This is part three in a series covering this winter’s top 111 free agents. Here are the players ranked 70th through 51st. The relievers in this group may get two-year deals, while the position players should have to settle for one-year pacts in the $3 million-$4 million range.
70. Doug Davis (Brewers – Age 35) – Consistently solid yet unexceptional, Davis finished with ERAs in the low-4.00s in each of his three seasons with the Diamondbacks before rejoining the Brewers a year ago. His encore in Milwaukee was a complete washout, though, as he was limited to eight starts by a heart condition and elbow woes. Surgery to transpose his ulnar nerve and repair his flexor tendon came earlier this month. With his availability for the start of 2011 up in the air, he’s probably looking at a minimal guarantee this winter. Incentives could give him a chance to earn $5 million or so if he can come back and pitch 180 innings.
69. Cristian Guzman (Rangers – Age 33) – Maybe it will get him a World Series ring, but if Guzman had it to do all over again, he probably wouldn’t have given his approval to the deal that sent him from Washington to Texas at the deadline. A poor fit with his new team, he hit just .152/.204/.174 in 46 at-bats and didn’t get into a game after Sept. 8. Now that Guzman has gained some experience at second base and in the outfield, he could last a few more years as a utilityman. He’d surely prefer to be a starting shortstop somewhere, but it’s hard to see any team being eager to grant him that opportunity.
68. Russell Branyan (Mariners – Age 35) – Branyan held out for a multiyear contract last winter and ended up taking a cheap deal from the Indians after overplaying his hand. He never matched his 2009 production with Cleveland or after returning to Seattle at the end of June, but his overall .237/.323/.487 line wasn’t too shabby for a guy playing in pitcher’s parks in a down offensive year. With his history of back woes, Branyan is a poor candidate for a multiyear deal. He’s still a viable choice as a starting first baseman or DH, but he’s not due more than $3 million.
67. Miguel Olivo (Rockies – Age 32) – There have been some conflicting reports over whether the $2.6 million option on Olivo’s contract for 2011 is mutual or not. Adding more drama was the Denver Post’s report this week that the Rockies might prefer to buy him out for $500,000 anyway. Olivo, originally signed to share time with Chris Iannetta, was manager Jim Tracy’s preferred catcher while hitting .269/.315/.449 in 394 at-bats this season. He strikes out a bunch and he can be erratic defensively, but it figures that he’d command at least $2.6 million if he goes back on the open market.
66. Orlando Cabrera (Reds – Age 36) – Cabrera was outplayed by backup Paul Janish while hitting .263/.303/.354 in his first season in Cincinnati, so while the Reds haven’t ruled out bringing him back, they are expected to decline their half of a $4 million mutual option, buying him out for $1 million instead. Fortunately, Cabrera has intangibles in spades, because the tangibles are getting worse every year. Next season could well be his last as a starting shortstop.
65. Arthur Rhodes (Reds – Age 41) – A first-time All-Star at age 40, Rhodes finished 2010 with a 2.29 ERA in 55 innings, his highest total since 2002. He was used against more righties than usual, and they ended up hitting just .182 off him. After a pair of such strong seasons in Cincinnati, he not only deserves another two-year contract, but he should get a modest raise from the $2 million per season he’s been earning. The Reds will likely re-sign him.
64. Troy Glaus (Braves – Age 34) – Glaus was talked up as an MVP candidate after hitting six homers and driving in 28 runs in May, but he was a liability for four months of the season and the Braves ended up acquiring Derrek Lee to start at first base down the stretch. At 34, Glaus isn’t finished being a productive hitter. However, he’d probably be more useful in a part-time role. As a regular, he’s constantly getting banged up, and though he’s always willing to play through injuries, he hurts his team when he does so. Maybe things would be different if he were used as a DH.
63. Ramon Hernandez (Reds – Age 34) – Ryan Hanigan looked plenty capable while filling in during 2009, but the Reds weren’t certain he was ready to carry a full load and brought Hernandez back at a paycut this year. It proved to be an astute decision, as the pair formed one of the league’s strongest catching duos. Playing in 97 games, Hernandez had his best offensive season since 2006, finishing at .297/.364/.428. The Reds hold a $3.25 million club option for 2011 that they might pick up. Hanigan still hasn’t started more than 72 games in a season.
62. Miguel Tejada (Padres – Age 36) – It makes sense for the Padres to emphasize outfield defense in their ballpark. On the other hand, they can get by with less rangy infielders, since singles only occasionally lead to runs in Petco. Tejada was exactly what the Padres hoped he’d be after coming over from the Orioles. He committed just three errors in 58 games at shortstop, and he hit a solid .268/.317/.413. They may well bring him back in the same role, assuming that he’s willing to take $2 million-$3 million off his $6 million salary from 2010.
