If you’re looking for upside, look elsewhere. While Reyes and Rollins remain top-end free agent’s both come with considerable risk. After those two, defense becomes the focal point of the 2012 free agent shortstop crop.
1. Jose Reyes (29) – Jose will get paid this winter, but he’s far from a sure thing for any team that offers up the money. He hasn’t played in more than 133 games since 2008 and all of his injuries have occurred to his lower body; not good considering speed is such a vital part of his game. His 2011 line of .337/.384/.493 was fantastic, but it also came along with a career high .353 BABIP.
2. Jimmy Rollins (33) – Rollins is far removed from his NL MVP days, but he can still play a solid shortstop and produce some decent numbers at the plate. He’s looking for a lengthy deal, but given his age he might only be able to swing three or four years.
3. Rafael Furcal (34) – Injuries have really become a problem for Furcal over the last few years. While he still grades out well defensively, it’s anyone’s guess how long he’ll stay on the field. That being said, there is enough upside in his glove and bat to warrant plenty of attention and upside is something this free agent group lacks.
4. Clint Barmes (33) – Barmes may be the overlooked asset of this group. Those who focus on his AVG will miss the fact that he is an excellent defender with some pop in his bat. While Barmes may never be a great OBP guy, he still has the upside to be at least league average in that category.
5. Alex Gonzalez (34) – How many teams are interested in a career .247/.291/.399 hitter coming off a .241/.270/.372 season? Unfortunately, some team will. To be fair, Gonzalez can pop a few balls out of the yard and has been a good defensive shortstop over his career.
6. Ramon Santiago (32) – Santiago brings versatility to the field, though his arm strength doesn’t play as well at third or short. Offensively, he handles the bat well and has some pop. He’s the type of utility infielder that teams are always looking for.
7. John McDonald (37) – Well, he can play defense.
8. Caesar Izturiz (32) – Well, he can play defense.
9. Yunieski Betancourt (30) – If the Brewers exercise his $6M club option, I’ll walk to Milwaukee and slap Doug Melvin in the face (and that’s a long walk for me!). When you have a shortstop who consistently grades out as below average on defense and consistently posts OBPs below .300, you don’t really have much of an asset, let alone $6M one.
10. Jack Wilson (34) – Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel. Wilson, at one point, was a tremendous fielder, but injuries have been a major issue over the last few years. His bat basically hollow. A team looking to add a veteran defensive minded shortstop to their bench might give Wilson a look in 2012.