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Analyzing Next Year’s Free Agent Market: Part I

December 23, 2011

All free agents for next year’s offseason can be found on MLBTradeRumors.

Since it appears that Sabean & Co. has wrapped up this Giants offseason, I’ve taken the liberty of looking at next year’s free agent class to see what possibly lies ahead for the future. Roughly $60 million will be officially off the books next offseason, which should give said GM a good amount of flexibility to hopefully revamp the team for the better. This article will focus on the infield market.

Catchers:

While we don’t necessarily have a pressing need at backstop with Buster Posey coming back and a farm system suddenly brimming with catching talent, I’ll venture to talk about the position anyway. Formally, the catching market appears to be quite strong with players like Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, Mike Napoli, Carlos Ruiz, and Brian McCann ($12M club option) headlining the position; however more likely than not, these players will be working on extensions with their respective clubs. The second tier includes Russell Martin, Ryan Doumit, A.J. Pierzynski, Kelly Shoppach, and Yorvit Torrealba, who shouldn’t be expected to produce much more than your average catcher. Realistically, clubs looking to snag an upper echelon backstop won’t be too excited with the expected offerings, but that could change if one of the aforementioned 1st-tier catchers decides to test the market.

First Basemen:

Considering we potentially have four first basemen in Belt, Huff, Pill, and Posey, there’s virtually no chance the Giants are looking to add another next year, especially considering Aubrey Huff may possibly be the best first base option in the class. Jason Giambi, Eric Hinske, Aubrey Huff, Adam LaRoche, Carlos Lee, James Loney, Lyle Overbay, and Ty Wigginton; that is the free agent market and three of them even have options dangling over their heads. Next.

Second Basemen:

The second base market is definitely more palatable than the last with Kelly Johnson, Maicer Izturis, Howie Kendrick, and Brandon Phillips set to be unrestricted free agents. Robinson Cano and Ian Kinsler have club options, however there is no way either of those two will test free agency until the end of the 2013 season. Freddy Sanchez is set to be a free agent and will likely not come back with him being declining with age (35; cue Sabean jest) and having a history of shoulder issues. It’s too premature to guess how the Giants will address the hole at 2B; much depends on Brandon Crawford winning the job as the perennial shortstop to force Joe Panik to slide over to second base, and also Charlie Culberson having a bounce back season in AAA. Either way, Panik won’t likely see playing time in the majors until 2013 at the earliest meaning the Giants will likely explore free agent options unless Culberson explodes onto the scene. It’s very possible that Johnson, Kendrick, and Phillips may be re-signed prior to the offseason; however it’s too early and nebulous to consider the Giants’ moves for this position.

Third Base:

Barring another 2010 season of drastically enlarged proportions, Pablo Sandoval will be the everyday third baseman for the San Francisco Giants for quite some time. Some interesting names highlight the position list however in David Wright and Kevin Youkilis, who respectively have $16M and $13M options held by their clubs. Other than those two, who will likely be retained some way or another, the market for third basemen is typically lackluster though Chipper Jones and Mark Reynolds are also potentials for 2013. Casey Blake, Scott Rolen, Mark Teahen…not interested.

Shortstop:

Finally something that’s somewhat interesting. Considering Crawford’s bat may be too inept to warrant playing his glove and that we have no immediate SS options coming through the farm, it’s very possible the Giants will explore a short-term option in the market while Joe Panik simmers in the minors. There aren’t many certain options available however, with Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta held by club options while Yunieski Betancourt is encouraged to continue maintaining residency outside the Bay. Two possible names of interest however are Erick Aybar and Marco Scutaro. Aybar put up a 4 WAR season as recently as last year, while Scutaro continues to provide adequate offensive production as he ages, though his defense won’t impress anybody. By the time Scutaro gets to Sabean’s door however, he’ll likely end up being marginally better than Tejada was although he’ll likely take a one-year contract. Good shortstops don’t always come cheap, but when they do, they get Sabeaned (JJ Hardy), so get used to seeing Brandon Crawford for a while.

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