Impending Mariners Free Agents: Who To Keep And Who To Let Go?

Let’s move on to the continuously lowly Mariners. I feel bad for Seattle. Their pitching continues to perform very well (with guys like Felix Hernandez and rookie Michael Pineda) but their offense just continues to struggle each year.

Jamey Wright – After being bounced around with three different teams in 2010 (Indians, Athletics, Mariners), he finally stuck with Seattle. They resigned him toa 1-year deal worth $900,000. He played in 60 games, pitching in 68 2/3 innings, and had a 3.16 era. He also earned his first career save in five save opportunities.

Thoughts/Prediction: He did a decent job for the team, providing relief in different capacities. Wright doesn’t have a whole lot left though, at 36 (he turns 37 this December). He’ll likely be signed by the Mariners once again to a 1-year deal at the veteran minimum, although he could really go anywhere that can use a veteran that could help in different relief roles (though whether he’s signed to a major or minor-league with Spring Invitation deal is the question).

 

Adam Kennedy – He was signed to a minor-league deal after serving time with the Nationals last year. However, he made the team out of Spring Training, primarily serving as second baseman, but then made way for Dustin Ackley. He also served as backup to third baseman Chone Figgins.

Thoughts/Prediction: What I like about Kennedy is that he has the ability to play at all infield positions, and can serve as backup to Figgins, Ackley, Brendan Ryan, and Justin Smoak. But that’s about it, at 35, Kennedy is a backup at this point; used primarily as a substitution for one of the four during a game, or could maybe share a platoon role with Ackley, if he struggles. Seattle could use a guy like him for defensive purposes, but I’m not entirely sure Kennedy wants to stay with a team that not only has its infield set, but is also making way for an influx of youth. Instead, I look for him to sign yet another minor-league deal where more playing time can be available to him.

Unfortunately, that’s really it in terms of impending free agents in Seattle. Shortstop Jack Wilson and right-handed pitcher Chris Ray were both supposed to be, as well. However, Wilson was waiver-traded to the Braves after the Trade Deadline, and Ray was released in mid-August.

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Impending Athletics Free Agents: Who To Keep And Who To Let Go?

Next up on the AL West list is the Athletics. Here we go…

Josh Willingham – Despite playing for the A’s and at the Coliseum in home games, he managed to hit a career-high 29 homers, a career-high 98 RBIs (the most any A’s player has hit since Frank Thomas in ’06-, winning the team’s Catfish Hunter award (which goes to the team’s most inspirational player). However, he had his lowest batting average (.246) since his rookie year. He was paid $6 million this year, and is currently 32.

Thoughts/Prediction: Despite a mediocre batting average, he did manage to be in the top 15 in both home runs and RBIs. He’s also pretty effective when in the outfield, only having 2 errors in 96 games in left field. Considering his career-highs, he’ll likely ask for a bit more with his new contract, probably somewhere in the $7.5-9 million vicinity. If it was any other team besides the Athletics, he’d probably be kept (and even with a .245-.260 average, he should, considering the team’s overall lack of power). But because he’ll likely be asking for more than $6 million, and because the A’s have Conor Jackson and Ryan Sweeney, both of which are cheaper replacements, I can’t see him staying.  I can certainly see him going to the Twins, depending on whether they keep Jason Kubel and/or Michael Cuddyer. Blue Jays would be another team to add to the mix, if they’re looking for additional power alongside Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, and J.P. Arencibia.

Wherever he goes, he'll certainly provide both power and defense to his team. But are teams willing to overlook the mediocre batting average and frequent strikeouts?

Rich Harden – Three years and god knows how many trips to the disabled after his last start for Oakland, he returns to that very same team on a 1-year, $1.5 million deal… only to begin at the disabled list yet again. He returned in the second half of the season and in his 15 starts, he went 4-4 with a 5.12 ERA.

