BOSTON, MA - MAY 08: J.D. Drew #7 of the Boston Red Sox hits an RBI single in the fifth inning as Drew Butera #41 of the Minnesota Twins catches. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Prince Fielder is still getting all of the free-agent buzz right now, but here are five players whom you probably haven't thought of for a couple of months.
Going through the handy-dandy MLB Free-Agent Tracker we have going here, it's easy to find some players you haven't thought of in a while. Like, say, Horacio Ramirez. When was the last time you thought about Horacio Ramirez? Even Mrs. Horacio Ramirez is reading this right now, realizing that she should probably check on him because three years ago he said he was going to use the bathroom and didn't come back.
But there are other players in there that you haven't thought about in a while, but it might be a little surprising that you haven't done so. Here, then, are the five free agents that absolutely no one is talking about:
"I just think it depends, frankly, on the locale, winning situation, that kind of thing," Boras said while eating veal sashimi directly off the leg of a screaming, still-alive calf.
There's a chance that I made up everything after the word "said" in that quote, but we're here to talk about Drew, not me.
For well over a decade, Drew has been one of the best part-time outfielders in baseball. The problem is that he's been expected to be a full-time outfielder, but he's made out of fiberglass and Nick Johnson shavings. But even though he hit .222/.315/.302 and broke his thumb last season, he could be a very nice bench asset for just about any team. His patience remains a strength, and there's a chance that his power might just be declining instead of totally sapped, like it was last year.
There's not much about Ibanez that's worth getting excited about, really. He'll be 40 next year, he plays defense like he's riding a unicycle with a square tire, and he's coming off his worst season in 11 years. But, like Drew, he could be a decent bat off the bench, especially for an American League team that can hide him in a DH spot against the occasional right-handed starter.
And while the Sabean-luvs-veterans jokes are mostly played out, I'll admit being shocked that Brian Sabean was never once linked to Ibanez. Never. Not once, by anyone.
Suppose I should have just retitled this bad boy "Three Left-Handed Hitting Outfielders 34 Or Older: Come 'N' Git Some" Sorry, Rick Ankiel -- you still have a few years to go before you're ready for a list like this.
But unlike the two players up there, a team could probably live with Fukudome handling more than an occasional start in the outfield. His production has never been the main problem -- he has a career .361 OBP, after all -- but rather his production relative to his salary. A team wouldn't want to start him in center, but he played there as late as last August, so he's almost the perfect fourth outfielder. As a starter, there will be several teams that will do worse.
Right there in the center: Wilson Betemit. He did his damage as a part-time player, and there's no guarantee that he'd keep that up for a full season, but in an offseason where teams are fighting over Nick Puntos and Willie Bloomquii, why isn't Betemit with someone already?
He's had all sorts of elbow and shoulder problems, and his velocity is way down -- he can barely crack 90 m.p.h. these days. But he'd be a great one-year option for a team looking to build a cheap bullpen, much as the Diamondbacks are hoping Takashi Saito will be. Even though his fastball isn't what it used to be, his slider is still sharp.
A comparable situation might be found with Sergio Romo, who just had a dominant season with a fastball that doesn't go much over 90, and who threw his slider over 50% of the time. There could be a similar niche for a slider like Lidge's, and he could ease back into the high-leverage situations as the season goes on.
It's not a group of exciting players, necessarily, but it's a group of potentially useful players who will probably sign somewhere in the next month. If your team gets one, it will probably be for somewhat of a bargain.