Nov 8, 2012, 1:25 AM EST
I would have preferred to have posted this last week, but here’s the remainder of the updated top 111 free agents column. In case you missed it, the top 50 was posted last Friday.
Players in the top 111 are ranked based not on how I view them, but more on how I believe teams perceive them. Essentially, I rank them according to the contracts I expect they’ll receive.
All ages are as of April 1, 2013. Included along with each player is where he ranked in the original top 111 done in early September.
111. Juan Rivera (OF Dodgers – Age 34 – Prev. NR): Ned Colletti threw Rivera one last ample payday ($4.5 million) he hardly deserved a year ago. Now, after hitting just .244/.286/.375 in 312 at-bats for the Dodgers, he’ll be left to fight for scraps. He still has enough pop to be a modest threat at the plate, but that he’s not an asset defensively at first base or in the outfield corners will hurt his case for a major league contract.
110. Hideki Okajima (LHP Japan – Age 37 – Prev. NR): Okajima would have been a Yankee last season, but he flunked a physical after signing a minor league deal and decided to return home to Japan. Pitching for the SoftBank Hawks, all he did was amass a 0.94 ERA in 47 2/3 innings for the season. Now he desires a return to MLB, though he’ll probably want a major league deal this time around. In five seasons with the Red Sox, he had a lifetime 3.11 ERA.
109. Reed Johnson (OF Braves – Age 36 – Prev. NR): Picked up from the Cubs along with Paul Maholm in a deadline deal, Johnson hit just .270/.305/.320 in 100 at-bats for Atlanta. He was a lot better in his year and a half in Chicago, hitting .309/.348/.467 in 246 at-bats in 2011 and .302/.355/.444 in 169 at-bats last season. His ability to hit lefties and play anywhere in the outfield gives him value as a fourth outfielder, but he’s more useful in the corners than in center now that he’s in his mid-30s.
108. Carl Pavano (RHP Twins – Age 37 – Prev. NR): After a couple of 220-inning seasons in 2010-11, Pavano’s shoulder couldn’t handle the load last year and he went 2-5 with a 6.00 ERA in 11 starts before landing on the DL. Even though he didn’t require surgery, there’s talk he might choose retirement this winter. If he does come back, it should be with a National League team; Pavano’s reached the stage of his career in which he needs to face the pitcher a couple of times per night if he hopes to survive.
107. Ramon Ramirez (RHP Mets – Age 31 – Prev. NR): Sacrificing Ramirez was the price the Giants paid to upgrade from Andres Torres to Angel Pagan in center field in a deal with the Mets last winter. Of course, it turned out OK. Ramirez went on to finish with a 4.24 ERA in 63 2/3 innings in what will likely be his lone year with the Mets. He’s a perfectly adequate fourth or fifth right-hander in a major league pen, but his best years are behind him.
106. Travis Hafner (DH Indians – Age 35 – Prev. 109): Hafner would have finished with an OPS in the low-800s for the fourth straight season if he hadn’t decided to return from a bulging disc in his back in the second half of September; he ended up going 2-for-18 the rest of the way to end up at .784. As a starting DH against right-handers, he’s a fair option. However, it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone who may hit a little worse but offers some durability and can play a position when needed.
105. Chien-Ming Wang (RHP Nationals – Age 33 – Prev. NR): The Nationals were very aggressive in re-signing Wang last winter, giving him $4 million based on his solid 11-start run in 2011 (4-3 with a 4.04 ERA). It proved to be a complete waste; Wang suffered a hamstring injury in spring training and even if he had been healthy, he was probably no better than the team’s seventh-best starter. He ended up with a 6.68 ERA in five starts and five relief appearances. Wang still gets plenty of grounders, but the home run ball is a problem for him anyway. He’ll have to compete for a rotation spot next spring.
104. Takashi Toritani (INF Japan – Age 31 – Prev. NR): The longtime shortstop for the Hanshin Tigers, Toritani is weighing a move to MLB. It could hinge on whether any teams here view him as a starter at short. The left-handed hitter ranked fourth in the Central League with a .302 average and first with a .395 OBP in 2011, but he slipped to .262/.373/.375 last season. His patience could make him an intriguing top-of-the-order guy, but he might not have a whole lot to offer a major league team besides the walks.
