Trevor Hoffman

Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 90-71


Here’s part two of the Top 111 Free Agents. Whereas most of the players in the 111-91 range will be looking at one-year deals in the $1 million-$2 million range, the players here will hold out for a bit more, if not necessarily in guarantees then definitely in incentives.

Free agents Nos. 111-91

90. J.C. Romero (Phillies – Age 34) – The Phillies’ first order of business after losing to the Giants in the NLCS was to decline Romero’s $4.5 million option for 2011. The lefty specialist has had elbow issues the last two years, and while he did manage to make 60 appearances this season, he wasn’t very valuable in finishing with a 3.68 ERA and a 28/29 K/BB ratio in 36 2/3 innings. Romero remains very difficult to hit, and if he can get over the elbow problems, he could spend another 5-10 years in the big leagues. He is, however, looking at a paycut after making $12 million over the last three seasons.

89. Nick Johnson (Yankees – Age 32) – Another wrist injury, this one requiring two surgeries, resulted in Johnson’s third lost season in the last four. He seems like a poor bet now to ever reemerge as a 20-homer threat, and he’s not the defender at first base that he was when he entered the league. It’d still make sense for some team to sign him as a designated hitter and hope for the best, but he’s probably looking at a guarantee of about $1 million with incentives based on playing time.

88. Trevor Hoffman (Brewers – Age 43) – Some were calling for a midseason retirement, but Hoffman was able to overcome a horrific April and finish with a 2.66 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP after the All-Star break. He allowed six homers during the first month, but just two the rest of the way. It appears as though he’d like to keep pitching and adding to his record total of 601 saves. If he’s willing to sign cheap, perhaps he could rejoin the Marlins as a closer and finish his career where it began.

87. Bengie Molina (Rangers – Age 36) – Molina will get himself a second World Series ring at age 36 and then could opt for retirement this winter. One of the league’s most consistent offensive catchers from 2003-2009, Molina fell off in a big way this year, coming in at .249/.297/.326 in 377 at-bats with the Giants and Rangers. He’s also lost quite a bit defensively. Still, if he wants to keep playing, he shouldn’t lack for suitors. Obviously, there’s plenty of respect around the league for how he handles pitchers.

86. Kevin Correia (Padres – Age 30) – Correia would have had a few suitors and might have landed a two-year deal had the Padres opted to non-tender him last year rather than give him $3.6 million. San Diego won’t want to pay him nearly as much again after his ERA jumped from 3.91 to 5.40 in his second year in the team’s rotation, and it’s a safe bet that he’ll have to take a one-year contract elsewhere.

85. Rick Ankiel (Braves – Age 31) – The Royals took the chance on Ankiel last winter, giving him a $3.25 million guarantee after his poor 2009. He went on to miss most of the first half, though he did hit .261/.317/.467 in 92 at-bats when healthy. After moving on to Atlanta, he came in at .210/.324/.328 in 119 at-bats. Ankiel’s approach at the plate is flawed, but he still has remarkable power. If he can stay healthy and land in the right situation, he could yet have a 30-homer season. That potential, though, isn’t worth much of an investment at this point.

84. Nick Punto (Twins – Age 33) – Punto’s last decent offensive season earned him a two-year, $8.5 million contract from Minnesota, but he hasn’t hit since, and it’s a lock that his $5 million option for 2011 will be declined, though the Twins figure to look to bring him back at a smaller price. His glove should keep him in the league for several more years, but there’s little reason to give someone with his talent a multiyear deal.

83. Brandon Webb (Diamondbacks – Age 31) – Webb deserves a chance to make $10 million-$12 million next year, but he won’t be guaranteed more than a small fraction of that if he chooses to sign this winter. After failing to return from shoulder surgery as hoped this year, he struggled to reach the mid-80s with his sinker in instructional league appearances earlier this month. He might want to wait and audition again in the spring.

