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.

Mets win 8th straight, Conforto and Flores HR to beat Giants

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NEW YORK — Michael Conforto and the bats are booming. Jacob deGrom and the pitchers are peaking. And the defense is making the key plays.

A year after the New York Mets stamped themselves as serious contenders with a big winning streak in April, they’re rolling again.

“There’s not much that we’re not doing,” manager Terry Collins said.

Conforto and Wilmer Flores homered and the Mets won their eighth in a row, building an early lead for deGrom and holding off the San Francisco Giants 6-5 Saturday.

“It just seems relentless,” Conforto said.

At 15-7, the defending NL champions have won 11 of 12. They could be poised for an even more impressive run – next week, they play seven games against last-place Atlanta and San Diego.

The crowd of 44,466 was the largest for a regular-season game at Citi Field since the park opened in 2009, with a lot of fans attracted by the Noah Syndergaard Garden Gnome giveaway.

The Mets almost gave away the game, too.

Ahead 6-3 in the eighth inning, they walked a pair of batters and let the Giants load the bases with no outs. Hunter Pence‘s bid for a go-ahead grand slam was caught just in front of the center-field wall for a sacrifice fly.

Brandon Crawford followed with another sacrifice fly, a liner that right fielder Curtis Granderson jumped to backhand on the warning track.

“Two long popups,” Collins kidded.

Jeurys Familia took over in the ninth and closed for his eighth save in as many chances.

“That’s a tough one for the guys, because they put up quite an effort there to get back in it and try to win that ballgame,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Two balls to just miss like that, that’s a tough one for them.”

Conforto tied a Mets record by hitting a double in his sixth straight game. He also singled and drove in three runs. In his first full season, the 23-year-old outfielder who homered twice in a World Series game last October has comfortably settled into the No. 3 spot in a potent lineup and is batting .365.

“Really had no nerves about it,” he said, adding, “Getting the pitches I know I can hit and not missing them.”

Neil Walker capped a productive first month for his new team with a two-run single.

DeGrom (3-0) overcame his first four walks of the season, pitching two-hit ball for six innings and leaving with a 1.02 ERA. All three runs against him were unearned and came after a throwing error by Flores, who played third base to give David Wright a day off.

New York’s defense also helped deGrom. Pence fisted a bases-loaded, two-run single with two outs in the third, but first baseman Lucas Duda took the accurate relay from Granderson and threw out Brandon Belt trying to reach third.

After setting a club mark by scoring 12 runs in the third inning Friday night, the Mets quickly struck against Matt Cain (0-3).

Walker’s two-out single in the first made it 2-0. Conforto launched a two-run double off the top of the left-field wall in the second for a 4-0 lead.

Overall, the Mets have outscored opponents 50-21 during their winning string.

“It’s nice pitching with a lead,” deGrom said. “You can go right after guys.”

Cain has gone a career-worst 12 starts without a win, dating to his last victory July 22. Slowed by injuries and inconsistency in recent years, the three-time All-Star who once pitched a perfect game is saddled with a 7.00 ERA this season.

Conforto hit his fourth homer in the fifth. Flores connected the next inning for his first of the year. The Mets have 31 home runs in their last 14 games.

STREAKS

Conforto tied Joe Christopher’s team mark in 1964 with doubles in six straight games. Conforto has reached safely in 17 straight. … Yoenis Cespedes‘ club-record string of nine games in a row with an extra-base hit ended.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Giants: 2B Joe Panik was out of the lineup a day after tweaking his groin.

Mets: Wright and C Kevin Plawecki got to sit for a day. C Rene Rivera, who started 87 games for the Rays last year, made his Mets debut. He was hit by a pitch in the back his first time up.

UP NEXT

A prime pitching matchup on deck – if the weather holds. Steady rain is in the forecast Sunday and well could dampen the duel between Giants ace Madison Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64 ERA) and Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69). Bumgarner has won all three of his starts at Citi Field with an 0.78 ERA. Syndergaard has struck out 38 this season, matching Pedro Martinez for the most by a Mets pitcher in the first four starts of a season.

Zimmermann goes 5-0, Upton homers as Tigers top Twins 4-1

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MINNEAPOLIS — Jordan Zimmermann hasn’t required much run support this year. Justin Upton gave him all he needed in the first inning Saturday.

