Welcome to TOC's offseason primers! We haven't officially reached the offseason yet, but it's never too early to look at the best players on the free agent market. Today, we take a look at the best free agent shortstops available.
If Derek Jeter wasn't married to the Yankees, he could probably decline his player option for 2014 and cash in this winter with the state of the shortstop class. This is a weak crop of shortstops, and there's also some overlap with the second base position, as guys like Nick Punto and Alexi Casilla could also play short in a pinch.
1. Stephen Drew. Drew signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox last winter in an attempt to rebuild his value following a disastrous 2012 spent with the Diamondbacks and Athletics. And just like Adrian Beltre did in 2010, Drew successfully built his value back up for a multi-year deal this winter, hitting .253/.333/.443 with 13 homers and solid defense. Drew will turn 31 on Opening Day, so a deal of longer than three or four years probably isn't in the cards, but he's earned a raise on the $9.5 million he made this season. Considering how bad the rest of this list gets as it goes, the bidding could get ridiculous quickly.
2. Jhonny Peralta. Is Peralta a shortstop, or an outfielder, or what? If he stays with the Tigers, he's an outfielder. But with nearly any other team, Peralta can stick at short. He's actually not a terrible defender, and given the low replacement level at short, his bat and defense makes him a solid member of the upper tier at the position. There might be a bit of hesitancy towards Peralta after his Biogenesis suspension, like there was with Melky Cabrera last winter, but I think he'll still get paid well and provide an acceptable bit of value for his team.
3. Rafael Furcal. Injuries have decimated Furcal's career in recent years, and he didn't play an inning in 2013 following Tommy John surgery. He turns 36 this week, and as he's aged, his speed has fallen off a cliff. Furcal hasn't stolen 30 bases in a season since way back in 2006. The TJ might destroy his once-lauded arm strength. He hasn't had an above average, full offensive season since (again) 2006. But again, given the state of shortstops on the market – Furcal is going to get a chance somewhere out there.
4. Brendan Ryan. All Ryan has is his glove – but it's an incredible glove. Until his offensive numbers fell off a cliff this year (from mediocre to unplayable), Ryan's glove essentially made him an average regular at the position. He was the proto-Andrelton Simmons with a weaker bat. Ryan will be 32 in March, and might end up being underpaid because of his skillset.
5. Clint Barmes. Barmes is the poor man's Ryan: similar bat (though with more power) and a worse glove, but still playable based on his defense. Barmes will be 35 in March, and the Pirates definitely overpaid for him two offseasons ago, but I wouldn't be so quick to deny him a roster spot in 2014.
6. Cesar Izturis. Izturis has always had a solid glove, and never had a solid bat. He'd make a nice bench option for a team, despite his lack of versatility.
7. Willie Bloomquist. Bloomquist actually had a good season with the bat in 2013, but he really has no power whatsoever. At the least, he's got versatility and can play a few positions. Though Bloomquist has 27 steals over the last three years, he's been caught 22 times, which kind of nullifies his ability on the basepaths.
8. Alex Gonzalez. He was awful in 2013 with the Brewers, but uh…he hit 42 homers in 1322 plate appearances from 2010-2012 while playing great defense? That's something, I guess.
9. Robert Andino. He's still breathing, though he's probably better suited playing second base for a bat team than short.
10. John McDonald. McDonald spent time with no less than four teams in 2013, and three of them made the Postseason. Sign John McDonald, and make the playoffs!