Posts Tagged ‘Jacoby Ellsbury’

 

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There is no more fun position in the game than center field. It is baseball’s equivalent of an ultra-amazing wide receiver, an eye-popping wing in basketball or a puck-handling magician at center in hockey. The position is home to some of the most iconic players in MLB history, such as Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb and the Hall of Fame’s newest superstar, Ken Griffey Jr.

As a result, it is a position that carries quite an impressive standard for its current inhabitants. And luckily enough for today’s viewers, it is home to the most diverse collection of talents in the game today. There are two former MVPs at spot who can also be argued as being two of the top three players in the game overall. There is also a collection of power hitting, mileage covering, run scoring, Gold Glove collecting talents that are nucleus of each of their teams. And such is the depth at the position that this description is apt for those that even just missed the list.

As a result, ranking out the top center fielders in any year is a task that is based in a certain level of guaranteed error. So many crucial talents are bound to double back on each other in some way, shape or form. On any given day, a match-up between any pair of players on this list could see them change the game with the glove in the top of an inning, while then following it up in the same fashion with the bat in the bottom of the same frame.

But regardless of that, it is time to get into the task of separating and splitting hairs for the top 10 players in the heart of the outfield, today.

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10. Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees (#6 in ’15)

2015: .257/.318/.345 7 HR, 53 RBI, 15 doubles, 66 runs scored, 21 stolen bases, .663 OPS

Last 3 Years: .277/.335/.401 11 HR, 52 RBI, 24 doubles, 76 runs scored, 37 stolen bases, .736 OPS

It is completely fair to say that Ellsbury has not lived up to the standards of the $153 million deal that he inked before the 2014 season. However, it is also not completely accurate to say that he has been a total bust either. In reality, Ellsbury has settled into a more of a groove of the type of player he truly is: a solid on-base speed threat, whom can make a strong defensive effort while being a traditional top of the line up bat.

As has been his constant story in his career, injuries limited his playing time and effectiveness a year ago. A right knee sprain took curbed him mid-May, after he worked to a .324 average over the first two months of the year. After missing all of June and returning in July, he hit below .230 for the rest of the year. Despite this, his quick start still saw him top 20 stolen bases and work 24 extra base hits. With an offseason of healing time behind him, Ellsbury could continue at the pace that he opened the year at.

 

9. Carlos Gomez, Astros (#4 in ’15)

2015: .255/.314/.409 12 HR, 56 RBI, 29 doubles, 61 runs scored, 17 stolen bases, .724 OPS

Last 3 Years: .276/.338/.468 20 HR, 67 RBI, 30 doubles, 79 runs scored, 30 stolen bases, .806 OPS

This is a rather steep dip for Gomez, who before last season had back-to-back All-Star appearances for the Brewers and had established himself as one of the major all-around threats in the game. However, this is also not what could be called a legit decline for the 30-year-old now Astro. A rash of injuries zapped his power and speed, while limiting him to 115 games. While always a free swinger, his numbers were hampered by a lowered contact rate even by his standards, but regardless of that his skill set remains intact.

Gomez looks primed for a rebound if his health is faithful to him this year. He translates well into the Astro lineup and 81 games at Minute Maid Park look awfully good for him as well. His 12 home run dip was more than half of what he had been good for from 2013-14, and his average declined nearly 30 points. As a result, Gomez is primed to be one of the big bounce back candidates in the game this year.

 

8. Adam Eaton, White Sox (NR in ’15)

2015: .287/.361/.431 14 HR, 56 RBI, 28 doubles, 98 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, .792 OPS

Last 3 Years: .285/.353/.407 6 HR, 38 RBI, 21 doubles, 71 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, .760 OPS

Not enough people know how good Eaton is becoming, and that’s not quite fair. While he showed steady improvement over his first few seasons, Eaton made the big jump last year into affirming himself as one of the game’s better leadoff hitters. He had a major uptick in power last year, hitting 9 more home runs in 2015 alone than he had in his three previous years between Arizona and Chicago.

Otherwise, he showed the ability to either maintain and/or improve everywhere else in his offensive repertoire. He matched his .360+ on-base percentage for the second straight year, while also nearing double digits in triples (19 since 2014) and increasing his hits, doubles, stolen bases and runs scored (from 76 to 98).

 

7. Charlie Blackmon, Rockies (NR in ’15)

2015: .287/.347/.450 17 HR, 58 RBI, 31 doubles, 93 runs scored, 43 stolen bases, .797 OPS

Last 3 Years: .291/.340/.449 14 HR, 51 RBI, 25 doubles, 70 runs scored, 26 stolen bases, .780 OPS

Blackmon proved that his full-time breakout of 2015 was no fluke. While he carried some prototypical home/away splits that are evident for many Rockies bats (.331 home average vs. .238 road, 890 home OPS vs. .695 road), an impact is an impact and Blackmon made plenty of those a year ago.

The 29-year-old had career-highs in OPS (.797), hits (176), runs scored (93), doubles (31), triples (9) and stolen bases (43), the latter of which was good for the second most in the National League. Blackmon also contributed nine outfield assists, while working to a respectable 2.35 zone rating in the field.

