There have been a number of Japanese players who will allegedly be posted this winter, and a few Cuban players have defected and will be free agents. Many of these players were not on previous top 50 free agent lists, but they have cracked this new list.
Players have begun to sign with new teams, which also has led to some other changes in the top 50 MLB free agents that are available.
Each one of these players will be sought after this winter by a number of teams. The list is very top heavy, but there are a number of good free agents who are on the market. These players will all help improve whatever team signs them.
Henry Urrutia followed in the footsteps of his cousin Osmani during his time with Las Tunas in Cuba. Osmani won six batting titles in Cuba, and Henry has been able to hit for a high average while he was in Cuba.
Henry Urrutia has since defected and will be a free agent this winter. The 24-year-old is not only know for his abilities at the plate, but he is also supposed to be a solid defensive player.
Photo Credit: Havana Times
There are a number of closers that are on the market this winter, and there are many teams that will not be willing to pay the big bucks that some of them are asking for. These teams will certainly pursue Joe Nathan.
Nathan is not the pitcher that he was before he underwent Tommy John surgery, but he still has the ability to close out games. He could still save 25 games and have a sub-3.00 ERA in 2012.
Hiroyuki Nakajima, a 29-year-old shortstop, is considered to be one of the most talented players in Japan. For his career, Nakajima has batted over .300 in Japan.
Nakajima is known as a spray hitter who also has some power. He is also a threat on the basepaths and has had multiple 20/20 seasons in Japan. Defensively, he has been known for his athleticism and his arm, but it has also been noted that he does make some sloppy plays.
Over the past two seasons with the Kansas City Royals, Bruce Chen has proven that he is a viable option for the back of a team's rotation. Chen went 24-15 with a 3.96 ERA over these past two seasons.
Given his recent success, a number of teams should have an interest in Chen. In fact, at least three teams have been in touch with Chen. That number should grow as the offseason continues.
Wei-Yin Chen has spent his whole career in Japan with the Chunichi Dragons. In 2009, he had the lowest ERA in the NPB, when he posted a 1.54 mark. Chen has a career 2.59 ERA.
There are some concerns about Chen. He does not have many pitches, and he may become a reliever in the major leagues. Additionally, Chen has lost some velocity on his fastball as a result of a leg injury.
Photo Credit: Chicago Now
Frank Francisco has the ability to be either a setup man or a closer, and this versatility will mean that there are a number of teams that take an interest in Francisco this winter.
Francisco had one of the best seasons of his career in 2011, when he had 17 saves and a 3.55 ERA. He should be able to take advantage of the market that has been set by some of the big name closers this winter.
Speedsters are always a valuable commodity on the free agent market. Juan Pierre has the ability to swipe 40 or 50 bases in a season while hitting near .300.
Pierre had a down season in 2011, but that should not temper teams interest in him. The 34-year-old will not get another five-year contract, but he should be able to find a two or three year deal this winter.
Jason Marquis has had a bit of an up-and-down career, but he is still regarded as a decent back-of-the-rotation starter. Marquis has already pitched for six teams in his career, and he could be with a seventh in 2012.
Marquis finished the 2011 season with a 4.43 ERA and an 8-6 record. The New York native could be coming back to his home state to pitch for the New York Mets.
There are a number of talented shortstops with a history of injury issues on the free agent market this winter. Rafael Furcal has a lot of talent, but he has had major injury issues.
Furcal has only played more than 100 games in a season once in the past four years. When he is on the field, Furcal is a good defender and is a major threat on the basepaths.
Teams are always looking for middle infielders, which means that Clint Barmes will be in luck this winter. The second baseman and shortstop put together a fairly good season for the Houston Astros in 2011.
Barmes will always be known for the incident in which he broke his collarbone while carrying deer meat up a flight of stairs, but he also deserves recognition for his play on the field.
The New York Yankees gave Freddy Garcia a chance in 2011, and he rewarded them with a strong season. Now, Garcia will be one of the more desirable players on the free agent market this winter.
Garcia went 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA during his 2011 campaign. The 35-year-old pitcher will likely be signed to another one year deal.
There are a number of things that are more important than a pitcher's win-loss record when it comes to evaluating them. That is outstanding news for Jeff Francis, who went just 6-16 with the Kansas City Royals in 2011.
Francis has outstanding control and has been able to use his pinpoint accuracy to put together a number of good starts. He is a back-of-the-rotation starter that should be able to help a contender with their run to the postseason.
The Toronto Blue Jays were expecting big things from Aaron Hill in 2011 after he belted at least 25 home runs in each of the previous two seasons. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays were disappointed by his performance.
Hill was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks and began to find his stroke. He will be a very popular free agent this winter because he is one of the few second basemen in baseball that is a legitimate power threat.
Update: According to ESPN's Buster Olney, Aaron Hill has re-signed with Arizona.
Unlike many of the other Japanese players who are considering coming to the United States, Tsuyoshi Wada does not have to be posted. He has reached the requirement to become an international free agent.
Wada is a left-handed pitcher who delivers the ball to home plate using and unorthodox delivery. He has good control and uses a fastball, slider and change-up to get hitters out.
As the result of injuries, Chris Capuano had thrown just 66 innings between the 2008 and the 2011 season. The New York Mets thought that Capuano could help their rotation in 2011 if he was healthy.
The team was right, as Capuano won 11 games and had a 4.55 ERA. New York wants to bring him back, but there will be a number of other teams that have an interest in Capuano.
At one point in his career, Bartolo Colon was an ace. Those days are now past Colon, but he is still a solid major league starter.
Colon revitalized his career with a strong season with the New York Yankees in 2011. The 38-year-old right hander likely has one or two good seasons left in him.
Because of the limited number of starting catchers available on the free agent market this winter, Ramon Hernandez should be in for a big payday. He is one of the best catchers available.
Even though he has not played more than 100 games in a season since 2008, Hernandez could still manage to sign a multi-year deal if he signs with an American League team.
Jason Kubel was limited by injuries during the 2011 season. However, it should not have impacted the former Minnesota Twins free agent stock that much.
Kubel has proven that he can be a power threat in the middle of a team's lineup, and he has 20 home run potential. He is decent defensively, but there is a reason why the Twins had no qualms listing him as their DH on multiple occasions.
The Oakland Athletics lost their entire outfield to free agency this winter. One of the guys that they will miss in 2012 is David DeJesus.
DeJesus may have had a down year with the Athletics, but he is a career .284 hitter. He also has the ability to play all three outfield spots, which means that he can fit the needs of any team.
Before all of his injury issues, Erik Bedard was developing into an ace. While he is no longer a top-of-the-rotation starter, there is no reason why he could not be a team's No. 3.
In the 24 starts that Bedard made with the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox this season, he proved that he still can pitch. Bedard had a fairly impressive 8.7 K/9 rate in 2011.
Kelly Johnson burst onto the scene with his 26-home run season in 2010. He was able to retain his power in 2011, but his batting average dropped by more than 60 points.
It is this uncertainty about whether or not the 29-year-old second baseman can repeat his previous success that will make teams a little hesitant about signing him this winter. However, Johnson should be able to sign a multi-year deal
Despite what his 6-14 record from 2011 might indicate, Paul Maholm was outstanding for the Pittsburgh Pirates this past season. He posted a 3.66 ERA and was the staff's ace.
Maholm will not have to be an ace wherever he signs this winter, and the lack of that pressure should help him perform at an even higher level. While he does not strike many hitters out, Maholm is a crafty lefty.
Although he has played seven seasons in the major leagues, Ryan Doumit has only played more than 100 games in a season twice during his career. However, even in his limited appearances, Doumit has shown what he can do at the plate.
Doumit has the potential to hit for both power and average. He does have some defensive issues, and it is uncertain where he will play for his next team.
Update: Ryan Doumit has signed with the Minnesota Twins.
Throughout his career, Josh Willingham has always been known as a power threat. Willingham also gets on base at a decent rate and has a career .361 on-base percentage.
The left fielder has the potential to instantly make a team's lineup more threatening. He is a run producer that would be welcomed by any team in the MLB.
The Oakland Athletics won the rights to try to sign Hisashi Iwakuma last season, but they could not work out a deal with the Rakuten Golden Eagels, his club in Japan. This season, Iwakuma will be an international free agent.
