2012 Free Agent Primer: Top 10 First Basemen

The first base market is heavy at the top, but once the top two have signed their huge deals, the rest of the teams in need will scurry for what’s left and it’s not all that much.

Player’s age listed in parentheses.

1. Albert Pujols (32) – In a “down” year, Pujols hit .299/.366/.541 with 37 home runs, 105 runs scored and 99 RBI. He’s going to get paid, and big, but the Cardinals haven’t budged from their eight-year, $200M offer. There are several teams with better budget situations than the Cards. This should get interesting.

Possible destinations: Cardinals, Cubs, Blue Jays, Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, Marlins

2. Prince Fielder (28) – Prince will likely wait until Pujols sets the market with his new deal. He’s said to be seeking something more than Mark Teixeira’s eight-year, $180M deal. Some view Prince as a long-term risk due to his bulky body type, but make no mistake about it, this Scott Boras client will likely get what he wants.

Possible destinations: Cubs, Blue Jays, Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, Marlins

3. Carlos Pena (34) – Despite hitting only .225, Pena was more or less worth the $10M the Cubs paid him in 2011. Where he failed in AVG, he held strong in OBP — a much more valuable stat than AVG – hit for power (28 home runs and a .237 ISO) and played good defense. If it weren’t for an early season hand injury, Pena probably would have topped the 30 home run mark. Any team looking for a relatively cheap alternative to Pujols or Prince will take a long look at Pena.

Possible destinations: Cubs, Blue Jays, Marlins, Cardinals, Phillies,

4. Michael Cuddyer (33) – Cuddyer has a great relationship with the Twins and reports have them trying to work out a deal. Two-years and $16M is said to be on the table, but should he hit the open market, there are sure to be many suitors looking to acquire his solid bat and versatility in the field.

Possible destinations: Twins, Tigers, Reds, Cubs, A’s, Dodgers, Phillies, Rockies, Red Sox,

5. Casey Kotchman (29) – Kotchman does two things really well: play defense and make contact at the plate. Those two things culminated in a surprise season in 2011, where he went from minor league signing to a key piece of the Rays’ incredible ride to the AL Wild Card. That being said, those hoping for a repeat season at the plate should be cautious. Kotchman had a .335 BABIP in 2011, well above his career BABIP of .280. The Rays might look to retain his strong defense on a low-risk contract for 2012.

Possible destinations: Rays, A’s, Brewers, Indians, Cardinals, Phillies, Pirates


6. Derek Lee (36) – Despite a continued regression, Lee still pounded out 19 home runs while holding a league average OBP. He battled some injuries, but hit .337/.398/.584 with seven home runs in a small sample of 113 plate appearances after joining the Pirates. The Pirates are said to be interested in brining back the 36-year-old, though other teams with needs at 1B and DH will likely have a look at Lee.

Possible destinations: Pirates, Cardinals, Indians, Phillies, A’s, Twins

7. Lyle Overbay (35) – Overbay had a rough 2011 season, but he’s only one year removed from hitting 20 home runs with a league average OBP. He should fit in somewhere as a backup 1B and left-handed bat off the bench.

Possible destinations: Brewers, Diamondbacks, Phillies, Yankees

8. Eric Hinske (34) – Hinske continues to be a solid bat off the bench and spot starter in the outfield or first base. The Braves may look to bring him back for one more round.

Possible destinations: Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Phillies

9. Xavier Nady (33) – It’s been seemingly one continuous run of bad luck for Nady over the past three seasons. He had Tommy John surgery in 2009, dealt with a right hand injury in 2010 and dealt with a fractured left hand this past season. Before all of the injuries struck, he had put up back-to-back 20-plus home run seasons. There might be a team willing to give him another comeback shot in 2012.

Possible destinations: Diamondbacks, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Phillies, Padres, Pirates

10. Dmitri Young (38) – Wait, what? Meat Hook? He hasn’t played in the majors since 2008. Yes, it’s true, but Young is currently playing ball in the Venezuelan Winter League and has actually lost roughly 50 pounds (the proof is in the picture).  Obviously, now at age 38, his skills aren’t what they used to be. That being said, he did hit .280 with a .394 OBP in 180 plate appearances during his last stint in the big leagues. If he swings a good bat this winter and shows the type of plate discipline he did over the majority of his career, he could catch on somewhere on a minor league deal. Young has a .231 AVG and .412 OBP though four winter league games.