Yesterday, Jason started our tour of top free agents with a look at starting pitchers. Today we're looking at third basemen.
1) Hanley Ramirez (30)
2) Pablo Sandoval (28)
This visit gets off to a rather anticlimactic start, as the top two names are already off the board. The Red Sox, who had some issues at 3B last year, apparently decided to corner the market, grabbing both Ramirez (who has been a SS but was mostly being considered for 3B roles) and Sandoval this week. Sandoval will be locking down 3B for Boston for the next five years, at a cost of $95 million. With that spot filled and SS owned by Xander Bogaerts, Ramirez and his four-year, $88 million contract will apparently be stationed in front of the Green Monster in left.
Realistically, the Indians were not going to sign either of these players, so having them off the market is no loss. In fact, it may be a gain. With talk that the Tribe may be interested in Chase Headley (see below) and the potential for that to free up Lonnie Chisenhall for a trade, having the top two 3B off the market to one team could make Chiz an even more attractive trade chip.
3) Chase Headley (30)
The former Padre and Yankee is now a free agent and with the two names above him gone, expect the bidding to get intense. His poor offense, outside of a 2012 breakout, may scare off some bidders, but the Yankees are supposedly still interested, the Padres and Giants lost out on Sandoval, and others, including the Blue Jays and White Sox were reported to be in on Sandoval, as well. Basically, there will be a lot of competition for Headley.
Jason lays out the details well, so I won't repeat them, but there are some serious barriers to this coming together for the Tribe. Lonnie Chisenhall is ticketed for 3B and the team is high on his potential successor, Giovanny Urshela. The potential for an intense bidding war also does not bode well for the Indians. I'd rather see the Indians pass on this one, unless they get a steal, somehow. But look for a contract in the $12-$15MM per year range over 3-4 years, likely with a team that does not play its home games in Ohio.
After this, 3B gets thin. Aramis Ramirez and the Brewers exercised their mutual option. Mark Reynolds isn't attracting a ton of attention and will more likely end up at 1B (or DH) than 3B. Juan Francisco was cut by Toronto, claimed by Boston, and has now been cut by Boston, which gives you a sense of his value. After that, there really is not much to write home about.
How are the Indians set up here, and what should they do?
We've talked about this a bit already - the Indians have Chisenhall, coming off a break-out (and then break-down) 2013. Behind him, Givoanny Urshela was displaying new-found potential with the bat, to go along with his highly-regarded glove, before tweaking his knee playing winter ball. That doesn't include the potential logjam at MI, where Francisco Lindor is destined to hold down SS, but Jose Ramirez could force a decision to make room for him, too, which could mean playing Ramirez or Jason Kipnis in the outfield... or at 3B.
With so many options at the hot corner, adding Headley doesn't make a ton of sense. But he is the only legitimate candidate for the Tribe to add. Any other FA wouldn't be an upgrade over in-house options.
Another option is for the Indians to pass on Headley and still consider trading Chisenhall, using his value to fill RF, DH, or perhaps a SP slot. This would open a chance for Urshela to win the 3B job, or to give Mike Aviles a regular position, at least until Lindor forces Ramirez to 3B. That depends heavily on whether the Indians can get a piece for Chisenhall who they value more than him, but it is certainly a possibility.