Iwakuma is a ground ball pitcher who throws a four-seamer, a two-seamer, a slider and an outstanding splitter. He was the 2008 Pacific League MVP and has appeared in multiple NPB All-Star Games.
The Tampa Bay Rays made one of the best signings of the 2011 offseason when they signed Casey Kotchman to a minor-league deal. It is going to take a bit more than that for a team to sign Kotchman for the 2012 season.
Kotchman impressed all year and finished the season with 10 home runs and a .306 batting average. He is just 28 years old, so it is entirely possible that Kotchman is just getting into the swing of things and will be able to preform in his prime.
Grady Sizemore's appeal is all about potential. Sizemore has shown that he can be a dominant player, but he has struggled to stay on the field, as he has dealt with a number of injuries.
When Sizemore is healthy, he was able to put together three 20/20 seasons and one 30/30 year. In addition to this, he won two Gold Gloves. If Sizemore is healthy in 2012, he could be a great value for whichever team signs him.
Coco Crisp is a speedy center fielder who would be the perfect fit for a team looking for a lead-off hitter. Crisp led the American League with 49 stolen bases in 2011.
He is a career .275 hitter, and he has demonstrated some power in the past. Twice in his career, the 32-year-old outfielder has hit more than 15 home runs in a season.
Francisco Rodriguez holds the single-season record for saves with 62. He parlayed his success with the Los Angeles Angels into a big contract with the New York Mets.
Rodriguez struggled a bit with the Mets, but was still solid. He was shipped of to Milwaukee where he became a set-up man. Rodriguez wants to close once again, and he certainly has the talent to do so.
Norichika Aoki is considered to be one of the best players in Japan. He is a three-time Central League batting champion, and he is a career .329 hitter in Japan.
The 29-year-old outfielder also is able to swipe at least 20 bases in a season. Aoki has won three Gold Glove Awards in Japan and is known to be a very good fielder.
He showed that he could compete against top-flight competition when he batted .324 with seven RBI during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Aoki was selected for the All-Tournament team.
After Heath Bell was traded from the New York Mets to the San Diego Padres, he flourished into an elite closer. In each of the past three seasons, Bell has recorded at least 40 saves.
Bell is now 34 years old, but he still has a few good years left in him. Signing a closer like him will allow a team to feel comfortable when they take a lead into the bottom of the ninth.
Even though he is one of the best pitchers available this winter, Javier Vazquez may choose to retire. There will be a number of teams that will try to convince him otherwise.
Vazquez is a solid No. 2 starter, and he had a very good year with the Florida Marlins in 2011. He certainly has something left in the tank and would be a boost to any team's starting rotation.
While many people may not have heard of Jorge Soler, there is a possibility that he is able to become a household name amongst baseball fans in a few years. Soler has the build of a big time slugger.
John Manuel of Baseball America has stated that Soler has "five-tool potential." It has also been noted that Soler has already developed a good power bat. Soler is just 19 years old and will need a bit of time to develop.
Carlos Pena is one of the best pure power hitters that can be found on the free agent market during the 2012 offseason. He also is good at drawing walks, but he does strike out often.
Pena was able to raise his batting average by 29 points this season, but he still had only a .225 batting average. His low batting average may force him to once again sign a one-year deal.
While there are a number of Japanese players that are hoping to come to the United States, one major league pitcher may be looking to go back to Japan. Hiroki Kuroda has already gotten an offer from the Hiroshima Carp, his former team.
It seems that if Kuroda is going to stay in the United States that it will be with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kuroda had his best season in the majors in 2011, when he posted a 3.07 ERA.
Despite dealing with back issues during the 2011 season, Roy Oswalt still managed to post a 3.69 ERA. The 34-year-old saw the Philadelphia Phillies decline his option, but he may still re-sign with the team.
Oswalt still has the ability to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, provided that he can stay healthy. He is a three-time All-Star and still could pitch well enough to make another All-Star team.
Ryan Madson seemed set to resign with the Philadelphia Phillies, but then the deal between the two sides fell apart. The Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon, and there were a number of teams that were happy that Madson was still on the market.
Madson took over the closer's role this past season, and he immediately looked comfortable. He recorded 32 saves for the Phillies.
David Ortiz has been the big man in the middle of the Boston Red Sox's lineup for the past nine years. Now that he is a free agent, that could possibly change.
