Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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2007 Free Agents - Pitchers

Monday, August 27, 2007


This is the second of two columns previewing this winter's free agent class. Below is a look at the available pitchers. Click here for Sunday's column on the hitters.

It's back to the usual notes format next week.


Starting Pitchers

Roger Clemens (Yankees) - Clemens' performance has fallen off enough in his return to the AL that it seems more likely than ever before that this is it for him. Still, there isn't one pitcher below him on this list that would necessarily be a better bet from June through September next year. If he comes back, he'll likely sit out the first two or three months again and then rejoin the Yankees. Still, I'm guessing that he's done. Prediction: Retirement

Curt Schilling (Red Sox) - Schilling is having trouble generating swings and misses these days, but he still has some of the best command in the league and he should be able to handle the game's better offenses when he's on top of his game. While the Red Sox wouldn't give him the one-year, $13 million extension he wanted this spring, they'll probably offer him that kind of money this winter if he remains healthy the rest of the way. Schilling has said he wouldn't consider the Yankees, and he seems more likely to stick to that than Johnny Damon did. If he leaves, it could be for Arizona. Tampa Bay has been mentioned as a possible destination, but it's unlikely that he'd seek to end his career with a probable non-contender. Prediction: Red Sox - one year, $13 million

Andy Pettitte (Yankees) - The downfall of the Astros started when they declined to meet Pettitte's demands, as they ended up parting with Jason Hirsh, Willy Taveras and Taylor Buchholz to bring in an inferior replacement in Jason Jennings. Unlike Clemens, Pettitte hasn't struggled with the switch back to the AL. In fact, his ERA has dropped from 4.20 last year to 3.69. The Yankees would be content to see him exercise his $16 million player option to return to the Bronx next season, and that's likely what will happen. Prediction: Exercises player option

Bartolo Colon (Angels) - Now this one is going to be interesting. With Carlos Zambrano agreeing to an extension, Colon has the best major league track record of any under-35 starter available. Of course, shoulder and elbow problems have limited him to a 6.08 ERA in 26 starts since the start of 2005. He's also had some back issues that are likely related to his weight. Colon has still displayed pretty good velocity at times this year, and since there's been no indication that he needs elbow surgery, the potential is there for him to rebound in 2008. However, he needs to return in September and put together a run of solid starts if he wants to be treated as a top property. Otherwise, he'd likely have to take a one-year deal in order to rebuild his value. That'd give him his best chance of staying in Anaheim. If he instead opts for the best multiyear deal he can get, he could join the Dodgers, Rangers, Mariners or Mets. Should he insist on the multiyear deal, take it as a sign that he thinks his arm will remain a problem going forward. Prediction: Mets - two years, $26 million

Koji Uehara (Japan) - At least, I think he's a free agent. He was supposed to be, and I'm assuming he still is, but Japan does (or did) have some odd rules about how DL stints affect service time. Uehara, who turns 33 in April, spent the first eight years of his career as one of Japan's top starters, amassing a 102-54 record with a 3.01 ERA, 1,238 strikeouts and just 186 walks allowed in 1,397 1/3 innings. Oddly, he was converted into a closer this year, apparently because of some shoulder woes. It was thought he'd be eased back into the rotation, but he's been in the bullpen all year long and collected 23 saves. Uehara was already expected to make the jump to MLB this winter, and that he prefers to start would only seem to make him more eager. He projects as a very solid No. 3 starter. The shoulder could scare off some teams, but since he's still as good of a long-term bet as any free agent starter out there, expect there to be plenty of suitors. Prediction: Dodgers - three years, $30 million

Kenshin Kawakami (Japan) - With fewer questions about his health, Kawakami might rank ahead of Uehara on some lists. The 32-year-old right-hander is 10-7 with a 3.77 ERA and a 116/18 K/BB ratio in 126 2/3 innings in the Central League this year. He had arguably his best year in 2006, finishing with a 2.51 ERA and establishing career highs in strikeouts (194) and innings (215). Like Uehara, he wouldn't overpower major league hitters with his fastball. However, his stuff is legit and his command should make him a No. 3 or No. 4 starter. He'd fit well in practically any rotation baseball. Prediction: Diamondbacks - four years, $36 million

Tom Glavine (Mets) - Glavine has indicated he's leaning towards retirement, but he has the ability to return to the Mets after hitting the 160-inning mark in his last start. His player option is worth $9 million at the moment and could increase to as much as $13 million if he throws 200 innings. If the Mets win the World Series, it's assumed that Glavine will choose to go out on top. Otherwise, he could be back for one more year. He'll probably finish his career with the Mets regardless. Prediction: Exercises player option

