Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 20-11

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This is part six 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
Nos. 35-21
20. Orlando Hudson (32) – Prev. #14 – Hudson rode a strong April on a first-place team to an All-Star appearance, but he’s been an average regular at best since the beginning of June. His current 768 OPS is about 50 points under his marks from 2007 and ’08. Hudson has often dealt with injuries, though he’s still played in 130 games six times in his seven full seasons, and he’s now reached an age at which second basemen can lose it in a hurry. The four-year, $40 millionish deal he thought he’d receive after 2008 never came close to materializing, and it’s not going to happen this winter, either. Still, he should land a multiyear deal, perhaps something like $18 million for two years.
19. Andy Pettitte (37) – Prev. #27 – We already know how this is going to work: Pettitte will talk about retirement after the postseason, sit around for a month thinking about things and then sign another one-year contract with the Yankees. The Bombers will certainly want him back after another season of around 15 wins and 200 innings pitched, and he shouldn’t have to settle for a deal as incentive laden as the one he took last winter.
18. Jarrod Washburn (35) – Prev. #44 – Thanks to a superb outfield defense and a pitcher’s park helping him along, Washburn was a very hot property at the trade deadline. However, his ERA has jumped from 2.64 as a Mariner to 7.33 with the Tigers, in large part because of a knee injury that currently has him shut down. Washburn posted ERAs of 4.67, 4.32 and 4.69 in his first three seasons in Seattle, so he’s far from a lock to be an above average pitcher going forward. In truth, he’ll likely prove to be a bust unless he lands in another great situation. He makes more sense in Seattle than just about anywhere else.
17. Vladimir Guerrero (35) – Prev. #10 – Guerrero certainly hasn’t helped himself this year by missing significant chunks of time with a torn pectoral muscle and a strained knee or by being limited to DH duties while in the lineup, but the ability is still there. Since the All-Star break, he’s hit .309/.359/.528 in 178 at-bats. He’d seem to be worthy of one more multiyear deal, whether it’s for two or three years. Guerrero doesn’t say much, but it’s certain he prefers the outfield to DHing and he likely will want to sign with a team that intends to use him in right. He’ll also probably want to stay on the West Coast. San Francisco would seem to be an obvious fit if the Angels decline to bring him back.
16. Bobby Abreu (36) – Prev. #20 – A disappointing final third of the season, at least to date, has Abreu threatening to post a new career-low OPS. Still, he’s helped his value this year by playing better defense and, incredibly enough, functioning as a leader in Anaheim, if not vocally, then by example with his patience at the plate. He’s currently hitting .293/.393/.424, and he’s swiped 29 bases in 37 attempts. Even if he continues to slump, he’ll do a lot better than $5 million for one year this winter, and a strong postseason could put him in line for something like $28 million for two years. Odds are that the Angels will keep either he or Vladdy, but not both.
15. Joel Pineiro (31) – Prev. #69 – It’s his first year as a quality starter since 2003, but what a year it’s been for Pineiro. Having reinvented himself as a sinkerballer, he’s given up just seven homers and 25 walks in 203 innings. His peripherals suggest his ERA should be even better than his current 3.24 mark. Really, there’s no good reason to think he can’t keep this up for a few years. However, any team that outbids the Cardinals for him will be taking him away from Dave Duncan’s tutelage. That’s a definite cause for concern.
14. Adam LaRoche (30) – Prev. #13 – Youth and durability are LaRoche’s main advantages over all of the other first basemen available. It still looked like he might end up with a one-year deal back when the Pirates and Red Sox were passing him around in July, but now that he’s hit .355/.426/.622 in 172 at-bats for Atlanta, pushing his season line up to .283/.360/.505, he again appears to be in line for a nice three-year deal worth $8 million-$9 million per year. LaRoche may be streaky, but his career OPS is 838, he’s never had a bad year and he’s a solid defender at first base.
13. Johnny Damon (36) – Prev. #12 – Yankee Stadium has played a big role in inflating his numbers, but Damon is currently on track to post the second-best OPS of his career. He’s tied his career high with 24 homers. Playing in a new stadium that’s even more kind to his swing than the last one was, Damon has hit .290/.385/.556 with 17 homers at home. Elsewhere, he’s come in at .281/.348/.441, which is still plenty respectable. Damon is through as a center fielder now, and he’d likely be better off if he found a team able to DH him at least once a week. The Yankees figure to try to re-sign him, but they may offer just one year and that shouldn’t be good enough to keep him.
12. Randy Wolf (33) – Prev. NR – No one met Wolf’s three-year, $30 million asking price last year, and he ended up taking $5 million from the Dodgers, with a chance to earn $3 million more in incentives. Obviously, he’s been quite a bargain for the team, but the big difference between Wolf this year and Wolf most years is just his batting average against. He’s always had a nice strikeout rate and his walk rate is lower than usual, but it’s the unusually low number of singles and doubles that is mostly responsible for his current 3.24 ERA. The three- or four-year deal he gets this winter figures to see him overpaid.
11. Rich Harden (28) – Prev. #11 – Not offering Harden arbitration just might be the Cubs’ dumbest move yet, but while that has been the subject of speculation, I have a very difficult time believing that they’ll let him go that easily. As terribly risky as Harden would be on a long-term deal, he’d have plenty of value on a one-year, $10 million contract and he probably wouldn’t even get that much. With all of his upside, he’d receive two- and maybe three-year offers from large-market teams this winter. After all, he has managed to make 51 starts the last two years and strike out 352 batters in 289 innings.