103. Ty Wigginton (INF-OF Phillies – Age 35 – Prev. #104): Wigginton’s defensive versatility isn’t worth much when he isn’t an asset at any position, and he hasn’t been a really good offensive player since 2008. He could still be somewhat useful on a team with a few lefties starting at the corner positions, but his days of making $3 million-$4 million per year are over.
102. Jonathan Sanchez (LHP Rockies – Age 30 – Prev. #108): Sanchez last season became the seventh pitcher since 1901 to make at least 15 starts and finish with an ERA over 8.00 (8.07, to be precise), so it doesn’t seem likely that the team that signs him will benefit right away. That said, this is a 30-year-old who had a 3.07 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 193 1/3 innings just a couple of years ago in 2010. Even in 2011, he had a 4.26 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 101 1/3 innings. There will be clubs looking to take a chance on him.
101. Brandon Inge (3B Athletics – Age 35 – Prev. #111): Inge hit .187 with the bases empty and .333 with RISP last year, which explains how he could finish with 52 RBI despite a .226/.286/.389 in 74 games with the A’s. He’s still plenty good defensively at age 35, so he may well land another starting job next year. It can’t hurt his chances that fellow free agent third baseman Scott Rolen is likely to follow Chipper Jones into retirement. The A’s, though, will likely be content with Josh Donaldson.
100. Mark Lowe (RHP Rangers – Age 29 – Prev. #97): Lowe came undone in the end, making just three appearances in the final three weeks and giving up runs in all of them. Before that, he had a 2.13 ERA in 38 innings for the season. Lowe has pitched 60 innings just twice in his career, most recently in 2009, but he’s always had very good stuff and perhaps there’s the chance he could pull a Grant Balfour and suddenly turn more durable in his 30s. The poor finish should guarantee that he’ll come cheap.
99. Kelly Shoppach (C Mets – Age 32 – Prev. #100): The Red Sox signed Shoppach last year because of his ability to hit left-handers. However, as it turned out, he was actually a little better against righties (.751 OPS) than lefties (.717 OPS) last season. Traded to the Mets in the August purge, he slumped while sharing time with Josh Thole, hitting .203/.276/.342 in 79 at-bats. He still makes a lot of sense as a complement to a left-handed starting catcher, but the Mets may opt to look elsewhere now.
98. Jeff Francis (LHP Rockies – Age 32 – Prev. NR): Francis settled for a minor league deal from a Reds team with an already full rotation last winter. He eventually got his release, joined the Rockies and performed admirably in the odd four-man rotation, though all he had to show for it was a 6-7 record and a 5.58 ERA. There’s no upside here, as Francis was long ago robbed of his best stuff. Still, he should continue to exist as a fringe starter, probably in Colorado.
97. James Loney (1B Red Sox – Age 28 – Prev. #101): Loney caught a big break in that the Dodgers threw him into the megadeal with the Red Sox, and Boston actually gave him every opportunity to impress during the final month of the season. The end result: a .230/.264/.310 line with eight RBI in 100 at-bats. Overall, he came in at .249/.293/.336 with six homers in 434 at-bats. Only because he’s still quite young does Loney net a spot here. One of the bargain-hunting teams will give him a crack at a starting job.
96. Rod Barajas (C Pirates – Age 37 – Prev. #92): The Pirates knew it’d come with a crappy OBP, but they were hoping for 15 homers and a decent caught stealing percentage after signing Barajas to be their starting catcher last year. Instead, he finished with 11 homers and just 31 RBI while hitting .206/.283/.343 in 321 at-bats. Plus, basestealers were a remarkable 93-for-99 against him. His $3.5 million option was declined, and he now figures to spend the rest of his career as a backup.
95. Jim Thome (DH Orioles – Age 42 – Prev. NR): Content to finish his career in Philadelphia, Thome took a bargain deal from the Phillies last winter, only to end up back in the AL with the Orioles once the Phillies figured out he couldn’t play first base and he was pretty useless as a pinch-hitter. Thome ended up at .252/.344/.442 with eight homers in 163 at-bats for the two teams, but purely in his DH at-bats, he came in at .274/.364/.474. Thome isn’t sure whether he’ll give it another go in 2013. He’d likely be well above average as a DH against right-handers, but the injuries make him difficult to count on.
