Double Play: Looking at the off-season free agent class

Daan De Kerpel, Staff
11/4/2010 4:22:24 PM
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With the Major League Baseball free agency period set to start on Sunday, there are over 160 players that had major league contracts last season who are searching for a new home.

With that in mind, here are some of the top players in this year's class, along with a trio of Yankees and a look at some Toronto Blue Jays on the market.

Head of the Class:

Carl Crawford: After nine seasons in Tampa Bay, the 29-year old is on the open market and looks to be ready to cash in as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are all reportedly interested in the four-time all-star.

Crawford is the best position player available, as he plays good defence in the outfield, has hit over .300 in each of the last two years and totaled 107 stolen bases over that time.  He chipped in 19 home runs and 13 triples while driving in 90 runs in 2010, also showing that he can be productive in the third spot in a batting order.

Cliff Lee: Thanks the to Texas Rangers' run to the World Series, the 32-year old left-hander's profile - and perhaps dollars as well - have increased.

Lee, who has been a Yankee-killer in the last two post-seasons, was stellar during the regular season, posting a combined 12-8 record and a 3.18 ERA with Texas and Seattle, with seven complete games.  Perhaps his most dominating stat: in over 212 innings pitched, Lee only walked 18 batters, while striking out 185. 

The Yankees and Rangers are reportedly both interested in Lee, who could command a Roy Halladay-esque $20 million per season.

Adrian Beltre: After signing a one-year deal last off-season to improve his free agent standing, the third baseman delivered in 2010, posting his best season since his 48-home run campaign with the Dodgers in 2004.

Beltre clubbed .321 with 28 home runs and an MLB leading 49 doubles with the Boston Red Sox.  He's a two-time Gold Glove winner and a legitimate bat in the middle of an order. 

Jayson Werth: The 31-year old former Toronto Blue Jay had a monster season with the Phillies in 2010, posting a .296 average with 27 home runs, 46 doubles and 13 stolen bases. 

Werth plays good defence in right field, and will be the likely beneficiary of offers from clubs that fail to sign Crawford, on top of the offers he would already get.

Victor Martinez: By the time the 2011 season starts, the four-time all-star will be 32 years old.  While that seems old for a full-time catcher, Martinez brings a lot to the plate.

The switch-hitter batted .302 with the Red Sox last season with 20 home runs.  He can also play first base, which adds to his versatility on the market, and he reportedly has a good rapport with his pitchers.

Second Tier:

Adam Dunn: The first baseman is lock for nearly 40 home runs every year.  While he strikes out a lot, you know that the power is legitimate.

Rafael Soriano: The 30-year-old piled up 45 saves with the Rays last season, but had a stellar 1.73 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 62.2 innings.  He's the best relief pitcher on the market.

Paul Konerko: He hammered 39 home runs and hit .312 in 2010.  At 34 years old, he won't command a long-term deal, but could provide dividends.

Jorge de la Rosa:  The 29-year old left-hander is a strikeout machine, and along with Hiroki Kuroda appears to be the next best thing on the market after Cliff Lee.

Manny Ramirez: Coming off a career low nine home runs and questions about his defence, the 38-year old might be limited to American League teams where he can be a full-time designated hitter.

Free in name only?

There's a trio of New York Yankees on the market: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte.  While the group is free to listen to offers if they don't agree to deals before Sunday, it's hard to imagine any of them leaving the Yankee fold.

Blue Jays departing the nest?

John Buck: The 30-year-old catcher made the most of his one-year deal with the Blue Jays, hitting .281 with 20 home runs in 118 games played and being named to the All-Star Game.  With the Jays picking up their option on Jose Molina and having J.P. Arencibia in the wings, Buck will likely find a role as regular this off-season.

Scott Downs: The 34-year-old left-hander completely shut down left-handed hitters in 2010, limiting them to a .152 batting average.  On the year, he posted a 2.64 ERA and in the past has shown an ability to close games when needed.  He's a solid back end of the bullpen arm that should be in demand.

Jason Frasor: While Frasor opened the 2010 season as the closer, he lost the job to Kevin Gregg.  Frasor did rebound to post a decent 3.68 ERA in 69 appearances.  Despite his small frame, he managed more than a strikeout per inning.  While the 33-year-old is not in the group with the top relievers on the market, Frasor does have value.

Lyle Overbay: It could be tricky for the 33-year-old to land a starting job this winter, due to the fact that there is a glut of first basemen on the market. Overbay also struggles against left-handed pitching.  With that said, despite only hitting .243, he did club 20 home runs and still plays good defence.  

Kevin Gregg: Late on Thursday, the Jays declined to pick up either the one or two year option on their closer.  Gregg hits the market after having a successful season with the Jays, where he posted a 2-6 record, but recorded 37 saves and had nearly a strikeout an inning.  While he might not be signed by another club to close, Gregg has shown that he's a very serviceable player in the bullpen.

Miguel Olivo: Was a Blue Jay for less than two hours on Thursday night.   The catcher, who is a Type-B free agent was acquired by the club and released, in hopes that when he signs with another club that the Jays will get a sandwich pick from MLB between the first and second rounds.  The 32-year old backstop took over the starting the job in Colorado last season and did well, posting 14 home runs and a .269 batting average in 112 games.  Teams looking for some pop at catcher that fail to land either Victor Martinez or John Buck could view Olivo as a useful addition.

For a sortable list of free agents, click here.

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