A lot of the prime beef (so to speak) has been claimed on the Major League Baseball free agent market, but as we head into January (would you believe it is less than 50 days until pitchers/catchers start reporting), there are few leftover cuts of meat that aren’t bad.
1) Michael Bourn.
Top candidates: Texas Rangers and New York Yankees. The Rangers and Yankees have done a bit more “watching” than “participating” in the Free Agent grab, this last big fish might be an answer to their rivals major moves. Bourn is coming off his second All Star appearance, has two gold gloves in his trophy case, and is still only 29 years old (in his prime). He reached base 241 times last season, with his speed, that results in a lot of runs. He’d fit well on those teams with sluggers in the middle of the lineup, and is a plus defender for sure.
2) Kyle Lohse.
Top candidates: Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewers. As Lohse is entering his mid-30’s, he’s looking for a team that is poised to win sooner than later. Both the Red Sox and Brewers have dismantled their pitching staffs (or lost significantly to free agency) and Lohse would it in well in either place. Lohse has 63 starts the past two season, with a 30-11 record overall, with an ERA at 3.11. I’m sure the asking price is high, but seems like he could bring value to a contender.
3) Adam LaRoche.
Top candidate: Washington Nationals. My feeling here is that that Nationals are standing firm on their current offer, LaRoche is playing chicken with trying to make it seem as if there are other suitors. There’s not much firm in terms of negotiating with anyone else, so we’ll see how long the stalemate lasts. There are a lot of teams that would love to pick up the slugging 1B, I think several aren’t sure of the upside of giving more than the 2-years, $25M the Nationals have offered. LaRoche wants a 3-year deal.
4) Rafael Soriano.
Top candidates: Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals. Soriano curiously opted out of a $14M option with the Yankees (after having a career year in Mariano Rivera’s absence) and might be having trouble finding a suitor. The Tigers insist they’re not interested (but could clearly use a stopper at the end of the pen). The Royals seem like a team that is sniffing. Any way you look at it, Soriano looked really good in 2012 and showed no signs of slowing down. A combination of high asking price plus a market with few buyers seems to be preventing a deal. I expect he’ll agree with someone for 1-year and about what he turned down from the Yankees.
5) Lance Berkman.
Top candidate: Houston Astros. Berkman appears to be a bit of an enigma. Coming off a resurgent, comeback year in 2011, his old knee injuries cropped up in 2012 and completely limited his value entering free agency. To the point he appears ready to walk away from the game. The Astros kicked the tires a little bit, but Berkman seemed to want his old, 30 home run, 100 RBI salary or he’d just stay home. The Astros needed a DH until they recently signed Carlos Pena (who is borderline unplayable at times when he can’t hit .200). So more to come here, plus other teams might sniff if/when they suffer spring training injuries. Or Berkman may decide he misses the game more than he thinks!
One note, despite agreeing to terms, Mike Napoli has not yet signed. He’d be on this list, but we continue to monitor as rumors are that his physical did not go smoothly.