94. Kevin Millwood (RHP Mariners – Age 38 – Prev. #86): The active leader in strikeouts among right-handed pitchers, Millwood added 107 more to his total while going 6-12 with a 4.25 ERA in 161 innings last season. That’s not a very impressive line for a Safeco pitcher, but Millwood didn’t really take advantage of the friendly ballpark; he had a 4.34 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP on the road, compared to a 4.15 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP at home. Millwood is weighing retirement this winter, and it doesn’t seem likely that anyone will throw a $3 million-$4 million guarantee at him in an effort to change his mind. Still, he’s not a bad fifth starter option.
93. Jason Bartlett (SS free agent – Age 33 – Prev. #103): Bartlett was just brutal offensively, hitting .133/.240/.193 in 83 at-bats, before going down with a knee injury last year and eventually getting released by the Padres. That’s three disappointing seasons in a row since he hit .320/.389/.490 as one of the AL’s best players in 2009. Assuming that the knee injury is something he’s able to overcome, he’s still a solid defensive shortstop, so it’s possible he’ll get one more shot as a regular. However, he might be a better fit as a utilityman on a contender.
92. Miguel Olivo (C Mariners – Age 33 – Prev. #110): Olivo should be done as a starter after hitting .222/.239/.381 in a second straight dreadful season with the Mariners. He offers some pop (12 homers in 315 AB last season) and a pretty good throwing arm behind the plate, so he likely has a few years left as a backup. The Mariners will move on after declining his $3 million option for 2013.
91. Michael Gonzalez (LHP Nationals – Age 34 – Prev. NR): Gonzalez held out for a major league contract last winter, but he never got one and he ended up signing a minor league contract with the Nationals in May. Upon returning to the majors in June, he was dominant against lefties, limiting them to a .179 average and posting a 23/7 K/BB ratio in 67 at-bats. Righties came in at .297, but at least they hit just one homer off him. There’s not much chance that Gonzalez will ever be a closer again, but he has a fair amount of value as a specialist. He won’t struggle to get a major league deal this winter.
90. Andruw Jones (OF Yankees – Age 35 – Prev. #98): The streaky Jones hit just .139 in 72 at-bats during August and Sept., costing himself a spot on the Yankees’ playoff roster and almost certainly ending any chance that he’d be brought back for 2013. Jones had an .862 OPS and 11 homers in 127 at-bats during the first half, so he was an awfully nice part-timer early on. One imagines some of the inconsistency would go away with steadier playing time, but it’s doubtful anyone will give him a look as a regular after such a poor finish.
89. Chris Young (RHP Mets – Age 33 – Prev. #93): Young’s 20 starts last season were his most since 2007, but he was merely decent while healthy, going 4-9 with a 4.15 ERA. Myriad shoulder woes have left him with an 83-87 mph fastball, so he doesn’t possess the upside he once did. He’ll probably remain an adequate fourth starter when he’s able to take the mound, but he’s hardly someone who can be relied on.
88. Derek Lowe (RHP Yankees – Age 39 – Prev. #90): Lowe fared well as a reliever for the Yankees, amassing a 3.04 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 23 2/3 innings. He was also very good as a starter early on, opening the season 6-1 with a 2.05 ERA in Cleveland. Everything in between was a disaster. Lowe appears to prefer starting in 2013, and if he’s willing to take $1 million-$2 million, some team will give him an opportunity.
87. Jason Frasor (RHP Blue Jays – Age 35 – Prev. NR): Frasor is likely done with the Blue Jays once and for all. The franchise’s all-time leader with 505 appearances, he had a 4.12 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings last season. Despite missing almost eight weeks in the second half with a forearm strain, he had his ERA down to 3.35 on Sept. 24, only to give up four runs in two-thirds of an inning in his last two appearances. It was the first time in nine seasons that Frasor had been on the DL. He’s due a paycut from the $3.75 million he made last season, but he should be a nice grab for some team.
86. Jason Marquis (RHP Padres – Age 34 – Prev. NR): One of the stunning developments of last winter was that Marquis actually signed with an AL team. The results were even more disastrous than expected, as Marquis gave the Twins an 8.47 ERA for their $3 million. He joined the Padres in June and was a solid 6-7 with a 4.04 ERA over the following three months before a fractured thumb ended his season. It’s safe to say that Marquis will remain in the NL this time around, and he’ll likely be an adequate No. 4 or 5 starter.
