It’s November, which means that Baseball free agency is upon us. A lot of heavy hitters and brilliant closers among the best free agents in 2011, and here are the top 15.
After 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols just might be playing somewhere else next season. He just won his second World Series with the team but for the first time in his career failed to hit 100 RBIs or bat over .300. At 32, it’s likely it’s the beginning of a decline, not a one time thing.
At 28, after 7 seasons with the Brewers, Fielder wants bigger. Bigger contract, bigger market. The best hitter in the league in my opinion might be going to the Cubs or Yankees, but i’ll be shocked to see Fielder, who’s averaged 40 home runs these past five seasons, stay in Wisconsin.
Injuries are a concern, with Reyes missing at least 29-30 games each of the last three seasons. The man did win the batting title last year with a .337, a career best, and can still steal bases (39) or go for the triples, and is definitely worth a big contract for 6-7 years.
Beltran’s arrival at San Francisco didn’t propel the Giants’ offense like they dreamed it would, but he still was productive, hitting .323 with 7 home runs in 44 games. At 35, Beltran is still worth the risk, especially on teams with a struggling offense.
David Ortiz had his best season since 2007, hitting .309 with a .953 OPS. Still, all that seemed lost in the mayhem that was the Red Sox ending to the season. Ortiz even made some comments about leaving, and god forbid, to the Yankees. Probably some negotiations ploy, but stranger things have happened.
The Cubs’ third baseman continued to be a reliable hitter in 2011, with 26 home runs, .306 batting average and a .871 OPS. The Cubs have an option to keep him, but for 16 million, that isn’t a very lucrative option.
Rollins, at 33, is no longer the MVP type of player he was four years ago, but can still be a major contributor for many teams with problems at shortstop. He averaged .268 last season, with 30 stolen bases and had his best OPS (.736) since 2008.
Some look at his average (.246) and say he’s not hitting well. But try him out in a hitters park, and things should be much better. With an above .800 OPS for six straight seasons, Willingham hit 29 home runs last season for the A’s and 98 RBIs, a career best in both.
Cuddyer played right field, first base, second base, DH and even pitched last season for the Twins, tying a career best batting average of .284 with an .804 OPS, making his first All-Star game.
Pitchers – C.J. Wilson
Backed up his 2010 season with an even better 2011, although he kinda fizzled in the playoffs, like most starting pitchers. Still, getting a 16-7 reliever turned started with a 2.94 ERA as your no.2 or 3 guy should be a great deal.
Jonathan Papelbon did blow game 162 for the Red Sox, but it’ll be silly to blame their late season collapse on him, after another very good season from the closer. He should stay in Boston.
Another closer who should stay where he has been for the last five season, with the San Diego Padres. Bell saved over 40 games for a third straight season and made his third consecutive All-Star game.
Closer no. 3, this time from the Philadelphia Phillies. Became a full time closer for the first time this season, saving 32 of his 34 opportunities.
For the 11th straight season, Buehrle won in double digits (13-9), pitching over 200 innings. He also had his best ERA (3.59) since 2005.
Jackson has been moved around quite a lot, ending up with the Cardinals in 2011, posting a 5-2, 3.58 ERA in 12 starts. He did pretty badly in the postseason, including a loss in the World Series. Another move for Jackson in the cards?
Oswalt’s first full season with the Phillies wasn’t as successful as his shortened 2010 tenure, going 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA, the second highest of his career and the first time he had a sub .500 winning percentage. The four aces experiment failed, and Oswalt probably won’t be pitching again for Philly, not at the price of 16 million dollars.