Posted: Tuesday November 1, 2011 12:27PM ; Updated: Wednesday November 2, 2011 12:09PM
Ben Reiter
Ben Reiter>INSIDE BASEBALL
The Reiter 50: Ranking Top Free Agents
The fourth annual Reiter 50 -- SI.com's ranking of the top 50 domestic players likely to be available on the free-agent market, which officially opens in full at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday -- is extremely top-heavy, even without the weighty presence of CC Sabathia. The big lefty, who would have been No. 2 on this list, signed a new five-year, $122 million contract with the Yankees on Monday night, which will keep him as New York's ace. But even if he had become a free agent, there was little chance that he would have ended up pitching anywhere but New York, just as the odds that Albert Pujols -- the Reiter 50's clear-cut No. 1 -- leaving St. Louis went from negligible to infinitesimal with the Cardinals' improbable World Series run.

The real No. 1, then, is the Brewers' Prince Fielder, and he and Mets shortstop Jose Reyes are the only genuinely available free agents who look like possible future MVP's. There are no likely future Cy Young award winners and that is good news for the Rangers' C.J. Wilson, whose services will be in high demand. The market is saturated with good closers, outfielders and first basemen, but features few answers for those in need of someone who can play second base, third base or, certainly, catcher.

Still, while there are few superstars who might by themselves spark a championship run, there are many productive regulars available who might bolster one. Teams will be hunting for the next Lance Berkman, who far outplayed the one-year, $8 million contract that the Cardinals gave him last December, winning Comeback Player of the Year honors, helping St. Louis to a title and earning a new, one-year, $12 million deal along the way. Below you will find the best 50 players who will be available to the highest bidder this winter.
1
Albert Pujols
Age: 32
Position: 1B
2011 Stats: .299/.366/.541, 37 HRs, 99 RBIs, 9 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: CARDINALS
BEST FIT: CARDINALS

That the world champion Cardinals will re-sign Pujols does not mean that they should. His production declined ever so slightly in 2011 -- he posted the worst OPS+ (150) of his 11-season career, and failed to bat .300 and drive in 100 runs for the first time -- and one shudders to think what his numbers might look like, and how his exorbitant salary will hamstring mid-market St. Louis, five years from now, let alone, potentially, 10. But Pujols, for better or for worse, will likely be a Cardinal for life, and he will continue to be the game's greatest hitter for at least a few more seasons.

2
Prince Fielder
Age: 28
Position: 1B
2011 Stats: .299/.415/.566, 38 HRs, 120 RBIs, 1 SB

CURRENT TEAM: BREWERS
BEST FIT: CUBS

Fielder didn't exactly bid adieu to Milwaukee after the Brewers' NLCS elimination, but there was a lot of past tense in his final press conference. "Playing here was awesome," he said. The burly young slugger could move to the Cubs, who are starved for offense -- their 654 runs in 2011 were their fewest since the strike-shortened 1994 season. Fielder would become the face of new GM Theo Epstein's top-to-bottom rebuilding effort.

3
Jose Reyes
Age: 28
Position: SS
2011 Stats: .337/.384/.493, 7 HRs, 44 RBIs, 39 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: METS
BEST FIT: NATIONALS

Reyes's recurring health problems are a concern -- he has not played more than 133 games since 2008 -- but his production is not. He won the NL batting title this season, and retains 50-steal potential. The on-the-rise Nationals could use a shortstop and top-of-the-order spark plug to go along with future stars Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. Team owner Ted Lerner -- baseball's richest -- can afford to pay Reyes to be just that for the next seven years or so.

4
C.J. Wilson
Age: 31
Position: SP
2011 Stats: 16-7, 2.94 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, 8.3 K/9

CURRENT TEAM: RANGERS
BEST FIT: ANGELS

Two years ago, Wilson was a periodically effective reliever, but since then the lefty has transformed himself into the best starting pitcher who is likely to be genuinely available on the market. While his playoff struggles demonstrated that he is not a true ace, the Angels' new GM, Jerry DiPoto, could bring the Orange County native home, where he would make for a superior No. 3 man in a rotation topped by Jered Weaver and Dan Haren.

