Holliday, Bay, Lackey look like best of free agents (cont.)
16. Rafael Soriano, Braves reliever. Talented pitcher but hasn't lived up to hype in Atlanta.
17. Johnny Damon, Yankees outfielder. Big year. But "better in Yankee Stadium,'' the GM said.
18. Benjie Molina, Giants catcher. Nice season. Mets may make a run.
19. Andy Pettitte, Yankees starter. He says he's undecided about a return. But everyone thinks he's going back to the Yankees.
20. Hideki Matsui, Yankees DH. Big field of DHs may hurt him. Could replace Ken Griffey Jr. in Seattle, the GM predicted.
21. Trevor Hoffman, Brewers closer. He's said he wants to return, and he should be due a raise.
22. Jim Thome, Dodgers pinch hitter. Caught in the middle of a DH-heavy market.
24. Carlos Delgado, Mets first baseman. Hoping to return for a two-week tryout but looking at incentive-laden deal whatever happens.
The market also includes some talented players who have questions of injury or recent underperformance, such as pitchers Erik Bedard and Brett Myers and position players Adrian Beltre and Rick Ankiel. The agent and GM foresaw one-year deals in these cases.
There are also a number of players with options who could become free agents. Jermaine Dye and Tim Hudson each have mutual options for $12 million. In Dye's case, the agent and GM said they believed that the White Sox would turn down the option. The agent predicted that Dye would get $16 million for two years, while the GM predicted $18 million for two years. (We didn't address Hudson, since he just came back from Tommy John surgery and his situation is so unpredictable.) Manny Ramirez has a player option for $20 million. Both the agent and GM predicted that Ramirez would accept that option. I foresee Dye turning down the option and getting $25 million for two years and also see Ramirez picking up that $20 million option.
Around the majors
There are several theories for the Rays' stunning 11-game slide, which ended on Sunday: 1) the Scott Kazmir trade sending a negative message; 2) a realization that they were out of it; 3) Carlos Pena's season-ending broken hand; 4) B.J. Upton's abject struggles; 5) overuse of key pitchers in the pen; and 6) a new player or two not fitting in.
The Tigers showed great integrity and interest in winning by continuing to play Magglio Ordonez through his uncharacteristic underperformance earlier in the year, and Ordonez triggered his $18 million vesting option with a fifth-inning groundout in the Tigers' 11-1 loss on Tuesday night. Ordonez can still hit, and his first-half struggles may be attributed at least in part to his wife's cancer surgery in May. But it's highly questionable whether he's an $18 million player anymore. Still, the call was the right one, as he has helped the Tigers stay in first place by hitting .357 with a .510 slugging percentage and .940 OPS since the break. Ordonez was hitting only .271 with limited power when manager Jim Leyland lessened his role in June. (The Rangers' Kevin Millwood is 4 1/3 innings away from vesting his 2010 option for $12 million).
A geographic shocker from a friend that few (if any) have noticed: Los Angeles leads both leagues in hitting while New York is second in both. The Angels lead the AL with a .286 batting average; the Yankees are second at .283. The Dodgers lead the NL at .273 with the Mets second at .270. Yes, that's right, the Mets are second in batting average.
The Mets' real offensive problem is power, and they will look for home run hitters as they eye free-agent options for left field, first base and catcher.
The Rangers are in the usual spot of rooting for the Red Sox, who are playing the AL West-leading Angels this week. With seven games of their own left against the Angels (and a 9-3 record vs. L.A.), the division title is now Texas' best playoff hope, even though they trail both the Angels and Red Sox by six games in the loss column.
Daisuke Matsuzaka's performance vs. the Angels (six scoreless innings) in a 4-1 win on Tuesday is Boston's biggest boost to date.
Albert Pujols has locked up the NL MVP. But while looking to fill out their ballots, voters shouldn't ignore Andre Ethier's six walkoff hits. He did it again on Tuesday night with a two-run home run to beat the Pirates' Phil Dumatrait 5-4 in 13 innings.
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