Kenny Rogers (Tigers) - Rogers didn't help his negotiating position this month when he said he'll either stay with the Tigers or retire this winter. He'll probably keep playing unless he thinks his elbow won't be able to handle it, and the Tigers will welcome him back. If he can pull off a successful return next month, he'll likely even get a raise from the $8 million he's making this year. Prediction: Tigers - one year, $10 million

Freddy Garcia (Phillies) - Garcia pitched 200 innings in six straight seasons before finally succumbing to a sore shoulder this year. Given that he lost his best fastball a couple of years ago, there were signs that this was coming. Garcia will try to return next month and show that he still has something left. He's just 31, but his arm has a lot of miles on it, and neither his labrum nor his rotator cuff damage will just go away. I think Colon is a better bet to bounce back. Still, Garcia could get a three- or four-year deal if he impresses during September. Prediction: Rangers - one year, $9 million

Carlos Silva (Twins) - Silva pitched himself out of the rotation for a time during 2006, and he wasn't all that much better in the first half of 2007. However, he has helped himself out a ton with a 1.75 ERA over his last five starts. At 27, he'll be the youngest starter available this winter, making it likely that a nice payday is on the way. His sinker will make him especially attractive to teams in smaller ballparks, even if he doesn't get as many grounders as most like to believe. The Phillies, Reds, Orioles, Rangers, Rays and Braves are among the clubs that could pursue him. Prediction: Reds - four years, $32 million

Jason Jennings (Astros) - Had Jennings been a free agent last winter, he probably would have received Gil Meche money (five years, $55 million). Now he's a huge risk after going 2-9 with a 6.45 ERA in 99 innings for the Astros. That he had surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his elbow wouldn't be a massive concern it if was his only problem. However, he also experienced shoulder issues that could have a long-term impact. A one-year deal, perhaps with an expensive option for 2009, should be in the cards here. The Astros will make an attempt to retain him, and the Red Sox, Yankees and Mets are among the large-market teams that could look to gamble. Prediction: Yankees - one year, $7 million plus incentives

Jeff Weaver (Mariners) - Even though he's making more than $8 million, Weaver was nearly released after beginning the year 0-6 with a 14.25 ERA. A DL stint followed, and he's 6-4 with a 3.38 ERA in 14 starts since. If he remains reliable, he might land a multiyear deal this winter after back-to-back one-year contracts. He'd be better off in the NL, preferably with a team in a big ballpark. Prediction: Nationals - three years, $24 million

Jon Lieber (Phillies) - Lieber suffered a season-ending foot injury in June, leaving him 29-30 with a 4.55 ERA in his three years with the Phillies. His fastball has declined to the point at which he's no more than a No. 4 starter. Still, because he's so good about avoiding walks, he could be of help in a bigger ballpark. The Padres and Mariners should look at him closely this winter. Prediction: Padres - two years, $12 million

Livan Hernandez (Diamondbacks) - It's amazing that he still competes as well as he does, but Hernandez's days as a reliable innings eater should be coming to an end. He hasn't managed even a strikeout every other inning this year, and his WHIP is up to 1.57. There's little enough pitching available that some team might give him a multiyear deal anyway, but he's going to be a poor investment. Prediction: Cardinals - two years, $13 million

Kyle Lohse (Phillies) - Lohse won't quite be this year's Gil Meche, but odds are that he'll receive a contract that will surprise a lot of people. That he's one of the youngest pitchers available and one of the harder throwers gives him some perceived upside, even if he's spent his entire career looking like a fourth or fifth starter. If Lohse finishes strong -- he currently has a 3.95 ERA in five starts for the Phillies -- it's conceivable that some team will go to $32 million over four years for him. $20 million for three years seems more realistic right now. Prediction: Phillies - three years, $21 million

Matt Clement (Red Sox) - Clement isn't expected to see any action next month for the Red Sox as he completes his rehab from shoulder surgery, but he will try to impress teams while pitching in the instructional league. If he shows his stuff is back, he'll be heavily pursued. There are few pitchers available with more talent. Prediction: Blue Jays - one year, $5 million plus incentives

Kip Wells (Cardinals) - Wells is 3-2 with a 3.59 ERA in his last seven starts, opening up the possibility that he'll be offered some multiyear deals this winter. It's easier to write off that disastrous first half in a market as bare as his one. Prediction: Rockies - two years, $9 million


