Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 50-36

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This is part four in a series of columns looking at this winter’s free agent class. I’m listing each player along with his age, as of next April 1, and his place in the previous edition of these rankings from May.
Nos. 111-91
Nos. 90-71
Nos. 70-51
50. Noel Arguelles (20) – Prev. NR – With fellow Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman getting all of the attention, Arguelles could fly under the radar and prove to be a bargain. The southpaw reportedly throws in the low-90s consistently, and while he’s going to need at least one year and probably two in the minors, he’s probably more polished than Chapman.
49. Brandon Lyon (30) – Prev. #89 – Signed with the idea that he’d close over Fernando Rodney, Lyon was a big disappointment this spring and for the first two months of the season. Fortunately, he’s bounced back to post a 1.48 ERA and a 43/12 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 innings since the beginning of June. While he’s far from an ideal option as a closer, his durability and his ability to go multiple innings make him particularly valuable. He should command at least a two-year deal and a three-year, $15 million pact isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.
48. Brad Penny (32) – Prev. #54 – The results haven’t been there, but Penny has demonstrated that he’s healthy by staying off the disabled list and averaging 94 mph with his fastball. If he rediscovers his curve, he’s still capable of being one of the league’s best starters, for three months at a time anyway. While it’s obvious now that he needs to stay in the NL, he’ll be a fine investment on another one-year contract.
47. Jack Wilson* (32) – Prev. #47 – Speculation at the time of the deal was that the Mariners insisted on getting some cash back from the Pirates in the Wilson deal so that they’d be able to pick up the shortstop’s $8.4 million option for 2010. It seemed like an unnecessary step, though, particularly since there’s just a $600,000 buyout attached to the option. A two-year deal worth around $10 million would work for the Mariners and should be pretty appealing to Wilson after season in which he’s battled injuries and hasn’t hit. He’s currently batting .255/.292/.362, giving him an OPS in the 650s for the second straight year.
46. Marlon Byrd (32) – Prev. #70 – The numbers from his three-year Texas tenure make Byrd look like a consistent and competent starting outfielder, even if this is the first year he’s truly played regularly. He was, however, essentially worthless in his age 26-28 season before joining the Rangers, and it needs to be noted that he hasn’t been much more than a 760-OPS guy away from Arlington. Also, while his OPS has stayed relatively steady, his OBP has been bouncing all over the place, from .355 in 2006 to an exceptional .380 in 2008 to a subpar .325 this year. It’s very possible that Byrd will get a multiyear deal to start for some team, but he’ll probably disappoint.
45. Troy Glaus (33) – Prev. #43 – Glaus managed to play in 151 games and hit .270/.372/.483 in 2008, but his 2009 has been a complete loss following shoulder surgery and the steroid reports that arose in April certainly won’t help his hunt for work this winter. If Glaus can still play third base adequately, then he’s a $10 million player. As a first baseman or DH, he wouldn’t necessarily be much better of a bet than Russell Branyan or Hank Blalock. The one advantage he would have there is that he’s right-handed, setting him apart from almost all of the rest of the first base/DH options.
44. Rick Ankiel (30) – Prev. #9 – Ankiel finished with an 863 OPS in 172 at-bats in 2007 and an 843 mark in 413 at-bats last year, but he got off to a slow start this season and not long after it appeared that he had turned it around, he injured his shoulder in a collision with the wall. He returned after just three weeks, but it doesn’t seem like he’s been 100 percent at any time since and he’s currently sitting at .234/.286/.390 in 351 at-bats. The perception is that Ankiel should still have some upside left after so recently making the full-time switch to the outfield, but he does have holes in his swing and durability is an obvious issue. He’ll probably need to take a one-year deal in order to rebuild his value.
