I am generally never one to speculate who we should get for our team. Mostly because if I did, I wouldn't be typing here... I'd be in a FO somewhere. And because I'm not, I leave it up to them.
But in the mess that generally accompanies the off-season I thought I'd give it a shot. And I'm well prepared for the criticism that will undoubtedly come from trying.
In my prior post, Building a Sustained Winner, I made the point that Z had finally dug out of the 1st hole - the one that Bavasi had dug in addition to the rebuilding process. He's patched together what he could from the draft (Ackley, Seager), trades with what little talent was left (Guti, Carp, Ryan, Smoak, League, Vargas, Beavan), and FA (Olivo).
There's still work to be done, and I admit I do not know who's close to coming up from the minors. So I'll go under the assumption that whomever is on our 25-man is who we'd be going into 2012 with, with no callups.
Now, to me, given the type of ballpark we have, etc. I'd like to build a team that is run-prevention oriented with good defense and an offense that can base-hit a team to death. If we have a lot of space in the OF, take advantage of it by getting players who can hit it to the gaps. And similarly take advantage of it though pitching and defense.
For purposes of this argument, I'll look at the FA market. I'm not even going to touch trades because to be honest, there's a lot of wanking going about regarding trades, and heck if I know what trades pass the smell test. I just know what trades easily don't.
The biggest problem with FA, as I mentioned before, is that because it is "free" and open to all teams you will pay market to above-market rates for these players. You certainly can't get all these players I'm about to mention, so you'll have to prioritize where your needs are.
Another problem with FA is that for the most part, the players available are older. Teams have wised up in terms of keeping young players under control, so I'm pretty sure the available market of players will be on the other side of 30.
Now this position is a point of contention. A lot of people think that Olivo doesn't need replacing because he's been in their eyes the best offensive player on the team. Other people think he is the most offensive player on the team, but in a different way (and just to clarify, I mean offensive in terms of plate discipline and PB rate).
But if we assume that if we can upgrade here, we should, I agree with Dave at USS Mariner that Chris Snyder is a good option. Though a RHB, he is patient and has some power. You can read what he has to say over there.
He's injury prone which helps lower his value, but he's also probably the best FA option at C - which raises his value. Nuts.
This is also a point of contention. Some think Kyle Seager is the answer, and some even argued Alex Liddi. But if either of them are, they aren't right now. Both probably still need seasoning in AAA. It's also assumed that Chone Figgins is a sunk cost now, and we can't really depend on him to bounce back at this point.
So off to looking at the FA market... and it rather sucks. But if we're looking at a stopgap to let those players develop, we're looking at a 1-year contract or so.
But an option (and yes, I know he's a Boras client), is Marco Scutaro. I wonder if with all the hullabaloo going on in Red Sox Nation, that they'll clean house altogether. He has an option for 2012, but if they don't pick it up, he may be worth a S/T contract.
Yes, he hasn't played 3B since 2008, and yes he has no power that would be "expected" from the hot corner, but he does hit for average despite hitting a fair amount of balls in play (8% K and BB rate!).
Another option that will fill not only the 3B option, but OF as well is Michael Cuddyer. In the last couple of years he's become the jack-of-all-trades, playing not just 1B, but 3B, OF and even 2B! He's not the best fielder in the world, but he's not going to embarrass himself and he has shown good power (and not just HR either) with the ability to swipe a base here and there. The only problem is that his year this year may price him out of our range.
Outfield (Specifically LF)
As mentioned before, Cuddyer is an option who can fill multiple holes (though not at the same time obviously).
Another option is David DeJesus. Off a terrible year in Oakland, and being 32 come opening day, there is the question of decline. Also concerning a bit is that while a low BABIP and similar plate discipline rates may mean that there's a sign of rebound, the rate that was different was his in-zone contact rate which dropped from 96.7% to 91.4%. It's a one year decline, but you have to wonder if that will continue. If management thinks it won't then he might be an option to consider and perhaps the terrible year he had will raise questions about his decline and lower his value a bit.
I'd suggest Josh Willingham, but the problem with him is that he can't play defense which limits him to DH. Which then pushes Mike Carp to LF, and he's not much better out there. Plus, his performance this year certainly raises his value probably out of our range.
One final option that could be contentious as well because people could see this as a move to get fans by obtaining a hometown player is Grady Sizemore. Oft-injured the past 2 years the former perennial all-star has become a shadow of his former self.
The obvious question is whether there is any hope of him bouncing back. The other issue is if we'll get use of him for the entire season. If there is any significant question regarding either after evaluating him, we have to pass.
3 of our spots are filled with King Felix, Prince Pineda and Jester Jason (or Vassal Vargas?).
Okay, that was pretty bad, but the fact remains we have 2 spots to fill. One can be filled in by Beavan it seems, so we're looking for one P.
Out of amusement I think a funny acquisition would be Edwin Jackson. He seemed to be part of every single important trade that brought key players back to the team. If that's the case, why not us? We can sign him, then flip him at the deadline for players. And obviously since he's been traded repeatedly, he's got to be a decent pitcher, and for the most part he is. He perhaps issues walks a bit more than one would like, but he's become a groundball pitcher (even before Duncan got a hold of him). But yes, he's a Boras client.
Paul Maholm's name has been bandied about a bit as a possibility, and given his performance last year it would seem to make sense. An increase in his slider and change usages possibly led to the increase in swings outside the zone this past year and may be part of the reason why he has had more success than in past years. The question is now how much will he command on the market given his year. That is, if Pittsburgh doesn't pick up his option.
Jeff Francis has also been mentioned, and he would certainly not excite anyone. Plus the drop in velocity across the board is concerning. Despite that, he managed to maintain most of his peripherals (yes his K rate decreased) by apparently trading FB for changeups, though oddly enough more batters swung at pitches outside the zone (27.4% to 31.3%) and made more contact (65.3% to 76%).
I'd love Hiroki Kuroda, mostly because I've liked him since he played for the Carp, but I think he'll be one of the top FA pitchers out there. To be honest I think he still has a couple of years left taking the Jamie Moyer route.
Speaking of which, there is Jamie Moyer. He did say he wanted to come back, but at 49????? I have no way of analyzing that thought.
Looking further down the list, Chris Young may be another option though having not thrown a full season for the past 4 years is a big worry. He'd have to be signed to a Erik Bedard incentive-laden contract or no dice. At 33, he's also running out of years.
Same with Scott Kazmir. Though the fact that no one picked him up after clearing waivers despite being 28 may be a clear indictment of his potential going forward.
As I said before, if you were look at the last contracts of these players, for the most part they will not come cheap. And thus is the reason why you cannot just go out and acquire players in FA to fill a team (unless you're the Yankees or Red Sox). But if you have to go out in the market, perhaps the aforementioned players would be people to consider. They're not sexy, but in the FA market you have to pay for sexy. (Boy that sounded wrong.)