Marlins first baseman Jorge Cantu has a strong chance of being available this offseason, assuming the Marlins do not want to give him an arbitration raise on his $3.5 million salary.
The 27-year-old corner infielder will be 28 by spring training and has spent the last two seasons in Miami, driving in runs at an impressive rate for a middle-of-the pack offensive unit. Cantu smacked 100 RBIs while posting a .289 batting average in 2009. Although he lost some pop by dipping from 29 homers in 2008 to just 16 this summer, Cantu did improve on his on-base percentage from .327 to .345. Over a 162-game average in his six-year career, Cantu averages 22 homers, 99 RBIs, a .278 batting average and a .323 on-base percentage.
The Texas native could prove to be a very important cog in Boston's lineup, should the soon-to-be 36-year-old Mike Lowell be as unreliable as he was this past summer. Or, if Boston doesn't have plans to use Lowell as an everyday contributor, Cantu could be a bargain this offseason to take the reigns at first base for the coming years.
Cantu played the majority of games at first base this past season but has started nearly 250 career games at the hot corner, meaning the Red Sox can use the versatile weapon in a variety of ways, starting with the team sliding Kevin Youkilis to third to make Cantu the team's everyday first baseman. Should Terry Francona want to give Youkilis a breather and Victor Martinez's knees a rest, Cantu can shift to third. When the Red Sox face lefties, Tito can has the option to sit down David Ortiz and plug in the right-handed hitting Cantu as the DH, as Cantu owns a .280 batting average, .469 slugging percentage and .799 OPS in 745 career plate appearances against southpaws.
The former Rays' slugger has four years of familiarity in the AL East, so a move from the small crowds of southern Florida to the bright lights of Fenway and Yankee Stadium shouldn't scare off the Marlins cleanup hitter.
Assuming the Fish won't offer the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder an offseason raise, one can imagine they aren't looking for much in return via trade. With Boston's well-stocked farm system, Boston's brass just may be able to pull out a smart deal for this reliable bat to plug in at the No. 5 or No. 6 slot.