Posted on: November 1, 2011 4:35 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 10:20 pm

Team-by-team AL free agency outlooks

By Matt Snyder

With open free agency set to hit us at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, it's worth taking a quick look at what every single team is going to be looking for. We've already done detailed breakdowns in the R.I.P. series, so here are some quick hitters for the American League:

Baltimore Orioles | R.I.P.
Needs: Could use a corner infielder, depending upon where they want to play Mark Reynolds (including DH). Pitching, starting and in relief.
Money to spend? They should have a decent amount. Between Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Mike Gonzalez, Koji Uehara and Cesar Izturis, that's roughly $25 million coming off the books from the beginning of last season. Some arbitration raises are coming, but we'll see how much owner Peter Angelos wants to spend. The Orioles have already raised payroll about $20 million since 2008. Don't count out a run at Prince Fielder or some other big name.

Boston Red Sox | R.I.P.
Needs: Pitching, right field.
Money to spend? Will new GM Ben Cherington be more careful on big free agent deals after seeing some colossal failures in recent years? It's hard to tell, but if the Red Sox let both David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon walk, they'll be able to spend. The two combined to make over $24 million last year. J.D. Drew's $14 million is gone just as Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield are free agents. A few arbitration raises should still leave the Red Sox about $30 million short of last season's payroll. So there's room to play.

New York Yankees | R.I.P.
Needs: Pitching, pitching, pitching
Money to spend? With Jorge Posada's hefty contract coming off the books, yes, you can expect the Yankees have money to spend. Do they go large and land C.J. Wilson? I'd guess there are serious discussions about doing so. He's left-handed, which is a great fit for Yankee Stadium. Maybe Mark Buehrle is a fall back and posting for Yu Darvish is entirely possible. One thing is for sure: Getting CC Sabathia nailed down before free agency began was huge.

More Free Agency
Position rankings
Tampa Bay Rays | R.I.P.
Needs: Catcher, first baseman, shortstop, bullpen help
Money to spend? Not much. The situation in Tampa Bay is dire, so if the Rays are really looking to shore up that many positions via free agency, it's going to have to be on the cheap. And they might even have to trade James Shields to do so. Trading B.J. Upton is a no-brainer in order to save money. In dealing those two, they could plug Desmond Jennings in center and Matt Moore in the rotation and then fill the holes cheaply with guys like Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman (which they did last season).

Toronto Blue Jays | R.I.P.
Needs: All kinds of pitching, second base.
Money to spend? The belief is they have a lot of money to spend between this offseason and next. Do they make a big splash now or wait? They could make a run at Prince Fielder or David Ortiz, but the offense doesn't need near as much help as the pitching -- plus, with Edwin Encarnacion coming back 1B and DH seem to be filled. They will probably hit on a closer like Jonathan Papelbon or Ryan Madson. As for the second base crop, it's pretty thin. Maybe Ramon Santiago or Jamey Carroll? If they really wanted to go for it, they could move Brett Lawrie back to second base and go after Aramis Ramirez, but that's not happening.

Chicago White Sox | R.I.P.
Needs: To get younger
Money to spend? Not much. The White Sox had a huge payroll last season and got nothing to show for it. Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy will make over $55 million combined and there don't appear to be any areas where a quick fix would make the White Sox a ton better than last year. Instead, they should stay away from free agency and instead start trading veterans to stock a barren farm system.

Cleveland Indians | R.I.P.
Needs: catcher or first base (depending on where they play Carlos Santana), left field (Michael Brantley likely moves to center with Grady Sizemore gone)
Money to spend? The Indians have a lot of good, young talent but it's all already arrived at the big-league level (or been traded away). So they're ready to make a move in the Central, as evidenced by trading for veteran Derek Lowe. There's some extra revenue from the increased attendance in 2011, but they still can't come close to affording Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols. Maybe Carlos Pena? He's a good defensive first baseman and hit 28 homers with 74 RBI and an .879 OPS if you lop off his dreadful start in 2011 (that listed stat line began May 3). If not Pena, Casey Kotchman is a decent fall back.

Detroit Tigers | R.I.P.
Needs: Second base and third base (or shortstop, with Jhonny Peralta shifting positions).
Money to spend? With some big contracts (like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen) coming off the books and a revenue stream from a season that saw the Tigers hit the ALCS, you can bet they'll be spending. Jose Reyes or Aramis Ramirez would work well, but it seems like a top-of-the-order guy makes more sense, considering Jim Leyland was forced to keep trotting strikeout machine Austin Jackson out in the leadoff spot and the Tigers already have Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez in the middle. Also, the Tigers could also go cheap in the infield and grab someone like Michael Cuddyer for right field. We'll see.

Kansas City Royals | R.I.P.
Needs: Starting pitching, relief pitching, bench depth
Money to spend? The Royals haven't yet made their move in the AL Central, so revenues haven't greatly increased just yet. They'll be able to spend some money, but mostly the type that can land spare parts while the Royals wait on the young wave to thrive. Reports have indicated general manager Dayton Moore wants to trade some of the Royals' many coveted prospects for a good starting pitcher, so expect K.C. to be more active in hot stove trade talk than in major free agency signings.

Minnesota Twins | R.I.P.
Needs: Closer, setup men, corner outfielders and to stay healthy
Money to spend? If the Twins bring back both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer, they'll be a bit strapped for cash. If not, they'll have plenty to spend, as those two leaving along with Joe Nathan and Matt Capps frees up lots of money. Expect the Twins to be aggressive in seeking relief pitching help, even possibly willing to trade other pieces to shore up the back-end of the bullpen.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | R.I.P.
Needs: Catcher (hmm, if only they didn't trade a certain postseason star), pitching depth
Money to spend? Nope, they're pretty much on lockdown, as owner Arte Moreno has said the payroll will decrease -- and they're already saddled with lots of huge veteran contracts. Even if they could find takers for some of the overpaid veterans, they'd have to give significant salary relief. As things stand, the Angels in 2012 probably greatly resemble the Angels of 2011.