Sure, Carlos Gomez is the problem in Houston

Houston Astros' Carlos Gomez (30) reacts after hitting a double in the second inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Associated Press
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No one will claim that Carlos Gomez is playing up to his ability. He’s got a .634 OPS in the 65 games he’s played for the Astros between last year and this year. Not good at all.

Still, he seems to be taking an outsized amount of the blame for the Astros’ slow start to this year. I do a weekly radio hit on a Texas station and Gomez has been the talk for three weeks when the Astros’ troubles are mentioned. Today Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle spends a whole column going at Gomez, with the usual dash of “you can’t be flamboyant if you can’t back it up” sentiment often given to players like Gomez when they struggle but which is seemingly never given to players whose act is more “tough guy.” Funny that.

More notable: nowhere in the column is it mentioned that, overall, the Astros’ offense is above league average and that, in reality, it’s the pitching that’s killing them. Gomez may not be carrying his weight, but his teammates in the lineup are for now, as teammates do for every hitter at one time of the year or another. Meanwhile, Smith doesn’t seem to be writing columns about how three of the Astros’ five starters have ERAs above 5.00 and how the bullpen has been a disaster. Gomez, however, gets a “Rally Killer” subheading in reference to his performance in a game his team actually won, primarily due to the offense.

There’s also an unfortunate quote in the article. Specifically, Smith quotes Gomez as saying “For the last year and this year, I not really do much for this team. The fans be angry. They be disappointed.”

I’m sure that’s what he said, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the quote’s imperfect English fits satisfyingly into a column designed to rip Gomez and that it’s going to play right into stereotyping a certain sort of reader who has just HAD it with those allegedly lazy, entitled Latino players likes to engage in. For the record, its not uncommon for other players whose grammar is less than perfect to get [the bracket treatment] to make the mistakes less noticeable. Or, if the quote is less than clear or enlightening, to get the paraphrasing treatment and have his sentiment conveyed in keeping with the intent of the sentiment. I guess Gomez doesn’t get that treatment. He gets to be portrayed in such a way that a certain sort of reader will unfortunately interpret as him being too dumb or too lazy to learn proper English or something.

And no, it’s not just sensitive old Craig noticing that:

Empathy is the key word here, I think. Smith as no interest in portraying Gomez as a player who, like all players, struggles from time to time. He has to be the bad guy who is responsible for all of the Astros’ woes, it seems.

Puerto Rico official calls MLB’s likely series cancellation “an act of touristic terrorism”

Ricardo Arduengo -- Associated Press
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On Tuesday it was reported that Major League Baseball is on the verge of cancelling the upcoming series in Puerto Rico between the Marlins and the Pirates due to Zika concerns. Puerto Rico is not particularly pleased with that.

As this story from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review makes clear, their displeasure is being expressed in totally calm and rational terms:

“It’s an outrageous situation,” Rep. Angel Matos, head of the tourism commission for Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, told the Tribune-Review. “The reality is that this cancellation is unfair, disproportionate, and makes our country look bad. It’s an act of touristic terrorism.”

I will grant that a cancellation wouldn’t be great for Puerto Rico. I will also grant that an expert cited in the same article claims that the odds of any players contracting Zika are very, very long. Indeed, he compares it to someone hitting 20 homers in a single game. Which, sure, Giancarlo Stanton is involved here so you can never totally rule it out, but it’s super unlikely.

But MLB, the union and the players involved aren’t in the business of dealing with the probability of disease contraction. They’re dealing with a bunch of players being really nervous about something vs. a two-game series in May that, while carrying big meaning for Puerto Rico, is sort of meaningless to them in a lot of ways, even if they won’t say so publicly. They’re weighing this a lot differently than tourism commission executives.

My guess is that it still gets cancelled. My guess is that, even if it does, Puerto Rico will survive this act of alleged “touristic terrorism.”

Yasiel Puig caught a big fish

Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig looks to the dugout for signs as he steps out of the batter's box while facing Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jordan Lyles in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 24, 2016, in Denver. Puig drew a walk, the first of three in a row yielded by Lyles. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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I know I’m in the tank for Puig and have been for years now, but it’s a pretty fun tank so I don’t care.

