Josh Hamilton

2013 Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 50-1

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Here’s the top 50 of a rather weak free agent class. Again, I didn’t include Robinson Cano, R.A. Dickey and some others whose options are sure to be picked up. Also absent is Mark Reynolds. He is not eligible for free agency, though there’s a good chance he’ll be non-tendered this winter.

All ages are as of April 1, 2013. Asterisks denote players with 2013 options. If you missed the first two segments, here they are: Nos. 111-81 and Nos. 80-51.

50. Ryan Madson (RHP Reds – Age 32)*: Madson was supposed to get a fat four-year contract as a free agent last winter. Instead, he settled for a one-year, $8.5 million contract and then he ended up needing Tommy John surgery before ever throwing a pitch for the Reds. Cincinnati figures to buy out its half of his $11 million mutual option, sending him back into free agency. Madson possesses one of the game’s best changeups, and after a few false starts, he settled in nicely to the closer’s role in Philadelphia last year. He should be a nice pickup for some team.

49. Kyuji Fujikawa (RHP Japan – Age 32): Long one of Japan’s best relievers, Fujikawa’s worst ERA since 2005 was a 2.01 mark in 2010. He’s at 1.44 with 21 saves (bringing his career total to 217 saves) and 55 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings for Hanshin this year. Possessing a low-90s fastball, a forkball and a curveball, Fujikawa should be perfectly capable of sliding right in as an eighth- or ninth-inning guy in the majors, and reports indicate that he is ready to make the move. He might command a two-year deal in the $8 million-$10 million range.

48. Carlos Villanueva (RHP Blue Jays – Age 29): Villanueva has spent seven years in the bigs and just once, when he worked exclusively out of the pen for Milwaukee in 2010, has he occupied the same role all year long. This year, he was moved to the rotation after amassing a 3.24 ERA in 33 1/3 innings out of the pen, and he’s remained successful, going 5-5 with a 3.50 ERA in 12 starts. Even as long as Villanueva has been around, he’s just turning 29 in November. Don’t be surprised if someone gives him a two-year deal in the $10 million-$12 million range this winter.

47. Delmon Young (OF Tigers – Age 27): This one should be fascinating, Young is the youngest player on this list, and, thanks to a recent surge, it looks like he’ll end his age-26 season with about 20 homers and 80 RBI. He had 21 homers and 112 RBI for the Twins in 2010. However, he’s spent the rest of his career to date as a below average regular because of his poor OBPs and lousy defense. It’s entirely possible he still has a couple of .300-25-100 seasons in his future, but when he instead comes in at .270-15-75, he’s quite a liability. It may take a strong September to get him a multiyear deal.

46. J.J. Putz (RHP Diamondbacks – Age 36)*: After GM Kevin Towers said last week that he was planning to exercise his closer’s $6.5 million option for 2013, Putz rewarded the show of faith by blowing saves against the Dodgers and Giants on consecutive days, resulting in a pair of Arizona losses. Despite the lapses, Putz is still 28-for-33 saving games this season, with a 3.26 ERA and a 54/11 K/BB ratio. If he finishes the season healthy, the option is getting picked up. Of course, with Putz’s injury history, that’s not a given.

45. Brandon League (RHP Dodgers – Age 30): League hasn’t been the same pitcher this year as last, but he gets tons of grounders, possesses a decent strikeout rate and he hasn’t been on the disabled list since 2007. He’s not an ideal closer for a contender, but he’d about as good of a bet as any other reliever on this list to still be pretty valuable come 2014 and ’15. He’ll be in demand this winter.

44. Jhonny Peralta (SS Tigers – Age 30)*: The bad news is that Peralta really shouldn’t be looked at a shortstop going forward. The good news is that the third base market is even emptier than the shortstop market this winter, with only Kevin Youkilis, who will also be looked at as a first baseman, here in the top 50. The Tigers hold a reasonable $6 million option on Peralta for 2013 that they may exercise, though they’d be better off going and getting a defensive-minded shortstop. Of course, they could always do both; picking up Peralta’s option and trading him would make sense.

