MLB Free Agency 2012: Every Team's Veteran Who Needs to Be Replaced
Every baseball player goes through a cycle as long as they have the right amount of talent. They get adjusted to the game, hit their peak years and experience a decline. Such is true in all areas of life.
Every team goes through this cyclical process as well, having their peak years before needing to rebuild, particularly if holdovers are aging and need to be replaced. If a team is a contender and has an aging part, it's all the more important to have some insurance, such as a backup reliever or reliable fourth outfielder.
The following is a veteran from each team that either needs to be replaced outright or needs to have a backup added to the roster, just in case they falter next year.
Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gregg
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Kevin Gregg has made his living as a mediocre closer, and when the Baltimore Orioles signed him this past season, he was just that.
Now, at age 33, he's not going to get any better, so tapping into a deep closer market would be beneficial to the Orioles, since certainly they can do better than 22 saves and a 4.37 ERA.
Boston Red Sox: John Lackey
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John Lackey is a move the Red Sox will regret for some time. He was given too much in the contract, and in two seasons he has proven he can't hang in Boston.
The Red Sox are already looking for starting pitching big time, so saying that they need to replace Lackey is almost redundant, since they have to make sure they have five able-bodied starters to begin with in 2012, and they can't move Lackey's contract right now.
New York Yankees: Jorge Posada
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This slide rings very true, because as great as Jorge Posada once was for the Yankees, he had a bad 2011 and has noted that the odds of him returning are slim, even if he does play in 2012.
They have Russell Martin as catcher now, and if they don't want to sign a DH, they can always rotate Derek Jeter or others in and out to keep their fielding fresh.
Tampa Bay Rays: Casey Kotchman
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Even though he's only 28, Casey Kotchman has played eight seasons and has turned into a grizzled veteran. He had a good year for Tampa Bay statistically, so he may leave in free agency.
Because he has the one good year, it's best if Tampa Bay replaces him in the offseason rather than signing him to a multi-year deal, as he's likely to regress. There are enough power hitters out there, that they should be able to find a solid first baseman.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jon Rauch
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Like the Kevin Gregg situation in Baltimore, the Blue Jays wanted a new closer, so they picked up Jon Rauch, a reliever who had been closing two career seasons and was no more than a solid reliever.
Frank Francisco ended up getting more saves and looking like the better closer, so letting Rauch go or keeping him to setup-man duties would be best, as he doesn't seem to be a franchise closer, plain and simple.
Chicago White Sox: Omar Vizquel
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I'm as big an Omar Vizquel fan as they come, but I don't know why Vizquel doesn't just retire and call a great career quits—more importantly, I don't know why the Chicago White Sox keep him around.
Yes, he's the fourth infielder, but he's had two seasons of negative WAR, and after 58 games last season he showed he has very little left in the tank.
Cleveland Indians: Travis Hafner
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Travis Hafner has quite a bit of power when he's healthy, and can be a serviceable DH. The problem is that he hasn't been healthy, and the last time he played a full season was 2007, so the Indians need to pick up an extra guy to help out.
A DH has to be able to hit nearly every day, and there are plenty of them on the market most years. He's 34, so any power he has left is going to start vanishing.
Detroit Tigers: Magglio Ordonez
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Magglio Ordonez has had a great run with the Detroit Tigers, but after a terrible 2011 season, the Tigers know they need to replace him if they want to remain atop the AL Central.
They traded for Delmon Young last season, so they're way ahead of me on this slideshow, as they have their post-Magglio outfield set with Young, Brennan Boesch and Austin Jackson.
Kansas City Royals: Jeff Francis
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The only veteran who wasn't traded during the season and has struggled, was pitcher Jeff Francis, who went 6-16 on the Royals' one-year deal.
That's not going to be too hard to replace, since even the lower-tier free agents in this pitching class could at least pull that off. Francis wasn't terrible, but he didn't exactly convince any suitors.
Minnesota Twins: Justin Morneau
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Unlike many other players on this list, I am not asking the Twins to get rid of Justin Morneau, as 2011 was his only bad season, and he was hurt during it. Still, if he has injury problems, then the Twins need a capable backup.
The 30-year-old will hopefully get back to his prime form, but on the chance he doesn't, there are enough capable third basemen waiting for a job, that the Twins should not have to worry much.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Vernon Wells
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Mike Trout is waiting in the wings for Vernon Wells to prove why the Angels made a stupid move taking his massive contract.
Do I really need to say more?
Oakland Athletics: The Outfield
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The only veterans the Athletics really had on their roster in 2011 of any significance were their outfielders—Coco Crisp, David DeJesus and Josh Willingham. All are free agents and likely to leave, so they basically occupy this spot by default.
Still, adding new outfielders is a top priority, since all they have after that is Ryan Sweeney, who's hardly starter quality.
Seattle Mariners: Ichiro Suzuki
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This is not something the Mariners want to think about at all, but here are the facts. Ichiro is 38, and great season after great season, he hit .272 last year and fell apart defensively.
Bringing in a veteran fourth outfielder who can hop in when needed would be ideal, especially since their own backups are not getting it done. If their typically-reliable piece fails, they'll be done fast. Hopefully, Ichiro will rebound and they won't have to worry about that.
Texas Rangers: C.J. Wilson
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All of the veterans on the Texas Rangers roster have been playing great, and I'm not worried about any of them in 2012. By process of elimination, the guy Texas needs to replace is C.J. Wilson, given that he's a free agent and will probably be out of their price range.
Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones
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Chipper Jones has had a great Hall of Fame career with the Atlanta Braves, and while the 39-year-old may have a couple years left in the tank, the Braves have to start thinking about a replacement.
They don't need to go out and get a star third baseman, but getting a highly-touted prospect or someone who can hold down the fort upon retirement would be great, since if they trade Martin Prado they won't have anyone to put there.
Miami Marlins: Greg Dobbs and Wes Helms
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While the Braves may have Chipper Jones' replacement to worry about, at least they have a quality third baseman. Miami's combination of Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs last season was rather embarrassing.
The third-base crop is rather weak this year, so re-signing Dobbs may be a necessity. With their big payroll this offseason though, it would be stupid for them not to acquire a solid one, even if it's just for defense.
New York Mets: Jason Bay
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It's somewhat obvious that the Mets are regretting the Jason Bay signing, since he's been quite ineffective. If he could play a full season perhaps he could be OK, but as is, he could use a backup.
The Mets have a couple veteran backups in place, but since Bay doesn't look to be getting any better, finding a prospect who can take over would be best.
Philadelphia Phillies: Brad Lidge
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Brad Lidge is a love-or-hate-type of reliever. I never understood some of the hate, but I do get that he tends to be either great or awful, and the Phillies would want a more consistent setup man.
They signed Jonathan Papelbon as their closer, and bringing in a setup man as well could be a great addition, either as a replacement or mentor if they decide to re-sign him.
Washington Nationals: Livan Hernandez
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Livan Hernandez has had a nice career, and performed well in 2010 with the Nationals. In 2011, he struggled, and I don't see him doing much better, whether or not the Nationals re-sign him.
It's great for the Nationals to have a veteran presence in their rotation, but make it a consistently decent pitcher. It can be one somewhat like Livan as long as you knock five years off.
Chicago Cubs: Carlos Zambrano
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Another no-brainer here after what happened in 2011, but even if he does hang around, the Cubs need to add some starting-rotation depth.
Cincinnati Reds: Bronson Arroyo
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While I get that the Cincinnati Reds need a veteran leader for their core group of young pitchers, Bronson Arroyo no longer seems like that pitcher. He was consistently good year after year, but did not look good in 2011.
Bringing in a veteran spot starter to be on the safe side would help, and that feeling of replacement could make Arroyo move back to his numbers pre-2011.
Houston Astros: Carlos Lee
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While many of the players on this list had a poor 2011 season, Carlos Lee bounced back and had a nice 2011. It was his 2010 season that was awful, and with one year left on his deal, it's time for Houston to think of a replacement.
The Astros are in full rebuilding mode already, and since they traded Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence, maybe replacing Carlos Lee in the offseason is not the best move, as long as they have someone ready for 2013.
Milwaukee Brewers: Prince Fielder
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Despite being only 27, Prince Fielder is a grizzled veteran of seven seasons. Unfortunately, the Brewers have to find someone to replace him with this offseason, since the odds of Milwaukee being able to afford him are quite slim.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Ryan Doumit
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The Pittsburgh Pirates don't really have veterans on their roster aside from Derrek Lee and a couple others, but Lee has done well and the others only have small roles. The only one left is Ryan Doumit.
Doumit was a decent utility player, but never played a full season. He also signed with the Twins a week back, so the Pirates have to replace him fairly quickly.
St. Louis Cardinals: Skip Schumaker
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I've always felt that seven-year veteran Skip Schumaker was the weak link of the Cardinals roster. He had a .300 average a couple years, but the past two years he hasn't done much offensively or defensively.
Albert Pujols is the top priority, but after that, the Cardinals should certainly look for a replacement at second base; it would make them more likely to repeat as champions.
Arizona Diamondbacks: First Base
The first veteran who came to mind was Kelly Johnson, but he was traded at the deadline, so he's out. However, the Arizona Diamondbacks went through so many veteran first basemen the past year that it was ridiculous.
The D'Backs need to have one good first baseman rather than Xavier Nady, Russell Branyan, Juan Miranda and Lyle Overbay all taking turns.
Colorado Rockies: Todd Helton
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As great as Todd Helton's been, he's 38 and has started to struggle in recent years. He should be able to finish out his contract, but it's time to find his successor.
Obviously Jason Giambi can't succeed Helton, so they will either have to find a young prospect who can hit for power, or sign a veteran when the time comes.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Hiroki Kuroda
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Hiroki has been a great, underrated pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers the past few seasons, and if he re-signs with the team, the Dodgers don't have to worry much about their rotation.
If he heads to Japan or retires, however, the Dodgers will need to find a capable No. 2 pitcher, and there are not a huge number of them on the market. As a result, they have have to shop for prospects, since he'll be 37 when the season starts, and may not have much left in the tank.
San Diego Padres: Heath Bell
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The grizzled veteran closer just signed a deal with the Miami Marlins, and since he was 34, the Padres were going to have to replace him sooner or later anyway.
Luckily, the closer field is pretty deep this year, and if worse came to worse they could use Chad Qualls until they find someone good, though he could have just as easily been on this list after his awful 2010 season.
San Francisco Giants: Barry Zito
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While Pat Burrell will possibly end up retiring and Cody Ross is a free agent, the veteran outfielder who most needs replacing is Aaron Rowand, who is finally on the last year of his contract.
At least he's just being used as a fourth outfielder though. Barry Zito has been the obvious person for years. They have a great start of the rotation, but adding someone to replace Zito would make the Giants that much better.