This isn't the deepest class of baseball free agents, but there's plenty of help out there for the few teams that can afford to bid. Here are the 10 best this offseason:
After a slow start in Oakland he was fantastic in St. Louis, hitting .353 with 13 homers in 63 games after being traded, boosting his free agent possibilities in a big way. If the Cardinals don't put their hooks in Holliday right away, somebody else (Mets, Yankees?) will.
The Red Sox also will aim to lock up a cornerstone. One of the front-runners for the AL MVP award in 2009 (36 homers, 119 RBI), Bay is a consistent force and is in his prime at age 31. He will command a big deal.
Lackey is the ace of a perennial playoff team, and showed his value with solid performances in the playoffs against the Red Sox and Yankees. He's reasonably durable, only 31 years old and has 102 career wins against just 71 losses in his eight seasons.
Harden is practically punchline as a fragile pitcher, but finally was able to take the ball every fifth day for Chicago, for the most part, last season. It was his first season since 2005 when he was able to get through more than 80 innings. He went 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA, but will get a decent deal because he has health to go with his great stuff. And he's still just 29.
Not much power, but every team can use a player who is as versatile as Figgins, who can play throughout the infield and outfield, predominantly playing third base last season. He steals bases, too. He strikes out a little too much, but is getting much better at taking pitches. He turns 32 in January, and his career average is .291.
He has a performance-enhancing drugs issue in his background and has had to confess to being older than his published age. But on the field, he's been more productive than most shortstops. He hit 14 homers, drove in 86 and hit .313 in 2009, and he turns 36 in May. He might not be able to play shortstop much longer, but he can still hit.
He seems to have aged a bit, and that great performance in Game 6 of the World Series will create sentiment in New York to keep him in pinstripes, but that could have been his swansong for the 2009 champs. He's probably just a DH at this point, but is still a great hitter when healthy, and hit 28 homers with 90 RBI in 2009. Matsui turned 35 in June.
He and Manny Ramirez were the poster boys of last year's free agent class that couldn't find a home until very late in the offseason. He took a one-year, bargain deal with the Angels, and now is back on the market. He should make more this time around after hitting .293 with 103 RBI in 2009. He'll be 36 in March, but still stole 30 bases last season. UPDATE: Signed two-year, $19 million contract to stay with Angels.
A solid performance in the playoffs will be fresh on the minds of general managers throughout baseball. Teams will be looking for a veteran presence in their lineup, a guy who is always a tough out and will give you 20 homers and hit in the .280s. He's not much more than that at age 36, and isn't a great outfielder anymore, but he will get a good, short-term deal with somebody, if not the Yankees.
He's probably the best lefty available this offseason, coming off a solid 2009 (11-7, 3.23 ERA) for the Dodgers. He is 33 and has had a checkered injury past, which will temper his value. But every team in the majors could use a guy like Wolf as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter.
It's expected their teams will make sure these players below don't hit the open market, but if they don't, these five move to the top of the class:
- Carl Crawford, OF, Rays
- Victor Martinez, C, Red Sox
- Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers (agreed to option with Dodgers)
- Brandon Webb, P, Diamondbacks (agreed to option with Diamondbacks)
- Cliff Lee, P, Phillies (agreed to option with Phillies)