This year's Major League Baseball Free Agent class isn't the most inspiring lot. Sure, there are players that will help any team, but virtually all of the top players on the market have flaws of some sort.
Even a superstar like Josh Hamilton, who is the best player available, comes with at least some small warning signs. Hamilton did play in 148 games this past season, putting up big numbers (43 HR, 128 RBI, .285 AVG, .930 OPS) in the process, but it was only the second time in six major league seasons that he played more than 135 games in a season. Considering Hamilton's past hard-core drug use, there are legitimate concerns about how that could affect his health long-term comparables. There certainly aren't many reasonable comparables for a generational talent that came back from the depths of heroin addiction to become one of the premier sluggers in the game.
Melky Cabrera was on his way to earning a hefty payday in free agency before he was busted for using performance-enhancing drugs. Cabrera was hitting a career-high .346 with a .906 OPS when he was suspended and he ended up watching on the sidelines as his San Francisco teammates went on to win the World Series. The risk that Cabrera may not be as productive when clean should limit his appeal on the open market, but he's an interesting option for a team looking to make a bargain investment.
Of course, what a player did in the 2012 season is only part of the consideration when it comes to free agency. Position, pedigree, age and cost are all factors that will contribute to a player's value.
Adam LaRoche, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro all enjoyed strong seasons, but it's not easy for a team to pay for a career season, knowing that it won't be easy to duplicate in upcoming seasons. Some will do it, but it's a recipe for regret most of the time.
Virtually every team could use more starting pitching, which will help explain when free agent pitchers land lucrative deals. Zack Greinke, who was traded to the L.A. Angels of Anaheim midseason, is the jewel of the class, but Hiroki Kuroda, Ryan Dempster, Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson are proven veteran starters that had some measure of success.
For those seeking value with upside, perhaps starters like Brandon McCarthy, Hisashi Iwakuma, Shaun Marcum and Carlos Villanueva might be able to take a turn in the rotation and not cost an exhorbitant sum.
In any case, over the next few months, there will be significant player movement, both in free agency and through trades and I'll have Numbers Game articles breaking down the biggest deals.
Here are the Top 100 rated players headed for free agency, based on the 2012 season.
(The ratings below are based on linear weight production for players during the 2012 season. Again, that's not the only consideration in determining a player's value, but at least a decent one-glance indication at their level of play for the most recent season.)
MLB Free Agent Rankings, 2012 Season
Player rankings are based on statistical production and are intended to value the impact a player has on the game. Scott Cullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook