Possible Free Agents: 2B
Mark Bellhorn - San Diego Padres
The well-traveled Bellhorn was just let go officially by the San Diego Padres, so he'll definitely be on the market. Bellhorn is not what you call a good hitter - .231 for his career, and a woeful .190 in 253 at-bats this season. Needless to say, there is no reason to sign a player like this, and I don't know why he continues to be picked up by teams such as the Red Sox, Yankees, and Padres. Surely a young guy in the organization can do better than this? Bellhorn really shouldn't get a contract offer next season, but he probably will - and he'll probably make somewhere in the neighborhood of the $800,000 he made this year.
Ron Belliard - St. Louis Cardinals
Belliard was picked up by the Cardinals from the Indians in July, and all indications are the Indians are going to make a push to bring him back in the off-season. Belliard made $4 million this past season, and put up so-so numbers - .272, 13 HR, 67 RBI's. He'll more than likely get a raise to the $4.5 million range along with a 2 or 3 year deal from a team that's interested in a so-so middle infielder.
Craig Biggio - Houston Astros
The one time fantasy god has come down to earth in recent years, which is to be expected from a 40-year old. But Biggio has done whatever the Astros have asked of him over the course of his career, and all indications are the Astros want to bring him back for another go-round. He made $4 million last year, but hit just .246 (with 21 homers, though); as a result, he'll probably only get a one year deal, and likely for less money ($3 million is my best guess). The Astros will bring him back to watch him chase down 3000 hits (he's just 70 away). There's no way Biggio ends up anywhere else.
Miguel Cairo - New York Yankees
Cairo collected $1 million this season, hitting .239 in 222 at-bats. He's a better career hitter than Bellhorn (.268 lifetime), but has no pop in his bat. Someone will pick him up as an adequate if unspectacular backup middle infielder, and he could even remain with the Yankees. If he goes somewhere else, he'll probably have to take a small paycut to the $800,000 range.
Ray Durham - San Francisco Giants
Durham put up a very solid season, with a .293 average, 26 HR, and 93 RBI's. I would certainly take that from my second baseman. He made $7 million last season, and justified it. Despite being 34 years old (35 when the 2007 season starts), he will probably get a pretty solid contract. He is easily the pick of the litter amongst 2B this year. I'm guessing 3 years, $20 million, but if enough teams get involved in the bidding, it could go closer to $8-9 million/year.
Damion Easley - Arizona Diamondbacks
Easley will soon be 37, and he hit just .233 in 189 games this year (sounds familiar, doesn't it?). Easley made $700,000 this past year, and should get nothing more than a minor league contract from a team that isn't sure what its bench is going to look like next year. No team with any reasonable prospects should hire Easley, unless they need to fill a roster spot with a cheap veteran so as to avoid having service time run out on a valuable youngster.
Tony Graffanino - Milwaukee Brewers
Graffanino is a solid middle infielder who could still be of some value to a team looking for an affordable option up the middle. He made $2.05 million this season, and hit .274 with 7 HR and 59 RBI's. At 34, he's starting to get a little long in the tooth, but he'll work for anyone needing to plug a hole.
Jerry Hairston, Jr. - Texas Rangers
Hairston got $2.3 million this season to hit .206 in 170 at-bats. He's 30, so his prospect days are over, and he doesn't have any power. In other words, Hairston is closer to an Easley or Bellhorn than a Graffanino or Belliard. I don't think the market for him is going to be very strong, and he might have to settle for a minor league contract.
Damian Jackson - Washington Nationals
Gee, another guy who should be avoided at all costs. Jackson hit .198, and is a career .243 hitter. He made $700,000 this year. Why, oh why, oh why?
Adam Kennedy - Los Angeles Angels
Kennedy made $3.35 million last year, and hit .273 with 55 RBI's for the Angels. Like Belliard, he's not a bad choice for a team that needs a serviceable 2B but doesn't want to spend the money to go after a Durham or Soriano (if he turns back into a 2B).
Mark Loretta - Boston Red Sox
Loretta had a solid season, hitting .285 with 5 HR's and 59 RBI's. Loretta just turned 35, which may explain why the Red Sox would like to go in a different direction next year, but at $3 million last year, Loretta was a bargain, and tops my list of the second-tier (Belliard, Kennedy, Loretta, Graffanino) options. If the Sox want to upgrade, they'll probably either make a run at Durham, or try to go a little younger with Belliard.
Junior Spivey - St. Louis Cardinals
Spivey didn't play this season after suffering an injury. He made $1.2 million, and will probably make $1 million from someone if he's able to come back in time for next year. A career .270 hitter, he falls into that "lower middle" tier of players like Graffanino.
Jose Valentin - New York Mets
Valentin is 37 years old, but he had a pretty good season, hitting .271 with 18 HR and 62 RBI's in 384 at-bats. Considering that he made just $912,500 I think he was a bargain. At some point, Valentin is not going to be able to deliver for whoever signs him, but for less than $1 million the risk is certainly justified.
Todd Walker - San Diego Padres
Walker can play some 1B as well as 2B, but he's not a great value. He made $2.5 million this year, and hit .278 with 9 HR and 53 RBI's in 442 at-bats. In other words, Valentin outperformed Walker in 58 fewer at-bats. Walker will end up somewhere, probably at about $2 million per. This would be overpaying - Walker's most productive years are behind him.
Chris Woodward - New York Mets
Woodward got paid $825,000 this year, and hit .216 with 3 HR's and 25 RBI's in 222 at-bats. Yet another middle infielder who isn't worth much, but will find a job as a bench player somewhere.
Eric Young - Texas Rangers
Yep . . . another one. Young is 39, he hit .203 in 138 at-bats, and he made $700,000. Retirement is in Young's future, but he'll probably get a minor-league deal from somebody if he wants to come back.
All in all a pretty uninspiring bunch. There are a number of guys up there who are not Major League caliber players anymore, but I would bet that only 1 or 2 of these guys don't find work next year with a Major League team; that's just the way the business works. The Twins should stay away from everyone on this list, as no one can help them at a position they need, and as they have perfectly acceptable under-performing bench players already on the team . . . why sign Damion Easley or Miguel Cairo when you have your very own Luis Rodriguez?