Thoughts/Prediction: You know, the sad thing is, Harden is a very effective pitcher when healthy; he’s able to throw a fastball near 100 mph, and has a splitter that acts like a knuckleball (thus some people call it the “ghost pitch”). I really like the way this guys pitches, and have been a fan of his for years. Unfortunately, the problem is that he isn’t healthy, and that hurts his overall value. He’s only 29, though, so if his body can hold up, he still has several years of playing time left. His next contract will likely be the last one he had (but hopefully, not the last in general): a 1-year, low-money, low-risk, but possibly high-reward (provided he can last the whole year) and will serve as part of the back end of the starting rotation. Think like the Yankees did with Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon this year, but with a much younger pitcher. Actually, now that I think about it… could the Yankees make a move?

Coco Crisp – The Athletics picked up his club option last year worth $5.76 million, despite playing in only 75 games in 2010. This year, he was able to last the year, having his best year since 2007, hitting 8 homers, 54 RBIs, and stole a career-high 49 bases.

Thoughts/Prediction: I can’t see why the Athletics wouldn’t sign to him a new contract.  His small-ball playing style, ability to steal bases, and long range at center field make him a perfect fit for the team. In addition, he’s a switch-hitter, which is always a plus. What sets him back though is a lack of throwing power in his arm and that his batting average isn’t as high as I think it should be. That being said, I think he’ll stick with the A’s and earn right around the same salary ($5-7 million) for 2-3 years.

Dig that crazy afro, Coco! But in all seriousness, his small-ball playing style and ability to steal bases is a perfect fit for the A’s.

David DeJesus – Ouch. He was traded last offseason from the Royals for Vin Mazzaro and minor-leaguer Justin Marks, only a month after the team picked up his club option (Royals signed a 5-year/$13.5 million contract extension in 2006, with a $6 million club option for 2011). In 131 games, the power stayed the same as it has been throughout the career, but he hit career-lows in batting average (.243) and OBP (.323).

Thoughts/Prediction: Not sure what happened to him; I guess that tendon tear in his right thumb last year did something to him? His batting average dropped like a rock from .318 in 2010 to .240 this year. At the same time, he’s typically great on defense; though last year, he had 4 errors in 122 games in the outfield, those were his first errors since 2008. In terms of where he goes, it’s a mixed bag; his low on-base percentage will surely be frowned upon by GM Billy Beane and the A’s staff, but does he have great defensive abilities. Considering his prior salary and the fact the A’s have Conor Jackson and Ryan Sweeney within the depth chart, my guess is DeJesus will be playing somewhere else. My guess is the Indians, as the team could possibly lose both Kosuke Fukudome (and his ridiculous $14.5 million salary) and oft-injured Grady Sizemore, provided they don’t pick up his club option ($500,000 buyout).

Brandon McCarthy – McCarthy signed with A’s last offseason on a 1-year, $1 million deal. After injuries plagues him in 2007 and 2008, and spending time in the minor leagues in 2010, the Athletics were looking at a cheap, low-risk guy in McCarthy. And it worked! Despite a 9-9 record in 25 starts, he threw 5 complete games (including 1 shutout), and posted a 3.32 ERA over 170 2/3 innings.

Thoughts/Prediction: It appears that McCarthy’s career is on the right track. Ignore his mediocre record; I blame that on the team’s anemic offense rather than his pitching abilities. He was in the top 15 in ERA in the American League, and his 5 complete games were tied for fourth-most in the majors (behind Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and James Shields). His ability to throw two-seam fastballs and cutters helped attribute to his low ERA, which interested teams will certainly take a look at. My only gripe is that he seems to lack composure when there are runners in scoring position. That being said, he’s due for a much better contract, so no, he won’t be with the Athletics next year. He will definitely be looked by teams; I can see him playing for the Rockies, with Aaron Cook likely out the door (there is a ’12 mutual option, but I see no chance of that happening considering how he’s played the past 2 years) and Millwood possibly out as well (though he did a decent job as a midseason pickup). Cubs are another possibility if they don’t pick up Jeff Samardjiza’s club option, and considering Zambrano’s inevitable end with the team (you really think they’re going to pick up his monster 2013 club option? Ha!)

Hideki Matsui – After putting up good numbers as DH for the Angels last year, the A’s signed him for $4.25 million last year. The batting average and HRs slipped (though in the case of home runs, it’s understandable when you play at Oakland’s vacant coliseum 81 times a year), but the rest of his numbers were still there. He hit his 2,500th career hit (combined in Japan and U.S.) and 500th career home run (again, combined) during the year. Also, he stole a base for the first time in 4 years, if that means anything to you.

