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
2. 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
3. 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
4. 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
5. 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
6. 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
7. 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 overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers
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