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Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 30-11

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Now we’re starting to see some bigger names. Here’s the fifth of six columns looking at the winter’s top 111 free agents. Nos. 30-11 are featured below.

Free agents Nos. 111-91
Free agents Nos. 90-71
Free agents Nos. 70-51
Free agents Nos. 50-31

30. Lance Berkman (Yankees – Age 35) – Berkman’s worst OPS in 10 full seasons was an 896 mark until he plummeted all of the way to 781 this year. He only truly got hot in July, when he clubbed six homers. Perhaps he would have continued to improve his numbers from there as an Astro, but after being traded to the Yankees and accepting a lesser role, he hit .255/.358/.349 with just one homer in 106 at-bats. Berkman has always had an old player’s skill set, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll remain effective in his upper-30s. On the plus side, he’ll likely command just a one-year deal after his poor season. He’ll also probably be willing to settle for less money to play somewhere he’s comfortable.

29. Adam LaRoche (Diamondbacks – Age 31) – The Diamondbacks got what they needed from LaRoche. His 788 OPS was a bit low, considering that his career mark was 834, but he was more valuable than that suggests because he came in at 924 with RISP, allowing him to drive in 100 runs for the first time in his career. Still, it apparently wasn’t quite good enough for Arizona, as the team is expected to decline its half of a $7.5 million mutual option, paying him a $1.5 million buyout instead. Consistent throughout his career and still relatively young, LaRoche is the safest choice among the first basemen available this winter. The team that signs him for $6 million or so will know what it’s getting.

28. Orlando Hudson (Twins – Age 33) – Luis Castillo excepted, second basemen tend to have a difficult time in free agency. Hudson overplayed his hand each of the last two winters and was forced to settle for modest one-year deals as spring training was starting up. He had something of a down 2010 with the Twins, but it wasn’t so significant after accounting for the fact that offense was down as a whole and Target Field was a tough scoring environment. Hudson has definitely lost some range through the years, but he remains an above average regular and he’s the top second baseman on the market right now. Perhaps he’ll finally get his first multiyear deal at age 33.

27. Johnny Damon (Tigers – Age 37) – If Damon can keep plugging along at 140 games per season, he’s three years away from reaching 3,000 hits. The decline in his production this year was largely the result of him moving from a ballpark that was ideally suited for his power stroke to one that wasn’t. He went from 24 homers to eight, but his OBP stayed right at his career mark and he delivered 36 doubles, matching his high mark since 2000. With the way his defense has eroded, Damon isn’t worthy of a multiyear deal. Still, he remains a perfectly useful left fielder and top-of-the-order hitter. He’ll find a team willing to give him another $7 million-$8 million for 2011.

26. Scott Downs (Blue Jays – Age 35) – Downs will be made one of the game’s highest-paid setup men after another exceptional year in Toronto in 2010. Left-handers hit just .152 off him, and he finished with a 0.99 WHIP in 61 1/3 innings. Not just a specialist, Downs has held right-handers to a sub-.250 average each of the last four seasons. Both the Red Sox and Yankees could be involved here, and it’d be a surprise if Downs doesn’t end up receiving at least $15 million for three years.

25. Derrek Lee (Braves – Age 35) – Lee and Berkman are the same age, but while Berkman has the superior career OPS by about 90 points, Lee will probably be viewed as having more left in the tank. He’s the more agile defender at first base, and he has been the better player the last two years. Also, Lee improved as 2010 went on, hitting .287/.384/.465 in 129 at-bats after joining the Braves. Whether that gets him a multiyear deal remains to be seen. Like Berkman, he’ll be pretty picky about where he plays, and he’ll probably be willing to accept less money for the security of a two- or three-year contract.

24. Manny Ramirez (White Sox – Age 38) – Is the ability still worth the hassle? Ramirez didn’t play a lot for the Dodgers this season, but when he was in the lineup, he hit .311/.405/.510, making him one of the NL’s top performers over the course of his 196 at-bats. The White Sox looked at that and figured it was worth taking a chance on him, but while he didn’t cause any problems in Chicago, he drove in just two runs while hitting .261/.420/.319 in 69 at-bats. Ramirez is currently lobbying to play in Toronto after the Jays hired former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell as their new manager. The Jays do have an opening for him, and if he’s willing to sign for $6 million-$8 million, perhaps they’ll give him a try. However, if Ramirez tries holding out for $10 million or more, he’ll likely go unsigned into spring training.

