A broken wrist limited Lee to 113 games played in a season he split between Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but after he returned from the injury he showed that he can still hit, batting .337 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in 28 games as a Pirates. The Twins need someone who can DH and provide an acceptable back-up to Justin Morneau should Morneau's injury woes persist, and that player could be Lee.
2011 Stats: 13-11, 3.69 ERA, 1.183 WHIP, 7.6 K/9
CURRENT TEAM: MARLINS BEST FIT: MARLINS
Vazquez seemed headed for certain retirement as late as June 11, when his ERA, after 13 starts, stood at 7.09. After that, though, he went on a tear, and allowed more than three earned runs in just one of his final 19 outings. Vazquez might still retire, but if he doesn't he should end up back with the Marlins, who will be playing in a new ballpark, will have their rotation bolstered by the return of injured ace Josh Johnson and who could contend in the N.L. East.
2011 Stats: 5-9, 3.62 ERA, 1.284 WHIP, 8.7 K/9
CURRENT TEAM: RED SOX BEST FIT: ROYALS
As his peripheral stats suggest, Bedard was better in 2011 than his 5-9 record indicates. Most importantly, he topped 125 innings for the first time since 2007. Though always an injury risk, he retains enormous upside, and could be this year's Melky Cabrera for the Royals -- i.e., an undervalued free agent steal.
2011 Stats: .285/.343/.452, 8 HRs, 46 RBIs, 4 SBs
CURRENT TEAM: TIGERS BEST FIT: DODGERS
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wants a hitter, and while the club is in no position to pay for a star to bolster a lineup that is weak aside from Matt Kemp, they could afford Betemit, a perfectly productive player -- and one-time Dodger -- who will benefit from an extremely thin third basemen market.
2011 Stats:6-14, 3.66 ERA, 1.294 WHIP, 5.4 K/9
CURRENT TEAM: PIRATES BEST FIT: RED SOX
Maholm had the best season of his career in 2011, but still it wasn't good enough for the Pirates to pick up his $9.75 million option. That put the lefthanded sinkerballer in line for an even richer deal, and the game's heavy spenders could be after him. One such team might be the Red Sox, who could use a quality lefty in their rotation besides Jon Lester. At press time, however, there was no word as to Maholm's taste for fried chicken and beer.
2011 Stats:14-7, 3.64 ERA, 1.365 WHIP, 6.5 K/9
CURRENT TEAM: PADRES BEST FIT: CARDINALS
Harang had some rough years after finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young voting as a Red in 2007, and finally seemed to recapture something in 2011. To be fair, he took real advantage of the capacious Petco Park -- his ERA was 3.05 at home and 4.70 on the road. Still, that split will be no secret to suitors and will keep his salary down. The Cardinals will significantly benefit from the return from injury of Adam Wainwright, and adding a player like Harang would make their rotation far deeper and better than was the one that just won the World Series.
2011 Stats: .290/.317/.416, 13 HRs, 63 RBIs, 2 SB
CURRENT TEAM: ORIOLES BEST FIT: ATHLETICS
After a bounceback season with the Rangers in 2010, in which he ranked fourth in the AL with 115 RBIs, Guerrero flopped with the Orioles, setting full-season career lows in home runs and OPS. Still, he might have one more rejuvenation left in him, and the A's -- who ranked third to last in the A.L. in home runs, and who will likely lose four lineup regulars (Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham) to free agency -- are just the type of club to take a low-risk chance on him. He might represent this year's Lance Berkman.
It's rarely pretty, but Cordero simply gets the job done year after year. In his four seasons with the Reds, he has averaged 38 saves, while blowing an average of six chances. While his age and cratering strikeout rate (it has declined in four straight years) will conspire to preclude another four-year deal, there seems little reason for the two sides to part ways.
2011 Stats: .306/.378/.422, 10 HRs, 48 RBIs, 2 SBs
CURRENT TEAM: RAYS BEST FIT: RAYS
The Rays plucked Kotchman from the scrap heap last January, giving him a one-year, $750,000 deal. By season's end, he had proven yet another brilliant signing by GM Andrew Friedman, as he was eighth in the AL in batting average while playing his typically excellent defense at first. Kotchman will never develop the power most desire from a first basemen, but that should keep his cost low, and therefore make him affordable to the Rays.
