The Reiter 50: Cano, Ellsbury lead rankings of top free agents
This year's market features several quality catching options, but McCann is clearly the best of them. He rebounded from a 2012 season ruined by a shoulder injury to put together another strong offensive year, and he is still good defensively, is relatively young and is a clubhouse leader. McCann reportedly would like to play for an AL club, so that he can DH when not behind the plate, and the Rangers -- who have been looking for a long-term catcher for years and who tried to trade for him at this year's deadline -- fit the bill.
Still, Cruz is clearly the market's top righthanded-batting outfielder, and he'll be in demand. The Royals, whose rightfielders last year combined to hit .258 with 12 homers and 71 RBIs, could use him.
The clear second option on the market among catchers, Saltalamacchia became the second option on his own team when it mattered most: David Ross, his backup, started four of Boston's six World Series games. Even so, Saltalamacchia was a key component of the Red Sox' championship team -- until you've observed his long curls dripping with champagne, you can't appreciate the full potential of what hair can be -- and ranked sixth among all catchers in OPS. Whereas Boston overhauled its roster last winter, it will now likely seek to keep it as intact as it can, and re-signing Saltalamacchia (and Napoli) would be a great start.
Teams that are in need of a second baseman and don't want to spring for Cano -- which could be roughly 29 of them, or so -- will look to Infante. He was often overshadowed in Detroit's talented lineup, but among those who played his position and accumulated more than 400 plate appearances in 2013, he tied the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter for best batting average and ranked fifth in OPS, behind Cano, Carpenter, Chase Utley and Jason Kipnis. The Royals' other major need, besides an outfielder, is a second baseman (theirs batted .243 with four homers in '13), and Infante would ably fill that spot.
Loney easily outearned the one-year, $2 million deal the Rays gave him last December, particularly in a first half in which he batted .315 with an .832 OPS. While he is one of the league's better defensive first basemen, he has never hit more than 15 homers in a season, and that lack of power won't endear him to most clubs with a hole at the position. It could also mean that the tight-fisted Rays might be able to afford to bring him back.
The Cubs signed the former Twin to a one-year, $5.5 million deal last November, but continuing trouble with the surgically-repaired right elbow that forced him to miss all of 2012 limited him to three starts in September. Two of those starts were very good (he allowed zero and one run, respectively), enough so that Chicago will likely try to bring him back for 2014 in order to be rewarded for some of the money it has already invested in him.
The Nationals likely won't be overly active in the free agent market, but they could really use an upgrade to a bench that failed them last year (Steve Lombardozzi's OPS was.616, Tyler Moore's was .608 and Chad Tracy's was .568). Johnson could provide great value to Washington and at a good price.