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State of play: Free agent corner infielders

Given the (extreme lack of) corner infield options beyond Kendrys Morales, it's a wonder teams haven't begged the Mariners to take the draft pick compensation off their hands.


We continue our trip around the diamond to examine the biggest free agents remaining at each position with a look at corner infielders. Like most of the other spots, the best of the best have been taken, but there are still at least a couple guys hanging around who could provide positive value in 2014:

Kendrys Morales, 30, 1B/DH

Morales is far and away the best corner infielder still available, but he's one of several players seemingly bogged down by the draft-pick compensation accompanying his qualifying offer. Rather than re-upping with the Mariners on a one-year, $14.1 million deal, the switch-hitting Morales opted to try his hand on the open market, and now he's stuck in a sort of limbo.

There are several clubs still on the prowl for a 1B/DH type, but none of them seem likely to offer more annually than Morales would have received if he had returned to Seattle. Morales' lack of mobility likely hinders his options: he played just 31 games at first base in 2013. Nevertheless, both AL and NL clubs are reportedly in pursuit of Morales, per Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, but just who is a mystery.

The Yankees and Angels were both tied to Morales at one point or another, but both have gone down other avenues to solve their DH issues. The Orioles have been speculated as well, but GM Dan Duquette said at the winter meetings that Morales was not on the radar.

The Pirates are in desperate need of a first baseman, but the biggest contract they've ever doled out to a free agent was the $17 million deal they gave Russell Martin last winter. Not only would Morales cost the Bucs record money, he'd also take away their first-round pick in the 2014 draft, pushing their first pick all the way down to 65th overall. The Brewers are the other club with the biggest need at the cold corner, but they're likely to have the same reservations as Pittsburgh.

Kevin Youkilis, 34, 1B/3B

Youkilis missed most of 2013 recovering from a herniated disc in his back, so there are big injury concerns surrounding him this winter. That'll make him a relatively cheap addition wherever he ends up, but it will also make him a rather risky gamble. Though Youk played in at least 100 games every season between 2006 and 2012, there were little nagging injuries that sidelined him each year and hinted at the bigger problems down the road, so the worst might not be behind him.

Youkilis has made it known that he'd prefer to play on the West Coast, close to his home in California, but his prospects on that front aren't very good. The Padres, Dodgers, Angels, Giants and Diamondbacks all have the corner infielders they need, and the Halos just solved their DH problem by signing Raul Ibanez.

If Youk is willing to go elsewhere, the Rays are reportedly interested in taking a chance on him. Tampa has James Loney locked in at first base for the near future, but the club is still on the market for a designated hitter. It is unlikely that he will return to the Yankees for a second season.

Jeff Baker, 32, UT

Baker came out of nowhere to have the best season of his career as a bench bat with the Rangers in 2013. The righty slugger was primarily used in situations against left-handed pitching, against whom he hit .314/.407/.667 with 10 home runs in 123 plate appearances on the year.

Baker is unlikely to get a starting job based off that performance, but he has drawn interest as a righty bench bat. The Yankees have checked in on Baker as a part-time guy to help man third and second. The Giants were in talks with him for a while as a platoon guy in left field, but they ended up going with Mike Morse instead.

Michael Young, 37, 1B/3B

Young really shouldn't be an option at the infield corners anymore, but here we are. He is still a somewhat serviceable hitter -- he batted .279/.335/.395 in 2013 -- but his defense cancels out all the positives he provides in the batter's box. The veteran infielder has cost his team 74 runs on defense over the last five seasons, but hasn't stopped clubs from checking in on him as a potential corner solution this winter.

The Brewers, Dodgers, Nationals and Rockies are all reportedly in the mix on Young, though Los Angeles might have moved on since re-signing Juan Uribe. Milwaukee seems to be the safest bet at the moment, as Young could share duties at first base with Juan Francisco, which would potentially limit his defensive gaffes.

Yuniesky Betancourt, 31, ?

And you thought it couldn't get any worse than Young!

Yuni is not actually a viable corner infield candidate, he's more a foil to demonstrate how bad the corner infield market is now that Mike Napoli and company are off the table. He should never have started at first or third for Milwaukee last season -- let alone in 127 games(!) -- and it is highly unlikely that he ever will again.

The Marlins (of course) were linked to Yuni in November, but they've gone after Rafael Furcal and Casey McGehee as answers at third and second instead.

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