Welcome to the boring part of the offseason. Pitchers and catchers are a week away from reporting, and the hot stove is off now that James Shields has been signed and fitted for his habit. So how can we pass the time? You could read a book, watch a movie, connect with a loved one, argue with strangers on Twitter … or you could embrace the spirit of Valentine's Day and seek relationships for nine interesting players who remain free agents. Let's do that.
What's his deal? Cabrera is the ultimate rarity on the free-agent market: a cheap, controllable, switch-hitting shortstop in the prime of his career with an all-star appearance under his belt.
Why's he available? Makeup issues. Cabrera's rap sheet since 2012 is unnervingly long: he's been arrested for domestic violence (though charges were later dropped), driving under the influence of marijuana, and resisting arrest. He was also, on a more trivial note, suspended as part of the Biogenesis scandal. It's hard to rely on a player on the field if you can't depend on him to make smart choices off of it, and Cabrera's judgment is very much in doubt.
Where's he fit? That Cabrera was non-tendered by the Padres and hasn't been signed by a shortstop-needy team like the Mets or Phillies yet is an indication of how the league views him. Still, it only takes one team to decide he's a changed man—and that one team is always assumed to be the Rays, who, in this case, are rumored to want another shortstop. The Rays have already ditched one shortstop with substandard makeup this offseason, so they might not want to stress rookie manager Kevin Cash by signing a character like Cabrera. It would probably be in Cabrera's best interest if he got his priorities in order before signing, so he might be available for a while longer.
What's his deal? Chamberlain topped the 50-inning mark for the first time since 2010, pitching effectively against lefties and righties alike and keeping the ball on the rug.
Why's he available? Durability has to be the biggest concern for most teams when it comes to Chamberlain, seeing as he's spent a month-plus on the DL in three of the past four seasons. Beyond that, Chamberlain's worsened numbers in the second half likely create concern; ditto for his increasing reliance upon his breaking balls (he didn't throw 50 percent or more fastballs in a single month). There's plenty to like with Chamberlain, but it's easy to see why teams have approached with caution.
Where's he fit? You could throw Chamberlain and his playoff-worthy beard on any contending team without much argument. Let's mark him for the Rangers instead though, because otherwise they'll enter the season with a largely unproven group.
Why's he available? Coke defies convention. You'd peg him as a left-handed specialist based on his mechanics and fastball/breaking-ball combination, yet he's not good enough against same-handed batters for that role. Likewise, righties are able to posterize him due to his release point and tendency to slow his arm when throwing changeups. Coke is, essentially, a tease without a role; superior in theory than in practice.
Where's he fit? Coke appeals to teams because he should be better than he is. Placed on the Pirates, you could envision him fulfilling his upside. Alas, the Pirates already have a guy like that on their roster. Here's wondering if the Mariners, thus far reluctant to re-sign Joe Beimel, would grab Coke as their second lefty and reunite him with Lloyd McClendon.
What's his deal? In his third stint with the Brewers, Rodriguez continued to prove he could pitch at a high level. He saved 44 games, made his fifth all-star team, and set a new career-best in strikeout-to-walk rate behind a still-quality changeup.
Why's he available? No team other than the Brewers will employ Rodriguez. He's pitched for Milwaukee in every season since 2011, leaving only once, following a late-season trade to the Orioles in 2013. Other teams' avoidance of Rodriguez seemingly stem from his checkered past, which includes, among other charges, assault and domestic violence (later dropped).
Where's he fit? The Brewers. What, you expected different?
What's his deal? Soriano had a productive season. He posted his best FIP in years, saved 32 games, and missed a higher percentage of bats with his fastball-slider combination than at any point since 2009.
Why's he available? As with most closers, Soriano is and has always been considered eccentric. What's more damning is he ended 2014 in horrid fashion, with eight of the 23 runs he allowed on the season crossing the plate in September. Soriano subsequently lost the ninth-inning job and created trepidation about his late-inning viability heading forward.
