Top 50 Free Agents

The 2011 season is officially over, so today, we kick off our coverage of the Hot Stove League. Over the next few months, we’ll have coverage of every transaction, breakdowns of how each move will impact the various teams going forward, and analysis of the market as a whole.

We begin our off-season coverage with a look at the 50 best available free agents. Obviously, any ranking is going to be subjective in nature, and I’m sure that there will be disagreements in placement, but overall, it looks to be me like there are some pretty distinct tiers that the players fall into.

This is a pretty top heavy group, with a big five who should all land pretty large deals, and then a significant drop-off after you get past those guys. There’s a half dozen or so good players beyond them, and then you get into guys who can fill a hole but aren’t really difference makers. Then, it’s 10 guys you want on your team but shouldn’t pay an arm and a leg to acquire, followed by 20 useful players who shouldn’t be counted on as regulars but could be useful if used correctly. I’ve used these breaks to show where I think each respective player fits, but if you think he should be higher or lower within that tier, I probably won’t argue with you.

Also, I’ve included each player’s WAR total for the prior three seasons. One of the regular traps in free agency is paying for a player’s most recent performance and ignoring prior history, so using 2009-2011 data will help put some context into what they’ve done over a larger sample. It’s not perfect, of course, as most recent data is most important, but in most cases the three year window gives us a better view of a player’s true talent level than just looking at what he did in 2011.

Oh, and one last thing before we get to the list – using the Custom Player List feature on the leaderboards, we’ve created a Sortable Free Agent Leaderboard for everyone to use. Now you can compare free agents within specific positions, over various periods of time, or check out their data on a specific split. Want to know which free agent outfielders performed the best against LHPs from 2006-2011? Now you can.

The report will soon be added to the leaderboards, where you’ll always be able to just click on it to get an updated list of free agents. We’ll maintain that list all winter so you’ll always be able to see who is still available and how they compare to their peers still on the market. The link above will stay static, however, so you can refer back to that one to see the market as it is today.

Now, without further ado, our top 50 free agents of the winter.


Rank Player Position WAR
  Stars    
1 Albert Pujols 1B 21.5
2 Jose Reyes SS 9.9
3 CC Sabathia SP 18.8
4 Prince Fielder 1B 15.3
  Almost Stars    
5 C.J. Wilson SP 12.5
  Good Players    
6 Carlos Beltran OF 8.5
7 Jimmy Rollins SS 9.3
8 Hiroki Kuroda SP 8.6
9 Roy Oswalt SP 10.2
10 Edwin Jackson SP 11.2
11 David Ortiz DH 7
12 Aramis Ramirez 3B 6.2
  Solid Regulars    
13 Mark Buehrle SP 10.6
14 Coco Crisp OF 7
15 Michael Cuddyer OF 6.8
16 Jonathan Papelbon RP 6.2
17 Josh Willingham OF 7.7
18 Javier Vazquez SP 9.6
19 Carlos Pena 1B 6.8
20 Kelly Johnson 2B 8.8
  Good Role Players    
21 Ryan Madson RP 4.3
22 Grady Sizemore OF 1.9
23 David DeJesus OF 8.5
24 Erik Bedard SP 4.2
25 Heath Bell RP 4.8
26 Ramon Hernandez C 4.4
27 Rafael Furcal SS 8.2
28 Chris Capuano SP 2
29 Clint Barmes SS 5.5
30 Francisco Rodriguez RP 3
31 Paul Maholm SP 7.2
  Decent Part-Timers    
32 Jason Kubel OF 3.6
33 Freddy Garcia SP 5.1
34 Cody Ross OF 5.1
35 Aaron Hill 2B 6.1
36 Darren Oliver RP 4.3
37 Jamey Carroll SS 6.3
38 Casey Kotchman 1B 2.2
39 Johnny Damon DH 7.3
40 Jeff Francis SP 4.6
41 Jim Thome DH 5.5
42 Ramon Santiago 2B 3.9
43 Bartolo Colon SP 3.1
44 Nick Punto SS 4.9
45 Joe Nathan RP 1.9
46 Mark Ellis 2B 5.9
47 Jason Marquis SP 5.1
48 Frank Francisco RP 2.6
49 Bruce Chen SP 3
50 Andruw Jones OF 3.7


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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Bobby A.
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Slim pickings after the mid-20s

GP
Guest
GP
4 years 7 months ago

Is there some rhyme or reason to the guys who are shaded in white?

