Plenty of talent in free-agent pool

Plenty of talent remains

As we cross off days on the accelerating countdown to Spring Training, welcome to an inventory of the free-agent market, "America's Pastime Idol" edition.

By this point in the offseason, the still unattached may be less prime time and more infomercial time. Yet there's plenty of talent, packing notable credits, still crossing the stage in an attempt to wow the judges.

Among those waiting in the wings are a 2006 All-Star (left-hander Mark Redman), a 15-game winner for a division champ (right-hander Steve Trachsel) and the starting second baseman of the reigning World Series champs (Ronnie Belliard).

They now all get a turn in front of the curtain, showcasing their goods in alphabetical order.

As usual, they will be rated by our familiar panel of three judges: Randy, who sticks to the facts; Paula, who finds everyone's silver lining; and Simon, the cynic.

Step right up ...

Tony Armas Jr., RHP
• Opening Day age: 28
• In 2006: 9-12, 5.03 ERA

Paula: "You're still so young. You've got a bright future."

Randy: "Came through arm problems to log your most innings (154) since 2002. I like that."

Simon: "No complete games in 151 career starts? Have you ever seen the seventh inning?"

David Bell, 3B
• Opening Day age: 34
• In 2006: .270 AVG., 10 HRs, 63 RBIs

Randy: "Ten-plus home runs in eight of the last nine seasons ... dependable production. People know what you bring to the table."

Simon: "You hit like a middle infielder, not like a corner man. And how's that back, anyway?

Paula: "I love the cleft in your chin!"

Ron Belliard, 2B
• Opening Day age: 32
• In 2006: .272 AVG., 13 HRs, 67 RBIs

Randy: "You really glued together the Cards' infield down the stretch. Rolen and Eckstein were ailing, but you were whaling."

Simon: "What's happened to your pop? From 61 extra-base hits in 2004 to 54 in '05 to 44 last year."

Paula: "Best dreadlocks in the game, sweetie."

Darin Erstad, OF
• Opening Day age: 32
• In 2006: .221 AVG., 0 HRs, five RBIs in 95 at-bats

Randy: "No one knows you'd been playing on one leg for years. You're like a Kirk Gibson Jr. Any team with you on it is better, and more focused."

Simon: "You consulted that New York ballet doctor [Dr. Bill Hamilton] for your right ankle? Are you preparing for Swan Lake -- or your personal swan song?"

Paula: "You seem to prefer a make-good deal with the Angels to a firm offer from the rival A's. Let's hear it for old-fashioned loyalty."

Cliff Floyd, OF
• Opening Day age: 34
• In 2006: .244 AVG, 11 HRs, 44 RBIs

Randy: "Mentally, you're already house-hunting in Wrigleyville. What's the holdup, Cubs? You're dangerous in the batter's box, valuable in the clubhouse."

Paula: "You were such a postseason picture of courage, with that nasty Achilles, you brought tears to my eyes. As if imploding from 34 homers and 98 RBIs in 2005 wasn't painful enough."

Simon: "Awww ... Let's count how many times you've been on the DL -- after taking off a shoe."

Dustin Hermanson, RHP
• Opening Day age: 34
• In 2006: 0-0, 4.05 ERA in 6 2/3 innings

Randy: "It didn't last long, but even last year you were lights out -- until your back went out. If I need someone to come in throwing strikes, you're my man."

Simon: "Bobby Jenks carried you in 2005 -- and you got the sore back?"

Paula: "I hope the Yankees are serious about signing you. That bullpen needs to loosen up, and you've got just the sense of humor to do it."

Tomo Ohka, RHP
• Opening Day age: 31
• In 2006: 4-5, 4.82 ERA

Randy: "You looked pretty solid last season between shoulder and hamstring injuries. Can you stay whole?"

Simon: "Can he stay whole? Huh! Is Colonel Sanders a vegetarian?"

Paula: "You're so much sweeter than football's T.O."

Mark Redman, LHP
• Opening Day age: 33
• In 2006: 11-10, 5.71 ERA

Randy: "No ifs, ands or buts ... anyone who manages a winning record in Kansas City gets my vote."

Simon: "Good gravy ... was that your ERA, or the annual return on your 401k?"

Paula: "I prefer to think of the good times ... like the June 25 shutout of Milwaukee, or the Aug. 29 blanking of the Twins, or when you struck out nine Red Sox in that 1-0 loss to them on July 19."

Aaron Sele, RHP
• Opening Day age: 36
• In 2006: 8-6, 4.53 ERA

Paula: "You hadn't pitched much relief before last season ... nice adjustment! You were really a big Dodgers asset in a variety of roles."

Randy: "You've been with five teams, and have had at least one big season at every stop. No wonder it adds up to a nice lifetime record [of 145-110]."

Simon: "The karaoke bar is full of guys who can eat middle innings."

Shannon Stewart, OF
• Opening Day age: 33
• In 2006: .293 AVG, 2 HRs, 21 RBIs in 44 games

Randy: "Man, you hit .300-plus six consecutive seasons through 2004, and only last year did your career mark dip under .300 [all the way to .299]. And you're still on the loose. Are you in the Witness Protection Program, or what?"

Simon: "You're a five-tool player. Bat, glove, legs, arm -- and red flags. You've missed 218 games the last three seasons because of problems with that left plantar fascia."

Paula: "I've also had problems with my planter; my daffodils keep dying."

Steve Trachsel, RHP
• Opening Day age: 36
• In 2006: 15-8, 4.97 ERA

Randy: "A 15-game winner and a bargain at $2.5 million! And 165 innings says your arm is sound."

Simon: "You asked out of the biggest game of your life, Game 3 of the NLCS. It's not your arm that we're worried about."

Paula: "I'm down with the Pointer Sisters. I want a man with a slow right hand. And there isn't a slower-working right-hander in the game."

Jeff Weaver, RHP
• Opening Day age: 30
• In 2006: 8-14, 5.76 ERA

Paula: "Ooh, you should be so proud that your kid brother followed in your footsteps, literally."

Randy: "Guts, man. You really showed 'em in October. That was your corner. You turned it, and good things will keep happening."

Simon: "You've made a career of burning high expectations. What a tired act."

Preston Wilson, OF
• Opening Day age: 32
• In 2006: .263 AVG., 17 HRs, 72 RBIs

Randy: "Nice package of pop and hop (161 homers and 110 steals since 2000). You should still be someone's centerpiece."

Simon: "You've got more lifetime strikeouts than hits. There are windmills in Holland which don't whip up such a breeze."

Paula: "But you had more hits (132) than strikeouts (121) last season. I always like to see someone improve."

Bernie Williams, OF
• Opening Day age: 38
• In 2006: .281 AVG., 12 HRs, 61 RBIs

Randy: "Thanks for stopping by. But these are open auditions. Bernie, you aren't about to change your pinstripes."

Simon: "You get lost on the way to the AARP counter?"

Paula: "Ooh, I could listen all day to you pick the acoustic guitar."

Tom Singer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.