Thoughts/Prediction: Again, while he hit only 12 home runs this season, he did have to play half the season in Oakland, so I still think the power is still there. He also has a knack for driving walks. My two concerns about him though are the continuously declining batting average and the possibility of his knees break down when going for extra bases. If a team is interested, it’ll be an AL team, and he’ll be used as a full-time DH, as he was with the A’s. If not, he’ll likely finish his career in Japan or retire.

I don't think there was a Yankee player that my father and grandmother loved watching (other than Jeter) than Hideki Matsui, and boy, were they upset when the Yankees front office made no offer to him. I certainly enjoyed his tenure there. But his knees...

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Impending Angels Free Agents: Who To Keep And Who To Let Go?

Seeing as the World Series and baseball season in general is coming to a close, I thought I would throw my two cents in on each team’s soon-to-be free agents. I’ll start off with the AL West; the first being the Angels.

Joel Pineiro – After posting ok stats for a couple years with the Cardinals, it appeared he broke out in 2009, with a 15-12 record and a 3.49 ERA. The Angels then got him with a 2-year $16 million deal. In that time span, he’s gone 17-14, including a mediocre 7-7 (24 starts/27 games) record this year. In addition, his ERA was a 5.13, and his opponent’s batting average and WHIP was his highest in five years.

Thoughts/Prediction: After posting such mediocre stats the past couple of years, Pineiro will definitely not be receiving such a large, short-team conract, as he did with the Angels. He’s 33, so I don’t expect for him to receive a contract longer than 2 years. He’ll probably make $2.5-4 million next year, depending on where he signs. I can’t see any AL West teams taking him; in fact, I don’t think he should sign with an AL team at all. Since he had some success in the NL Central, I can see him as a middle-of-the-rotation starter for a team like the Cubs or Astros.

 

Fernando Rodney: During the same offseason, the Angels picked up Rodney for 2 years and $11 million. Despite converting 37 saves out of 38 opportunities with Detroit in 2009, the Angels decided to use him initially as a setup man. When then-closer Brian Fuentes was out with an injury, he then filled in, earning 14 saves out of 17 opportunities. But this year, Jordan Walden took over as full-time closer, converting 32 of 42 in saves, and earning an All-Star appearance in the process. Since then, he’s been unpopular with Angels fan and Rodney has been frustrated by his lack of appearances (39 games) to the point where has asked manager general manager Tony Reagins for a trade.

Thoughts/Prediction: It’s pretty obvious that Rodney will not be an Angel next year. Where he goes next depends on whether that team wants him as a closer, a setup man, a mix of both, or even just a relief role for that matter; it also depends on what roles Rodney will be willing to play; if it’s just closer, the list of interested teams may be rather short. That being said, he certainly has the ability to close games, as highlighted by his 2009 season. However, he did receive Tommy John surgery in 2003, suffered from shoulder tendinitis in 2008, and turns 35 in March. Again, with Pineiro, don’t expect a contract longer than 2 years. Depending on what role he’s given, his salary will fall somewhere betwen $2-5 million. I predict he’ll stay in the AL; if a closer, I can see him moving to the AL East, like Baltimore. If a setup man, I can definitely see him in Seattle.

Interest in Rodney all depends on what reliever roles he's willing to play in. He can be an effective closer sure, but just how many teams are interested?

 

Bobby Abreu (player option) – Abreu has certainly been a mixed bag. His average is about the same as it was last year (.253), but the power has dropped off considerably (from 20 home runs in 2010 to just 8 this year). Though primarily used as a DH, he did play 28 of his 142 games in both corner outfield positions and committed only 1 error. In addiion, he did have 60 RBIs despite his diminished power, and stole 21 bases. He turns 38 in March. His player option is $9 million for 2012 and has a $1 million buyout.

