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Hot corner on the market starts with Youkilis

Hot corner on the market starts with Youkilis

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Hot corner on the market starts with Youkilis
The Mets' picking up of David Wright's $16 million club option for the 2013 season was a mere formality.

And when they officially decided to do so, it took most of the intrigue out of this year's free-agent class at third base. That's not to say there aren't options, with a slew of veterans set to make hot-corner headlines.

Sure, the biggest name mentioned all offseason will be a third baseman who isn't actually a free agent -- Alex Rodriguez, whose contract numbers have kept the baseball world abuzz for a month. But there are still opportunities for potential upgrades, or at least added depth.

The White Sox declined Kevin Youkilis' one-year, $13 million option, making him arguably the biggest name that can play third. Placido Polanco and Eric Chavez also figure to get looks around the league.

If Scott Rolen elects to return for another season, he would be one of the hotter hot-corner commodities. But after his strikeout ended the Reds' season last month, Rolen sounded like he needed some time for reflection before making a decision.

"I don't know what I'm doing," said Rolen, who hit .245 with eight homers in 92 games in 2012. "I'm going to go home and pitch some balls to [my son] Finn."

Arguably the best defensive third basemen of his generation, Rolen would be entering his 18th season in 2013, if he elects to return.

As for Youkilis, this much is certain: He'll be back. The only question is where.

Youkilis was a pivotal part of the Red Sox's 2007 World Series run and was a beloved figure in Boston, but he was traded away at midseason, because of his struggles and the emergence of rookie Will Middlebrooks.

Following what was easily his worst season (.235/.336/.409 with 19 homers) since he became a full-time player in 2006, Youkilis sounded as though he enjoyed his brief time on the South Side of Chicago.

"I thought we had a lot of fun and brought a lot of enjoyment to the fans," Youkilis said. "There was a great fan base that was there. It seemed like the same people that showed up every night to cheer us on -- the diehards."

The White Sox would appear to be one of just a handful of teams in the market for a third baseman. The Angels, Braves and Reds seem to have better options within their organizations.

The Marlins, Phillies and Cubs figure to be the main shoppers for a third baseman, but given the scope of the market, their situations aren't exactly dire.

Chavez figures to be an option for those teams, or any other club looking for a solid backup or DH help. Chavez hit .281 and slugged .496 last season. But he hurt his cause with his 0-for-16 performance in the postseason.

Polanco's time with Philadelphia was hindered by lower back inflammation. He hit .257 with two homers and 19 RBIs in 90 games, and it appears unlikely he will return to Philadelphia.

Another possibility is Brandon Inge, who provided veteran leadership and very good defense for the A's before he missed the last few weeks with a separated shoulder. Inge's totals, however, were below his career averages as he hit .218 with 12 homers on the year.

Also available are Drew Sutton -- most recently with the Pirates -- and Mark DeRosa -- most recently with the Nationals.

Last season's free-agent frenzy didn't see much time devoted to third base. At times, it seemed like it was Aramis Ramirez and no one else.

This year, it seems there isn't anyone close to the 27-homer, 105-RBI force that Ramirez turned out to be for Milwaukee.

And, just like last year, there may not be much noise surrounding the free-agent keepers of the corner.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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