An updated top 50 free agents

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Taking into account recent signings and some new arrivals courtesy of the non-tender deadline, here’s a new list of the top 50 free agents available. Posted Japanese players Yu Darvish and Norichika Aoki are not included. Darvish, a right-handed pitcher, would come in at No. 2 on the list, while Aoki, an outfielder, would slide in right around No. 25.

(A note: this is more a list of how I believe teams view the free agents than how I view them myself. Personally, I’d slide Carlos Beltran and Josh Willingham above Michael Cuddyer.)

Top 50 Free Agents

1. Prince Fielder (1B Brewers)
2. Yoenis Cespedes (OF Cuba)
3. Jimmy Rollins (SS Phillies)
4. Ryan Madson (RP Phillies)
5. Edwin Jackson (SP Cardinals)
6. Michael Cuddyer (OF Twins)
7. Carlos Beltran (OF Giants)
8. Hiroki Kuroda (SP Dodgers)
9. Josh Willingham (OF Athletics)
10. Roy Oswalt (SP Phillies)
11. Jorge Soler (OF Cuba)
12. Javier Vazquez (SP Marlins)
13. Joe Saunders (SP Diamondbacks)
14. Carlos Pena (1B Cubs)
15. Francisco Cordero (RP Reds)
16. Paul Maholm (SP Pirates)
17. Wei-Yin Chen (SP Japan)
18. Derrek Lee (1B Pirates)
19. Hisashi Iwakuma (SP Japan)
20. Jason Kubel (OF Twins)
21. Coco Crisp (OF Athletics)
22. Casey Kotchman (1B Rays)
23. Tsuyoshi Wada (SP Japan)
24. Johnny Damon (OF Rays)
25. Joel Pineiro (SP Angels)
26. Bartolo Colon (SP Yankees)
27. Cody Ross (OF Giants)
28. Vladimir Guerrero (DH Orioles)
29. Ryan Ludwick (OF Pirates)
30. Jason Marquis (SP Diamondbacks)
31. Wilson Betemit (3B Tigers)
32. Darren Oliver (RP Rangers)
33. Luke Scott (OF Orioles)
34. Brad Lidge (RP Phillies)
35. Rich Harden (SP Athletics)
36. Hideki Matsui (DH Athletics)
37. Kerry Wood (RP Cubs)
38. Hong-Chih Kuo (RP Dodgers)
39. J.D. Drew (OF Red Sox)
40. Jeff Francis (SP Royals)
41. Jeff Keppinger (2B Giants)
42. Yuniesky Betancourt (SS Brewers)
43. Casey Blake (3B Dodgers)
44. Chad Qualls (RP Padres)
45. Juan Pierre (OF White Sox)
46. Kosuke Fukudome (OF Indians)
47. Brad Penny (SP Tigers)
48. Andruw Jones (OF Yankees)
49. Mike Gonzalez (RP Rangers)
50. Chris Snyder (C Pirates)

A few notes:

– The 19-year-old Soler comes in at No. 11 even though he’s likely a couple of years away from contributing. There’s talk of the power-hitting outfielder getting a deal worth more than $20 million. Cespedes, on the other hand, will be expected to make an impact immediately.

– Vasquez is still believed to be leaning towards retirement.

– Non-tenders come in at No. 13 (Saunders), 33 (Scott), 38 (Kuo) and 41 (Keppinger). Ryan Theriot was a near-miss. I also like Clay Hensley and would have put him in a personal top 50, but he may have to settle for $1 million or less after his rough year.

The Astros continue to refuse to take responsibility for the Taubman Affair

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I’m calling it the “Taubman Affair” because writing “the incident in which a top front office executive — Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman — taunted a reporter for her past opposition to the team acquiring a domestic abuser, after which the team lied, aggressively about it, accusing another reporter of fabricating a story, then admitted that they lied but made no apology for smearing the reporter” is too unwieldy for a headline.

If you need catching up on it, though, you can read this, this or this.

The latest on it all: yesterday, after walking back their angry denial that the incident ever occurred and admitting that, yes, Taubman did in fact gleefully and profanely target a reporter for taunting, the team basically went silent and let Game 1 unfold.

Today General Manager Jeff Luhnow went on a team-friendly radio station (i.e. the station that broadcasts Astros games). In the entire segment he was asked only one question about it: “Your thoughts on the SI article, Jeff.” Luhnow said that he would withhold comment, but apologized to “everybody involved,” including the fans and the players, saying “this situation should have never happened.” You can listen to the entire segment here.

He did not, however, make any specific mention of what “this situation” was. Nor did he acknowledge that, actually, it’s at least two “situations:” (1) the initial behavior of Taubman; and (2) Monday night’s team-sanctioned attack of Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, who reported it. Indeed, at no time in the team’s now multiple comments has anyone acknowledged that, as an organization, the Houston Astros’s first impulse in all of this was to attempt to bully and discredit a reporter for what has now been established as a truthful report to which the Astros have admitted. And they certainly have not voiced any specific regret or offered any form of accountability for it.

Major League Baseball is apparently investigating Taubman’s conduct. But it is not, presumably, investigating the Astros’ disingenuous smear of Apstein. A smear that the Astros likely undertook because they figured they could intimidate Apstein and, what may even be worse, because they assumed that the rest of the press — many of whom were witnesses to Taubman’s act — would go along or remain silent. If they did not think that, of course, releasing the statement they did would’ve been nonsensical. It speaks of an organization that believes it can either bully or manipulate the media into doing its bidding or covering for the teams’ transgressions. That part of this has gone wholly uncommented on by the Astros and apparently will for the foreseeable future. No matter how this shakes out for Taubman, if the Astros do not talk about how and why they decided to baselessly attack Apstein on Monday night, nothing they ever say should be trusted again.

More broadly, everything the Astros are doing now is the same as when they traded for Roberto Osuna in the first place.

In 2018 they wanted to do an unpopular thing — arbitrage a player’s domestic violence suspension into the acquisition of cheap relief help — while wanting to appear as though they were good actors who had a “zero tolerance for domestic violence” policy. To solve that problem they shoveled a lot of malarkey about how “zero tolerance” actually includes a fair amount of tolerance and hoped that everyone would go along. When not everyone did — when fans brought signs of protest to the ballpark or expressed their displeasure with Osuna’s presence on the roster — they confiscated them then hoped it’d all blow over and, eventually, via Taubman’s rant on Saturday night, lashed out at their critics.

Here, again, they want to do something unpopular: retain a boorish and insensitive executive in Taubman without him or the team suffering any consequences for it, be they actual consequences or mere P.R. fallout. Again, it’s kind of hard to pull that off, so to do so they falsely accused a reporter of lying and then circled the wagons when they caught heat for it.

I have no idea how long they plan to keep this up. Maybe they are calculating that people will forget and that forgetting is the same as forgiveness. Maybe they simply don’t care. All I do know is that folks will be teaching the Astros’ response to all of this as a counterexample in crisis management courses for years.