With Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon signing on Friday, the last of the really big names fell off the free agent board. Really, it’s all slim pickings now. If your team is still shopping, below is a list of what’s left on the shelf of any consequence.
The official free agent list is much longer. For our purposes I’m not including the relievers, because most of them are pretty fungible. I also didn’t include guys who didn’t play in 2010, players who are more likely to retire than play in 2011 and the truly, truly wretched. If you think I left off an intriguing player who could be really useful to someone please let me know, but these are the guys who actually seem like genuine working ballplayers.
I think it’s safe to say that there’s no one here who is going to alter the balance of power in a division race. Justin Duchscherer could turn in a great season if everything breaks right with his health. A couple of the DH types could be really useful (How Russell Branyan doesn’t have a job as a DH/backup 1B is beyond me).
At this point of the winter, I think it’s safe to say that your team is not likely to get substantially better barring a trade.
Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.
“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”
Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.
The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.