The 2010 MLB regular season is now over. So it’s a good time to take a look at the best free agents on the market for the 2011 season. Many players have options, either player, team, or mutual options, that ultimately may or may not make them a free agent. We will take our best guess towards their status to determine their free agent eligibility.
10) Mariano Rivera
I originally had Brett Myers as my #10 free agent, not knowing until later in this writing that he signed an extension with the Astros late in the season. It was tough to figure out another player that clearly stood out as a top ten free agent, as many had issues or concerns. Finally, I settled on Mariano Rivera. While he did turn 40 in 2010, he had one of the best seasons he’s ever had, suggesting he could continue doing it for a few more years. He had 33 saves, a 1.80 ERA, and a ridiculous 0.833 WHIP. While a number of the older veteran players such as Vladimir Guerrero showed they could still play well, Mariano Rivera showed he could still be amongst the best.
9) Paul Konerko
Paul Konerko added another great year to his career, with a .312 batting average, .393 OBP, .584 SLG, .977 OPS, 39 home runs, and 111 RBIs. Some team will definitely want to grab Paul Konerko’s bat for their lineup. The only notch against him is his age, as he will turn 35 in 2011. It’ll give teams concerns and limit the number of years he can get for a contract.
8) Jon Garland
Jon Garland has had an up and down career, with good seasons mixed in with sub-par ones. In 2010 he had a great year in San Diego with a 14-12 record and 3.47 ERA. Petco park is a definite pitchers park, but he also posted a solid 4.01 ERA on the road in 2010. He’s only 30 years old, so he has a few more good years in him. I think it’s fair to expect a team to give a contract for a few years. At the minimum, he’s been an innings eater, throwing 200+ innings 6 times in his career, and between 190-200 innings 3 other times since 2002.
7) Jayson Werth
Jayson Werth is this year’s Jason Bay. He’s not a player that belongs in the elite of the league, but he’s a damn good player who’d make a good addition to some team. The past three years, he’s averaged 29 home runs, 84 RBIs, a .279 batting average, and .889 OPS. That gives him an OPS+ of 132 over the past three years, which makes him a damn good addition for some team out there. He’s also only 31 years old, so he should have some good years left in him.
6) Rafael Soriano
Rafael Soriano has been a good reliever for many years. In 2010 he showcased that he was amongst the best relievers in baseball, leading the AL in saves and posting a ridiculous 0.802 WHIP over 62.1 innings pitched. After leading the league in saves, he just earned himself a big new contract with some team.
5) Victor Martinez
All that needs to be said about Victor Martinez is that he’s one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. He’s a career .300 hitter with a .838 OPS and four time All Star appearances. He’s not the greatest defensive catches, but he’s not terrible either. Some team will definitely want to add his bat to their lineup.
4) Adrian Beltre (Player Options for 2011)
Adrian Beltre has a player option for the 2011 season. Given his fantastic year, which will garner him some MVP consideration, I believe he’ll make a move to become a free agent. Adrian Beltre has always been a great defensive third basemen, winning two gold gloves in his career. However, he pumped up his offense this year, posting his best numbers since 2004. His .321 batting average was fourth in the AL and his .919 OPS put him fifth in the AL last year. In contrast, he averaged a .759 OPS over the previous 5 seasons in Seattle. Add in 28 home runs and 102 RBIs, and you have yourself a high demand third baseman.
3) Carl Crawford
The Tampa Bay speedster will garner a lot of interest this off-season. He’s a career .296 hitter, provides solid defense, great speed on the basepaths, and decent pop from the bat. He’s lead the league in stolen bases four times and placed in the top 3 three other times. I’ll admit, I’m not as high on Carl Crawford as others are, as his career .337 OBP is a tad unimpressive. However, he’s averaged a much better .360 OBP the past two years. In addition, he only turned 28 this year, several years younger than many of the others on this list. So unlike many of the other players on this list, he’s ready to enter the prime of his career.
2) Adam Dunn
I wrote a full article on Adam Dunn titled Adam Dunn: Underrated Superstar. That should give you an idea of how wonderful I think he is. Since 2004, he has averaged 40 home runs, 101 RBIs, and a .914 OPS during his stints with the Reds, Diamondbacks, and Nationals. He isn’t an Albert Pujols or Adrian Gonzalez, but it’s hard to imagine someone not wanting to add his incredible bat to their lineup. On top of that, he’s only 30 years old, so you can expect a lot of good seasons left in him.
1) Cliff Lee
This should be no surprise, as there isn’t another player even close to being a contender for the most coveted free agent in 2011. In the past three years Cliff Lee is a combined 48-25 with a 2.98 ERA. He won the Cy Young award in 2008, would have been a Cy Young contender in 2009 if he didn’t change leagues, and had a Cy Young caliber season in 2010. Pitching is always at a premium, and someone will cough up a lot of money to sign him.
Vladimir Guerrero, Carl Pavano, Aubrey Huff, Derek Jeter, Jake Westbrook
“2011 MLB Free Agents, MLB Trade Rumors
“Baseball-Reference.com – Major League Baseball Statistics and History”, Baseball-Reference