This article wasn’t quite as fun to write as the previous two in this series. The markets for both middle infielders and catchers are both barren wastelands; if you look hard enough, you can actually see the tumbleweed. At least Mark DeRosa signed yesterday, so he doesn’t have to be included on this list.
- Julio Lugo, SS
If you’re in the market for a shortstop, Lugo is basically the alpha and the omega of the market. There are literally no other options available to teams, unless they are crazy enough to try Rich Aurilia or Nomar Garciaparra at shortstop again. Lugo was crushing the ball (to the tune of .308/.373/.498) in Tampa before the Dodgers traded for him. Once in LA, he fell off a cliff. His TB performance is probably an outlier, but he wasn’t as bad as he looked in LA either. The Red Sox are the richest team that need a shortstop; look for them to give Lugo 3 years, $21 million.
- Ray Durham, 2B
Ray picked a great time to have a career year and demonstrate that even at 34 he still had plenty of gas left in the tank. Several teams could be in the market for his services: the Padres recently traded their starting 2B with no plausible backup in the system; the Blue Jays aren’t sure if Aaron Hill will stay at second; and the Reds are thinking about opening up second base by moving Brandon Phillips back to SS. Ultimately, he’ll probably end up back with the Giants (he’s young enough to be a batboy for that team) and get a 3 year, $20 million deal.
- Mike Piazza, “C”/DH
The Padres must like Josh Bard, because they declined Piazza’s 2007 club option valued at $8 million, and they won’t be able to replace his production cheaper than that on the market. After a few mediocre years to finish his career as a Met, Piazza quietly put together a very nice season in cavernous Petco Park. The A’s could look his way now that Frank Thomas is rumored to have signed elsewhere. The Blue Jays might have been a decent fit, but after acquiring Thomas they now won’t be able to give Piazza extra ABs at DH. The Rangers look like the best fit; they’re a club that both needs a catcher and can offer Piazza some ABs as a DH. However, the Phillies and Brewers both need a catcher, and neither club has an in-house option as good as Gerald Laird. We’ll go out on a limb and predict the Phillies win the bidding with 2 years, $12 million.
- Bengie Molina, C
Pass. Brewers, 1 year, $5 million.
- Bargain Bin, 2B
There are tons of other options that teams who need a second-baseman can pursue. Mark Loretta has no power and can’t field much any more, but he can still hit .300. Adam Kennedy is neither the hitter nor fielder he once was. Ronnie Belliard is standing on the side of an interstate exit with a sign that says, “Will work for food”… and he means it. If your team signs one of these guys, our apologies in advance.
Still to come: corner infielders and relief pitchers. Stay tuned.