85. Carlos Pena (1B Rays – Age 34 – Prev. #67): Thanks to all of the homers and walks, Pena was still a decent player despite hitting .196 in 2010. In 2012, he hit 19 homers instead of his usual 30 or so, leaving him a liability as a regular. He might be worth one more try as a strict platoon player — he’s been horrible against lefties of late — but there’s no reason to pay him much money or remain patient with him if he struggles.
84. Daisuke Matsuzaka (RHP Red Sox – Age 32 – Prev. #78): Matsuzaka didn’t look so bad in his first few starts back from Tommy John surgery, but he gave up 25 runs in 15 2/3 innings in September to finish up with a dreadful 8.28 ERA in 11 starts. He really hasn’t lost much of his fastball since he debuted with the Red Sox in 2007, so he’d make for a nice gamble for a National League team. Still, he’s looking at receiving very little guaranteed money if he opts to stay in the U.S.
83. Matt Capps (RHP Twins – Age 29 – Prev. #105): The Twins declined their $6 million option on Capps after a season in which he was limited to 29 1/3 innings by shoulder problems. At least Capps was more effective while healthy, posting a 3.68 ERA and nailing down 14 of his 15 save opportunities. Still, he’s more likely to wind up as a setup man than a closer next year, and because of the injury, a multiyear deal can be safely ruled out.
82. Alex Gonzalez (SS Brewers – Age 36 – Prev. NR): The Brewers signed Gonzalez to shore up their defense, but he was also off to a nice start offensively (.259/.326/.457 in 81 AB) before suffering a torn ACL that ended his 2012 season. With so little competition at shortstop this winter, he seems sure to land a starting job, though probably not until after fellow free agent Stephen Drew makes a decision. He is turning 36 in February, and if he loses a step after knee surgery, he could turn worthless in a hurry.
81. Scott Feldman (RHP Rangers – Age 30 – Prev. #107): Feldman had a nice run to open the second half for the Rangers, but he lost his rotation spot coming down the stretch and finished up 6-11 with a 5.09 ERA. He would have had to do a whole lot better than that to get his $9.25 million option for 2013 picked up. Feldman had pretty good peripherals, with three times as many strikeouts (96) as walks (32) in his 123 2/3 innings pitched. He could be a nice $2 million fifth starter in a bigger ballpark.
80. Grady Sizemore (OF Indians – Age 30 – Prev. #75): Once upon a time, Sizemore figured to be the class of this year’s free agent pool. Instead, his future is in serious doubt after a completely lost 2012 on the heels of three straight injury-filled seasons. The plan is for him to play in 2013 after knee and back surgeries, but no team is going to sign him with the idea that he’ll step right in as a regular. At best, he’d be an intriguing wild card for a club with some flexibility.
79. Jose Veras (RHP Brewers – Age 32 – Prev. NR): The Brewers didn’t want to pay Veras $2.5 million or so in arbitration, so they made him a free agent after the season. Veras has always walked too many batters, but it hasn’t stopped him from finishing with ERA of 3.75, 3.80 and 3.63 the last three years. He’s also fanned 79 batters in back-to-back years. He’ll get his $2.5 million elsewhere.
78. Placido Polanco (3B Phillies – Age 37 – Prev. #91): Polanco’s OPS has declined five straight seasons and his games played have dropped the last three, suggesting there isn’t a whole lot left in the tank at age 37. Still, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if he proves useful as a backup on a contender. While his body probably wouldn’t hold up for 130-140 starts, he can still hit singles and play quality defense at third base. More of a question is whether he’d still be an option at second base once a week four years after he last played it regularly.
77. Francisco Rodriguez (RHP Brewers – Age 32 – Prev. #63): The market for K-Rod hardly figured to be hopping even before his latest domestic-violence arrest in September. Now he’s going to be seen as untouchable by a bunch of general managers. Ignoring the ugliness for a moment, Rodriguez is still a fine bet as a late-game reliever. While his ERA jumped to 4.38 last season, he fanned a batter an inning and he actually showed his best velocity in a few years. The team that puts up with the bad publicity and signs him will likely get a bargain.
76. Carlos Lee (1B Marlins – Age 36 – Prev. #80): That Lee slipped all of the way to .243/.328/.325 in 292 at-bats after being traded to the Marlins last season won’t help his stock. Then again, the “proven run producer” did knock in 48 runs in 81 games. While Lee’s power is disappearing with age, it’s likely he has a few more homers left in his bat than the nine he hit last season, and he still makes a great deal of contact; he hasn’t struck out more than 60 times in a season since 2007. In 2012, he had 49 strikeouts to 58 walks. He wouldn’t be so bad as a cheap first base option.
