Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than two weeks. Can you believe it!!! It seems like yesterday the World Series was being played.
Despite the fact that spring training starts in less than two weeks, there are still a lot of quality major league hitters who still have not found a home. Due to the economy, teams are trying to wait out players as much as possible (unless you are the Houston Astros, who gave $15 million to Brandon Lyon).
Everyone is looking for a bargain these days.
Here are the five best free agent hitters remaining on the market.
1. Johnny Damon, OF. Damon hit .282 with 24 home runs, 36 doubles, 12 stolen bases, and .365 OBP in 143 games for the New York Yankees last year. Damon priced himself out of New York and now his options are limited.
Damon is a terrible defensive outfielder and his power numbers were just a product of playing in a ballpark perfectly suited to his swing. His agent Scott Boras is trying to get the Detroit Tigers to bite on Damon, but I see the Atlanta Braves as a darkhorse for his services.
2. Felipe Lopez, 2B. It’s pretty remarkable that a guy who is only 29-years-old and is coming off a season where he hit .310 with 9 home runs, a .383 OBP, and played outstanding defense (7.8 UZR) can’t find a job. That is the dilemma that Lopez is facing right now.
You don’t hear too many teams in on his services, but this guy is too good not to have a starting job in the major leagues. The St. Louis Cardinals might be a landing spot for him, if they don’t feel comfortable with David Freese at third.
3. Hank Blalock, 1B/DH. Blalock hit .234 with 25 home runs and a .277 OBP in 123 games in 2009 for the Texas Rangers. The 123 games were the most Blalock played in since 2006.
Blalock can hit a home run, but other than that, he doesn’t do anything else particularly well. He doesn’t get on base, he is injury prone, he is not a good defensive player, and he faded in the second half last season.
He did hit 19 of his 25 home runs off of right-handed pitching, so maybe a team can use him like Mike Scioscia did 2003 All Star Game. That being a left-handed power hitter off the bench.
4. Russell Branyan, 1B/DH. Coming off of a career year, Branyan thought he would finally get paid. So far this has not been the case.
Branyan hit 31 home runs last year in just 116 games, but teams have been mostly scared off by Branyan’s back. A 34-year-old with a bad back and no track record prior to 2009 is not attractive to most teams.
I thought he would end up back with the Seattle Mariners at some point, but now it looks like the Florida Marlins might be interested in him.
5. Jermaine Dye, OF. Dye has finished in the top-15 in American League MVP voting two out of the last four years, but his market has been really quiet this winter.
Dye hit .250 last year with 27 home runs and a .340 OBP. Which isn’t the worst hitting line in the world. However, there are a couple of things working against Dye this offseason.
He is 36-years-old, he can’t field a lick anymore, and he is coming off a second half where he hit .179 with just seven home runs. His options are limited, so he might end up on a team as a fourth outfielder or DH-type player.
Tomorrow, I will cover the five best remaining pitchers on the free agent market.
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