43. Francisco Liriano (LHP White Sox – Age 29): Liriano has topped 150 innings in a season once in his career, and he’s currently on pace to finish with an ERA over 5.00 for the third time in four years. Still, one imagines there will be plenty of interest in him. His fastball has perked back up to the 91-95 mph range this year, and he’s getting more swings and misses as a result. His strikeout rate is the highest its been since 2006. Control remains a problem and he’s always given up more hits than one would expect given his stuff, but there’s still the chance that he has a couple of 15-win, 200-strikeout seasons in his future.

42. Jonathan Broxton (RHP Reds – Age 28): This year was all about Broxton rebuilding his value after a rough 2011 that saw him limited to 12 2/3 innings by elbow problems. He’s been pretty successful, first as a closer for the Royals and now as a setup man in Cincinnati, but without showing the dominant stuff that made him one of the game’s most dominant relievers from 2006-09. While his ERA stands at 2.70, he has just 33 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings. In 2009, he had 114 strikeouts in 76 innings for L.A. Perhaps Broxton is get a two-year, $12 million deal as is, but he’s riskier than some of the relief alternatives.

41. Ryan Ludwick (OF Reds – Age 33)*: Ludwick has thus far given the Reds 25 homers and 72 RBI for their $2.5 million, making him one of the year’s biggest free agent bargains. His deal with the team includes a $5 million mutual option for 2013, but he figures to decline that and seek a multiyear deal in free agency. That Ludwick has been so inconsistent from year to year will work against him, but right-handed power is hard enough to come by that a two-year, $12 million contract seems appropriate.

40. Gavin Floyd (RHP White Sox – Age 30)*: Floyd’s name has come up in trade talks plenty of times, but the White Sox never found the right return for him. Now they might let him go without getting anything back. They hold a $9.5 million option on his services for 2013, but that’s a high price to pay for a guy who has dealt with some elbow problems of late. His ERA has also gone up for the fourth straight year this year. A change of scenery would likely do him some good.

39. Colby Lewis (RHP Rangers – Age 33): Lewis was in position to land himself at least a three-year, $30 million deal if he finished this season healthy. Unfortunately, he required surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his elbow in July. The good news is that no ligament damage was found, so he should be ready to go next spring. Still, some teams will think it’s too risky to sign him to a multiyear deal so soon after elbow surgery. The Rangers will likely have the edge in re-signing him, though as a pretty big-time flyball pitcher, he might be more valuable to a team in a bigger ballpark.

38. Angel Pagan (OF Giants – Age 31): That center field is the only position with any real depth available in free agency this winter hurts Pagan, but he’s still probably in line for a multiyear contract after his nice season for the Giants. He’s hitting .286/.338/.433 with 23 steals and playing very good defense for the NL West leaders. Pagan goes through long stretches in which he looks more like a fourth outfielder than a regular, but even if he disappoints as a starter, his speed and defense would give him value in a reduced role.

37. Brandon McCarthy (RHP Athletics – Age 29): McCarthy has a 3.29 ERA and a 196/49 K/BB ratio in 281 2/3 innings for the A’s over the last two years, making him one of the best pitchers on this list. Unfortunately, he also has one of the longest lists of injuries; the word “shoulder’ shows up 113 times in Rotoworld updates for McCarthy. It’d be worth giving him $7 million-$8 million for 2013 alone in the hopes that he can make 25+ starts, but a multiyear deal would be a tough sell.

36. Mike Adams (RHP Rangers – Age 34): With a 2.42 ERA in 70 2/3 innings since joining Texas at the 2011 trade deadline, Adams has handled the jump to the American League quite well, I figured the home run ball would be a much bigger problem for him in Arlington than it was at Petco, but he’s given up just one in 45 innings this season. Adams is 34 and has just four career saves to his credit, but he deserves a chance to close this winter. Unfortunately, he might get bigger offers from contenders that will want to keep him in a setup role. Out of all the relievers available, he could have the best chance of getting a three-year deal.

35. Jeremy Guthrie (RHP Royals – Age 34): Recovered from a disastrous Coors Field experience, Guthrie has gone 4-3 with a 3.70 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in nine starts with the Royals. His season statistics are still pretty awful — he had a 6.35 ERA and 21 homers allowed in 90 2/3 innings for the Rockies — but teams probably won’t hold that against him. Guthrie won’t be a top target of the big spenders, but his ability to throw 200 decent innings year in and year out makes him an ideal mid-rotation guy for a team like the Royals. It’ll likely take at least $15 million for two years to sign him.

