Posted: Thursday November 4, 2010 11:11AM ; Updated: Thursday November 4, 2010 3:34PM
Ben Reiter
Ben Reiter>INSIDE BASEBALL
The Reiter 50: Ranking Top Free Agents
The San Francisco Giants just won the World Series with a lineup that seemed as if GM Brian Sabean had soldered it together on the fly, using other clubs' unwanted spare parts, but this winter's free agent market -- which opens at 12:01 AM on Sunday -- ought to be as competitive as usual, particularly at its top end. This year's player pool is not quite as deep as it once promised to be, due, among other things, to the Twins' long-term extension of Joe Mauer and the Phillies' of Roy Halladay, and the regression of Derek Jeter. However, it still features perhaps the game's most uniquely skilled offensive player, Carl Crawford, and an annual Cy Young candidate in Cliff Lee, as well as five or six other players who should continue to be perennial All-Stars. It will also feature several key pieces from the cost-cutting AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays, including five members of the Top 50 in Crawford (No. 1), Rafael Soriano (No. 10), Carlos Pena (No. 11), Joaquin Benoit (No. 18) and Grant Balfour (No. 44).

What it does not feature are many quality options for teams in need of middle infielders, nor of a third baseman (other than Adrian Beltre), nor, unusually, for those in search of outfielders. Jayson Werth is the only outfielder other than Crawford who can be considered an elite player. Still, there is the usual compliment of aging, if still productive, first base/designated hitter types (among them Lance Berkman, Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and, possibly, David Ortiz), and the usual crop of formerly successful, and recently injured, starting pitchers (Brad Penny, Rich Harden, Brandon Webb, Chris Young) whom teams will sign in hopes of a rejuvenation.

Herein, the third annual (and humbly named) Reiter 50, consisting of the top 50 players who will likely be available come Sunday:
1
Carl Crawford
Age: 29
Position: OF
2010 Stats: .307/.356/.495, 19 HRs, 90 RBIs, 47 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: RAYS
BEST FIT: ANGELS

Any questions about where Crawford would rank on this list were settled in 2010. He should receive a significant number of MVP votes after putting together a season in which his .851 OPS -- which ranked in the AL's top 15 -- came to match his elite speed and fielding. His ninth season as a Ray will prove to have been his last, however, as his unique combination of skills will finally become available to the highest bidder on the open market. While it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Yankees will pull off a trade (of, say, Nick Swisher) to make room for him, the Angels -- with money to spend, and in need of a spark after a rare down season -- might want him more than anyone.

2
Cliff Lee
Age: 32
Position: SP
2010 Stats: 12-9, 3.18 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 7.8 K/9

CURRENT TEAM: RANGERS
BEST FIT: YANKEES

"Free agency's an earned right, and I have to take advantage of that," said Lee in the home clubhouse in the moments after the Rangers had lost the World Series to the Giants. "The Rangers are definitely up there on my list." Lee has now played for four franchises during the past two seasons, and his unexpected struggles against the Giants (who saddled him with his first-ever postseason loss, and then his second) will do nothing to his market value. While the Arkansas native enjoyed his few months playing close to home, the Yankees need him, and they will get him. In New York he will combine with former Indians teammate CC Sabathia to form a formidable 1-2 lefthanded punch, and his wife, Kristen, will never again have to endure the taunts of their fans. Unless he struggles.

3
Jayson Werth
Age: 31
Position: OF
2010 Stats: .296/.388/.532, 27 HRs, 85 RBIs, 13 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: PHILLIES
BEST FIT: RED SOX

A late-bloomer who didn't even become a full-time player until 2008, when he was 29, Werth has since then become a five-tool star, and is now without question the third-best free agent on the market. While he hit nine fewer homers and drove in 14 fewer runs in 2010 than in '09, his other offensive numbers -- including an NL best 46 doubles -- continued to improve, and he also has one of the best outfield arms in the game. The Red Sox could use his power in the outfield, and are said to covet him.