Oakland Athletics | R.I.P.
Needs: An entire outfield and third base.
Money to spend? The A's have over $23 million in salary coming off the books, but the question is if Billy Beane attacks things in a similar manner to how he did last year with the offense. Several modest one-year contracts were handed out. Why not instead go young with Michael Taylor, Chris Carter and Brandon Allen while using the free agent money on one bigger bat (Aramis Ramirez? Carlos Beltran?)? The problem there lies in convincing a major free agent to play in Oakland, so the guess is Beane again signs a few cheaper guys like Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui last season.

Seattle Mariners | R.I.P.
Needs: Pitching depth, offensive firepower.
Money to spend? There's a modest amount of money leaving the payroll while Ichiro is signed for $18 million in 2012 before he's done. So the Mariners could actually backload deals if they want to make a huge splash. Could they get crazy and go after two big offensive names? They've done so in the past (the Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson signings). Expect to hear the Mariners in rumors for Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes, and probably trickling on down to the likes of Carlos Beltran and Jimmy Rollins. Now, whether or not they can convince any of those guys to sign, we'll see.

Texas Rangers | R.I.P.
Needs: Bullpen depth
Money to spend? A modest amount. It's likely the Rangers let C.J. Wilson walk and fill in the rotation either in-house (Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando, Scott Feldman) or by signing Japanese phenom Yu Darvish. From there, the Rangers could make Mike Adams the new closer and focus on setup men, or go after a free agent closer like Jonathan Papelbon or Ryan Madson. Keep in mind, the Rangers don't have to change much, considering they were one strike away from a World Series title twice and the overwhelming majority of the team is returning intact. Plus, the revenues from going to two consecutive World Series will give them the ability to increase the payroll should they wish.

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 5:40 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 6:21 pm

Reds pick up Phillips' option, decline Cordero


By Evan Brunell

The Reds picked up the team option on second baseman Brandon Phillips and declined closer Francisco Cordero's option, the team announced.

In addition, the Twins claimed left-handed starter Matt Maloney off waivers from Cincinnati. The moves altogether will drop Cordero and Maloney from the Reds' 40-man roster.

Phillips' option is for $12 million, and exercising the option has been expected for months, However, the two sides are discussing a long-term deal, although the Reds may not be able to meet the price Phillips is setting. The second baseman hit .300 for the first time in his career, adding 58 extra-base hits, scoring 94 and driving in 82 runs. The two-time All-Star is also a finalist for his third Gold Glove. All told, the 30-year-old could fetch a significant price in free agency, whether this year or next year. And Phillips knows it, saying, "This is my last contract,” in September. “There is no homeboy hookup. I just want to be paid what I am worth.”

More Free Agency
Position rankings
Earlier in the month, Phillips addressed the option specifically, saying he wanted a new deal instead of just exercising the option -- but hadn't heard anything from the team.

"I've always said from Day 1 that this is where I want to be at," Phillips said. "I thought there might be some talks going on during the season but I haven't heard anything all year. I was very disappointed about it. It hurts bad that this is where I want to be at and I've paid blood, sweat and tears for this organization, but the only thing I can do is thank them very much for giving me a second opportunity. I can't really trip about anything that much. I came here and got my career back to where it should be going."

GM Walt Jocketty has displayed an interest in extending Phillips, but it's also no surprise that he chose to wait until after the season. Many teams prefer not to discuss contracts during the year and with the plum option working in the Reds' favor, there was no hurry to get Phillips inked. However, Phillips fired a warning shot when talking about the chance of his option being picked up with no new deal.

"If they just pick my option up and don't extend me, I feel like that's a slap in my face," he Phillips. "If the team wants you, they will make room. They will show you they want you here, period. They did it for some of the other guys."

Whatever happens, the Reds will have an All-Star second baseman opening the season in Cincinnati. Past that, who knows?

One thing's for sure -- Phillips likely wont have Francisco Cordero as a teammate next season. Cordero's $12 million option was declined, handing the righty a $1 million buyout. This move is a bit surprising, as Cordero saved 37 games in 2011 with a 2.45 ERA. While Cordero turns 37 next May, he has 194 saves over the last five seasons, the last four with Cincinnati, and his option would have only tied him to the team for one more season, which can be a luxury when dealing with relievers and their maddening inconsistency. Oh, and Aroldis Chapman is being transitioned to a starter, so there's that much less depth behind Cordero.

However, while Cordero's walks plunged this year to its best rate since 2007, he also struck out far less batters. In fact, on a rate basis, it was a career-worst. In that way, Cordero's newfound control could be misleading -- he's always been one to walk hitters but makes up for it by throwing gas. This year, his average fastball velocity dropped to 93 mph, far below his career mark of 95 mph. In fact, last season's 94.5 mph was the first time his average velocity fell below 95. When velocity drops, pitchers can easily command their pitches more, which could explain Cordero's ability to limit walks. But that is misleading, and it becomes clear why the option was declined. The Reds simply don't have confidence that he can live up to the money he would receive and fulfill his role as the team's closer.