34. Paul Maholm (LHP Braves – Age 30)*: The very reasonable $6.5 million option on Maholm’s contract for 2013 allowed the Cubs to get more in return for him than they otherwise might have prior to the trade deadline. At 11-9 with a 3.79 ERA, he should need only to finish the season healthy in order to guarantee that it will be picked up. That said, the Braves do have Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen and Mike Minor all under control for next year, plus Brandon Beachy on the way back from Tommy John surgery. However, even if they are feeling thrifty, they should exercise the option and trade him.

33. Russell Martin (C Yankees – Age 30): Believe it or not, Martin is just turning 30 in February. Unfortunately, his batting average has declined five straight seasons (he’s at .202 right now), and 10 of his 15 homers this year have come at Yankee Stadium. He remains a pretty good defender, but if he can’t get hot to close the season out, no one is going to offer a three- or four-year deal to a .200 hitter. That’s good news for the Yankees, who will likely want to retain him without having to give him much of a raise from the $7.5 million he’s making this year. In truth, $15 million for two years seems quite appropriate.

32. Cody Ross (OF Red Sox – Age 32): Ross went out looking for a three-year deal last winter and came away very disappointed. He ended up signing with the Red Sox for $3 million, less than half the $6.3 million he earned with the Giants the year before. Now that Ross has tore it up in Fenway, hitting .279/.340/.512 with 20 homers in 387 at-bats, he may well get that three-year contract, though only if there’s a GM out there who doesn’t notice that he’s hit .238 with seven homers away from Boston this year.

31. Ervin Santana (RHP Angels – Age 30)*: Santana has managed to find his foothold after his ERA peaked at 6.00 in late July, going 4-1 with a 3.63 ERA in his last seven starts. Realistically, he’d have to pitch very well into the postseason to have any chance of getting his $13 million option for 2013 picked up. Santana will be a tough call as a free agent. He’s got youth and a pretty good track record, but his stuff has diminished somewhat and he has a career ERA of 4.89 outside of Anaheim (3.82 at home). He could turn out to be quite a bust on a three-year deal.

30. Lance Berkman (1B Cardinals – Age 37): Berkman was able to stay healthy and play at an All-Star level as a right fielder last year, but because of bad knees, he’s been limited to 76 at-bats this season after moving back to first base following Albert Pujols’ departure. That he can still hit is undeniable, but Berkman doesn’t appear interested in extending his career as a designated hitter. He’s likely headed off to retirement, though if he changes his mind, there won’t be any shortage of suitors.

29. Jose Valverde (RHP Tigers – Age 35): Valverde was perfect last year, going 49-for-49 saving games. This year, he’s been far shakier at times, but he’s still blown just four of his 32 save chances. Since the All-Star break, he’s 12-for-13 and he has a 2.78 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. If he finishes strong from here, the Tigers figure to offer him a two-year deal to stick around as their closer. Besides the unobtainable Mariano Rivera, there are no free agent closers that are necessarily better bets for 2013.

28. Melky Cabrera (OF Giants – Age 28): Cabrera appeared destined for a contract worth in excess of $40 million for four years before he was caught doping. He’ll definitely be shunned by some teams as a free agent this winter, but he won’t have to beg for a job. At least a couple of teams will be willing to gamble that the 2011 Kansas City Melky was the real Cabrera, and that player was worth undoubtedly worth $10 million-$12 million per year. He might have his choice of one-year, $10 million offers and proposals in the $15 million range for two years.

27. A.J. Pierzynski (C White Sox – Age 36): Putting together a career year at age 35, Pierzynski is batting .284/.329/.523 in 398 at-bats. His 24 homers have topped his previous career high by six, and it looks like he’ll set a new personal best in RBI, too (71 now, 77 in 2004). While Pierzynski has never had a great defensive rep, his pitching staffs have often overachieved, and he definitely gets bonus points for durability. The White Sox will likely re-sign him to another two-year deal.

