimmy Rollins wants a five year contract, which may also scare off the Giants, even though he's only 32 years old.
No. 4: Alex Gonzalez
Alex Gonzalez is regarded as possibly the best defensive shortstop among the 2012 free agent class.
While he doesn't hit for average, his power numbers are decent, knocking out 15 home runs last year.
With his defensive abilities and power for the position, Alex Gonzalez might be the best fit for the Giants.
He's expected to make under $4.20M next season and won't be demanding a long-term contract.
Expect the Atlanta Braves to try and hold onto him after playing 149 games for them last year, all while staying healthy at age 34.
The Giants may be wise to make a bid for him as a cost-effective defensive solution while Brandon Crawford learns how to hit the ball in AAA.
No. 5: Jerry Hairston, Jr.
Jerry Hariston, Jr. paved his way into the top five after a stellar playoff run with the Brew Crew.
Not only did he hit .385 in the playoffs (up from a respectable .270 in the regular season), his timely hitting made the difference in getting the Brewers to the NLCS.
Jerry Hairston, Jr. is a shortstop by trade and a utility infielder to boot.
He can play second base or third base, which also makes him a viable backup for the Giants' Freddy Sanchez, in case Keppinger moves on.
All in all, Hairston is a veteran shortstop who can start at many infield positions while raising his game to another level in the playoffs. Additionally, he will come with an affordable price tag.
This is a solid fit for many teams who don't need a featured shortstop, just someone who can man the position ably, consistently and in the clutch.
Giants' Best Options
The Giants have some options here, but expect them to make Alex Gonzalez their first priority.
With that said, however, wouldn't it be great if they can keep Jeff Keppinger and move him over to shortstop?
Keppinger is as good a hitter or better than at least four of the guys mentioned, and seems to be a good teammate.
Whatever the Giants do, expect them to make a move early in the free agent period, as there are really no viable options for the shortstop position on their roster.
Shortstop has to be their No. 1 free agent concern going into 2012.