Limited Free Agent Market For Bats

Teams looking to add offense this offseason will face limited options.   A look at the ten available middle-of-the-order type bats:

  • Lance Berkman, 1B/OF: By most measures, Berkman has been one of the ten best offensive players in baseball this year at age 35.  He's played in 87% of the Cardinals' games and has been consistently productive.  He's got a list of three or four teams, headed by the Cards, and would consider retirement if he's "not thrilled with the opportunities."  Though a multiyear deal would likely be available, Berkman is fine with another one-year contract.  I have to imagine he'll get $12MM or more.
  • David Ortiz, DH: Ortiz, who turns 36 in November, has been nearly as good as Berkman, and he's handled lefties well.  Reportedly the Red Sox have yet to discuss a new deal with him.  It's not clear how adamant each side will be about their stance on a multiyear contract.  But the general expectation is that Ortiz returns to Boston.
  • Prince Fielder, 1B: Most expect Fielder to look for Mark Teixeira money or beyond, though yesterday I was able to come up with reasons each of the 30 teams might balk at signing him.  He'll land somewhere, but Scott Boras may need a team to bid against itself to reach Teixeira heights.
  • Albert Pujols, 1B: Pujols now leads the National League with 31 home runs, so his off year is relative.  His walk rate is down significantly though, which could give some teams pause before making one of the ten largest commitments in baseball history, if not one of the three biggest.  The Cardinals have first crack at signing him, and there's a good chance they get something done.
  • Carlos Beltran, RF: Beltran has been healthy and effective this year, outside of a DL stint for a strained hand shortly after his trade to the Giants.  A strong finish could result in a three-year deal, though Beltran does turn 35 in April.  He figures to get more than $10MM per year.
  • Michael Cuddyer, RF/1B: Cuddyer has alternated good and mediocre seasons, a trend his agent will have to downplay since this is one of the good years.  Cuddyer, 33 in March, should get a three-year deal with a salary similar to this year's $10.5MM.
  • Aramis Ramirez, 3B: Ramirez should benefit from being the only viable starting option at third base on the market.  He was headed toward a possible extension with the Cubs, but with Jim Hendry being fired he's going to take a step back and see what's out there.  His $16MM option is mutual in nature.  The 33-year-old should be able to secure a deal similar to my Cuddyer estimate, maybe better.
  • Josh Willingham, LF: Willingham, 32, started out slow for the Athletics but has a .277/.374/.606 line with 12 home runs in 163 plate appearances since July 1st.  Injuries have made him something of a 120 game guy, so a two-year deal for around $16MM seems feasible.  Willingham projects as a Type A free agent, and seems like someone who might accept arbitration if the A's offer.
  • Jason Kubel, RF/DH: At 29, Kubel has age on his side compared to most free agents.  He missed almost two months with a foot injury this year but previously had been durable.  He could be a popular free agent, with four years possible, but his stock will be hurt if he climbs to Type A status and turns down an arbitration offer from the Twins, thereby costing his new team a draft pick.
  • Carlos Pena, 1B: Pena, 33, has been aided slightly by his first crack at the National League.  He's a useful hitter, but a two-year deal at $10MM plus is a tough sell even for Scott Boras for a perennial .200 hitter.

There are other free agents – Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins are difference-makers and Casey Kotchman is having a nice year – but the middle-of-the-order bat market boils down to the ten I named above.  Berkman, Ortiz, Fielder, and Pujols all have limited markets due to preference, price tag, or in Ortiz's case, the fact that he can't play the field.  It's a good time to be Beltran, Cuddyer, Ramirez, Willingham, Kubel, Pena, or Kotchman.  Surprises are possible, but the trade market offers little beyond perhaps Carlos Quentin.


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13 Responses to Limited Free Agent Market For Bats Leave a Reply

  1. start_wearing_purple 4 years ago

    Pena will probably be the runner up prize to whoever loses out on Fielder/Pujols. He may have a .225 batting average but he also has a .345 OPB. Though I have to agree, I’ll be surprised if Boras can get another $10M deal.

  2. The A’s will offer Willingham arbitration.  Beane will not let a A free agent go without draft picks.  He is the a’s best power hitter in 3 years so look for him getting a deal done in oakland.

    • Alldaybaseball 4 years ago

      Tue it is a win-win because they will either get draft picks or a one year deal with a middle of the order threat.

      • corey23 4 years ago

        i really hope he re signs in oakland… DH him.  Carter can play LF about the same as willingham… Taylor in right, sweeney or cocoa in center. or maybe grant green, since he isn’t going to be playing SS anymore.  let the young guys play, please.

  3. JacksTigers 4 years ago

    I really think that Jose Reyes is what the Tigers need to get over the hump. The Tigers have not a had leadoff hitter since, well, before I was born. Austin Jackson is spectacular with that glove, but strikes out way too much. The Tigers have $26.5MM coming off of Magglio Ordonez’s, Carlos Guillen’s, and Brad Penny’s contracts. They can use about $18MM or $19MM (if not more) to get Reyes. Slide Peralta over to third. Use the left over money to sign a new second basemen or re-sign Guillen to a more reasonable contract. Many people feel that Detroit needs starting pitching, but our starters are so young and full of potencial that it seems that the starters are bound to blossom soon. As of opening day 2012, the rotation/lineup would like this as long as this goes to plan:

    1. Justin Verlander (29)
    2. Max Scherezer (27)
    3. Rick Porcello (23)
    4. Doug Fister (28)
    5. Jacob Turner (20)

    1. Jose Reyes SS
    2. Brennan Boesch RF
    3. Delmon Young LF
    4. Miguel Cabrera 1B
    5. Victor Martinez DH
    6. Alex Avila C
    7. Jhonny Peralta 3B
    8. Carlos Guillen/???? 2B
    9. Austin Jackson CF

    • guydavis 4 years ago

      Delmon Young hitting third? Is that what’s happening at the moment? Madness!

      • JacksTigers 4 years ago

        He has been hitting with power and gets a lot of pitches to hit in front of Cabrera. He’s been great.

  4. “but his stock will be hurt if he climbs to Type A status and turns down an arbitration offer from the Twins, thereby costing his new team a draft pick.”
    Is there something I am missing? I thought if he accepted the arb offer he would be considered signed by the Twins. So no one gains or loses a pick.

    • stl_cards16 4 years ago

      I guess you would be missing the part that says…..

      “and turns down an arbitration offer from the twins”

  5. Ramirez’s option is mutual? I’m sure this has been discussed before, but where does that info come from?

    • start_wearing_purple 4 years ago

      Well according to Cot’s it’s a $16M team option with a $2M buyout. But Ramirez can void the option, but he won’t get the buyout. So, technically it’s mutual.

  6. mgsports 4 years ago

    Wilson B. or Inge Tigers 3B next year.

  7. sf55forlife 4 years ago

    That Aubrey Huff deal keeps looking worse and worse. Almost everyone on this list is either an outfielder or first baseman. 

    I don’t know if the Giants will go out and sign an outfielder when they have Huff at first and a corner outfield spot dedicated to Brandon Belt (who should be a first baseman). 

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