26. Fernando Rodney (RHP Rays – Age 36)*: It’s too bad the Rodney case probably won’t get tested in free agency this winter, as the Rays hold a $2.5 million option that they’ll surely exercise unless he suddenly falls apart this month. It would have been fascinating to see what kind of offers he would have gotten as a 36-year-old with just one sub-4.00 ERA in a six-year span. His 2012 appears set to go down as one of the great seasons in modern relief history.

25. Stephen Drew (SS Athletics – Age 30)*: Drew is the only shortstop available with a reasonable chance of being a difference-maker for a team, yet he’s hit .203/.298/.321 in 54 games this year after coming back from a gruesome ankle injury. It makes him quite the risky investment. The A’s hold a $10 million mutual option on his contract after acquiring him from the Diamondbacks last month, and it’s possible they’ll exercise their portion of it if he finishes strong. It’d then be up to Drew whether he feels better about going back on the market next year or if he’d rather have take a modest two- or maybe three-year deal now. More so than most, he figures to be a bargain or a bust.

24. Torii Hunter (OF Angels – Age 37): Hunter posted his worst OPS since 2003 when he hit .262/.336/.429 last year, but he’s bounced back to .304/.356/.442 so far this season. Of course, as much as we may rally against the idea of protection for batters, the fact that he’s sandwiched right in between Mike Trout and Pujols in the Angels order sure can’t hurt. Hunter says his first priority is to stay with the Angels, but the Halos have Mark Trumbo, Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos to play with Trout in the outfield. Unless he’s willing to take a discount and perhaps a reduced role as the season goes on, he’d be better off elsewhere.

23. Chris Iannetta (C Angels – Age 29)*: The trade that sent Iannetta from Colorado to Anaheim last winter allows him to void the $5 million club option that’s on his contract for 2013. He figures to go that route and seek out a multiyear deal this winter, though there’s a good chance he’ll stay with the Angels anyway. A broken wrist has marred Iannetta’s season, but he’s hit .268/.359/.471 in 157 at-bats while healthy. At $21 million for three years, he’d be a very good investment.

22. Hisashi Iwakuma (LHP Mariners – Age 31): I pegged Iwakuma for a three-year, $21 million contract in this spot a year ago, but everyone was scared off by his shoulder woes and he signed for a piddling $1.5 million guarantee from the Mariners. Fortunately, he did hold out for a contract that would make him a free agent again after 2012, and he may well get that $20 million contract with the way he’s throwing now. He’s 7-4 with a 2.42 ERA since moving into Seattle’s rotation, and he has a 1.74 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 57 innings over his last nine starts.

21. Rafael Soriano (RHP Yankees – Age 33)*: Soriano’s unusual contract with the Yankees had just one guaranteed season, but it included player options for 2012 worth $11 million and 2013 worth $14 million. Exercising the 2012 option was a no-brainer for Soriano after he stumbled to a 4.12 ERA in 39 1/3 innings last year. This year, he’s gotten to close again with Rivera down and he’s amassed 35 saves and a 1.98 ERA in 54 2/3 innings, pushing his market value back up. Of course, $14 million is still quite a bit better than he’d do as a free agent, but there might be a two-year, $16 million-$18 million offer for him out there if he wants to keep closing.

20. Andy Pettitte (LHP Yankees – Age 40): Until he busted his ankle in June, Pettitte was looking very good in his return from a one-year retirement, going 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA and a 59/15 K/BB ratio in 58 2/3 innings. It sounds like he wants to pitch again in 2013, and if it happens, it’d hard to imagine that it’d be for any team except the Yankees.

19. Shaun Marcum (RHP Brewers – Age 31): In three seasons since returning from Tommy John surgery, Marcum has posted ERAs of 3.64, 3.54 and 3.53. That gives him one of the best performance track records of any pitcher here. Unfortunately, his elbow is still a problem. He faded down the stretch last year, and he’s been limited to 16 starts this year after a lengthy DL stint due to “tightness.” While a healthy Marcum would be a great fit in any team’s rotation, he may have to settle for a one-year deal this winter.

18. Kevin Youkilis (3B White Sox – Age 34)*: After a roaring start following his trade from Boston, Youkilis is down to .242/.362/.450 with 12 homers in 59 games for the White Sox. That’s still just fine — he’s been an asset at a bargain price — but it’s not going to get his $13 million option for 2013 picked up. Regardless, Youkilis will enter the free agent market in pretty good position. He’s clearly the best one-year option at third base available, and he could also be viewed as a possibility at first base by a few teams.

