For this week's column, I put together a list of the more interesting names who became free agents recently. The tender deadline in MLB was December 2nd and as we see every year, about four dozen players ended up getting released. Every year, there are always a few players who add value to a club and so I have put together the "best" at each position.
SP: Jerome Williams & Tommy Hanson - You wouldn't suspect a team in desperate need of starting pitching depth to non-tender two pitchers who could provide that for them. When looking at the price to keep them as tendered arbitration eligible players however, it makes sense that the Angels parted ways with Williams and Hanson. The Hanson release was obvious but Williams has provided quality innings the last few years and at about a $4,000,000 price tag, it would have seemed like a good opportunity for the Angels to re-up. There are quite a few teams who could be interested in Williams, as he can be a nice swingman or decent fifth starter. Williams should be able to procure a major league deal and he could have value equal to what Carlos Torres and Ross Ohlendorf provided their respective clubs last year.
As for Hanson, Dan Duquette's name is written all over him. The Orioles have a done a good job with pitchers rebounding and they've maximized a lot of potential the last two seasons. Hanson has not been the same since his shoulder injury with the Braves and one wonders if moving him to the bullpen would be a wise decision.
The following teams look like fits for both Williams and Hanson:
One interesting name that the D-Backs are trying to bring back is Daniel Hudson. Someone should give him a two-year deal or some sort of second-year option and try and get him healthy to compete for a rotation spot in 2015.
RHR: If you are looking for some quality bullpen depth from the right side of the pen, you have a plethora of choices amongst the non-tenders. The best of the bunch is John Axford. A few teams will probably look at him as a closer or give him a chance to pitch in the late innings. The Cardinals got good value out of him pitching mostly against righties. Axford's fastball has gone backwards on him the last two years and when he pitches up in the zone his fastball tends to flatten out, leading to a lot of home runs. His best role is probably in the sixth and seventh innings right now but someone will probably give him a shot to compete for a spot to pitch in the eighth or ninth. The following teams look like potential fits:
Looking past Axford, Ronald Belisario and Ryan Webb will find major league deals as middle-inning relievers. Andrew Bailey will be a candidate for a two-year deal or a second year option as a late-inning piece in August of 2014 but with an eye on 2015.
LHR: There is not much of a non-tender market for lefties with the only name being Wesley Wright. Wright is not a specialist but he can operate as a second lefty in someone's pen. The Cubs pounced on him quickly with a one-year deal.
CA: J.P. Arencibia is coming off of a couple of disappointing seasons after showing some promise in his rookie year. For anyone still holding out hope that he will be a starting catcher, you'll probably have to adjust your thinking. There are a few teams that might sign him to share time or be a backup, but I suspect someone will take him on a one-year major league deal to be a backup. In the right ballpark, if given 250 PA's he could still pop 10-15 homers in a limited role. The O's could have him compete with Steve Clevenger for the backup gig and if they deal Matt Wieters this summer (should they fall out of the race) he can fill the void for a few months. The Tigers are a possibility to have Arencibia push Alex Avila and have him compete with Bryan Holaday for the backup gig. The Rangers would be an interesting fit to split time with Geovany Soto. Nobody is going to hand him a starting job though. Other teams that could be interested...
1B: Garrett Jones can still hit righties but the Pirates were correct to move on from him and try to upgrade considering his salary hike in arbitration. Once Mike Napoli, James Loney and Corey Hart come off the board, Jones could have some value as a right-handed platoon bat or to be what Lyle Overbay was to the Yankees last year. That is, an injury fill-in and depth piece. The teams interested in first basemen right now are the Rays, Pirates, Red Sox, Astros and the Mariners. The Yankees should be looking for depth there as well. My bets are that Napoli ends up back with the Sox, Kendrys Morales (who I did not include above, but is still a guy that can play 20 games at first base) probably heads back to Seattle, Hart in Milwaukee or the Bronx and Loney will choose between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. Houston is not looking to lock someone up for multiple years as they want Jonathan Singleton to man the position as early as 2014. That leaves Jones with a chance to procure 300-400 AB's with the Pirates again, or possibly Tampa (Jones sort of smells like a Casey Kotchman/Loney like rebound candidate). The Astros would be a nice fit and bridge for Singleton, while the Yankees would be a great club for his left-handed stroke and insurance for Mark Teixeira. For that matter, he could make sense in Boston as well, but he might be redundant with Daniel Nava around.
2B: Chris Getz "gets" (sorry, couldn't resist) the nod here but the infield and outfield did not produce a lot to get excited about on the non-tender market this year. Getz's days as a starter are over and I wouldn't be surprised if he has to settle for a minor league deal.
Teams with interest on major league deals could be the following...
3B: Chris Nelson - This one is by default because he started there for the Angels for a while last year and there are no other non-tenders with much experience at the position. Nobody will sign Nelson to start and he'll be lucky if he procures a major league deal.
SS: Omar Quintanilla - See above and replace "Angels" with "Mets."
OF: I am combining this into one category as there are no starters that have emerged from the list of non-tendered outfielders. Some names to keep your eye on that could help clubs as fifth outfielders are Xavier Paul, Sam Fuld and Derrick Robinson.
UT: Here are a few names that could find major league deals as fifth infielders, ranked in order of ability...
1. Elliot Johnson
2. Justin Turner
3. Jayson Nix
4. Chris Coghlan
5. Jordany Valdespin
6. Paul Janish
7. David Adams