PHILADELPHIA - Pitcher Roy Oswalt #44 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the San Francisco Giants in Game Two of the NLCS. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
There are still a few worthwhile players looking for a home. Here's where they should go so we can start the season already.
It's February 14. There are still free agents. There are still decent-to-good free agents who could help teams expecting to contend.
This is annoying.
Suppose it's not my problem, but I'm ready to enter the season-preview part of the offseason, where pundits pundit on the exact makeup of a team's roster. It doesn't matter, of course -- in June we're going to wake up and see that Adam Lind has 20 home runs, or that Joe Blanton leads the Philadelphia rotation in ERA. Baseball likes giving wedgies to predictions and hanging them from a doorknob.
Still, it's hard to dig too deep into the AL East or NL Central without knowing where Roy Oswalt will sign. The Yankees still need lefty-hitting DH -- will it be Hideki Matsui, Raul Ibanez, or Johnny Damon? So much ambiguity. That's why I've decided to put players on teams. This is contractually binding because we just want the season to start, and it feels like these guys are holding everything up.
Here's the big one, right up front. The Red Sox need him the most. He's a perfect fit for the Red Sox. It's an eHarmony commercial crossed with a clichéd Hollywood ending. Just make the damned connection already.
Alas, Oswalt saw Good Will Hunting, and he knows what Boston people use baseball gloves for. He's apparently not interested in Boston at all, even if it makes entirely too much sense. So I'm putting him on the Royals, who probably aren't a surprise contender just yet, but who have a young offense worth supporting. On a one-year deal, Oswalt is almost as good of a fit for the Royals that he is with the Red Sox.
It's not like he's Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle. He's not going to have a likeness beyond the outfield walls of Yankee Stadium. But he's still a Yankee, no matter where he ends up this year. And those Yankees are looking for a left-handed complement to Andruw Jones. This is also an obvious fit. The team is messing around with Raul Ibanez -- more on him in a second -- as if he's a viable alternative. Not when you take baseball into account, and certainly not when you take sentimentality into account, too.
Considering that the Oakland Coliseum is split between time zones and area codes, Matsui didn't have that bad of a year. He also improved as the season went on. As a low-cost option, he's probably the best one left with the White Sox getting Kosuke Fukudome.
And you know how important cost is to the Yankees this year. It really is this time. It's fun to type! Try it! Cost is really important to the Yankees this year. Cost is really important to the Yankees this year.
There's only one team that makes sense for him: The Jermaine Dye I Guess It's Not Worth Its. Ibanez was pretty bad last year, he can't field, and he'll turn 40 in June. As an extra bat off the bench, he'd do just swell. But a team shouldn't pay much more than the major-league minimum for that privilege; Ibanez is probably looking for something a little more substantial for his time. Understandable on both counts. That's what happened with Dye, and he chose to step away from the game and finish those Agatha Christie novels he'd been putting off. Ibanez might do the same.
Just kidding. I'm putting him on the Giants just to watch Twitter melt. The endorphin rush will wear off quickly, but it'll be a heckuva 30 minutes.
As we pointed out yesterday, we live in a world where Vladimir Guerrero is openly requesting that he play for the Yankees on a cheap one-year deal, and the Yankees aren't interested. There will be a time when Mike Trout is floating around, begging the Orioles to take him. It will depress you. This is that, but now.
If you watched the 2010 World Series, you know that Vlad fields like Adam Dunn wrapped in a fishing net, so the NL is out, even for a bench role. And I'm not sure how many non-contenders would mess with him instead of giving a younger player a shot. So I'm putting him on the Rays to pick up some at-bats for Luke Scott against tough lefties. Sorry about the pitcher's-park thing, Vlad. It's not going to help your Hall of Fame case.
He's not good in the field anymore, but he's not foot-in-a-gopher-hole bad. His arm isn't a big deal in left, and he can still hit just a bit. So he's not limited to AL teams like Vlad or Ibanez. Because of this, I'll put him on the Reds, who have Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey -- both right-handers -- fighting for at-bats. Heisey actually has wacky reverse platoon splits, and Ludwick's splits are similarly counterintuitive, but that doesn't mean that Damon still wouldn't be a good complement. Plus, if you had to pick a player to join the frightening game of Dusty Leadoff Roulette, Damon would actually fit the role somewhat.
As for the rest of the pending free agents, they're free to explore the rest of free agency themselves, though you can build a pretty sweet 2000 team from the remnants. A spring battle between Jason Kendall and Pudge Rodriguez would have been outstanding theater last decade.
Everyone listed above, though, should report to camp next week because we're sick of hearing about you and where you might end up. Especially you, Roy. Especially you.