75. Carlos Zambrano (RHP Marlins – Age 31 – Prev. #70): Zambrano’s performance deserved better than a demotion to the bullpen last July. He was 5-9 with a 4.54 ERA at the time, but part of that was a tough interleague schedule in which he faced Tampa Bay twice and Boston once. He turned in Quality Starts in 11 of his 20 starts, the same 55 percent mark that Lance Lynn, Edwin Jackson, Jeremy Hellickson and teammate Mark Buehrle came in at. Zambrano will always be frustrating and inconsistent, but he’s not worthless, at least not yet.
74. Scott Rolen (3B Reds – Age 37 – Prev. #60): Expectations are the Rolen will retire after years of shoulder problems that have left him a shell of his former self. Still, if he changes his mind and decides he’d rather take a part-time role with a contender, he should have at least a couple of suitors. Rolen rebounded to a .297/.376/.473 line in 165 at-bats after the All-Star break last season. His body won’t let him play regularly any longer, but if he were interested, he could be a great backup to a young third baseman.
73. Vicente Padilla (RHP Red Sox – Age 35 – Prev. #89): Padilla finished poorly and ended up with a 4.50 ERA in his first full year as a reliever in more than a decade, but a 51/15 K/BB ratio in 50 innings isn’t too shabby. The interesting thing was that the league hit .389 off him with the bases empty, .214 with runners on and .136 with RISP. If he’s content to remain in the bullpen, he should be a useful setup man for another couple of years. He’s less likely to be helpful as a starter.
72. Luke Scott (OF-DH Rays – Age 34 – Prev. #88): Scott was never completely healthy last season, and it showed in his numbers, as he came in at .229/.285/.439 with 14 homers and 55 RBI in 314 at-bats. Still, he did finish well enough that the Rays appear to be giving some thought to bringing him back in 2013. If so, he’d mostly serve as a DH against right-handers and as an occasional outfielder.
71. Roberto Hernandez (RHP Indians – Age 32 – Prev. #61): The former Fausto Carmona made just three starts after returning from his identity-related suspension; he gave up 15 runs — 12 earned — in 14 1/3 innings and then spent the month of September on the disabled list with an ankle injury. The sinkerballer’s only two good major league seasons came in 2007 and ’10, so if it’s an every-third-year deal, at least he’s due. He can’t be written off, but he’s likely looking at a cheap one-year deal.
70. Raul Ibanez (OF/DH Yankees – Age 40 – Prev. #106): Ibanez’s little comeback season was largely fueled by Yankee Stadium: he hit .273/.349/.545 at home and .208/.269/.365 on the road. Including his three in the postseason, 17 of his 22 homers came in the Bronx. If not for his October heroics, it seems likely that he would have been one and done in New York. As is, there figures to be more interest in bringing him back as a DH against right-handers and backup outfielder.
69. Eric Chavez (3B Yankees – Age 35 – Prev. #96): Chavez was even worse than Alex Rodriguez in the postseason, but he hit .281/.348/.496 with 16 homers in 278 at-bats during the regular season and he actually had better power numbers on the road than at Yankee Stadium. If only he could be counted on to stay healthy, he’s pretty much the perfect fallback in the event of more injuries and/or ineffectiveness from A-Rod. The Yankees figure to keep him around.
68. Kevin Correia (RHP Pirates – Age 32 – Prev. #87): Correia had a better season in 2012 than he did when he was an All-Star in 2011, but the Pirates still bounced him from the rotation for a spell in August. The total collapse of his strikeout rate the last two years is good reason to stay away from him going forward. He fanned 257 batters in 343 innings between 2009-10 and 166 batters in 325 innings between 2011-12. Still, he’ll probably be some team’s fourth or fifth starter.
67. Jonny Gomes (OF Athletics – Age 32 – Prev. NR): Gomes was quietly outstanding in his limited role for the A’s, hitting .262/.377/.491 with 18 homers and 47 RBI in 279 at-bats. He’s definitely at his most useful when he’s starting primarily against left-handers, so the team that signs him as a regular would be making a mistake. However, as a part-time player, he’s probably worth $2.5 million-$3 million anyway. He’d seem to be the perfect replacement for Jones in New York.