Other free agents: Shawn Chacon (Pirates), Josh Fogg (Rockies), Rodrigo Lopez (Rockies), Eric Milton (Reds), Jaret Wright (Orioles), Byung-Hyun Kim (Marlins), Joe Kennedy (FA), Wade Miller (FA), Casey Fossum (FA), Brian Lawrence (Mets), John Thomson (Royals), Ramon Ortiz (Rockies), Russ Ortiz (Giants), Mark Redman (Rockies), Tomo Ohka (FA), Jamey Wright (Rangers), Scott Elarton (Indians), Sidney Ponson (FA), Chan Ho Park (FA), Jerome Williams (Minor FA - Twins), Dave Williams (Minor FA - Mets), Shawn Estes (Padres), Joe Mays (FA), Bruce Chen (FA), Zach Day (Minor FA - Royals)

Chacon may prefer to start, but he could have more suitors as a reliever after doing solid work in a setup role for the Pirates. He'd have a better chance of getting a two-year deal if he's willing to work out of the pen. … Lopez would have been in line for a multiyear deal if his elbow had held up for one more year. He'll miss most or all of 2007 following Tommy John surgery. … Milton underwent the same procedure back in June and could return for the second half.


Options
Greg Maddux (Padres) - $11 million club option, $6 million-$10 million player option
Randy Wolf (Dodgers) - $9 million club option, $500,000 buyout
Odalis Perez (Royals) - $9 million club option, $1.5 million buyout
Paul Byrd (Indians) - $8 million club option, $250,000 buyout
Kris Benson (Orioles) - $7.5 million club option, $500,000 buyout
Tony Armas Jr. (Pirates) - $5 million mutual option, $500,000 buyout
Steve Trachsel (Orioles) - $4.75 million club option, $100,000 buyout
Brett Tomko (Dodgers) - $4.5 million mutual option, $1 million buyout
Tim Wakefield (Red Sox) - $4 million club option
Joel Pineiro (Cardinals) - $4 million mutual option
Julian Tavarez (Red Sox) - $3.85 million club option

Wakefield's option is the only one here guaranteed to be picked up. I'd be curious to see exactly what he would have gotten as a free agent if he ended up winning 20 games as a 40-year-old this season. $30 million over three years isn't unrealistic. … Whether the club option is exercised or not, Maddux and San Diego should work something out. If the Padres really believe he's been such a positive influence on Jake Peavy and Chris Young, $11 million seems like a bargain. … Wolf's shoulder woes will probably put him back on the market. He's expected to be a reliever if he makes it back next month, giving him little chance of rebuilding his value.

The Indians will probably exercise Byrd's option. Even if they decide they could spend $8 million better elsewhere, he should have a little trade value at that price. … Benson, who underwent season-ending rotator cuff surgery in March, could stay with the Orioles on a smaller deal. … Armas, Trachsel and Tomko are goners. The Dodgers have already jettisoned Tomko, but I'm leaving him listed here, as there's a chance someone could claim him off waivers and inherit the option. … The Cardinals will probably seek to retain Piniero if he stays at his current level. … Tavarez has looked adequate enough as a fifth starter this year to justify that salary. I can see the Red Sox picking up the option and trading him.



Trade candidates: Johan Santana (Twins - NTC), C.C. Sabathia (Indians), Roy Oswalt (Astros - NTC), Dontrelle Willis (Marlins), Brett Myers (Phillies), Bronson Arroyo (Reds), Jon Garland (White Sox), Rich Harden (Athletics), Joe Blanton (Athletics), A.J. Burnett (Blue Jays), Noah Lowry (Giants), Aaron Cook (Rockies), Nate Robertson (Tigers), Daniel Cabrera (Orioles), Chris Capuano (Brewers), Zach Duke (Pirates), Mike Pelfrey (Mets), Scott Olsen (Marlins), Ervin Santana (Angels), Jeremy Sowers (Indians), Anthony Reyes (Cardinals), Edinson Volquez (Rangers), Dave Bush (Brewers), Chad Gaudin (Athletics), Wandy Rodriguez (Astros), Clay Hensley (Padres), Scott Baker (Twins), Philip Humber (Mets), Jason Vargas (Mets), Matt Morris (Pirates), Braden Looper (Cardinals), Jose Contreras (White Sox), Esteban Loaiza (Athletics), Kei Igawa (Yankees), Robinson Tejeda (Rangers), Dustin Nippert (Diamondbacks), Ryan Feierabend (Mariners), Tyler Clippard (Yankees), Claudio Vargas (Brewers), Gustavo Chacin (Blue Jays), Mark Hendrickson (Dodgers), Mike Maroth (Cardinals), Dustin Moseley (Angels), Zach Jackson (Brewers), Edgar Gonzalez (Diamondbacks), Heath Phillips (White Sox)