4
Adrian Beltre
Age: 31
Position: 3B
2010 Stats: .321/.365/.553, 28 HRs, 102 RBIs, 2 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: RED SOX
BEST FIT: ANGELS

Beltre's one-year move from Safeco Field to Fenway Park suited him very well, as he reestablished his value after five straight mediocre seasons in Seattle. That, plus the complete lack of any other impact third baseman on the market, will make him attractive to any team with a hole there -- and the Angels certainly qualify, as their incumbent, Brandon Wood, just finished a season in which he had the worst batting average (.146) and OBP (.174) for any player who made more than 200 plate appearances in a season since 1912. The addition of both Crawford and Beltre would be an expensive proposition for Angels owner Arte Moreno, but one that should instantly transform his club into contenders once more.

5
Adam Dunn
Age: 31
Position: 1B/DH
2010 Stats: .260/.356/.536, 38 HRs, 103 RBIs, 0 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: NATIONALS
BEST FIT: A'S

When he first hit the market two years ago, Dunn couldn't command an offer more lucrative than the Nationals' two-year, $20 million proposal, which he accepted. But after two more seasons in which he proved himself to be one of the most consistent power and on-base threats in the game -- he has now hit 38 or more homers in seven consecutive seasons -- he should do better than that this winter. The low-budget A's qualify as a dark horse to win the services of any top free agent. They've got the contracts of Ben Sheets and Eric Chavez coming off their books, and minimal salary commitments to a young and talented pitching staff, and if they can add Dunn to a lineup that produced the AL's second-fewest homers (109) it might propel them into contention.

6
Mariano Rivera
Age: 41
Position: RP
2010 Stats: 3-3, 1.80 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, 33 SVs

CURRENT TEAM: YANKEES
BEST FIT: YANKEES

Rivera is a free agent in classification only, as it is impossible to imagine him pitching for any team but the Yankees. While his age (41 as of Nov. 29) and a sudden drop in strikeout rate (he struck out three fewer batters per nine inning in 2010 than in `09) are causes for slight concern, his bottom line numbers remain better than almost any other closer's, and should do so for at least a few more years.

7
Victor Martinez
Age: 32
Position: C/1B
2010 Stats: .302/.351/.493, 20 HRs, 79 RBIs, 1 SB

CURRENT TEAM: RED SOX
BEST FIT: TIGERS

Martinez remained the best offensive catcher not named Joe Mauer, even in a 2010 season in which he missed a month due to a broken thumb. The Tigers are expected to be active participants in the free agent market, and they might well decide that their focus ought to be on upgrading at catcher, where incumbent Alex Avila, though just 23, is coming off a year in which he produced an OPS of .656. Martinez would represent a significant upgrade.

8
Paul Konerko
Age: 35
Position: 1B
2010 Stats: .312/.393/.584, 39 HRs, 111 RBIs, 0 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: WHITE SOX
BEST FIT: RANGERS

Konerko produced the best of his 14 big league seasons -- the last 12 of which have come with the White Sox -- in 2010, in which he finished second in the AL in home runs and fourth in OPS (.977). Though there have been rumors that he ranks high on the Diamondbacks' list -- and he went to high school in Scottsdale and lives in California -- the Rangers hold spring training in Arizona, at least, and seem certain to increase their Opening Day payroll ($55.3 million in '10, baseball's fourth-lowest) thanks to their new ownership, new TV contract and newfound success. While rookie Mitch Moreland was the only Ranger who hit much in the World Series, he does not possess the potential for the power that Konerko has already realized.

9
Jorge de la Rosa
Age: 29
Position: SP
2010 Stats: 8-7, 4.22 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 8.4 K/9

CURRENT TEAM: ROCKIES
BEST FIT: RANGERS

De la Rosa has one season of more than 10 wins to his credit, and he has never topped 185 innings. But he is a left-handed strikeout artist with a fastball that averages 93 miles-an-hour, and he has significant room for improvement. If the Rangers lose Cliff Lee, he would slot in nicely in their rotation behind Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson.

10
Rafael Soriano
Age: 31
Position: RP
2010 Stats: 3-2, 1.73 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 45 SVs

CURRENT TEAM: RAYS
BEST FIT: WHITE SOX

As Mariano Rivera is not really a free agent, Soriano tops the list of this year's class of free agent closers. His one-year, $7.25 million contract with the Rays worked out rather well for both parties, as he stayed healthy and led the AL in saves (while blowing only 3 opportunities). Now, however, he will prove too expensive for Tampa Bay, and will move on to a richer, closer-hungry team -- possibly the White Sox, who seem to like Chris Sale as a starter, Matt Thornton as a set-up man, and Bobby Jenks not at all.