5
Jonathan Papelbon
Age: 31
Position: RP
2011 Stats: 4-1, 2.94 ERA, 0.933 WHIP, 12.2 K/9, 31 SVs

CURRENT TEAM: RED SOX
BEST FIT: RED SOX

There are an unusual number of quality and proven closers who will be free agents this winter, and that means that we will either witness a carousel, whereby they all assume one another's jobs, or a situation in which pretty much everyone remains where they are. The latter scenario seems more likely, and will become more so if Papelbon -- who was superb for the Red Sox despite suffering a stunning loss in Game 162 -- returns to Boston.

6
Heath Bell
Age: 34
Position: RP
2011 Stats: 3-4, 2.44 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 43 SV

CURRENT TEAM: PADRES
BEST FIT: PADRES

The consistent Bell saved more than 42 games, while blowing fewer than six opportunities, for the third straight season. While he will have other suitors, he seems perfectly happy to stay in San Diego, where he will likely be the Padres' lone All-Star Game representative -- as he was in 2011, when, memorably, he sprinted in from the bullpen and then slid into the mound when his name was called.

7
Carlos Beltran
Age: 35
Position: OF
2011 Stats: .300/.383/.525, 22 HRs, 84 RBIs, 4 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: GIANTS
BEST FIT: GIANTS

Beltran was excellent after the Mets traded him to the Giants -- in 44 games he hit .323 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs. But his overall .910 OPS was baseball's 15th-best, and he would be higher on this list if not for his age and fragility. Still, the Giants desperately need offense, and are said to want him back.

8
David Ortiz
Age: 36
Position: DH
2011 Stats: .309/.398/.554, 29 HRs, 96 RBIs, 1 SB

CURRENT TEAM: RED SOX
BEST FIT: RED SOX

Lost in the mess that became the Red Sox' 2011 season was Ortiz's bounce-back campaign. He hit .300 and had an OPS in excess of .900 for the first time since 2007, and showed a remarkably improved batting eye, striking out just 83 times after recording 145 the season before, despite making just one fewer plate appearance. Ortiz's suggestion that he might want to move on from Boston seems an attempt to create a market for himself, and while other teams such as the Blue Jays could be interested, new GM Ben Cherington will likely bring him back to Fenway.

9
Aramis Ramirez
Age: 34
Position: 3B
2011 Stats: .306/.361/.510, 26 HRs, 93 RBIs, 1 SB

CURRENT TEAM: CUBS
BEST FIT: MARLINS

At press time, the Cubs held a $16 million option on Ramirez, but Epstein seems likely to buy Ramirez out, especially if he's eyeing Fielder. The Marlins will move into a new ballpark this spring and are rumored to be contenders for bigger names like Pujols and Reyes, but they could settle for the consistent Ramirez, who would fill a hole, as no NL team's third basemen hit fewer home runs in 2011 than the Marlins' (six).

10
Jimmy Rollins
Age: 33
Position: SS
2011 Stats: .268/.338/.399, 16 HRs, 63 RBIs, 30 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: PHILLIES
BEST FIT: GIANTS

J-Roll's roll has slowed, and he is no longer nearly the player he was in 2007, when he won the NL MVP award. Still, he remains intelligent and effective both at the plate and in the field, and the Giants haven't had that type of player at shortstop in at least a decade. They could turn to Rollins, a Bay Area-native.

11
Carlos Pena
Age: 34
Position: 1B
2011 Stats: .225/.357/.462, 28 HRs, 80 RBIs, 2 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: CUBS
BEST FIT: BREWERS

Pena's batting average will always be disturbingly low, and his strikeout rate disturbingly high (he ranked in his league's top six in the latter category for the fifth straight season in 2011). In his one year with the Cubs, however, he did what he used to for the Rays, which was to produce runs and play a solid first base. He wouldn't come close to replacing Fielder in the Brewers' lineup, and he wouldn't protect Braun in quite the same way, but he represents the market's best option for Milwaukee.

