Last week, we covered the incredibly weak 2006 free agent shortstop class. This week, let's take a look at the similarly dry third baseman market.
Only three free agents are actually capable of holding down a starting third baseman job in the Major Leagues. There's no Adrian Beltre or Troy Glaus out there this year though.
The best of the bunch is clearly Scott Spiezo. Just playin'. Actually, Bill Mueller heads the class. Mueller managed a .295/.369/.430 line this year in 519 at-bats for Boston. The first two marks are exemplary - Mueller has always gotten on base. But the .430 slugging percentage is exactly average for an AL third baseman in 2005. The 34 year-old slugged .540 back in 2003, easily his career year. He even won a batting title that season.
Mueller will never approach that .540 mark again; he's just not a prototypical slugging third baseman. Any team bringing him in will have to make up the power elsewhere. In my Top 50 Free Agents list, I ranked Mueller 40th overall. When I revise the list, I may bump him up a few spots. My prediction is that Mueller will go to Milwaukee to plug their hot corner hole. Despite his 17 home runs, Bill Hall is best served in a utility role. The Dodgers and Twins are other possibilities.
Mueller has been a bargain on his two-year, $4.5MM deal. I think it'll take around two years, $8MM to sign Mueller this offseason.
After Mueller, we get to the truly average third baseman, Joe Randa. How many words do you really want to read about this guy? He always looks like he's smiling, and he doesn't suck. He's not good either. One year, $3MM to the Twins.
Nomar Garciaparra would easily jump to the top of the list if he ends up playing third base for his new team. Nomar's versatility adds value for him, and I think he could snag a two-year, $15MM deal. It's more than he deserves, but the market may demand it. The Dodgers could sign Garciaparra and have him play shortstop until Joel Guzman is ready. Then Nomar would slide over to third.
Nomar still has good pop, although his on-base skills may be slipping.
I ranked Garciaparra 12th overall on the Top 50 Free Agents list, and I may move him into the top ten upon further consideration. Besides the Dodgers, he may end up in Washington, Arizona, or Florida.
As far as bench dwellers, Brewers free agents Wes Helms and Jeff Cirillo can add a little bit of value. They hit lefties especially well.
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