23. Brian Fuentes (Twins – Age 35) – Fuentes was injured and ineffective early, but from June 22 onward, he allowed runs in just two of 30 appearances. He ended up with a 2.81 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 48 innings. He’s still in line for a paycut after finishing up a two-year, $17.5 million deal, but he should find another multiyear deal either as a closer for a middle-market club or a setup man for one of the big spenders.

22. Magglio Ordonez (Tigers – Age 37) – A broken ankle suffered in July not only cost Ordonez the rest of the 2010 season but also a chance to have his $15 million option for 2011 vest automatically. The Tigers, of course, will decline the option now, but it sounds as though they’d like to have Ordonez back at a reduced price tag. He was hitting .303/.378/.474 in 323 at-bats before getting hurt, and while he’s not exactly fleet of foot these days, he’s still a viable right fielder. He’d probably be an asset at half of the option price.

21. Jon Garland (Padres – Age 31) – Signing up to pitch in Petco was the smartest thing Garland could have done last winter. He threw his usual 200 innings and posted a career-best 3.47 ERA with the league’s top pitcher’s ballpark helping him along. That said, he was perfectly solid on the road as well, finishing 7-7 with a 4.01 ERA. Garland figures to decline his half of a $6.75 million mutual option for 2011 and seek a multiyear deal in free agency. With few quality starters available, he’d make sense on a two-year, $15 million contract.

20. Aubrey Huff (Giants – Age 34) – A bargain after signing for $3 million last winter, Huff was an MVP candidate for four months in 2010 before fading. Fortunately, even as he declined, he never stopped being productive, and he finished 10th in the NL with an 891 OPS. He didn’t help himself so much in the postseason, hitting a mediocre .268/.339/.357 with one homer in 56 at-bats. Still, the Giants won anyway and they figure to make a strong bid to re-sign him after he led the team in average, homers, runs and RBI. He could get two years and $14 million-$16 million.

19. Javier Vazquez (Yankees – Age 34) – Maybe the toughest call in free agency this winter. Vazquez was one of the NL’s top five pitchers in 2009, and he’s been remarkably durable. However, his down 2010 wasn’t simply a matter of him being unable to handle the pressure of New York; he lost his fastball in the second half of the season and never recovered it. Vazquez never complained of an injury or spent time on the disabled list, but he didn’t resemble a quality major league starter at any point after mid-July. For that reason, Vazquez may have to take a one-year deal in an attempt to rebuild his value.

18. Vladimir Guerrero (Rangers – Age 36) – It was a brutal postseason for Vlad, as he hit just .220/.242/.271 with no homers in 59 at-bats. He also had a down second half following his terrific start and finished with a modest 841 OPS. While he had the sterling triple crown line (.300-29-115), both his walk and doubles rates have declined, leaving him a less effective player. The Rangers should still exercise their half of a $9 million mutual option, but it’s no given that Guerrero would do better on the open market.

17. Jake Westbrook (Cardinals – Age 33) – Westbrook took a little while to get going in his first year back from Tommy John surgery, but he finished nicely, going 4-4 with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in 12 starts after a trade to St. Louis. The Cardinals are focused on re-signing him, probably to a two-year deal. In this market, though, Westbrook might be able to get three years if he shops himself around. He’s a pretty good bet to stay healthy now that his elbow is once again sound, and with his sinker, he can pitch in any ballpark in the league.

16. David Ortiz (Red Sox – Age 35) – It’s amazing how Ortiz has reverted to form after horrible starts the last two seasons, but one of these years, he’s going to fail to find the one switch. It’s that thought that surely has the Red Sox worried as they have to decide whether to placate Ortiz with another multiyear deal, pick up his $12.5 million option for 2011 or set him free. If he weren’t Big Papi, the smart play would be to let him test the market. He’s probably worth $10 million for 2011 or $15 million for two years, but it’d cost them more than that to re-sign him now.