There will be a handful of closers on the free-agent market, so the Reds should be able to find a better option out there than Cordero. There is also the trade route, or promoting an internal reliever. Nick Masset makes the most sense in that role. They won't be able to consider Matt Maloney for the role, though. The 27-year-old was claimed off waivers by the Twins after Maloney's forgettable season with Cincinnati resulted in a 9.16 ERA in 18 2/3 innings, making two starts. However, he had a 2.99 ERA in Triple- A and will give the Twins depth. Minnesota also claimed reliever Jeff Gray off waivers from Seattle.
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Posted on: October 29, 2011 11:07 am

Free-agent position rankings: No OF stars

Carlos Beltran

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Carlos Beltran was the hottest name at the trade deadline and he'll be the top name in free agency. Still, no outfielder will come close to matching Carl Crawford's seven-year, $142 million dollar contract -- the entire crop may not get as much as Crawford and Jayson Werth put together. 

For all free agency moves, check out the CBSSports.com free agency tracker.

Carlos Beltran1. Carlos Beltran:
Even though he'll be 35 early in the 2012 season, the switch-hitting Beltran is the top outfielder available on the market, thanks to a bounce-back (and mostly healthy) year in New York and San Francisco. Although he didn't jumpstart the Giants' offense after his trade tot eh Bay Area, he still produced his fair share, if not more. One player couldn't overcome the Giants' overall lack of offensive production. He hit .323/.369/.551 with seven home runs in 44 games in San Francisco and .300/.385/.525 with 22 homers overall. 
Possible teams: Giants, Yankees, Marlins, Cubs, Braves

Nick Swisher2. Nick Swisher: The Yankees have a $10.25 million option on Swisher, who hit .260/.374/.449 with 23 homers in 2011. The money million won't be an issue for the Yankees, who will most likely pick up the option. There has been a report that New York may exercise the option and try to sign Beltran, then trading Swisher.
Possible teams: Yankees

Michael Cuddyer3. Michael Cuddyer: Cuddyer's versatility could make him a hot commodity. He's primarily played right field, but also played first, second and has played third in the past -- he even pitched a scoreless inning this past season, hitting .284/.346/.459 -- close to his career numbers. He also hit 20 home runs this past season and hit 32 in 2009 before the Twins moved to the spacious Target Field.
Possible teams: Twins, Red Sox, Phillies, Braves, Giants, Angels, Athletics, Cubs, Cardinals, Rockies

Jason Kubel4. Jason Kubel: The 29-year-old enters free agency after playing in just 99 games due to foot problems, it was the first time since 2007 he didn't play at least 140 games, but whoever signs him will be giving that left foot a thorough inspection. Kubel can play either corner spot and give a team some pop -- and if you're into RBI, he did have 103 and 92 in his last two full seasons.
Possible teams: Twins, Red Sox, Cubs, Reds, Indians

Josh Willingham5. Josh Willingham: The right-handed hitting Willigham had career-bests in home run (29) and RBI (98) -- but saw his batting average (.246) and on-base percentage (.332) take a tumble from not only his lofty 2010 numbers, but also his career averages (.262, .361). Willigham is hardly a Gold Glover and there are also concerns about his durability.
Possible teams: Athletics, Reds, White Sox, Twins, Orioles

Coco Crisp6. Coco Crisp: The 31-year-old is the top center fielder available, so that should help his stock. After a hot start, Crisp struggled in 2011, putting up his lowest on-base percentage (.314) since his second season in the majors. He did lead the American League with 49 stolen bases. The A's have had some interest in re-signing Crosp, but the price could be too high. The Giants have said to have interest in him, as well.
Possible teams: Athletics, Giants, Marlins

Grady Sizemore7. Grady Sizemore: The biggest risk/reward of the free agent outfield class -- if he hits free agency. The Indians have a $9 million option on the 29-year-old, who has played just 104 games over the last two seasons because of various injuries. He hasn't played more than 110 games in a season since 2008. When healthy, he's as talented as any player in the game -- but that's a huge if. Either the Indians will gamble and exercise his option or someone else will roll the dice.
Possible teams: Indians, Mariners, Giants, Marlins, Cubs, Reds

David DeJesus8. David DeJesus: DeJesus' first year in Oakland was a serious disappointment, as he saw his average drop .078 and his on-base percentage dropped .061, both to career-lows of .240 and .323, respectively. However, his batting average on balls in play (.271) was 45 points lower than his career mark and his walk rate increased, so it may have just bit a bit of bad luck -- and playing in the Oakland Coliseum. 
Possible teams: Padres, Orioles, Braves, Red Sox, Phillies, Athletics

Andruw Jones9. Andruw Jones: At 34 (he'll be 35 in April), Jones is no longer the elite defensive player he once was, but he put up solid numbers as a platoon player for the Yankees, hitting .247/.356/.495 with 13 home runs in 77 games, but hit .286/.384/.540 against right-handers. He could make a decent addition as a bat off the bench and late-gaem replacement in a corner outfield spot.
Possible teams: Yankees, Braves, Rays, White Sox, Reds

Cody Ross10. Cody Ross: After playing a pivotal role in the Giants' run to the 2010 World Series title and winning the NLCS MVP, Ross struggled in 2011, hitting .240/.325/.405 with 14 home runs. Wherever he lands, Ross will likely have to take a pay cut from the $6.3 million he made in 2010.
Possible teams: Giants, White Sox, Braves, Reds

J.D. Drew11. J.D. Drew: The biggest question is whether Drew will want to play as a 36-year-old platoon or bench player. The days of Drew taking a starting spot seem to be over, as he hit just .222/.315/.302 i 81 games this season. He was close to useless against lefties, hitting just .167/.259/.292 with one homer against left-handers in the final year of his five-year, $70 million deal with the Red Sox.
Possible teams: Rockies, Pirates, retirement

Ryan Ludwick12. Ryan Ludwick: Ludwick has a chance to disappoint his third team in a year -- as the 33-year-old has just not performed since taking off a Cardinals uniform. He started the season hitting .238/.301/.373 with 11 home runs in 101 games for the Padres and .232/.341/.330 with two homers in 38 games for the Pirates. In four years with the Cardinals, Ludwick hit .280/.349/.507.
Possible teams: Pirates, Braves, Reds

