Supply always seems to exceed demand for designated hitters. Only 14 jobs exist, which tends to create a late-developing buyers' market. Here's a look ahead to this offseason's available and potentially available DHs:
Starting Designated Hitters Available In Free Agency
David Ortiz, arguably the league's top designated hitter, hits free agency in search of a three-year deal. He hit 29 homers and posted a .309/.398/.554 line for the Red Sox in 2011, so he has an excellent case for a multiyear deal. Assuming the Red Sox offer arbitration, the Type A free agent will cost a top pick in the 2012 draft for all teams but Boston. Ortiz's former teammate, Johnny Damon, and Jason Kubel are other free agent DHs who produced in everyday roles this past season.
Vladimir Guerrero hit .290/.317/.416 in 2011, but teams will want more than a league-average hitter for their DH spots (Guerrero's OPS+ was 101). Hideki Matsui was a below-average offensive player in 2011 and Oakland's interest in retaining him appears to be waning. Jorge Posada and, to a lesser extent, Jack Cust can hit right-handed pitching, while Wily Mo Pena has hit lefties in the past. Jim Thome still has pop, but he's probably not an everyday option at the age of 41.
The Orioles could non-tender Luke Scott, depending on who their new general manager is and the health of Scott's right shoulder.
Thinking Outside The Box
Ryan Doumit, Carlos Quentin and Mark Reynolds can hit and they aren't known for their defensive ability. Doumit's a free agent, while Quentin and Reynolds may become available in trades. It wouldn't be easy to pry Jesus Montero away from the Yankees, but his name may come up as a potential trade chip and few doubt his ability to hit. Josh Willingham has been an outfielder to this point in his career, but may appeal for teams looking for offense.
Other Trade Candidates
It's hard to imagine takers for Adam Dunn after his dismal 2011 season. Perhaps new Angels GM Jerry Dipoto will consider moving Bobby Abreu. Billy Butler can hit, but he's getting expensive ($8MM salary for 2012-14), so it'd be interesting to see how much trade value he has. Carlos Lee could be available in trades.