Free Agency Galore, Part II

While a few free agents have signed contracts already (such as Curt Schilling), there are still a lot of players who are looking for a home. MLB.com had a great feature today, listing all the top players. This list is presented below for your viewing pleasure (the big names are presented first, followed by the rest of the guys).

3B Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
The Yankees insist that the door is closed, and that there are absolutely no circumstances under which they’d go after Rodriguez as a free agent. If Rodriguez’s four-year stay in New York is over, it ends with him likely securing two MVP awards and clubbing 173 of his 518 Major League home runs. Surely, Cooperstown will come calling one day for A-Rod, by which point his Yankees stint may be rendered a mere footnote.

3B Mike Lowell, Red Sox
The definition of a professional, Lowell is coming off a year in which he drove in 120 runs and won the Most Valuable Player Award of the World Series. He’d like a return engagement in Boston, but it’s uncertain if the sides can reach common ground on the length of the deal and average annual salary. The Red Sox would like Lowell back, as would virtually every player on the team and every card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation. It’s hard to believe Lowell was perceived as a throw-in along with Josh Beckett in that Thanksgiving 2005 trade.

OF Torii Hunter, Twins

Considered to be one of the premier players in this year’s free agent market, Hunter offers teams a stellar defensive presence in center field while also providing some pop in his bat. The Twins would like to re-sign the center fielder, but the two sides appear far apart in both money and, more importantly it seems, years. Hunter hasn’t ruled out returning to the Twins, but his strong offensive season in 2007 virtually assured that he will get the five- or six-year deal he’s seeking from another club.

OF Andruw Jones, Braves
Coming off a career-worst season in which he hit .222 with 26 homers and 94 RBIs, Jones finds himself wondering if he’ll find the same riches once envisioned for him on the free agent market. He lost some leverage when the Braves made it known they wouldn’t bring him in back in 2008. Now his agent Scott Boras finds himself trying to convince teams that his Gold Glove-client’s total body of work should negate the struggles that were realized in 2007.

C Jorge Posada, Yankees
The 36-year-old catcher came out a big winner this season, playing out a contract year while hitting a career-high .338. With 20 homers and 90 RBIs, someone will have to pony up a pretty penny in a multi-year contract for Posada, who insists he’ll test the market after the Yankees rebuffed his Spring Training advances. The Yankees clearly want him back and Posada said playing for old teammate Joe Girardi wouldn’t be an issue. Posada may be fresher than some catchers at this point in his career because he began playing the position later in life, a fact not lost on opposing clubs.

RHP Mariano Rivera, Yankees
The inevitable questions about Rivera’s effectiveness were put to rest early in the season, when Rivera shook off a rusty start and posted a 2.23 ERA in his final 59 appearances of the season. He’s not the same dominant force who was the key to four World Series championships, but a team can definitely win a title with Rivera as their closer. The Yankees want him back but will need to be wary of another club outbidding them in terms of years.

OF Aaron Rowand, Phillies
Rowand and the Phillies have a mutual interest in continuing their relationship, so it’s will come down to dollars. Rowand’s agent has said his client will test the open market, though it’s likely they’ll give the Phillies a chance to match or beat an offer. Rowand has already drawn interest from the Astros, Cubs, White Sox, Rangers and Nationals.

OF Barry Bonds, Giants
Strange for such an accomplished performer to be available on the open market. But Bonds will turn 44 next July, his legs aren’t getting any more spry and he carries so much intangible, yet almost palpable baggage — such as his involvement in baseball’s performance-enhancing drug controversy and the often polarizing effect he has on a clubhouse. After 15 years with the Giants, baseball’s all-time home run leader probably will have to seek a home in the American League, which will allow him to seek round statistical milestones (he has 1,996 career RBIs and 2,935 hits) as a designated hitter.

RHP Francisco Cordero, Brewers
He’s fearless, he’s durable, he’s deadly efficient when he locates his slider alongside a 96-98 mph fastball, and the Brewers want him back. But after ranking second in the NL with 44 saves in 2007 he will come at a high price, and his knowledge of both leagues will make him attractive to a number of suitors.

RHP Eric Gagne, Red Sox
It just didn’t work in Boston for Gagne and the career closer will go back to doing just that after his ill-fated setup situation with the Red Sox. Gagne got off to a bad start with the Red Sox after the July 31 trade and things snowballed from there. It’s hard to know exactly what led to such a sharp decline in performance after his early-season success with the Rangers.

RHP Carlos Silva, Twins
Despite his losing record in 2007, Silva was one of the most durable and consistent starting pitchers for the Twins. With his sinker back in form and a history of durability, Silva could provide many clubs with the No. 3 or No. 4 starter they are seeking. At just 28, Silva is experienced and the Twins would love to have his presence amidst a young rotation. But in a pitching market that’s lacking proven workhorses, Silva’s price tag should rise — right out of the Twins range.

LHP Tom Glavine, Mets
The tar-and-feather hysteria caused by his poor performance in September seems unmindful of this: If Glavine doesn’t return — and even if does — the team needs a pitcher to do what he did in 2007. Where are the Mets to find one, let alone two, starters capable of a 3.88 ERA and 13-6 record in his first 31 starts? Glavine has proven he can fix what’s wrong. He merely lacked the opportunity to make repairs in September. He probably has 10 to 12 victories left in him, and wouldn’t it be something if he produced one or two with the Braves — against the Mets. He will pitch next season — if he decides to pitch — at age 42 after a season of 34 starts, 200 1/3 innings, a 13-8 record and a 4.45 ERA. The Mets won 42 of his 66 starts the last two years.

OF Mike Cameron, Padres
Cameron might have hurt himself as far as his potential earnings by testing positive for a banned stimulant, as he will have to miss 25 games to start the season. Oddly, this might enhance his chances of returning to San Diego, though the Padres are looking at candidates to fill his spot in center field.

RHP Scott Linebrink, Brewers
The Brewers gave up three blue-chip pitching prospects to get Linebrink, and despite a few shaky outings he did not exactly disappoint, posting a 3.55 ERA with Milwaukee and a 3.71 ERA for the season. Linebrink had lost San Diego’s setup job to Heath Bell before he was traded, but Brewers scouts insisted his fastball velocity was still where it should be. Linebrink has worked in at least 70 games in four straight seasons and will turn 32 next season. If the Brewers don’t re-sign Francisco Cordero, they might look at Linebrink as a closer candidate.

C Paul Lo Duca, Mets
He played most of his second season with the Mets at age 35, often recognized as the line of decline for catchers. Not coincidentally, Lo Duca’s offensive production sagged considerably. His RBIs increased by five from 2006, but that was a function of batting lower in the order. His average with runners in scoring position was 55 points lower, .259, than it was in 2006. His runs were down as well — from 80 to 46. And that, too, is a function of where he batted, to a degree. He had four more home runs, but 21 fewer doubles. His late surge — it followed a 15-day trip to the disabled list — may have worked against his hope to return in that it underscored how much rest benefits him. Lo Duca’s throwing was inconsistent but more successful, in terms of percentage, than that of the Mets’ other catchers. He scored 46 runs, drove in 54, hit nine home runs and batted .272 in 445 at-bats (119 games, 112 starts).