Kosuke Fukudome13. Kosuke Fukudome: It's safe to say Fukudome's next contract will be a little smaller than the four-year, $48 million deal he signed with the Cubs before the 2008 season. Fukudome was burdened by high expectations, failing to live up to the contract, hitting .260/.361/.399 in four seasons in MLB. A pretty good on-base guy, Fukudome's best as a leadoff man, which may make him a little more valuable than his numbers suggest.
Possible teams: White Sox, Indians, Reds, Athletics, Japan

Eric Hinske14. Eric Hinske: The Braves have an option on Hinske, and it's just $1.5 million -- so it's likely they'll pick it up. Hinske can play both outfield spots, as well as first base, so he's a useful bench player. However, the Braves are already a little too left-handed heavy and Hinske was dreadful against lefties (.118/.167/.294). 
Possible teams: Braves, Pirates, Mariners

Raul Ibanez15. Raul Ibanez: The Phillies seemed to want to find anyone other than Ibanez to man left field all season, but could never find anyone that was an improvement over the 39-year-old. His average (.245) and OBP (.289) both tumbled this season, but he still hit 20 home runs and drove in 84.
Possible teams: Phillies, Pirates, Mariners, retirement

Jonny Gomes16. Jonny Gomes: Goems projects as a Type B free agent and has publicly said he'd likely accept arbitration if offered. Gomes struggled in 2011, hitting just .209/.325/.389 with the Reds and Nationals, but did see his walk rate increase, although his power too a tumble, hitting just 14 home runs. He's best in a platoon situation, crushing left-handed pitchers to the tune of .311/.407/.456.
Possible teams: Nationals, Braves

Juan Pierre17. Juan Pierre: Pierre stole 41 fewer bases in 2011 than he did in 2010, but he was caught stealing just one fewer time, leading the majors by being caught stealing 17 times. Pierre was once fast, but doesn't seem to be anymore, which means he has very few marketable skills. Well, he did lead the majors with 19 sacrifice bunts.
Possible teams: Giants, Reds, Pirates 

Magglio Ordonez18. Magglio Ordonez: Ordonez re-fractured his right ankle during the ALCS -- the same injury that caused him to consider retirement during the season. Rehabbing that injury could be more than he would like to do at 38, especially coming off of a .255/.303/.331 season. Ordonez did look good in the ALDS victory over the Yankees, but his health just wouldn't hold out. 
Possible teams: Tigers, retirement

Corey Patterson19. Corey Patterson: Somehow, some way, Patterson keeps popping up in the big leagues. He's kind of like a weed. He doesn't do much of anything well, but he's kinda fast. Other than that… yeah. A career .252/.290/.400 hitter, you never think you'll see him again, but ultimately, you do.
Possible teams: Any

Juan Rivera20. Juan Rivera: Rivera's 62 games with the Dodgers after being traded from Toronto showed he may just have a little something left in the tank, hitting .274/.333/.406 with five home runs for Don Mattingly. He's still likely a platoon player, but can play both corner spots and first base. The Dodgers have expressed interest in bringing him back.
Possible teams: Dodgers, Padres, Pirates

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

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Posted on: October 26, 2011 2:12 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 4:41 pm

Free-agent postion rankings: Thin crop at 2B

Brandon Phillips

By C. Trent Rosecrans

For all free agency moves, check out the CBSSports.com free agency tracker.

Second base is hardly a marquee position -- there are some good players at the position, but at its core, it's a position of deficiencies. Second basemen generally aren't good enough defensively to play shortstop, or hit well enough to be a third baseman or outfielder. That's not to say there aren't some great players who play the position like Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley, but it's not a marquee position, and it's even less so in this free agent market.

Brandon Phillips1. Brandon Phillips: If the Reds were to decide against exercising Phillips' $12 million option, he'd certainly be in demand. But that's not happening. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has said he's planning on picking up Phillips' option, while Phillips prefers an extension. Phillips has said the Reds simply picking up the option on his contract would be a slap in the face -- but maybe one day I can be slapped in the face for $12 million. Phillips said the Reds won't get the "homeboy hookup" (otherwise known as the "hometown discount") in any extension talk. So while Phillips will be in a Reds uniform on opening day, the end of the season and beyond, that may be a question.
Possible teams: Reds

Jamey Carroll2. Jamey Carroll: Yep, Jamey Carroll is number two on this list -- which should tell you as much as you need to know about the remaining 11 names on this list. Carroll is a fine player, but nothing more than that. He hit .290/.359/.347 for the Dodgers this season and hasn't hit a home run since 2009. He did put up a .383 on-base percentage as a leadoff man, something that could make him much more attractive to potential suitors. Carroll could be a good second baseman (or shortstop) for somebody, but he's not exactly the type of player that's going to turn around the team or get a fanbase fired up.
Possible teams: Dodgers, White Sox, Royals, Diamondbacks, Rockies

Jerry Hairston Jr.3. Jerry Hairston Jr.: Hairston is one of the more versatile players in the game and also had a very good postseason, so good that someone may consider him an everyday player. Hairston played second, third, shortstop, left field and center field last season, but started each of the NLCS games at third base. He played 45 games for the Brewers and 75 for the Nationals in 2011, hitting .270/.344/.383 with five home runs overall.
Possible teams: Brewers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Mets, Royals