11
Carlos Pena
Age: 32
Position: 1B
2010 Stats: .196/.325/.407, 28 HRs, 84 RBIs, 5 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: RAYS
BEST FIT: NATIONALS

That hideous .196 batting average will mean that Pena is less sought-after as a free agent than he once might have been. But in 2010 Pena had the best on-base percentage for anyone who batted less than .200 in baseball history, and he still ranks 12th in the majors in RBIs over the past four years (407), and he remains a solid fielder. The Nationals could turn to Pena as a potential replacement for Dunn.

12
Carl Pavano
Age: 35
Position: SP
2010 Stats: 17-11, 3.75 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 4.8 K/9

CURRENT TEAM: TWINS
BEST FIT: TWINS

Pavano just completed his finest season since he was a 28-year-old Marlin in 2004, after which the Yankees gave him a four-year free-agent contract. That did not turn out well. Pavano remains as grouchy as ever, but he is now healthy, and a sinker-balling innings-eater (his 420.1 innings over the past two seasons are more than all but 18 other pitchers) who is viewed as a valued leader by the Twins. Their relationship will likely continue.

13
Andy Pettitte
Age: 38
Position: SP
2010 Stats: 11-3, 3.28 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 7.0 K/9

CURRENT TEAM: YANKEES
BEST FIT: YANKEES

Pettitte pulled his usual shtick concerning his future at season's end: he's not sure if he'll come back, he'll have to go home to Texas to talk with his family, he'll have to see how he feels, and so on. Once again, though, he'll almost certainly return in pinstripes on another one-year deal, and will continue to bolster what now must almost certainly be considered a Hall of Fame career.

14
David Ortiz
Age: 35
Position: DH
2010 Stats: .270/.370/.529, 32 HRs, 102 RBIs, 0 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: RED SOX
BEST FIT: RED SOX

Ortiz's inclusion on this list might not last very long, as the Red Sox were at the time of publication still deciding whether to pick up a one-year, $12.5 million option on him. Even if they do not, Ortiz -- who has expressed his desire for a multi-year deal -- will likely end up back in Boston. Ortiz has had dreadful starts to each of his past two seasons (in the past two Aprils he batted .230 and .143) before coming around, and the Red Sox will hope that those starts don't start extending themselves.

15
Hiroki Kuroda
Age: 36
Position: SP
2010 Stats: 11-13, 3.39 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 7.3 K/9

CURRENT TEAM: DODGERS
BEST FIT: METS

Kuroda has been quietly excellent since coming over from Japan in 2008, and might not be more highly regarded only because of his lack of luck: Among the top 30 leaders in ERA over the past three seasons, he alone has a losing record (28-30). While he has expressed his desire to return to Japan, a multi-year offer from a pitching-needy team -- the Mets are a good fit -- should delay those plans.

16
Aubrey Huff
Age: 34
Position: 1B/OF
2010 Stats: .290/.385/.506, 26 HRs, 86 RBIs, 7 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: GIANTS
BEST FIT: GIANTS

The Giants were rewarded for their one-year, $3 million gamble on Huff, as he bounced back from a down year with the Orioles and Tigers to lead the champs in each of the Triple Crown categories, and to treat them to the regular sight of himself in a thong. The relationship worked out too well to end now.

17
Juan Uribe
Age: 31
Position: 2B/3B/SS
2010 Stats: .248/.310/.440, 24 HRs, 85 RBIs, 1 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: GIANTS
BEST FIT: GIANTS

This is a weak year for free agent second basemen, shortstops and third basemen, and Uribe will benefit because he can play them all, and play them all rather well. He has outperformed the one-year contracts the Giants have given him the past two off-seasons (the first a minor league deal), and now the Giants should ensure chants of "Ooo-ree-bay" will ring out in AT&T Park for at least two or three more.

18
Joaquin Benoit
Age: 33
Position: RP
2010 Stats: 1-2, 1.34 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 11.2 K/9, 1 SV

CURRENT TEAM: RAYS
BEST FIT: RAYS

Benoit missed 2009 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, but the Rays took a low-risk chance on him and invited him to spring training. After he was called up to the majors in late April, he was nothing less than the best setup man in baseball, with both the best ERA and WHIP of any pitcher who threw more than 50 innings. Ten Rays are free agents, and while the club will lose most of them, Benoit -- who could step into Rafael Soriano's closer role -- looks like a keeper.

