Nov 1, 2011, 10:30 AM EDT
With Monday’s option deadline having passed, here’s take two of the winter’s top 111 free agents. Please note that I rank players not on how I rate them but rather on how I believe teams will rate them; essentially, I’m ranking them according to how valuable their contracts will be.
(All ages are as of April 1, 2012. Compensation noted as Type A or Type B when applicable)
Since the original list came out in June, six members of the top 20 have come off the board (CC Sabathia, Chris Carpenter, Brandon Phillips, Nick Swisher, Ryan Dempster and J.J. Hardy). But while this year’s second tier of free agents looks pretty weak (unless one is looking for a closer), there is a fair amount of depth. I’ll be counting them down over the next six days, starting with…
111. Chris Young (Age 32, Mets): Young had a 1.88 ERA in four starts for the Mets before his latest shoulder surgery knocked him out for the year. He expects to be healthy for 2012, but he probably won’t get more than a $1 million guarantee as part of an incentive-laden deal.
110. Mark DeRosa (Age 37, Giants): Because of wrist problems, DeRosa played in just 73 games and hit one home run over the course of his two-year, $12 million contract with the Giants. He turns 37 in the spring, so he may be finished as a useful player. However, if it looks like he’ll be healthy, several contenders will come calling with offers of a bench role.
109. Dan Wheeler (Age 34, Red Sox, Type B): Wheeler got off to a dreadful start last season, rebounded to amass a 1.80 ERA in 30 innings from June through the end of August and then struggled again along with the rest of the Red Sox in September. Boston declined his $3 million option and probably won’t make much of an attempt to re-sign him at a lesser price. It’s time for him to return to the NL.
108. Zach Duke (Age 29, Diamondbacks): Arizona decided it was worth giving Duke a $4.25 million guarantee after he went 8-15 with a 5.72 ERA with the Pirates in 2010 and then seemed surprised when he didn’t pitch well enough to keep his rotation spot. He actually ended the season with a 4.93 ERA in 76 2/3 innings, but it doesn’t look like there are many believers left now.
107. Ivan Rodriguez (Age 40, Nationals): Rodriguez wants to play another three years, but even so, it’s not at all likely that he’s going to get the 156 hits he needs for 3,000. Having batted .255/.291/.341 over 522 at-bats with the Nationals these last two years, he’ll likely be viewed strictly as a backup this winter.
106. Guillermo Mota (Age 38, Giants): Used primarily in low leverage situations, Mota soaked up 80 1/3 innings for the Giants last season, racking up 77 strikeouts along the way. Someone figures to throw $1.5 million or so his way.
105. Reed Johnson (Age 35, Cubs): Johnson turned in his best offensive season since 2006 in his return to the Cubs, hitting .309/.348/.467. He’s become a ridiculous hacker, posting a 113/10 K/BB ratio in 448 at-bats the last two years, but at least he still knows how to work the HBP as well as anyone this side of Carlos Quentin.
104. Aaron Cook (Age 33, Rockies): It’d be a shame if Cook were done, but with ERAs of 5.08 and 6.03 the last two years, it appears as though it might be the case. A gutty performer who managed to tame Coors Field with one of the game’s better sinkers, he’s lost his best stuff due to shoulder problems.
103. Juan Cruz (Age 33, Rays): Often Joe Maddon’s pick to come in when the Rays were down a run or two, Cruz managed to go 5-0 with a 3.88 ERA in 48 2/3 innings last season. His awful walk rate hasn’t gotten any better with age, so he’s a tough guy to trust. Still, there are still several pitching coaches who wouldn’t mind getting a hold of him.
102. Lyle Overbay (Age 35, Diamondbacks): After getting let go by the Pirates, Overbay hit .286/.388/.452 line in 42 at-bats for the Diamondbacks. His season line wasn’t nearly as impressive: .234/.310/.360 in 394 at-bats. He’ll probably come off the board late while waiting to see what teams can do better at first base.
101. Ronny Cedeno (Age 29, Pirates): The Pirates declined Cedeno’s $3 million option after he hit just .249/.297/.339 in 413 at-bats last season, but they may have interest in him at a lesser price. It’s hard to imagine him finding a starting job elsewhere.
100. Ben Sheets (Age 33, free agent): Besides the standard Tommy John surgery, Sheets also had two tendons replaced in his elbow in Aug. 2010, putting his future as a pitcher in doubt. He’s missed two of the last three seasons and he wasn’t very good in 2010 before getting hurt, but if he says he’s healthy, the teams will come running to his tryouts.
99. Kelly Shoppach (Age 31, Rays): Shoppach can offer a team power and defense, but given that he’s batted just .185 in 379 at-bats over the last two years, he’s probably not looking at a starting gig this winter.
98. Todd Coffey (Age 31, Nationals): The team that signs Coffey won’t be doing any cartwheels, but it will be getting a useful cog in middle relief. The big right-hander offers durability and a 3.68 ERA in 205 2/3 innings over the last three years.
97. Kevin Millwood (Age 37, Rockies): Boston’s decision to let Millwood go may very well have cost the team a postseason berth. Upon hooking up with the Rockies in August, he went 4-3 with a 3.98 ERA and a 36/8 K/BB ratio in 54 1/3 innings. That should be good enough to make him some team’s fifth starter entering 2012.
96. Scott Hairston (Age 31, Mets): Playing for a manager in Terry Collins who didn’t seem to appreciate him at all, Hairston was asset for the Mets last season, hitting .235/.303/.470 and driving in 24 runs in just 132 at-bats. He started a mere 25 games all season, though he collected 16 RBI in those games. He should land an expanded role elsewhere this winter.
95. Willie Bloomquist (Age 34, Diamondbacks): Bloomquist can still exercise his half of a $1.1 million mutual option to return to the Diamondbacks, but he’s expected to hold out for more money. Arizona’s starting shortstop after Stephen Drew got hurt, he hit .266/.317/.340 in 350 at-bats. While I wouldn’t put him in a top 111 on merit, his versatility and scrappiness may well get him a multiyear deal.
94. Jason Isringhausen (Age 39, Mets): Izzy had a 2.70 ERA at the trade deadline last season before struggling in August and sitting out most of September with a back injury. He wants to return for another season, and it’s likely he’ll be back with the Mets after he asked the team not to trade him over the summer.
93. Fernando Rodney (Age 35, Angels): Firmly entrenched in Mike Scioscia’s doghouse by the end of the year, Rodney pitched just twice in September. His season-ending ERA of 4.50 wasn’t particularly terrible — he actually finished at 4.40 in 2009 before the Angels gave him a two-year, $11 million contract — but it came with a dreadful 26/28 K/BB ratio in 32 innings. There certainly shouldn’t be any interest in him as a closer.
92. Andruw Jones (Age 34, Yankees): Jones has struggled against right-handers while occupying reserve roles with the White Sox and Yankees the last two years, but he’s been terrific against left-handers and he managed to finish with an .851 OPS in his 190 at-bats last season. It’d be interesting to see what he could do if given another shot to play regularly. The Yankees will likely welcome him back if he’s interested in playing a limited role again.
91. Jerry Hairston Jr. (Age 35, Brewers): Hairston took over the Brewers’ starting third baseman in the postseason and upped his stock by hitting .385/.422/.538 in 39 at-bats. While he’s nothing more than an emergency option at shortstop, there is going to be a great deal of interest in him as a utilityman.
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