Free agent updates

Free agent updates

The offseason is in full swing, and teams are in search of free agent help. Here's a look at the players on the market and in the news.

RHP Kris Benson, Orioles
Feb. 6: The Phillies watched Benson throw for a second time on Feb. 5. Philadelphia could be interested in signing the veteran right-hander to a one-year, incentive-based contract. Benson missed all of last season because of right shoulder problems, and he's looking to latch onto a club for '08.

RHP Kyle Lohse, Phillies
Jan. 24: The Baltimore Sun quotes Scott Boras as saying that the Orioles have inquired about six or seven of his players, including outgoing incumbent center fielder Corey Patterson and veteran pitchers Kyle Lohse and Ron Villone. The Orioles are believed to be interested in one or two-year deals for whomever they sign, and turning to the free-agent market is still just a contingency plan for if they can't swing a trade or two.

RHP Josh Fogg, Rockies
Feb. 5: Should the Orioles and Mariners finalize the trade that would send Erik Bedard to Seattle, Baltimore may pursue Fogg to fill a spot in its rotation, according to the Denver Post. The Twins, now without Johan Santana, have also expressed interest, contacting Fogg's agent and expressing "serious interest" in the pitcher.

RHP Roger Clemens, Yankees
Jan. 3: The seven-time Cy Young winner has not decided whether he will return for another season, but there is one less team interested in his services. Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner told the New York Daily News that his club will not re-sign the right-hander.

OF Kenny Lofton, Indians
Feb. 9: Lofton could reunite with manager Dusty Baker in Cincinnati, Ken Rosenthal reported on, citing sources. Any potential contract offer could depend on which players the Reds trade for a starting pitcher, perhaps Oakland's Joe Blanton. Adding Lofton would give the Reds a veteran left-handed-hitting option in center field to go along with right-handed hitters Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper. Prospect Jay Bruce is a left-handed hitter, but bringing in Lofton would allow Bruce to develop more slowly.

RHP Akinori Otsuka, Rangers
Dec. 20: The Padres, who traded Otsuka to the Rangers in 2006, are interested in bringing the right-hander back, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. But the Padres, like any other team looking at Otsuka, are concerned about his injured right arm. He missed the final three months with right forearm inflammation and Texas non-tendered him on Dec. 12. Otsuka, 35, went 2-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 34 relief appearances for Texas in 2007. It was Otsuka's fewest innings and appearances in the past eight seasons, including his time in both the Major Leagues and Japan.

OF Barry Bonds, Giants
Dec. 18: Bonds' status for 2008 is in doubt after he was indicted by a federal grand jury seated in San Francisco on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice for allegedly lying when he said he did not use performance-enhancing drugs in testimony given before another grand jury nearly four years ago. Bonds pleaded not guilty and is free on a $500,000 bond. No trial date was set, but a status hearing was scheduled for Feb. 7. The fact that the A's traded Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks for six prospects could be the death knell of his chances of signing with Oakland. Though A's general manager Billy Beane wouldn't talk directly about the topic, he told the San Jose Mercury-News to read the tea leaves. "I never talk about free agents, but I'll say this: You can draw your own conclusions based on where we're going. I don't think you'd be wrong if you did that."

C Damian Miller, Brewers
Jan. 25: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Miller, a Wisconsin native and resident, may choose to retire rather than sign on with a team far away from his home.

LHP Ron Villone, Yankees
Dec. 14: His preference would be to return to the Yankees. He has deep roots in the New York area and enjoys pitching for the organization he watched growing up in New Jersey. 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. Villone was named in the Mitchell Report.

OF Rondell White, Twins
Dec. 14: Even before White's name appeared in the Mitchell Report, it was unlikely that he would return for another season in Minnesota. 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 Antonio Alfonseca, Phillies
Dec. 12: The Phillies declined to offer arbitration to Alfonseca and appear to have no interest in re-signing him. 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.
RHP Armando Benitez, Marlins
Dec. 12: The Marlins did not offer Benitez arbitration, cutting ties with the former closer. He struggled with staying healthy in 2007 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, and it's unlikely that any team would consider him a closer anymore.

RHP Rudy Seanez, Dodgers
Dec. 12: The Dodgers have made a one-year contract offer to Seanez, the pitcher's agent told the Los Angeles Times. Six to eight other teams have expressed interest in the right-hander, the paper reported. Seanez 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.

