We're still over a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting, but 47 of the players on Tim Dierkes' list of the top 50 free agents have already found homes for 2012. Only three (very notable) names remain, so let's check in to see how close each player is to finding his next team...
- Johnny Damon. The veteran is looking for a contract in the neighborhood of $5MM per year, but with several other DH types (Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Raul Ibanez, Hideki Matsui, etc.) on the market, Damon may have to lower his price in order to stand out amidst the crowd. The Yankees, Mets, Tigers, Rays, Orioles, and Athletics have all been linked to Damon at one point or another this winter, though most of those teams have already filled their designated hitter/bench needs. The Mets and other NL teams are unlikely options since Damon wouldn't be able to DH. My guess is that Damon will end up back with the Yankees on a $2MM contract, splitting DH duties with Andruw Jones and going for another World Series ring in the Bronx.
- Roy Oswalt. The Cardinals and Red Sox both made Oswalt offers in the area of one year/$5MM, but Oswalt is looking for $10MM in 2012. St. Louis is reportedly trying to deal Kyle McClellan to create payroll space for Oswalt but if Boston were to balk at the price, Oswalt may lose his leverage with the Cards. Oswalt prefers to pitch for a team close to his Mississippi home, which is why he has turned down the Blue Jays, Indians and Tigers. Oswalt's problem is that his two preferred choices (the Cardinals and Rangers) don't have a pressing need for starting pitching. The Rangers showed interest and team officials met with Oswalt earlier this week, but we heard earlier tonight that a deal was unlikely since Texas wants to use Matt Harrison as a starter and Oswalt doesn't want to pitch out of the bullpen. My prediction is that Oswalt will end up with the Cardinals, though for less than a $10MM salary.
- Javier Vazquez. Vazquez has said for months that he was likely to retire this offseason and said he'd have a final decision by December. While his deadline has come and gone with no official word, the right-hander is still expected to hang up his cleats after 14 years in the majors. The Marlins have added Mark Buehrle, Carlos Zambrano and Wade LeBlanc this offseason so they've clearly moved on even if Vazquez did wish to return. Since Vazquez has expressed a preference to pitch on the east coast to be closer to his family in Puerto Rico, it limits his potential choices. The Red Sox, Orioles, and Mets have available spots in their rotations but the latter two aren't contenders and given how Vazquez struggled as a Yankee, he might not want to return to the AL East. It's probably safe to presume that Vazquez will retire as planned.