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01/12/10 8:40 PM EST

Market thins, but remains plentiful

Several free agents unsigned as teams sort out rosters

Like last year, there are still plenty of free agents left on the market as we hit the middle of January.

But, with apologies for butchering the words of the underrated Canadian troubadour Don McLean, while last February made a lot of players shiver with every contract offer not delivered, a recent slew of signings makes 2010 look a bit more promising.

The past week saw the Reds nail down Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, who's 22 and one of the better available arms, and other names freshly plucked from the big league list included Adrian Beltre (Red Sox), Vladimir Guerrero (Rangers), Brett Myers (Astros), Scott Podsednik (Kansas City), Jack Cust (A's), Eric Hinske (Braves), Aubrey Huff (Giants), Khalil Greene (Rangers), Ryan Church (Pirates) and Dan Johnson (Rays).

Rumors and rumblings continue to swirl throughout Hot Stove Town, where a bargain or two can still be found under just about every single awning. Here's a quick rundown of the best players still looking for jobs in 2010, and where they might fit in:

This group got significantly thinner now that Hinske and Huff signed, and the word is that Adam LaRoche, the de facto front-runner in this category, is still holding out for big bucks, having reportedly turned down a two-year, $17 million offer from the Giants.

The word on the street has the two clubs Carlos Delgado has played for -- the Mets and Blue Jays -- being in the bidding for the veteran slugger's services as he continues to try to prove his health in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

Meanwhile, at least one formerly interested team has officially pulled out of the Russell Branyan sweepstakes, with Branyan's 2009 team, the Mariners, trading with Boston for Casey Kotchman to play first in 2010.

Otherwise, Hank Blalock, Ryan Garko, Jason Giambi and Mike Jacobs are still looking for work and might get it soon as this crop continues to dry up.

Orlando Hudson didn't sign with the Dodgers until Feb. 20 of last year, but there's a chance he'll be inking with someone sooner than that, and that someone could be the Washington Nationals, who reportedly might be willing to give the 32-year-old a two-year deal. Or it could be the Mets, who might trade Luis Castillo to make room for Hudson.

Very quietly, the man who got most of Hudson's at-bats down the stretch for Los Angeles last season, Ronnie Belliard, is still available, too, as are Felipe Lopez, Adam Kennedy and Jerry Hairston Jr. in a category that hasn't moved much since the end of the World Series.

Miguel Tejada remains on the market after an 86-RBI season for the Astros, but there have been reports of the Cardinals possibly willing to give Tejada what he wants to come to the Gateway City for a year and play third base, replacing Mark DeRosa.

The other big name on this short list, Orlando Cabrera, hasn't had much tire-kicking in his direction lately. That could be because of his .316 on-base percentage and .705 OPS for the Twins last year.

Melvin Mora is one of the better hot-corner options that can be had, and he told the Baltimore Sun that three teams -- the Rockies, Cardinals and Angels -- had contacted his agent.

Joe Crede, notorious for solid defense, a little pop and injury problems (he had only 333 at-bats in Minnesota last year) also is on the market, but he hasn't been mentioned much on the Hot Stove circuit.

Headliner Bengie Molina, who has been linked all along to the Mets, reportedly asked New York for something along the lines of three years and $20 million. Then the Mets took on outfielder Jason Bay for a potential five-year, $80 million commitment, which means they're probably not going to give Molina a three-year deal. Some reports indicate the Mets might shoot for another available backstop such as Yorvit Torrealba or Rod Barajas.

After those options, the backup market remains plentiful, with Bengie's brother, Jose, Brad Ausmus and Mike Redmond among those available.

Johnny Damon might continue to be waiting out the Yankees, but those negotiations haven't produced anything tangible yet, and the Giants seem to be out of the mix for the veteran now that they've signed DeRosa. Reports continue to speculate on potential Damon destinations, with the Angels, Braves and Mariners having been mentioned.

If Damon doesn't end up back in the Bronx, the Yankees might turn to one of their other former players, right-handed hitter Xavier Nady, who's also been linked to another team he used to play for, the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Yanks also could re-sign Hairston Jr. and put him in the outfield, or look to a cheaper alternative in Rocco Baldelli or Reed Johnson.

Rick Ankiel is out there, too, but the Pirates' interest in him has reportedly waned. Jonny Gomes and Marcus Thames could provide some power off the bench for a contender, and veteran switch-hitter Randy Winn might garner some interest soon, although he told MLB.com that he hasn't heard from the Nationals, who have been linked to him in stories this winter.

The versatile Alfredo Amezaga also remains available, as does Garret Anderson, who didn't sign until Feb. 22 last year and will have to be patient once again.

Two of the guys left in this category are possible Hall of Famers, as Jim Thome and Gary Sheffield are both free agents, and while neither would be a solid bet to start in anyone's outfield any time soon, both can still bring a fearsome bat to a lineup if healthy.

The Cubs are hot on the heels of Ben Sheets, the Brewers are going to be meeting with Mark Mulder, the Dodgers might have set their sights on Joel Pineiro -- who's also been linked to the Mets, Cubs and Nationals -- and the Mets have denied that they're interested in bringing back Pedro Martinez.

That's the latest in the slowly thinning starting-pitching market, according to various recent reports.

In the sub-category of the slightly lower-priced innings-eater, Jarrod Washburn, who's repped by Scott Boras, reportedly turned down a one-year, $5 million offer from the Twins. Meanwhile, lefty Doug Davis expressed to MLB.com a desire to pitch for the Nationals, while Jon Garland also was linked to the Mets in the past week.

But don't forget about Erik Bedard, who might end up back with his original team, the Orioles, plus John Smoltz, Mike Hampton, Noah Lowry, Chien-Ming Wang, Vicente Padilla and Braden Looper.

The biggest bullpen name left, Jose Valverde, might not be around too much longer, with the Detroit Tigers and maybe as many as four other teams continuing to eye him.

Kevin Gregg is still out there, and so is Octavio Dotel, whose name has been linked to Pittsburgh. Otherwise, the Giants were reportedly in touch with the agent for Kiko Calero.

Still on the board are former All-Star and MLB.com Setup Man of the Year Brendan Donnelly, Chan Ho Park, Guillermo Mota, Chad Bradford and lefties Joe Beimel, Ron Mahay and Scott Schoeneweis.

Doug Miller is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.