Part three of the top 111 free agents takes up through No. 41. This portion of the rankings includes several veteran bats nearing the end and some pitchers who will need to finish strong if they hope to land multiyear deals.
(All ages as of April 1, 2012)
* denotes players with contract options
60. Omar Infante (30 – Marlins): A stunning All-Star as a utilityman for the Braves last season, Infante has flopped as a regular so far this year, hitting just .254/.295/.311 for the Marlins. He is better than this, and I think he’ll bounce back enough in the second half to get another gig as a starting second baseman next year. However, he has a long way to go if he’s going to get another multiyear deal.
59. Brad Penny (33 – Tigers): Penny gave up eight runs in his Tigers debut and had an 8.44 ERA after four starts, but he’s gone 5-4 with a 3.62 ERA in his last 11 turns. Penny has gotten more and more grounders through the years, so even though his strikeout rate has collapsed, he’s still a decent bet going forward. Of course, he’s never really put together six good months and he isn’t likely to start now. What will continue to get him paid is that he can be an above average starter for three months at a time.
58. Jeff Francoeur (27 – Royals)*: Was there really any reason to expect this year would be different? Francoeur has followed up his hot April by posting a .675 OPS in May and a .562 OPS so far in June. For the season, he’s still been a somewhat above average regular, and if he can end the year with 20 homers and 20 steals, he may well find a team willing to pay him $5 million next year. Really, though, he’s a glorified platoon player. The mutual option on his deal is worth $3 million and can be voided by either party.
57. Johnny Damon (38 – Rays): Still trucking along, Damon has hit .267/.318/.413 with eight homers in 281 at-bats for the Rays this season. Assuming that he stays healthy, he should finish the season with about 2,730 hits, putting him on pace to reach 3,000 in 2013 if he can find a team willing to keep playing him regularly.
56. Joe Nathan (37 – Twins)*: There’s still time for him to turn it around, but Nathan’s first year back from Tommy John surgery has been a big struggle, as he’s given up 15 runs — 13 earned — in 15 1/3 innings. The Twins are sure to decline his $12.5 million option for 2011 even if he does return as a quality closer in the second half, but they’ll likely have quite a bit of interest in re-signing him.
55. Magglio Ordonez (38 – Tigers): The Tigers re-signed Ordonez for $10 million after he hit .303/.378/.474 in 323 at-bats last year, but he’s fallen all of the way to .172/.232/.224 in 116 at-bats this season. Obviously, he’s going to have to prove it’s an aberration if he’s going to command even half that salary next year.
54. Aaron Harang (33 – Padres)*: Harang made the right call last winter, signing with San Diego in an attempt to resuscitate his career. He’s 7-2 with a 3.71 ERA after 13 starts. Still, one wonders if he’ll be looked at it much the same way Jon Garland was last winter, especially if his road ERA ends up close to his current 4.84 mark. He’d be best off sticking with the Padres if they want him back and are willing to pay him a competitive salary. His deal includes a $5 million mutual option.
53. Derrek Lee (36 – Orioles): The Orioles gambled $7.25 million on the idea that Lee would bounce back from a down 2010 season, but it looks like his 30-homer power is gone forever. He should improve the further removed he gets from offseason thumb surgery, and I don’t think he’s done as a league-average first baseman. Injuries do seem to be following him around, though. He missed time with a sore wrist this spring and went on the DL with an oblique strain last month.
52. Vacated: So, this was supposed to be Jason Bartlett’s spot, but I forgot that Bartlett signed a two-year deal with the Padres back in January. Therefore, the Top 111 FAs will actually turn out to be a top 110.
51. Bobby Abreu (38 – Angels)*: Abreu’s $9 million option for 2012 kicks in with just another 124 more plate appearances, so barring a catastrophic injury, he’s not going to be a free agent this winter. Given their payroll issues, the Angels would probably prefer not to have him back at that price. Still, he has been an asset this year with his current .288/.399/.377 line.
