Don’t look now, but pitchers and catchers report next week! With the start of spring training right around the corner, I thought we’d take a look at some of the prominent free agents who will be changing uniforms this year…

Yankees
The Yankees are having a bit of a rough offseason. They lost out on ace Cliff Lee at the last minute to the Phillies, their longtime steady All-Star pitcher Andy Pettitte decided to retire and then they were raked over the coals by Derek Jeter to sign him to an extension. Meanwhile, the Red Sox went out and brought in a ton of talent mainly Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Bobby Jenks to name a few.

So what did the Yanks do to compensate? Well besides locking up Rivera and Rafael Soriano for their bullpen, they went out and signed Andruw Jones, Bartolo Colon, Mark Prior and now Eric Chavez. These pickups would have been great if the year was 2004 and not 2011. Three of these deals are minor league deals, but wow could they be anymore desperate for starting pitching. If one of the following, Colon-Prior-Chavez, stick I would be shocked.

Rays sign some idiots
The Rays reunited outfielders Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez from their days in Boston, signing them both two one-year deals. Both players are winding down their careers and are not the same players they once were, but it will be interesting to see how their veteran presence will be on a young team that lost Crawford, Garza and Soriano in the offseason. They don’t have the power they used to process as Manny hit nine total compared to Damon’s eight last year. If one of the two can rebound from a mediocre 2010, it’ll pay dividends for Tampa.

Rangers give six years to Beltre
Texas used the money saved for Cliff Lee to pickup Adrian Beltre in a six-year, $96M deal. Didn’t the Rangers learn their lesson on the A-Rod deal that strapped them for years down the road. Beltre had a sterling season last year (.321/.365/.553), there’s no doubt about that. But it was a big improvement from 2009 when he struggled with the Mariners. Plus, Beltre will be 32 in early April, and I’m not so sure giving a 32-year-old with Beltre’s track record a six-year deal is a great idea. Besides the Rangers need pitching, not hitting at this point.

Dunn to White Sox
Adam Dunn signed with the Chi Sox for a four-year, $56MM deal. Dunn’s a player that has hit an average of 40.3 home runs each year since 2004. Now, he moves to an extreme home run hitter’s park in Chicago at the age of 31, Dunn may absolutely rake in the lineup that features Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin.

Quick hits:

Vlad and Lee sign with the Orioles: Minus the postseason, Vladimir Guerrero had a terrific 2010 season with the Rangers, hitting .300/.345/.496 with 29 home runs. His decline in the postseason is a worry for the O’s, but I think Vlad will at least be productive this year though not to 2010’s standards. As for Derrek Lee, he will be looking for a bounce back year in new scenery in Baltimore after seeing his home run total drop from 35 in 2009 to 19 in 2010, including just three dingers after being dealt to Atlanta in August.

Matsui lands in Oakland: Hideki Matsui ended up being one of the most consistent producers for the Angels last year and should provide some much-needed power and experience for the A’s in 2011. If he stays healthy, 20-25 home runs shouldn’t be a problem.

Cubs land Pena: Along with upgrading their rotation with a trade for Garza, the Cubs signed Pena to a one-year, $10MM deal. Pena will provide some power the Cubs need, but I don’t care how many home runs he hits, he better cut down some strikeouts and improve that .198 average.

Javier Vazquez returns to the NL: Vazquez is coming off probably his worst season in the majors since his rookie year. He posted a 5.32 ERA while his strikeouts decreased and his walks went up with the Yanks. Signing a one-year, $7MM deal with Florida, he hopes to turn some magic back in the NL where he’s been extremely more effective throughout his 13-year career.

Thank goodness it’s almost Friday signaling the end of the work week. Let’s take a look at some links around the internet and various blogs on this Thursday night.

MLB Trade Rumors does a nice piece on the significant remaining free agents that still hope to play again this season. Probably the biggest surprise to me was one Boston Globe writer that believes Gary Sheffield will sign with a team soon. I thought Sheff would be on his way to retirement, but that could be put on hold this year. Jermaine Dye is also still available as well as Elijah Dukes, who was dumped by the Nationals a few days prior to the season. As we head farther into the season, teams who are hurting with injuries or a struggling young player will break down and sign these free agents eventually.

