Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 90-71

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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.

Madison Bumgarner began his rehab assignment yesterday

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Giants ace Madison Bumgarner tossed three no-hit innings yesterday in his first minor league rehab start with the Giants’ Arizona Rookie League team. He struck out two and walked a guy, while sitting in the 88-91 m.p.h. range on his fastball.

Bumgarner, who is coming back from a sprained left AC joint in his shoulder suffered in a dirt bike accident in April, will return to San Francisco to throw a bullpen session and then go back on the road for more rehab games. That’s a lot of traveling, but the Giants obviously want to monitor his progress. At the moment he’s expected to build up his strength for the next several weeks and, hopefully, return to the Giants’ rotation some time after the All-Star break.

Of course, there shouldn’t be too much of a rush. The Giants have lost five in a row and 12 of 13 and currently sit in last place, 24.5 games behind the Dodgers. At this point Bumgarner rushing to rejoin the Giants is like an Australian soldier getting a wound dressed to hurry back to the Gallipoli Campaign.

Is it really that weird that Cody Bellinger does not know who Jerry Seinfeld is?

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Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger has been tearing through the league so far this season, blazing a 50-home run pace despite not even making his debut until April 25. His Dodgers are winners of 10 games in a row, sit in first place and have the best record in the National League.

But not everything is rosy in Cody Bellinger land. He’s now at the center of controversy after he revealed on SportsCenter on Friday night that he doesn’t know who Jerry Seinfeld is. Or, at the very least, that he could not put a face with that familiar-sounding name and that in no event did he know why he was famous.

People have been going crazy with this, acting as if he’s from Mars or something for not knowing who starred in one of history’s most popular and influential sitcoms. His teammates, especially, have been getting on his case:

I dunno. On the one hand, sure, the show was amazingly popular and has been in heavy syndication for like 20 years so it would be hard to miss even for a young guy like Bellinger. And, of course, the catchphrases and bits of the show that has seeped into the popular culture have given it a longer shelf life than most TV shows ever manage.

On the other hand the thing ended when he was not yet three years old. For him, “Seinfeld” was like “The Beverly Hillbillies” for someone my age or “M*A*S*H” for someone born in the early 80s. Those shows were just as popular — actually, they got higher ratings and were seen by a larger percentage of the population than “Seinfeld” ever was — and they were just as heavily syndicated for the decade or two after they went off the air. We don’t get on the case of players born in the 70s or 80s for not knowing who Alan Alda or Buddy Ebsen are. And if it’s about the catchphrases, substitute in “Happy Days” and “Welcome Back Kotter,” each of which created a cultural footprint larger than the show itself. Would we freak out if we found out that Jayson Werth — born in 1979 — had never heard the phrase “Up your nose with a rubber hose” or “Sit on it?”

And that’s before you acknowledge how much more fragmented pop culture and entertainment is now. I was 12 in 1985 and back then I had little choice but to watch “M*A*S*H” reruns at 7pm while I was waiting for prime time. It was either that or “Wheel of Fortune” I guess. As a 12-year old in 2007, Bellinger could’ve easily avoided “Seinfeld” reruns. He could’ve avoided TV altogether and just been online. My son is 12 now and he hasn’t watched an actual TV show in years. It’s all You Tube and stuff. The idea that there is any one thing or even a handful of things that, culturally speaking, we can all agree upon or which can serve as a common touchstone is an increasingly obsolete idea.

Maybe “Seinfeld” is different. Maybe this is not the same as not knowing “The Beverly Hillbillies” or “M*A*S*H”. I floated this whole idea on Twitter yesterday and people were outraged, so perhaps something else is going on here that I’m missing. But personally speaking, I feel like we should all calm down a bit about Cody Bellinger and the “Seinfeld” thing. Maybe we should acknowledge that the stuff we like is not going to be culturally prevalent forever. And that young kids like Cody Bellinger are going to be the ones to inform us of this inescapable fact.