82. Ty Wigginton (Orioles) – Wigginton almost surely would have been better off now if the Orioles had traded him to a contender in July. Sure, he would have finished the season as a part-timer, but he was exposed as a regular. After hitting 13 homers in April and May, he delivered just nine the rest of the season and finished with a poor .248/.312/.413 line in a career-high 581 at-bats. Wigginton certainly has value as a legitimate power threat starting 60 games a year between the infield corners. He might prefer to be marketed as a starting third baseman, but that’s unlikely to fly.

81. Freddy Garcia (White Sox – Age 34) – Despite striking out just 89 batters in 157 innings, the reinvented Garcia was a decent enough pitcher for the White Sox this year, going 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA. His stuff isn’t nearly what it was, but smarts and guts could make him an adequate fourth or fifth starter for a while longer. He’d be better off in a ballpark in which his flyball tendencies wouldn’t result in as many homers. However, he’d prefer to stay with the White Sox given the chance.

80. Edgar Renteria (Giants – Age 35) – There’s no bigger no-brainer than declining Renteria’s $10.5 million option this winter. He was overpaid from the moment he signed with the Giants, though he was a pretty solid regular when healthy this year (.276/.332/.374 in 72 games). Fortunately, his defense hasn’t declined as sharply as it appeared it might and he’s still adequate at shortstop. That should buy him another year as a regular in 2011. His career is winding down, though.

79. Xavier Nady (Cubs – Age 32) – Nady was something of a hot property last winter even though he was still recovering from Tommy John surgery and his early-season availability was known to be a question mark. He proved to be a bust after getting a $3.3 million from the Cubs, as he was both ineffective as a pinch-hitter and occasional starter against lefties during the first half and as Derrek Lee’s replacement at first base at the end of the season. A career .277/.331/.445 hitter with limited defensive value, he should be fighting for his career at this point. Still, some team will probably throw a few million his way.

78. Takashi Saito (Braves – Age 41) – Another year, another sub-3.00 ERA for Saito. That makes five in a row since he arrived from Japan. Unfortunately, Saito has fallen short of 60 innings in each of those last three seasons. He struck out 69 in 54 innings this year, but his shoulder limited him down the stretch and prevented him from pitching in the postseason. The Braves released him at year’s end, so it looks like he’ll get his $3 million from someone else next season.

77. Rod Barajas (Dodgers – Age 35) – Barajas has hit 36 homers in 742 at-bats over the last two seasons, and he still has a pretty good defensive reputation at age 35. Of course, he’s hideous when it comes to OBP — .284 doubles as both his 2010 and his career mark — but some teams will look at him adequate regular anyway. The Dodgers may want to keep him around if they choose to send Russell Martin packing.

76. Jose Guillen (Giants – Age 34) – Guillen can still drive in runs from the middle of the order, but he’s rarely on base for the guys batting behind him and he’s turned into a liability in the outfield. He’s definitely reached the stage of his career at which his talent will no longer overshadow any attitude problems. Fortunately, he’s managed to avoid controversy lately, so he’ll probably get about $3 million from some team.

75. Scott Podsednik (Dodgers – Age 35) – Podsednik was a fine leadoff hitter for the White Sox in 2009 and the Royals in the first two-thirds of 2010, but he was quite a disappointment after joining the Dodgers, hitting .262/.313/.336 with just 17 runs scored in 39 games. The good news for him is that the only other free agent leadoff men likely to change teams this winter are Carl Crawford and Johnny Damon. He probably shouldn’t start against lefties, but he’s been an asset versus righties these last two years.

74. Dan Wheeler (Rays – Age 33) – Wheeler posted an ERA in the low-3.00s for a third straight season in 2010, but it sounds like the Rays are going to buy him out for $1 million rather than pick up his $4 million option for 2011. They reduced his role this year, rarely using him against lefties even though he did fine against them when given the chance. Sometimes it’s hard to see how Wheeler is so effective with his mediocre arsenal, but he is worth $3 million, even if the Rays no longer think so.

73. Rich Harden (Rangers – Age 29) – If you’re only going to throw two pitches, you better at least have some idea where they’re going. Harden, though, walked 62 in 92 innings as a $7.5 million bust for the Rangers. His upside isn’t nearly what it was before arm problems robbed him of his slider and splitter, and he’s still an awful bet to stay healthy. There remains a chance that he could be an above average starter for some team for three or four months, but at this point, the potential is no longer worth the risk.