Cleveland Indians pitcher Chris Perez is a baby. Perez obviously didn’t think too highly of the way the Angels beat his Indians the other day on a walkoff bunt, but didn’t it work if it caught the Tribe by surprise? Move on, Chris, and worry about your not so effective pitching one month into the year.

So who’s this Ike Davis fellow that was called up by the Mets and is raking through his first 10 games? Well BR’s Stat of the Day breaks down his game logs through 10 games as the Mets have gone 9-1 since Ike Davis arrived in New York. Not a bad way to start a career—hit .355 and help your team roll to a 9-1 homestand. Mets will cheer anyone who helps to turn around a stretch of miserable recent seasons.

Adam LaRoche has apparently figured out how to hit in April. He hit another two home runs in today’s afternoon win over the Cubs. Of course LaRoche would leave Pittsburgh and then suddenly start raking the ball in April. The knock on LaRoche was always the slow start before he really turned it on midseason and would end would solid numbers all around. So he could be on his way to a huge season with no slow start to haunt him. Maybe Mark Teixeira can call Adam up and see what he’s doing differently this month because Teixeira is struuuuuggggling at the plate (.133/.293/.253).

It’s that time in spring training when teams start looking at their 25-man roster and current injuries and wonder if it’s worth it to make a play at a 30-something-year-old free agent. Garrett Anderson was one of those free agents until the 37-year-old outfielder signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers last week. Anderson was not exactly effective last season with the Braves (.268/.303/.401) with 13 home runs in 135 games. It remains to be seen if Anderson will cash in on the minor league deal and make the Dodgers as a left-handed bat coming off the bench.

Similar to Anderson, there are about a dozen of older, big name free agents still for sale on the market. The question is—are these guys worth the risk and can they still produce even in the late stage of their career? The Braves were obviously looking for more from Anderson last year, and he failed to deliver. Let’s take a look at some of the notable free agents remaining in no particular order:

Carlos Delgado
Jermaine Dye
Jason Isringhausen
Joe Crede
Pedro Martinez
Gary Sheffield
Rich Aurilia
Jarrod Washburn
Dmitri Young
Mike Hampton
Braden Looper

The name that jumps out to me on this list is Dye. I’m not sure why the 37-year-old slugger remains jobless on March 19. I realize that over the past couple years MLB teams are reluctant to sign older players, but Dye has done nothing to prove he can’t produce at his age. Last year with the White Sox, he hit 27 homers and while his average dipped to .250, he still managed to walk enough for a .340 on-base percentage in 141 games. One place Dye could end up is Washington where the Nationals are suddenly in need of a starting outfielder after releasing Elijah Dukes earlier this week. I would be shocked if Dye didn’t find a team before Opening Day.

Pedro also remains unsigned after pitching well for the Phillies (5-1, 3.63) after signing a second half deal with the National League champs, but he could likely be waiting for that midseason call again from a contender. On the other hand, Delgado and Sheffield may be staring retirement in the face. Both sluggers’ game has declined especially last season due to injuries, and Delgado has already publicly said he would retire if he did not find a team in 2010.

Crede’s rough luck continued in 2009 as his season was cut short due to an injury again. He remains unemployed, but if he’s healthy some team will take a flier. I also predict Washburn and Looper will definitely find work, but it may be tough for the rest.

The game has already lost some good players to retirement at some point this offseason: Randy Johnson, Doug Brocail, Aaron Boone, Nomar Garciaparra, Mark Loretta, Brian Giles, Darin Erstad, Troy Percival, Jason Schmidt, Scott Eyre and Greg Norton. And you know what, I’m also going to add John Smoltz and Rocco Baldelli to the list. Both players have taken jobs off the field with Smoltz as an analyst for TBS and MLB Network and Baldelli as a “special assistant” to the Rays front office. I really don’t see a team picking up either of these players after they take some time off. Baldelli is still under 30, but everyone knows about his injury-riddled career that never amounted to the potential that seemed to always follow him.

It just seems to gets harder for these older players to find jobs in today’s game. There are exceptions to the rule as Ken Griffey Jr. continues to hack away in his second stint in Seattle despite hitting just .214 last year. Recently, we’ve seen teams trying to get younger every year, and the risk of picking up a 38-year-old bat or arm becomes too great for some teams to take.