MLB Free Agency: Ranking the 10 Biggest Impact Players Left on the Market
Now that top free agents Cliff Lee, Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford are off the market, teams can now focus on other free agents that can greatly enhance their rosters without paying them nine figures.
These players come from a multitude of teams, but most are veterans either looking for their largest payday or for one last run at glory.
Here is a list of the top 10 free agents still on the market:
10. Derrek Lee
Derrek Lee was an elite player as little as three years ago. However, Lee is now 35 and his once potent baseball skills are now failing him.
He can still be a help to a team like the Braves, Nationals or Rays, but he must accept an incentive-laden deal.
He will still hit about .280 with between 25 and 30 home runs while playing adequate defense. However, the market is saturated for this type of player, so he can really end up anywhere.
9. Johnny Damon
An essential cog of World Series championships for both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, Damon had a miserable year in Detroit last season and is looking to rebound in 2011.
The Yankees have discussed Damon in their offseason planning, but little is expected to come of it.
Damon is more of a DH these days, but can still play in the outfield if he has to. He brings great tools to the leadoff spot in any lineup and a team like the Dodgers or Rays could certainly use him after tumultuous offseasons.
Expect Damon to sign a one-year deal and be a bargain to the right squad.
8. Jim Thome
Jim Thome was once one of the most feared hitters in the game. A slugger once compared to Lou Gehrig, by Gehrig’s contemporaries, Thome is in the twilight of his career.
However, Thome still has a great deal of power and a batting eye that will often put him on base.
Thome is a great clubhouse guy and could be useful to a number of teams as a DH or pinch hitter. Thome will sign with a team, with the Twins favored to retain his services.
He is looking to play two more years and there is no reason he can’t accomplish this goal given the role he has accepted. Expect him to sign within the next month.
7. Manny Ramirez
Manny Ramirez was one of the greatest offensive forces to ever play the game. However, steroid controversies and his own incendiary personality make him a liability to many teams.
Throw in his lackadaisical defense in the outfield and a declining bat and you have a recipe for disaster both on the field and in the clubhouse.
Still, many teams are willing to take a chance on Manny still being Manny. Look for Ramirez to take the most money from a team like the Tigers to DH. The best he’ll do is a one-year deal, like the one Vladimir Guerrero got last year.
6. Brad Penny
In 2006, Brad Penny started for the National League in the All-Star Game and was nothing short of dominant. Penny was so dominant that Fox announcer Joe Buck, who was calling the game, called Penny’s stuff “unfair.”
Five years and a few injuries later, Penny is now a hired gun looking for work anywhere he can get it. He enjoyed a bit of a revival in St. Louis under pitching guru Dave Duncan and that seems to be the most logical spot for Penny to sign.
Penny can help fortify a rotation that already includes Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Jake Westbrook. If the Cards succeed in re-signing Penny, their rotation will be the best in the NL outside of the Phillies and definitely a top-five rotation in the entire league.
The Tigers are also showing some interest in Penny, but it does not seem like a good place for him. His last stint in the AL proved disastrous for the Red Sox.
5. Vladimir Guerrero
Going into last year, Vladdy was on the scrap heap and everyone thought he was washed up. However, Guerrero pulled a Lazarus and brought his stats back up to MVP-type numbers.
Although now a full time DH, Vlad the Impaler is still a useful player. He can really help fortify an AL lineup like the Twins, Rangers or even his old team, the Angels. However, the dust needs to settle before he signs a two-year deal with a club.
4. Andy Pettitte
Pettitte was having a Cy Young-caliber season before injuries derailed the rest of his season. There is little question over where Pettitte will sign, as he will only pitch for the Yankees or Rangers, with the Yankees being the heavy favorites.
However, Pettitte has been Favre-like in his non-committal to 2011 and all signs point to him not playing next year. Pettitte needs to commit to 2011 soon so he can begin his offseason conditioning program, or he will not be ready for the upcoming season
There is a 30:70 chance Pettitte comes back at all and if he does, the Yankees will sign him to a one-year deal worth between $13-16 million.
3. Rafael Soriano
Soriano is the best reliever available and the player with the highest demand. More teams are in on Soriano than any other free agent still on the market. Possible suitors include the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Braves and others.
He is an elite reliever who has been one of the best relievers over the course of the last half-decade when healthy.
While he wants to close, he could go to the Yankees for a boatload of money to be Mariano Rivera’s set-up man. The Yanks need to make a splash after a horrendous offseason and signing Rafi would be a good start.
2. Carl Pavano
By far the best pitcher available on the market, Pavano had arguably his best season last season.
The Nationals and Twins are the front-runners right now, but expect Pavano to take the most money. While the Yankees could pay him the most money, his last stint in the Bronx was nothing short of catastrophic, so expect them to stay out of the mix.
Believe it or not, I expect the Nats to pony up the most money and sign Pavano. Combining him with Jayson Werth sets up moderate expectations for them in 2011, and big expectations in 2012 when Stephen Strasburg returns from Tommy John surgery.
1. Adrian Beltre
Beltre was considered a top five free agent before the offseason started, so with most of the top free agents off the board, it makes sense he is the top available free agent.
Beltre enjoyed a career year in Boston last season and most teams should expect these numbers to decline outside the cozy confines of Fenway Park and its Green Monster.
Still, he is a very good all-around player and should command four or five years at $13-16 million per year. A few teams are in on him, but expect the Angels to sign him, as they need to make a big move.
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