November 5, 2012
Painting the Black
The 50 Best Free Agents
With free agency beginning at just after midnight Eastern early Saturday, it’s time to look at this year’s class. Along with Ben Lindbergh, Sam Miller, and others, we put together a list of the top 50 free agents available this winter. Some analysis and predictions are also included. You can quibble with the rankings (especially after a certain point) and many of the predictions, but this is meant to serve as a primer for the free-agent period.
1. Zack Greinke (Angels): Greinke may not consistently perform like an ace but he is a durable no. 2 starter with a deep arsenal, and an understanding of how to use it. After trading three top prospects at the deadline for Greinke and then having his club miss the postseason, Jerry Dipoto is in an unenviable position. Dipoto cannot recoup draft picks, which provides further incentive to re-sign Greinke. It seems Dipoto is heading down that path if recent payroll shearing is any indication.
2. Josh Hamilton (Mariners): Hamilton is the toughest player to place. He might be the best player available on talent and production. But ignoring the skeletons in Hamilton’s closest is an unwise decision for interested teams. Handing out a long-term contract is gambling on the human being. The questions about Hamilton’s character and durability should limit his market enough to merit interest from Jack Zduriencik, whose Seattle lineup needs the help.
3. Michael Bourn (Nationals): For the second consecutive season, Bourn tapered off following the All-Star break. A stellar defender, Bourn is also a capable leadoff hitter who can lead the league in stolen bases in any given year. Washington’s desire to add a true center fielder is nothing new. How they go about fitting Bourn, Mike Morse, and Adam LaRoche into the lineup is the question.
4. B.J. Upton (Rangers): All the talk about Upton’s potential misses a key point: Upton is already a productive player. His baseball skills sharpened in 2012, making him a better fundamental player, though there’s still room for growth. Teams have reservations about Upton’s competitive desire, stemming from a series of hustle-related incidents earlier in his career. Despite those concerns, Upton’s blend of power and speed will be enough to catch someone’s eye, and that someone might be Jon Daniels.
5. Nick Swisher (Red Sox): Swisher might have sealed his Bronx fate by bleating about the fans’ treatment of him during the postseason. His devil-may-care attitude rubs some the wrong way, but there is no denying his offensive talents. He does it all at the plate: hitting for decent averages, drawing walks, and smacking home runs—he has at least 20 in each of his full big-league seasons. Add in that Swisher switch-hits and can play multiple positions, and teams with multiple holes like Boston should be interested.