The 2010 World Series has ended, but baseball excitement is still in the air because this means it is the start of the 2011 MLB free agent period. The class of 2011 free agents is considered to be only average, but there are some players that could help propel a team to the next level. Figuring out the ten best 2011 Major League Baseball free agents was no easy task, even with numbers one through three being set in stone. It’s hard to imagine that greats like Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Derrek Lee, Kerry Wood, Magglio Ordonez and Vladimir Guerrero could all be free agents and not even crack the top ten; welcome to 2011. One other great that doesn’t get any pub in the top ten is Yankees’ closer, Mariano Rivera. He was left off the list because let’s not be foolish; Rivera is a Yankee, and the Yankees are twenty times more likely to let Jeter walk than Rivera and who here really thinks Jeter is going somewhere else. Here are the top ten free agents in Major League Baseball for 2011.
1. Cliff Lee – Lee is so far ahead of any other free agent for the #1 most sought after man of the postseason, that not even Carl Crawford himself would have Lee ranked behind him. If you didn’t believe the hype that pitching wins championships before the 2010 World Series, than the Giants should’ve turned you into a believer. What better way to bolster your pitching staff then to add a no doubt #1 starter to the front of your rotation?
2. Carl Crawford – Picking Crawford as the most sought after position player in the 2011 free agent class is almost as easy as pegging Lee #1 overall. Crawford is one of the best all around players in the majors and will have no shortage of suitors that are sure to include the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Let the bidding begin. Just how much would you like to see Crawford at the top end of your team’s line-up?
3. Jayson Werth – If a team doesn’t win the Crawford bidding war, it does not need to think for too long to figure out where to throw its’ money at next. In the last couple seasons, Werth has become one of the better home run hitters in the majors. Not only does he hit for power, but also will play good defense and steal around 20 bases a season.
4. Adam Dunn – If you want a speedster that plays awesome defense and racks up stolen bases, then I suggest you look elsewhere. Dunn does one thing, and since that is all he really does it’s a good thing that he is incredible at it. Dunn is a power-hitting machine. Any team that needs a guy that can hit 40 home runs and has a spot at DH or can hide him at first, should be throwing some cash Dunn’s way. There should be a lot of those teams, the only hitch is that Dunn has shown interest in wanting to stay in the National League. Since he is much better suited as a DH, that would drastically reduce his suitors.
5. Rafael Soriano – One man closing systems is still the “in” thing for baseball, and Soriano is the option when it comes to getting the best available closer. There would be an interesting debate in whether teams should go long term with Soriano or short term with Mariano Rivera, but as far as I’m concerned; Rivera is already off the market. Let the overload of ridiculous amounts of money start coming his way now. In case you can’t tell, yes, I think most closers are way overrated.
6. Victor Martinez – It’s not often there is a catcher on the free agent market that can hit like a first baseman. The only problem with that theory is that most teams would prefer to turn Victor into a combination of catcher/first baseman/designated hitter. It might be extremely rare for a catcher to hit .300 with 20 home runs, but the value of a first baseman doing the same is quite a bit lower.
7. Adrian Beltre – Haven’t we been here before? It seems like every season Beltre is among the most intriguing free agents on the market. Will he be a beast at defense and on the offensive side, or only a gold glove third baseman that shows the potential to hit, but just teases. Although Beltre is on the free agent market for the second consecutive season, he actually has only been a free agent three times in his thirteen-year career. It just seems like it’s more often because he has a knack of dropping off the face of the Earth until it’s a contract year. Makes one think that the best approach to get the most out of Beltre is to sign him to a one-year deal like Boston did last season, but I have a feeling there will be some teams that take a longer plunge.
8. Carlos Pena – Chicks love the long ball right? Well, so do GM’s. Instead of talking about Pena being a sought after free agent, you would be reading about Pena trying to get a team to invite him to spring training. His batting average in 2009 was .196. No, that’s not a typo, we are actually talking about what teams are pursuing a guy that hit below .200 in 2010 and only hit .227 the season before. In 2010, Pena only hit 28 home runs, which isn’t shabby, but pales in comparison to what he is capable of. Teams are willing to take a chance on the first baseman because he had 116 home runs in the three seasons preceding 2010.
9. Derek Jeter – Jeter fans might be appalled at the fact that he is ranked this low, but the truth will set them free. Jeter is 36-year-old shortstop and his average dropped from .334 in 2009 to .270 in 2010. That is a drop of 64 points. Is there even another free agent that we would actually even be mentioning in this conversation if his average slipped that much? How surprised would you be to see Jeter in anything other than pinstripes next year?
10. Carl Pavano – So many arguments can be made for this final spot on the top ten list. One can argue that sluggers like Paul Konerko, Derrek Lee and Magglio Ordonez should be here, or second baseman Orlando Hudson. However, let’s not forget only one of those guys in Konerko, didn’t have a huge decline in numbers in 2010 and he is going to be 35 in March. Pavano won 17 games for the Twins while helping lead them into the playoffs. He would look perfect as a number two starter on most teams in the majors, and would be a welcome third starter on the others. Any chance the Yankees would sign him again if they fail to get Cliff Lee?