The Orioles, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Indians, Tigers, Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Marlins, Cardinals, and Giants may be looking for third base help this winter. Here's a look at the hot corner free agent market.
The Best Choice By Far
By signing a one-year deal last offseason, Adrian Beltre positioned himself for another big contract. He hit .321/.365/.553 with his usual stellar defense, so don't be surprised if Scott Boras seeks more than the five years and $64MM Beltre received in 2004. On top of the contract, signing Beltre will require giving up a draft pick. The Red Sox hope to re-sign him, but don't expect a discount.
May Not Hit The Open Market
Even coming off a bad year, Aramis Ramirez would be an appealing free agent. However, the Cubs' third baseman is expected to exercise his $14.6MM player option for 2011. The Tigers may not pick up Jhonny Peralta's $7MM option, but they expect to retain him and play him at shortstop.
Most clubs won't be thrilled to pencil in Jorge Cantu, Pedro Feliz, Brandon Inge, Miguel Tejada, Juan Uribe, Melvin Mora, Nick Punto, or Ty Wigginton as their starter at third base, though many of them played regularly this year. Inge is looking to re-sign with the Tigers at a fair price, and GM Dave Dombrowski would like to reach an agreement before he hits the open market according to Tom Gage of the Detroit News. Inge shows pop from time to time, but most of his value is in his defense.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Lopez are the most notable non-tender candidates at third base. The A's may keep Kouzmanoff for lack of a better option, but Encarnacion and Lopez are likely to join the free agent ranks. Andy Marte, Andy LaRoche, and Kevin Frandsen could also be cut loose.
It's Beltre or bust this year if you're looking to sign a free agent third baseman. Whoever you'd rank behind Beltre, it's a distant second. Teams that find him too expensive may turn to the trade market.