Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 111-91

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Welcome to a revised and slightly expanded edition of the Top 100 Free Agents. Now it’s 111 free agents-to-be. With four months more to go on, there have been a lot of changes that this article was first published in May. Along with each player’s age, as of April 1, 2010, I’ll be noting where they ranked in the previous edition.
Players who have options essentially guaranteed of being picked up aren’t listed. That list of players includes Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez. Also absent are players such as Josh Beckett and Magglio Ordonez, who have already seen their options vest, and Kevin Millwood, whose option figures to vest when he makes his next start.
No Japanese players are included. There doesn’t appear to be anyone the caliber of Kenshin Kawakami or Koji Uehara set to cross the Pacific this winter. The most interesting name being bandied about right now is that of Yusei Kikuchi, and he’s a high school pitcher likely to need a few years of seasoning before he’ll be ready for the majors. Some interesting relief options will probably emerge later, but expectations should be kept low for now.
The players below are ranked based more on how I believe teams perceive them than my own personal viewpoint.
Top 111 Free Agents
111. Jerry Hairston Jr. (33) – Prev. NR – After a fluke 2008 season, Hairston has fallen to .252/.313/.399 in 373 at-bats this season. It’s his versatility that’s his biggest asset, and he’s a whole lot more useful to a team like the Yankees than he was playing everyday as a member of the Reds.
110. Bobby Crosby (30) – Prev. #87 – Sadly, Crosby’s .225/.297/.367 line gives him his highest OPS since 2005, and what little he’s gained there has been countered by his surprisingly poor play on defense. There will be teams interested in trying to turn his career around, but the former Rookie of the Year will have to compete for a starting job next spring.
109. Jason Kendall (35) – Prev. #97 – Incredibly, he’s still starting five out of every six games for the Brewers even though he’s slugging .290, he’s throwing out just 19 percent of would-be basestealers and not one of the starting pitchers he’s handled has exceeded expectations. He’ll finish the season third or fourth in the majors in innings caught. The numbers say he should be a seldom-used backup. History suggests some team will settle for him as a starter.
108. Reed Johnson (33) – Prev. #88 – Fits in the useful-but-injury-prone category, right alongside near miss Endy Chavez. Johnson hit .306/.386/.452 in 62 at-bats against lefties before getting hurt this year, and he’s scored 72 runs and driven in 70 in 480 at-bats for the Cubs over the last two seasons.
107. Gary Sheffield (41) – Prev. NR – Sheffield has showed he has something left by hitting .279/.371/.457 while playing half of his games in a pitcher’s park. Still, his isn’t the kind of veteran leadership that most teams crave. Plus, he thinks he’s an everyday outfielder when he’d be of more use as a role player and part-time DH. Since he wants the 311 hits he needs to reach 3,000, his best bet would be to sign with a non-contender.
106. Brian Schneider (33) – Prev. #80 – Schneider deserved a Gold Glove or two when he was in his prime, but his defense has fallen off just as much as his offense and he should be viewed as a backup going forward. Perhaps he’ll return to the Nationals with the team in need of protection for Jesus Flores.
105. Scott Podsednik (34) – Prev. NR – Podsednik’s best OPS in the five years since he hit .314/.379/.443 for the Brewers in 2003 was a 700 mark in 2005. Right now, he’s hitting .303/.352/.412 to put him at 764. He’s just an average defender in left and a below average one in center, so he’s not an adequate regular unless he’s hitting around .300. Still, he’ll probably be starting somewhere.
104. Kelvim Escobar (34) – Prev. #65 – Shoulder problems have limited Escobar to five innings in two seasons, so he’s probably going to be in line for a minor league deal this winter. He’ll be a better bet if he’s willing to spend 2010 as a reliever. There just isn’t much chance of him holding up as a starter.
103. Yorvit Torrealba* (31) – Prev. NR – While he recently won back his starting job from Chris Iannetta, Torrealba shouldn’t be in the Rockies’ plans for 2010. He has a $4 million mutual option that the Rockies can buy out for $500,000.
