The 2012 MLB free-agent pool has a few elite players, a few above-average players and many scrubs. In other words, it isn't teeming with talent.
Nonetheless, you can pick out an All-Star—at least a former All-Star—at nearly every position.
This is a complete, 25-man team—an ultimate team, if you will—of the best free agents. Bullpen and bench are included.
As expected, the St. Louis Cardinals exercised their option on Yadier Molina, taking the only 2011 All-Star catcher off the market and leaving very few decent options at the position.
Ramon Hernandez is the best choice. Hernandez only played in 91 games in 2011, but he hit .282 with 12 home runs and a .341 on-base percentage.
Defensively, the one-time All-Star gunned out 37 percent of attempted base-stealers.
Jose Molina might be the next best option, but while his defense is extraordinary, his offense isn't as reliable as Hernandez's.
Albert Pujols is 31 years old and coming off the worst offensive season of his career. Keep in mind, he still hit .299 with 37 homers and 99 RBI.
Regardless, he is the No. 1 first baseman on the market.
Prince Fielder is next. Yes, he's four years younger and drove in 21 more runs than Pujols, but his glove isn't nearly as trustworthy.
By traditional statistics, Pujols (11 errors, .992 fielding percentage) barely edges Fielder (15 errors, .990 fielding percentage) in the fielding department. However, Pujols is superior in UZR, which essentially measures a player's range.
Since Fielder became an everyday first baseman in 2006, he has accumulated a minus-36.3 UZR. In other words, since 2006, Fielder is 36.3 runs worse than the average first baseman. His range will only decline with age.
Pujols, during that same time span, has a 53.6 UZR.
Pujols' defense has fallen from its peak in 2007 (24.7 UZR) to 2.4 in 2011, but that's still much more reliable than Fielder's minus-5.1.
Because of age, Fielder will probably be a better hitter than Pujols deeper in the future. But how much longer can he actually play first base?
You know there aren't many viable options at second base when Kelly Johnson is the best on the market.
Spending 2011 in Arizona and Toronto, Johnson hit .222 with 21 homers and 58 RBI. He hit .270 after the Diamondbacks dealt him to the Blue Jays.
Defensively, Johnson made 10 errors but posted a 2.5 UZR.
Mark Ellis, who made three errors all season and ranks No. 1 among free-agent second basemen with a 5.6 UZR, is the best defensive alternative, while Aaron Hill, after being swapped for Johnson, offered hope of a potential offensive resurgence.
Aramis Ramirez is the worst defensive third baseman on the market. If he signs with an American League team, he might not even play the field.
But no other free-agent third baseman posted offensive numbers like Ramirez's in 2011, when the 33-year-old hit .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBI.
Would you really rather sign Casey Blake?
For this team, when money isn't a factor, the answer is obvious—you take the offense.
Jimmy Rollins is definitely smoother in the field, but Jose Reyes is more valuable at the plate and on the bases.
Reyes led the NL with a .337 batting average and 16 triples in 2011, while Rollins hit .268. Reyes also out-slugged Rollins by nearly 100 points.
While Reyes only swiped nine more bags than Rollins, the former New York Met distracts pitchers much more effectively.
Left field is one of the weaker free-agent positions.
Ryan Ludwick hit just .237 with 13 home runs and 75 RBI in 2011, but he committed only one error while leading all qualified free agents with a minus-1.2 UZR—sad but true.
There's some hope for Ludwick at the plate: he hit .280 in three-and-a-half years with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Grady Sizemore is a no-brainer, assuming injuries don't hamper him once again.
Sizemore has hit .220 with 10 home runs in 101 games over the last two seasons, but he's a three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner. If he's even half of what he was from 2006-2008—when he hit .279 with 85 home runs—he's a better option than the rest of the pack.
Would you rather have Coco Crisp? He's next on the list of center fielders.
Carlos Beltran isn't the consummate player he was a few seasons ago, but he's still a productive hitter.
In 2011, the six-time All-Star hit .300 with 22 homers, 39 doubles and 84 RBI.
He's easily the top choice over J.D. Drew and the rest of the right fielders.
Four full-time designated hitters are on the market—Hideki Matsui, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and David Ortiz.
Matsui appears to be on the decline, Thome doesn't offer much more than power and Guerrero hit .290 but saw his home run total drop to 13 in 2011.
