Free Agent Forecast: Remaining Hitters
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Although most of the top offensive free agents are off the market, there are still some potent hitters available. Here's a look at five of the best out there:
1) Shin-Soo Choo
The 31-year-old Korean outfielder is worth a lot of money. Not for his power or speed (he has both) but for his ability to take walks and get on base. He had a .423 OBP last season, which was one of the best in baseball. He also plays a very good outfield and can hit practically anywhere in a lineup. Choo played for Cincinnati in 2013, but has spent the rest of his career in both Seattle and Cleveland, so hitting American League pitching shouldn't be too much of an adjustment. I could see Choo ending up on either the Rangers or the Tigers, both teams in search of one more bat to put them over the top.
The only way the Yankees would sign Choo AND Beltran would be if they trade Gardner and/or Ichiro and view Soriano as purely a DH. Otherwise, the Yanks are done shopping for outfielders.
2) Nelson Cruz
Cruz is 33-years-old and coming off a suspension for performance enhancing drugs, and he's still worth a lot of money. He's hit 22 or more home runs in each of the last five seasons, and has a good arm in the outfield. Any team looking for a solid, middle-of-the-order bat will consider him. He's a two-time All Star and can play either left or right field.
Same as Choo. After signing Beltran, it's very unlikely that the Yankees would sign Cruz. Only if they trade both Ichiro AND Gardner, and there isn't a great chance of that happening.
3) Mike Morse
Morse's 2011 season is the only thing that makes him a commodity in the free agent market. He was with the Nationals that year and hit 31 home runs with a .303 batting average. Since then, however, Morse has had trouble staying healthy and has proven his ineffectiveness in the field. Still, he can play an okay first base and left field, and would suit a team in dire need for a guy at either position. He has a high upside, and will be decently cheap because of his injury history.
If Morse played third base, I would say he'd be a perfect fit. But first base and outfield are not the Yankees area of need. Teixeira appears to be ready to start the season, and they have five outfielders for three positions. Morse would be great for their bench, but he will probably look to sign somewhere where he can start.
1) Stephen Drew
Shortstops with as much pop as Stephen Drew are hard to find. When healthy, Drew can easily put up a .260, 15 HR, 70 RBI season while also playing dominant defense. Drew was mainly the starting shortstop in 2013 for the Red Sox but with Xander Bogaerts officially a big leaguer, his days in Boston appear to be over. While there are some starting shortstop jobs out there for the taking, Drew will have to decide whether he would accept a utility role for a contender or not. He played 124 games with Boston last season and was quite productive, hitting 13 home runs and driving in 67. It's yet to be seen whether or not he can play third or second base consistently, but shortstops can usually adjust to both fairly easily.
Between Jeter and Ryan, I think the Yankees are content with their shortstops, but Drew could find plenty of work in the Bronx as a starting second baseman. He's a left-handed hitter with pop, and would be right at home with the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium. But Drew is only 30 years old and is coming off a good season, so I expect him to look for a starting shortstop role if he can avoid switching positions or being a utility player.
2) Omar Infante
With Robinson Cano heading to Seattle, Infante is the best second baseman on the market and it's not close. There have been reports that the Royals and Yankees are competing for him, which makes sense. He's a former All-Star and a .300-type hitter. He also has 110 career postseason at-bats and has performed fairly well in October. He's 31-years old, and he will most likely end up signing a three-year deal.
With Cano gone, the Yankees are looking to replace their best hitter with more than just Kelly Johnson. Infante is better with the glove than Johnson, but Johnson could easily hit 20 home runs at Yankees stadium whereas Infante will struggle to hit 10. Infante is overall a much better player, but the Yankees signing of Johnson proves that they wont overpay for his services. At the right price, though, I could see Infante being a very good fit for the Yanks.