There are eight free agents who fall into the shortstop category. Interestingly, half of the free agents were starters and the other half were back-ups / utility guys. The players in question (with their 2006 team in parentheses):
Chris Gomez (Baltimore), Alex Cora (Boston), Alex Gonzalez (Boston), Craig Counsell (Arizona), Damon Easley (Arizona), Royce Clayton (Reds), Julio Lugo (Dodgers), and Jose Hernandez (Phillies)Of the starters – Julio Lugo will be the most sought after. The Red Sox have long yearned for Lugo (though I don’t get the attraction). The Mets are rumored to covet him for their starting 2nd baseman job (I guess I should have added Lugo to this list). I also would expect the Reds and Toronto to put out feelers on Lugo. My guess is that the Mets drive up the price on Lugo to the point that the Red Sox drop out of the running. The Blue Jays could be the wild card here though. They could use an upgrade at short and Lugo has killed the ball at the Rogers Center over his career (.376 BA with a 1.029 OPS in 29 games). It wouldn’t be too surprising for Toronto to make Lugo an offer he can’t refuse just like they did last season to AJ Burnett and BJ Ryan.
If the Red Sox lose out on Lugo then Boston will probably re-sign Alex Gonzalez but if that fails to happen then they could shift prospect Dustin Pedroia to short and offer arbitration to both Alex Cora and Mark Loretta (Pedrioa would start at short with Loretta starting at 2nd and Cora backing both up).
Craig Counsell is out of a job because Arizona will be going with the highly touted Steven Drew at short. Counsell could wind up like Lugo and move from short to second in order to make the most money. The Indians are rumored to be interested in him for their second base job. However, Councell could stay at short and sign with the Rockies who are in the market for a shortstop. This would be a nice ending for Councell since he started his career with the Rockies and has always shown the ability to rake the ball at Coors Field (.361 BA and .941 OPS in 47 games).
Royce Clayton is the last of the shortstops who were starters last season but free agents this winter. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t like Clayton. He always seemed to over-value himself and this winter I think he’ll be in for a rude awakening to his ego.
Of the four non-starter free agents – the only one worth commenting on is Alex Cora and I’ve already written enough on him.
Although the free agent available at short won’t make for much copy – the potential trades of shortstops may make the upcoming GM meetings a lively affair.
First off you have Miguel Tejada who will be a wild card at these meetings. He has 3-years and $42 million remaining on his contract but he is unhappy in Baltimore. Tejada is a definite caveat emptor player though with steroids or B12 rumors constantly circling him but that won’t stop every GM from asking about him.
Then of course you have Alex Rodriguez who swears he won’t waive his no-trade. Again that won’t stop people from asking about him at the meetings. A-Rod may find a move back to short attractive since it will give him a chance to stick it to Derek Jeter in All-Star and Gold Glove voting.
Maybe the most interesting scenario is being played out in Anaheim (nee Los Angeles) where the Angels have Orlando Cabrera with 2-years left on his contract but two stud prospects waiting to play. The Angels have both Brandon Wood and Erick Aybar waiting in the wings to play short. Either of those guys would be the top prospects in many organizations. Could the Angels be looking to move Cabrera or one of the prospects for pitching? I wouldn’t be surprised.