66. Jason Grilli (RHP Pirates – Age 36 – Prev. #76): Grilli cost himself some cash by giving up seven runs in 9 2/3 innings in September, but he’s still looking at the biggest payday of his career at age 36 after striking out a whopping 90 batters in 58 2/3 innings. He also finished tied for second in the NL with 32 holds. That has to be worth $3 million or so.
65. Scott Hairston (OF Mets – Age 32 – Prev. #83): An excellent part-time player last season, Hairston hit .286 with 11 homers in 189 at-bats against left-handers and .263/.299/.504 with 20 homers and 57 RBI in 377 at-bats overall for the Mets. Now that he’s 32, it’s time for teams to stop looking at him as a part-time center fielder. However, he’s fine in the corners and he offers plenty of pop. He figures to be pursued by several teams looking for a fourth outfielder.
64. Jon Rauch (RHP Mets – Age 34 – Prev. #95): Rauch lost seven games in 2012, but all of them came in a span of 20 appearances from May 4 to June 23. He had a 2.93 ERA during the final three months, even though he did hit a rough patch at the very end of the year. Rauch will head back into free agency looking for a salary similar to the $3.5 million the Mets paid him last season. Of course, if anyone wants to give him a two-year deal, he’ll be all ears.
63. David Ross (C Braves – Age 36 – Prev. #77): That Ross is one of the game’s best backups is undeniable. Now as he heads back into free agency for the first time in four years, it will be interesting to see if he craves an enhanced role at age 36 or if he’s content starting his usual 40-50 games. The Braves would like to re-sign him, but it will likely take a two-year deal at more than the $1.625 million per season they had been paying him.
62. Erik Bedard (LHP free agent – Age 34 – Prev. #66): Bedard went 7-14 with a 5.01 ERA before being let go by the Pirates at the end of August, making 2012 the first time in his career that he was both healthy and ineffective. Still, while years of shoulder problems have robbed him of his best stuff, he managed to strike out 118 batters in 125 2/3 innings. He also allowed the modest total of 14 homers in his 24 starts. He still projects as a decent enough fourth starter.
61. Kyle Farnsworth (RHP Rays – Age 36 – Prev. #69): Tampa Bay’s big bullpen success story in 2011, Farnsworth spent the first three months of 2012 on the DL with an elbow injury and then returned to take six losses in 34 appearances. On the plus side, he have up just one homer in 27 innings and recorded a personal best in groundball percentage for the second straight year. Besides the elbow concerns, Farnsworth is usually good for a couple of back flareups each year. Still, he has a 3.01 ERA and a 137/45 K/BB ratio in 149 1/3 IP these last three years. He’d be a nice buy for $3 million.
60. Maicer Izturis (INF Angels – Age 32 – Prev. #71): Izturis was enough of a disappointment last season (.256/.320/.315 in 289 AB) that it seems unlikely teams will look at him as a potential regular this winter. Which is probably for the best, since he’s not really durable enough to start everyday even if he does bounce back a bit offensively. He’s a perfectly useful utiltyman, and because the infield market is so poor, he figures to get a two-year deal from some suitor.
59. Matt Lindstrom (RHP Rockies – Age 33 – Prev. #99): Picked up from Baltimore for Joe Saunders in August, Lindstrom had a 2.53 ERA in 10 2/3 innings for Arizona after amassing a 2.72 ERA in 36 1/3 innings for the Orioles. Even so, Arizona declined his $4 million option, obviously feeling that Heath Bell at $13 million for two years was a better investment. Lindstrom is a difficult guy to trust because his fastball isn’t all that great anymore and he’s not a huge strikeout guy. Still, he’s allowed five homers in 101 innings despite pitching in hitter friendly parks the last two years. $4 million hardly seems inappropriate.
58. Juan Pierre (OF Phillies – Age 35 – Prev. #94): Pierre was offered only minor league deals last winter and seemed to be nearing the end. Now, after a bounce-back season at age 34, he might well get promised a starting job by some team this time around. His .307/.351/.371 line was good for the third highest OPS+ of his 13-year career and he had his best stolen base percentage ever, going 37-for-44.