OF Kevin Mench, Brewers
Feb. 9: The Rangers are talking with Mench about a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training, but want to make sure he is willing to go to Triple-A Oklahoma if he doesn't makes the team. That provision could decide whether Mench is with the Rangers in Spring Training next week. If Mench signs with the Rangers, he would be competing with Jason Botts, Nelson Cruz and David Murphy for a backup outfield spot. The starting outfield appears set with Marlon Byrd in left, Josh Hamilton in center and Milton Bradley in right. The Yankees have also recently expressed interest in Mench as a fifth outfielder, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

RHP Shawn Chacon, Pirates
Jan. 24: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that talks are ongoing between Shawn Chacon and the Pirates to try and bring the right-hander back next season. However, in talking with, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington concedes that despite ongoing discussions, the two sides are still very far apart in terms of Chacon's asking price. Chacon has reiterated his desire to stay in Pittsburgh, but his agent, Dan Horwits, has confirmed that he is talking to a number of other teams as well to determine Chacon's market value. Ultimately, Huntington will have to decide if the holes in the Pirates bullpen are gaping enough to justify Chacon's asking price.

RHP Byung-Hyun Kim, Marlins
Dec. 10: He logged some valuable innings and won some big games in his split-season stint in Florida, which may be interested in re-signing him. 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.

IF Russell Branyan, Cardinals
Dec. 7: Looking to fill several reserve roles, the Red Sox considered Branyan, according to the Providence Journal, but he's believed to be low on their list because of his high strikeout rate. 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.

IF Jeff Cirillo, D-backs
Dec. 7: Cirillo could fill the Red Sox's need for a backup at first and third base, the Providence Journal speculated. 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/OF Ryan Klesko, Giants
Dec. 7: In need of a first-base and outfield backup, particularly one who hits left-handed, the Red Sox may consider Klesko, according to the Providence Journal. 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.

DH/C Mike Piazza, A's
Dec. 7: Piazza declined arbitration from the A's. He suffered a shoulder injury in May that limited him to 83 games and while he 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.

OF Shannon Stewart, A's
Dec. 7: Stewart declined arbitration, and GM Billy Beane said in November that he's expecting the outfielder, whom the A's would like to bring back at the right price, to "explore his options" on the open market before a decision is made on presenting an offer. 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.

IF Tony Batista, Nationals
Dec. 6: The Nationals' signing of Aaron Boone eliminates the team's need for Batista, a right-handed bat off the bench who can play several infield positions. Batista was a pleasant surprise off the bench for the Nats in 2007, leading Washington in pinch-hits (14) and pinch-hit RBIs (12).
OF Corey Patterson, Orioles
Jan. 8: The Orioles, who did not offer Patterson arbitration in December, may bring him back if they do not trade for a center fielder, the Baltimore Sun reported. Team president Andy MacPhail acknowledged that he spoke with Patterson's agent to confirm the team's interest and the two sides will keep in touch.

LHP David Wells, Dodgers
Dec. 5: The New York Daily News reported that Wells would be interested in pitching for the Mets, but New York GM Omar Minaya has not reciprocated. The Reds and Mariners may be interested in the left-hander, New York Newsday speculated. Grabbed off the scrap heap for a pennant race, Wells 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 Bartolo Colon, Angels
Jan. 21: The Indians scouted former ace, Bartolo Colon -- who is trying to come back from shoulder problems -- but the Plain Dealer reports they weren't happy with what they saw in his fastball. The Royals, White Sox and Mets have also scouted the former Cy Young Award winner, but the Mets reportedly backed off because of concerns about his injury history.
OF Jeff DaVanon, A's
Dec. 1: Oakland did not offer DaVanon arbitration before the deadline. 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.
1B/OF Robert Fick, Nationals
Dec. 1: Washington did not offer Fick, their only free agent, arbitration, but as a Type C player, the team would not have received compensation had he signed elsewhere. 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.

1B Julio Franco, Braves
Nov. 30: 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 -- and it won't be from Atlanta, which isn't expected to offer even that. 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.

OF/1B Shawn Green, Mets
Nov. 30: With the Mets' trade for left-handed hitting Ryan Church, there seems to be little chance that Green will return to New York for another 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 turned 35 in November.

RHP Freddy Garcia, Phillies
Nov. 24: The Mets tried to trade for Garcia in December 2006, but the Phillies made a better offer. He was a bust, however, going 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. The New York Daily News reported that the Mets have talked with Garcia's representative about signing the right-hander, who is expected to be ready to pitch by midseason.

DH/OF Sammy Sosa, Rangers
Feb. 7: Sosa expressed an interest to play for the Royals in 2008, but that interest is not mutual, reported. With Jose Guillen, David DeJesus and Mark Teahen set to start in the outfield and with Joey Gathright in reserve, the Royals would not have much room for Sosa.

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.
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.

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 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.

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.

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 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).

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.
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.

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.
RHP Russ 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.
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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.