MLB Free Agency 2012: Top 10 Utility Players on the Market and Where They'll Go
In an offseason highlighted by Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, we can't forget the utility players who help the teams in so many ways.
These guys give rest to the everyday players while filling in some holes for the manager. They can be defensive upgrades or speedsters who can pinch run.
Utility players are essential to the success of a ballclub. Sometimes, it's not the biggest name who makes the biggest impact. The little guys can affect the team in a large way as well.
It's hard predicting where utility players will go since every team needs one. Where I think they'll end up is purely speculation since the media doesn't really cover utility players.
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Reed Johnson can play any of the outfield spots with a solid enough glove.
However, he's best known for being a contact hitter with a pretty high on-base percentage.
Back when he was with the Toronto Blue Jays, he was their leadoff hitter. Johnson usually had a good on-base percentage which placed him at the top of the lineup.
His best year was in 2006 when he had a .316 AVG and a .390 OBP.
As a utility player, he can field any of the outfield positions while also being useful with his bat.
Where he'll go: Chicago Cubs
Jerry Hairston Jr.
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Jerry Hairston Jr. is one of those super utility guys who can play just about any position.
He can play second, shortstop, and third while also fielding all three spots in the outfield. He'd probably play first and catch as well if he was asked to.
Hairston Jr. isn't exactly a wizard with the glove, but he gets the job done. There's also worse options out there for a fielder.
A drawback with him is that he's not exactly the best hitter out there. He can get an average hovering around .200 and he's also had an average over .300 one year.
However, he'll likely stay consistent with an average around the .260 and .270 mark. That's all you're looking for from an utility player anyways.
Where he'll go: Milwaukee Brewers
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Eric Hinske is one of those tough, gritty players who just plays the game. You don't exactly hear praises aimed at him, but you don't hear anything bad either. He just does his part.
Hinske can play both corner infield spots and the corner outfield spots.
He's better suited for the outfield or first base in my opinion. I'd rather have a better glove at the hot corner.
Unlike the previous two guys, Hinske has some power. He did crush 24 homers his rookie year and reached 20 again with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008.
Being a long ball threat is always a plus with utility guys. I've got a feeling Tampa Bay will look into getting him back seeing they need all the offensive help they can get.
Where he'll go: Tampa Bay Rays
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Michael Cuddyer's mainly a right fielder, but he's spent some time at first, second, third and the other two outfield spots.
Throughout his career with the Minnesota Twins, they'd play him at various positions during the season.
He'd be a costly utility player since he's use to playing everyday with the Twins, but he'd be a utility player nonetheless with his ability to play several positions.
Also, unlike most utility guys, he's got a bit of a bat. His average hovers around the .270 mark and he has power. In 2009, Cuddyer had 32 home runs.
Where he'll go: Minnesota Twins
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Mike Cameron was once a pretty good everyday player with his ability to hit home runs and his above average glove in centerfield.
Now age has caught up with him relegating him to a bench role, but he can help out by playing two of the outfield spots.
His bat has slipped drastically even though it was in 2009 when he hit 24 home runs.
Cameron could regain some of that power, but that's a big if. Most teams will want him for his ability with the glove.
He can also mentor the younger players which is why I see him signing with a young team unless the quest to get a ring kicks in.
Cameron could very well stay with the Florida, I mean, Miami Marlins, but I could also see him joining the Tampa Bay Rays or the Houston Astros especially since the Astros are in complete rebuilding mode with the prospects they got this past trade deadline.
Where he'll go: Houston Astros or Tampa Bay Rays
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Orlando Cabrera's been the king of the one-year deals lately and for good reason. He can play second, shortstop and third with a solid glove.
Cabrera's use to the utility and bench role so he can fit in with any club. He's one of those players that always finds a team to play for.
His bat's been regressing recently as his average as gotten further away from his usual .280 mark with each year. However, teams weren't likely going to sign him for his offensive abilities anyway.
I see him signing with a playoff contender that needs a solid backup infielder.
Likely spots are the Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves, and Philadelphia Phillies. I'll go with the Tigers since he's spent most of his career in the AL.
Where he'll go: Detroit Tigers
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Nick Punto's another utility infielder. He can play second, third, and shortstop. Unlike the other guys so far, he's purely a defensive specialist.
You won't see Nick Punto in the home run derby anytime soon, but that's okay because it's his glove that sets him apart.
Punto spent a good part of his career with the Minnesota Twins and was part of that good pitching, good defense philosophy they had over there.
He'd make a great late game defensive replacement and could give regulars some rest too without the manager worry about losing some defense.
Like Orlando Cabrera, I see Punto going to a contender who needs a backup infielder. I have a feeling he'll stick around in the NL.
Where he'll go: Philadelphia Phillies
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Omar Vizquel is basically an older, better version of Nick Punto.
In his younger years, he had a bit of a bat as his average stayed near the .280 mark with some instances of it going over or below. He's a career .272 hitter.
Vizquel also won 11 Gold Gloves, something most everyday starters, let alone utility players, can say.
His skills would be best served on a team that could use a veteran leader and some mentoring for its younger players. However, he also deserves one last shot at a ring as he's not getting any younger.
A place for him that would combine both of those is with the Texas Rangers as they have Elvis Andrus who Vizquel could mentor.
They also stand a pretty good chance of going back to the World Series regardless of where C.J. Wilson ends up.
Where he'll go: Texas Rangers
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Jack Wilson is yet another utility infielder who's kind of a cross between Omar Vizquel and Nick Punto.
He's not as good a fielder as Vizquel, but his bat is closer to Vizquel's than to Punto's. Wilson is a solid defender like the two of them and will provide more offense the Punto.
Wilson's bat has slipped recently and he hasn't been able to reach .300 again like he did back in 2004.
Wilson can play second, third, and shortstop so he'll be most valuable to a team in need of a solid utility infielder like with Orlando Cabrera and Punto.
Since I have those two going to the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies respectively, Wilson will have to play elsewhere.
He'll likely stay with the Atlanta Braves as they're one of the last few playoff contenders in need of a utility infielder.
Where he'll go: Atlanta Braves
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I think of Mark DeRosa as the epitome of the utility player. In fact, he's a super utility guy.
He's played just about every position except centerfield, catcher, and pitcher throughout his career.
He can fill in for just about any player without seeming lost at that position.
DeRosa can also hit as he has a career .272 average and has reached 20 home runs twice before, in 2008 and 2009.
He probably won't come close to 20 home runs again since his injury has turned him into a singles hitter, but he's still an offensive threat.
He's heading towards the end of his career so his chances to win a championship are starting to run out. I see him joining a contender for that reason.
Once place that makes a bit of sense is in the Bronx with the New York Yankees.
The Yankees don't have someone who can play several positions like DeRosa can. DeRosa was also born in New Jersey so he might want to end his career playing near the place he grew up.
Where he'll go: New York Yankees