It's highly unlikely that the Twins will move Santana, but they'll get phone calls from the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and others. … The Indians probably won't be able to re-sign Sabathia after extending Jake Westbrook and Travis Hafner this year. There's a good chance they'll keep him anyway, but if someone offers up a top young starter and a potential closer, they'd have to consider it. … The Astros have little interest in rebuilding, so Oswalt is probably staying. … Willis is the top starter most likely to be dealt this winter. He's not bringing as many people to the ballpark as he once did, giving the Marlins more incentive to move him. … The White Sox probably won't carry four $10 million+ starters again, and Garland figures to bring a fine return, even if he has struggled mightily lately. I think he and Willis are the name starters most likely to go.

Burnett has worn out his welcome in Toronto. Unfortunately, he wouldn't bring much in return, mostly because of his escape clause after 2008. He'll leave as a free agent if he's good next season, and if he gets hurt instead, the team that acquires him would be on the hook for $24 million between 2009 and 2010. … Cook is a free agent after next year, and the Rockies could part with him for a Jennings-type package. Someone may pay the price to acquire his sinker. … Capuano has gone from being regarded as one of the NL's top lefties to the odd man out in the Milwaukee rotation. The Brewers won't want to sell low, but they do have Manny Parra to replace him if they get a quality offer.



Non-tender candidates: Mark Prior (Cubs), John Patterson (Nationals), Horacio Ramirez (Mariners), Mike Maroth (Cardinals), Josh Towers (Blue Jays), Jae Seo (Devil Rays), Matt Belisle (Reds), Tim Redding (Nationals), Luke Hudson (Royals), Mike Bacsik (Nationals), Jason Simontacchi (Nationals), Brandon Claussen (Nationals), John Koronka (Indians)

Prior, who hopes to be ready for 2008 after shoulder surgery, could use a fresh start elsewhere. He's due another $3.5 million in his final year of arbitration. … That Patterson lost his arbitration case last year should mean that he'll stick around. He's only making $850,000 this season, and the Nats can gamble a similar amount on him in 2008. Had he won his case, giving him a $1.85 million salary this season, the Nats might have figured that was too much to pay. … Ramirez has a 6.67 ERA in 16 starts, and he's giving up about 3 ½ hits for every strikeout he records. It'd take a strong finish for the Mariners to have any interest in retaining him. … Redding will be kept by the Nats if he maintains his current performance through September. He'll have to fall off some, though.


Top 2008-09 free agents: Johan Santana (Twins), Jake Peavy (Padres)*, C.C. Sabathia (Indians), Ben Sheets (Brewers), Brad Penny (Dodgers)*, John Smoltz (Braves)*, Derek Lowe (Dodgers), Kazumi Saito (Japan), Jon Garland (White Sox), Oliver Perez (Mets), Aaron Cook (Rockies), A.J. Burnett (Blue Jays)*, Pedro Martinez (Mets), Mark Mulder (Cardinals)*, Mike Mussina (Yankees), Orlando Hernandez (Mets), Randy Johnson (Diamondbacks), Mark Prior (Cubs), Mike Hampton (Braves)*, Braden Looper (Cardinals), Matt Morris (Pirates)*, Esteban Loaiza (Athletics)*, Horacio Ramirez (Mariners), Woody Williams (Astros)*, Carl Pavano (Yankees)*, Jamie Moyer (Phillies), Mark Hendrickson (Dodgers), Mike Maroth (Cardinals)

2009 options: Peavy - $8 million-$11 million ($500,000 buyout), Penny - $8.75 million ($2 million buyout), Smoltz - $12 million (vests with 200 IP in 2008), Burnett - Opt out clause (owed $24 million in 2009-10), Mulder - $11 million ($1.5 million buyout), Hampton - $20 million option ($6 million buyout), Morris - $9 million ($1 million buyout), Loaiza - $7.5 million ($375,000 buyout), Williams - $6.75 million ($250,000 buyout), Pavano - $13 million club option ($1.95 million buyout)