GP
Guest
GP
4 years 7 months ago

Wait, it appears the table just highlights a guy in white after you hover over him. Weird.

Ari Collins
Guest
Ari Collins
4 years 7 months ago

It’s not a bug, it’s a feature! Who doesn’t want to gentrify baseball? Amirite?

WiersNRAF
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Dregs, Bottom Of The Barrel. See above.

Not the best free agent market. AFter Bell, it drops off. A lot. Fast.

GiantHusker
Guest
GiantHusker
4 years 7 months ago

After the top 9 or 10, it drops off a cliff.

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
4 years 7 months ago

Interesting classification, but I think the team that *signs* the player will probably think many of them are one click above what you say (you could point to the winner’s curse).

For example, I could see a team calling Oswalt or Papelbon star players. I could also see agreeing with them if it was a favorite team on April 1st.

Felonius_Monk
Guest
Felonius_Monk
4 years 7 months ago

I think Oswalt may well end up with a higher AAV than CJ Wilson this year (albeit probably only on a 2 or 3-year deal).

Woodrum's UZR Article
Guest
Woodrum's UZR Article
4 years 7 months ago

no chance

Mitch
Guest
Mitch
4 years 7 months ago

how is Oswalt not in the lonely “almost star” category with CJW?

and I think Papelbon and Buehrle should also jump a category, no?

similarly, only Beltran’s knee keeps him being ranked higher but he had no problems this season… clearly his speed is affected but the bat was stellar.

There should still be about 15 players from the list to get contracts that will pay them 8 figures annually.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
4 years 7 months ago

Oswalt: Old, injured.

philosofool
Guest
philosofool
4 years 7 months ago

Papelbon: he’s still a reliever. Notice that he has the lowest 3 year WAR of any player in the bunch? Being a great reliever doesn’t make you a great player.

Buehrle: He consistently out performs his xFIP with a low HR/FB. His xFIP is really middle of the rotation stuff; he can be counted on for innings,but the strikeout rate is low, and I think most teams would be reluctant to project continued success for more than one or two more seasons.

Gabriel
Guest
Gabriel
4 years 7 months ago

I also thought Buehrle should go up a category. There is an enormous amount of value in a good pitcher who doesn’t get injured. His consistency over such a long period is I think what would cause teams to project continued success.

Needless to say, it doesn’t much matter what category he’s in. We know he’s pretty good, but not going to be a Cy Young contender. A solid number two type pitcher who could have a very good season in a ballpark with a nice deep outfield.

Red Line Trane
Guest
Red Line Trane
4 years 7 months ago

Four years ago, sabermetric commentators said the exact same thing about Buehrle. They saw that he outperformed his FIP, they saw the low K rate, and they all said that he was going to hit the wall soon, that the White Sox were CRAZY to give him a 4 year deal.

And during those four years, he was the exact same pitcher that he’s always been.

I understand why stat-heads are skeptical about him. But people have been predicting that he’s going to crash and burn for years now, and he hasn’t yet. At this point, it seems much more probable that the standard advanced metrics simply don’t tell the whole story with Buehrle.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
4 years 7 months ago

Red Line,

For that reason, GM’s should be wary of Buehrle. If no one seems to know how Buehrle gets it done, how do you know he will be able to continue his success in a new environment. What if it’s his pitching coach? Or something peculiar about the infield at Comiskey? How much is it due to his teammates’ defense? What kind of voodoo does he use to keep his ERA a half a run under his SIERA, and will it still work in Fenway Park?

One small thing…. Groundballers and pitchers who allow a lot of balls in play (of which Buehrle is both) naturally create more unearned runs, which obviously don’t show up in ERA. For instance, this past year, Buehrle allowed 0.48 unearned runs per nine innings, compared to the AL average of 0.36 unearned runs/9. So that’s a tiny part of the reason his ERA always looks so good.

Tanned Tom
Guest
Tanned Tom
4 years 7 months ago

I swear, do you guys ever WATCH games? And I mean at the park, not on TV while your checking your email and playing spades. Would you have urged the Braves to dump Warren Spahn because ” no one seems to know how he gets it done”? Or would you ascribe Andy Pettitte’s success to voodoo, or some pecularity of the Yankee infield? For a single season anything could make a difference. But for 11 years?! Must be some strong voodoo, I think it’s called talent and mental toughness.