Lately I’ve been taken with his hashtag game. Last week we encountered #PuigYourFriend. This one is not as good, but #PuigHungry is pretty solid too.

I just hope this isn’t ruined by word that he’s hired some social media professional to curate his feed. It’s possible and maybe likely, but I just don’t want to hear about it if it’s the case:

 

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber delivers against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Associated Press
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Indians 4, Tigers 0: Corey Kluber with a five-hit shutout in a game which ended in a tidy two hours and nineteen minutes and featured only three pitchers in all. It’s like it was the 1970s or something.

Red Sox 5, White Sox 2: Sox win!

OK, I can’t just leave it at that for the second day in a row. David Ortiz hit a two-run shot for what ended up being the winning runs. It was Ortiz’s 509th career homer, which ties him with Gary Sheffield for 25th on the all-time home run list. Ortiz is on a 36-home run pace. In the past two seasons he’s hit 37 and 35, so it’s not unreasonable to think he’ll get there. If he does pull that off, he’ll pass Sheffield, Mel Ott, Eddie Matthews, Ernie Banks, Ted Williams, Frank Thomas, Willie McCovey, Jimmy Foxx and Mickey Freakin’ Mantle to end up at 17 on the all-time list. That’s some pretty rarified air. And Gary Sheffield.

Reds 7, Giants 4: Zack CozartBrandon Phillips and Eugenio Suarez each hit homers in the second inning as the Reds put up five on Jake Peavy in the frame and went on to avoid the sweep. The Giants’ top three starters have ERAs of 3.61., 3.32, and 3.03. Their fourth and fifth starters have ERAs of 7.00 (Matt Cain) and 8.61 (Peavy). The Giants are in first place. If they’d gotten anything from the back end of their rotation so far they’d be in first by more than a mere half game.

Cubs 6, Pirates 2Ben Zobrist hit a three-run home run and Anthony Rizzo hit a solo shot. The Cubs sweep the Pirates to win their seventh of eight games. They have a six-game division lead already. Juggernaut, much?

Cardinals 5, Phillies 4: The Cardinals scored twice in the bottom of the ninth, capped off with Matt Holliday‘s walkoff single. After the game Holliday said “we needed it . . . this was one we needed to win.” That seems weird to say in early May, but given that the Cardinals had lost five of six and the Cubs are threatening to run away with the division, it’s not a crazy thought.

Mets 8, Braves 0: Steven Matz pitched two-hit shutout ball into the eighth and Lucas Duda homered twice. New York has won 10 of 12. I’m still of the view that the Braves fire Fredi Gonzalez today. I just feel like that’s a thing that’s gonna happen.

Angels 7, Brewers 3: Mike Trout tripled and homered. Remember when, in the first week or two of the season, people were asking if Trout was OK? He’s now hitting .317/.400/.596 and a 41 home run, 127-RBI pace, so yeah, he’s OK.

Nationals 13, Royals 2: The Nats scored six runs before Stephen Strasburg had to throw a single pitch. They had 10 runs by the time they stopped batting in the third. Most of the afternoon, then, was mere formality. Kris Medlen was both shelled and betrayed by his defense, giving up nine runs, six of which were earned. In two home starts he’s allowed sixteen runs, thirteen earned.

Mariners 9, Athletics 8: Seattle led by two, then trailed by four then came back with five runs between the sixth and seventh innings to take this one going away and to complete the sweep. Dae-Ho Lee hit two bombs for Seattle.

Rockies 2, Padres 0: Eight shutout innings from Tyler Chatwood. The game’s two runs scored of a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice. Feel the excitement.

Yankees 7, Orioles 0: CC Sabathia looked like the CC of old, as he pitched seven shutout innings. The Yankees’ bats finally came alive. Brian McCann drove in three so I guess he came alive too. Total resurrection game for the Bombers. If THE BOSS was still alive . . .

Blue Jays 4, Rangers 3: Russell Martin with a walkoff single, giving the Jays two walkoffs in a row against Texas. Pitcher wins and losses don’t mean much but as a whole the Rangers bullpen has nine losses on the year and that’s not really great or OK.

Marlins 4, Diamondbacks 3: Giancarlo Stanton homered but he’s more than just a power hitter. Check out the hose:

Tomas was called safe, but replay showed that Stanton got ’em.

Rays 8, Dodgers 5: Steve Pearce hit a go-ahead, three-run homer and Brandon Guyer, Steven Souza Jr. and Curt Casali each hit solo shots. The Dodgers were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

 

Astros 16, Twins 4: Jason Castro homered and drove in four runs. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa both homered and drove in three. It’s the first time all year Houston has won consecutive games. Dang.