Top 2009-10 free agents: Brandon Webb (Diamondbacks)*, Erik Bedard (Orioles), Josh Beckett (Red Sox)*, John Lackey (Angels)*, Tim Hudson (Braves)*, Dontrelle Willis (Marlins), Brett Myers (Phillies), Rich Harden (Athletics), Kelvim Escobar (Angels), Jason Schmidt (Dodgers), Chris Capuano (Brewers), Cliff Lee (Indians)*, Nate Robertson (Tigers), John Patterson (Nationals), Jarrod Washburn (Mariners), Vicente Padilla (Rangers)*, Jason Marquis (Cubs), Jose Contreras (White Sox), Adam Eaton (Phillies)*, Miguel Batista (Mariners), Brandon Backe (Astros), Claudio Vargas (Brewers), Josh Towers (Blue Jays)

2010 options: Webb - $8.5 million ($1 million buyout), Beckett - $12 million ($2 million buyout), Lackey - $9 million ($500,000 buyout), Hudson - $12 million mutual ($1 million buyout), Lee - $8 million ($1 million buyout), Padilla - $12 million ($1.75 million buyout), Eaton - $9 million mutual option ($500,000 buyout)


Relief Pitchers

Mariano Rivera (Yankees) - Rivera has followed up four straight seasons of sub-2.00 ERAs with what will likely go down as his worst year since he became a full-time reliever in 1996. However, the Yankees would surely prefer him over any of the other available relievers as their 2008 closer. It'd be terribly stunning if the two sides failed to come to terms on an extension. Rivera would seem to have at least a couple of more years left as a quality closer. He's done as the game's best, but he's still plenty good enough. Prediction: Yankees - two years, $25 million

Francisco Cordero (Brewers) - Cordero opened the season 22-for-22 in save chances, with a sparkling 0.36 ERA through June 5. Since then, he's been a lot more like his usual inconsistent self, blowing six of his last 21 opportunities and giving up at least two runs five times. Cordero has durability and one of the game's best strikeout rates working in his favor. He's also one of only two top closers sure to be available this winter. As a result, something like four years and $40 million is a possibility. The Giants, Indians, Phillies, Braves and Royals could be in the mix for him. The Yankees may pursue him if they lose Rivera, but that's a long shot. Prediction: Giants - four years, $36 million

Eric Gagne (Red Sox) - Gagne's stock was sky high again when he posted a 2.16 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP for the Rangers through the first four months. He started off terribly for the Red Sox, but he has rebounded with scoreless innings in his last four appearances. Gagne should enter 2008 as a closer. Whether he gets multiyear offers will depend on how he finishes up with Boston. It's doubtful the Red Sox could bring him back as a setup man. They might not even want to. Prediction: Orioles - one year, $10 million

Scott Linebrink (Brewers) - Linebrink may be on the decline after three years as an elite setup man, but he's still giving up less than a hit per inning and maintaining a pretty good walk rate. His main flaw is that he's prone to the home run ball, which made him an ideal fit in Petco. Still, he'd be an adequate closer for a lesser team and a solid setup man on most others. The Braves, Indians, Royals and Giants could consider turning over ninth-inning duties to him, and the Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Mets and Mariners are among the clubs that may pursue him as an eighth-inning guy. He might get the same kind of money Justin Speier did last year. Prediction: Yankees - four years, $20 million

Octavio Dotel (Braves) - Under the terms of the deal he agreed to with the Royals, Dotel has a $5.5 million player option he can exercise for 2008. However, that is voidable by the team. So, if he finishes the year healthy, he's almost surely going to hold out for a multiyear deal. If he doesn't, then the Braves would seek to void the option. Either way, he seems likely to get a new contract. Dotel, who was pursued as both a closer and a setup man last year, should interest the same teams as Linebrink. The Braves figure to try to keep him if his demands are reasonable. Prediction: Indians - three years, $18 million

Hitoki Iwase (Japan) - Unless Hiroke Kuroda or Masahide Kobayashi is posted, Iwase figures to be the most sought-after Japanese reliever this winter. Hirotoshi Ishii, who also figured to be on a lot of teams' lists, underwent shoulder surgery in January, costing him the season. Iwase has 34 saves and a 2.53 ERA this year. He's had an ERA under 2.00 in six of his previous eight seasons. Iwase doesn't possess top-notch stuff, but he does get into the low-90s with his fastball and he's deceptive. The left-hander should be able to succeed as a closer in the majors, and several large-market teams will be after him as a setup man. He'll get a bigger first contract than any Japanese reliever has previously. Prediction: Red Sox - four years, $20 million

