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Several big-name players with big-money pedigrees still available in MLB free-agent market

Jered Weaver
Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver throws to the Texas Rangers in the first inning of a game on Sept. 21, 2016.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

If you were a fan of the Angels’ 2013 rotation, you could acquire a big chunk of it for a fraction of what the team paid four years ago.

Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Joe Blanton and Jerome Williams, who made 102 starts in Anaheim while commanding $35.5 million in salary in 2013, are still available as free agents just days before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

You want big-name players with big-money pedigrees?

Sluggers Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau, along with pitchers Tim Lincecum, Jake Peavy and Jonathan Papelbon — who have combined for two most valuable player awards, three Cy Young awards, 19 All-Star game selections and $605 million in career earnings — are there for the taking.

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And if you’d like a veteran catcher in his prime, a four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner who has hit 20 homers or more in three seasons, one of those is available too.

In one of the more surprising developments of the off-season, catcher Matt Wieters, who hit .256 with a .739 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in eight years for the Baltimore Orioles and rates high in just about every defensive category except pitch-framing, is still without a job.

Wieters, 30, is clearly the best remaining player on the market, and since the Orioles declined to extend a $17.2-million qualifying offer last year, he is not tied to draft-pick compensation, which makes him even more attractive.

“There are eight or nine teams who, with the addition of Matt Wieters, are playoff contenders, and without him, they’re not,” agent Scott Boras said. “You’re getting both sides of the ball here. This guy is among the top five catchers in the game on offense and defense. Where do you get guys like that?”

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Boras listed two primary reasons for Wieters’ slow market. The switch-hitter had elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2014 and didn’t regain his All-Star form until May 2016. And some teams are balking at the price.

“You have an All-Star who made $16 million last season,” Boras said, “Teams know they have to make a major commitment to sign a player of his ability and stature.”

Several teams are reportedly interested in Wieters, including the Angels, Orioles, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, Colorado Rockies and Tampa Bay Rays.

Boras is confident Wieters will sign soon, but for now, the catcher has plenty of company in the unemployment line. A pretty good lineup could be made, supported by some competitive pitchers, with the pool of unsigned free agents. It would look something like this:

Catcher: Wieters

Wieters, limited to 101 games in 2014-2015, hit .243 with a .711 OPS, 17 homers and 66 runs batted in in 124 games in 2016. He has thrown out 31 of 92 base-stealers (33.7%) the last two seasons, allowed three passed balls in three years and guided pitchers to a 3.98 earned-run average in 980 1/3 innings last season, almost a run better than the 4.72 ERA other Orioles catchers had in 451 1/3 innings.

First base: Adam Lind

The left-handed-hitting Lind, 33, batted .239 with a .717 OPS, 20 homers and 58 RBIs in 126 games for Seattle last season but hit .291 with an .842 OPS, 49 homers and 194 RBIs in 245 games for Toronto and Milwaukee in 2014 and 2015. Best suited for a platoon role, Lind can also play left field.

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Second base: Aaron Hill

Hill, 34, is five years removed from a career-best season in which he hit .302 with 26 homers and 85 RBIs for Arizona, but he still hit a respectable .262 with a .714 OPS, 10 homers and 38 RBIs in 125 games for Milwaukee and Boston in 2016. He can also play third base.

Third base: Pedro Alvarez

Though he’s primarily a first baseman, the left-handed-hitting Alvarez, 30, can also play third base and could be a designated hitter for an American League club. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Alvarez hit .249 with an .826 OPS, 22 homers, 20 doubles and 49 RBIs in 109 games for Baltimore last season.

Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez

At 35, Ramirez is more suited for a utility role, but he was a solid starter for the Chicago White Sox for eight years, batting .273 with a .709 OPS, 109 homers, 227 doubles, 542 RBIs and 135 stolen bases from 2008-2015.

Left field: Michael Bourn

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With above-average speed and defense, Bourn, 34, has value as a fourth outfielder. He hit .264 with 15 stolen bases and 48 runs in 113 games last year but was particularly effective after an Aug. 31 trade from Arizona to Baltimore, hitting .283 with a .793 OPS in 24 games for the Orioles.

Center field: Angel Pagan

The 11-year veteran is agile enough to play three outfield spots, and he’s a switch-hitter with good plate discipline. Pagan, 35, was productive in 129 games for San Francisco last season, batting .277 with a .749 OPS, 12 homers, 55 RBIs, 24 doubles, 66 strikeouts and 42 walks.

Right field: Coco Crisp

The 37-year-old switch-hitter is reportedly sound after being slowed by a neck injury last season, and he showed after an Aug. 31 trade from Oakland to Cleveland that he still has pop. Crisp, who hit .231 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs in 122 games, hit two homers and two doubles in 26 playoff at-bats for the Indians.

Starting pitcher: Travis Wood

The 30-year-old left-hander is being marketed as a pitcher who can start or relieve. Wood went 4-0 with a 2.95 earned-run average in 77 relief appearances for the World Series-champion Chicago Cubs last season, striking out 47 and walking 24 in 61 innings, and he had a 4.19 ERA in 133 starts for the Cincinnati Reds and Cubs from 2010-2015.

Relief pitcher: Blanton

After his career as a starter fizzled in 2014, Blanton reinvented himself as a reliever and emerged as the primary setup man to Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen last season, going 7-2 with a 2.48 ERA in 75 games, striking out 80, walking 26 and giving up only 55 hits in 80 innings.

Best of the rest: Colby Lewis (RHP), Doug Fister (RHP), Jorge De La Rosa (LHP), Jonathon Niese (LHP), Weaver (RHP), Tommy Hunter (RHP), Seth Maness (RHP), Billy Butler (DH), Howard (1B/DH), Mourneau (1B/DH).

(C.J. Wilson reportedly has turned his attention toward auto racing.)

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

 

 


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