15. Rafael Soriano (Rays – Age 31) – Sure Mariano Rivera is a free agent as well, but since no one believes he’s going anywhere, Soriano is the top closer available this winter. Once one of the game’s most injury-prone pitchers, Soriano has been healthy four of the last five seasons, and he amassed a 1.73 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP on his way to 45 saves in 48 opportunities this year. He likely priced himself out of Tampa Bay with his performance, but the Braves, Nationals and Angels are among the teams that could come calling. He’ll probably seek $21 million-$24 million for three years.

14. Carlos Pena (Rays – Age 32) – Pena’s 2010 season was the best ever for a sub-.200 hitter, but that’s not saying a lot. Since he hit .282 during his MVP-caliber 2007 season, Pena’s averages have dropped to .247, .227 and now .196. He still hits plenty of homers and draws a ton of walks, but he’s not going to stay in a major league lineup it he can’t reverse that trend. Had Pena been a free agent a year ago, he likely would have been in line for around $30 million for three years. Now, after the down year and with plenty of competition at first base, he may need to take a one-year deal. He does offer more upside than the other first basemen in his price range.

13. Andy Pettitte (Yankees – Age 38) – Two possible outcomes here: Pettitte will either accept another one-year deal to remain with the Yankees or he’ll opt for retirement after flirting with it these last several offseasons. From a performance standpoint, Pettitte is coming off his best season since 2005 and one of the very best of his career. However, he was limited to 21 starts by a groin strain, his first significant injury since 2004. If Pettitte returns, it will probably be for something close to the $11.75 million he made this year.

12. Carl Pavano (Twins – Age 35) – The Twins decided Pavano was worth $7 million after he finished 2009 with a 5.10 ERA, and he rewarded them with a 17-win campaign. Now he’s probably going to want a three-year deal and at least a modest raise. Pavano was a true workhorse this year, finishing with a 3.75 ERA in 221 innings. He tied for the AL lead with seven complete games. The Twins will make a bid to retain him, but they may bail out if someone else is willing to go to $30 million for three years.

11. Jorge De La Rosa (Rockies – Age 29) – The team that signs De La Rosa will be gambling that his best days are still ahead of him. He’s been inconsistent but still often effective in going 24-16 for the Rockies the last two seasons. His 4.31 ERA over that span is nothing special, but he was dealing with Coors Field half of the time and he struck out 306 batters in 306 2/3 innings. Don’t be surprised to see him get at least $27 million in a three-year deal this winter. Even a four-year pact is a possibility here.

Jose Bautista had a courtside view of Saturday night’s epic NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Screenshot 2016-02-14 at 8.13.23 AM
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Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic put on a tremendous show in Saturday night’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest up in Toronto, Canada. The stars were out to see it at the Air Canada Centre, and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista had one of the very best views in the house. Check out this video he posted to Instagram of LaVine’s final dunk, a between-the-legs jam from just inside the free throw line …

Its a wrap!!! #BackToBack #SlamDunk #Champion @zachlavine8 🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽

A video posted by Jose Bautista (@joeybats19) on

That is Toronto’s very own Drake going wild in the pink jacket. Gordon probably had the best individual dunk of the night, though, if we’re being really real …

Back to your regularly scheduled baseball programming. Pitchers and catchers report Friday.

Cubs expected to host an All-Star Game in the near future

A general view of Wrigley Field and the newly renovated bleachers during the second inning of a baseball game between the the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds Thursday, June 11, 2015,  in Chicago. Chicago won 6-3. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
AP Photo/Paul Beaty
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The 2016-18 All-Star Games are spoken for, but the Cubs could play host not long thereafter according to commissioner Rob Manfred, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports.

The Padres are hosting at Petco Park this year, the Marlins will host at Marlins Park next season, and the Nationals will host in 2018 at Nationals Park. That will make four consecutive National League hosts and five if the Cubs get it in 2019. In the past, the National and American Leagues have alternated hosting privileges. That is sort of important now since the league that wins the All-Star Game gets home field advantage in the World Series.

