The hot stove has cooled down in recent weeks, but there are still a handful of free agents available on the market with spring training just about six weeks away. Let’s take a look at some of the best players out there and see if they are fits for the two teams in New York.
Bourn is the best player on the market and he lost out on a big game of musical chairs with other center fielders such as B.J. Upton, Denard Span Angel Pagan and Josh Hamilton. A Scott Boras client, Bourn is certainly going to try for the most money he can get, but his list of suitors is pretty small at this point. A 30-year-old left-handed hitter, Bourn is a speed demon, although he was limited to 42 steals in 55 attempts last season in Atlanta. He’s a two-time Gold Glove winner and a two-time all-star.
Yankees: In a vacuum, Bourn would certainly be a fit in the Bronx. The Yankees could slide Curtis Granderson to a corner spot and platoon Brett Gardner and Ichiro in the other corner. Bourn could hit leadoff, allowing Derek Jeter to slide into the No. 2 hole in the lineup. The Yankees, however, aren’t in a position to take on any money at this point, so I don’t see Bourn landing in New York unless GM Brian Cashman unloads Curtis Granderson for young pitching. It could happen, but it’s a very remote possibility that would leave the Yankees with absolutely no power in the outfield.
Mets: The Mets are certainly looking for outfield help, but knowing they’re not likely to contend in 2013, they’ll probably take a pass on Bourn. If Bourn is forced to settle for a one-year deal and hits free agency again next winter, the Mets could be in position to make a play by that time.
Where he winds up: There seem to be three teams at the front of the Bourn sweepstakes right now. Seattle needs all the offense it can get, but the Mariners already have a pretty darn good defensive center fielder in Franklin Gutierrez. The Rangers could use a center fielder with Josh Hamilton having departed to the Angels, but youngster Jurickson Profar might wind up there if Texas decides to stick with Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler in the middle infield for the long haul. Atlanta did sign B.J. Upton away from Tampa Bay, but an outfield of Upton, Bourn and Jayson Heyward would be one of the best in baseball. Whatever happens, there is a strong chance he winds up in the AL West.
The 32-year-old Hairston had a career year in 2012, playing in 134 games and hitting 20 home runs with a .263 average. Hairston is probably looking for something in the vicinity of two years, $10 million and could be a powerful right-handed corner outfield/DH bat for any number of teams. But he’s still waiting for that call.
Yankees: It’s no secret the Yankees are looking for a right-handed outfield bat to round out the Gardner/Granderson/Ichiro trio. Hairston could also platoon at DH until Alex Rodriguez returns from injury around midseason. The problem is that the Yankees are probably looking to do just a one-year deal. Hairston is probably looking to get as many years as he can.
Mets: Hairston was the Mets’ best outfielder in 2012. With Jason Bay having been released from his contract, the Mets’ outfield is pretty barren at this point. Hairston would certainly be a fit, and a reasonable two-year deal likely wouldn’t be too much of a turnoff for the Mets.
Where he winds up: The Mets have the biggest need for Hairston and would likely give him a shot to play every day, either in right or left field. He’d probably be used as more of a platoon player anywhere else. If both sides can work out a deal, he could easily be in the Mets’ opening day lineup in 2013. Then again, a mystery team could swoop in and snag a bargain at any time between now and spring training.
Soriano opted out of his contract following a 2012 season in which he saves 42 games in 69 appearances after taking over as Yankees’ closer following Mariano Rivera’s knee injury. The best closer on the market, Soriano figured to make a killing with a three-year deal (give or take) to be someone else’s closer. Like Hairston, Soriano is still waiting for that call.
Yankees: Rivera has pledged to return in 2013, so Soriano would be back in a set-up role if he came back to New York. With David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and David Aardsma in the Yankees bullpen this year, he’s a way too expensive insurance policy in the Bronx at this point.
Mets: The Mets had the second-worst bullpen ERA in baseball in 2012, finishing one point (4.65) better than the Brewers (4.66). There’s no doubt the Mets would love to have a reliable option like Soriano for the ninth inning. The question is: are the Mets willing to spend significant money to get a closer for 2013 when saves might be few and far between? Probably not, especially with Frank Francisco still around.
