Waiting for a new home: Couch Side’s top 10 available MLB free agents

BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

Outfielder Grady Sizemore may have missed the entire 2012 season, but he is still available to baseball teams as a free agent. Photo by: Keith Allison / Flickr

Outfielder Grady Sizemore may have missed the entire 2012 season, but he is still available to baseball teams as a free agent. Photo by: Keith Allison / Flickr

When thinking of a new topic for my weekly blog, I remembered a recent conversation with one of my good friends.

I was complaining about my fantasy baseball team from a year ago and he had his own sorrows about how the injury bug bit his relief pitchers so badly in 2012. He had Mariano Rivera and Brian Wilson, which led me to quickly say, “can you believe he is still available?” His quick response about Wilson was slightly below a quiet yell, saying, “I know!”

The conversation sparked me this week to look a little deeper into players who didn’t receive contracts — major league or minor league — this offseason. The list of course has some duds on it  like Jason Bartlett and others who aren’t really relevant like 51-year-old Jamie Moyer. However, there is still a handful of players who most fans would’ve pegged to land on one team or another in 2013. Here’s a look at my top 10 of those still available free agents:

10. Roy Oswalt, 2012 team: Texas Rangers (4-3 record, 5.80 ERA, 59 strikeouts in 17 games): Oswalt is at the bottom of the list because he couldn’t make it through 2012. The Rangers signed him as a flyer, but it didn’t pay off. It still puzzles me that he is still available, though, considering his career ERA is 3.28 and he is less than 200 strikeouts away from 2,000.

9. Orlando Hudson, 2012 team: Chicago Whitesox / San Diego Padres (.204 avg., 3 HR, 28 RBI, 6 SB in 86 games): Hudson is just a few years removed from making the National League All-Star Team. However, since then, his average has dipped so bad it’s really no surprise no one took a chance on him. It’s sort of weird because even Chone Figgins was given a Spring Training spot by the Miami Marlins.

8. Francisco Rodriguez, 2012 team: Milwaukee Brewers (2-7 record, 4.38 ERA, 3 saves in 78 games): K-Rod not finding a home in 2013 is somewhat of a shocker. Sure, he blew some games for the Brewers last season, but there are teams still in need of closers. His past spunk could still be enough for him to wear the cleats again in 2013 and there is surely a team that will look his way when a late-inning pitcher hits the Disabled List.

7. Jim Thome, 2012 team: Baltimore Orioles / Philadelphia Phillies (.252 avg., 8 HR, 25 RBI in 58 games): It took a while for Thome to find a home in 2012, but once he did, the designated hitter did surprise some. There’s no doubt the power is there. And to that point, if Jason Giambi can find playing time with the Cleveland Indians, then so should Thome with one of the other 29 teams.

6. Freddy Sanchez, 2012 team: Did not play (2011 stats – .289 avg., 3 HR, 24 RBI in 60 games): The injury bug perhaps bit Sanchez the worst of any position player on this list and it may just cost him another shot at playing professional baseball. It’s pretty sad, considering Sanchez was the National League’s batting champion in 2006. There’s just no way to tell if he can bounce back to major league form. It could also be his defense that is holding him back.

5. Dallas Braden, 2012 team: none (2011 stats – 3-3 record, 3.00 ERA, 15 strikeouts in 3 games)

Braden’s multiple shoulder surgeries probably have raised a lot of red flags. According to his Twitter account we also shouldn’t expect him to be back anytime soon as he said he threw to a catcher for the first time in months during a session in February and it wasn’t close to what he expected. It may take a few years for him to return to the majors, but if he shows any glimpse of the upside he once possessed,  baseball fans could see another Scott Kazmir like comeback. Let’s not forget, Braden was on his way to the top in 2010 and he even tossed a no-hitter that year.

4. Carlos Lee, 2012 team: Houston Astros / Miami Marlins (.243 avg., 9 HR, 48 RBI in 147 games)

It’s pretty surprising that Lee didn’t land a job for a team in desperate need of a first baseman or designated hitter. Yes, Lee’s power numbers have dipped a bit, but he still can flat out hit. Perhaps the most attractive attribute about Lee is that he doesn’t strikeout much. In 66 games and 258 at bats with the Astros last season, Lee struck out just 17 times. And with the Marlins in 81 games and 292 bats, he struck out just 39 times, which isn’t too bad, either, considering he switched leagues half way through the season and was seeing a whole heap of new pitchers. That in itself should be enough for him to have found a team. I was a bit shocked the New York Yankees didn’t give him a call when Mark Teixeira hit the shelf. Good luck to the Bombers with Lyle Overbay at first base instead of Lee.

3. Scott Rolen, 2012 team: Cincinnati Reds (.245 avg., 8 HR, 39 RBI in 87 games)

Rolen’s age has shown in a big way during the past two seasons as he wasn’t able to play in more than 90 games in that span. Here’s another guy I figured the Yankees would pickup when the news that Alex Rodriguez would miss most of the 2013 campaign came out. However, Rolen didn’t get the call and he is still looking for a home. Could he still produce? I’m not so sure if he can offensively and he recorded his worst defensive season last year. I think name power probably made me rank him as the third best available free agent. Maybe that name power can keep him in the bigs for another year because I think the door hasn’t quite closed on a guy like Rolen.

2. Brian Wilson, 2012 team: San Francisco Giants (9.00 ERA avg., 1 save, 2 strikeouts in 2 games)

Tommy John surgery has claimed the career of many MLB pitchers and Wilson could be another statistic when it comes to that fact. However, I honestly believe he still deserves a shot despite the red flags. He is a three-time All-Star, reliever of the year and World Series champion. There’s no doubt Wilson has the resume to be on a team in 2013 and like Francisco Rodriguez, if a late-inning reliever goes down for a contendor this year, Wilson’s name may be a the top of a lot of general manager’s calling lists. He threw for the first time in October and said it felt, “pretty good.” That’s a good sign that he could still pitch again. It’ll just take a lot of faith from an organization to give him that shot.

1. Grady Sizemore, 2012 team: Didn’t play (2011 stats – .224 avg., 10 HR, 32 RBI in 71 games)

Sizemore had to miss the entire 2012 season and is still on the mend from a bum knee. That’s not a good sign for a center fielder, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Sizemore could bounce back in one of the corner outfielder positions. He was a monster defensively during his heyday and the eight-year pro was no slouch with the bat. Some interest from the New York Mets has arisen lately and they’re in desperate need for an outfielder. Once Sizemore feels healthy enough to hit in front of scouts, he should impress enough to begin a comeback in 2013.

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