2B Luis Castillo, Mets
Castillo’s slugging percentage in 199 at-bats with the Mets was .372, 20 points higher than it had been in 349 at-bats with the Twins. His on-base percentage with the Mets was 15 points higher than it had been with the Twins. He was sound defensively, but not physically, but he underwent surgery two days after the season to have his troublesome right knee cleaned out. Castillo fit nicely into the No. 2 spot in the order and would have had greater value there had Jose Reyes’ offensive output not disappeared. He played in 50 of 56 games after the Mets acquired him, needing occasional rest because of his knee. He has averaged 133 games and 18 stolen bases the last three seasons. At age 32, he played in 135 games — he had 548 at-bats and a .301 average — with the Twins and Mets.

RHP Bartolo Colon, Angels
At 34, Colon will be coming off a season marred by shoulder and elbow issues that limited him to 18 starts and a 6-8 record with a 6.34 ERA. He was not the Colon of old, giving up a .320 batting average while struggling to put hitters away with a fastball that had lost its explosion. He has made only three career relief appearances.

LHP Andy Pettitte, Yankees
Saying that it wouldn’t be “real honorable” to pitch elsewhere after the Yankees pulled him from thoughts of retirement, Pettitte has already committed that he would only pitch for New York in 2008. With a $16 million player option built into his contract, the Yankees are hoping Pettitte returns, especially since his pitching arm held up even better than he’d anticipated. At 35, Pettitte still looks like he’s got enough left physically to help the Yankees open their new ballpark in 2009.

RHP Livan Hernandez, D-backs
Hernandez gave the D-backs exactly what they were looking for: 30-plus starts and 200-plus innings. The crafty veteran continued to take the ball every fifth day, making at least 30 starts for the 10th consecutive season. Though his fastball rarely tops 85 mph anymore and he was seventh in the National League in walks allowed, he will likely have several teams interested in his services due to his durability. The D-backs would be willing to sign him if the price is right, but he is likely to find himself in a different uniform next season, as he is seeking a multi-year contract.

C Michael Barrett, Padres
The Padres will look for a backup catcher in the offseason to spell Josh Bard, though it won’t be Barrett, who almost surely will land somewhere as a starter. Also, Barrett is a Type A free agent, which means that the Padres — who relish extra draft picks — would add two compensatory picks if he signs elsewhere.

RHP Kyle Lohse, Phillies
Philadelphia went 9-4 in Lohse’s 13 appearances, with the right-hander personally going 3-0. He’s durable and has a live arm in a soft market for starting pitchers, so there’s likely to be interest. He’s not likely to give a home-team discount, though he’d be open to returning to the Philadelphia.

SS David Eckstein, Cardinals
The biggest remaining question for the Cardinals, as far as returnees, is Eckstein. His personal assets are certainly well-known — popular with fans, loved by teammates and coaches, loves to play. The question, though, is how his production and his health will hold up over the coming two or three years, since Eckstein turns 33 before Opening Day. It’s a limited market for shortstops in free agency, so Eckstein may make out well, but questions about durability are certainly fair.

RHP Kerry Wood, Cubs
The Cubs would like to have Wood back next season in the same bullpen role he held in 2007, but the club’s exclusive negotiating window with the right-hander closes on Monday. If the two sides aren’t able to reach agreement by then the chances of Wood returning would lessen as he would draw significant interest on the open market.

RHP Roger Clemens, Yankees

Looking back, a pro-rated $28 million investment in Clemens yielded just six victories and one aborted AL Division Series start — hardly the return the Yankees were looking for. Such is the risk when you commit to a 45-year-old pitcher, and now that Clemens is finally beginning to experience significant arm troubles, this could be the end of the line. Clemens hasn’t said if he’ll pitch again, but if he does, he won’t be attending Spring Training as a player regardless.

OF Milton Bradley, Padres
When healthy, he can swing it. He helped keep the Padres afloat in the late summer before being felled by a hamstring and an oblique injury. He suffered a torn ligament in his right knee in the final week of the season after a run-in with an umpire. He won’t be ready for the start of the season. Like Barrett, Bradley is a Type A free agent.

RHP Todd Jones, Tigers
For all the attention that will be paid to closers Mariano Rivera, Francisco Cordero and Eric Gagne, no free agent has more saves over the last two years than Jones, who racked up 75 over the course of his two-year deal with the Tigers. With Joel Zumaya out until at least midseason, Detroit has a major interest in bringing him back. Jones is keeping his options open, but it’s no secret he would like to pitch for the Braves and stay close to his Alabama home. If the Braves don’t sign him, the Tigers are the favorites to do so.

2B Tadahito Iguchi, Phillies
Iguchi arrived a day after Chase Utley broke the fourth metacarpal on his right hand, and he batted .301 in the 27 games Utley missed. The veteran infielder then hit .320 in 29 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter. The team asked Iguchi after the season if he’d be interested in giving third base a try, and were told no, meaning Iguchi will seek employment elsewhere.

DH/C Mike Piazza, A’s
Piazza, signed to a one-year, $8 million deal last winter and essentially told to put his catcher’s gear away to focus on being a full-time designated hitter, suffered a shoulder injury in May that limited him to 83 games. While Piazza was out, the A’s acquired journeyman Jack Cust, who led the team’s regulars in homers, RBIs, on-base percentage and slugging to establish himself as Oakland’s DH of the future. Piazza, 39, batted .275 with eight homers and 44 RBIs in 309 at-bats, and is said to be contemplating retirement.

LHP Kenny Rogers, Tigers
If Rogers is able and willing to come back for a 20th Major League season at age 43, he’ll likely do so for Detroit. There’s mutual interest from both, but Rogers has yet to commit to coming back. He insisted at season’s end that he felt healthy enough to pitch next year after missing most of August to a sore elbow, but that he needed to decide whether he wants to go through the rigors of another season. He made just 11 starts last season between his elbow woes and nearly three months lost to emergency surgery at the end of Spring Training to repair arteries in his shoulder.

OF Luis Gonzalez, Dodgers
He was brought in to be a bridge to the kids, but when the kids took over, he didn’t take the loss of playing time well. Statistically, he delivered pretty much what the Dodgers expected, and after a shaky first week, was no embarrassment on defense, even with an aging arm. He still considers himself an everyday player and envisions 3,000 hits, but at age 40 and 498 hits short, it’s an ambitious goal.

OF Geoff Jenkins, Brewers
The Brewers declined Jenkins’ $9 million option and effectively cut ties with their longest-tenured player. He has hit at least 20 home runs in seven different seasons, but he hit .133 against left-handed pitching in 2007 and .215 in limited at-bats in 2007, when he platooned with Kevin Mench. Jenkins strikes out a lot but could be a nice fit for a team looking for some corner outfield pop and a solid defender.

RHP Jason Jennings, Astros
Would the Astros be interested in bringing Jennings back on an inexpensive, heavily incentive-laden contract that would protect them in case the right-hander doesn’t recover properly from elbow surgery? Perhaps. But would Jennings be interested in returning to Houston? That remains to be seen. Considering he will forever be known as the main component in one of the worst trades in club history, Jennings may feel there would be too much of a stigma attached if he stayed. He may just want to wipe the slate clean and start over somewhere else.

