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.

Kyle Schwarber is the feel-good story of the 2016 postseason

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after hitting an RBI single to score Ben Zobrist #18 (not pictured) during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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Most baseball fans and even the Cubs had resigned themselves to most likely not seeing Kyle Schwarber in game action until spring training next year after he suffered a gruesome knee injury in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler back in early April. Schwarber suffered a fully-torn ACL and LCL in his left leg.

To the surprise of everyone, including manager Joe Maddon, Schwarber was cleared by doctors to play if the Cubs wanted to put him on the World Series roster. So they did. And, boy, are they glad they did it. In preparation, Schwarber saw over 1,000 pitches from machines and pitchers in the Arizona Fall League.

Schwarber essentially crammed for the final exam and unlike most students who do it, it has panned out well thus far. No one was expecting him to look outstanding against Indians ace Corey Kluber in Game 1, but in his first at-bat — his first in the majors since suffering the injury in April — Schwarber worked a 3-1 count before eventually being retired on strikes. Schwarber came back up in the fourth and drilled a Kluber sinker to right field for a two-out double.

In the seventh inning, facing one of the American League’s two scariest left-handed relievers in Andrew Miller, Schwarber worked a full count before drawing a walk. During the regular season, Miller walked exactly one lefty batter. Schwarber made it two. Schwarber would face Miller again in the eighth, going ahead 2-1 before ultimately striking out. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a double in the Cubs’ 6-0 loss. Considering the circumstances, that’s amazing.

Schwarber continued his great approach in Game 2 in what turned out to be a 5-1 victory. He struck out against Trevor Bauer in the first inning, but returned to the batter’s box in the third inning and singled up the middle to knock in the Cubs’ second run. Schwarber made it 3-0 in the fifth when he singled up the middle again, this time off of Bryan Shaw, to make it 3-0. Facing Danny Salazar in the sixth, Schwarber drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second base with two outs. Finally, he struck out against Dan Otero in his eighth-inning at-bat, finishing the evening 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and a walk.

But now, as the Cubs return to Chicago for World Series Games 3, 4, and 5 at Wrigley Field, they have to contest with National League rules, a.k.a. no DH. Will Maddon risk Schwarber’s subpar defense to put his dangerous bat in the lineup? Even if Schwarber is not put in the starting lineup, he can at least serve as a dangerous bat off the bench late in the game when the Indians send out their trio of relievers in Shaw, Miller, and closer Cody Allen. At any rate, what Schwarber has done already in the first two games of the World Series is mighty impressive.

Jake Arrieta flirts with no-hitter, pitches Cubs past Indians 5-1 in World Series Game 2

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gene Puskar - Pool/Getty Images)
Gene Puskar - Pool/Getty Images

Cubs starter Jake Arrieta pitched into the sixth inning before allowing his first hit. Behind his strong performance, the Cubs were able to take down the Indians 5-1 in Game 2 of the World Series to even things up at one game apiece.

Unlike their Game 1 performance against Corey Kluber, the Cubs’ offense was ready early. Kris Bryant singled with one out in the first inning against Indians starter Trevor Bauer and promptly scored when Anthony Rizzo drilled a double down the right field line. The Cubs would score again in the third with a two-out rally as Rizzo walked, then Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber hit consecutive singles to center field, plating one run to make it 2-0.

With Zach McAllister returning to the mound for the fifth after relieving Bauer in the fourth, he walked Rizzo, then gave up a triple to Zobrist. The Cubs continued to press their foot on the gas, with Schwarber hitting another RBI single. After Jason Kipnis committed a fielding error on a Willson Contreras grounder — what should’ve been the final out of the inning — McAllister walked Jorge Soler to load the bases, then walked Addison Russell to force in a run, pushing the Cubs’ lead to 5-0.

Arrieta had a first-inning scare, issuing back-to-back two-out walks, but he escaped the jam and seemed to be on cruise control until the sixth inning. He got Carlos Santana to fly out to lead off the sixth, continuing his no-hit bid, but Kipnis broke it up with a double to right field. After getting Francisco Lindor to ground out, pushing Kipnis to third base, Arrieta uncorked a wild pitch, helping the Indians score their first run of the game. Arrieta then served up a single to Mike Napoli, which proved to be the end of the line. Manager Joe Maddon came out to replace him with lefty Mike Montgomery. Montgomery ended the bottom of the sixth by inducing a weak ground out from Jose Ramirez.

Montgomery struck out the first two batters he faced in the seventh, then got into a bit of hot water by yielding a single to Brandon Guyer, then walking Game 1 hero Roberto Perez. Carlos Santana, however, struck out to end what would be the Indians’ last real chance to get back in the ballgame.

Montgomery remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth. He struck out Kipnis, got Lindor to ground out, then gave up a line drive single to Napoli before Maddon pulled the plug. Closer Aroldis Chapman entered to face Ramirez. As expected, Chapman got Ramirez to whiff on a fastball to send the game to the ninth.

In the bottom of the ninth, Chapman fanned Rajai Davis and got Coco Crisp to ground out for two quick outs. He walked Guyer on five pitches but ended the game as rain drizzled onto Progressive Field by getting Perez to ground out to shortstop.

The World Series is now headed back to Wrigley Field. The two clubs will enjoy a day off on Thursday to travel. Game Three will be played at 8:00 PM EDT on Friday. The Indians will send Josh Tomlin to the hill while the Cubs will counter with Kyle Hendricks.