72. Yorvit Torrealba (Padres – Age 32) – Torrealba had slightly higher OPSs in two of his four years in Colorado and in 136 at-bats with the Giants back in 2002, but 2010 was certainly his best offensive season, as he came in at .271/.343/.378 in 325 at-bats with the Padres. That could well be good enough to see that he enters 2011 as a clear No. 1 catcher for the first time in his career. There’s a $3.5 million mutual option on his contract with San Diego, so he could be back with the Padres.

71. Erik Bedard (Mariners – Age 32) – Last February, the Mariners gave a rehabbing Bedard a $1.5 million guarantee and a chance to make $7 million in bonuses, but he wasn’t able to make it back from shoulder surgery to contribute. Instead, he underwent another procedure in August, this one to remove bone spurs. Bedard is supposed to enter 2011 healthy, and he looks like a better bet than Webb to me. A similar contract seems appropriate.

Playoff Reset: The Cards and Dodgers have their backs against the wall

Clayton Kershaw
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Historically speaking, the Cardinals and Dodgers are the class of the National League. A couple of organizations which have won a ton, have had a lot of classy alpha-types running their respective shows over the years, no shortage of glory, no shortage of history and enough evocative and grand footage in the can to make Ken Burns sepia with envy.

Meanwhile, the Cubs and Mets, while they’ve won some and have some wonderful history too, are far better known for their failures. For dubious achievements and fan bases which have, collectively, spent far more time smacking their own foreheads than high-fiving the guy in the seat next to them. Nevertheless, by the time we go to bed tonight it’s quite possible that the classy organizations with the long resumes of winning baseball will have been eliminated by the sad sacks and that we’re going to be treated to a Mets-Cubs NLCS.

In short: today’s NLDS contests are “the big game” sequences in any late-70s-mid-90s “slobs vs. snobs” comedy movie. Camp Mohawk vs. Camp Northstar. Lane Meyer vs. Roy Stalin skiing the K-12. Thornton Mellon vs. Chas in the diving meet. Once these things are over don’t be surprised to see someone on the Mets or Cubs kissing some girl way out of their league and to be asking yourself, “wait, why are there cheerleaders at a diving meet?”

Of course baseball isn’t as scripted as all of that and William Zabka is, according to IMDb, in pre-production on some Civil War project, so he can’t make it. I have no idea what that’s about. I can only assume he’s playing some stuck-up Confederate General who will lose to Curtis Armstrong’s disheveled Union general in The Big Battle, after which we cut to credits over some tossed-off Dave Edmunds song he wrote for the soundtrack just for the money.

Which is to say: we have to watch these games to see what happens:

The Game: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs
The Time: 4:37 p.m. ET
The Place: Wrigley Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: John Lackey vs. Jason Hammel
The Upshot: Wow, those were a lot of dingers given up by Michael Wacha and his friends last night, huh? The god news is that they’re running Lackey out there this afternoon and Lackey has owned the Cubs of late, going 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts against them, including his gem in Game 1 on Friday night. The bad news: even a half dozen recent starts aren’t great predictively speaking, and Lackey is on short rest. TBS will show highlights of Lackey pitching on short rest in the 2002 World Series today, but think about what you were doing in 2002 and whether you’d be just as good at it today as then. Hammel has the ball for the Cubs. He has not fared well against the Cardinals this season (5.37 ERA) but the same small sample stuff applies.

Injuries could be a key consideration here, as Addison Russell may be on the shelf for the Cubs following his hamstring tweak in last night’s game. Likewise Yadier Molina left early, apparently having aggravated his thumb injury. Otherwise: wear a helmet if you’re in the Bleachers at Wrigley this afternoon. Balls may be flying out your way.