Where's he fit? PECOTA says the diciest ninth-inning situations in the majors belong to the Astros and the Orioles, but neither seems likely to grab Soriano. Rather Canada's team makes the most sense for Soriano, as the Blue Jays' middle-relief unit is projected to be the worst in baseball. Conversely, the Jays' late-inning trio (Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, and Steve Delabar) is seen as fine, so adding Soriano in any capacity would strengthen the bridge from Toronto's starters to its closer, whomever that may be.
What's his deal? Not far from his 26th birthday, Viciedo is one of the youngest free agents available. He's also one of the most powerful, as you would expect from a man nicknamed "Tank", having posted a .212 ISO against southpaws over the past three seasons.
Why's he available? Much like Weeks, Viciedo is a poor defender and ungraceful athlete, as you would expect from a man nicknamed "Tank". Unlike Weeks, Viciedo's approach at the plate is impatient and undisciplined. He likes to swing the bat and is willing to stretch the plate, making him easy pickings for right-handed pitchers and leading to a career 5.3 percent walk rate.
Where's he fit? The ideal home for Viciedo is somewhere in the AL, where he can place his glove in public storage and serve as a platoon DH. However, there is no team with an obvious need for a limited, non-elite right-handed hitter. The Orioles have Delmon Young, the Angels have C.J. Cron, the Rangers have Kyle Blanks, the always-flexible Rays almost never employ multiple defensive liabilities, and so on. The Reds have rumored interest in Viciedo, so they're probably the favorites.
What's his deal? Used mostly against left-handed pitchers in 2014, Weeks batted .274/.357/.452, resulting in the second-best True Average of his career and third-best among second basemen with more than 250 plate appearances.
Why's he available? Weeks can hit southpaws, but that's his lone marketable attribute. He's a nominal second baseman who opted against getting his learner's permit with the Brewers at another position late last season. "Right now, I'm a second baseman," he explained. Right now, Weeks is an unemployed second baseman, which could alter his stance on playing left field and first base. It's not as though Weeks is without issues at the plate, either. He's always struggled against right-handed pitching and with keeping his strikeouts in check. Plus, for as good as his 2014 was, it came after campaigns that were the worst and third-worst of his career. He's obviously a high-beta player.
Where's he fit? PECOTA projects the Blue Jays to have the third-poorest keystone situation in the majors, behind two unlikely suitors for Weeks, in the Giants and Braves. Signing Weeks would improve Toronto's bench as well, since it would push Maicer Izturis back to the utility role he flourished in during his days with Anaheim. The match almost seems too logical to happen.
What's his deal? Wright signed his first guaranteed contract in nearly a decade last offseason, then tossed more than 70 innings for the second year in a row, all the while coercing more than 60 percent ground balls.
Why's he available? Wright is nearly always available at this point in the year. He's signed in February in three of the past six offseasons, with two of the exceptions coming during January's final week. The tangible reasons for Wright's unemployment deal with his age (40) and lack of upside. He's fine as a groundball-minded middle reliever, but the jarring amount of young bullpen talent around the league could leave him out in the cold for longer than usual.
Where's he fit? Any place that has a bullpen, a mound, and an infield. By choice or chance, Wright seems to favor the west coast—he's pitched in California or Washington in four of the past five seasons. His ideal landing spot might be with the Angels then, who could use some insurance in case Vinnie Pestano and their homegrown arms aren't up to snuff.
What's his deal? The oft-injured Young enjoyed a resurgence last season, posting his most innings and best ERA+ since his all-star 2007.
Why's he available? Young is a medical red flag with an extensive history of shoulder woes. He's also an unconventional talent whose stuff—mid-to-upper-80s fastball and blah slider—fails to inspire confidence or retire left-handed hitters. Young succeeds in leveraging his height into a deep release point that allows him to live up in the zone, yet his 25 percent groundball rate was the worst among pitchers with 100 or more innings, making him an awkward fit for teams in hitter-friendly parks. It doesn't help Young's case that he was pitiful in four September starts, allowing 20 hits, 16 runs, eight walks, and seven homers over 14 innings pitched.
Where's he fit? Young lacks a clear suitor. Presumably he'll land on whichever of the Mariners, Royals, Tigers, and/or Marlins sustains a starting-pitcher injury first.