C Jason Kendall, Cubs
Kendall has indicated he would like to return to Chicago next season, but the Cubs haven’t made a decision on whether they will pursue his services for another year or go with youngster Geovany Soto as the everyday catcher. Kendall remains a productive backstop and would be nice insurance in case the 24-year-old Soto isn’t ready, but Kendall would also like to start.

C Yorvit Torrealba, Rockies
Torrealba had an up-and-down offensive season, but produced some big hits in the playoffs and was a help to the young pitchers that the Rockies ushered onto the staff. It could lead to a nice payday from the Rockies or another team.

OF Shannon Stewart, A’s
Coming off a series of foot injuries that forced him to hold a “workout day” to prove himself to prospective employers last winter, Stewart signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the A’s and was expected to be a platoon player. He ended up being one of the team’s few regulars to stay healthy all season, and he led the team in batting (.290) while holding down the leadoff spot for much of the year. Stewart, who will be 34 next season, has said he’s open to returning to the A’s, but the team has a glut of young outfielders and are under contract with veteran Mark Kotsay for next season. Stewart’s surprising season might have priced him out of Oakland’s range.

The rest of the free agents are presented below, in alphabetical order.


LHP Jeremy Affeldt, Rockies
After being acquired in a 2006 trade with the Royals, Affeldt became effective in a relief role with the Rockies, who would like to hang onto him. A former starter with a conventional motion, Affeldt is more suited to true middle relief than specialist duty.

RHP Antonio Alfonseca, Phillies
Overall numbers aside, the right-hander’s greatest contribution came from May 26-July 24, when he posted a 2.12 ERA and eight saves in 18 games, allowing the bullpen to weather the losses of Tom Gordon and Brett Myers. The Phillies are open to the right-hander returning.

C Sandy Alomar Jr., Mets
That Alomar spent most of what he had said would be his final season playing in the Minor Leagues is a testament to his appreciation of the game and his desire to have a chance to experience October baseball one more time. At age 41, he appeared in seven games in the big leagues, batting .143 in 21 at-bats.

RHP Tony Armas, Pirates
Armas pitched his way out of the Pirates’ future plans by the end of May, something that even a surprising bounce-back in the second half couldn’t undo. Though he pitched out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, Armas will want to sign on as a starter. The right-hander has stumbled further down the ERA ladder the last four seasons, but did prove that with the necessary mechanical adjustments, he can be an effective back-of-the-rotation guy.

C Paul Bako, Orioles
Bako looked like he might have a solid offensive season when he hit a three-run home run in his fourth game, but then he drove in just five more runs all year. The veteran will be looking to catch on somewhere as a catch-and-throw backup catcher, a pursuit that has brought him to seven different teams since 2000.

C Rod Barajas, Phillies
The Phillies signed Barajas to provide veteran insurance in case Carlos Ruiz wasn’t ready to catch every day in the Major Leagues. The plan was for Barajas to start 90 games, but he only managed to appear in 48. The team turned again to Chris Coste as their backup and Barajas will seek employment elsewhere.

IF Tony Batista, Nationals
He was a pleasant surprise off the bench for the Nats in 2007, leading Washington in pinch-hits (14) and pinch-hit RBIs (12). General manager Jim Bowden said he would like to have Batista back on the team.

RHP Armando Benitez, Marlins
The former closer struggled staying healthy and his season came to an end on Sept. 1 because of back problems. The wear and tear of 754 career appearances and 772 2/3 innings may have taken its toll on the veteran right-hander, who was obtained in late May in a trade with San Francisco for Randy Messenger. Benitez was used as an eighth-inning setup reliever in Florida, and his velocity at times was down. He ended up allowing 28 runs (21 earned) in 33 innings.

C Gary Bennett, Cardinals
Bennett struggled at the plate and he had a hard time throwing out runners — a bad combination. He saw his playing time diminish at the end of the year, losing even backup duty to Kelly Stinnett. Still, he remains well-regarded as a teammate and pitchers enjoy working with him. But Bennett may be at the point in his career where he has to fight even for a backup job.

RHP Kris Benson, Orioles
Benson’s shoulder bothered him before Spring Training even began, and he shut himself down after a monthlong strengthening program to repair the problem. Benson eventually had surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff and Baltimore declined to exercise an option in his contract. Now, the right-hander will likely be trying to prove to teams that he’s healthy so he can sign an incentive-laden deal to get back on the mound.

IF/OF Geoff Blum, Padres
The versatile Blum, who can play everywhere in the infield and the outfield in a pinch, proved valuable last season, filling in at second base when Marcus Giles struggled after the first month of the season. General manager Kevin Towers said that Blum plays better when he can play every day. That won’t happen in San Diego.

IF Aaron Boone, Marlins
Boone provided experience off the bench and as a spot starter at first base or third. But the 34-year-old had his season cut short by a knee injury, which required surgery in early September, to repair a partially torn meniscus. He appeared in 69 games and batted .286 with five home runs and 28 RBIs. A career third baseman, Boone was making a successful transition to playing first base. The surgery was to the same knee that kept him out the entire 2004 season. He says right now he is ready to play, and he expects to be at full strength at the start of Spring Training.

LHP Micah Bowie, Nationals
He was 4-3 with a 4.55 ERA as a starter and reliever for the Nationals, but missed a lot of time because of hip problems. Bowie isn’t expected back with the Nationals.

IF Russell Branyan, Cardinals
Branyan is the same player he’s always been. He has serious pop, strikes out a lot and is willing to take a walk. He can play third, first, or in a pinch, the outfield. You know what you’re getting with him. To the right team, Branyan definitely has value, but the Cardinals didn’t seem to have much use for him after they acquired him.

RHP Doug Brocail, Padres
He pitched well in various roles in the bullpen in 2007, posting a 3.05 ERA in 67 games. So why not bring him back? Brocail is 40 and the Padres have a slew of relievers who are capable of filling his spot. Also, he’s a Type B free agent.

IF Miguel Cairo, Cardinals
Cairo is pretty limited offensively at this point in his career, but he’s defensively versatile and popular with teammates. The Cardinals were happy to bring him back when they had a series of injuries and other issues with their infield, but with a full complement of utility types back for ’08, it doesn’t make much sense for them to bring him back for another season.

1B Sean Casey, Tigers
Carlos Guillen’s move to first base sealed the exit for Casey, who was told at season’s end that the Tigers did not plan on bringing him back. However, there’s expected to be a home somewhere for Casey at age 32 coming off a .296 average. His struggles to hit for power are well-known, evidenced by his four home runs in 453 at-bats last year, but his 30 doubles allowed him to provide some run production near the bottom of the Tigers batting order. That said, his reliable glove and ability to reach for throws makes him more of a defensive option at first base on the open market.

C Ramon Castro, Mets
The Mets are uncertain about the identity of their regular catcher. It is unclear how that uncertainty affects their thinking about the man who has been Lo Duca’s understudy for two years. When he did play, Castro was a remarkable run producer. All his home runs and 29 of his RBIs came in his 35 starts. But for the second straight year, he went down with a late-season injury. How will the club’s view of his durability factor if Lo Duca doesn’t return and his successor appears to need more time off than Lo Duca needed? Castro, 31, appeared in 52 games (35 starts) and hit 11 home runs, scored 24 runs and drove in 31 in 144 over all at-bats.