102. Geoff Blum (36) – Prev. NR – Injuries have held him back lately or he’d already be there, but Blum is still going to set a new personal high for starts at one position this year at age 36. He’s made 86 at third base, five fewer than his current high of 91 from 2002 (also at third base and also with the Astros). Houston will probably want him back in 2010, but hopefully it will be as a utilityman.
101. Garret Anderson (37) – Prev. #99 – Anderson turned in a big July to momentarily get his OPS up to 800, but he’s currently down to .275/.313/.415 and still fading. His lack of a platoon split, always a nice feature early in his career, is actually a problem now. He’s just not good enough to start against righties or lefties.
100. Khalil Greene (30) – Prev. #45 – Getting out of Petco Park figured to be just the thing to change Greene’s fortunes, but he got off to an awful start both offensively and defensively for the Cardinals and he’s been shelved twice with anxiety issues. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess. Physically, he should still be able to play a capable shortstop and hit 20 homers per year.
99. Freddy Garcia* (33) – Prev. NR – With his velocity creeping back up, Garcia is again looking like a viable major league pitcher, and he has the 4.41 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in six starts for the White Sox to prove it. As it turns out, he likely miscalculated in giving the White Sox such an inexpensive option to bring him back for next year. He’ll be guaranteed only $1 million.
98. Adam Kennedy (34) – Prev. NR – Kennedy couldn’t find any team willing to give him a shot at a starting job this spring — he ended up signing with a Rays team that was already set at second base — but he’s gone on to have maybe the second-best offensive season of his career. He’s hit .287/.348/.402 and stolen 19 bases in 24 attempts, and he’s proven playable at third after spending the first 10 years of his career at second. The A’s will likely look to re-sign him as Eric Chavez insurance, but others may give him the opportunity to start at second.
97. Joe Crede (31) – Prev. #77 – Crede is again on the shelf with his chronic back troubles, and he didn’t hit enough to justify regular playing time at third base while healthy this season. He shouldn’t be handed another starting job.
96. Bob Howry (36) – Prev. NR – Howry’s ERA has rebounded from 5.35 in his final season with the Cubs to 3.43 this year, but his strikeout rate has dipped three straight years. He’ll almost certainly want to stay in the National League, and there’s a good chance he’ll re-up with the Giants for something close to the $2.75 million he’s currently making.
95. Juan Uribe (31) – Prev. NR – It never made much sense that Edgar Renteria received $18.5 million and Uribe had to settle for a minor league deal last winter. Then again, the fact that he was properly motivated again probably has had a lot to do with Uribe busting out and hitting .290/.331/.500 in 338 at-bats for the Giants. He no longer has the range to be a starting shortstop in the majors, but he can serve as a backup there and he’s a quality defender at second and third. He should be a fine utilityman for a few more years.
94. Melvin Mora* (38) – Prev. #64 – Mora definitely needed a late surge if he hoped to be viewed as a regular this winter, and he appears to be in the midst of one, as he’s hitting .350/.381/.525 this month. That puts him at .266/.324/.362 for the year. The Orioles aren’t going to pick up his $8 million option.
93. Jose Contreras (38) – Prev. #100 – Contreras compiled a 5.14 ERA for the White Sox, but his peripherals weren’t bad and it looked like he might be the last of several starters this year to revive his career in the NL before suffering a quad strain in his second start with the Rockies. Of course, he’s not really 38, but that hardly matters when he’s still throwing in the low-90s consistently.
92. Guillermo Mota (36) – Prev. NR – He’s a cheater, a coward and just about the last pitcher anyone should want working in a big situation in a big game, but Mota also has a 1.67 ERA in 43 innings since the beginning of June. That will probably earn him a raise from the $2.35 million the Dodgers gave him last winter.
91. Ronnie Belliard (34) – Prev. #90 – The subject of retirement came up when Belliard was stuck in a bit role with the Nationals during the first half, but he’s rebounded to hit .321/.362/.527 in 131 at-bats during the second half. If the numbers are to be believed, he’s still perfectly adequate at second base and an above average regular overall.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.