Todd Jones (Tigers) - He's difficult to watch, but Jones has managed 33 saves in 38 attempts despite a 4.47 ERA in his age 39 season. He'd likely be a liability outside of the closer's role, but if he wants to keep pitching, he'll find another team willing to give him save opportunities. Atlanta would make a lot of sense, as he'd be pitching close to home in Georgia. He'd also be a fit in Florida, and the Orioles could ink him as a one-year stopgap while Chris Ray recovers from Tommy John surgery. Prediction: Braves - one year, $6 million

Bob Wickman (Braves) - Although they were dealing with a strict budget, the Braves gave Wickman a $6.5 million deal to return as their closer this year. He was barely competent when protecting leads in the ninth, and he was a bust when used in any other fashion. Like Jones, Wickman would prove to be a well below average reliever if he had to come in with men on base more than a couple of times per year. The Indians aren't interested in bringing him back, so Wickman's career could be over. He's talked of retirement often enough that it seems unlikely that he'd accept an incentive-laden deal in an attempt to prolong his career. Prediction: Retirement

Luis Vizcaino (Yankees) - Vizcaino, on his fourth team in four years, had a rough time early on after joining the Yankees in the Randy Johnson deal, but he's been one of the AL's most reliable setup men over the last three months. Since he's durable and he's on his way to posting an ERA under 4.00 for the fourth straight season, he should have little trouble receiving at least $15 million for three years. The Yankees will likely invite him back. Prediction: Tigers - three years, $16.5 million

Armando Benitez (Marlins) - Benitez has struck out 51 in 48 1/3 innings this year, but he's also given up 33 runs -- 26 of them earned -- and walked 25. He'd be best off in the closer's role, but he might have worn out his welcome with enough teams now that he'll have a tough time landing a job. The Royals could take a chance on him, but he probably needs to stay in the NL if he's going to have a chance. I could see him joining the Nationals if the club decides to sell Chad Cordero. Prediction: Nationals - one year, $3 million

Kerry Wood (Cubs) - Wood thought he was on his way to undergoing shoulder surgery before a sudden recovery allowed him to rejoin the Cubs' bullpen. Still, he hasn't been nearly as impressive this month as he was while in the bullpen back in 2005. Wood's hope was that he'd turn in a full year as a reliever and then go back to starting games next year. However, pitching out of the bullpen looks like his best bet for now. Another incentive-laden deal is likely, and he's a better bet to stay with the Cubs than is Mark Prior. Prediction: Cubs - one year, $2 million plus incentives

Jeremy Affeldt (Rockies) - Affeldt, who has quietly posted a 3.28 ERA in 60 appearances for the Rockies this season, could land the biggest contract of any of the free agent lefties, Japanese pitchers excluded. He's still not a very good bet, but he's just 28 and he has a better fastball than most. He'll get at least two years and probably three years this winter. Prediction: Cubs - three years, $12 million

Jorge Julio (Rockies) - Julio was a complete bust as Florida's closer to begin the year, but with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 39 innings for the Rockies, he could be in line for another opportunity. The Rockies will make an attempt to re-sign him, and the Reds could try to bring him in to battle David Weathers. Prediction: Rockies - two years, $8 million


Other free agents: Mike Timlin (Red Sox), Keith Foulke (FA), Russ Springer (Cardinals), Antonio Alfonseca (Phillies), Troy Percival (Cardinals), Jose Mesa (Phillies), Ron Mahay (Braves), Trever Miller (Astros), J.C. Romero (Phillies), Ron Villone (Yankees), Rudy Seanez (Dodgers), Doug Brocail (Padres), Elmer Dessens (Rockies), Ray King (Nationals), Hector Carrasco (Nationals), Roberto Hernandez (Dodgers), Todd Williams (FA), Paul Shuey (Orioles), Glendon Rusch (FA), Scott Williamson (FA), Arthur Rhodes (Mariners), Cliff Politte (Indians), Tom Martin (FA), Jay Witasick (Devil Rays), Dan Kolb (Pirates), Matt Herges (Rockies), Tanyon Sturtze (Braves), Rheal Cormier (Braves), Ricardo Rincon (Giants), Aaron Sele (Mets), Mike DeJean (Rockies), Rick White (Mariners), Jim Brower (Yankees), Scott Sauerbeck (Blue Jays), Brian Moehler (Astros), John Wasdin (Pirates), Jon Adkins (Minor FA - Mets), Erasmo Ramiez (Minor FA - Marlins), Nate Field (Minor FA - Marlins), Wes Obermueller (Minor FA - Marlins)

The 41-year-old Timlin looked done a couple of months ago, but he's bounced back with an 0.93 ERA in 19 1/3 innings since the break. The Red Sox figure to give him another one-year deal if he wants to keep pitching. … There was talk back in May of Foulke attempting a comeback after a sore elbow caused him to retire in February. It didn't happen, but it'd be no surprise to see him in a major league bullpen next year. … Springer, who has a 2.68 ERA in 50 1/3 innings for the Cards, will be very picky as a free agent for family reasons. Unless he chooses to retire, odds are that he'll stick with St. Louis.