43. Trevor Hoffman (42) – Prev. #71 – Even though his WHIP and strikeout rate were strong, Hoffman’s inflated 3.77 ERA in his final year in San Diego made finding work somewhat difficult after last season. He ended up getting $6 million from the Brewers in January, and he’s gone on to pick up 34 saves in 37 chances. He’s currently on track to finish with a sub-2.00 ERA for just the second time in his illustrious career. The Brewers want him back and have no one to replace him, so they’ll probably offer him another one-year deal with a modest raise.
42. Hank Blalock (29) – Prev. #29 – Blalock is such an incredibly frustrating player, but he’s still young and even in such a lousy season, he was on pace for 30 homers before the Rangers finally got fed up with his low OBP and benched him. Part of the reason he’s always been tantalizing as a fantasy property is because he’s excelled at his home park, but this year he’s somehow managed to post a 687 OPS in Arlington and a solid 818 mark elsewhere. Blalock hasn’t been both healthy and productive since his age-23 season in 2004, so the Rangers are almost surely through with him. He’ll probably end up with a one-year contract, but a high roller could offer him three years and hope for the best. How many other free agents here have the potential to be worth $45 million over the life of a $20 million deal?
41. Fernando Rodney (33) – Prev. #79 – With just one blown save in 34 chances, Rodney has done his job about as well as any closer this year. Still, his ERA stands at 3.82, his strikeout rate is down slightly and he’s continued to walk a batter every other inning. It’s going to make him a very interesting case this winter. Rodney isn’t young and he has a career ERA of a 4.16, but he’s always had very good stuff and it’s quite reasonable to believe he’ll be better in his 30s than he was in his 20s. It’ll probably take a three-year deal to sign him, and the Tigers figure to make a strong bid to keep him around.
40. Carlos Delgado (37) – Prev. #21 – Delgado followed up an exceptional second half of 2008 by hitting .298/.393/.521 in 26 games to begin this season, but he was hobbled by a sore hip all along and he opted for surgery in mid-May. He was originally expected to return in July, but the timetable kept getting pushed back and now it appears that his season is over. Because of the injury, he can’t expect more than a one-year contract this winter, which makes him a much better investment than he would have been coming off another 30-HR, 100-RBI season. The Mets figure to look into re-signing him for one year.
39. Felipe Lopez (29) – Prev. #36 – The Giants could have picked up a better performer at a less expensive price had they gone after Lopez instead of holding back and eventually landing Freddy Sanchez. Lopez was hitting a solid .301/.364/.412 before leaving Arizona, and he’s come in at .329/.411/.468 in 216 at-bats as a Brewer. His teams would be better off if he never attempted another steal — he’s 14-for-28 the last three years — but even though he’s lost a step, he remains an above average defender at second base. He’s in line for a multiyear deal, but it won’t come from the Brewers, since they’re expecting Rickie Weeks back next year.
38. Billy Wagner (38) – Prev. #50 – Wagner pulled off a return to the majors just 11 months following Tommy John surgery, and he’s gone on to fan 19 batters in 11 1/3 innings. His status as a Type A free agent could hurt him this winter, since the Red Sox are nearly certain to offer him arbitration, but he may very well be the best one-year closing option on the market.
37. Jon Garland* (30) – Prev. #51 – The Diamondbacks didn’t want to fuss with Garland’s $10 million mutual option, so they passed it on to the Dodgers. L.A. will have the option for buying him out at $2.5 million. If they opt to pick it up, then Garland can void it, collect a $1 million payment and then become a free agent. If he can just continue his current run for two more weeks, then the latter scenario should be fulfilled. Garland is 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA for the Dodgers and 11-11 with a 4.02 ERA for the season. He’s not a top-of-the-rotation starter by any means, but he’s still young and he’s proven exceptionally durable. This will be the eighth straight season in which he’s made 32 starts.
36. Hideki Matsui (35) – Prev. #42 – Speculation has had Matsui returning home to Japan after the season, but his exceptional campaign in the DH role guarantees that he’ll have options. He’s currently hitting .279/.371/.523 with 27 homers in 426 at-bats, and Yankee Stadium has had nothing to do with it, as he’s batted .293/.389/.576 in road games. It’d be for the best if he never sees the outfield again, but he’ll probably be viewed as the best pure DH available this winter.

