At this time next week, pitchers and catchers from more than half of the majors’ teams will be going through their first spring training workouts. However, one prominent catcher – Matt Wieters – is among the most valuable free agents still on the market.
And he isn’t alone. Here are seven valuable veterans – and a bunch of rotation candidates – still looking for a deal.
USA TODAY SportsEvan Habeeb
Why is a switch-hitting catcher with 20-homer power and two Gold Gloves still looking for a home? It likely has a lot to do with Wieters’ asking price, which is certain to fall soon. He has been linked to the Brewers most recently, and the Braves, Rays and Rockies also have been mentioned in rumors. And we know Bryce Harper would love to have Wieters in Washington.
The minute the door closed on him in Cleveland, a return to the Rangers – Napoli played for Texas in 2011, 2012 and part of 2015 – seemed to be almost a formality. However, a guy who hit 34 homers, drove in 101 runs and posted an .800 OPS last season remains on the market.
The Dodgers’ decision to bring in Sergio Romo could officially end any chance of Blanton returning as their primary setup man. His outstanding 2016 (2.48 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 80 strikeouts in 80 innings) will earn him a job somewhere – how about replacing Romo in San Francisco? – though Blanton will have to settle for a smaller contract than he expected.
Because he is a defensive liability, Alvarez is best suited for an AL team that can get him at-bats as a DH and plug him in occasionally at a corner infield spot. He still hammers right-handers (.848 OPS, 21 homers last season), but teams just aren’t overpaying for power this offseason. A return to the Orioles makes sense, if they still are interested after re-signing Mark Trumbo.
Utley might have followed Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner and Rich Hill back to Los Angeles if he hit right-handed. Instead, the Dodgers acquired Logan Forsythe to take over at second base. Few contenders still need a starting second baseman, but plenty of teams could use a utility infielder who is a solid clubhouse presence.
USA TODAY SportsGary A. Vasquez
Remember him? Papelbon last pitched Aug. 6 and was released on Aug. 13 by the Nationals, who replaced him with Mark Melancon. In addition to his ineffectiveness (4.37 ERA last season) and fading fastball velocity, there are those pesky character concerns. Ironically, the team that most needs a closer (Washington) isn’t going anywhere near Papelbon.
USA TODAY SportsEric Hartline
Veteran starting pitchers
Jason Hammel’s wait is over – he reportedly has agreed to terms with the Royals – but teams looking for back-of-the-rotation and depth options still have plenty to choose from: Jake Peavy, Jered Weaver, Doug Fister, Colby Lewis, Travis Wood, Nathan Eovaldi, C.J. Wilson and Jon Niese, among others.