IF Jeff Cirillo, D-backs
The D-backs acquired Cirillo as a waiver wire claim from the Twins in early August, and the 14-year veteran wound up playing a larger role than anticipated, serving as the team’s primary backup at third base and a key pinch-hitter after Chad Tracy underwent season-ending knee surgery. The moves allowed him to end the longest active Major League streak of games played without reaching the postseason at 1,617. He is not expected to re-sign with Arizon, and will try to hook on with another team in a similar backup/pinch-hitting role.

1B Tony Clark, D-backs
The veteran first baseman and clubhouse leader has said all along his preference is to remain with the D-backs, but he will listen to what other teams have to say. He hit .249 with 17 homers in ’07, saving his best production for the stretch run in September, when he hit .315 with six homers and a .704 slugging percentage. Though the words “good clubhouse guy” get thrown around a lot, Clark was truly a mentor to the D-backs younger players this season, a key pinch-hitter and spot starter, and a solid defensive replacement who had worked into a platoon role by the season’s end. It was a rebound year for the 35-year-old, who hit just .197 in 2006, in a year limited to 79 games due to shoulder problems.

RHP Matt Clement, Red Sox
Remember him? Clement didn’t throw a pitch in 2007 after coming off rotator cuff and labrum surgery. He methodically passed every step in his rehab program and Clement is optimistic he’ll be ready to go by the start of Spring Training. It’s doubtful he’ll resurface in Boston.

1B/OF Jeff Conine, Mets
He doesn’t intend to play. At age 41, he appeared in 21 games and had 41 at-bats with the Mets after more regular duty with the Reds.

RHP Shawn Chacon, Pirates
While the Pirates and Chacon mutually agree that they’d like to see Chacon back in Pittsburgh next season, differences in salary and contractual year expectations may differ too much for that to happen. Chacon’s versatility and past experience as a closer, setup man and starter increase his stock, and his veteran presence among young pitchers is undoubtedly an asset. He thrived more as a late-inning reliever this past season, though he has made it known that wherever he signs this offseason, he would like to do so with the expectation of starting in 2008.

OF Jeff DaVanon, A’s
DaVanon, who turns 34 in December, was acquired in August to help the team weather a storm of injuries to outfielders, but he batted .213 with six RBIs and zero homers in 39 games and isn’t expected back.

RHP Elmer Dessens, Rockies
Dessens lost his big league footing with the Brewers, who released him in August, but helped the Rockies immediately after arriving in a late-season trade. However, he was unable to pitch well enough to make the postseason roster. Still, he has experience and some value because he can work as a reliever or spot starter.

C Mike DiFelice, Mets
If he is again willing to return to the Mets, DiFelice probably will serve as a Minor League catcher and unofficial coach and provide off-the-roster depth for the big league team. He batted .250 with five RBI in 16 games (40 at-bats) with them at age 36.

RHP Octavio Dotel, Braves
Dotel was acquired by the Braves at the trade deadline and then made just five appearances for them before being sidelined for more than six weeks with a right shoulder ailment. When he returned during the season’s final week, he’d regained his velocity with his fastball. Still the Braves are expected to decline his $5.5 million option and he’ll likely not gain a similar salary in 2008.

OF/1B Darin Erstad, White Sox
Erstad said he felt “cheated” during what looks to be his lone season with the White Sox, losing most of June and July to a severely sprained left ankle. In 87 games, covering 310 at-bats, Erstad hit .248 with four home runs and 32 RBIs. The White Sox held a $3.5 million option on Erstad but instead made him a free agent by exercising a $250,000 buyout. Erstad still desires a job where he can play full time as a starter.

OF Alex Escobar, Nationals
He never played a game for the Nationals this season because of shoulder and ankle problems. Escobar briefly showed in 2006 that he has five-tool potential, but that Nationals grew tired of him getting hurt all the time.

C Sal Fasano, Bue Jays
The 36-year-old catcher signed a Minor League deal with the Blue Jays last offseason, and he split time with the big-league club and with Triple-A Syracuse. Fasano could have another Minor League contract in store or he could serve as a backup or third-string catcher in the Majors. Fasano provides a solid clubhouse presence and he boasts a strong arm.

3B Pedro Feliz, Giants
Feliz had a chance to leave the Giants last year but signed a one-year contract. He seems more likely to shop around this offseason. Feliz’s defense is underappreciated — he possesses one of the strongest and most accurate throwing arms in the National League, complemented by soft, sure hands and decent range. At the plate, what you see is what you get with Feliz. You know he’s good for around 20 homers and 70-85 RBIs, but you also know he’ll drive you nuts with his free-swinging tendencies.

1B/OF Robert Fick, Nationals
He is coming off one of his worst seasons of his career, having spent most of the season hovering around the Mendoza Line. He needed a hot September to get his average up to .234. It’s 50-50 that he returns to the Nationals. If he does, it will be on a Minor League contract.

OF Cliff Floyd, Cubs
The Cubs declined to pick up the $5 million option on Floyd for 2008, which wasn’t surprising since the Cubs are expected to look for a younger player to be the everyday right fielder and the club wasn’t interested in having Floyd as a fourth or fifth outfielder at that price.

RHP Josh Fogg, Rockies
Fogg performed well in September and had his moments during the playoffs. The performance may have put him beyond what the Rockies are willing to pay in terms of years and money. The Rockies will make their bid, but there will be several other suitors.

1B Julio Franco, Braves
The ageless wonder has said he wants to play until he’s 50 and will do so if he’s still playing on Aug. 23 of next year. But in order to get back to the Majors, the 49 year-old first baseman will likely have to earn a roster spot after signing a Minor League contract. He compiled only 90 total at-bats with the Braves and Mets last year and hit just .222. He did hit .258 in 37 pinch-hit at-bats.

RHP Freddy Garcia, Phillies
Thought to be the missing piece for the rotation, Garcia went 1-5 with a 5.90 ERA in 11 starts before finally succumbing to right shoulder pain. He made his final start as a Phillie on June and had surgery in late August after rehabilitation didn’t work. General manager Pat Gillick has already said the Phillies will make no effort to resign him.

IF Chris Gomez, Indians
Succeeding as a utility infielder in the Majors is no small feat, but Gomez has the job down pat. The 36-year-old began ’07 with the Orioles and ended it with the Indians after an August waiver trade. Between the two stops, he hit a respectable .297 in 222 at-bats, while playing every infield position. He would have value to any club looking to boost its bench.

IF Tony Graffanino, Brewers
He was one of the Brewers’ most versatile and underrated players before a freak knee injury ended his season in August. Graffanino needed a bone graft before he underwent the second ACL surgery of his career, and will not be recovered until May or June. He says he will attempt a comeback.