Darvish wins 1st start since 2014 as Rangers top Pirates 5-2

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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Yu Darvish struck out seven in five strong innings in his first start in the majors in almost 22 months, and the Texas Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Saturday night.

The Japanese right-hander allowed three singles with a walk in his return from last year’s Tommy John surgery, ending Pittsburgh’s five-game winning streak.

Adrian Beltre had a two-run homer in the first inning off Juan Nicasio (3-3) to become the fourth third baseman with at least 1,500 RBIs, finishing with 1,501.

Mitch Moreland snapped a 1-for-27 skid with a solo home run in the fourth.

Four Texas relievers allowed four hits and a run with four strikeouts in four innings.

The “Yuuu” calls from a sellout crowd started early for Darvish, who last pitched in the big leagues on Aug. 9, 2014. He missed the rest of that season with right elbow inflammation, and ended up needing ligament reconstruction surgery after his only spring training appearance last year.

Darvish (1-0) had a 0.90 ERA in five rehab starts this month, culminating with an 87-pitch outing. He threw 81 against the Pirates, hitting 98 mph with his fastball in the first inning and displaying his usual array of breaking pitches, some as slow as 70 mph.

John Jaso had a leadoff single on Darvish’s second pitch before Andrew McCutchen struck out. The Pirates didn’t get another hit until Francisco Cervelli‘s sinking liner in front of rookie right fielder Nomar Mazara in the fifth.

No. 9 hitter Cole Figueroa ended Darvish’s shutout bid by pulling a hanging slider into right-center field for a single that scored Cervelli from second. Darvish then struck out Jaso for the second time to finish his outing.

Beltre’s homer just cleared the wall in center field after Prince Fielder‘s RBI groundout to score leadoff hitter Jurickson Profar, who had two hits filling in for suspended second baseman Rougned Odor. It was the second game of Odor’s seven-game ban.

SHORT HOPS

Joey Gallo, who had just one at-bat in his five-day stint, was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to make room on the roster for Darvish. … Pirates lefty reliever Tony Watson came off the paternity list and pitched a perfect eighth.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Pirates: Manager Clint Hurdle planned to give 2B Josh Harrison the night off after he came out of the series opener early. He’s been battling an illness that kept him out of the lineup Thursday as well.

Rangers: C Robinson Chirinos is expected to start a rehab assignment Tuesday with Double-A Frisco. He’s been out since April 10 with a broken right forearm and could be activated as soon as he is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on June 9.

UP NEXT

Pirates: LHP Francisco Liriano (4-3, 4.30) has won his last four starts against the Rangers and is 5-1 with a save and a 2.89 ERA in nine career games against them, most of those with Minnesota. His last appearance against Texas was Sept. 10, 2013.

Rangers: LHP Martin Perez (2-4, 3.13) makes his team-high 11th start and has gone 2-2 with a 2.23 ERA in his past six starts. He threw six shutout innings in a 4-1 win over the Angels in his last start

Utley answers with slam, solo HR as Dodgers rout Mets 9-1

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NEW YORK (AP) After the New York Mets missed, Chase Utley connected twice.

Utley hit a grand slam and a solo homer after Noah Syndergaard threw a 99 mph fastball behind his back, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep a season-high five times in routing New York 9-1 on Saturday night.

In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, Syndergaard was immediately ejected following the third-inning pitch – which certainly appeared to be his shot at retaliation against Utley for the late takeout slide that broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year’s playoffs.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed Syndergaard, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage, but no trouble ensued between the teams. A longtime New York nemesis, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers’ bench to keep teammates calm – and later responded by doing all sorts of damage with his bat.

“I think a loud, energizing environment gets the best out of you. I think it’s fun,” said Utley, who has 19 RBIs this season, nine in the first two games of this series. “It kind of gets the adrenaline going a little bit, makes you kind of dig down deeper.”

Asked if he thought Syndergaard delivered a purpose pitch, Utley said: “Possibly, but I understand it.”

Adrian Gonzalez homered and had four hits for the Dodgers, who spoiled the Mets’ 30th anniversary celebration of their 1986 World Series championship. Howie Kendrick and Corey Seager also connected, all after Syndergaard was gone.

Kenta Maeda (4-3) shook off an early line drive that hit him on the pitching hand and threw five shutout innings. The right-hander yielded two hits, both singles in the first, and stopped his three-game losing streak.

“Pretty impressive. You wouldn’t see too many other pitches staying in the game at that point,” Utley said.