Thoughts/Prediction: This is a tough one with Abreu. Obviously, he’ll want to stay, considering he likes Scioscia, not to mention no club is going to offer even close to a $9 million buyout. The question is: How will he be used? His 2011 season indicates that any power he has is just about gone, and is no longer the .290 career hitter he once was, but instead a .250 hitter.  In addition, the influx of youth in the outfield (Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout, Jeremy Moore)) not to mention the fact they have Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter means Abreu will have few opportunities to start in the outfield, at all. However, his ability to steal bases, even at age 38, could mean continued work as designated hitter (though you have to consider where Kendrys Morales would fit in the lineup equation). I believe he’ll be used frequently in the lineup, but will be then traded midseason to a contender looking for that extra push (Abreu is the only oufielder that makes sense because Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells’ conracts are too large and last beyond 2012, unless the Angels eat up a good portion of either one of them).

 

Russell Branyan – An interesting 2011 for Branyan. After posting a career-best average of .250 and hitting a combined 25 home runs in 2010 for Seattle and Cleveland, he garnered little interest and signed a Minor League contract and Spring Training invite with the Diamondbacks. He was relased in May, and then signed with the Angels just a few days later. In a combined 68 games, he was 25-for-127 (a .197 batting average) with 5 HRs.

Thoughts/Prediction: The guy has plenty of power, but his horrible batting average and frequent strikeouts make people close their eyes when he comes up to bat. He does however drive a lot of walks, leading him to earn the nickname 3TO (which stands for three true outcomes; either he walks, strikes out, or hits a home run). He’ll likely receive the same thing he did last year: a Spring Training invite; in which he’ll most likely serve as a pinch-hitter for a team lacking major-league ready depth at either first or third base, with the occasional fill-in for DH (provided he signs with an AL team, of course).

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To Survive, The Big East Needs To Find Colleges… And Fast

I’m sure most of you are aware by now that Syracuse and Pittsburgh are jumping over to the ACC, and that UConn is looking to do the same.

There’s no doubt about it: Losing these three colleges hurts, both in football and basketball. Yes, I know that the Big East isn’t the biggest or the best conference for football, but then again, it never was to begin with. When the Big East was created in 1979, it was primarily a basketball conference (the founding members being UConn, Syracuse, Holy Cross, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Georgetown, and Boston College).  It wasn’t until a decade later that teams such as Pittsburgh and West Virginia had joined, and the Big East became a football conference. However, on the basketball side, you’re losing three big powerhouses of your conference to another conference that also national powerhouses, as well. To think in the near future, we’ll have regular-season matchups such as Duke-Syracuse and North Carolina-UConn. It will certainly make for great television, no doubt about it.

However, as big as the Big East has been in basketball, it’s still football that makes the most money. So what about all those Big East schools; the ones that either have a football team in the FCS or don’t have one at all? Villanova has a football team, but they’re in the FCS and are relatively small as it is. Universities such as Seton Hall and Georgetown don’t even have one. And what about Notre Dame they play most of their spots in the Big East, but they’re independent when it comes to football (if the Big East dissipates, where do the rest of Notre Dame’s sports go?)

The conference needs to regain some power; nabbing TCU was good for both the school and the conference, but the Big East has to realize that they aren’t going to get any powerhouses to join their conference (both football and basketball-wise). It will be impossible to replace Syracuse and Pittsburgh, in both football and basketball (however, for this blog entry, I’m just going to talk about getting teams for football). Syracuse, while they have been relatively weak over the past several years, have gained ground since. The Orange have also had a history of producing great players, including Heisman winner Ernie Davis, Jim Brown, Floyd Little, John Mackey (who also has an award in his name given to the best tight end in the nation each year), Larry Csonka, and current Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb. Syracuse is also home to the largest dome in the Northeast, the Carrier Dome (which seats nearly 50,000). Pittsburgh has won 9 National Championships, is in the Top 20 in all-time wins, shares a stadium with a professional team (Pittsburgh Steelers’ Heinz Field), and also has produced huge stars, such as Heisman winner Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Mike Ditka, and current Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

But here’s some schools that the Big East should look to scoop up:

East Carolina – Just a couple days ago, ECU filed an application to join the Big East. And the conference would definitely be smart to take them. Though the Pirates are 0-2 this season, it’s largely because they faced ranked teams in both those weeks. And guess what? They were actually able to have a competitive matchup with both! And while they’re not the greatest school in the Carolinas, they do have a stadium that seats 50,000 and actually have a larger student fanbase than North Carolina (ECU is the second-largest school in North Carolina, behind only NC State, but good luck getting NC State out of the ACC). Plus, their recent history shows that the team is able to play decently as well; the past 5 years, they’ve been .500 or over, and have gone to a bowl game each of the years (including a Holiday Bowl win over Boise State in 2007).

