Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 111-91

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Welcome to a revised and slightly expanded edition of the Top 100 Free Agents. Now it’s 111 free agents-to-be. With four months more to go on, there have been a lot of changes that this article was first published in May. Along with each player’s age, as of April 1, 2010, I’ll be noting where they ranked in the previous edition.
Players who have options essentially guaranteed of being picked up aren’t listed. That list of players includes Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez. Also absent are players such as Josh Beckett and Magglio Ordonez, who have already seen their options vest, and Kevin Millwood, whose option figures to vest when he makes his next start.
No Japanese players are included. There doesn’t appear to be anyone the caliber of Kenshin Kawakami or Koji Uehara set to cross the Pacific this winter. The most interesting name being bandied about right now is that of Yusei Kikuchi, and he’s a high school pitcher likely to need a few years of seasoning before he’ll be ready for the majors. Some interesting relief options will probably emerge later, but expectations should be kept low for now.
The players below are ranked based more on how I believe teams perceive them than my own personal viewpoint.
Top 111 Free Agents
111. Jerry Hairston Jr. (33) – Prev. NR – After a fluke 2008 season, Hairston has fallen to .252/.313/.399 in 373 at-bats this season. It’s his versatility that’s his biggest asset, and he’s a whole lot more useful to a team like the Yankees than he was playing everyday as a member of the Reds.
110. Bobby Crosby (30) – Prev. #87 – Sadly, Crosby’s .225/.297/.367 line gives him his highest OPS since 2005, and what little he’s gained there has been countered by his surprisingly poor play on defense. There will be teams interested in trying to turn his career around, but the former Rookie of the Year will have to compete for a starting job next spring.
109. Jason Kendall (35) – Prev. #97 – Incredibly, he’s still starting five out of every six games for the Brewers even though he’s slugging .290, he’s throwing out just 19 percent of would-be basestealers and not one of the starting pitchers he’s handled has exceeded expectations. He’ll finish the season third or fourth in the majors in innings caught. The numbers say he should be a seldom-used backup. History suggests some team will settle for him as a starter.
108. Reed Johnson (33) – Prev. #88 – Fits in the useful-but-injury-prone category, right alongside near miss Endy Chavez. Johnson hit .306/.386/.452 in 62 at-bats against lefties before getting hurt this year, and he’s scored 72 runs and driven in 70 in 480 at-bats for the Cubs over the last two seasons.
107. Gary Sheffield (41) – Prev. NR – Sheffield has showed he has something left by hitting .279/.371/.457 while playing half of his games in a pitcher’s park. Still, his isn’t the kind of veteran leadership that most teams crave. Plus, he thinks he’s an everyday outfielder when he’d be of more use as a role player and part-time DH. Since he wants the 311 hits he needs to reach 3,000, his best bet would be to sign with a non-contender.
106. Brian Schneider (33) – Prev. #80 – Schneider deserved a Gold Glove or two when he was in his prime, but his defense has fallen off just as much as his offense and he should be viewed as a backup going forward. Perhaps he’ll return to the Nationals with the team in need of protection for Jesus Flores.
105. Scott Podsednik (34) – Prev. NR – Podsednik’s best OPS in the five years since he hit .314/.379/.443 for the Brewers in 2003 was a 700 mark in 2005. Right now, he’s hitting .303/.352/.412 to put him at 764. He’s just an average defender in left and a below average one in center, so he’s not an adequate regular unless he’s hitting around .300. Still, he’ll probably be starting somewhere.
104. Kelvim Escobar (34) – Prev. #65 – Shoulder problems have limited Escobar to five innings in two seasons, so he’s probably going to be in line for a minor league deal this winter. He’ll be a better bet if he’s willing to spend 2010 as a reliever. There just isn’t much chance of him holding up as a starter.
103. Yorvit Torrealba* (31) – Prev. NR – While he recently won back his starting job from Chris Iannetta, Torrealba shouldn’t be in the Rockies’ plans for 2010. He has a $4 million mutual option that the Rockies can buy out for $500,000.