Since May 2010, Ortiz has been an absolute beast. He hit .286 with 31 home runs from May 1, 2010 to the season's final day, and hit .309 with 29 long balls this year.
Since becoming a starter in 2010, C.J. Wilson is 31-15 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.
Over that time span, Roy Oswalt and Hiroki Kuroda both have similar ERAs to Wilson's, and their WHIPs are lower, but Wilson is younger than both and can go deeper into games.
Wilson has thrown 427.1 innings and six complete games over the past two seasons, while Oswalt (350.2 IP, two CG) and Kuroda (398.1, zero CG) haven't displayed the same stamina. Wilson's .232 BAA is also significantly lower than Oswalt's and Kuroda's.
No. 2: Hiroki Kuroda—Kuroda gets the nod over Roy Oswalt because of a superior 2011 season. The 36-year-old posted a 3.07 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 202 innings pitched. Opponents hit .254 against him.
No. 3: Roy Oswalt—In 139 innings, Oswalt held a 3.69 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and .280 BAA.
No. 4: Mark Buerhle—Buehrle, who hasn't thrown fewer than 200 innings since his rookie season in 2000, posted a 3.59 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and .277 BAA in 205.1 innings in 2011. Despite having a slightly worse ERA in 2011, Oswalt is ahead of Buehrle in the rotation because of his 3.21 career ERA.
No. 5: Aaron Harang—Harang threw 170.2 innings and had a 3.64 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and .269 BAA in 2011.
Francisco Rodriguez's 2011 ERA of 2.64 is lower than Jonathan Papelbon's 2.94, but K-Rod was much less successful as a closer.
As the New York Mets closer, Rodriguez blew three saves and had a 3.16 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and .265 BAA, numbers that drastically improved after moving to the setup role in Milwaukee.
Papelbon blew three saves all season, posted a 0.93 WHIP and .207 BAA and fanned 12.17 hitters per nine innings. K-Rod had a 9.70 K/9 as a closer.
Heath Bell is another alternative at closer, but he is four years older than Papelbon.
Takashi Saito—Assuming Saito doesn't retire, he's probably the best setup man on the market. The former closer only pitched 26.2 innings in 2011 but recorded a 2.03 ERA.
Brad Lidge—Lidge threw only 19.1 innings in 2011, but he posted a 1.40 ERA. Factor in his 2.96 ERA in 2010, and Lidge is definitely one of the better available relievers.
Darren Oliver—Oliver is 41 years old, but his past four seasons have been the finest of his long career. In fact, his ERA has dropped lower each consecutive season since 2008 all the way to 2.29 in 2011.
Mike MacDougal—MacDougal's 1.46 WHIP in 2011 was rather high, but the 34-year-old worked out of trouble fairly efficiently, evidenced by his 2.05 ERA. Of all qualified free-agent relievers, MacDougal boasts the lowest 2011 ERA.
Luis Ayala—Ayala ranks right behind MacDougal with a 2.09 ERA. The right-handed reliever had a 1.27 WHIP and .256 BAA but was effective nonetheless.
George Sherrill—Sherrill posted a 3.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and .248 BAA in 51 appearances out of the Atlanta Braves bullpen in 2011.
Prince Fielder—Although Fielder didn't make the cut for first base, he has to be included on the team of best available players after hitting .299 with 38 homers and 120 RBI in 2011.
Michael Cuddyer—Cuddyer can play right field, first base or second base. He even pitched a scoreless inning for the Minnesota Twins in 2011. The 32-year-old hit .284 with 20 homers and 70 RBI.
Vladimir Guerrero—Guerrero isn't the beast he was just one season ago, but a .290 average and 30 doubles earn him a spot.
David DeJesus—After an underwhelming 2011 at the plate, DeJesus should return to his true form in 2012. He hit .240 with the Oakland Athletics but is a career .284 hitter. As a right fielder for Oakland, DeJesus recorded an impressive 10.1 UZR—the best among right fielders registering more than 300 innings.
1. Jose Reyes, SS
2. Grady Sizemore, CF
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
6. Carlos Beltran, RF
7. Kelly Johnson, 2B
8. Ryan Ludwick, LF
9. Ramon Hernandez, C
SP: C.J. Wilson