2011 Stats: .245/.289/.419, 20 HRs, 84 RBIs, 2 SBs
CURRENT TEAM: PHILLIES BEST FIT: MARINERS
The Phillies signed Ibanez to a 3-year, $31.5 million contract in December of 2008, and while his career in Philadelphia started off brilliantly -- he had 22 home runs and 60 RBI's by the '09 All-Star break -- his age seemed to catch up with him after that. He is now, simply, a terrible defensive outfielder -- the worst in baseball, according to fangraphs.com's Ultimate Zone Rating metric -- but he can still be a productive DH, and he could slide into the role that might be vacated by the similarly genial Johnny Damon with the Rays.
2011 Stats: 4-4, 5.12 ERA, 1.427 WHIP, 9.9 K/9
CURRENT TEAM: ATHLETICS BEST FIT: PIRATES
Harden's 2011 season was strange. He was sometimes brilliant -- such as in the seven shutout innings he threw against Toronto on Aug. 19, in which he struck out 11 Blue Jays -- and sometimes awful, as in the 4 1/3 inning, six earned run outing against the Yankees he made six days later. Still, his strikeout rate would have ranked as baseball's third best had he qualified, and that stuff, combined with his still young age, will make him an attractive low-risk, high-reward signing, perhaps for an up-and-coming, low-payroll club like the Pirates.
The Blue Jays sent Mike Napoli to the Rangers for Francisco last January -- whoops -- but even though Francisco swapped the closer's role with Jon Rauch several times, he ended up with a good ERA and strikeout rate, and converted 17 of his 21 save opportunities. Chances are he will be yet another free agent closer whose home does not change.
That Oliver allowed two crushing 10th inning runs in Game 6 of the World Series, after Rangers manager Ron Washington ill-advisedly removed his closer, Neftali Feliz, should not overshadow the fact that Oliver remains a very effective middle reliever six seasons into his career's second act as a lefthanded specialist. His ERA, in fact, represented a career low. While he is more or less equally effective against righties (who had an OPS of .594 against him) as lefties (their OPS was .587), the Orioles' bullpen is desperate for a good southpaw.
2011 Stats:.282/.341/.446, 12 HRs, 36 RBIs, 0 SBs
CURRENT TEAM: REDS BEST FIT: PIRATES
This winter's market for catchers is so weak that a 36-year-old who failed to reach 300 at-bats or 85 hits last season is clearly the best of them. The Pirates appear certain to cut ties with all of their veteran backstops and could use a steady mentor for their young catchers and pitching staff.
Nathan initially struggled to regain his form and command after undergoing the Tommy John surgery that wiped out his 2010 season, but he improved significantly after the '11 All-Star break. His second-half ERA was 3.91 (it was 5.82 in the first half), and his strikeout-to-walk ratio improved from 2.33:1 to 4.40:1 -- the latter in line with his pre-injury career norms. Minnesota, his home since 2004 and the place in which he averaged 41 saves a year between then and 2009, declined his $12.5 million option, but a crowded closer market means that he will likely find few suitors, making a return -- at a lesser salary -- probable.
2011 Stats: .246/.299/.356, 8 HRs, 61 RBIs, 21 SBs
CURRENT TEAM: DIAMONDBACKS BEST FIT: DIAMONDBACKS
Hill was much better after his August trade from Toronto to Arizona -- in 33 games with the D-backs, he hit .315 with two home runs and 16 RBIs -- but his overall numbers were so poor that one wonders if his terrific 2009, in which he crushed 36 homers and drove in 108 runs, was a total fluke. Arizona didn't want to pay too much to find out -- they declined options for 2012 and 2013 that would have paid him a total of $16 millions -- butit still seems like a good landing spot for Hill, albeit at a lower salary.