Ramon Santiago4. Ramon Santiago: Santiago could play shortstop as well, increasing his value. This year was the first year he played mostly second base, starting 40 games at second and 22 at shortstop for the Tigers. Still, he doesn't exactly project as a first-division starter at either spot. He hit .260/.311/.384, not too far off his average in his 10 seasons in the big leagues with the Tigers and Mariners. He's most likely a utility infielder at this point in his career.
Possible teams: Twins, White Sox, Diamondbacks, Padres, Dodgers

Mark Ellis5. Mark Ellis: Ellis certainly earned brownie points for teams watching from afar when he gracefully stepped aside for the arrival of second baseman Jemile Weeks in Oakland and was then traded to Colorado. Ellis, a good defensive second baseman, struggled offensively in Oakland before the trade but hit quite a bit better in Colorado (imagine that). Ellis is likely to return to Colorado.
Possibile teams: Rockies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers

Aaron Hill6. Aaron Hill: The Diamondbacks have options for the next two seasons on Hill, but there's close to zero chance the team will pay him $8 million for next season. Still, Arizona has expressed interest in bringing back Hill, whom the Diamondbacks got in a change of scenery trade with the Blue Jays. Hill hit .315/.386/.492 with two homers in 33 games for the Diamondbacks after hitting just .225/.270/.313 for the Blue Jays.
Possible teams: Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Cardinals

Aaron Miles7. Aaron Miles: After his disastrous turn in Chicago, Miles has rebounded pretty well the last two seasons. For the Dodgers in 2011, Miles hit .275/.314/.346 in 136 games. Miles will be 35 next season. The Dodgers have expressed some interest in bringing him back. Miles made $500,000 last season and should get a little bump, but don't look for anyone giving him a long-term deal.
Possible teams: 
Dodgers, Cardinals, Nationals

Jack Wilson8. Jack Wilson: Wilson finished last season with the Braves, playing shortstop and third base. he played mostly second base for the Mariners to start the season, but that was because the team had Brendan Ryan at short. Wilson, who has never had much of a bat, may be entering the stage of his career where he can serve as a late-inning defensive replacement at any of the infield positions.
Possible teams: White Sox, Royals, Brewers, Dodgers, Cardinals

Carlos Guillen9. Carlos Guillen: Let's just say Guillen will take a pay cut in 2012 after his four-year, $48 million contract with the Tigers has run out. In those four seasons, the Tigers got a .266/.345/421 hitter with 30 home runs and 12 stolen bases. At 35 in 2011, Guillen hit .232/.265/.368, playing second base and first base in just 28 games.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Cardinals, Rockies, retirement

Kelly Johnson10. Kelly Johnson: Johnson was the other half of the Blue Jays-Diamondbacks underachiever swap. And like Hill, he responded well in his new home, hitting .270/.364/.417 in 33 games in Toronto, while hitting .209/.287/.412 with 18 homers in 114 games with Arizona. The Blue Jays are likely to offer Johnson arbitration, so he can take it or hit the free agent market. He's likely on the borderline between Type A and Type B, if a Type A, he'd almost be forced to take arbitration because his value on the free agent market would take a huge hit if a team had to give up a draft pick. But the class of second basemen is so weak, he may be able to go anyway. It's an interesting situation.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Royals, Dodgers

Nick Punto11. Nick Punto: Punto hit .27 8/.388/.421 in a bounce-back year for the Cardinals, but was limited to just 166 plate appearances, so take that with a grain of salt. Punto's no longer an everyday player (if he ever really was), but is instead a utility player and there's always a place for that. He does add defensive value at most spots he plays, so there will be some demand.
Possible teams: Cardinals, White Sox, Mets, Nationals, Dodgers, Padres

Craig Counsell12. Craig Counsell: After the NLCS loss to the Cardinals, the Brewers utility man said he wasn't whether he'd return for a 17th season, but he'd certainly listen to offers. "When you're hitting .170 and you're 41 years old, you question yourself, there's no doubt," Counsell told me after the Brewers' loss to the Cardinals. It's a good question. He's had a very good career, but he did hit just .178/.280/.223 and tied a big league record with a 45 at-bat hitless streak.
Possible teams: Brewers, Diamondbacks, retirement

Jose Lopez13. Jose Lopez: The Marlins out righted Lopez to the minors in July, before calling him back up in August. With the Rockies and Marlins in 2011, he hit a combined .216/.245/.373.He did hit .273/.296/.597 with six home runs in 32 games (16 starts) after being called back up. He played third, second and first base. An All-Star in 2006 with the Mariners, Lopez will likely sign a minor-league contract to get into camp with someone, but he's no team's idea of an answer to any question other than who is on the travel roster for a split squad game.
Possible teams:
Nationals, Dodgers, Padres, White Sox, Royals, Mets

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

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Posted on: October 25, 2011 4:34 pm

Twins decline Joe Nathan's option

NathanBy Evan Brunell

For all news, check out the CBSSports.com free agency tracker.

The Twins have declined closer Joe Nathan's $12.5 million option, the team announced.

Nathan will receive $2 million as part of his buyout. The righty made a solid return to the majors after missing all of 2011 thanks to Tommy John surgery. The 36-year-old had a 4.84 ERA in 44 2/3 innings, although he pitched more impressively than the ERA may indicate. He punched out 43 and walked 14, and there will be no shortage of teams that are interested in Nathan's services, either as a setup man or closer.

The Twins will be one of those teams, as GM Bill Smith said the club is interested in resigning Nathan. Given closer Matt Capps is also a free agent, there will be a spot for Nathan should he re-up with the team, which he has previously expressed an interest in doing so. After saving 14 of 17 games, he now has 261 saves for his career, with all but one coming with the Twins franchise.

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Posted on: October 24, 2011 4:21 pm

Jim Thome intends to play in 2012

ThomeBy Evan Brunell

Jim Thome intends to keep playing next season, MLB.com's Jordan Bastain reports.