OF/1B Shawn Green, Mets
If the Mets’ regular first baseman batted right-handed, Green could serve as a well-suited backup at first and in the outfield. With Carlos Gomez and Lastings Milledge batting right-handed, coupled with the likelihood that Moises Alou will miss time and that Gomez or Milledge may have to start games in left, there could be a place for Green anyway, but not at the $9.5 million salary he earned last season. Green’s strong finish — a .411 average with 12 runs in 56 at-bats in September — nonetheless produced only eight RBIs. His run production was an issue most of the season — 130 games (117 starts, 10 at first base), 446 at-bats, 62 runs, 46 RBIs, 10 home runs, a .291 batting average and 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts. He turns 35 in November.

LHP Eddie Guardado, Reds
The Reds are still trying to keep Guardado at a lower price after they turned down his $3.5 million club option. If the theory holds true that pitchers are better the second season after Tommy John surgery, then Guardado could be a steal. The 37-year-old, who had September 2006 reconstructive elbow surgery, returned in August. The first outings were rough, but he put together a 0.93 ERA over the final 10 games and didn’t allow a run over the last seven outings. Guardado has 183 career saves wants to be a closer again but could still be dependable in a setup situation.

OF Jose Guillen, Mariners
The club decided not to exercise its club option for 2008 and Guillen didn’t trigger his player option. The Mariners will pay a $500,000 buyout to set him free. The club has not ruled out signing him to a new deal but that appears unlikely. Young Adam Jones, the organization’s brightest prospect, is ready to take over a spot in the outfield and Guillen would complicate that. Reports of Guillen’s involvement with performance-enhancing drugs broke out at the outset of the Hot Stove season.

IF/OF Jerry Hairston, Rangers
He is looking at a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training after hitting just .189 for the Rangers in 2007. It has been years since Hairston has played regularly at second base and his best hope is for a shot at a utility role. He does have the advantage of being able to play just about any position and can even be used as an emergency catcher.

LHP Tim Hamulack, Dodgers
He was kept in the organization as an insurance policy, having a left arm capable of throwing 90 mph. But he blew out the elbow at Triple-A Las Vegas and required Tommy John surgery, so there’s no guarantee he can still throw hard.

RHP LaTroy Hawkins, Rockies
The Rockies did not pick up a $3.75 million option for Hawkins, who was signed as a primary setup man but functioned better earlier in the game. The club wants him back at a reduced figure and he wants to return, but he’ll listen if another club offers a primary setup or closing role.

RHP Matt Herges, Rockies
At this time last year, no one but the Rockies wanted Herges, who spent much of the first half in Triple-A but was dependable down the stretch. Herges’ arm and leadership qualities were a hug help to a young bullpen. The Rockies should be able to re-sign him, as long as his late-season performance didn’t attract another club to bid higher.

RHP Roberto Hernandez, Dodgers
He’s 43 now, he still takes the ball and his fastball still has some life. That said, the command isn’t what it used to be, and when he misses, he gets punished. They’ll probably have to tear the jersey off him, but the ERA north of 6 is reason for concern.

1B/3B Shea Hillenbrand, Dodgers
He was an emergency play when Nomar Garciaparra went down, but once Andy LaRoche returned from Triple-A Las Vegas, Hillenbrand pretty much disappeared. He was a model citizen in the clubhouse, but he showed very little pop with the bat. Three organizations in one year is not a good sign.

1B/3B Eric Hinske, Reds
Hinske was a good clubhouse guy who never griped about his role and seemed to make contributions for the Red Sox during his limited opportunities. But he’ll probably go somewhere that offers a few more at-bats than the Red Sox going forward. Hinske is useful left-handed bat to have in reserve.

IF Cesar Izturis, Pirates
The infielder lost his job midway through the season in Chicago and then sat on the bench during the majority of his time in Pittsburgh as well. Once a Gold Glove winner and an All-Star, Izturis still defensively handles the shortstop position as well as anyone in the league. His mediocrity at the plate, however, makes him a middle-of-the-road option for a team looking for a starting shortstop.

IF D’Angelo Jimenez, Nationals
Jimenez got off to a slow start this past season, but finished with a .245 batting average and a .379 on-base percentage. Jimenez is considered shaky on defense, which is the No. 1 reason he will not be back with the Nationals.

RHP Jorge Julio, Rockies
Julio, a former closer, struggled with the Marlins before being dealt to the Rockies. He put in a solid season in a setup role, and was especially effective when Brian Fuentes was out with injury. But he missed the postseason with a trapezoid muscle injury. Julio might attract offers from teams that would be inclined to use him as a closer or primary setup man.

LHP Joe Kennedy, Blue Jays
The left-hander made $2.8 million last year, which was a disappointing campaign split between Oakland, Arizona and Toronto. Kennedy, 28, would still like to find a home as a starter, but he may be more marketable as a left-handed specialist. Regardless of his role, Kennedy will likely have to take a pay cut to land a job anywhere. His days as an up-and-coming starter have passed.

OF Bobby Kielty, Red Sox
Fresh off hitting the decisive home run in Game 4 of the World Series, Kielty is set to test the open market. There’s a chance the Red Sox will try to keep him. He is a good fit coming off the bench against left-handed pitchers. Manager Terry Francona was also a fan of Kielty’s highly professional approach to the game.

RHP Byung-Hyun Kim, Marlins
He logged some valuable innings and won some big games in his split-season stint in Florida. Obtained from the Rockies for Jorge Julio in May, Kim was claimed off waivers by Arizona in early August, only to return as a free agent signing later in the month. Kim went 9-5 with a 5.42 ERA in 23 appearances for Florida, including 19 starts. If he returns, he would be in the mix for the fifth-starter spot. Overall, he was 10-8 with a 6.08 ERA and he became the second South Korean-born pitcher to win at least 10 games in the big leagues. Chan Ho Park is the other.

LHP Ray King, Brewers
After making his mark as a lefty specialist with Milwaukee from 2000-2002, King returned to the Brewers for the final month of 2007. His 4.77 ERA with the Nationals and Brewers was disappointing, but the numbers teams looking for lefty relief will focus on is .187 — left-handed hitters’ average against King. For his career, King has held lefties to a .213 average. He will turn 34 in January.

1B/OF Ryan Klesko, Giants
Last season was a success for Klesko in that the shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of 2006 season rarely flared up. But his power totals suffered at AT&T Park (three homers in 203 at-bats), which is death on left-handed batters. Thing is, Klesko wasn’t much better on the road (three homers in 159 at-bats). His days as a regular appear to be over, although he still could help in a platoon or as a pinch-hitter. Defensively, Klesko is more adept at first base than most observers realize, although he’s merely adequate in left field.

IF Corey Koskie, Brewers
The veteran has not played since July 2006, when he hit his head sliding for a foul popup. Koskie still suffered from post-concussion syndrome when the 2007 season ended and could do little more than walk on a treadmill. He couldn’t watch from the bench because bright lights and large spaces trigger symptoms of dizziness, nausea and fatigue. If the symptoms persist into January 2008, he said he may call it a career.

C Jason LaRue, Royals
He’s a fine receiver and handler of pitchers, which was a good thing because LaRue had one of the worst seasons at bat in history — just 25 hits in 169 at-bats. His .148 average was the sixth lowest among players with at least 150 at-bats since 1920. LaRue had some good years with the Reds but a knee injury in 2006 apparently took a big toll.

