Pitchers and catchers are almost set to make their way to Spring Training. In less than two weeks, all players that won’t be participating in the World Baseball Classic will have reported to their respective teams.
Michael Bourn is the best position player on the free agent market.
Players that were seeking seven-figure contracts, like Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke, were signed earlier in the offseason. A few free agents that could be major contributors, though, are still available.
Two of the most notable players that are not signed to teams are Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse. Both had big years in 2012, but haven’t been able to find the contract that they are seeking.
Bourn was one of the better outfielders in the National League last season. He was fourth in the MLB with 42 stolen bases and tied for fifth with 10 triples. At 29 years old, Bourn set career highs with nine home runs, 57 RBI and a .391 slugging percentage.
The outfielder reportedly has been seeking a five-year deal worth $75 million. Since no team seems to be willing to meet his demands, Bourn will likely have to accept less money.
The New York Mets are one of the clubs that have shown interest in Bourn, but they are looking to get him on the cheap. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the club has discussed giving Bourn a three-year contract, and might be willing to give him a fourth. However, they would only do so if they can keep their 11th overall draft pick, which they will lose if they sign Bourn. The Mets may contest the ruling.
The Cleveland Indians could also make a push to sign Bourn. ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the team could become a major player for the former Atlanta Braves speedster, if his price tag drops.
Lohse had an even better season than Bourn. Few pitchers were more productive than the St. Louis Cardinals starter. With a 2.86 ERA, Lohse ranked fifth among NL starters. His 1.09 WHIP was fourth in the league, and his 16-3 record gave him the best winning percentage of any starter with more than 10 wins.
The righty also proved that he can get the job done in the playoffs. In three of his four postseason starts, he allowed no more than two runs.
The lack of consistent success may be the biggest reason that Lohse is still a free agent. At 34 years old, he’s had just three seasons with an ERA of less than 4.00. He won 30 games in his last two years with St. Louis, but won less than 10 games in six of his previous seven seasons.
The veteran may have to settle for a one-year contract. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun has reported that the Orioles could be interested in signing Lohse on a short deal. However, the starter may not be interested in playing in the American League East. There had been rumors that the Boston Red Sox would be a player for Lohse, but it doesn’t appear that the club is interested.
The most likely destination for Lohse might be back with St. Louis. The Cardinals had seemingly moved on from the pitcher, but news that Chris Carpenter is probably done for the 2013 season with an injury could change that.
St. Louis is the one place that Lohse has had consistent success. Since he played for the Cardinals in 2012, the team wouldn’t have to worry about giving up a compensatory draft pick, which is something that has scared off potential suitors.
Caridnals general manager John Mozeliak says the team is comfortable with its current staff, but that could change as Spring Training gets closer. Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook appear to be the only pitchers with guaranteed spots in the St. Louis rotation.
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