Memphis – Memphis has been rumored for the past couple of years that they would be a part of the Big East, although nothing has materialized. The Tigers do not have a particularly good all-time record, and over the past decade they’ve been up and down (including last season, going 1-10). However, there are a couple of reasons why Memphis would be a good pickup. First off, they’re located in a media market; Memphis is the largest city in the state of Tennessee (home to nearly 650,000 people). That means the Big East would get a decent amount of exposure in the South. And second, they have rivalries with both Louisville and Cincinnati; both Louisville and Cincinnati were part of Conference USA before joining the Big East in 2005. It also doesn’t hurt that they are a great basketball college too.

Marshall – Although somewhat young in FBS, their football program dates back to 1895. Though their team has been lackluster over the past couple of years in Conference USA, from the late 1990s and early 2000s, they were a force to be reckoned with in the Mid-American Conference, winning 5 championships in 6 years. A bonus is that they have a rivalry with West Virginia that dates back to 1911 (Friends of Coal Bowl); if West Virginia stays in the Big East, having this game as a conference matchup would make this rivalry bigger. And in my opinion, rivalries make conferences stronger (sports-wise and business-wise). They also have a “friendly” rivalry with ECU since 1970 (although technically, their series goes back to 1967); if the Big East can bring both ECU and Marshall into the conference, again, having a rivalry game between the two makes both programs and the conference itself stronger.

Buffalo – From one upstate New York university to another. Granted, the 2008 and 2009 seasons were the first time the Bulls have been good since their Division 1-AA days. However, similar to Memphis, they would have the New York market that gives the conference exposure.

Richmond – Yeah, I might be pushing it a bit on this one, as this school is somewhat small and is in the FCS in football. But this is a university whose athletic programs are on the rise. The Spiders won their first FCS championship in 2008, and have been .500 or above for the past several years. A bonus is that their men’s basketball team has done very well, including this year when they reached the Sweet 16 as a #12 seed (Fun Fact: The Spiders are the only team to hold the distinction of winning in the NCAA Tournament as 12, 13, 14, and 15 seeds). The only problem is that they are in the Atlantic 10, and getting them out of there and entering a much tougher conference (even without Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and UConn, you still have Georgetown, Villanova, Notre Dame, St. John’s, etc.) would be a stretch (a plausible stretch, mind you).

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No Nationwide Racing at Lucas Oil Raceway Is Sad Indeed

I, for one, love short track racing. It is the heart and soul of many auto racing organizations, NASCAR included. In fact, many NASCAR fans (including myself) believe that more short tracks should be included in the schedule, rather than the 1.5-2 mile cookie-cutter tracks that are plaguing this sport coast-to-coast. I love Bristol, I love Richmond, I love Martinsville, I even love Iowa Speedway.

I also love it when the Nationwide Series races at other tracks that the Sprint Cup drivers do not. Nashville (which they just raced this past Sunday), Road America, and Montreal are examples.

And that is why I love Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly known as O’Reilly Raceway Park, or ORP for short), for both of these reasons. Which is why it’s sad that Saturday’s Nationwide race at the track will be the last time they race there in the series. Instead, NASCAR has decided to make a “Super Weekend” at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But at the same time, you’re not only taking away an event that’s been a part of the series since 1982 (in fact, up until the Cup drivers raced in 1994, it was the only place for drivers in any of NASCAR’s national series to drive in Indiana), but you’re also taking away a great place for drivers to race and for fans to enjoy.

The Brickyard 400 was fine as it was as a stand-alone event. And it’s not like you’re going to fill up all 250,000 seats there (Are you even going in to fill the front grandstands?) anyway. Racing at Lucas Oil Raceway gives it that fun, old-school feel, which is exactly what many NASCAR fans want? Why else do so many of them say that the sport should race at Darlington twice again or have the Cup and/or Nationwide drivers return to Rockingham? Both of those tracks have that old-school charm to it that fans love. For the most part, short tracks do the exact same thing, which is why Bristol sells out almost every year (heck, some fans wait 3-5 years just to get a ticket there).