"I want to keep playing. I'll keep playing," Thome said. "I just have to have teams that call me. I can't go play in the backyard by myself."

The 41-year-old finished the season hitting .256/.361/.467 in 324 plate appearances and shouldn't have a problem finding somewhere to play next season. And no, it won't be his backyard. With Thome's ability to hit for power, a willingness to accept a reduced role and strong leadership skills, he should be in demand. It's possible he could stay in the AL and DH part-time, but it's just as possible he accepts a position as a pinch-hitter in the NL.

The Phillies could be a fit, as Philadelphia was linked to Thome earlier this season as a potential destination before he landed with the Indians. With Ryan Howard out due to injury and unlikely to start the season on time, having Thome off the bench could prove invaluable for Philadelphia in getting by without Howard -- and having someone to slot in the lineup if Howard struggles upon returning. A return to the Indians is unlikely given Travis Hafner's presence, but returning to the Twins is possible.

In CBSSports.com's free-agent position rankings, Thome ranked fourth among all DHs.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 1:14 pm

Free-agent position rankings: Ortiz top DH

By C. Trent Rosecrans

One of the toughest positions for a free agent to land a big contract got a little tougher after Adam Dunn's terrible 2011. Teams are already skittish on spending big bucks (and maybe more importantly, tying those dollars up for years) to a DH, plus with only 14 of the 30 teams having the position, it's difficult for any free agent DH to have leverage. Most of the teams already have a DH under contract, so the possibilities here are going to be pretty repetitive.

1. David Ortiz: Big Papi created a stir when he said he may be interested in playing for the Yankees, but it's unlike the Yankees would want to spend that kind of money on Ortiz. Instead, they expect to have Jesus Montero as their main designated hitter in 2012 and beyond. Ortiz struggled early in 2011, but finished with a .309/.398/.554 line with 29 homers and 96 RBI. Even though he didn't start his career with the Red Sox, it's tough to imagine him in any other uniform. 
Possible teams: Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, Angels, Mariners

Edwin Encarnacion2. Edwin Encarnacion: The Blue Jays have a $3.5 million option on Encarnacion, who has been a frustrating player to watch. Just when you think he's done, he goes on a hot streak, and he can really hit when he's hot. After the All-Star break, Encarnacion hit .291/.382/.504 with 11 homers and 36 RBI. Encarnacion played third base and first base, but DH is his best defensive position.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Mariners, Athletics

Johnny Damon3. Johnny Damon: Damon will be 38 next season and he's more or less finished in the outfield, even though he did play some first base with the Rays last season. In 150 games, he hit .261/.326/.418 with 16 home runs and 74 RBI. The Rays are considering bringing Damon back, but he'd have to cost less than the $5.25 million he made in 2011. Damon is 277 hits shy of 3,000 for his career and would likely need two more seasons to reach the milestone. It could be difficult for him to find a place to do it unless he decides to take a pay cut. 
Possible teams: Rays, Mariners, Athletics

Jim Thome4. Jim Thome: There was a report that the White Sox were considering offering Thome their hitting coach position, but did not. However, that may be a sign of which way Thome may be leaning in his decision for 2012. Thome did say he was leaning toward playing, and although he was used mostly against right-handers, his splits were pretty even -- .257/.352/.470 against right-handed pitchers and .253/.385/.493 against left-handers. Thome seemed energized after joining the Indians, hitting .296/.390/.479 in Cleveland. Even if he doesn't return, he will have solidified his Hall of Fame resume, hitting his 600th home run in 2011. 
Possible teams: Indians, Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays, Athletics, retirement

Hideki Matsui5. Hideki Matsui: The A's loved Matsui, if not his production. A solid influence on younger players, Matsui hit just .251/.321/.375 in 2011, but rebounded hit hit .295/.353/.425 in the second half of the season. Matsui would have to accept less than the $4.25 million he earned in 2011, but that doesn't seem to be too much of an issue. Most expect him to return to Oakland, especially with the A's agreeing to open the season in Japan against the Mariners.
Possible teams: Athletics, Mariners, Japan, retirement

Jorge Posada6. Jorge Posada: One of the "core four" is probably done as a Yankee. If Posada wants to keep playing, he'll do it in a different uniform. The Yankees will be moving on with Montero as their DH who can also catch. Posada hit a career-worst .235/.315/.398 with 14 homers in 2011, but did go 6 for 14 in the NLDS against the Tigers, starting all five games. He struggled against left-handers this season, hitting .092/.169/.108 against lefties. With few DH spots available, he may not find any takers and will retire a Yankee, not by choice, but because there's nobody out there willing to let him play for another team.
Possible teams: Athletics, retirement

Vladimir Guerrero7. Vladimir Guerrero: Guerrero has said he'd like to play two or three more seasons, but it could be the end of his career, as well. Guerrerro hit .290/.317/.416 in 2011, but had just 13 home runs in 145 games for the Orioles. Guerrero passed Julio Franco for the most hits by a Dominican-born player late in the season and finished the season with 2,590 hits and 449 home runs. Guerrero didn't get a contract until Feb. 18 last year, but did get the money he was looking for -- that could be tougher this season. Still, there are teams out there that could use him.
Possible teams: Orioles, Athletics, Mariners, Blue Jays, Rays, retirement

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 22, 2011 3:28 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 4:51 pm

Free-agent position rankings: Papelbon leads RP

By C. Trent Rosecrans

With the free agent reliever market, it always seems to be buyer-beware, but every year teams overspend for closers and setup men. While not exactly a bumper crop this year, there are some good arms available, even if the top closers would all prefer to stay with their current teams. Still, we all know those preferences can go out the window when a higher offer comes.