Options
Jason Isringhausen (Cardinals) - $8 million club option, $1.25 million buyout
Trevor Hoffman (Padres) - $7.5 million vesting option, $2 million buyout
Joe Nathan (Twins) - $6 million club option, $1 million buyout
Joe Borowski (Indians) - $4 million club option, $250,000 buyout
Scott Eyre (Cubs) - $3.8 million player option
LaTroy Hawkins (Rockies) - $3.75 million mutual option, $250,000 buyout
Eddie Guardado (Reds) - $3 million club option
David Riske (Royals) - $2.85 million club option, $250,000 buyout
Chris Reitsma (Mariners) - $2.7 million club option, $700,000 buyout
Al Reyes (Devil Rays) - $2 million club option
Darren Oliver (Angels) - $2 million vesting option, $250,000 buyout
Aaron Fultz (Indians) - $1.5 million club option, $150,000 buyout
Mike Myers (White Sox) - $1.1 million club option

The three top names here all figure to stay. Izzy's status was in doubt a few months ago, but the Cards will have to pay up to keep him now. Hoffman's option will vest, and the only way Nathan's option won't be picked up is if the Twins can sign him to an extension first. … Borowski has a 5.51 ERA, but it seems like the Indians would be OK with keeping him in the closer's role for another year. They'll likely exercise the option even if they find someone better to pitch the ninth. … Eyre almost certainly will pick up the player option. He's been better lately, but he'd still be lucky to make half that as a free agent.

Of the rest, only Reyes is certain to have his option picked up, though Riske only needs to keep doing what he's doing to join the club. Hawkins and Reitsma, who is considering retirement, are sure to be jettisoned. … Guardado would have to show a lot more in his second month back from Tommy John surgery to cause the Reds to give him another try. He has a long road ahead of him if he's ever going to close again.



Trade candidates: Chad Cordero (Nationals), Brad Lidge (Astros), Jose Valverde (Diamondbacks), Brian Fuentes (Rockies), Akinori Otsuka (Rangers), Ryan Dempster (Cubs), Al Reyes (Devil Rays), Jon Rauch (Nationals), Aaron Heilman (Mets), Zack Greinke (Royals), David Weathers (Reds), Dan Wheeler (Devil Rays), Chad Qualls (Astros), Joaquin Benoit (Rangers), Mike MacDougal (White Sox), Derrick Turnbow (Brewers), Damaso Marte (Pirates), Juan Rincon (Twins), Kyle Farnsworth (Yankees), Craig Hansen (Red Sox), Taylor Tankersley (Marlins), Brandon Lyon (Diamondbacks), Angel Guzman (Cubs), Salomon Torres (Pirates), Juan Cruz (Diamondbacks), Brian Bruney (Yankees), Matt Wise (Brewers), Jimmy Gobble (Royals), Andrew Sisco (White Sox), Todd Coffey (Reds), Jason Frasor (Blue Jays), Kiko Calero (Athletics), Neal Cotts (Cubs), Will Ohman (Cubs), Kyle Snyder (Red Sox), Steve Kline (Giants), Sean Henn (Yankees), Lance Cormier (Braves), Brian Stokes (Devil Rays), Clay Rapada (Cubs)

The usual rule is that closers bring more in trade at the July deadline than in the offseason. Still, there's little enough available in free agency that we should see more movement on the trade front than usual this winter. Cordero's youth and reliability will make him a top target if the Nats back off their asking price a bit, and Fuentes would immediately jump to the head of the class among lefties if the Rockies let him go. … Valverde figures to stay, but Arizona has the bullpen depth to part with him if it meant getting a quality young starter in return. The Brewers are likely to need a replacement for Cordero and have a history of making deals with the Diamondbacks.

