Tim Wakefield

2012 Top 111 Free Agents: Best of the rest

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Starting Monday, I’ll be spending the week counting down next winter’s top 111 free agents. First, though, here are some notable names failing to make the cut.

(All ages as of April 1, 2012)

Vicente Padilla (33 – Dodgers): No. 112 on the list. Pitching out of the pen for the first time since 2001, Padilla was briefly the Dodgers’ closer this year and picked up three saves and five holds in nine appearances. Unfortunately, his season is already over due to neck surgery.

Tim Wakefield (45 – Red Sox): If he decides he wants to continue his career, then he’ll be in the top 111 come November. Filling in for Daisuke Matsuzaka, Wakefield has gotten the chance recently to show that he’s still a perfectly viable bottom-of-the-rotation guy, even at age 44. He’s 3-2 with a 4.39 ERA.

Chris Young (32 – Mets): Had a 1.88 ERA in four starts before his latest shoulder injury knocked him out for the season. He’ll be signing another incentive-laden deal this winter.

Bill Hall (32 – Giants): The Astros gave him $3 million to play second base, but he flopped, hitting .224/.272/.340 in 147 at-bats. Now he’s with the Giants trying to rebuild his value.

Mike Cameron (39 – Red Sox): Boston hoped a healthy Cameron would be one of the game’s best fourth outfielders, but he’s hitting just .157 in 83 at-bats. He could opt for retirement after the season.

Mike Gonzalez (33 – Orioles): Gonzalez fanned 90 batters out of the pen for the Braves in 2009, causing the Orioles to sign him as a closer. In the year-plus since, he’s recorded just one save and amassed a 5.29 ERA in 47 2/3 innings.

Brandon Webb (32 – Rangers): After missing more than two years due to shoulder problems, Webb has progressed to the point at which he’s now making rehab starts for the Rangers’ Double-A club. If he’s able to contribute in the second half, he’ll shoot up the list quickly.

Eric Hinske (34 – Braves): Hinske is slumping in an extended role of late, but he’s a rock solid bench player. He’s hit 19 homers in 430 at-bats for the Braves the last two years.

Jerry Hairston Jr. (35 – Nationals): A useful spare part who has received too much playing time the last two years, Hairston can start at any of six positions without hurting a team. He’s hitting .249/.321/.350 in 177 at-bats for the Nationals this season.

Casey Kotchman (29 – Rays): Kotchman has quietly hit .339/.400/.468 in 171 at-bats since getting a chance to overtake Dan Johnson as the Rays’ first baseman.

Joel Zumaya (27 – Tigers): Zumaya had a 2.58 ERA in 38 1/3 innings before suffering a broken elbow on the mound last year. He is questionable to return this season after a follow-up surgery in May. If he misses the entire season, then he’ll probably have to settle for a minor league deal this winter.

Omar Vizquel (44 – White Sox): Still doing a nice job as a utilityman for the White Sox, Vizquel is hitting .279/.312/.360 in 86 at-bats this season. Maybe this will finally be it for him, but he hasn’t given any indication that he’s done.

Jack Wilson (34 – Mariners): Injuries have robbed Wilson of some of his defensive abilities, and it’s not like he can make up for it with his bat. Now buried on the Seattle bench by the Dustin Ackley callup, he badly needs a trade.

Jack Cust (33 – Mariners): Cust doesn’t seem long for Seattle with his playing time starting to go to Mike Carp. He’s still getting on base, but he’s gone from hitting 33 homers in 2008 to just two in 182 at-bats so far this season.

Yuniesky Betancourt (30 – Brewers)*: The Brewers won’t be picking up Betancourt’s $6 million option, and it’s possible that no one will want him as a starting shortstop next year. He’s hitting just .227/.251/.330 at the moment.

Carlos Guillen (36 – Tigers): Guillen, who has yet to play this season, is now hoping to return from knee surgery after the All-Star break. With his four-year, $48 million contract coming to an end, he could possibly have a nice run as a role player in the right situation. He just needs to stay healthy.

The Padres non-tendered RHP Tyson Ross

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 04:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres walks off the field as he's taken out of the game in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day at PETCO Park on April 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Per a report by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, the Padres non-tendered right-handed starter Tyson Ross on Friday, cutting loose their top ace after three seasons with the club.

Ross, 29, was sidelined for the bulk of the season with inflammation in his right shoulder and underwent thoracic outlet surgery in October. His injuries limited him to only 5 1/3 innings in 2016, during which he gave up seven runs and struck out five in a 15-0 blowout against the Dodgers.

Prior to his lengthy stint on the disabled list, the right-hander earned 9.5 fWAR and pitched to a 3.07 ERA and 9.2 K/9 rate in three full seasons with the Padres. He avoided arbitration with a one-year, $9.625 million deal prior to the 2016 season after leading the league with 33 starts and delivering a 3.26 ERA and career-best 4.4 WARP over 196 innings in 2015.

The Padres appear open to bringing Ross back to San Diego, reported Cassavell, albeit not at such a steep cost. Cassavell quoted Padres’ GM A.J. Preller, who was reportedly in trade talks involving Ross but unable to strike a deal, likely due to the right-hander’s recent health issues. Preller denied that those same health issues factored into the club’s decision to non-tender their ace.

With the move, Ross became one of 35 major leaguers to enter free agency on Friday.

Angels’ Pujols has foot surgery, could be sidelined 4 months

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols had surgery on his right foot Friday, possibly sidelining him past opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols had the procedure Friday in North Carolina to release his plantar fascia, the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The three-time NL MVP was bothered by plantar fasciitis repeatedly during the season, but played through the pain in arguably the strongest year of his half-decade with the Angels.

Eppler said the surgery typically prevents players from participating in baseball activities for three months, along with another month before they’re ready to resume playing in games. Opening day for Los Angeles is April 3, and the Angels hope Pujols can be ready.

“He’s at that point in his career where he’s keenly aware of what’s happening with his body,” Eppler said in a phone interview. “I don’t put the timetable on Albert like you would with your younger players. We’ll just see in Albert’s case, as he progresses, what his timetable is.”

Pujols, who turns 37 next month, batted .268 last year with 31 homers and 119 RBIs, the fourth-most in the majors – although his .780 OPS was among the worst of his career. He largely served as a designated hitter instead of playing first base due to problems with his hamstrings and feet.

Pujols heads into 2017 with 591 career homers, ranking him ninth in major league history. He is 18 homers behind Sammy Sosa for eighth place.

After playing in pain until the final week of the Angels’ disappointing season, Pujols began shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, believing he wouldn’t need surgery.

But Pujols’ foot became more painful in recent weeks despite the therapy, and he huddled with the Angels’ top brass to decide on surgery after his most recent trip to see Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina. Continuing with conservative care would have required 10 more weeks, forcing Pujols to miss the first half of the 2017 season if he still required surgery.

“He just felt that the pain had gotten to a point where he was comfortable” having surgery, Eppler said. “If we did delay it, you’re just looking at 2 1/2 more months into the season.”

Pujols had a different type of surgery on his right foot last winter, but recovered in time for opening day. He also had plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the 2013 season, eventually forcing him out for the year when his fascia snapped.

Pujols has five years and $140 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract that pried him out of St. Louis, where he won two World Series and became a nine-time NL All-Star.

The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since Pujols’ arrival and Mike Trout‘s concurrent emergence as one of baseball’s best players. They went 74-88 last season, the injury-plagued club’s worst record since 1999.