Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 35-21

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This is part five 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
Nos. 50-36
35. Miguel Tejada (35) – Prev. #49 – Tejada is still racking up plenty of singles and doubles, but they’re coming with very few walks and a mediocre on-base percentage. In the second half, he’s hit .265/.294/.391, leaving him at .303/.332/.440 overall. With his range on the decline, many believe he belongs at third base these days, yet he probably doesn’t have the bat to be a quality regular at the position. The team that gives him a multiyear deal this winter figures to regret it.
34. Erik Bedard (31) – Prev. #2 – Coming back from shoulder surgery, Bedard defied expectations by opening the year in the Seattle rotation and immediately reemerging as one of the league’s elite starters. Unfortunately, it lasted just two months. Bedard went down again in each June, returned to make four starts in July and then had to shut it down again. Labrum surgery followed, and Bedard figures to miss the first month of 2010. Odds are that his next contract will include one guaranteed season and an expensive option for 2011.
33. Bengie Molina (35) – Prev. #16 – Molina’s great start didn’t last long, and he currently has a .281 OBP and a 708 OPS that world rank as his worst since 2002. He’s contributed 18 homers and 75 RBI anyway, as the Giants have kept him in the cleanup spot through thick and, mostly, thin. That’s not going to fool a lot of outside suitors, though. Perhaps his market will even diminish to the point at which the Giants could re-sign him to a one-year deal. They’re not going to want to block Buster Posey beyond 2010, but Molina seemed to be in line to get a two- or three-year contract elsewhere.
32. Brett Myers (29) – Prev. #15 – It looks like Myers may well have hurt his cause by rushing back from hip surgery in a bid to help the Phillies this month and in October. He returned with diminished velocity, and now he’s sidelined again with a strained lat. Teams will surely appreciate his competitiveness, but even before the hip problems, Myers wasn’t showing the same stuff that helped him fan 397 batters in 413 1/3 innings between 2005 and ’06. He made it known in 2007 that he preferred relieving to starting, and it’s entirely possible that he will shop himself as a closer this winter. He might opt to take a one-year deal and go back on the market next year.
31. Doug Davis (34) – Prev. #38 – Davis is a hard guy to trust because of his tendency to work outside of the strike zone and rack up big pitch counts in the early innings, but he’s a durable left-hander who knows exactly what works for him on the mound. He’s never had a significant arm problem as a major leaguer, and he’s on his way to posting an ERA in the low-4.00s for the third straight season. That probably won’t excite the large-market teams at all, but several mid-market teams could use an average lefty they know they can count on to make 33 starts.
30. Placido Polanco (34) – Prev. #31 – Polanco, who is currently hitting .283/.329/.404, figures to finish the season his worst average and OBP since 2002, if not 1999, but he has reached double figures in homers for the first time since 2004 and driven in a career-high 68 runs. While he’s typically missed 20-30 games a season throughout his career, he should play in 150 games this year for the time. It’s a rather surprising turn of events, given that Polanco has reached the age at which second basemen tend to break down. His defense remains above average, so it looks like he can be counted on as a starter for at least a two more years.
29. Nick Johnson (31) – Prev. #34 – His power hasn’t come back after last year’s torn wrist tendon, but Johnson has been a very good first baseman while hitting .291/.420/.407. He’s also suffered just one injury, that being a strained hamstring which sidelined him for 2 1/2 weeks last month. Time will tell if it’s good enough to get him a three-year deal this winter. He still might regain some power, and even if he doesn’t, his outstanding on-base skills aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. Unfortunately for him, the teams that most appreciate OBP probably won’t be looking for first basemen this winter.
28. Mike Gonzalez (31) – Prev. #35 – Gonzalez didn’t lose his closer’s gig in Atlanta so much as he was simply overtaken by Rafael Soriano. He has a 2.60 ERA, he’s struck out 84 and he’s blown away his previous career high in innings of 54. He’s currently at 69 1/3. He has been charged with seven blown saves, but four of those came in his current setup role and since he was usually charged with just a run in those games, the Braves went on to win five of them. No, it’s durability far more than performance that will count against Gonzalez this winter. He’ll probably get a nice three-year deal anyway, but it won’t be at Jose Valverde money.
27. Jermaine Dye* (36) – Prev. #23 – Dye’s season turned sour in a big hurry. After hitting .302/.375/.567 with 20 homers in the first half, he’s batted just .168/.276/.260 with five homers in 196 at-bats since the break. His $12 million option seemed very reasonable a couple of months ago, but the White Sox are all set to buy him out for $1 million now. While Dye isn’t finished as a regular, he’s at an age now at which he’s no longer a very good investment on multiyear deals. Someone will probably give him a two-year contract anyway.
26. Jason Marquis (31) – Prev. #52 – Even though Marquis was five games over .500 in 61 starts with the team, the Cubs wanted nothing more to do with him as he entered the final season of his three-year deal with the team. They paid the Rockies to take him, and Marquis has proceeded to go 15-11 with a 3.84 ERA, boosting his stock higher than it’s been in five years. It’d be foolish to count on him being so effective again next year, but he’s still rather young and very durable. He’s in line for another three-year contract, likely at more than the $21 million he’s making now.
25. Brandon Webb* (30) – Prev. #22 – The scenario that led to him being ranked here back in May has come to pass exactly: obviously, if Webb finished the season healthy, his $8.5 million option was a no-brainer. But if he did end up needing shoulder surgery he could be in play, not as an elite free agent, but still as a pretty desirable property. Since Webb’s surgery turned up no rotator cuff or labrum tears, the Diamondbacks would be foolish to buy him out for $2 million. However, that’s exactly what some have suggested they’ll do. I think they’ll relent and pick up the option, because if they don’t, the Yankees, Red Sox and others in position to offer complicated-but-lucrative incentive-laden deals will do so.
24. Marco Scutaro (34) – Prev. #61 – Scutaro’s big breakthrough came at age 33, and while he’s been a fine defensive shortstop this year, there’s just no telling how long he’ll last as solid option at the position. There is reason to believe that he’ll be a useful leadoff man for a couple of more years, even if his current .379 OBP is 50 points higher than his previous career mark. His inflated power numbers seem less likely to carry over to 2010. Since he’s undeniably the best 2010 option at shortstop available in free agency, he’s going to land a nice contract. He may, however, fade back into a utility role before his next contract comes to an end.
23. Rafael Soriano (30) – Prev. #58 – Wearing down from a heavier workload than he’s ever experienced before, Soriano has seen his ERA jump from 1.48 before the break to 5.74 afterwards. It’s still good to see the injury-prone right-hander up to 69 1/3 innings for the season, but he’d likely have been even more valuable to the Braves if kept on a 65-inning pace. One of the game’s most dominant pitchers, Soriano has fanned 92 batters. His .202 average against is right at his career mark, and his 1.08 WHIP is only slightly above. Because he’s had so many injury issues, it’d be smarter to overpay Soriano for two years than to go to three or four years to get him. The Braves might be able to keep either he or Gonzalez, but probably not both.
22. Mark DeRosa (35) – Prev. #26 – Incredibly, DeRosa’s torn wrist tendon sheath hasn’t done anything to his power stroke. He’s set a new career high with 23 homers, surpassing his 2008 total of 21. Before that, he had just 48 career homers in 2,145 at-bats. Especially because of his versatility, DeRosa will be an extremely interesting case this winter. He’s no longer much of a second baseman, but not everyone sees it that way. Other teams will look at him as a third baseman or a corner outfielder. He turns 35 next spring, but he’s a far better player now than he was five years ago. He could be in line for about $24 million over three years.
21. Mike Cameron (37) – Prev. #28 – Still going remarkably strong at age 36, Cameron likely ranks as the game’s most underrated player of the last 10 years. He’s played the vast majority of his career in poor ballparks for hitters, yet he’s always finishing with OPSs around 800 and playing excellent defense. Maybe he’s no longer one of the game’s five best defensive center fielders, but he still comfortably ranks in the top half of the league. He’ll probably get about $20 million for two years and be worth every penny.

