I printed out a list of the 2010 MLB free agents (via Cot's Baseball Contracts) and got to work highlighting the available upper tier players that caught my eye.
As usual, there is an abundance of available pitching help, and specifically, relief depth on the market and because I haven't seen them all (and to be honest I don't google "Chad Gaudin highlights" very often) I decided to stick with everyday players for my list.
The list is based solely on who I think the best available free agents are. It does not factor in status (Type A/Type B) that could affect who signs where and whether or not a team loses a draft pick for signing a particular player. In addition, my list obviously does not account for how much each player will earn at their next stop. For example, I'd rather have Orlando Hudson for one year at $4 million than Derek Jeter at five years and $80 million.
I may work on starting pitcher rankings later (*SPOILER ALERT* I'd have Cliff Lee No. 1) but for now, without further ado, here's my list of the top 13 free agent hitters (player age in in parantheses).
14. Jim Thome (40): The likable Paul Bunyan character is 40 years old but still managed to smash 25 home runs this year in just 276 at-bats! Thome no longer provides any value in the field, but for a measly $1.5 million the Twins got a lot of pop out of the slugger. Don't expect anything but another one year contract for Thome and don't be surprised when he outperforms it.
13. Manny Ramirez (39): Is Manny Ramirez the Randy Moss of Major League Baseball? Or is Randy Moss the Manny Ramirez of the NFL? Anyway, Manny is Manny is Manny and this means that he is still feared among Major League pitchers. After the White Sox claimed him off of waivers, however, Manuel slugged just a single home run and a single double in 88 at-bats.
As with Thome, I'd be shocked to see anyone offer him more than just a one-year contract. Just two years ago Manny was looking to cash in on a huge payday. The Dodgers gave him a two-year, $45 million contract and should be thankful they didn't give into Scott Boras' demands of a four-year contract for the quickly eroding star.
12. Johnny Damon (37): Despite his terrible arm, Damon has, by the numbers, managed to maintain himself as a league average outfielder due to his speed and instincts. He also continues to find his way on base and can still swipe a bag when needed. Damon's power dropped quickly (from 24 home runs to 8) after his move to Detroit, but the veteran seems to have gas left in the tank for his next stop.
11. Magglio Ordonez (37): Magglio was putting up some big time numbers last year until a broken ankle sidelined him for the season. Unlike the previous two on this list, Ordonez can at least play a serviceable outfield, though of course it remains to be seen if the injury will affect him.
Another guy who, like Manny, will have to get used to making less money fast, Ordonez nonetheless could be an excellent option for a team in need of a power right-handed bat. I still see him playing best in the American League where he can be used as both a DH and an outfielder.
10. Orlando Hudson (32): The O-Dog just keeps chugging along and will most likely play for his third team in three years in 2011. Hudson continues to play solid, if unspectacular defense and has a good bat for a second baseman. Don't expect much pop, but do expect another consistent year from a player I believe went from being over-rated to under-rated.
9. Vladimir Guerrero (36): Yes, Vladdy looked terrible in the World Series. It was sad to see him in right field in Game 1 kicking the ball around. Vlad is, of course, no longer an outfielder and should not be treated as such under any circumstances.
The DH Vlad did contribute almost 200 runs to one of the best offenses in baseball and despite his refusal to take many walks, he still managed to hit .300 due to his low strikeout rate. It was a renaissance year for Vlad, one few could have predicted, and despite his poor finish, you can bet an AL team will give him another shot to replicate his regular season in 2011.
8. Carlos Pena (33): It looked as though Pena had it all figured it out until he laid a stink-bomb of a season in 2010 for the Rays. The first baseman failed to crack the Mendoza line with an alarming .196 batting average and has saw his OPS drop 305 points since its height of 1.037 in 2007. All that said, Pena still flashed some power and could benefit from another change of scenery.
7. Paul Konerko (35): Paul Henry Konerko has a special place in my heart as without fail, I find him available in the 15th round of my fantasy baseball draft and without fail, he delivers.
Konerko added 11 home runs to last year's total and continued to get on base at a high clip. Age and injury concerns regarding his back should keep Konerko in the AL, but he's an example of another veteran who is still getting it done at the plate well into his 30s.
6. Derek Jeter (37): A slightly better fielder than the No. 5 player on the list (I kid, I kid), Jeter is one of the most thoroughly discussed free agents of the year. Much has been made of his sub-standard year at the plate, but I would not be shocked to see The Captain come back with a vengeance in 2011.
Is he worth $20 million a year over four or five years? Absolutely not, and unless he has a complete lack of self-awareness he knows this.
Yes, he has done great things for the Yankees, but with both his offense and defense in decline, and questions about his future at the shortstop position, he must come to terms with earning tens and not twenties of millions of dollars a year. He ain't leaving the Yankees, but it will be fascinating to watch the negotiations unfold.
5. Adam Dunn (31): Despite being one of the worst defenders in baseball, Adam Dunn still maintains plenty of value. According to FanGraph's UZR rating, Dunn picked up his defense at first base this year and while he walked 39 less times than he did in 2009 he continued to display consistent power with 38 dingers to match his output from last year.
The Nationals made a mistake by not trading him for prospects before the deadline this year and it will be interesting to see just how much Dunn commands on the open market. Will National League teams have much interest in him?
4. Victor Martinez (32): ESPN's Keith Law made this observation on Twitter last night: "If your team needs a catcher who absolutely will not get on base, this is the free agent class of your dreams." Law was dead on, and V-Mart is the only catcher who is noticeably different compared to his free agent peers (this begs the question: can't we just roll all the other free agent catcher's into a hybrid named Jarosedit Pieritanajas?).
Of course, Martinez has his flaws defensively, throwing out a paltry 21 percent of basestealers in 2010. But with his bat, the ability to play catcher, first base and DH, there should be a strong market for the switch-hitter.
3. Adrian Beltre (32): The Red Sox $9 million investment in a year of Beltre turned into a steal when the third baseman OPS'd .919 for the club in 2010. Beltre doesn't like to walk to first base and probably won't replicate his .331 batting average on balls in play (his career BAbip is .294) but he remains a premium defender at third base.
The red flag? Beltre has produced his best numbers in contract years when he's had something to prove. That said, the free swinger showed he can produce at a high level and played in all but eight games. He will get his money.
2. Jayson Werth (32): You probably know Werth's story by now. High draft pick. Took a while to get to the Show. Had injury issues that were misdiagnosed. Went to the Mayo Clinic and got his wrist right. Signed with the Phillies and his career belatedly took off.
The right-fielder (who can also capably man center) is finally in position to cash in on his first big payday. How much will teams pay for a streaky hitter who has played just three full seasons? He and Beltre are the only (relatively) young right-handed impact bat on the market and my guess is that someone will pay plenty.
1. Carl Crawford (29): The crown jewel of this class, Crawford, like Werth, is a well-rounded outfielder who does a little bit of everything. A workout fiend, Crawford uses his speed to swipe an average of 54 bases per 162 games and play a terrific left field. And he's not just your run-of-the-mill slap-happy basestealer, either.
The outfielder hit 19 home runs, 30 doubles and 13 triples to prove he's got some pop in his bat. Look for Crawford to earn the highest contract of any hitter on the market as several teams battle for his services. He deserves it.
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