By C. Trent Rosecrans
The winter meetings are over and some of the biggest names on the free-agent market are off the table, but that doesn't mean the hot stove has died out. So, the day after Albert Pujols and the Angels shocked the baseball world, here's a look at the top five position players and pitchers left on the market:
1. Prince Fielder -- The 27-year-old Fielder is the biggest fish left on the market, averaging more than 38 home runs in his six full seasons in the big leagues and posting a .929 career OPS. Whoever lands Fielder will get a shot to the lineup. The knock is Fielder's weight and the length of a contract.
2. Carlos Beltran -- Beltran's been a bit of a forgotten name in all the winter meetings talk. Beltran will be 35 in April and just finished a seven-year deal with the Mets. After being limited by injuries in his last two seasons, Beltran had a bounce-back year, hitting .300/.385/.525 with 22 homers and 84 RBI and doing that in two home ballparks not known to be friendly to hitters, Citi Field and AT&T Park. He can still play center field, but is probably better suited on a corner.
3. Aramis Ramirez -- Even though he has 14 years in the big leagues under his belt, Ramirez is just 33 and coming off a .306/.361/.510 season with 26 homers and 93 RBI. A two-time All-Star, he's by far the best third baseman on the market -- and it's not even close.
Possible landing spots: Brewers, Phillies, Marlins
4. Michael Cuddyer -- Cuddyer will be 33 in March and can play both the corner outfield and infield spots, offering teams a versatile player. He hit .284/.346/.459 with 20 homers last season and hit 32 homers in 2009 before the Twins moved to spacious Target Field. The Twins have reportedly already offered him a three-year deal, as have the Rockies.
Possible landing spots: Rockies, Twins, Phillies, Giants, Red Sox
5. Jimmy Rollins -- It seems odd to consider the 2007 MVP in anything but a Phillies uniform, but Pujols is now in California, so anything's possible. Rollins' offensive numbers have dropped off since his MVP season, but he still plays a premium position -- and one a couple of teams need to fill. A three-time Gold Glove winner, Rollins turned 33 last month. If he re-signs with the Phillies, it could be his last contract. Rollins is reportedly searching for a five-year contract, a tactic that may scare away every team other than the Phillies.
Possible landing spots: Phillies, Cardinals
1. Yu Darvish -- The 25-year-old Japanese right-hander will reportedly be posted and has been seen as perhaps the best starter available. There's no shortage of teams that could be interested in Darvish, but the history of recent big-ticket Japanese pitchers could scare off some suitors and keep the posting fee lower than expected. Once his team in Japan, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighers, accept the posting, the winning team still has to negotiate with Darvish. The posting system, though, gives a chance for a surprise team to emerge the winner.
2. Hiroki Kuroda -- There's no question of how Kuroda will perform in the big leagues -- he's gone 41-46 with a 3.45 ERA in four seasons with the Dodgers. Kuroda had a 13-16 record in 2011, despite putting up just a 3.07 ERA. He told the team he wouldn't give up his no-trade protection at the trade deadline, but the Dodgers have already found replacements for him in the rotation. He has one offer on the table already from the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, but would make more money in the U.S.
Possible landing spots: Cubs, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Red Sox, Carp
3. Edwin Jackson -- The fact that Jackson has already played for six different teams and he's just 28 may raise some flags, but he's also had six teams want him at some point and for good reason. Although Jackson has battled inconsistency, he's still had results at times. He was 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA for the Cardinals and White Sox last season. He's not a No. 1, but he's younger than some of the other second-tier starters on the market, increasing his value.
4. Ryan Madson -- Even though there were reports the right-hander had agreed to return to the Phillies earlier this offseason, the team turned to Jonathan Papelbon instead. The Red Sox, who along with the Reds, are still searching for a closer could end up signing Madson and seem the best fit. In his firs tseason as the Phillies' closer, Madson recorded 32 saves, going 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA, striking out 62 batters in 60 2/3 innings.
Possible landing spots: Red Sox, Reds, Phillies
5. Francisco Cordero -- Like Madson, Cordero seems to be on the outside of the closer game of musical chairs. The Red Sox and Reds are the only team left looking for a closer. The Reds were interested in bringing back Cordero with a discount after declining their $12 million option on the 36-year-old right-hander. Cordero converted 37 saves last season and 150 in four years in Cincinnati.
Possible landing spots: Red Sox, Reds, Twins
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