Felonius_Monk
Guest
Felonius_Monk
4 years 7 months ago

I think one of the big reasons behind Buehrle’s ability to out-perform his FIP for such a long period of time is that he is one of the best fielding pitchers in the game, and he controls the game with men on base superbly (good pitching from the stretch, great pick-off move, works quickly). Those are only incremental benefits, but they are constant to his pitching, and presumably not a statistical artefact (i.e. they are “real”), and could underlie a large amount of his ability to beat his FIP.

baty
Guest
baty
4 years 7 months ago

In my opinion, closers should be nothing more than part-timers (even though contract size can make it appear otherwise)… Papelbon is a luxury item for most teams. There are too many great relief pitchers out there.

Resolution
Guest
Resolution
4 years 7 months ago

Why doesn’t Rich Harden occupy spots 1- 20?

Sammy
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Because its a as sure bet there is he’ll be on the DL.

Luke
Guest
Luke
4 years 7 months ago

I think he was joking

cs3
Member
cs3
4 years 7 months ago

Dave would really rather pay Colon or Chen than Harden?

bcntwinsfan
Guest
bcntwinsfan
4 years 7 months ago

Sizemore’s a roll player? How soon we forget. I hope none of you out there get sick or injured because you’ll be relegated to roll player or worm food in a couple of years. Read between the ironic lines.

hunterfan
Guest
hunterfan
4 years 7 months ago

Mrs. Sizemore? That you?

Streams of Whiskey
Guest
Streams of Whiskey
4 years 7 months ago

Roll player? You mean like Kaiser or Hoagie? Maybe he’s a dinner roll player. Does that make Kurt Suzuki and Shane Victorino Hawaiian Rolls?

cs3
Member
cs3
4 years 7 months ago

and Roger Bernadina is a Dutch Crunch Roll.
Ichirio is a Spicy Tuna Roll.
Arod is obviously a Fruit Roll Up.

Nik
Guest
Nik
4 years 7 months ago

It’s role, not roll.

GiantHusker
Guest
GiantHusker
4 years 7 months ago

We are all role players. Just ask Shakespeare if you don’t believe me.

JamesDaBear
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Kosuke Fukudome doesn’t even break the top 50? Andruw Jones does?

Jack Nugent
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

As far as he’s fallen, Jones can still hit for some power, even if his home parks have helped him out the past few years. Maybe if Fukudome could play some CF you could argue he belongs in the top 50, but he’s pretty much stuck in a corner, so I don’t think he’s the better spare outfielder.

Felonius_Monk
Guest
Felonius_Monk
4 years 7 months ago

DeJesus and Maholm should definitely be in the “solid regular” group IMO. They’ve both been solidly above-average performers for the last few years. DeJesus is every bit as good as Willingham or Crisp (and was the best player on the Royals for a couple of fallow years) and Maholm isn’t too far behind Buehrle in production, and would be a #3 starter on many .500 teams.

Gabriel
Guest
Gabriel
4 years 7 months ago

I felt the table lacked a risk/reward calculation. So Dejesus was calculated as a “solid regular,” when in reality he could be a very good player if he bounces back from an awful season in Oakland.

The same applies to Sizemore, who at his best was a star, but has been injured for years, and Thome, who has continued to be an excellent DH, though he’s ancient.

baty
Guest
baty
4 years 7 months ago

I agree… you have a range of potential contract lengths and an attempt to consider the implications would be cool. For instance, Sizemore’s role/value could be interpreted very differently between a 1 and 3 year deal. Sizemore might get over payed as a 1 year commitment considering his issues, but he could be a benefit for years 2 and/or 3.

Maybe a risk factor that determines a +/- value throughout a 5 year span could be interesting, complicated, but I don’t know.

AndyS
Guest
AndyS
4 years 7 months ago

Papelbon and Oliver look a bit low IMO.

Seriously, Oliver is the most underrated player since focusing on his slider a few years ago.

Felonius_Monk
Guest
Felonius_Monk
4 years 7 months ago

Hard to see a 41-year-old LOOGY as much more than a bit-part player. That said, I’d love to see my team (Cardinals) in for him if he’s on offer for <$3m. I think he ends up back at the Rangers for one more year, though.

I'd argue that Papelbon is sorta lucky to one tier ahead of Bell and Madson; although he had pretty much the best 2011 of any closer, Bell and Madson were both better in 2010 and 2009.

Norm
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Isn’t a 60 inning pitcher the definition of ‘Part-timer’?