Otsuka's elbow troubles are significant enough to scare away potential suitors, making him likely to stay in Texas. … Heilman still wants to start games somewhere, and if the Mets can land a quality reliever elsewhere, they might grant his wish and move him. Sending him to the Rays for Reyes might make sense for both teams.



Non-tender candidates: Brendan Donnelly (Red Sox), Jorge Sosa (Mets), Neal Cotts (Cubs), Julio Mateo (Phillies), Seth McClung (Brewers), Wilfredo Ledezma (Padres), Kirk Saarloos (Reds), Tyler Walker (Giants), Matt Miller (Indians), Todd Wellemeyer (Cardinals), Brandon Duckworth (Royals), John Parrish (Mariners), Greg Aquino (Brewers), Grant Balfour (Devil Rays), Gary Glover (Devil Rays), Micah Bowie (Nationals), Billy Traber (Nationals), Dave Borkowski (Astros), Mike Wood (Rangers), Willie Eyre (Rangers), Shawn Camp (Devil Rays), Chad Paronto (Braves), Jason Grilli (Tigers), Ryan Wagner (Nationals), Brad Halsey (Athletics), Joe Nelson (Royals), Juan Padilla (Mets), Rob Bell (Orioles), Mike Koplove (Indians), D.J. Houlton (Dodgers), Clay Condrey (Phillies), Aaron Rakers (Padres), Randy Keisler (Cardinals), Kelvin Jimenez (Cardinals), Scott Dohmann (Devil Rays), Jon Switzer (Devil Rays), Chris Seddon (Marlins), Stephen Randolph (Astros), Miguel Asencio (Astros)

Donnelly is likely to miss most or all of next season after Tommy John surgery. … Sosa has a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings since a shift to the bullpen. If he remains effective, the Mets will risk going to arbitration with him. … Cotts went from being one of the game's best relievers to minor leaguer in less than a year and a half. He wouldn't make more than $800,000 in arbitration, but the Cubs could decide to move on anyway.


Top 2008-09 free agents: Francisco Rodriguez (Angels), Joe Nathan (Twins), Brad Lidge (Astros), Trevor Hoffman (Padres), Rafael Soriano (Braves), Brian Fuentes (Rockies), Ryan Dempster (Cubs), Al Reyes (Devil Rays), Hideki Okajima (Red Sox)*, Bobby Howry (Cubs), Dan Wheeler (Devil Rays), Brandon Lyon (Diamondbacks), Joaquin Benoit (Rangers), Kyle Farnsworth (Yankees), David Weathers (Reds), Juan Rincon (Twins), Tom Gordon (Phillies)*, Damaso Marte (Pirates)*, Alan Embree (Athletics)*, Juan Cruz (Diamondbacks), Luis Ayala (Nationals), Salomon Torres (Pirates)*, Matt Wise (Brewers), Guillermo Mota (Mets), Scott Downs (Blue Jays), Jorge Sosa (Mets), Brendan Donnelly (Red Sox), Oscar Villarreal (Braves), Joe Beimel (Dodgers), Will Ohman (Cubs), Dennys Reyes (Twins), Brian Shouse (Brewers), Steve Kline (Giants), John Parrish (Mariners), Mike Stanton (Reds)*

2009 options: Okajima - $1.75 million vesting option, Gordon - $4.5 million ($1 million buyout), Marte - $6 million ($250,000 buyout), Embree - $3 million, Torres - $3.75 million ($300,000 buyout), Stanton - $2.5 million ($500,000 buyout)

Top 2009-10 free agents: J.J. Putz (Mariners)*, Billy Wagner (Mets)*, Chad Cordero (Nationals), Jose Valverde (Diamondbacks), Mike Gonzalez (Braves), Derrick Turnbow (Brewers), Rafael Betancourt (Indians), Akinori Otsuka (Rangers), Fernando Rodney (Tigers), Danys Baez (Orioles), Mike MacDougal (White Sox)*, Justin Duchscherer (Athletics), Ryan Madson (Phillies), Kevin Gregg (Marlins), Jamie Walker (Orioles), Chad Bradford (Orioles), Duaner Sanchez (Mets), Ryan Franklin (Cardinals)*, John Grabow (Pirates), Kiko Calero (Athletics), Scott Schoeneweis (Mets), Jesus Colome (Nationals)

2010 options: Putz - $8.6 million ($1 million buyout), Wagner - $8 million ($1 million buyout), MacDougal - $3.75 million ($350,000 buyout), Franklin - $2.75 million ($250,000 buyout)


Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
Email :Matthew Pouliot



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