Jonathan Papelbon1. Jonathan Papelbon: After a disappointing 2010, Papelbon returned to form in 2011, despite recording his lowest save total (31) since becoming the Red Sox closer. Not only was his ERA (2.94) down from 2010, he had his best strikeout rate (12.2 per nine innings) since 2007 and lowest walk rate (1.40 per nine innings) since 2008. His xFIP was 2.16, the lowest of his career. At 31, he's still an elite closer and the best available on the market. The Red Sox had been said to be interested in bringing him back and they still have the payroll to absorb a high-priced closer. Still, don't expect Papelbon to take a home-town discount.
Possible teams:  Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Phillies

Heath Bell2. Heath Bell: When the Padres decided not to trade Bell during the season, it appeared he would be staying in San Diego. However, when the season ended with Bell not getting an extension, things became less sure. Now, Jed Hoyer is off to the Cubs and Josh Byrnes is in as the new GM. With this much change, things could easily change for Bell, who has said all along he'd prefer to stay in San Diego. The Padres may prefer to spend their money elsewhere. Bell is 34, but coming off his third straight 40-save season. One thing that could be troubling for a team is his falling strikeout rate. After striking out 10.2 per nine innings in 2009 and 11.1 in 2010, he struck out a career-low 7.3 per nine innings in 2011. His strikeout-to-walk ration was a career-low 2.43, although that was due to the lower strikeout numbers instead of more walks. Any team considering spending big money on him will have to seriously think about his age and if he's worth what he may command based on gaudy save numbers. He's also been aided by pitching at spacious Petco Park. The Padres may decide they don't need an All-Star closer and their money could be better spent elsewhere. Bell has said he would accept arbitration if offered.
Possible teams: Padres, Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Orioles

Ryan Madson3. Ryan Madson: After several attempts earlier in his career to serve as a closer, Madson finally showed the ability to close out games in 2011, finishing with 32 saves in 34 opportunities. He's said he'd prefer to stay in Philadelphia, but that's easy to say during the season. A Scott Boras client, the Nationals have to be considered in the mix for Madson, who struck out 62 batters in 60 2/3 innings, while walking just 16 batters.
Possible teams: Phillies, Nationals, Red Sox

Jose Valverde4. Jose Valverde: The Tigers hold a $9 million club option on Valverde, which is pretty reasonable for a guy who led the majors with 49 saves and didn't blow a single save all season. Valverde's last outing was far from ideal, allowing four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings of Game 4 of the ALCS, but he's still an elite closer (if not exactly the most comfortable guy to watch). Valverde would command big bucks on the open market, but it seems highly unlikely he'll be there.
Possible teams: Tigers

Francisco Cordero5. Francisco Cordero: The Reds probably won't pick up his $12 million option, but he could still stay a Red. Cordero's been a stabilizing influence on the Reds bullpen in his four years in Cincinnati, but for a team like the Reds, it makes little sense to have a closer as the highest-paid player. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and Cordero have both publicly said they'd like to work out an extension for him to stay in Cincinnati. It's similar to what the Reds did with Bronson Arroyo last offseason. The team is moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, so there's no real in-house candidate to fill in for Cordero if he leaves, so it makes sense to work out a deal. That said, someone could still pop in and make a bigger offer. The Brewers thought they had a deal with Cordero before he left for the Reds, so history could repeat itself.
Possible teams: Reds, Nationals, Mets, Orioles, Blue Jays

Francisco Rodriguez6. Francisco Rodriguez: After being traded to the Brewers, Rodriguez was not used as the team's closer, and said as a free agent, he'd like the opportunity to close again. That's not going to come in Milwaukee, where John Axford has established himself as the Brewers closer. However, after the Brewers' loss in the NLCS, owner Mark Attanasio made sure to point out just how important Rodriguez was to the team's bullpen and how much the club appreciated what he brought to the team. Although he's clearly not going to be the closer in Milwaukee, money talks -- and enough money and he may decide he can set up Axford. Sure, he spoke of being frustrated about not closing in Milwaukee during the year, but seeing the market could open his mind to other propositions.
Possible teams: Brewers, Cardinals, Orioles, Nationals, Phillies

Kyle Farnsworth7. Kyle Farnsworth: Fransworth more than lived up to his one-year deal last season, rewarding the Rays for taking a chance on him with 25 saves and a 2.18 ERA. He struck out 51 in 57 2/3 inning and had a career-best 0.988 WHIP and also his lowest walk rate of his career (1.9 BB/9). He made $2.6 million last season and the Rays have a $3.3 million club option (with a $650,000 buyout). It's basically a no-brainer to pick it up. Even if he doesn't repeat his 2011 numbers, he has the type of arm some team will want at the deadline to fortify a bullpen.
Possible teams: Rays, Mets, Marlins

Joe Nathan8. Joe Nathan: It's unlikely the Twins pick up Nathan's $12.5 million option -- that's just too rich for a guy pitching in just 48 games after missing the entire 2010 season because of Tommy John surgery. Still, both the Twins and Nathan are said to have interest in the closer returning to Minnesota. The 36-year-old has 260 of his 261 career saves in a Twins uniform and it's hard to imagine the two sides not working something out.
Possible teams: Twins

Kerry Wood9. Kerry Wood: The 34-year-old has already said he will either return to the Cubs in 2012 or retire. Count on the former. Wood was steady in the bullpen in 2011, striking out 57 in 51 innings and also showed no need to be the closer. Steady set-up men are something every team needs, and the Cubs as much as any other team. Wood took a below-market deal to return to the Cubs last season, earning just $1.5 million, and he may be open to doing it again. If so, it seems like a no-brainer to bring him back.
Possible teams: Cubs, retirement