IF Mike Lamb, Astros
In his three years with the Astros, he was viewed as a bench player who could provide power in crucial pinch-hit situations. He did share playing time at third base over the years and also played some first last season, but ultimately, the club did not view him as permanent solution as a starter. Ed Wade was not with the club when the Ty Wigginton trade was made, but it looks as though he’s comfortable with Wigginton manning third next year and beyond.

RHP Jon Lieber, Phillies
His season began and ended on the disabled list — with a bullpen stint and serious June struggles mixed in — making the final season of a three-year deal a lost one for Lieber. His surgically repaired right foot is expected to be healed, so it’s a matter of finding out which team needs a veteran right-hander to fill out its rotation. It won’t be the Phillies.

C Mike Lieberthal, Dodgers
It’s hard to tell what he has left in the tank. The way Grady Little played Russell Martin every inning of every game, all Lieberthal did was watch. He’s a class act with a great resume and his body pretty much had an entire year of rest. He could be well preserved.

OF Kenny Lofton, Indians
Lofton is no stranger to free agency or putting on a new uniform. He has played with 11 different clubs in his 17-year career, most recently wrapping up his third career stint with the Indians. Though his days as an everyday center fielder and leadoff man appear to be over, Lofton, even at 40, still has great value against right-handed pitching, and he’s still a threat on the base paths. While with the Indians in the last two months of ’07, he showed he’s willing to move to left field and a different spot in the order, under the right circumstances, and he raised his game to another level in the postseason.

RHP Rodrigo Lopez, Rockies
Lopez pitched well early for the Rockies, before elbow problems slowed him and ultimately forced him to undergo season-ending elbow surgery in August. Because there was tendon and ligament damage, he may not pitch until August. The Rockies are monitoring his rehab, and hope to sign him when he’s ready.

IF Mark Loretta, Astros
The club isn’t closing the book on any of its free agents but it’s likely it has more interest in Loretta than any of the others. If the Astros intend to go with Chris Burke as their starting second baseman — and that is still up in the air — Loretta would be a good backup option in case Burke struggles. However, if another team offers Loretta a starting job, he’d probably take that option instead.

LHP Ron Mahay, Braves
In 58 combined appearances with the Rangers and Braves this year, the veteran left-handed reliever limited opponents to a .218 batting average. His versatile ability to work as a specialist of long reliever should make him a desired piece on the free agent market. The Braves are in search of a left-handed reliever and will try to bring him back to Atlanta.

LHP Mike Maroth, Cardinals
Surely Maroth is better than what he showed after his trade to St. Louis. The AL veteran was a bust in the NL, lacking both stuff and command. Whether the issue was health, something to do with tipping pitches, or whether Maroth just fell off a cliff, remains to be determined. He’ll be looking for a clean slate somewhere.

IF Ramon Martinez, Dodgers
He’s got the defensive skills to play all over the infield, but what made him valuable over the years with a lively bat, which wasn’t the case in 2007. In part he was limited with a bad back, but a slugging percentage of .225 is cause for alarm. For trivia buffs, he had more RBIs (27) than hits (25).

2B Kazuo Matsui, Rockies
Matsui was happy with the Rockies and the club felt the same about him. That’s a true advantage for the Rockies. However, the improvement he has shown since being traded from the Mets could entice another team to make a high bid.

RHP Jose Mesa, Phillies
The 19-year veteran had a good 27-game run shortly after arriving as a waiver claim, posting a 2.42 ERA from June 16 to Aug. 21. He posted an 11.57 ERA in his final 12 appearances and doesn’t figure to return to the Phillies.

1B Doug Mientkiewicz, Yankees
Though he missed 82 games with a broken wrist suffered in June, Mientkiewicz gave the Yankees pretty much everything they expected from him. His glove was as good as advertised, and his bat — cold more than it was hot — still didn’t cripple the team when he was in the lineup. Mientkiewicz said he feels at home in New York (certainly moreso than when he was a Met in ’05) but the Yankees just may not be able to offer him any playing time.

C Damian Miller, Brewers
A series of nagging injuries in 2006 plus Milwaukee’s addition of catcher Johnny Estrada pushed Miller into a reserve role for 2007 and he did about as well as expected. He has championship experience and pitchers like throwing to him, so he may get an offer to play one more year for a contender.

LHP Trever Miller, Astros
Miller had a very average year, but the Astros are discussing bringing back the lefty specialist. He carries value in that he has experience and a track record, and he did post a solid second half in ’07 after struggling in the early months.

LHP Eric Milton, Reds
He had Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow in June, so any club that signs him wouldn’t have him for the start of the 2008 season. Milton was a signing gone wrong for the Reds after he inked a three-year, $25.5 million contract before the 2005 season. The left-hander went 16-27 with a 5.83 ERA in 66 starts for Cincinnati and was a frequent victim of the long ball in homer-happy Great American Ball Park.

C Doug Mirabelli, Red Sox
He is the master at catching the knuckleball, which would seem to make him more valuable in Boston than anywhere else. But do the Red Sox want to go with a younger option at backup catcher than Mirabelli, who is 37 years old? Mirabelli’s offensive production has diminished greatly the last couple of years. Leg woes nagged at him late in the season.

RHP Brian Moehler, Astros
Moehler’s overall numbers don’t look great, but he posted impressive results in August and September last year and could merit consideration as a long (a.k.a. mopup) reliever. Moehler allowed one run over 12 innings in August, spanning 10 games, and in September, he yielded three runs over 12 innings. His ability to throw multiple innings is a plus, too.

C Jose Molina, Yankees
The Yankees were quite happy with the upgrades they made to their bench late in the season, which included acquiring Molina from the Angels for a borderline Minor League pitching prospect in July. Molina was pleased with New York as well; though he talked about the culture shock of going coast-to-coast, he found the Yankees clubhouse atmosphere better than advertised and said he’d like to return. He hit .318 as a Yankee and allowed Jorge Posada some much-needed rest.

OF Craig Monroe, Cubs
Monroe, acquired from the Tigers in an August trade, didn’t provide the power the Cubs were seeking from him and is likely headed elsewhere.

LHP Mike Myers, White Sox
The sidearming reliever, known as a left-handed specialist, yielded a .295 average to left-handed hitters during the 2007 season. Myers was picked up by the White Sox in mid-August after the Yankees cut him loose during the season, but he finished with an 11.20 ERA in 17 games for his new team, allowing 28 baserunners over 13 2/3 innings. The team declined a $1.1 million option it had on Myers for the 2008 season.

OF Trot Nixon, Indians
Nixon is no longer the scrappy little hustler he was in his “Dirt Dog” glory days with the Red Sox. Injuries have slowed him down considerably. He had surgery to repair a bulging disc in his back last winter and was never quite the same in the ’07 season with the Indians. Defensively, he’s a bit of a liability in right field, and offensively, he never put together a consistent run of success with the Tribe. But he’s a valuable clubhouse asset to a young club, and he had some big hits for the Indians in the playoffs.

1B-OF Greg Norton, Rays
Norton had a great year for the Rays in 2006 and an injury-riddled year in 2007, which leaves Norton — and the Rays — in a precarious position. The veteran had successful offseason left-elbow surgery, which makes it tough for the Rays to renew his option at $1 million for 2008. If the Rays do not pick up Norton’s option, he will become a free agent. But don’t be surprised if the Rays try to bring him back. He’s a terrific influence in the clubhouse, he wants to return to the team, and he has a great approach at the plate. He could be a nice piece for the Rays’ young roster.