Where he winds up: Detroit seemed like a logical landing place for Soriano in light of Jose Valverde’s postseason meltdown, but the Tigers have yet to bite. Soriano seemed destined for another high-paying multi-year deal after a fine season as Yankees closer in 2012, but the market might force him to settle for set-up work or a one-year deal (or both).
Wilson threw just two innings for the Giants in 2012 before undergoing a second Tommy John surgery. He didn’t start throwing until October and says he’ll be ready for opening day, but that might be a bit optimistic. The zany Wilson is a three-time all-star who served as the Giants’ fulltime closer from 2008-11. He’s a big strikeout threat when he’s on (he averaged 11.2 per nine innings in 2010) but his walk rate did creep up significantly in 2011.
Yankees: No way he’s shaving that beard to play for the Yankees. On a serious note, he just doesn’t fit in if Rivera is back at full strength.
Mets: Again, the Mets need some help in the bullpen, but Wilson will likely command big-time closer money. Who knows if his off-the-wall personality would be a fit in David Wright’s toned-down locker room?
Where he winds up: Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla split the closer duties during the regular season. Romo pitched three flawless innings in the World Series for three saves, so he might be the Giants’ man in 2013. Still, Wilson most likely lands back in San Francisco, even if he isn’t ready for opening day. Wilson, a New Hampshire native, could have been a fit in Boston, but the Red Sox recently acquired Joel Hanrahan from Pittsburgh, so there goes that idea.
A 12-year veteran, the 34-year-old Lohse is the best arm remaining on the starting pitching market. He went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA last year in St. Louis, making 33 starts and walking just 38 in 211 innings. The walk rate was the lowest of his career and his 6.1 strikeouts per nine innings was his best since striking out 6.9 per nine in 2006. If you look at Lohse’s career numbers: 118-109 with a 4.45 ERA, you start to wonder whether 2012 was a flash in the pan or the sign that Lohse has become a new pitcher. That’s the gamble that comes with signing him in free agency.
Yankees: With Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte returning in 2013, the Yankees’ rotation is all set. No chance they’d sign Lohse, unless there is an injury between now and then.
Mets: After trading R.A. Dickey to Toronto, the Mets do have an opening in the rotation, especially with Zack Wheeler at least one year away. Still, with Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jon Neise and eventually Noah Syndergaard poised to headline the rotation, it doesn’t make much sense to spend on Lohse in 2013 and beyond, especially if Lohse’s 2012 was a one-year aberration.
Where he winds up: Lohse said today that he hasn’t talked to Cardinals brass in months, leading him to believe he won’t be back in St. Louis in 2013. The problem for Lohse, as it is for Bourn, Soriano and Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche, is that teams signing them have to forfeit a first round draft pick since they declined the $13.3 million one-year qualifying offers given to them by their 2012 teams at the end of the season. Teams such as Cleveland, which introduced Nick Swisher today, that have a top 10 pick, are protected and won’t lose the pick. The Kansas City Royals, which have a top 10 pick, could be a fit, but they might be set with starting pitching after acquiring James Shields in a trade from Tampa Bay. Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Colorado and Houston could also be fits if no one is willing to give up a first round draft pick for a few years of Lohse.
The best of the rest:
Catcher: Miguel Olivo; Kelly Shoppach
First base: Adam LaRoche
Second base: Kelly Johnson
Outfield: Delmon Young; Grady Sizemore
Starting pitchers: Shaun Marcum; Joe Saunders; Jair Jurrjens; Jeff Karstens; Carl Pavano; Derek Lowe; Daisuke Matsuzaka
Relief pitchers: Francisco Rodriguez; J.P. Howell; Matt Capps; Jon Rauch
Do you think any of these players – or any other free agents – are a fit for the Yankees or Mets? Any trades you would like to see happen between now and spring training? Let me know on Twitter: @THR_Montgomery.