Free Agent Stock Watch: Jorge Cantu

When the Marlins traded Jorge Cantu to the Rangers before this year's July 31st deadline, it was a prime opportunity for Cantu to turn his season around. Playing for a postseason contender in a hitter-friendly park, the 28-year-old was in a good position to improve his stock with a productive stretch run. It's still possible that Cantu will come up with some timely hits in the playoffs for the Rangers, but so far, his time in Texas has been a major disappointment. In 75 plate appearances, Cantu has hit .206/.270/.265 and has yet to drive in a run.

Prior to the season, Cantu was coming off a two-year stretch in Florida in which he hit .283/.336/.462, averaged over 20 homers per season, and logged playing time at both corner infield positions. His performance earned him a $6MM contract for his final year of arbitration eligibility, but his discouraging 2010 campaign doesn't bode well for his impending free agency.

When teams consider Cantu this winter, one thing working in his favor is his history. This isn't the first time the infielder has had a letdown year following a successful one – in 2006, on the heels of a .286/.311/.497, 28-homer season for the Rays, Cantu hit just .249/.295/.404. His drop-off in OPS that season (.808 to .699) looks awfully similar to his decline from 2009 to 2010 (.788 to .691). Cantu rebounded nicely after signing with the Marlins, and he's still young enough that he could do so again.

Even if a club takes a chance on Cantu's ability to bounce back though, it's hard to imagine him landing more than a short-term deal. The first base market is flush with alternatives, and Cantu has never been a strong defensive third baseman, according to UZR. Cantu's best option may be signing an affordable one-year deal in the hopes that he can rebuild his value and ink a long-term contract next winter, entering his age-30 season.

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