Ortiz has still has 30-home run power and is an All-Star caliber player. He is the best designated hitter in the majors, and he will sign with an American League team.
Mark Buehrle has never worn anything other than a Chicago White Sox jersey during his career. That may change after this winter.
Buehrle is one of the top starters available on the free agent market, and there are a number of teams that have expressed an interest in him. He has a career 3.83 ERA and is also a three-time Gold Glove Award winner.
Michael Cuddyer is has already drawn interest from the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies amongst a number of other teams, according to Nick Carfardo of the Boston Globe.
One of the most sought-after outfielders on the market this winter, Cuddyer has 25-home run power and is a career .272 hitter, which explains why he is so popular.
Carlos Beltran put together yet another outstanding season in 2011. While he is no longer a stolen base threat, there are a lot of other aspects of Beltran's game that get teams excited.
He has the ability to hit 20 home runs while batting over .300. Beltran is still solid defensively, even if it is now in right field instead of center field.
In almost any other offseason, Jimmy Rollins would be the best shortstop available on the free agent market. Instead, he is the second best shortstop of this free agent class.
Rollins is interested in signing a five-year deal, but he may have trouble finding suitors for a deal that long. He can likely get four years. The Phillies have expressed an interest in bringing Rollins back, but he will certainly consider other teams.
Edwin Jackson has already played for six teams during his nine-year major league career. It is entirely possible that he plays for his seventh team in 2012.
Jackson reached the majors when he was 19 years old, but he never reached his full potential. Even so, Jackson still developed into a good pitcher. He will likely be a No. 2 starter for whatever team signs him.
Aramis Ramirez become one of the best players on the free agent market when he declined his half of the mutual option in his contract. He is the best third baseman available.
Ramirez should be able to get a great deal after he won a NL Silver Slugger Award in 2011. He hit 26 home runs while also posting a .306 batting average.
Yoennis Cespedes was a superstar for the Cuban national team before he defected from the country. Now, he has major league scouts drooling.
The five-tool centerfielder has drawn a ton of interest from major league teams. He is considered by Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus to be one of the "best all-around talents to come out of Cuba." He also impressed scouts with a showcase video.
Photo Credits: Rumors and Rants
Yu Darvish is one of the most anticipated international free agents in MLB history. If he is posted, there will be a number of teams that would be involved in the bidding war for him.
Darvish has been the best pitcher in Japan for a number of years. His career ERA sits at 1.99, and he 93 career wins. Darvish throws six pitches that he used to make hitters look foolish, and he uses his fastball and splitter as his two go-to pitches.
There is no better pitcher available on the free agent market than C.J. Wilson. Since converting to a starter in 2010, Wilson has excelled in the role.
Wilson ran into some struggles during the 2011 postseason, but his outstanding regular season numbers should counter any doubt that teams have about him. Wilson is 31-20 with a 3.57 ERA as a starter and has gotten better in the role.
While Jose Reyes may not be the best player on the free agent market this winter, he is the most exciting. Reyes is a game changer with his blazing speed and outstanding defensive ability.
The four-time All-Star won the NL batting title this season and is a threat to steal 30 or 40 bases a season while also hitting more than 10 triples and home runs. There are some concerns about Reyes' health, but that will not prevent any team from signing him.
Prince Fielder is just 27 years old, and he is one of the best players in baseball. Some people, including Keith Law, have even argued that because of his age and his abilities, that Fielder, and not Albert Pujols, is the top free agent on the market.
Fielder is one of the rare type of players that can turn a franchise around. His bat is a huge presences in the middle of a lineup. He will not be going back to the Milwaukee Brewers, and he will have a number of teams competing for his services.
Albert Pujols has quickly risen towards the ranks of the baseball immortals. At age 31, Pujols has already won three MVP Awards, two World Series rings, six Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves and a Rookie of the Year Award.
Pujols gets the slight edge of Prince Fielder because in addition to his bat, Pujols is an outstanding defensive first baseman. 2011 was the worst season of Pujols' career, and he hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI.
There are only a limited number of teams that can afford Pujols. The St. Louis Cardinals are trying their hardest to retain him, but it would not be out of the realm of possibility to see Pujols suit up for a different team on Opening Day in 2012.