Jacob deGrom open to extension with Mets

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom talks during media day for the Major League Baseball World Series against the Kansas City Royals Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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The Mets are currently enjoying the spoils of the best young rotation in the game, but the big question is whether this is just a brief window or the start of sustained success. Given the huge prices on the free agent market, it’s going to be next to impossible to keep the band together, but at least one member of the rotation is open to sticking around for the long-term.

While there haven’t been any talks yet, All-Star right-hander Jacob deGrom told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he could see himself discussing an extension with the Mets.

“I’m a little bit older, so I might be more willing to do something like that,’’ deGrom told The Post at Mets pre-camp. “You just have to look at what is fair so both sides get a decent deal. It’s something I’d have to look into and make sure I agree with it.’’

It makes sense from deGrom’s perspective. He broke into the majors later than most prospects, so he’ll be 28 this June. Depending on whether he qualifies as a Super Two, he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after either 2016 or 2017. Either way, he’s under team control through 2020, which means that he’s currently on track to hit free agency after his age-32 season. The market might not be kind to him even if he manages to stay healthy, so it could behoove him to get as much guaranteed money as possible right now. The Mets could always decide to play things year-to-year, but perhaps deGrom would be willing to settle for a discount in order to get them to buy out a free agent year or two. It’s a really interesting situation to think about, but odds are the two sides will wait on contract talks until he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time.

DeGrom owns a 2.61 ERA in 52 starts over his first two seasons in the majors. Among starters, only Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and Clayton Kershaw have a lower ERA since the start of 2014.

Royals, Mike Moustakas avoid arbitration with two-year deal

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas celebrates after hitting an RBI single against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Seriesagainst the Toronto Blue Jays  on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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The Royals and third baseman Mike Moustakas have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $14.3 million deal, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

The deal, which was initially discussed last month, buys out Moustakas’ final two years of arbitration. Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports that it’s believed he’ll make $5.6 million in 2016 and $8.7 million in 2017.

The 27-year-old Moustakas posted an underwhelming .668 OPS over his first four seasons in the majors, but he enjoyed a big postseason in 2014 before breaking out last season by batting .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
AP Photo/J Pat Carter
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.