The Game: Los Angels Dodgers vs. New York Mets
The Time: 8:07 p.m. ET
The Place: Citi Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Clayton Kershaw vs. Steven Matz
The Upshot: The Clayton Kershaw Legacy Game. It’s not fair to Kershaw that, after eight years of completely dominating Major League Baseball people will deem him worthy or unworthy of, well, whatever, based on his 10th postseason start, but they will. If he falters today on short rest, with no reliable bullpen to bail him out, people will call him some sort of choke artist. If he dominates he’ll be considered redeemed, though he’s never been a guy in need of redemption. I don’t care much for that game, but it’s inevitable it will be played so let’s just silently roll our eyes and go with it. The Mets may have a bigger question mark on the mound in Steven Matz, who hasn’t pitched in a couple of weeks thanks to a tweak in his back in the last week of the season.

This should feel like a totally different game. The Utley drama has to subside now, especially given that he’s unlikely to get the start against a tough lefty. And that tough lefty is, with all due respect, no Brett Anderson. You can bet against Clayton Kershaw and win, but it’s not the sort of thing I’d make a habit of.

In any event, the Cubs and Mets should play this on a loop in the Clubhouse before today’s games. Because . . . it just doesn’t matter!

Yoenis Cespedes and his bat flip say good morning

Yoenis Cespedes

It was a late night last night. Especially for old farts like me. I turned on my TV at 12:30 yesterday afternoon and there was baseball on it for just about 12 hours straight. Not too shabby unless you happen to root for the Astros, Rangers, Cardinals or Dodgers. Oh well, today is another day. Or tomorrow if today is a travel day.

In the meantime, we have Yoenis Cespedes to keep us happy, alert and occupied. Again, unless you’re a Dodgers fan. Of course, if you are a Dodgers fan you got absolutely no right to be upset at a bat flip following a homer. And if I catch you complaining, you’re getting a time out.

The Mets break out the whuppin’ sticks, rout the Dodgers 13-7

Cespedes d'Arnaud

So often in life the anticipation of something outpaces its reality. For Mets fans tonight, it was the exact opposite. They had a grand old time. The Mets broke out the lumber and overwhelmed the Dodgers 13-4 to take a 2-1 lead in NLDS.

So much of that anticipation was about revenge, really. Hitting Chase Utley if he was in the lineup, perhaps, or at the very least sending some sort of retaliatory message the Dodgers’ way in response to Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg on Saturday. But with Utley out of the lineup — and the notion that base runners matter a whole heck of a lot in a playoff game — Matt Harvey just set out to pitch, not plunk. And Mets hitters set out to beat the living heck out of Brett Anderson and a couple Dodgers relievers. Living well is the best revenge, and for a major league team, winning baseball games is living well.

It didn’t start out so well for Harvey, as Yasmani Grandal singled in two runs in the top of the second with a third run scoring on a Curtis Granderson error on the same play. It was 3-0 Dodgers early and Mets’ fans sphincters’ clenched. But only momentarily.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the second with four runs with a Travis d'Arnaud single and a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double from Curtis Granderson. In the next inning d’Arnaud hit a two-run shot. In the fourth Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb to left to make it 10-3. The Dodgers got one back in the top of the seventh but New York scored three more of their own in the bottom half. It was never a ballgame after the third inning.

Brett Anderson was the author of the damage through three, Alex Wood gave up the four runs in the fourth and hung on in the fifth in what became mop-up duty. Harvey was done after five and took the win. He wasn’t necessarily sharp, but he did strike out seven and was good enough. Some late damage from the Dodgers, including a three-run homer in the ninth from Howie Kendrick, was too little, too late. Granderson and d’Arnaud did the damage for New York, driving in five and three runs, respectively.

Once the competitive portion of this game was over, the Mets’ crowd turned to more important matters. Chanting things like “We want Utley!” Don Mattingly didn’t give him to ’em, probably because there was no downside to smacking him after the game got out of hand. But no upside either. Because of that stuff about living well, remember?

Now it’s on Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers from elimination [looks at watch] tonight, technically. If he doesn’t, his detractors will write another page in their Big Book of Clayton Kershaw Playoff Failures. If he does, we get a Game 5 back in Los Angeles.

Maybe Chase Utley gets into one of those.