17. Shane Victorino (OF Dodgers – Age 32): Victorino’s worst year as a major leaguer has come at a bad time, as he’s hit a modest .259/.322/.384 for the Phillies and Dodgers as he heads into free agency. The other problem is that there are a couple of younger and superior defensive center fielders ahead of him on this list. Victorino will win points for intangibles and veteran presence, but whereas a four-year, $40 million contract looked realistic a year ago, he’s probably headed for a two- or three-year deal as things stand now.

16. Kyle Lohse (RHP Cardinals – Age 34): Lohse was abysmal during the first two years of his four-year, $41 million extension with the Cardinals, but he’s redeemed himself in a big way while going 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA in 2011 and 14-2 with a 2.81 ERA so far this year. In his 10 previous seasons, his best ERA was a 3.78 mark (which got him the big contract in 2008) and his second best was 4.18. With his poor strikeout rate, Lohse doesn’t really project as much more than a fourth starter going forward. The team that signs him to a three-year contract figures to regret it.

15. Adam LaRoche (1B Nationals – Age 32)*: When the Nationals gave Michael Morse his contract extension in January, they were essentially penciling him as their 2013 first baseman, with Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth in the outfield corners. LaRoche, though, has been the team’s best hitter this year, and with Harper proving to be useable in center, the Nationals might want to keep their current arrangement going for another year. LaRoche will have his own say; his can void the $10 million option on his contract and go shopping for a multiyear deal if he’d like.

14. Dan Haren (RHP Angels – Age 32)*: Haren’s option still looked like a slam dunk a couple of months ago, but in part due to his back problems, he’s been remarkably average this year with his 10-10 record and 4.46 ERA. Haren’s option is worth $15.5 million, but since it includes a $3.5 million buyout, it’s really a $12 million decision for the Angels. I still think it gets exercised if he finishes the year healthy, but perhaps the Angels would rather put that money towards re-signing Zack Greinke instead.

13. Mike Napoli (C-1B Rangers – Age 31): Napoli was maybe the AL’s third-best hitter in 2011, coming in at .320/.414/.631 with 30 homers in 369 at-bats. He’s taken a big step back during an injury-riddled 2012, hitting .223/.343/.429 with 17 homers in 301 at-bats. Given his strikeout rate, he’s a lot more likely to be a .230-.250 hitter than a .270+ guy going forward, but with his power and walk rate, he’s still plenty good while sporting that kind of average. Suitors will have to decide whether to pursue him as a catcher, a first baseman or a hybrid. Dreams of a four-year, $40 million deal are likely gone, but he could provide plenty of punch at $27 million for three years.

12. Ryan Dempster (RHP Rangers – Age 35): Dempster arrested his decline with a stellar opening kick for the Cubs, and though he did get lit up in two of his first three starts for the Rangers, he’s now won three in a row while allowing a total of three earned runs. For the season, Dempster is 10-6 with a 2.87 ERA, and he still has a great strikeout rate at age 35. Since he’s been plenty durable in five seasons since moving back into the rotation, he could be in line for a three-year, $30 million contract this winter.

11. Mariano Rivera (RHP Yankees – Age 43): Rivera intends to return to pitch in 2013 after missing all but a month of this season with a torn ACL, and it’s a given that he’ll re-sign with the Yankees. The only real question is whether baseball’s all-times saves leader will take a paycut from the $15 million he’s made each of the last five seasons.

10. Hiroki Kuroda (RHP Yankees – Age 38): Content to take one-year deals each winter as he decides whether or not he wants to continue in MLB or return to Japan, Kuroda is far from the typical free agent. The thinking last year at this time was that he’d re-up with the Dodgers, but since the Dodgers weren’t sure of his thinking as the offseason began, they went in a different direction, allowing the Yankees to swoop in and steal him for $10 million. Now the assumption is that he’ll simply sign another one-year deal to stay in the Bronx, but a $15 million-$18 million offer could give him something to think about.