12
Ryan Madson
Age: 31
Position: RP
2011 Stats: 4-2, 2.37 ERA, 1.154 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 32 SV

CURRENT TEAM: PHILLIES
BEST FIT: PHILLIES

Madson, formerly a top setup man, became a full-time closer for the first time in 2011, and he responded well, converting 32 of his 34 chances. That season makes him the third-best closer on the free-agent market -- but, like the two in front of him, he is likely to stay put.

13
Francisco Rodriguez
Age: 30
Position: RP
2011 Stats: 6-2, 2.64 ERA, 1.298 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, 23 SVs

CURRENT TEAM: BREWERS
BEST FIT: MARLINS

K-Rod will not turn 30 until January, but he is already 24th on the all-time saves list. His climb up that list was stalled by the personal problems that ended his 2010 season with the Mets in August, and then by his trade last July to the Brewers, which made him an 8th inning man. In that role, however, Rodriguez dominated -- he had a 1.86 ERA and struck out 10.2 batters per nine innings -- and he showed that he is ready to close again, as he is desperate to do. The Marlins could use an upgrade on incumbent Leo Nunez -- not because he was proven late in the season to be an imposter with the real name of Juan Carlos Oviedo, but because he had an ERA of 4.06.

14
Josh Willingham
Age: 33
Position: OF
2011 Stats: .246/.332/.477, 29 HRs, 98 RBIs, 4 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: ATHLETICS
BEST FIT: ROCKIES

Willingham has posted an 800+ OPS in six straight years, a stretch in which he has averaged 22 home runs, and yet he has always been marooned in pitchers' parks, in Florida, Washington and most recently Oakland. A move to a hitters' haven -- like Colorado, where the Rockies could play him in leftfield and at first base -- would unleash his true potential.

15
Mark Buehrle
Age: 33
Position: SP
2011 Stats: 13-9, 3.59 ERA, 1.295 WHIP, 4.8 K/9

CURRENT TEAM: WHITE SOX
BEST FIT: WHITE SOX

Buehrle has never been a truly dominant ace, but the lefty has been as consistent as they come: He has reached double-digit wins, and pitched 200+ innings, in each of the last 11 seasons, all spent with Chicago. A franchise that is in a state of flux could look to bring back their steadiest presence.

16
Coco Crisp
Age: 32
Position: OF
2011 Stats: .264/.314/.379, 8 HRs, 54 RBIs, 49 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: ATHLETICS
BEST FIT: NATIONALS

Crisp stayed relatively healthy in 2011, topping 118 games played for the first time since 2007 (he played 136), and as a result led the AL in stolen bases. His low on-base-percentage means that he should not be a leadoff hitter, but the Nationals won't need one should they sign Jose Reyes. What they will need is a centerfielder, and Crisp could help transform them into an exciting, fast playoff contender.

17
Michael Cuddyer
Age: 33
Position: OF
2011 Stats: .284/.346/.459, 20 HRs, 70 RBIs, 11 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: TWINS
BEST FIT: TWINS

Even as the Twins imploded in 2011, winning 31 fewer games than they had the season before (they finished 63-99), the versatile Cuddyer remained steady, making the All-Star game and posting an OPS of 805 while playing rightfield, first base, second base and DH. He even pitched a scoreless inning. He will likely spend the next several years of his career in the same place he has spent the first 11.

18
Rafael Furcal
Age: 34
Position: SS
2011 Stats: .231/.298/.348, 8 HRs, 28 RBIs, 9 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: CARDINALS
BEST FIT: CARDINALS

The Cardinals acquired Furcal from the Dodgers at the trade deadline. His solid shortstop play and mercurial bat helped them make their late season dash into the playoffs. While he didn't hit well in their World Series run -- he batted just .195, and Tony La Russa eventually dropped him from the leadoff spot -- he said repeatedly that he would relish a return to St. Louis. The Cardinals will likely decline his $12 million option, but would welcome him back at a reduced salary.

19
Edwin Jackson
Age: 28
Position: SP
2011 Stats:12-9, 3.79 ERA, 1.437 WHIP, 6.7 K/9

CURRENT TEAM: CARDINALS
BEST FIT: MARINERS

To this point in his career, Jackson has been good enough to be desired, but not so good as to make himself indisposable -- hence the face that he has been traded six times. Even so, Jackson is still only 28, making him the youngest starter on the market, and he throws a fastball that averages nearly 95 miles an hour and he probably hasn't yet peaked. That peak could come with the Mariners, and in their pitcher-friendly home ballpark.

