Third baseman Jim Thome

2012 Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 70-51


If you’re like me and you get excited about fringe regulars, injury-prone fifth starters and hopefully-not-quite-over-the-hill DH possibilities, you’ll love this part three of the free agent rundown.

Free agents Nos. 111-91 ,
Free agents Nos. 90-71

(All ages are as of April 1, 2012. Compensation noted as Type A or Type B when applicable)

70. Jon Garland (Age 32, Dodgers): Previously a sure thing to give a team 200-220 innings, Garland had his shoulder give out on him last year and underwent rotator cuff surgery after nine starts for the Dodgers. His status for Opening Day is in question, so he’ll have to settle for an incentive-laden one-year deal this winter.

69. Magglio Ordonez (Age 38, Tigers, Type B): Ordonez hit just .255/.303/.331 in 329 at-bats after re-signing with the Tigers for $10 million one year ago. Detroit has little interest in bringing him back now, and he can’t be looked at as an everyday outfielder any longer. With only so many DH spots to go around, he might find himself facing retirement.

68. Octavio Dotel (Age 38, Cardinals, Type A): Dotel had a nice postseason, finishing with a 2.61 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings for the champs, but the Cardinals still opted to buy out his option for $750,000 rather than keep him around at $3.5 million. It couldn’t have been a decision motivated by the thought of draft pick compensation; Dotel would likely accept an arbitration offer and end up with a salary in the $3 million-$4 million range.

67. Casey Blake (Age 38, Dodgers): Blake’s status for next season is unclear following neck surgery, and he appears to be very much on the decline anyway, having finished with OPSs of .727 and .713 the last two years. Still, look at the alternatives at third base this winter; besides Aramis Ramirez, Blake, Wilson Betemit and Kevin Kouzmanoff are the only legitimate starters available, and Blake has been far better than Kouz these last two years. He’s also a better defender than Betemit if healthy.

66. Rich Harden (Age 30, Athletics): Harden finished poorly after a trade with the Red Sox fell through, going 0-2 with a 7.28 ERA in his last six starts, but at least his arm did hold up. His 91/31 K/BB ratio in 82 2/3 innings was promising, even if he gave up 17 homers along the way. While his upside isn’t what it was, he’s still more interesting that a lot of the other fifth-starter possibilities kicking around.

65. Kerry Wood (Age 34, Cubs, Type B): It’s either the Cubs or retirement for Wood, who is believed to have turned down a two-year, $8 million offer from the White Sox last year. He ended up rejoining the Cubs for just $1.5 million. With plenty of money coming off the books, the Cubs can be a bit more generous and offer him $2.5 million-$3 million this time around.

64. Jim Thome (Age 41, Indians): Thome didn’t duplicate his incredible 2010 season, but he was still a productive DH when healthy last year, coming in at .256/.361/.477 in 277 at-bats. That’s he injury-prone even while never playing the field is a problem, but one of the AL contenders should be able to carve out a role for him.

63. Ryan Doumit (Age 30, Pirates, Type B): Doumit has had big problems staying healthy as a catcher, and it will be interesting to see how teams view him this winter. He has experience at first base and in right field and his bat would make him at least a decent part-timer at either spot — he hit .303/.353/.477 in 218 at-bats last season. Unfortunately, he’s not going to be an asset defensively anywhere.

62. Alex Gonzalez (Age 35, Braves, Type B): Gonzalez’s glove didn’t make up for his bat, not when he hit just .241/.270/.372 in his first full year with the Braves. He’ll land another starting gig, but a multiyear contract should be out of reach.

61. Chien-Ming Wang (Age 32, Nationals): Wang came back from shoulder surgery to go 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA in 11 starts. His velocity isn’t quite what it was, so it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll reemerge as an above average starter next year. Still, it looks like he’ll get enough grounders to serve as a reasonable fourth or fifth starter if he can stay healthy. Expectations are that he’ll stay with the Nats.