9. David Ortiz (DH Red Sox – Age 37): The Red Sox had good reasons for not wanting to sign their aging DH to multiyear extensions the last couple of winters, but now that their salary dump means they won’t have to worry about the luxury tax again anytime soon, they might as well reward Ortiz for his incredible career reversal. He’s been just about as productive as ever while hitting 318/.415/.611 this season, though it looks like an Achilles’ tendon injury has brought his campaign to an early end. A two-year, $28 million contract should keep Ortiz happy and ward off any other potential suitors.

8. Anibal Sanchez (RHP Tigers – Age 29): Sanchez’s stock has dropped since his move to the Tigers. His 4.50 ERA in seven starts isn’t that bad, but it comes with a 1.65 WHIP and just 22 strikeouts in 40 innings, suggesting that he might not be cut out for the American League. On the plus side, this is Sanchez’s third straight healthy season. Pitching for the Marlins, he had 202 strikeouts in 196 1/3 innings last year, and he was at 110 in 121 innings before the trade this season. He’s one of the few pitchers here whose best days may yet be ahead of him, so he’s still due an ample three- or four-year contract.

7. Jake Peavy (RHP White Sox – Age 31)*: Possessing the AL’s seventh-best ERA and sixth-best WHIP, Peavy has had a terrific bounce-back season, and he’s still just 31 years old. One assumes the White Sox would love to have him back next year. Alas, the option year on the contract he originally signed with the Padres is for a cool $22 million. The White Sox presumably will buy it out for $4 million and then try to sign him to a lesser two- or three-year contract. Peavy’s injury history is scary, but he’s also throwing as well as any pitcher on this list at the moment.

6. Nick Swisher (OF Yankees – Age 32): There isn’t actually any such thing, but Swisher is the sure thing available in free agency. In eight full seasons, he’s never failed to hit 20 homers. He’s topped an .800 OPS six times, including each of the last four years. He’s not an All-Star, but a team can sign him now and feel confident about getting quality production from the fifth or sixth spot in the lineup through 2015. I don’t think that’s worth a four-year, $48 million contract, but that could be what he gets.

5. Michael Bourn (OF Braves – Age 30): With a .284/.355/.408 line in 556 at-bats Bourn is having the best offensive year of his career as he approaches free agency, and he should be in line for his third Gold Glove for his work in center field. He plays the one deep position in free agency this winter, but he plays it better than the alternatives and he’s the true leadoff hitter of the bunch, something that will certainly aid his case as he goes hunting for a five-year deal in the $75 million range. Personally, I’d recommend caution: he’s always struck out too much for someone with his offensive profile.

4. Edwin Jackson (RHP Nationals – Age 29): Jackson rolled the dice last winter, taking a one-year, $11 million contract from the Nationals instead of one of the lesser two- or three-year offers on the table. It’s likely to pay off in a big way. While this year’s 9-9 record and 3.63 ERA aren’t spectacular, he has a career-best 1.17 WHIP and a 147/50 K/BB ratio in 163 2/3 innings for Washington. A smarter pitcher now than he was in his younger days, he’d be worth the investment if he could be had for $50 million over four years. He might get a five-year, $70 million contract from someone.

3. B.J. Upton (OF Rays – Age 28): Upton seemed destined for superstardom when he hit .300/.386/.508 as a 22-year-old in 2007, but in the five years since, he’s come in at .249/.332/.411. He still shows glimpses of that old potential, like when he hit seven homers in the 2008 postseason and when he batted .333/.432/.606 last September as the Rays overtook the Red Sox for the wild card. Even now, he’s hit eight homers in the last month after totaling 10 in his first 96 games of 2012. It only takes one team to look at his potential and decide it’s worth taking the plunge. I think he gets $75 million for five years.

2. Zack Greinke (RHP Angels – Age 29): With Matt Cain and Cole Hamels having re-upped, Greinke is this winter’s only huge free agent pitcher. A $100 million contract seems assured, even though Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner with Kansas City, hasn’t exactly been an ace in amassing a 3.93 ERA the last three years. There’s also the likelihood that teams like the Yankees and Red Sox will choose to sit this one out given Greinke’s dislike of the spotlight. Fortunately, there are plenty of other teams with deep pockets now, and with demand vastly exceeding supply, $20 million per year seems well within reach.

