I was flipping through the list of remaining free agents (as of 1/16/2012) and tried to field the best team possible with those players still available. Here’s what you can do…
The best hitting catcher is probably Ramon Castro, who I see as a DH but can catch some. You have a couple of receivers with good defensive skills but a limited offensive outlook (Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Varitek) and a couple of catchers who have recently been regulars (Chris Snyder, Ronny Paulino). If you took Castro and Rodriguez, at least you’d have someone who could work with the pitchers and throw, and you’d have a decent enough backup who could help put a few runs on the board.
With Prince Fielder still available, you have the centerpiece of an offense – but you still have some competent backups. Casey Kotchman seems to have found his hitting stroke, and Carlos Pena could help in a platoon role (can’t hit lefties, though). If you weren’t willing to pony up $20 million per year for Fielder, a platoon of Pena and Derrek Lee might give you depth and a solid platoon.
Not a lot to choose from here… The best player is probably Carlos Guillen, but he’s only going to play 40 games (not to be mean here, but his injury history is becoming problematic). That leaves you with someone who can, at best, not embarrass you with the glove – Jeff Keppinger, for example – and even play a couple of positions since you may need some flexibility.
If you thought the pickings were thin at second, it’s even thinner at third base now. Casey Blake has had a couple of good years, and Wilson Betemit can swing the bat. After that, it’s guys who used to be able to play some (Eric Chavez, Alex Cora, Omar Vizquel).
Three guys who can’t really cover the position anymore – Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, and Miguel Tejada. The best overall option is probably Cabrera – or letting him play second and moving Keppinger over to play short.
There are still a few players here who could contribute, but most of these guys are past prime players and few have the wheels to cover center. However, Johnny Damon could still play left, Cody Ross can play right or center (though he’s running out of years he’ll be able to cover center). Kosuke Fukudome is a fantastic right fielder and can still bat leadoff. Behind that you have a couple of guys who could be good fourth outfielders and pinch hitting types – Jonny Gomes, Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre. If you needed a defensive guy, Joey Gathright is there. And, if you want to take a real chance, you could go for Yoenis Cespedes.
A lineup as listed below would score some runs, and probably fight the defense to a draw.
Fukudome – RF
Damon – LF
Guillen – 2B
Fielder – 1B
Castro – C
Ross – CF
Blake – 3B
Keppinger – SS
(Pitcher – assuming a National League team)
A couple recent signings has killed off much of the top remaining pitchers, but you still have a few guys who can win games. I see a rotation that includes the following as having some potential:
And I’d give a sixth spot to Rich Harden – pitch him until something breaks (which it will). Or, you could take Harden’s stuff and make a closer out of him. Your emergency arm might be Kevin Millwood – I just don’t know if he has one more year left. I’d stash him in AAA until Rich Harden breaks down… The staff is really missing an ace, but you have two guys who can win at the top and three guys who can give you 650 innings at the bottom, which helps the bullpen.
The signing of Ryan Madson takes away the best available closer, but you can do a bullpen by committee and hope someone takes charge. I see the top six arms as follows:
Out of that list, you can give Lidge the last inning (if he’s healthy) and mix and match the rest to be reasonably effective.
I haven’t done the math on this, but a team with this roster could possibly make a run at 85 wins.