The Cubs last hosted the All-Star Game in 1990 and have hosted a total of three times (1962 and 1947 being the other years) since its inception in 1933.

Wrigley Field has been undergoing renovations which are expected to be completed by the 2019 season. Manfred said that the Cubs hosting the All-Star Game “will provide the Cubs and Ricketts family a chance to showcase the unbelievable renovation they are in the midst of doing for Wrigley field.”

Update: Here’s a table showing the last time each team hosted the All-Star Game.

Team Park Last Hosted Yrs Since Notes
Dodgers Dodger Stadum 1980 35
Nationals Olympic Stadium (Expos) 1982 33 2018 host
Athletics Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum 1987 28
Cubs Wrigley Field 1990 25
Blue Jays SkyDome 1991 24
Padres Jack Murphy Stadium 1992 23 2016 host
Orioles Oriole Park at Camden Yards 1993 22
Rangers The Ballpark in Arlington 1995 20
Phillies Veterans Stadium 1996 19
Indians Jacobs Field 1997 18
Rockies Coors Field 1998 17
Red Sox Fenway Park 1999 16
Braves Turner Field 2000 15
Mariners Safeco Field 2001 14
Brewers Miller Park 2002 13
White Sox U.S. Cellular Field 2003 12
Astros Minute Maid Park 2004 11
Tigers Comerica Park 2005 10
Pirates PNC Park 2006 9
Giants AT&T Park 2007 8
Yankees Yankee Stadium 2008 7
Cardinals Busch Stadium 2009 6
Angels Angels Stadium of Anaheim 2010 5
D’Backs Chase Field 2011 4
Royals Kauffman Stadium 2012 3
Mets Citi Field 2013 2
Twins Target Field 2014 1
Reds Great American Ball Park 2015 0
Marlins Never Hosted 2017 host
Rays Never Hosted

Kyle Hendricks and Adam Warren will compete for No. 5 spot in Cubs’ rotation

Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks throws during the first inning of Game 3 of the National League baseball championship series against the New York Mets Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Expect Kyle Hendricks and Adam Warren to battle it out for the fifth spot in the Cubs’ starting rotation this spring, writes Gordon Wittenmyer for the Chicago Sun-Times. Clayton Richard could serve as a fallback option as well.

Hendricks, 26, pitched well in his first full season in 2015. He finished with a 3.95 ERA and a 167/43 K/BB ratio over 180 innings. That was a solid follow-up to his rookie campaign in 2014, when he posted a 2.46 ERA over 13 starts.

The Cubs acquired Warren, 28, from the Yankees in the Starlin Castro trade. He contributed both out of the rotation and the bullpen in the Bronx this past season, pitching 131 1/3 innings with a 3.29 ERA and a 104/39 K/BB ratio.

One through four, the Cubs’ rotation is solid with defending National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jason Hammel.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson plans to limit David Wright to 130 or fewer games

David Wright
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Mets third baseman David Wright missed four months of the 2015 season due to spinal stenosis. In other words, Wright dealt with a narrowing of his spinal column. Going forward, the Mets plan to be cautious with Wright so as not to overuse him.

As ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports, Mets GM Sandy Alderson plans to have the 33-year-old Wright play in no more than 130 games. Alderson said, “We’re gonna make sure that he’s not overworked. So it’s important for us to find somebody who can play 30 games or so at third base when he’s not in there. But I think we have to be realistic, and not expect that he’s gonna be an absolute everyday [player] out there playing 150 or 155 games. That’s not gonna happen.”

Wilmer Flores played 26 games at third base in his rookie season in 2013, so he could back up Wright as needed. But Alderson mentioned that because Wright would mostly sit against right-handed pitchers, the switch-hitting Neil Walker or Asdrubal Cabrera could get the call at the hot corner.

When he was on the field last season, Wright hit a productive .289/.379/.434 with five home runs and 17 RBI in 174 plate appearances.