1. Josh Hamilton (OF Rangers – Age 31): And then there’s Hamilton, the 2010 American League MVP. Certainly the best player available, he’s come in at .292/.358/.583 with 38 homers and 114 RBI so far this season. Of course, there is plenty of baggage in the form of his history of drug and alcohol abuse. He’s always been injury-prone, and it’s possible his body will break down in his mid-30s from the toll it took in his younger days. It might be worth the gamble to pay him $30 million per year for three seasons, but a five- or six-year deal could turn into a real disaster. My guess is that he stays in Texas for $25 million per year.

Remembering Carlos Delgado’s protest in the wake of Kaepernick

NEW YORK - AUGUST 9:  First baseman Carlos Delgado #25 of the Toronto Blue Jays watches the game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 9, 2004 in the Bronx, New York. The won Blue Jays won 5-4.  (Photo by M. David Leeds/Getty Images)
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Over the weekend, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick created a stir when he did not stand for the National Anthem before an exhibition game and later told reporters that his refusal to do so was a protest of institutional racism in America. Given how issues which touch on patriotism and protest play in a sports setting, it’s not at all surprising that this quickly turned into a huge controversy, with many decrying Kaepernick’s act, even as many have rushed to his defense.

Because this is the NFL and because we live in the social media era, the volume of this controversy is understandably cranked to 11. But it’s not the first time an athlete has mounted such a protest. Back in 1995 NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf similarly refused to stand for the Anthem and the same sorts of pro and con arguments emerged, albeit at the far more measured pace of 1990s discourse.

In 2004 a baseball player made a somewhat similar protest. That player was Carlos Delgado, who made a point to not be on the field during the by then de rigueur playing of “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch which most teams adopted in the wake of 9/11. Part of Delgado’s protest stemmed from his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It likewise reflected his protest of the United States Navy’s use of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques as a weapons testing ground for decades and Puerto Ricans’ call for the government to clean up the island which had become contaminated with ordinance over 60 years of bombing.

Delgado was backed by his team, the Blue Jays, who made no effort to intervene in his protest. He likewise had the support of his teammates. Even profoundly conservative ones like Gregg Zaun, who disagreed with the substance of Delgado’s protest yet respected his right to protest how he chose. At the time Zaun said “He has his opinion and he’s decided to use that as his platform. Whether or not I agree with him, I salute him.”

Which is not to say that Delgado did not take considerable criticism for his protest. Many, including commissioner Bud Selig, said that, while they respected his right to protest how he wished, they hoped he wouldn’t protest in such a fashion. Or, at the very least, they hoped to better understand why he chose to make a political statement at a sporting event, suggesting that they really didn’t think his act to be appropriate. Lost on them all, it seemed, was that the act of playing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch was itself a political statement, but I suppose that’s an argument for another time.

Carlos Delgado weathered the controversy well, playing for five more seasons after 2004 and maintaining the respect he had always had in baseball as a team leader, a respected veteran and a consummate professional. Kaepernick doesn’t have the track record in his sport that Delgado had by 2004 and there are some who have suggested that, this controversy aside, he may not have long in the league due to his skills and health and things. It’ll be interesting to see how those differences, as well as the different media environment in 2016 compared to 2004 affect this whole saga.

What we know for certain, however, is that Kaepernick’s reasons for protest are his own and he is, obviously, free to protest however he’d like. He is, of course, likewise subject to criticism from those who don’t care for his protest. That’s how free speech works. Even in sports, where a great many people choose to believe that protest and political speech, at least of a certain variety and of a certain leaning, does not have a place.

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Derek Holland #45 of the Texas Rangers points out a pop fly against the Cleveland Indians in the first inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on August 28, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Rangers 2, Indians 1: Derek Holland was solid, allowing one run over six innings and Ian Desmond and Jonathan Lucroy each had an RBI single. The Rangers take three of four in what could be an ALCS preview. Although, given that no teams have been eliminated yet, any game between AL teams could be an ALCS preview if you think about it hard enough. Open your mind, man.