Zimmermann won his fifth straight start to begin his first season with Detroit, and Upton hit a three-run homer for the Tigers in their 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

“Give him a three-run lead, we’re pretty confident he can work with that,” said Upton, whose second homer of the year reached the second deck in left-center. “If we can fight and get on the board early, and let our guys work, we’ll be all right.”

Zimmermann (5-0) gave up one run and six hits with no walks and seven strikeouts over seven innings. His ERA actually rose to 0.55 as he became the first Tigers pitcher to win five games in April since Frank Tanana in 1988, according to STATS.

Upton and Zimmermann both signed as free agents with Detroit for more than $100 million this past offseason. Zimmermann knew he would be joining a team with a high-octane offense, though he hasn’t relied on the Tigers’ bats much yet.

“This is probably the best lineup I’ve ever seen,” Zimmermann said. “They’re going to score runs. It’s just a matter of when and what inning. For me, they’ve been scoring early and allowing me to settle in and just throw strikes.”

Victor Martinez doubled twice for the Tigers, who have won five of six. Francisco Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth for his sixth save in seven opportunities.

Eduardo Escobar had three singles for the Twins, who lost their third straight and fell to 7-17 overall.

Tyler Duffey (0-1) gave up just one earned run in 6 1/3 innings, striking out seven and walking none. But one mistake in the first marred an otherwise solid performance.

With two on and two outs, Duffey tried to get ahead in the count with a first-pitch fastball. But the pitch caught too much of the plate and Upton drove it an estimated 417 feet for his second homer with Detroit.

“It’s easy to look back and say I should have gotten out of that. I know I was more than capable of doing it,” Duffey said. “That mistake is a lot larger when you’ve got a guy like Zimmermann throwing against you.”

Zimmermann cruised through the first three innings, but Byung Ho Park homered in the fourth to break up the shutout. Park lined a 1-2 pitch into the bullpen in left-center, his team-leading sixth homer of the year.

It was the first home run allowed by Zimmermann in 29 2/3 innings this season.

After that, each time the Twins threatened, Zimmermann had an answer. John Ryan Murphy reached second on an error by right fielder J.D. Martinez with one out in the fifth before Zimmermann struck out Danny Santana and Brian Dozier to preserve the two-run cushion.

Minnesota got its leadoff man on in the seventh, but Zimmermann promptly induced a double-play grounder from Eddie Rosario.

CATCHER KNOWS BEST

Zimmermann might have kept the Twins off the board entirely if he’d just listened to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who didn’t want to throw Park the slider he hit into the bullpen.

“That was really my only mistake all game. I tried going front door with it, and obviously that wasn’t the right pitch. I’m sure Salty will say the same thing. He didn’t really want to throw it and I did, so that was my fault,” Zimmermann said. “It didn’t work out, but solo home runs aren’t going to kill you, so it’s all good.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Tigers: C James McCann (sprained ankle) caught nine innings for Triple-A Toledo on Friday, but manager Brad Ausmus said McCann will continue his rehab assignment through the weekend. McCann was expected to catch nine more innings Saturday and five innings on Sunday before rejoining the Tigers for their three-game series in Cleveland that begins Tuesday.

Twins: 3B Trevor Plouffe (strained intercostal muscle) was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Class A Fort Myers on Saturday. Plouffe has been on the DL since April 19. Barring any setbacks, he is expected to join the Twins in Houston on Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Tigers: RHP Mike Pelfrey (0-4, 4.64 ERA) faces his former team in Sunday’s series finale. Pelfrey spent the past three seasons in Minnesota. He pitched a season-high 6 2/3 innings in his most recent start, a 5-1 loss to the Athletics on Tuesday.

Twins: RHP Ricky Nolasco (1-0, 3.25) has been the team’s most effective starter this season. He’s averaged just shy of seven innings in his four starts and is second in the AL in strikeout-to-walk ratio with 24 strikeouts against three walks.

Rockies’ Story ties rookie mark with 10th HR in April

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PHOENIX (AP) Trevor Story is undoubtedly the story of the Colorado Rockies’ first month of the season.

The shortstop tied a major league rookie record with his 10th home run in April, a two-run shot that helped the Rockies cruise to a 9-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night. In hitting his 10th home run in 21 games, Story tied George Scott in 1966 as the fastest player in major league history to reach that home run total.

Story tied Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, who hit 10 in April 2014, for the rookie mark. Teammate Nolan Arenado, who also homered, is tied with Story for the major league lead in home runs.

Story took Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray (1-1) deep in the fifth inning.

