Let’s give a little love to that difficult-to-measure skill known as defense. Using John Dewan’s Fielding Bible, here are the best available free agents at each position, defensively. Any quote is from the book.
1B – Doug Mientkiewicz – "He has range and agility and is like a vacuum sucking up all throws, good and bad." The problem, of course, is that it’s tough to compensate for a .410 SLG from this position.
2B – Craig Counsell – While his arm ain’t much, Counsell is quite good moving to his right as well as catching popups. If he can get that OBP back up to .350 one more time his bat wouldn’t kill you.
SS – Alex Gonzalez – Sorry about the earlier gaffe – Neifi is comically signed through 2007. On Gonzo: "His range and athleticism are top-notch, he has a powerful arm and can make throws from deep in the hole from his knees. He is excellent on the double play."
3B – David Bell – "He has very good range with good hands and footwork." The Fielding Bible even thinks Bell should’ve won the Gold Glove in 2005. Problem: he slugs .400.
LF – Carlos Lee – Surprised, aren’t you? Dewan says: "Lee has a reputation as a poor defensive player, but that isn’t deserved." Everyone throws in a jab at Lee’s defense and mentions how he’ll have to DH soon enough. But the fielding experts feel otherwise.
CF – Gary Matthews Jr. – "Matthews runs well, has good range, and is versatile enough to play all three outfield spots. He combines a center fielder’s range with a right fielder’s arm." To me, this why Matthews is still a decent buy even if his offense slips significantly.
RF – Trot Nixon – "He gets good jumps on balls and has a strong, above-average arm." I could’ve used Richard Hidalgo here, as Hidalgo is a defensive beast. Problem is, Hidalgo is hitting .246 in the Venezuelan Winter League right now. Nixon saw his power plummet this year; perhaps he can bounce back a little and be a value buy.