In this last, but not least, edition of In Some Depth, we turn our attention to the future -- namely, by looking both at (a) some key players who are set to enter free agency this offseason and (b) what said players might leave in their wake should they sign elsewhere.
Here are those players and their potential replacements, ordered by position:
Players: Ryan Doumit (PIT), Ramon Hernandez (CIN), Jorge Posada (NYA), Jason Varitek (BOS)
Notes: Doumit has a $7.25MM club option for 2012, but that might be too steep a price for Doumit with 2009 fourth-overall pick Tony Sanchez now in the high minors... The Reds have Ryan Hanigan already at the MLB level and Yasmani Grandal and Devin Mesoraco basically MLB-ready... With zero starts at catcher in 2011, Posada won't qualify there my most formats next season... Expect Ryan Lavarnway to join the catcher depth chart for Boston in 2012, making Varitek's role even smaller should he return.
Position: First Base
Players: Prince Fielder (MIL), Casey Kotchman (TB), Carlos Pena (CHC), Albert Pujols (STL)
Notes: The absence of Fielder will leave a hole at first for Milwaukee, the most likely in-house replacement for whom is probably Mat Gamel -- i.e. not really a replacement for Fielder... Casey Kotchman's rebound season likely sets him up for starting role somewhere in 2012. It remains to be seen whether he priced himself out of the Rays' budget... If the Cubs stay in-house in replacing Pena, Bryan LaHair is the most likely option... Signing Lance Berkman to a one-year, $12 million for 2012 gives the Cards a ready-made replacement should Pujols opt to go elsewhere.
Position: Second Base
Players: Mark Ellis (COL), Omar Infante (FLA), Kelly Johnson (TOR)
Notes: With a combination of Jon Herrera, Chris Nelson, and Eric Young Jr. around, the Rockies don't really need to bring back Ellis... The departure of Omar Infante could open up a starting spot for Emilio Bonifacio, who's started games at second base, third base, shortstop, and each of the outfield spots in 2011 (Late Ed. Note: it appears that the Marlins will extend Infante to a two-year, $8 million deal before he hits the market) ... Kelly Johnson is actually a candidate to remain with the Blue Jays, to whom he was traded for Aaron Hill mid-season.
Position: Third Base
Players: Wilson Betemit (DET), Casey Blake (LAD), Aramis Ramirez (CHC)
Notes: Betemit has hit .288/.356/.469 over the last two seasons, but that's buoyed up by a .375 BABIP and comes with Betemit's defense, which is likely below average. Current Tigers Don Kelly and Ryan Raburn aren't really upgrades, however... It's possible that the Dodgers will exercise Blake's $6 million club option -- he was worth about that this season despite injuries -- but the Dodgers might choose to look for a healthier option. As of now, there are no obviously in-house replacements... Reports suggest that Ramirez is likely to opt out if the Cubs pick up his $16 million option for 2012. The author heartily endorses Triple-A-er Marquez Smith, who would be a good, if not great, major leaguer. Prospect Josh Vitters is another one to watch.
Players: Rafael Furcal (STL), Jose Reyes (NYM), Jimmy Rollins (PHI)
Notes: The Cardinals are likely not to exercise the injury-prone Furcal's $12 million club option. Tyler Greene deserves a shot at the shortstop job, and is a 20-20 possibility given the time... Reyes's injuries might have hurt the total value of the contract he'll be receiving in the offseason, but, whatever the value, it might be too high for the Mets, who are in some financial disrepair. Ruben Tejada is the only viable replacement in the organization, but he represents a pretty serious downgrade... Just as Derek Jeter is worth more to the Yankees than any other team, Jimmy Rollins is worth more to the Phillies -- if not to the same extent as Jeter. He's likely to re-sign with Philadelphia, although the Giants are a possibility, apparently.
Players: Carlos Beltran (SF), J.D. Drew (BOS), Raul Ibanez (PHI), Juan Pierre (CHW), The Whole Oakland Outfield
Notes: With Pat Burrell, Mark DeRosa, and Cody Ross also entering free agency this offseason, the Giants will have more room in their outfield than this year. Brandon Belt, Andres Torres, and Nate Schierholtz would probably start in the outfield should Beltran not sign with San Francisco... Josh Reddick has filled in mostly well for J.D. Drew while the latter has been absent with injury. Minor-leaguer Ryan Kalish is one in-house alternative -- as is Alex Hassan, possibly... Domonic Brown is already a better player than Raul Ibanez... The presence of Dayan Viciedo -- and the emergence of both Alejandro De Aza and Brent Lillibridge, for that matter -- mean that Juan Pierre is extraneous at this point. Or should be extraneous... Along with DH Hideki Matsui, the entire Oakland outfield -- i.e. Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, and Josh Willingham -- also enters free agency. The club has some young players in Chris Carter, Grant Green, and Michael Taylor
Players: Johnny Damon (TB), Vladimir Guerrero (BAL), Hideki Matsui (OAK), David Ortiz (BOS)
Notes: Damon has 11 outfield starts this season and 16 total appearances, meaning he'll qualify as an outfielder in some leagues. It wouldn't be shocking if the Rays brought him back, provided Damon would sign for something like the $5.25 million he did last year... Guerrero cost about $3 million more than Damon but has been less valuable in terms of real-live baseball, his average (.292) mostly empty at this point. It might make sense for the Orioles to move the defensively challenged Mark Reynolds to DH -- or Luke Scott, who played there a bunch before Vlad arrived... See the Outfield comments re: Matsui et al... Though Ryan Lavarnway might become a DH if he can't handle catcher defensively, it wouldn't be surprising to see Ortiz re-up with the Sox for another year or two after his impressive 2011.
Free-agent data courtesy MLB Trade Rumors.