“Maybe when it’s all said and done it will be something cool to look back on, but right now I’m just worried about winning games,” Story said.

Arenado, Ryan Raburn and Nick Hundley hit solo home runs, Arenado’s blast immediately following Story’s in the fifth to knock Ray out of the game.

Hundley added a two-run double in the eighth after Gerardo Parra‘s RBI double.

Tyler Chatwood (3-2) held the Diamondbacks scoreless on five hits for 6 1/3 innings with four strikeouts and three walks.

The Rockies won for the third time in four meetings against Arizona in Phoenix, and have hit 14 home runs in those four games at Chase Field this season. Story hit four in the season-opening series.

“I feel like it’s always good weather here. We play spring training here, so it’s a familiar place,” Story said. “I grew up playing in the heat, so yeah, I guess you could say I feel comfortable here.”

Ray had not given up a home run in his previous four starts. The Rockies overtook the Diamondbacks for most home runs in the majors with 37 to Arizona’s 36.

“They obviously like swinging the bat in this ballpark,” Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said. “It’s very obvious that that’s what it is. If you don’t locate your pitches, they’re going to hit them. That’s what happens with confident hitters.”

Raburn led off the fourth with a line drive into the seats in left field. One out later, Hundley homered to left.

“Great player. He’s got a lot of tools and he’s been pretty even-keel,” Raburn said of Story. “Right now he’s getting pitches to hit and he ain’t missing it.”

The Rockies took control in the fifth when Charlie Blackmon led off with a single. Story and Arenado followed with their home runs, and Ray’s night ended after giving up five runs and seven hits. He struck out five and walked two.

“This place has been tough on us the last few years,” manager Walt Weiss said. “Especially last year. It’s good to see us swing the bats and win games, especially on the road where we’ve had some demons in the past.”

DIAMONDBACKS CLAIM ESCOBAR

The Diamondbacks claimed LHP Edwin Escobar off waivers from the Boston Red Sox on Friday, and sent Escobar to Triple-A Reno. Pitcher Matt Buschmann was designated for assignment. Escobar, 24, was a top prospect for the San Francisco Giants before being traded to Boston in 2014. Buschmann made three appearances for the Diamondbacks this season.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rockies: Blackmon (turf toe) was activated from the 15-day DL and started in center field as the leadoff hitter. The Rockies optioned OF Brandon Barnes to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room for Blackmon. “Unfortunately, it’s a numbers crunch at this point in the construction of our roster, but he’ll be back,” Weiss said of Barnes. … RHP Jason Motte (sore shoulder) threw a bullpen session Friday and is “moving full steam ahead,” Weiss said. … Hundley got some eye drops administered during the fourth inning, coming out from behind the plate and jogging over to the dugout for help from a trainer. … Raburn fouled a pitch thrown high and tight off the bottom of the bat near his hands, and was checked by a trainer when he shook his hands in pain afterward. He was later hit by a pitch. “Just got a little beat up tonight but it’s part of it,” Raburn said.

Diamondbacks: RHP Josh Collmenter, on the 15-day DL, will pitch three innings at Class-A Visalia on Monday as he comes back from shoulder inflammation.

UP NEXT

Rockies: LHP Chris Rusin makes his first start of the season. He’s appeared four times in relief and has a scoreless streak of 9 2/3 innings. He’s 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts against Arizona, all at Chase Field.

Diamondbacks: RHP Zack Greinke (2-2, 6.16 ERA) makes his sixth start of the season. He faced the Rockies on opening day and was tagged for seven runs and nine hits in four innings. He gave up seven runs in his most recent outing, Monday against the Cardinals, but got the win.

Cespedes has 6 RBIs during Mets’ record 12-run inning vs SF

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NEW YORK — Yoenis Cespedes and the New York Mets broke loose for a team-record 12 runs in the third inning Friday night, rolling to their seventh straight victory with a 13-1 blowout of the San Francisco Giants.

Cespedes set a club mark with six RBIs in the inning, connecting for a two-run single off starter Jake Peavy (1-2) and a grand slam off reliever Mike Broadway that capped the outburst.

The early barrage made it an easy night for Steven Matz (3-1) in the opener of a three-game series between the last two NL champions. The left-hander tossed six shutout innings to win his third consecutive start.

Michael Conforto had an RBI double and a run-scoring single in the Mets third, which lasted 39 minutes, 47 seconds. He and Cespedes were two of the four players who scored twice. Asdrubal Cabrera greeted Broadway with a two-run double.