AndyS
Guest
AndyS
4 years 7 months ago

I guess, but I feel like relievers are a special circumstance. I dunno, I guess I’m wrong in my classification of relievers because I probably wouldn’t pay them a tremendous amount.

Sammy
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

All I know is this. Bruce Chen is the answer.

GiantHusker
Guest
GiantHusker
4 years 7 months ago

I think that joke is over.

2nd Half Adjustments
Guest
2nd Half Adjustments
4 years 7 months ago

Not if you’re the White Sox, it’s not.

JT Grace
Guest
JT Grace
4 years 7 months ago

Thank Goodness. The Bruce Chen jokes were old 2 months ago.

Josh
Guest
Josh
4 years 7 months ago

Ortiz has been a star for quite some time….

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
4 years 7 months ago

Nope. He’s a DH. It’s nearly impossible for a DH to be a star, and Ortiz ain’t breaking that rule.

GiantHusker
Guest
GiantHusker
4 years 7 months ago

Ortiz jumped out at me as the most overrated player on the list.

Scott
Guest
Scott
4 years 7 months ago

I think for players like Ortiz and/or Oswalt they are rightly downgraded some based on age and injury likeliness. Likewise Wilson is probably higher than he should be due to his apparent durable arm. Though I think two seasons starting is a little early to be considering him a sure thing.

The questionable one to me is Reyes. Sure he’s a star. A super star even. But any team paying that guy even a medium length contract is taking a massive gamble.

Scott
Guest
Scott
4 years 7 months ago

Goodness, after reviewing the pitchers after Wilson I take that back. He’s ranked right where he should be.

Tanned Tom
Guest
Tanned Tom
4 years 7 months ago

With Reyes’ injury concerns, rumors about his attitude, how can any besides the desperate consider giving him more than 3 years. If there was a list of “players most likely to return to earth”, call it the John Lackey award, Reyes might be top of the list.

john sparrow
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

I feel like Derrek Lee should be on there somewhere

300ZXNA
Guest
300ZXNA
4 years 7 months ago

Will Yu Darvish be posted this winter? If so, where would he slot on this list? CJ Wilson territory just due to the uncertainty of how well his stuff would translate, or higher?

Garrett
Guest
Garrett
4 years 7 months ago

Yu Darvish does not slot on this list. It’s a list that depends based upon the players’ 3-year WAR, and Yu Darvish’s 3-year WAR is undefined. (It’s not zero. Zero would project him as a replacement level player, and that is a projection.) This site doesn’t project a Japanese player’s equivalent WAR any more than it posts their zodiac sign, nor the alignment of the moon with Jupiter.

drewcorb
Member
drewcorb
4 years 7 months ago

Edwin Jackson is the 10th best FA? This is going to be a terrible off-season.

The Real Neal
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

If there is a definition of a “Free Agent Trap Player”, the picture next to it is surely Jose Reyes’s baseball card. I cannot really see how he’s ranked ahead of Sabathia or Fielder and it’s pretty easy to argue Wilson’s a better bet as well.

Telo
Guest
Telo
4 years 7 months ago

Agree very strongly. He’s a great player, but he will undoubtedly get paid more than what he is really worth. And while that can be said about most FAs, especially the ones at the top of the list, I think it will be more drastic for Reyes.

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
4 years 7 months ago

So we’re thinking he goes to the Mets, or Cubs then with an outside chance of Nats?

Mike
Guest
Mike
4 years 7 months ago

The Giants, no doubt…

Merlin
Guest
Merlin
4 years 7 months ago

Cubs? Really? Two words. Starlin Castro. Brewers maybe, even possibly but never Cubs. Theo isn’t going to splash big for a guy that will be past it by the time they contend.
I agree he’s a Pavano waiting to happen; sign big injured early comes back to soon then permanently damaged.

NBarnes
Guest
NBarnes
4 years 7 months ago

Nah, the picture next to ‘Free Agent Trap Player’ in the dictionary is Alfonso Soriano, circa 2006.

adohaj
Guest
adohaj
4 years 7 months ago

CHEN!

GiantHusker
Guest
GiantHusker
4 years 7 months ago

An excellent job, Dave Cameron.
The free agent leaderboard will be a welcome addition.

Scout Finch
Guest
Scout Finch
4 years 7 months ago

Predictions for the Giants, Husker ?

2nd Half Adjustments
Guest
2nd Half Adjustments
4 years 7 months ago

I don’t see how Kuroda rates higher than Buehrle.