IF Abraham Nunez, Phillies
Though his option was declined, Nunez could still return to the Phillies. The switch-hitter hit .222 in his two seasons with Philadelphia, but his real value came in his defense. If Nunez doesn’t return, the Phillies will require an infielder capable of playing second, shortstop and third base.

RHP Ramon Ortiz, Giants
Don’t expect any offers to Ortiz, who’s expected to miss all of next season after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery. He’s still owed $8.5 million by Arizona in 2008, the final year of his four-year, $33 million deal.

OF Orlando Palmeiro, Astros
He’s in the top 10 all-time for pinch-hits, but it’s likely the Astros will say goodbye to the veteran outfielder. Palmeiro was an extra outfielder and the Astros will probably have better options to fill that role.

OF Corey Patterson, Orioles
Patterson rebounded from a wicked first-half slump to post a reasonably successful offensive season, his second in a row since coming over to Baltimore. The left-handed hitter remains a plus defender and an outstanding basestealer, but his erratic hitting stroke may keep him from standing out in a deep free agent class for center fielders.

C Josh Paul, Rays
Paul was injured for much of 2007, but when he’s healthy he provides a quality backup to starter Dioner Navarro. A big question will be whether the Rays opt to try and sign — or trade for — a veteran starter. If not, Paul would likely be signed to fight it out for the backup spot with Shawn Riggans.

RHP Troy Percival, Cardinals
Percival made himself a lot of money in his return with St. Louis. The right-hander showed that, even at somewhat diminished velocity, he can still be a top-flight relief pitcher. He’ll be balancing two desires — he wants to win, and he wants to pitch at the end of games. Percival will likely have plenty of options as for where to pitch in ’08.

IF Neifi Perez, Tigers
Perez still must serve 26 games left on the 80-game suspension he received last August for testing positive for stimulants for a third time. He hasn’t played a game since July 5, so he’ll have some rust to shake off for the team that gives him a shot. He batted .172 last season with one homer and six RBIs in 33 games.

LHP Odalis Perez, Royals
Perez made 26 starts before a strained left knee ended his season after Aug. 18. He’s anything but dominating, a pitch-to-contact guy who often goes deep into counts. Only three times did Perez work seven innings but only four times was he unable to go five, usually keeping the Royals in the game. They weren’t about to exercise a $9 million option to bring him back, though.

LHP Mark Redman, Rockies
Redman struggled in the beginning of the season with the Braves and spent much of the season in the Minors, but he made a difference in the final month for the Rockies. An All-Star with the Royals in 2006, Redman is the type of pitcher the Rockies have had success signing and getting back on track.

RHP Chris Reitsma, Mariners
The Mariners saw Reitsma, who signed a one-year deal, pitch just 23 2/3 innings in 2007 and apparently do not want to see more. He spent three separate stints on the disabled list with an inflamed right elbow. He did not pitch after July 30 when the club could have used another veteran short guy down the stretch. He finished with a 0-2 record and 7.60 ERA. He’s still young — turns 30 on Dec. 31 — and came to Seattle with a solid reputation, but arm issues may put off the club from bringing him back.

LHP Arthur Rhodes, Mariners
Rhodes never threw a pitch for the Mariners last season and may not again. Rhodes, who turned 38 in October, made the club as a non-roster free agent for his second stint (previously, 2000-2003). But Rhodes had a sore elbow as the season began and ultimately underwent elbow tendon transplant surgery. By the end of ’07, he was close to throwing again and said he wanted to play at least two more seasons. Lefties seem to go on forever but it doesn’t seem the Mariners want this lefty again.

RHP David Riske, Royals
Once Riske got past April, typically a horrible month for him, success came regularly. After a 6.97 ERA in his first 10 games, he reeled off 18 straight scoreless innings and never looked back, finishing with a 2.45 ERA. His 1-4 record and 4-for-8 mark in saves shouldn’t detract from phenomenal success in a setup role. He was charged with runs in just 13 of his 65 appearances. As a bonus, he was an excellent mentor to the young relievers.

OF Reggie Sanders, Royals
It was a lost season for Sanders, who got into just 24 games with the Royals because of a torn left hamstring. He had a promising start, batting .367 in 16 games, before his initial injury. Other than the hammy, Sanders remained in typically tip-top shape. In his 17-year career, Sanders has 305 home runs and 304 stolen bases but it might be nearing an end.

1B Olmedo Saenz, Dodgers
He might be the most important veteran the Dodgers could lose. He made 73 appearances with a 3.79 ERA and was willing to be abused as a multiple-innings reliever. He’ll be 39, but his fastball still can hit 93 mph. He had almost a 3-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’ll want a guaranteed contract after making the club off a Minor League contract, or he’ll probably retire.

RHP Rudy Seanez, Dodgers
He’s 37 and finally looked like it in 2007. His average dropped 105 points and the slugging percentage plunged 219 points from the year before. His RBIs went from 48 to 18. He was once one of the most feared pinch-hitters in the league, but it just wasn’t there for him last season.

RHP Aaron Sele, Mets
Willie Randolph didn’t trust Sele as he had trusted Darren Oliver in 2006 in the long-relief role. The lack of use and extended layoffs undermined Sele, 38, who pitched merely 53 2/3 innings in 34 games (no starts). He had produced a 3-2 record and a 5.37 ERA.

RHP Jason Simontacchi, Nationals
He appeared in 13 games for Washington and went 6-7 with a 6.37 ERA. His season came to an end in July because of an elbow injury.

DH/OF Sammy Sosa, Rangers
His agent, Adam Katz, says there is interest out there baseball’s fifth all-time leading home run hitter who turns 39 on Nov. 12. Sosa hit .255 with 21 home runs and 92 RBI for the Rangers this season but is pretty much limited to designated hitter duty. The Rangers stopped playing him in the outfield after Interleague Play. He hit .328 with a 1.023 OPS against left-handers and .222 with a .677 OPS against right-handers.

LHP Tanyon Sturtze, Braves
Sturtze missed all of the 2007 season while recovering from a shoulder surgery that sidelined him for much of the 2006 season. His health will provide plenty of concern for any team interested in taking a risk on his 37 year-old shoulder.

OF/1B Mark Sweeney, Dodgers
He’s a pro coming off the bench, even if it’s only pinch-singles. He did lead the Major Leagues with 24 pinch-hits. He can play some first base, but he pretty much needs a club that can afford to carry a left-handed pinch-hitter.

DH/1B Mike Sweeney, Royals
For the second straight year, Sweeney missed most of the season because of injuries. This time it was his knee, not his back, but he had in-season surgery and played just 74 games. He’s spent his entire career with the Royals and had some great years. If healthy, he can be one of the most dangerous right-handed hitters around with big home run and RBI potential. That’s a big if. He hasn’t played a full season since 2001.

RHP John Thomson, Royals
Signed by the Royals as an emergency starter, Thomson pitched just two games before going on the disabled list with back problems. He tried to return via an injury rehabilitation assignment but that was cut short, too. His credentials include a 63-85 record in 216 games and 10 Major League seasons.

