Who are the top free agents still available?

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Most of the big-name free agents are off the market with a little over a month to go before pitchers and catchers start reporting to spring training, but based on Matthew Pouliot’s ranking of the top 111 free agents here are the best players still available:

1. Carl Pavano (RHP, Twins)

2. Andy Pettitte (LHP, Yankees)

3. Rafael Soriano (RHP, Rays)

4. Vladimir Guerrero (OF, Rangers)

5. Brian Fuentes (LHP, Twins)

6. Manny Ramirez (OF, White Sox)

7. Johnny Damon (OF, Tigers)

8. Jeff Francis (LHP, Rockies)

9. Grant Balfour (RHP, Rays)

10. Jon Rauch (RHP, Twins)

11. Chris Young (RHP, Padres)

12. Jim Thome (DH, Twins)

Those dozen players are the only names still available from Pouliot’s top 50.

Of the 12 players, four (Guerrero, Ramirez, Damon, Thome) are viewed primarily as designated hitters, four are relievers (Soriano, Fuentes, Balfour, Rauch), two are starters coming back from injury (Francis, Young), and one is a starter leaning toward retirement (Pettitte).

And then there’s Pavano, who’s been the top free agent starting pitcher on the market since Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies in mid-December, yet still hasn’t decided whether or not to re-sign with the Twins.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.