Mariners Fan
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Strikeout potential? I noticed that despite similar innings, and Kuroda having a better FIP in 2011, Buehrle accumulated more WAR. Is this because of the AL/NL difference?

2ndHalfAdjustments
Guest
2ndHalfAdjustments
4 years 7 months ago

In part. But Buerhle also has to work in a much smaller park and is a better fielder. He’s not flashy, but Mark Buerhle is certainly better than a ‘solid regular.’

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
4 years 7 months ago

Reasonable chance Thome hangs up the cleats this winter, right?

If he doesn’t I see him taking one of three roads: (a) signing with Philadelphia for peanuts ($0.75M + 0.75M bonus for total # of games) or (b) Signing with Texas ($3-4M), or (c) signing with Cleveland ($1M).

Jeffrey gross
Guest
Jeffrey gross
4 years 7 months ago

You are underestimating Javier Vazquez, who in my mind is a slight peg above kuroda

Kyle H
Member
Kyle H
4 years 7 months ago

i’d rather have malholm or capuano than kuroda, given his age. and javy more so than either of them

Tanned Tom
Guest
Tanned Tom
4 years 7 months ago

Vazquez belongs on the “avoid at any cost” list.

Michael
Guest
Michael
4 years 7 months ago

There’s something wrong with a list that rates Edwin Jackson higher than Mark Buehrle. Not sure what it is, but something’s very wrong.

Tanned Tom
Guest
Tanned Tom
4 years 7 months ago

Absolutely! Jackson is on his 7th team in 9 years, had a so-what year in a crummy division and has a career ERA of 4.46. Please! Buehrle’s career ERA is 3.83, all done in the DH league, he is super reliable, etc. There really is no comparison between these two players. Buehrle is a #2 or #3 starter on a pennant winning caliber team, Jackson will be the guy you slot in at #5 and hope he stays healthy until some AAA pitcher is ready.

beastwarking
Guest
beastwarking
4 years 7 months ago

Mark has a higher FIP and a much lower K/9 rating than Edwin. That’s probably the big factor in all of this

Mitch
Guest
Mitch
4 years 7 months ago

who cares? Buehrle’s OPS against was .728, 57th best in 2011. EdJax? .768, 75th highest SPer.

Drew
Guest
Drew
4 years 7 months ago

Mark Buehrle would be Tampa Bay’s #4 or 5

Merlin
Guest
Merlin
4 years 7 months ago

Edwin Jackson = AJ Burnett – consistency. Why anyone hoping to win anything signs him is beyond me. So, I hope the Yankees sign him and make he and AJ roommates. A matching pair of bookends.

Kyle H
Member
Kyle H
4 years 7 months ago

Aj has a consistency??

Mitch
Guest
Mitch
4 years 7 months ago

correct Michael. Obviously ratings are skewed by age but Buehrle will get a 3 yr deal and Jax prob 4, not a big difference. Bottom line is that Buehrle is still a very effective SP. I think the Yanks pursue him.

JKB
Guest
JKB
4 years 7 months ago

Can you retitle the “Decent Part-Timers” tier to “Potential Rays Starters”?

Thanks,

Playoffs!?!
Member
Playoffs!?!
4 years 7 months ago

Better pull CC down :).

Playoffs!?!
Member
Playoffs!?!
4 years 7 months ago

You already did, you guys are good.

Kampfer
Guest
Kampfer
4 years 7 months ago

An RP who can put up 6 freaking win over replacement is an All-Star to me. No?

DarthSader9
Member
DarthSader9
4 years 7 months ago

6.2 WAR over three seasons…i doubt pujols is a 21 win player

YazInLeft8
Member
4 years 7 months ago

There was a point there where Carlos Pena was on the Rays and so overrated.
Thankfully, the fact that the Cubs signed him immediately brought his badness into the light.

Tony
Guest
Tony
4 years 7 months ago

No Juan Pierre? I mean Andruw Jones is even on the list.

JT Grace
Guest
JT Grace
4 years 7 months ago

Alex gonzalez doesn’t even make the list as a decent part-timer. I really hope the Braves don’t bring that guy back next year.

Playoffs!?!
Member
Playoffs!?!
4 years 7 months ago

As a Yankee fan there were many times when Pena was at the plate and I was terrified.

mrg
Guest
mrg
4 years 7 months ago

Didn’t the Yankees already extend player number three?

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