20
Kelly Johnson
Age: 30
Position: 2B
2011 Stats:.222/.304/.413, 21 HRs, 58 RBIs, 16 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: BLUE JAYS
BEST FIT: BLUE JAYS

Johnson is the best free-agent second baseman, and production improved after the Blue Jays traded Aaron Hill to the Diamondbacks for him on Aug. 23. Johnson hit .209 with a .699 OPS in Arizona, but then .270 with an OPS of .781 in Toronto. He probably wasn't expected to be a six-week rental when he was acquired, which means Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos will likely try hard to extend Johnson's stay north of the border.

21
Grady Sizemore
Age: 29
Position: OF
2011 Stats:.224/.285/.422, 10 HRs, 32 RBIs, 0 SB

CURRENT TEAM: INDIANS
BEST FIT: INDIANS

The six-year, $23.45 million contract Sizemore signed in March of 2006 at one time looked to be among baseball's best bargains. Between 2006 and '08 he averaged 28 home runs, 81 RBIs and 31 steals, making the All-Star game and receiving MVP votes in each season, while playing a stellar centerfield. A number of injuries -- particularly the one that required him to undergo microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2010 -- then robbed him of his tools, and over the past three seasons he has hit a total of 28 homers, with just 17 stolen bases, and he has become a defensive liability. The Indians declined the $8.5 million option they once seemed certain to pick up, and now it will fall upon a team like the Brewers, in need of a productive outfielder and general lineup depth, to take a short-term chance that Sizemore will return to being the player he once was.

22
Roy Oswalt
Age: 34
Position: SP
2011 Stats: 9-10, 3.69 ERA, 1.338 WHIP, 6.0 K/9

CURRENT TEAM: PHILLIES
BEST FIT: RANGERS

The Phillies declined Oswalt's $16 million option, and that could well mean that their four-ace rotation -- which failed, shockingly, to get them out of the NLDS -- will next season be reduced to a three-ace model. Oswalt could return to the Phillies, but the Rangers -- who were, arguably, a No. 1 starter short of their first World Series title -- could want him even more, and the Mississippi native might enjoy playing for a contender in Texas.

23
Jason Kubel
Age: 29
Position: OF
2011 Stats:.273/.332/.434, 12 HRs, 58 RBIs, 1 SB

CURRENT TEAM: TWINS
BEST FIT: INDIANS

A sprained foot limited Kubel to 99 games in 2011, making his final numbers look middling. But he is a proven power source -- he topped 20 home runs in each season between 2008 and 2010 -- and he remains relatively young, making him a potential bargin. The perenially bargain-hunting Indians need a good leftfielder -- they got just seven home runs from that position last season -- and Kubel could fit the bill.

24
Hiroki Kuroda
Age: 37
Position: SP
2011 Stats: 13-16, 3.07 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, 7.2 K/9

CURRENT TEAM: DODGERS
BEST FIT: DODGERS

Kuroda had the best of his four strong seasons with the Dodgers last season, in terms of wins, ERA and innings pitched, and he would be a welcome presence on any staff. Just like last year, however, Kuroda has indicated that he desires to pitch only for the Dodgers or in Japan -- and the Dodgers are likely to do all they can to keep a quality player who actually wants to play for them from walking away.

25
Johnny Damon
Age: 37
Position: OF/DH
2011 Stats:.261/.326/.418, 16 HRs, 73 RBIs, 19 SBs

CURRENT TEAM: RAYS
BEST FIT: DIAMONDBACKS

Damon's decline has been gentle, and even at his advanced age he remains a relatively productive player. While he is best-suited to a DH role, in which he excelled in his first season with the Rays in 2011, the extremely young Diamondbacks could use a veteran leader and a leftfielder. Damon's defense wouldn't be much of a help, but his character and his bat would, as an upgrade over Gerardo Parra.

 
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