By taking away this race, NASCAR is once again alienating even more of those diehard fans, which is not what the sport needs to do right now.

Take a look, because you won't be seeing this after Saturday's race.

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Does Any Team Really Need Favre Now?

It’s July of 2011, and here we are again talking about Brett Favre. This time, a Philadelphia radio host made speculation about Favre being a backup to Michael Vick.

Here’s my question: Why?

Why are we still talking about this man? Granted, his career has been fantastic, having a Super Bowl ring and just about every passing record you can think of, under his belt. I love the way he has played throughout his career and there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be a HOF in his first year of eligibility.

But why can’t we just the let man retire and live out the rest of his days in peace in Mississippi? Why must managment think that hiring a 41-year old, whose last image of him was on the ground with a concussion, on the cold Minnesota ground, is such a smart idea? Are you telling me that no other quarterbacks on the soon-to-be free agency market is capable of being a backup and playing starts in the event Michael Vick suffers an injury or plays poorly? If that’s the case, you might as well get Vinny Testaverde to unretire and have him be a 3rd-stringer while you’re at it.

Imagine at least half of the people in Lincoln Financial Field wearing this...

 

Sorry, but even if I was GM of a horrible team, I still wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole. He’s done; get him to Canton and let him leave the game before he suffers something worse than that concussion last year.

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What The Yankees Should Get Before The Trade Deadline

With just 10 days before the trade deadline, the Yankees are currently 1.5 games behind Boston in the AL East division, but are in clear control of the AL wild card (unless they suffer a massive slide and a team like the Rays or Angels catch up).

Nonetheless, there are still holes that this team has, and if they want to make an extra push into the playoffs, here’s what I think they should get:

Starting Pitcher: Sabathia and Burnett have both been fine in the rotation, and Phil Hughes has returned. However, can Hughes remain healthy and effective throughout the second half of the season? And what about the back end of the rotation; Garcia, and Colon? Both of them have been decent in the majors, and Garcia and Colon’s (and the hamstring he pulled a few weeks ago) age catch up to them? If you recall Nova to the majors, how will he fare? You need a proven pitcher that’s not way up there in age and will provide as a 3-5 pitcher in the rotation (maybe 2, if Hughes cannot be healthy and/or effective).

There has been talk that Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies is someone that they are looking at, and that would be a smart trade pickup, especially since they’ll have him for another year (his contract runs through 2012, with club options for 2013 and 2014). However, for a prize this valuable, they will have to give up plenty of prospects in the process, and that could damage them long-term. Instead of trying to add a second ace to the mix, I would try to add someone who could still be effective in the middle to back-end of the rotations. One name that comes to mind is Jeff Samardzija of the Chicago Cubs. First off, he’s relatively cheap (he is earning $3.3 million this year). Second, while his record is not particularly great, he does have a 3.33 ERA this year. Third, he’s on the Cubs, which will be selling guys to cut payroll. Fourth, he has two club option years on his contract; if he doesn’t prove to be helpful, they can dump him after this season ends. Fifth, because he’s not a top-of-the-rotation kind of guy, the Cubs won’t be asking as much in return, compared to trading a guy like Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster.

Backup Infielder: Currently, A-Rod is on the disabled list and will be there until August (maybe even September). Your current guys are Ramiro Pena (who has had trouble batting so far) and Eduardo Nunez (who has potential but makes errors). You also have to consider that Jeter just came off the DL a couple weeks ago; what if he reinjures his calf? Also consider the possibility of Teixeira and/or Cano getting injured. You need a more solid bench/replacement player that can cover the infield positions. Mike Aviles (currently in the Royals’ minor leagues), while is not the best contact hitter, has pop in his bat, can play both 1B and 3b, and wouldn’t cost much for the team. Other cheap options include Mike Fontenot of the San Francisco Giants (who can play SS and 2B, and Martin Prado (who would be perfect as a super-utility bench player).

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