RHP Mike Timlin, Red Sox
Early in 2007, it looked like it would be a struggle for Timlin just to make it through another season. But he got through it, got healthy and started pitching like the Timlin of old instead of an old Timlin. The right-hander is 41 years old and has adjusted to losing a few miles per hour off his fastball. Timlin remains the ultimate competitor who could serve as a valuable setup reliever for a contending team. Timlin has been with the Red Sox for the last five years.

RHP Bret Tomko, Padres
Signed late in the season after being released by the Dodgers, Tomko pitched well at times but allowed a lead to slip away in the final game of the regular season that forced San Diego into a playoff with the Rockies (we know how that ended). Tomko is a local guy who could return to fill a spot at the back end of the rotation.

RHP Steve Trachsel, Cubs
The Cubs decided not to pick up Trachsel’s $4.75 million option and aren’t interested in bringing back the 37-year-old, who was 1-3 with an 8.31 ERA in four starts with Chicago after coming over from the Orioles in a trade.
2B-OF Jose Valentin, Mets
In the unlikely event Valentin returns to the Mets, it won’t be under the terms of the $4.3 million salary provided for in the option for 2008 included in his contract. Even an invitation to Spring Training seems unlikely. His absence will be felt; it was felt last summer. Many have tied the declined of Jose Reyes to the presence of Rickey Henderson. Valentin was a positive influence on Reyes and he played in less than one third of the Mets games. One of the reasons Randolph inserted Valentin at second base in 2006 was to help keep Reyes in the game. Valentin, 38, played in merely 51 games (166 at-bats) producing a .302 on-base percentage, .373 slugging percentage and a .241 batting average.

LHP Ron Villone, Yankees
His preference would be to return to the Yankees, as he has deep roots in the New York area and enjoys pitching for the organization he watched growing up. But Villone will be 38 by Spring Training and did not make the roster out of camp in ’07, losing a spot to fellow lefty Sean Henn. He was also left off the AL Division Series roster after posting a 7.20 ERA in his final nine appearances, punctuated by a lower back strain.

RHP Luis Vizcaino, Yankees
The most Major League-ready piece of the January Randy Johnson trade, Vizcaino lived up to his nickname of ‘Daily,’ being summoned often by Joe Torre. It’s possible the heavy workload caught up to him after a career-high 77 appearances; Vizcaino struggled out of the gate and then was wonderful in midsummer, posting ERAs of 0.77, 1.62 and 1.38 in June, July and August. After that point, though, he was rough, allowing nine runs in eight September innings for a 10.12 ERA. The Yankees may still make use of him; just not as often.

SS Omar Vizquel, Giants
The most Major League-ready piece of the January Randy Johnson trade, Vizcaino lived up to his nickname of ‘Daily,’ being summoned often by Joe Torre. It’s possible the heavy workload caught up to him after a career-high 77 appearances; Vizcaino struggled out of the gate and then was wonderful in midsummer, posting ERAs of 0.77, 1.62 and 1.38 in June, July and August. After that point, though, he was rough, allowing nine runs in eight September innings for a 10.12 ERA. The Yankees may still make use of him; just not as often.

RHP Jeff Weaver, Mariners
The Mariners did not get the one-year bounce they had hoped from the 31-year-old right-hander, as Weaver went 7-13 with a 6.20 ERA in 27 starts. He came to Seattle as conundrum. He had been released by the Angels in the middle of the 2006 season but then went on to help St. Louis win the World Series championship. He had the same kind of Jekyll and Hyde year with the Mariners, starting the season 0-6 but went 2-0 with a 1.82 ERA in June. He was 0-4 with a 4.58 ERA in July then 4-0 with a 3.82 ERA in August. When the club needed him to step up in the final month, he went 1-3 with a 8.49 ERA. The Mariners are not likely interested in a return engagement.

LHP David Wells, Dodgers
Grabbed off the scrap heap for a pennant race, he won four of his seven starts and the Dodgers couldn’t have hoped for more. That said, the ERA was above 5 and he’ll be 45 in May. The thought of guaranteeing him money over a full season at his age is a long shot.

RHP Kip Wells, Cardinals
Wells had an ’07 that he’d just as soon forget. He wasn’t effective in St. Louis, and he wasn’t a particularly good fit with the staff. It’s expected that the club will make no effort to retain him, and that will be no skin off Wells’ nose. He still has exceptional stuff, and even in ’07 he showed flashes of what gets front offices and pitching coaches excited.

OF Rondell White, Twins
It’s unlikely that White will return for another season. White said during the final week of the ’07 season that he’s “99 percent” sure he will retire. The outfielder filed for free agency as a matter of procedure. But it’s been his recent onslaught of injuries that makes it seem like White will call it a career.

RHP Bob Wickman, D-backs
The D-backs signed Wickman in early September after he had been designated for assignment by the Braves. The team was looking for some extra bullpen depth for the stretch run, even though the veteran closer with 267 career saves was ineligible for the postseason roster. The 37-year-old saved 20 games in 26 chances for Atlanta as their stopper for much of the season and would have likely drawn a little bit of interest in the free agent market, but has told several sources within the D-backs organization that he is likely to retire.

1B/OF Brad Wilkerson, Rangers
Wilkerson showed some pop last season, hitting 20 home runs with a .467 slugging percentage in 338 at-bats. But he batted .234, had a .319 on-base percentage and struck out 107 times. He is 30 and can play both first base and the outfield, but has had injury problems the past two years. The Rangers don’t appear motivated to re-sign him but he could still be a productive role player on a good team.

OF Preston Wilson, Cardinals
Knee surgery ended Wilson’s ’07 early. It’s an open and fair question how much he’ll have left and how much he’ll be able to play in ’08. Once a feared hitter, Wilson is pretty much a question mark going forward.

LHP Randy Wolf, Dodgers
He looked like a shrewd acquisition while winning nine games before the All-Star break. But he went down with a shoulder injury that required surgery and the Dodger were never able to replace him. Although the operation was said to be minor, he’ll remain a question mark at least until he pitches in some Spring Training games.

IF Chris Woodward, Braves
Other than the fact that he can play every infield position, Woodward doesn’t bring much appeal to the free agent market. He’s struggled offensively both of the past two seasons and his glove isn’t strong enough for him to be guaranteed a spot in the Majors in 2008.

RHP Jamey Wright, Rangers
After years as a starting pitcher, Wright could be entering a second career as a reliever. He was 3-3 with a 4.66 ERA in nine starts for the Rangers and 1-2 with a 2.05 ERA in 11 relief appearances. Wright turns 33 in December and has a career record of 69-101 as a starter. But his stuff is still rated above average and clubs may prefer to trust it more in a middle relief/spot start role rather than as a starter.

RHP Jaret Wright, Orioles
Wright went down at the end of April with a tired shoulder and never pitched in the big leagues again. The veteran has had two prior surgeries on his pitching shoulder and may try to continue his career as a reliever. Wright, who was acquired from the Yankees for reliever Chris Britton, pitched just three times for Baltimore.

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~ by mlb2007playoffs on November 11, 2007.

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