61. Jason Frasor (Blue Jays – Age 33) – Never truly appreciated by the Jays, Frasor was quickly yanked out of the closer’s role after a tough start and he spent much of the summer working in low-leverage situations. A fresh start elsewhere would seem to be the right move. On the other hand, new Jays manager John Farrell should think highly of Frasor given the way he’s pitched against the Red Sox in his career (2.55 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 49 1/3 IP). Also, Frasor’s wife is a Toronto native. He’s probably in line for a two-year, $6 million deal.
60. Lyle Overbay (Blue Jays – Age 34) – Overbay started the season 4-for-50 and didn’t permanently climb over .200 until May 29, but he was a solid enough starting first baseman apart from those first two weeks in April. The Jays seem ready to move on after five years of rather generic production, so Overbay will be on the hunt for a starting job elsewhere. He’s no longer worth using against lefties, but with his salary likely to be cut in half from the $7 million he’s made the last two years, he’d be a nice enough platoon player.
59. Octavio Dotel (Rockies – Age 37) – After pitching for three teams in 2010, Dotel has now been employed by one-third of the league. He got off to a very rough start as the Pirates’ closer, amassing a 10.61 ERA in April, but he held on to the job and was effective for three months before being sent to Los Angeles and later Colorado in trades. He’s still one of the league’s top strikeout relievers, having fanned 75 in 64 innings this year. He should be looking at another one-year deal worth about $3.5 million.
58. Jhonny Peralta (Tigers – Age 28) – The way the Tigers seemed taken with him, one would think Peralta saw a big uptick in performance following his acquisition from the Indians. However, his OPS barely moved, going from 698 to 710. He did fare better than expected at shortstop after spending the previous two years as Cleveland’s third baseman. All indications point to him returning as the team’s starter at the position next season.
57. Kevin Millwood (Orioles – Age 36) – There’s no way he could have turned down all that money, but we’d probably be looking at Millwood quite a bit differently right now had he not signed the $60 million deal with the Rangers five years ago. A trade to the Orioles last winter put him in another difficult situation, and he ended up allowing 30 homers in 190 2/3 innings and finishing 4-16 with a 5.10 ERA. It was a dreadful June and July that did him in, and he was likely pitching hurt for a time then. Millwood still has a decent strikeout rate, and he might well reemerge as a legitimate third or fourth starter in the NL. At $4 million or so, he could prove to be a modest bargain for 2011.
56. Bill Hall (Red Sox – Age 31) – With expectations at an all-time low, Hall was a big asset while starting games at six positions for the Red Sox this year, hitting .247/.316/.456 in 344 at-bats. Of course, that’s still not going to get his $9.25 million option picked up, but Hall has put himself in position to be viewed as a regular as he heads into free agency for the first time in his career. He’s one of the few position players in this section likely to secure a multiyear deal.
55. Matt Guerrier (Twins – Age 32) – Given his middling stuff, it looked like Guerrier had been figured out when he posted a 5.19 ERA in 2008. However, he’s come right back with 2.36 and 3.17 marks the last two years. He’s pitched at least 69 2/3 innings in each of his six big-league seasons, and he’s been just about as effective against lefties as righties the last two years. I’d still be nervous about giving him a two-year, $7 million deal, but it’s what he deserves.
54. Pat Burrell (Giants – Age 34) – Dumped by the Rays, Burrell returned to a more comfortable setting in San Francisco and immediately resumed putting up the same kind of numbers he did in his Phillies days, hitting .266/.364/.509 with 18 homers in 289 at-bats. Burrell’s defense has always gotten a worse rep than warranted, and he’s still productive enough to justify regular playing time in left field. The Giants should offer him $4 million-$5 million to stick around.
53. Koji Uehara (Orioles – Age 35) – In an effort to keep him healthy, the Orioles moved Uehara from the rotation to the pen to begin the final season of his two-year, $10 million contract. It didn’t work out early, as Uehara missed most of the first half anyway. However, he was exceptional down the stretch and he finished with a 2.86 ERA and a 55/5 K/BB ratio in 44 innings. He was also 13-for-15 saving games over the final six weeks. If he can stay healthy, Uehara could be one of the league’s best setup men for the next couple of years. I expect the Red Sox to make a bid, and the Yankees may well get involved here as well.
52. Hideki Matsui (Angels – Age 36) – Matsui gave the Angels exactly what they should have expected, but it was already decided by midseason that he was a bust. To be fair, Matsui didn’t start excelling until after the All-Star break — he hit .309/.402/.553 in the second half — and by that time, the Angels were already out of the race. Matsui probably won’t match his 2010 salary of $6 million, but he shouldn’t have much trouble landing another DH job.
51. Jesse Crain (Twins – Age 29) – Crain’s brilliant second half took a sudden turn for the worse at the end of the year. He gave up four runs in his final regular-season appearance, raising his ERA from 2.55 to 3.04, and then he allowed two runs and took a loss in his one ALDS appearance against the Yankees. One wonders just how much it will be held against him. Crain is quite a bit younger and has better stuff than most of the other relief options available this winter. However, he’s never really occupied a featured role in a major league pen. I thought he was setting himself up for a three-year deal back in September. Now I’m guessing he gets $7 million-$8 million for two years.