102. Geoff Blum (36) – Prev. NR – Injuries have held him back lately or he’d already be there, but Blum is still going to set a new personal high for starts at one position this year at age 36. He’s made 86 at third base, five fewer than his current high of 91 from 2002 (also at third base and also with the Astros). Houston will probably want him back in 2010, but hopefully it will be as a utilityman.
101. Garret Anderson (37) – Prev. #99 – Anderson turned in a big July to momentarily get his OPS up to 800, but he’s currently down to .275/.313/.415 and still fading. His lack of a platoon split, always a nice feature early in his career, is actually a problem now. He’s just not good enough to start against righties or lefties.
100. Khalil Greene (30) – Prev. #45 – Getting out of Petco Park figured to be just the thing to change Greene’s fortunes, but he got off to an awful start both offensively and defensively for the Cardinals and he’s been shelved twice with anxiety issues. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess. Physically, he should still be able to play a capable shortstop and hit 20 homers per year.
99. Freddy Garcia* (33) – Prev. NR – With his velocity creeping back up, Garcia is again looking like a viable major league pitcher, and he has the 4.41 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in six starts for the White Sox to prove it. As it turns out, he likely miscalculated in giving the White Sox such an inexpensive option to bring him back for next year. He’ll be guaranteed only $1 million.
98. Adam Kennedy (34) – Prev. NR – Kennedy couldn’t find any team willing to give him a shot at a starting job this spring — he ended up signing with a Rays team that was already set at second base — but he’s gone on to have maybe the second-best offensive season of his career. He’s hit .287/.348/.402 and stolen 19 bases in 24 attempts, and he’s proven playable at third after spending the first 10 years of his career at second. The A’s will likely look to re-sign him as Eric Chavez insurance, but others may give him the opportunity to start at second.
97. Joe Crede (31) – Prev. #77 – Crede is again on the shelf with his chronic back troubles, and he didn’t hit enough to justify regular playing time at third base while healthy this season. He shouldn’t be handed another starting job.
96. Bob Howry (36) – Prev. NR – Howry’s ERA has rebounded from 5.35 in his final season with the Cubs to 3.43 this year, but his strikeout rate has dipped three straight years. He’ll almost certainly want to stay in the National League, and there’s a good chance he’ll re-up with the Giants for something close to the $2.75 million he’s currently making.
95. Juan Uribe (31) – Prev. NR – It never made much sense that Edgar Renteria received $18.5 million and Uribe had to settle for a minor league deal last winter. Then again, the fact that he was properly motivated again probably has had a lot to do with Uribe busting out and hitting .290/.331/.500 in 338 at-bats for the Giants. He no longer has the range to be a starting shortstop in the majors, but he can serve as a backup there and he’s a quality defender at second and third. He should be a fine utilityman for a few more years.
94. Melvin Mora* (38) – Prev. #64 – Mora definitely needed a late surge if he hoped to be viewed as a regular this winter, and he appears to be in the midst of one, as he’s hitting .350/.381/.525 this month. That puts him at .266/.324/.362 for the year. The Orioles aren’t going to pick up his $8 million option.
93. Jose Contreras (38) – Prev. #100 – Contreras compiled a 5.14 ERA for the White Sox, but his peripherals weren’t bad and it looked like he might be the last of several starters this year to revive his career in the NL before suffering a quad strain in his second start with the Rockies. Of course, he’s not really 38, but that hardly matters when he’s still throwing in the low-90s consistently.
92. Guillermo Mota (36) – Prev. NR – He’s a cheater, a coward and just about the last pitcher anyone should want working in a big situation in a big game, but Mota also has a 1.67 ERA in 43 innings since the beginning of June. That will probably earn him a raise from the $2.35 million the Dodgers gave him last winter.
91. Ronnie Belliard (34) – Prev. #90 – The subject of retirement came up when Belliard was stuck in a bit role with the Nationals during the first half, but he’s rebounded to hit .321/.362/.527 in 131 at-bats during the second half. If the numbers are to be believed, he’s still perfectly adequate at second base and an above average regular overall.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

aaron judge
Cole Burston/Getty Images
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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.