2012 MLB Free Agency: Ranking the 10 Best Third Basemen Available

Doug Mead@@Sports_A_HolicCorrespondent IOctober 21, 2011

2012 MLB Free Agency: Ranking the 10 Best Third Basemen Available

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    Within the 2012 MLB free agency class, the hot corner is not considered to be a position of strength.

    While a number of infielders will be available this coming offseason, teams will find that value at third base is lacking.

    A couple of names will certainly generate some interest, but for sheer star power, teams will need to look at players in other positions to really get some bang for their buck.

    Here is a list of the top-10 third baseman who will be available in the upcoming offseason.

10. Melvin Mora: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Melvin Mora will be 40 years of age by the time spring training rolls around, and he is clearly in the twilight of his career.

    Mora appeared in only 42 games for the D-Backs in 2011, and it's hard to believe he'll return to the desert. Mora could provide value with bench depth and as a pinch-hitter, but not much else.

9. Miguel Tejada

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    Former American League Most Valuable Player Miguel Tejada made $6.5 million this year for the San Francisco Giants. However he was clearly not the player that Brian Sabean was looking for when he signed him.

    Tejada struggled throughout the season on a team that desperately needed some offense. When Sabean went out and acquired Cleveland Indians shortstop Orlando Cabrera at the trade deadline, Tejada's fate was sealed, and he was released by the Giants in early September.

    Can Tejada be an offensive force for any team looking to add some extra pop this winter? Not likely, but he can provide depth on the left side of the infield and occasional pinch-hit duties. In any event, Tejada will find very few teams who will offer up much more than $1 million or so for his services.

8. Wes Helms: Florida Marlins

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    For the past four seasons, third baseman Wes Helms served a very useful purpose for the Florida Marlins, providing depth at both corner positions and coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter. However with Matt Dominguez clearly the future at third base for the South Florida team and Gaby Sanchez firmly entrenched at first, Helms' days in Miami are likely over.

    Helms could be a very nice pickup for teams looking to add a quality veteran presence on the bench, and his versatility provides extra value as well.

7. Greg Dobbs: Florida Marlins

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    Third baseman Greg Dobbs was a nice addition to the Florida Marlins team in 2011, as Matt Dominguez was slated to be the starter at third base before a rough spring training and a fractured elbow turned the Marlins' third-base plans to mush.

    Dobbs stepped in and filled the position admirably, starting 84 games at third and hitting .275 with eight home runs and 49 RBI.

    While Dobbs may not be the answer in terms of starting for many teams, he, like Wes Helms before him on this list, provides versatility with his ability to play both corner infield and outfield positions, and as a fill-in designated hitter for AL teams.

6. Casey Blake: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake had a disastrous season in 2011, missing a significant amount of time with a shoulder injury and playing in only 63 games in the final year of his contract.

    The Dodgers have already announced that they won't pick up Blake's 2012 option, and Blake's availability for the beginning of 2012 is in doubt after undergoing neck surgery earlier this month.

    At 38 years of age, Blake's days as a starter at third base are likely over. However, his veteran presence and occasional pop in the bat could provide value for some teams. The big payday for Blake, however, likely won't happen.

5. Eric Chavez: New York Yankees

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    The signing of third baseman Eric Chavez by New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman last offseason was clearly a low-risk, high-reward signing, as Chavez provided great value for the Bronx Bombers at times as a fill-in third baseman, especially when Alex Rodriguez was shelved with a knee issue.

    The former six-time Gold Glove Award winner can certainly be a great addition for teams looking for a  veteran presence and a quality backup at third base and designated hitter.

4. Mark DeRosa: San Francisco Giants

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    When the San Francisco Giants signed Mark DeRosa to a two-year, $12-million contract in December 2009, they expected to receive a player who would provide some nice pop and versatility in the infield.

    However, what they got in return was a total of 73 games played in two seasons, as DeRosa struggled with a variety of injuries.

    If DeRosa can somehow manage to stay on the field, he could absolutely provide value for teams looking for infield depth. Considering his injury history, however, that is a BIG if.

3. Wilson Betemit: Detroit Tigers

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    After the Detroit Tigers acquired third baseman Wilson Betemit from the Kansas City Royals at the trade deadline this year, he provided a nice option for manager Jim Leyland down the stretch, as incumbent third baseman Brandon Inge struggled mightily throughout the season.

    Betemit hit .290 with five home runs for the Tigers after the trade. However, he was 0 for 9 during the postseason and was benched in favor of Inge during the ALCS against the Texas Rangers.

    It's unlikely that the Tigers will offer Betemit a deal, considering they weren't comfortable using him during crunch time, so for a team looking for depth on the left side of the infield, Betemit will likely be available.

2. Edwin Encarnacion: Toronto Blue Jays

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    Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Edwin Encarnacion only started 36 games at third for the Blue Jays this past season, as Jayson Nix and Jose Bautista were given more time at the position and Encarnacion served as a designated hitter.

    Encarnacion ended up hitting 17 HR with 55 RBI and a .272 batting average, and it's unclear whether or not the Blue Jays will pick up the $3.5 million option on his contract for the 2012 season. If they don't, Encarnacion could be a very nice addition as an option at designated hitter and added depth at third base for several teams.

1. Aramis Ramirez: Chicago Cubs

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    Clearly the best of the bunch in terms of free agent third baseman, Chicago Cubs slugger Aramis Ramirez easily tops this list.

    It's highly unlikely that the Cubs will pick up the $16.5 million option year on Ramirez' contract, so Ramirez will be high on the shopping list for several teams. He clearly has some life left in his bat after hitting .306 with 26 home runs and 93 RBI.

    Last week, in an interview with the Dominican paper El Caribe, Ramirez clearly put the Cubs on the spot, saying he's looking for more than just picking up his option year.

    "I'll head to free agency if they don't give me a contract of several years," Ramirez said. "I'm going to wait and see what the team does. Otherwise, I'm going to leave Chicago."

    The Los Angeles Angels could be first in line to bid for Ramirez' services, but several teams will take a look.


    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.