19
Derek Jeter
Age: 36
Position: SS
2010 Stats: .270/.340/.370, 10 HRs, 67 RBIs, 18 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: YANKEES
BEST FIT: YANKEES

The Red Sox might be looking to upgrade on Marco Scutaro, and ... right. Though talks between Jeter and the Yankees might get contentious -- my colleague Jon Heyman has reported that Jeter might want a six year deal, a length at which the Yankees surely will balk -- he will certainly return to the Bronx, at which point the club will have to try to figure out what to do with him if his 2010 proves to be something worse than just a down year.

20
Jim Thome
Age: 40
Position: DH
2010 Stats:.283/.412/.627, 25 HRs, 59 RBIs, 0 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: TWINS
BEST FIT: TWINS

Thome can't play defense, and he is fairly useless against left-handed pitching (a .298 OBP against southpaws in 2010), but he absolutely destroys righties. His 1.154 OPS against them trailed only Josh Hamilton's among batters with more than 200 plate appearances. The Twins want him back, and he'll likely receive a contract that will reward him at a rate slightly higher than the $1.5 million he earned in 2010.

21
John Buck
Age: 30
Position: C
2010 Stats:.281/.314/.489, 20 HRs, 66 RBIs, 0 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: BLUE JAYS
BEST FIT: RED SOX

Buck is the clear-cut second choice among catchers after Martinez, thanks to a breakout season in Toronto in which he set career highs in virtually every offensive category. He would make for a good replacement in Boston should Martinez leave.

22
Derrek Lee
Age: 35
Position: 1B
2010 Stats:.260/347/.428, 19 HRs, 80 RBIs, 1 SB

CURRENT TEAM: BRAVES
BEST FIT: ORIOLES

Lee split 2010 between the Cubs and the Braves, and, with free agency looming, picked a bad season to produce his worst offensive output since he was a 23-year-old part-time Marlin in 1999. He could be a good short-term stopgap for a corner power-starved team like the Orioles, as he seeks to reestablish his value.

23
Brandon Webb
Age: 31
Position: SP
2010 Stats: DNP

CURRENT TEAM: DIAMONDBACKS
BEST FIT: NATIONALS

"Brandon was one of the elite pitchers in the National League and a leader on the D-backs' pitching staffs until suffering the injury two years ago," said new Arizona GM Kevin Towers on Wednesday. "We wish him continued success as he goes through this process." "The injury" was to his shoulder, which has sidelined him since Opening Day of 2009, which turned him from a sinkerballing ace who won the NL Cy Young Award in 2006 and finished second in each of the next two years into a forgotten man. "The process" is the one in which teams will decide whether or not to take a chance on the free agent's rejuvenation -- a high-upside risk that the Nationals could take.

24
Vladimir Guerrero
Age: 36
Position: DH
2010 Stats: .300/345/.496, 29 HRs, 115 RBIs, 4 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: RANGERS
BEST FIT: RANGERS

By the World Series, Guerrero was staggering around the clubhouse with enormous ice packs appended to his right elbow and both knees after games, games in which he didn't hit (he went 1-for-14) and proved that he should no longer play right field, even a little. Before that, though, the Rangers' one-year deal with the player whom the Angels deemed washed up had worked out beautifully, and they could well push their luck by trying it one more time. On Tuesday, the Rangers announced they were declining Guerrero's option but said they had already had negotiations about brining him back to Texas for 2011.

25
Jon Garland
Age: 31
Position: SP
2010 Stats:14-12, 3.47 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 6.1 K/9

CURRENT TEAM: PADRES
BEST FIT: ASTROS

Although he is not an ace, Garland is as steady as starting pitchers get: he has won between 12 and 18 games in every year since 2002, and he has pitched between 191 and 221 innings in each of those years. His upside is limited, and his 2010 numbers look unnaturally good because he pitched in Petco Park, but every team -- including, say, the Astros -- could use a consistent innings-eater such as him.

 
SI.com
Hot Topics: NBA Playoffs NHL Playoffs Chris Johnson Jameis Winston NFL Draft Michael Sam Aldon Smith
TM & © 2014 Time Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines, your California privacy rights, and ad choices.
SI CoverRead All ArticlesBuy Cover Reprint