60. Juan Pierre (Age 34, White Sox, Type B): Pierre’s horrid start didn’t cost him his job, but even though he played better as the season went along, he finished up with a subpar .329 OBP to go along with a .327 slugging percentage in 639 at-bats. Also, he was a career-worst 27-for-44 stealing bases. Maybe he’ll eek out one more year as a starting left fielder, but he would make more sense as a reserve.

59. Ramon Santiago (Age 32, Tigers): One of the game’s most underrated utilityman, Santiago is far from helpless at the plate — he’s hit .263/.323/.362 the last three seasons — and he plays very good defense at second base. The Tigers will probably re-sign him for something like $4 million over two years.

58. J.D. Drew (Age 36, Red Sox): Drew appeared to have little left in the tank while hitting .222/.315/.302 in 248 at-bats for the Red Sox last season, and he might choose to call it a career at age 36. That said, it’s entirely possible that he’s not washed up just yet. He stayed relatively healthy in both 2009 and 2010 and hit .279/.392/.522 and .255/.341/.452 those two years. If he could return to something close to 2010 level of performance, he’d be a nice platoon right fielder for some team.

57. Brad Lidge (Age 35, Phillies, Type B): Even with his velocity well down, Lidge was able to post a 1.40 ERA in 19 1/3 innings after coming off the DL last season. He’s just throwing slider after slider these days, and there’s no telling whether his arm will ever hold up for a full season again. There’s a good chance that he’ll stay with the Phillies and work as a setup man when healthy.

56. Hideki Matsui (Age 37, Athletics): Since Oakland opens the season in Japan, there’s extra incentive for keeping Matsui around. Also, new manager Bob Melvin positively adores him. That said, carrying a 37-year-old DH with limited upside just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the organization right now.

55. Chris Capuano (Age 33, Mets): Making 30 starts for the first time since 2006, Capuano went 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA for the Mets. He’s always been homer-prone, so teams in smaller ballparks will want to stay away. He had a 3.82 ERA and 10 homers in 101 1/3 innings at Citi Field last season, compared to a 5.42 ERA and 17 homers allowed in 84 2/3 innings elsewhere.

54. Juan Rivera (Age 33, Dodgers): Rivera is expected to re-sign with the Dodgers for the surprising sum of $4 million. It’s a lot of money for a below average defensive outfielder who has finished with OPSs of .721 and .701 the last two years. There’s a chance that Rivera could have another season more like his 2009, when he hit .287 with 25 homers for the Angels, but the Dodgers are overpaying in order to lock him up early.

53. Frank Francisco (Age 32, Blue Jays, Type B): Francisco has topped 60 innings just once since debuting in 2004, so he’s a tough guy to count on. Still, he’s a perfectly adequate closer when healthy and he shouldn’t be very expensive after finishing with a 3.55 ERA in 50 2/3 innings for Toronto last season. A one-year deal worth $3.5 million-$4 million would be appropriate.

52. Darren Oliver (Age 41, Rangers, Type A): Oliver is 41 and he was last seen helping to blow Game 6 in the Rangers’ World Series lost, but he’s pretty obviously the top left-hander available in free agency now since Javier Lopez has re-signed with the Giants. Expect the Rangers to keep him; he’s given the team a 2.40 ERA in 112 2/3 innings the last two years.

51. Wilson Betemit (Age 30, Tigers, Type B): Betemit hit .292/.346/.525 in 120 at-bats after joining the Tigers in a midseason trade, yet manager Jim Leyland opted to go with Brandon Inge’s defense at third base for much of the postseason (that Betemit went 0-for-8 with four strikeouts in the ALDS certainly didn’t help his case). Because there is so little available at third base this winter, Betemit figures to land a starting job, though it’s not a given. His defense is well below average, and while he’s produced like a solid first baseman these last two years (.290/.359/.479 with 21 homers in 599 at-bats), there are still plenty of skeptics out there.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.