57. Scott Baker (RHP Twins – Age 31 – Prev. #102): If Tommy John surgery put Baker’s elbow problems behind him once and for all, he could be one of the winter’s biggest bargains. He appears to be aiming for an early May return from the procedure. Baker went 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA while being limited to 134 2/3 innings in 2011. He came in at 12-9 with a 4.49 ERA in 170 1/3 innings in 2010. He won’t be as good of a bet outside of pitcher friendly Target Field, but he could prove to be worth more than several healthy starters likely to get bigger paydays.
56. J.P. Howell (LHP Rays – Age 29 – Prev. #62): Howell was plenty effective last season after missing 2010 due to shoulder surgery and struggling in 2011, but he never reclaimed his old featured spot in the Tampa Bay pen; he received three holds and figured into just one decision in 55 appearances. He’ll certainly have a bigger role on some other team next year. Howell limited left-handers to a .200/.306/.263 line in 99 plate appearances on his way to a 3.04 ERA for the season. It could earn him a two-year, $5 million deal.
55. Joe Blanton (RHP Dodgers – Age 32 – Prev. #79): The good news: Blanton recorded 4.88 strikeouts for every walk he issues last season. Unfortunately, he had the fourth worst ERA ever (4.71) and worst ERA+ ever (84) for a starter with at least a 4:1 K/BB ratio. So which figures will the GMs pay more attention to? His peripherals say he’s a No. 3 starter, but his ERA says he’s more like a No. 5. A bigger ballpark would likely aid his cause.
54. Brandon Lyon (RHP Blue Jays – Age 32 – Prev. #74): A very pleasant surprise in his return from shoulder surgery, Lyon had a 3.25 ERA in 37 appearances for the Astros and then pitched even better for the Jays last season, coming in with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. In all, he had a 63/20 K/BB ratio with five homers allowed in 61 innings. Unfortunately for Lyon, Ed Wade is no longer running a team, making another three-year, $15 million a long shot. Some team might go to $6 million for two years, though.
53. Hiroyuki Nakajima (SS Japan – Age 30 – Prev. #52): Nakajima was posted by the Seibu Lions last year, but he decided to return to Japan for one more year rather than join the Yankees as a utilityman. Now that he’s a free agent, he can pick his destination, and some team will probably give him a chance to compete for a starting job at shortstop or second base. Nakajima finished second in the Pacific League with a .311 average and a .382 OBP last season. His .451 slugging percentage ranked fourth. He doesn’t figure to show much power in the U.S., but he could be a decent regular at a modest price.
52. Joakim Soria (RHP Royals – Age 28 – Prev. #58): Soria is aiming to be ready for Opening Day after Tommy John surgery in April, and it looks like he’ll be plenty popular these next few weeks. From 2007-10, he was about as good of a reliever in baseball as anyone not named Mariano Rivera. He did fall off in 2011, ending up with a 4.03 ERA, but the worst of his struggles came early on and he was able to bounce back. Soria will probably sign a one-year deal to close for the Royals or another team and try to rebuild his value.
51. Jeff Keppinger (INF Rays – Age 32 – Prev. #85): Would the Giants have still ended up with Marco Scutaro last summer if they hadn’t non-tendered his offensive doppelganger the previous December? Keppinger was snatched up by the Rays for $1.525 million and went on to bat .325/.367/.439 in 385 at-bats. The problem with Keppinger is that he’s not nearly a match for Scutaro defensively at second base. Still, someone will likely sign him as a starter, possibly at third if not at second.
- THE YEAR IN REVIEW: HBT’s most commented-upon stories of the year 53
- The Yankees are treating Alex Rodriguez differently than they treated Derek Jeter. So what? 31
- Braves sign setup man Jason Grilli to two-year contract 13
- My Imaginary Hall of Fame Ballot 119
- Phil Hughes signs a three-year extension with the Twins 27
- The Padres have talked to the Phillies about Cole Hamels 23
- Why is John Smoltz a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame? 63
- Phillies GM told Ryan Howard they’d be better off “not with him but without him” 85
- Bud Selig will get a $6 million a year pension. Which is obscene. (145)
- My Imaginary Hall of Fame Ballot (119)
- Today’s specious anti-Mike Piazza-for-the-Hall-Fame argument (93)
- St. Petersburg City Council votes down deal to allow Rays to look for new stadium site (90)
- Phillies GM told Ryan Howard they’d be better off “not with him but without him” (85)