2012 Top 111 Free Agents: Nos. 70-51
If you’re like me and you get excited about fringe regulars, injury-prone fifth starters and hopefully-not-quite-over-the-hill DH possibilities, you’ll love this part three of the free agent rundown.
(All ages are as of April 1, 2012. Compensation noted as Type A or Type B when applicable)
70. Jon Garland (Age 32, Dodgers): Previously a sure thing to give a team 200-220 innings, Garland had his shoulder give out on him last year and underwent rotator cuff surgery after nine starts for the Dodgers. His status for Opening Day is in question, so he’ll have to settle for an incentive-laden one-year deal this winter.
69. Magglio Ordonez (Age 38, Tigers, Type B): Ordonez hit just .255/.303/.331 in 329 at-bats after re-signing with the Tigers for $10 million one year ago. Detroit has little interest in bringing him back now, and he can’t be looked at as an everyday outfielder any longer. With only so many DH spots to go around, he might find himself facing retirement.
68. Octavio Dotel (Age 38, Cardinals, Type A): Dotel had a nice postseason, finishing with a 2.61 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings for the champs, but the Cardinals still opted to buy out his option for $750,000 rather than keep him around at $3.5 million. It couldn’t have been a decision motivated by the thought of draft pick compensation; Dotel would likely accept an arbitration offer and end up with a salary in the $3 million-$4 million range.
67. Casey Blake (Age 38, Dodgers): Blake’s status for next season is unclear following neck surgery, and he appears to be very much on the decline anyway, having finished with OPSs of .727 and .713 the last two years. Still, look at the alternatives at third base this winter; besides Aramis Ramirez, Blake, Wilson Betemit and Kevin Kouzmanoff are the only legitimate starters available, and Blake has been far better than Kouz these last two years. He’s also a better defender than Betemit if healthy.
66. Rich Harden (Age 30, Athletics): Harden finished poorly after a trade with the Red Sox fell through, going 0-2 with a 7.28 ERA in his last six starts, but at least his arm did hold up. His 91/31 K/BB ratio in 82 2/3 innings was promising, even if he gave up 17 homers along the way. While his upside isn’t what it was, he’s still more interesting that a lot of the other fifth-starter possibilities kicking around.
65. Kerry Wood (Age 34, Cubs, Type B): It’s either the Cubs or retirement for Wood, who is believed to have turned down a two-year, $8 million offer from the White Sox last year. He ended up rejoining the Cubs for just $1.5 million. With plenty of money coming off the books, the Cubs can be a bit more generous and offer him $2.5 million-$3 million this time around.
64. Jim Thome (Age 41, Indians): Thome didn’t duplicate his incredible 2010 season, but he was still a productive DH when healthy last year, coming in at .256/.361/.477 in 277 at-bats. That’s he injury-prone even while never playing the field is a problem, but one of the AL contenders should be able to carve out a role for him.
63. Ryan Doumit (Age 30, Pirates, Type B): Doumit has had big problems staying healthy as a catcher, and it will be interesting to see how teams view him this winter. He has experience at first base and in right field and his bat would make him at least a decent part-timer at either spot -- he hit .303/.353/.477 in 218 at-bats last season. Unfortunately, he’s not going to be an asset defensively anywhere.
62. Alex Gonzalez (Age 35, Braves, Type B): Gonzalez’s glove didn’t make up for his bat, not when he hit just .241/.270/.372 in his first full year with the Braves. He’ll land another starting gig, but a multiyear contract should be out of reach.
61. Chien-Ming Wang (Age 32, Nationals): Wang came back from shoulder surgery to go 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA in 11 starts. His velocity isn’t quite what it was, so it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll reemerge as an above average starter next year. Still, it looks like he’ll get enough grounders to serve as a reasonable fourth or fifth starter if he can stay healthy. Expectations are that he’ll stay with the Nats.
60. Juan Pierre (Age 34, White Sox, Type B): Pierre’s horrid start didn’t cost him his job, but even though he played better as the season went along, he finished up with a subpar .329 OBP to go along with a .327 slugging percentage in 639 at-bats. Also, he was a career-worst 27-for-44 stealing bases. Maybe he’ll eek out one more year as a starting left fielder, but he would make more sense as a reserve.
59. Ramon Santiago (Age 32, Tigers): One of the game’s most underrated utilityman, Santiago is far from helpless at the plate -- he’s hit .263/.323/.362 the last three seasons -- and he plays very good defense at second base. The Tigers will probably re-sign him for something like $4 million over two years.
58. J.D. Drew (Age 36, Red Sox): Drew appeared to have little left in the tank while hitting .222/.315/.302 in 248 at-bats for the Red Sox last season, and he might choose to call it a career at age 36. That said, it’s entirely possible that he’s not washed up just yet. He stayed relatively healthy in both 2009 and 2010 and hit .279/.392/.522 and .255/.341/.452 those two years. If he could return to something close to 2010 level of performance, he’d be a nice platoon right fielder for some team.
57. Brad Lidge (Age 35, Phillies, Type B): Even with his velocity well down, Lidge was able to post a 1.40 ERA in 19 1/3 innings after coming off the DL last season. He’s just throwing slider after slider these days, and there’s no telling whether his arm will ever hold up for a full season again. There’s a good chance that he’ll stay with the Phillies and work as a setup man when healthy.
56. Hideki Matsui (Age 37, Athletics): Since Oakland opens the season in Japan, there’s extra incentive for keeping Matsui around. Also, new manager Bob Melvin positively adores him. That said, carrying a 37-year-old DH with limited upside just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the organization right now.
55. Chris Capuano (Age 33, Mets): Making 30 starts for the first time since 2006, Capuano went 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA for the Mets. He’s always been homer-prone, so teams in smaller ballparks will want to stay away. He had a 3.82 ERA and 10 homers in 101 1/3 innings at Citi Field last season, compared to a 5.42 ERA and 17 homers allowed in 84 2/3 innings elsewhere.
54. Juan Rivera (Age 33, Dodgers): Rivera is expected to re-sign with the Dodgers for the surprising sum of $4 million. It’s a lot of money for a below average defensive outfielder who has finished with OPSs of .721 and .701 the last two years. There’s a chance that Rivera could have another season more like his 2009, when he hit .287 with 25 homers for the Angels, but the Dodgers are overpaying in order to lock him up early.
53. Frank Francisco (Age 32, Blue Jays, Type B): Francisco has topped 60 innings just once since debuting in 2004, so he’s a tough guy to count on. Still, he’s a perfectly adequate closer when healthy and he shouldn’t be very expensive after finishing with a 3.55 ERA in 50 2/3 innings for Toronto last season. A one-year deal worth $3.5 million-$4 million would be appropriate.
52. Darren Oliver (Age 41, Rangers, Type A): Oliver is 41 and he was last seen helping to blow Game 6 in the Rangers’ World Series lost, but he’s pretty obviously the top left-hander available in free agency now since Javier Lopez has re-signed with the Giants. Expect the Rangers to keep him; he’s given the team a 2.40 ERA in 112 2/3 innings the last two years.
51. Wilson Betemit (Age 30, Tigers, Type B): Betemit hit .292/.346/.525 in 120 at-bats after joining the Tigers in a midseason trade, yet manager Jim Leyland opted to go with Brandon Inge’s defense at third base for much of the postseason (that Betemit went 0-for-8 with four strikeouts in the ALDS certainly didn’t help his case). Because there is so little available at third base this winter, Betemit figures to land a starting job, though it’s not a given. His defense is well below average, and while he’s produced like a solid first baseman these last two years (.290/.359/.479 with 21 homers in 599 at-bats), there are still plenty of skeptics out there.