The re-signing of Javier Lopez by the Giants to a two-year, $8.5 million deal means that one type of pitcher that is often readily available in free agency -- the lefthanded one out guy, or LOOGY -- is in extremely short supply. After a rough 2010, Sherrill now seems to have transitioned from closer to lefty specialist -- his strikeout-to-walk ratio against lefthanded batters was 32 to 1 last season -- and the Yankees, with Pedro Feliciano's health uncertain, have long coveted a second LOOGY besides Boone Logan.
2011 Stats:.241/.270/.372, 15 HRs, 56 RBIs, 2 SBs
CURRENT TEAM: BRAVES BEST FIT: TWINS
That the Twins erred in trading J.J. Hardy to the Orioles last winter was confirmed when Hardy hit 30 home runs and drove in 80 runs, while Minnesota's shortstops combined for four and 48. Gonzalez's bat isn't Hardy's, but it's better than anything the Twins have at the position, and even at his age he remains a strong defender.
Arm trouble kept Lidge from making his first appearance until late July, by which time he had permanently lost the Phillies' closer's job to Ryan Madson. If Lidge was a bit wild (he walked 13 batters in 19.1 innings over 25 appearances), he was ultimately effective, and his strikeout rate shows that he retains excellent stuff. The Phillies chose to buy out his $12.5 million option, and that should mean that he will move on from Philadelphia after four years there -- perhaps up the road to the Mets, whose bullpen ERA of 4.33 was baseball's third highest.
2011 Stats:12-8, 3.77 ERA, 1.303 WHIP, 6.3 K/9
CURRENT TEAM: ROYALS BEST FIT: TIGERS
The crafty lefty posted what was probably his best season in 2011, and the Red Sox even considered trading for him to start a potential one-game playoff. That trade, and the game, never happened. Chen would look very good at the bottom of a deep Tigers rotation, at least until prospect Jacob Turner is ready.
The man they call "Sammy" has played for four teams in his six big league seasons, and yet his ERA has never topped 2.83. At his age, he might not have many such years left, but the Angels should be in win-now mode, and are desperate for a quality righthanded setup man.
2011 Stats:.279/.329/.327, 2 HRs, 50 RBIs, 27 SBs
CURRENT TEAM: WHITE SOX BEST FIT: ASTROS
After leading the majors with 68 steals in 2010, Pierre's basestealing ability seemed to evaporate: He mustered just 27 in 2011, and was caught a league-high 17 times. The Astros could give him a one-year deal in the hope that he he will rediscover his speed. He would at least give them one offensive player, aside from Carlos Lee, who anyone has ever heard of.
Jerry Hairston, Jr.
2011 Stats: .270/.344/.383, 5 HRs, 31 RBI, 3 SBs
CURRENT TEAM: BREWERS BEST FIT: YANKEES
Casey McGehee's struggles meant that Hairston, acquired from the Nationals at the trade deadline, was their regular starter at third base during the playoffs, and their NLCS ouster could not be blamed on him: he hit .385 in 11 postseason games. While Milwaukee would like to upgrade at third, there are simply no available players that are likely to fall within their budget, and they could bring back Hairston, who, at the least, remains a capable utilityman.
2011 Stats: 1-5, 4.33 ERA, 1.389 WHIP, 4.7 K/9
CURRENT TEAM: DODGERS BEST FIT: PADRES
Garland turned a solid 2010 season with the Padres, in which he went 14-12 with a 3.47 ERA, into a one-year, $5 million free agent deal with L.A. -- and was then lost for the season in June due to a shoulder injury. With his team option declined, Garland -- a 10+ game winner in every season between 2002 and 2010, and a solid middle-of-the-rotation man -- is free to return to the Padres, and start the cycle again.
The 300-pound Broxton was one of the game's premier power relievers between 2006 and '10 -- he averaged 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings during that stretch, with an ERA of 3.00 and 77 saves -- but arm trouble ruined his 2011, and he pitched in just 14 games, with very poor results. He might well never be the same. But none of the players this low on the Reiter 50 is a sure thing, and Broxton's age, potential and likely low salary would make him a better signing that a lot of the other players not on this list -- like Clint Barmes, Yuniesky Betancourt, David DeJesus, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada -- for a rebuilding, closer-needy team like the Mets.
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