Jeremy Affeldt10. Jeremy Affeldt: Affeldt is a left-handed reliever, but he's not just a left-handed specialist. Sure, his numbers against lefties are better (they hit just .144/.206/.200 against him), but he can also stay in and do a good job against right-handers. That versatility adds to his value on the mariet. He's been part of the very good Giants bullpen and expect him to stay there. San Francisco has a $5 million option on him after he earned $4.5 each of the past two seasons. He's earned the pay bump with his solid numbers. If the Giants don't exercise his option, they'll likely work out a multi-year deal with the team.
Possible teams: Giants

Jonathan Broxton11. Jonathan Broxton: Coming off a disappointing 2010, the hard-throwing right-hander appeared in just 14 games and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in September to remove a bone spur and loose bodies. Once an All-Star, Broxton's first year of free agency will likely end with a one-year, incentive-laden contract. Broxton is just 27, but if he's no longer throwing 99 mph, what exactly is his worth? It's unlikely he'll get a job as a closer, but will have the opportunity to prove himself in the spring. The Dodgers appear ready to wash their hands of Broxton, despite the right-hander's statements he'd like to return.
Possible teams: Anyone but the Dodgers

Arthur Rhodes12. Arthur Rhodes: Rhodes has said he wants to pitch one more season and then retire. Rhodes has pitched for nine clubs in his career, including two this season -- the Cardinals and Rangers. While disappointing in Texas, Rhodes has rebounded with the Cardinals after being designated for assignment by the Rangers. Tony La Russa loves playing matchups, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him stay in St. Louis. 
Possible teams: Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Orioles, Blue Jays

Jon Rauch13. Jon Rauch: Rauch had 11 saves for the Blue Jays, pitching in 53 games for the Blue Jays this season. Toronto has a $3.75 million option on the 6-foot-10 right-hander, which is affordable enough. Rauch gave up 11 home runs, the most he's allowed since 2008. While a former closer, he's not exactly anyone's idea of a closer going forward. 
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Twins, Braves, Nationals

Darren Oliver14. Darren Oliver: The 41-year-old left-hander has said he'd like to pitch one more year. His 2011 proves he can still do it, appearing in 61 games and putting up a 2.29 ERA. His splits against left-handers and right-handers weren't too far off, with only his strikeout rates really spiking against lefties. He had 23 strikeouts of lefties in 94 plate appearances and 21 against right-handers in 121 plate appearances. Righties had an OPS of .594 against him, lefties .587. He's spent 10 of his 18 seasons in Texas in three stints. It seems like a perfect fit for him to return.
Possible teams: Rangers, Cardinals

Jason Frasor15. Jason Frasor: The White Sox hold a $3.75 million option for 2012, but the right-hander struggled after being part of the trade that sent him to his hometown at the trade deadline. Frasor was part of the massive three-team trade that sent Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays and Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel to St. Louis. In 20 appearances for the White Sox, he had a 5.09 ERA, but did strike out more than a batter an inning (20 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings). He had a 2.98 ERA in 44 appearances for the Blue Jays. 
Possible teams: White Sox, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks

Brad Lidge16. Brad Lidge: The Phillies declined a $12.5 million option on their former closer, giving him a $1.5 million buyout. Lidge missed most of the season with a shoulder strain, but did pitch well upon his return, putting up just a 1.40 ERA in 25 appearances, striking out 23 in 19 1/3 innings. Lidge has said he's open to returning as a set-up man, but it appears his days of closing for the Phillies are done, even with Ryan Madson as a free agent. Still, Philadelphia needed several closers to get through the season and having Lidge back could be a good backup plan. Neither side has ruled out a return for Lidge at Citizen's Bank Park.
Possible teams: Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels

Dan Wheeler17. Dan Wheeler: The Red Sox hold a $3 million option on the right-hander who will be 34 next season. After coming over from the Rays, Wheeler put up a 4.38 ERA out of the Red Sox bullpen. Wheeler spent some time on the disabled list with  a calf strain and then was unavailable down the stretch with forearm stiffness. His health will be major issue Boston's decision to bring him back. If deemed healthy, it would seem he'd have a good chance of returning to the Red Sox. Wheeler had a better xFIP (3.71) than ERA, with a high BABIP (batting average on balls in play) than he did in either of the past three seasons (.272).
Possible teams: Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Angels

Frank Francisco18. Frank Francisco: Francisco is a Type B free agent, and the Blue Jays will likely offer him arbitration. The 32-year-old right-hander came over in the Mike Napoli trade and picked up 17 saves for the Blue Jays, putting up a 3.55 ERA in 54 games. He struck out 53 in 50 2/3 innings, walking 18. He's not exactly anyone's first choice for a closer, but he could go into a camp and compete for that job, or at least be a fill-in while some team's closer is injured.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Nationals, Astros, Padres, Phillies

Chad Qualls19. Chad Qualls: San Diego is expected to decline the $6 million option on Qualls. Qualls appeared in 77 games for the Padres in 2011, putting up a 3.51 ERA in San Diego. The Padres are reportedly interested in bringing him back, just not at $6 million. He thrived at Petco Park, earning a 2.09 ERA at home and 5.05 on the road, so it's not a stretch to expect that he would have interest in returning to the Padres.
Possible teams: Padres, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Angels

Matt Capps20. Matt Capps: Just 28, the right-hander is a former closer for the Pirates, Nationals and Twins, but saw his strikeout rate (4.7 per nine innings) and fastball velocity (92.9 mph) drop this year and his ERA rise to 4.25, hardly the way you want to enter free agency. Capps made $7.15 million last season, earning 15 saves for Minnesota. He'll take a pay cut in 2012, likely signing another one-year deal, hoping to re-establish his worth. 
Possible teams: all of them

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com