The stoic Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since Tejada was injured. The Mets – and their fans – were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders in what some call the Utley Rule.

But the Mets had not tried to retaliate until Saturday night; Utley played all four games without incident May 9-12 when the teams split a series in Los Angeles.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard’s first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman by a considerable margin.

Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.

“The ruling was that he intentionally threw at the batter,” crew chief Tom Hallion told a pool reporter. “We can either warn or eject. And with what happened in that situation, we felt the ejection was warranted.”

Hallion said no warnings were issued before the series.

“We take each game individually,” he said when asked if last year’s playoff series played a role in the ejection. “We have to make a snap decision. We can’t think about, OK, well this guy did this or he did that in Game 6 of whatever. We don’t have enough time to think that way. We make a decision on what happens in the game.”

Collins said he had never before seen a pitcher get ejected without a warning.

“My argument was, nobody got hit,” Collins said. “There was a time when, in this game, where you had a shot and nothing happened, the ball went to the backstop. So that was kind of my argument.”

After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.

“It was just a pitch that got away from me. That’s all I got,” Syndergaard said. “I can understand why he did what he did. I still think a warning would have been better.”

Collins acknowledged he’s a little concerned Syndergaard might get suspended.

Logan Verrett (3-2) entered for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent in the sellout crowd of 42,227 urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett’s first pitch of the sixth for a 1-0 lead.

Booed all night, Utley added his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, making it 6-0 with his 38th homer against the Mets.

Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares homered in the eighth for New York, long after the outcome was decided.

In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants. He had four RBIs in a 6-5 loss, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth.

“We came together as a group,” Utley said. “We battled, and it was a good win.”

WHERE ARE YOU NOW?

Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who designated him for assignment Saturday.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Dodgers: RF Trayce Thompson exited in the fifth with lower back soreness. He was replaced by Yasiel Puig, who hit an RBI single off Verrett in the sixth.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (hamstring) went 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly in his fifth rehab game for Double-A Binghamton. Before the game, Collins said it was reasonable to think Flores could come off the disabled list Sunday.

UP NEXT

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (7-1, 1.48 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday night against 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (4-3, 3.44). Kershaw, coming off a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts vs. the Mets. He is 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA in May – including a three-hit shutout of New York on May 12 at Dodger Stadium. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has struck out 55 and walked two this month.

Mets’ Syndergaard ejected after throwing behind Utley

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NEW YORK — In a scene that has seemed inevitable since October, New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard has been ejected for throwing a 99 mph fastball behind Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since his late takeout slide in last year’s playoffs broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.

New York was incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules on slides at bases this season. But the Mets had not attempted to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard’s first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman’s back by a considerable margin.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting irate Mets manager Terry Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected.

Indians’ Brantley unsure of return from shoulder injury

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CLEVELAND — Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has no timetable for his return from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the second time this season.

Brantley spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 14. He began the season on the DL following surgery for a torn right labrum in November. Brantley hit .231 with seven RBIs in 11 games before being shut down again.

“I wasn’t bouncing back quick enough to keep playing back-to-back games, which is very important,” he said. “I want to be healthy each and every day and I have to play at a high level. This is the major leagues. You have to be at the best of your ability and the highest health-wise you can be.”

Brantley, who received an anti-inflammatory shot in the shoulder two weeks ago, doesn’t think he returned from the surgery too soon.

“I was ready,” he said. “We talked about it. We had a great process laid out. Everything went smoothly. It was just a bump in the road.”

Brantley has been hitting off a tee but isn’t sure when he will begin taking swings in the batting cage. He is playing catch since he throws left-handed but wants to be cautious about resuming a hitting program.

“Surgery is nothing to play with,” he said. “You have to be smart and understand your body.”

Brantley visited Dr. Craig Morgan, who performed the surgery, in Wilmington, Delaware after he returned to the DL. An MRI showed no changes in the shoulder.

“He said everything checks out good, just make sure to take your time and we’ll see what happens from there,” Brantley said.

Brantley finished third in the AL MVP voting in 2014 when he hit .327 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs. He batted .310 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs last season.