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It seems like we get the most debate on here when we start talking about the shortstop options for next season. That surprises me because I think DH and starting pitcher are far more pressing concerns at the moment but I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at the possibilities.

The option I liked, before he signed with the Dodgers, was Rafael Furcal. Furcal would have been an upgrade at short and more importantly, to me, an upgrade at the leadoff spot.  He signed for far less than what I thought he would get, basically getting $10 million a year for 3 years with a vesting option year. I'm not sure why the Jays dropped out if that was what he was going for, they can't have thought they'd pick him up for less.

Anyway, our options, I'll list their batting numbers for the past three seasons and their age:

Marco Scutaro: Age 33

Year    Games        Averages      OPS+
2006      117 .     266/.350/.397     96
2007      104      .260/.332/.361     89
2008      145      .267/.341/.356     87

Our incumbent, a very consistent hitter, we know what we are going to get. I hated Cito using him at the top of the order. Those numbers at the bottom of the order would have been ok but, to me, he doesn't get on enough to leadoff. But from the start of June onward he hit 1st or 2nd almost all the time.

Beyond the Boxscore had him as the 7th best SS in baseball last year, tied for the best SS in the AL, largely on the strength of his glove. In fact they list him as the 51st best player in baseball last year. And he was super defensively; ratings show him as the best defensive SS in baseball. Now some of his defensive value came from the innings he played at 2B and 3B, but had he played every day at SS his defensive numbers would likely have been higher.

The knock on him is the ‘utility player' label. I don't know what this really has to do with the discussion of who should play SS. Yeah he's been a utility guy, but he played 145 games last year, would he be more difficult to play 145 games all at short? Would he forget how to field a ball if his label changed?

He is not great but what team in the AL has a great shortstop. If he could get on base a little more and field almost as well as last year....we could do a lot worse.

John McDonald: Age 34

Year     Games        Averages       OPS+
2006      104 .     223/.271/.308       50
2007      123      .251/.279/.333       61
2008        84      .210/.255/.269       40

I'll admit, I thought if he could hit .250 and get his on base up a bit, with his defense, he could be a useful player. Last year cured me of that. When you get on at a .255 rate there is no amount of defense that could make you valuable. And last year his defense wasn't as good as it had been in the past. He seemed to be trying to do too much and he made some bad errors at the wrong times.

At the start of the season John made all the right noises about taking pitches and getting on base but the season started and he didn't hit at all.

There was an interesting moment during the stretch when Cito was using MacDonald everyday at short, Cito mentioned that John hit better when he pulled the ball. For a couple weeks after that he seemed to be trying to pull every pitch. But with Cito publicly pointing it out pitchers were throwing to the outside part of the plate and Mac pulled a lot of outside pitches softly to short. I think that telling your opponents that player X is going to try to pull every pitch is maybe not the best strategy.

Anyway, I wouldn't feel confident having Johnny Mac being our full time shortstop.

Orlando Cabrera: Age 34

Year     Games       Averages       OPS+
2006      153       .282/.335/.404     91
2007      155      .301/.345/.397      95
2008      161      .281/.334/.371      84

Richard Griffin's favourite. He seems to be pushing for a Cabrera signing so much that I figure he must get a cut of any contract he signs. One of his reasons is that Cabrera is a ‘winner'. That is one of those statements you can't argue because, well, you don't know what it means. What it means to me is that when he is on good teams they win and when he's on bad teams they lose. Sort of like anyone else.

As you can see Marco and Orlando have hit about the same the last three years. Defensively, Marco was clearly better last year but likely they would be fairly even. Griffin suggested Cabrera would be signed for $32 million for 4 years. Since Furcal only got $30 million and 3 years I think we can down grade our estimate of what Orlando might sign for. With fewer teams interested in picking up a shortstop now, I'm wondering if Cabrera will have to settle for a one year contract and hope things go better next year. I can't imagine anyone would want to give a 34 year old SS a four year deal right now.

Beyond the Boxscore has Orlando ranked as the 14th best SS in baseball last year. His defence is good, he won a Gold Glove in 2007, but his ratings this season were just a little better than average

I'm softening a little on the idea of signing Cabrera.When it looked like he would get $8 mill a year I thought no way should we give a guy only marginally better than Marco 4 times the money Marco gets. Now? Well we could likely get him for a little more than twice what Scoot gets....and, well, I'd still rather use that money to improve the DH spot.

Bobby Crosby: Age 29

Year Games Averages OPS+
2006       96      .229/.298/.338      67
2007       93      .226/.278/.341      68
2008     145      .237/.296/.349      76

The A's have placed Crosby on waivers, hoping someone will take him so they don't have to pay him the $5.75 million he is owed next year. If you look at his numbers over the last three years, you can see why. Players are put on waivers all time, I'm sure they don't figure that that anyone will pick him up without them having to send some money with him.

Crosby was Rookie of the Year in 2004 when he hit 22 home runs. Since then, well last year was the first time since that he played more than 100 games. He hasn't hit 10 homers in a year since his rookie year. Defensively he's not bad. Offensively, well, where ever he plays next year they will be hoping he finds his stroke again. And at 29 it is possible he will, but last year he played a full season, and he didn't hit at all. And he was relatively injury free last year.

As a reclamation project he might be worth a shot but no one is going to take on a $5.75 million dollar contract for reclamation project, lest of all the Jays. Cabrera won't get much beyond $2 million more than that. And, of course, if he has the season he had last year, anyone would rather have Scutaro out there even if they were being paid the same amount.

The A's will have to eat a lot of salary to get rid of him, and they just might. Even if we want him we should hold off until they do. But I don't see him as a big upgrade.

J.J. Hardy: Age 26

Year    Games        Averages         OPS+
2007      151       .277/.323/.463     100
2008      146       .283/.343/.478     113

We would have to make a trade with the Brewers to pick him up and they won't just give him away. I would offer Ryan and a prospect, but I'm not sure the Brewers would want to take on Ryan's contract. Beyond the Boxscore has JJ as the 4th best SS in baseball. He would be a huge upgrade at short and his defense is good. He would look great in the middle of our batting order. I'd love him, but I'm not sure the Jays could offer enough to get him away from the Brewers.

Jack Wilson: Age 31

Year    Games       Averages         OPS+
2006     142      .273/.316/.370        77
2007     135      .296/.350/.440      105
2008       87      .272/.312/.348        77

Pirates wouldn't mind giving away his contract. His defence is good, some years he bats better than other years. Beyond the Boxscore had him at 25th best SS. JP is on record as not wanting him and I can't say I disagree. He is to be paid $7.25 million next season and $8.4 million 2010, if the Pirates want to move him they will have to kick in some of that salary. Really, even if they did pay much of his salary I still don't think he'd be an upgrade from Scutaro but your mileage might vary.

Others available on the free agent market include Omar Vizquel, Nomar Garciaparra and Alex Cora as well as a handful of others I wouldn't be interested in.

Personally, unless we can get Hardy, I'm for staying with what we have, I'd much rather put any money that would be spent on another SS towards a DH.