Dodgers 1, Cubs 0: All goose eggs until the eighth when the Dodgers cobbled together a run out of a hit-by-pitch, a two-base throwing error by Trevor Cahill and a fielder’s choice. Then all goose eggs after that. Brock Stewart and four relievers combined on a four-hit shutout for the Dodgers. This could be an NLCS preview, by the way. I won’t finish the joke here. I already told it.

Orioles 5, Yankees 0: Kevin Gausman had no trouble with the somehow resurgent Yankees, shutting them out for seven innings and fanning nine. I rarely say “fanning” for striking out and I don’t hear at all that often anymore. Back in the 80s it seemed like there was a lot more “fanning” going on. Steve Pearce drove in three. Earlier this season, while he was still with the Rays, I mistakenly identified some Orioles player in a photo as Steve Pearce. I’m glad he’s back where he belongs.

Blue Jays 9, Twins 6: Josh Donaldson hit three homers, including the go-ahead dong, continuing a year that, by the numbers, is better than his MVP year last season, even if people aren’t talking about it as much. On his third homer Jays fans tossed hats out onto the field. Get it? Yeah. Anyway, Minnesota had a 5-2 lead in the middle of the game but blowing moderate leads with lots of time to go is one of the primary traits of teams that suck.

Angels 5, Tigers 0: Jefry Marte hit a two-run homer and drove in a third run on a sac fly. Marte’s performance would really serve as a great “bet you miss me NOW, huh?!” game for him if anyone remembered that he played for the Tigers last year.

Phillies 5, Mets 1: A.J. Ellis hit a two-run double to break a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning. Somewhere Clayton Kershaw shed a single tear, Iron Eyes Cody-style.

Padres 3, Marlins 1: Luis Perdomo tossed a complete game while allowing only one run and requiring only 99 pitches. Having six double plays get turned behind you certainly helps the old pitch count.

Rockies 5, Nationals 3: Nolan Arenado went 4-for-4 with a homer and a triple as the Rockies take two of three from the Nats. Lucas Giolito ran into trouble in the third when Arenado hit that dinger. Dusty Baker after the game: “It’s that one bad inning that does you in. That was the one bad inning.”

One Bad Day

So what I’m saying is, yes, Lucas Giolito is now either The Joker or Batman. That’s how this works.

White Sox 4, Mariners 1: Carlos Rodon allowed a run and five hits while pitching into the seventh. After a pretty disappointing season he’s turning things around lately, going 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA in his last five starts.

Pirates 3, Brewers 1: The Sweep. John JasoGregory Polanco and Starling Marte all homered. Ivan Nova pitched well but left with a wonky hamstring. Which, given that Gerrit Cole is hurt, does not bode well for a team that needs everything to go right for the next month and change if they don’t want to go home in a month and change.

Athletics 7, Cardinals 4: The A’s have won four of five. Khris Davis hit a two-run shot and Steven Vogt hit a three-run homer. A’s starter Andrew Triggs got his first win. He’s from Nashville and said that a bunch of his friends and family drove to St. Louis from there to see him pitch. Can’t think of a road trip I’d rather do less in the August heat than Nashville-to-St. Louis, but you crank up the AC and do it for your friends and family I suppose.

Rays 10, Astros 4: Chris Archer allowed three runs on four hits in seven innings and struck out ten. Astros pitchers allowed ten runs on 15 hits and only struck out four. The order of things matters, man. Corey Dickerson his a three-run homer.

Giants 13, Braves 4: Four homers from the Giants — two from Joe Panik — to back a less-than-perfectly-sharp-but-good-enough-against-a-team-like-the-Braves Madison Bumgarner. The Giants took two of three from Atlanta to remain two back of the Dodgers. It was only the second series they have won since the All-Star break.

Diamondbacks 11, Reds 2: A.J. Pollock went 3-for-5 and stole two bases, showing Diamondbacks fans what they missed with him gone all year. Welington Castillo drove in four in this laugher of a game.

Royals 10, Red Sox 4: Down 4-2 in the sixth and the Royals put up an 8-run inning. Raul Mondesi‘s bases-loaded triple and Eric Hosmer‘s two-run single were the big blows. The Royals have won 17 of 21 and have moved to 5.5 back in the AL Central and three back in the wild card. They’re tied with Houston and are a game back of Detroit in that race. Maybe the defending champs were only mostly dead.