Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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2013 Top 50 Free Agents

Friday, November 02, 2012

40. Lance Berkman (1B Cardinals - Age 37 - Prev. #30): One of the NL's best players in 2011, Berkman was limited to 81 at-bats by knee problems last season. He's contemplating retirement, though it sounds like he's leaning towards playing if he gets an offer he likes. The problem there is that he doesn't want to DH. He'd also prefer to stay in the National League. Milwaukee would seem to be a really nice fit, since the Brewers would still have Mat Gamel available as a fallback. As good as he was in 2011 (.301/.412/.547 with 31 homers in 488 at-bats), it'd be worth giving him $6 million-$7 million to see what he has left.


39. Carlos Villanueva (RHP Blue Jays - Age 29 - Prev. #48): A poor finish took some bloom off Villanueva's rose, but behind the 4.50 ERA in 16 starts for the Jays was a strong 86/25 K/BB ratio in 92 innings. And if he doesn't work out as a starting pitcher, he's still pretty valuable in middle relief. Villanueva's main problem has always been the home run ball; put him in a bigger ballpark and he'll probably match or better the numbers of some of the guys who will end up with much bigger contracts this winter.


38. Kyuji Fujikawa (RHP Japan - Age 32 - Prev. #49): Long one of Japan's top relievers, Fujikawa has been looking to make the jump across the Pacific for years. Now that he's finally eligible for free agency for the first time at age 32, there's nothing stopping him from signing with an MLB team. His low-90s fastball isn't quite what it was a few years back, but the results haven't changed; he had a 1.32 ERA last season and his high mark in the last eight years is 2.01. Odds are that he'll join a contender as a setup man. Figure on a two- or three-year deal worth $4 million-$5 million per season.


37. Brett Myers (RHP White Sox - Age 32 - Prev. #55): In his return to the bullpen, Myers went 19-for-21 saving games for Houston and then posted a 3.12 ERA in 34 2/3 innings as a setup man for the White Sox. It wasn't enough to get his $10 million option for 2013 picked up, but he could command a two-year, $12 million pact to remain in the pen as a setup man for a contender or a closer for a mid-market team.


36. Brandon McCarthy (RHP Athletics - Age 29 - Prev. #37): McCarthy would have been Oakland's No. 1 or No. 2 starter in the postseason, but a liner to the head on Sept. 5 changed that in the span of a heartbeat. One brain surgery later, he was able resume throwing in the postseason and he should be 100 percent for the spring. McCarthy has a long history of shoulder problems, so he would be a tough sell on a multiyear deal. However, he's a great fit in Oakland with the big ballpark and outstanding outfield defense. The two sides should be able to work out a one-year contract.


35. Ichiro Suzuki (OF Yankees - Age 39 - Prev. #57): Ichiro finally got it together in the final two months, hitting .332 in 196 at-bats in his best stretch of play since 2009. He enjoyed his time in the Bronx and he's hoping to stay put, but it's hard to imagine the Yankees will be content to have both he and Brett Gardner starting in the outfield next year. If Ichiro is willing to except a lesser role, it'd be a different story. However, to have any shot at getting to 3,000 hits (he's at 2,606 right now), he really needs to spend a couple of more years as some team's primary leadoff hitter.


34. Delmon Young (OF Tigers - Age 27 - Prev. #47): Having come in at .267/.296/.411 with 18 homers and 74 RBI in 574 at-bats, Young really had nothing to do with the Tigers reaching the postseason. Still, he sure capitalized on the opportunity it presented, hitting .312/.365/.542 with three homers and nine RBI in 13 games during October. A modest one-year deal seemed like a certainty beforehand, but now it's possible some team will guarantee him $7 million or so per year for two seasons. It just won't be the Tigers; they've already made it clear that they're moving on.


33. Jeremy Affeldt (LHP Giants - Age 33 - Prev. #53): Spending $9.25 million on a pair of lefty relievers worked out pretty darn well for the Giants last season. It might take even more to maintain the pairing next year with Affeldt eligible for free agency and Javier Lopez still on the books for another $4.25 million. Affeldt is the top lefty available after finishing with a 2.70 ERA in 63 1/3 innings in the regular season and then pitching 10 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason. He figures to command at least a two-year, $12 million deal, and it's quite possible he'll get offers for three years.


32. Russell Martin (C Yankees - Age 30 - Prev. #33): Martin has traded singles for homers since making his way to New York. That's not entirely a Yankee Stadium creation, either: 18 of his 39 long balls the last two seasons came in road games. The Bombers are fond of his defense, and given that alternatives behind the plate such as Yadier Molina and Miguel Montero signed extensions earlier this year, there's a good chance he'll be back with the team on a reasonable one- or two-year deal.


31. Jonathan Broxton (RHP Reds - Age 28 - Prev. #42): Broxton turned in a run of 15 straight scoreless appearances during the middle of his Reds stint, but his season ended badly, as he took losses in two of his final three regular-season outings and then again in Game 3 of the NLDS. The Reds are committed to Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall for big dollars, so it seems unlikely that they'll meet Broxton's asking price in free agency. He had to be pretty excited to see League get a three-year, $22.5 million contract from the Dodgers.


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Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of 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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