50. Vladimir Guerrero (37 – Orioles): Vlad just hasn’t been able to get it going this year, though I expect that to change once interleague play comes to an end. He should have a couple of years left as a viable designated hitter before his loss of bat speed robs him of his ability to still chase bad pitches and end up with hits. It isn’t at all likely that he’ll make $8 million again next year.
49. Jon Garland (32 – Dodgers)*: If Garland had come around five years earlier, his durability and slightly above average pitching would have gotten him a big four- or five-year deal during his first go in free agency. Unfortunately for him, teams are getting smarter and Garland has been forced to accept one-year pacts. Garland went 14-12 with a 3.47 ERA for the Padres last season, then settled for a one-year deal with an option to return to Los Angeles with the Dodgers. If he pitches 190 innings (a total he reached every year from 2002-10), he’s guaranteed $8 million next year. However, since he’s currently on the DL with shoulder inflammation, it looks like he’ll head back into free agency.
48. Ryan Ludwick (33 – Padres): Ludwick is going to have to hope teams will look past his year and a half of Petco-influenced numbers when he becomes a free agent this winter. He leads the Padres with nine homers and 45 RBI, but it comes with a modest .255/.322/.393 line in 267 at-bats. On the road, he’s doing somewhat better, having hit .279/.324/.419. A trade might put him in a friendlier environment this summer.
47. Bartolo Colon (38 – Yankees): Colon’s amazing comeback had resulted in a 3.10 ERA and a 72/18 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings before his recent hamstring injury. He wasn’t going to last 200 innings anyway, so it might be for the best that he went down with a leg problem and gave his arm a couple of weeks off. If Colon can keep it going and finish with an ERA in the 3.50 range, then he may well earn $8 million-$10 million from a contender next year. However, the odds are against this being his only DL stint of the season.
46. J.D. Drew (36 – Red Sox): Some suspect that Drew will just up and retire with his five-year, $70 million contract coming to an end. Others suspect he already has, given that he’s collected just 18 of Boston’s league-high 386 RBI this year. He’s actually remained pretty healthy the last three years, and he’s still a fine defender in right field at age 35. He would have something of offer if he wanted to continue his career.
45. Alex Gonzalez (35 – Braves): Even having lost a step, Gonzalez remains a rock-solid defender. Offensively, he’s the same player he’s always been, having hit .254/.290/.387 with seven homers so far this year. I certainly wouldn’t recommend signing him to a multiyear deal, but it’d be a surprise if he doesn’t end up with a two-year contract. The Braves will likely try to re-sign him.
44. Coco Crisp (32 – Athletics): Crisp has managed to stay in the lineup this year, but his OPS is down 100 points from last year’s .779 mark. On the plus side, he’s still a quality defensive center fielder and excellent basestealer. If he can stay off the disabled list, he might land a two-year, $10 million deal this winter.
43. Jason Marquis (33 – Nationals): After going 2-9 with a 6.60 ERA in 13 starts during a 2010 season in which he was plagued by an elbow injury, Marquis has bounced back to start this year 7-2 with a 3.86 ERA. His ERA is due to rise, but if he stays healthy, he has a chance of landing another contract similar to the two-year, $15 million deal he’s currently finishing up.
42. Cody Ross (31 – Giants): Ross is making $6.3 million this year in his final season as an arbitration-eligible player. Since missing the first three weeks of the season with a strained calf, he’s hit .264/.348/.438 in 178 at-bats. Because of his career .255/.313/.413 line against right-handers, I view him as a borderline regular. However, given his relative youth and 20-homer power, he’ll be in demand. I’d expect something like $12 million for two years.
41. Carlos Pena (33 – Cubs): Yeah, Pena is still just 33, though given his skill set, he seems unlikely to last a whole lot longer as a quality regular. It looked like he might be done six weeks ago, but he’s shaken off a horrible start — he hit .159 with one extra-base hit in April — to bat .221/.352/.432 with 13 homers though 213 at-bats. If he keeps improving, he might match the $10 million he’s making right now. The Cubs, though, should attempt to snag a bigger fish at first base.