 

6. Kevin Kiermaier, Rays (NR in ’15)

2015: .263/.298/.420 10 HR, 40 RBI, 25 doubles, 62 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, .718 OPS

Last 2 Years: .263/.305/.432 10 HR, 38 RBI, 20 doubles, 48 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, .737 OPS

In many ways, he is becoming the Andrelton Simmons of the outfield; a true game changer on nearly everything hit into grass beyond the infield. No Major League defender changed the outcome of more games with his defensive exploits last year than Kiermaier. His 5 defensive Wins Above Replacement outpaced every other MLB by more than 3 wins, while he also had more center field assists (15) and covered the largest range factor (3.26) as well. His 42 defensive runs saved were the most in the game, and he appropriately won both the Gold and Platinum Glove Awards.

While he is still developing as a hitter, the tools that make him such a dynamic outfielder also carried over to the plate as well. Kiermaier hit double digits in doubles (25), triples (12) and home runs (10), in addition to swiping 18 bases as well.

 

5. Adam Jones, Orioles (#3 in ’15)

2015: .269/.308/.474 27 HR, 82 RBI, 25 doubles, 74 runs scored, 3 stolen bases, .782 OPS

Last 3 Years: .279/.313/.479 30 HR, 95 RBI, 30 doubles, 87 runs scored, 8 stolen bases, .792 OPS

Jones’ has comfortably settled into become the top power hitting center fielder in the game, outside of the guy in Anaheim. 2015 marked the fifth year in a row that he has topped 25 home runs, and he had a chance at making it his third year north of 30. However, his remarkable streak of durability –he had played in at least 150 games for four straight years— was clipped due to a string of nagging injuries.

This led to five-year lows across the board for AJ 10, however even in a down year, Jones put up impressive overall numbers, making his fourth consecutive All-Star Game in the process. He is still an above-average defender and is just a year removed from winning three consecutive Gold Gloves. And while he is no longer a threat in the stolen base department (10 steals in 12 chances since 2014), he is a smart base runner that can still stretch the right hit for a tough extra base.

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4. Lorenzo Cain, Royals (#7 in ’15)

2015: .307/.361/.477 16 HR, 72 RBI, 34 doubles, 101 runs scored, 28 stolen bases, .838 OPS

Last 3 Years:  .289/.339/.419 8 HR, 57 RBI, 28 doubles, 70 runs scored, 23 stolen bases, .759 OPS

While he had long been most wide-ranging, dynamic center fielder in the American League, Cain made as unexpected of a jump into the overall impact class as any player in the game last season. He had a substantial uptick in power in 2015, which saw his OPS rise by 80 points and reach career highs in home runs, doubles, triples, hits and batting average as well. He fueled the Royals offensive attack by driving in 72 runs, while scoring an additional 101.

His 28 stolen bases remained steady from where his 2014 total was and was good enough for the second best total in the American League. Overall, he contributed an impressive 20.4 Power-Speed figure, which measures a combination of home runs x stolen bases, divided by stolen bases + home runs, and was good for third in the AL. Overall, he contributed a strong 7.2 overall WAR figure, good for fourth in the American League and solidified his third place finish in AL MVP voting.

 

3. A.J. Pollock, Diamondbacks (NR in ’15)

2015: .315/.367/.498 20 HR, 76 RBI, 39 doubles, 111 runs scored, 39 stolen bases, .865 OPS

Last 3 Years: .297/.349/.468 12 HR, 46 RBI, 29 doubles, 72 runs scored, 22 stolen bases, .817 OPS

Oh what a difference a full year makes. Staying both healthy and having a full time position were two elusive elements for Pollock throughout the first few years of his career. He gave a great sample sized look at his potential in 2014, but a broken right hand ended his season just as it was taking off after 75 games of posting a .302/.353/.498 split line.

It was a brief, yet clear indicator of what Pollock was capable of, but the question remained whether he could keep up that pace over a full year. And that is a question that no longer exists, as Pollock put on one of the best all-around assaults on the game a year ago. He became a five-tool star, finishing fifth in total bases with 303, which came on the heels of placing in the National League top 10 in doubles (4th), triples (8th), stolen bases (4th) and runs scored (2nd). Add in his (very legit) Gold Glove campaign as well, built on the back of having the top Total Zone runs saved number in the NL (20), and this is a proven quantity as one of the most well-rounded talents in the game.

 

2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (#2 in ’15)

2015: .292/.401/.488 23 HR, 96 RBI, 36 doubles, 91 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, .889 OPS

Last 3 Years: .308/.405/.512 23 HR, 88 RBI, 37 doubles, 92 runs scored, 19 stolen bases, .917 OPS

One of the game’s truly elite talents, McCutchen continued his role as one of the game’s most pivotal players in 2015, and as a result, kept the Pittsburgh Pirates among the elite teams in the game. Cutch continued to put on display his plethora of baseball talents, besting a .290 average, 20 home runs, 80 RBI, 35 doubles, 85 runs scored and a .400 on-base percentage for the third straight year. And while his totals dipped some from previous years due to an injury-plagued start, his 2015 was still worthy of a top 5 MVP finish, a fourth straight Silver Slugger and a fifth consecutive All-Star Game. This was due in part the fact he hit .330, .337 and .348 in May, June and August, respectively.

Thus is the life of a perennial MVP candidate, as the 2013 winner of the NL’s top player prize has not left the top 5 in voting since 2012. This is as much of a result of his all-around excellence as it is the fact that it has fueled the Pirates to a regular spot in the postseason picture. Since McCutchen made his All-Star debut in 2011, the Pirates’ annual win total has risen steadily, with last year’s 98-win effort being the most for the Bucs since 1991.

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1. Mike Trout, Angels (#1 in ’15)

2015: .299/.402/.590 41 HR, 90 RBI, 32 doubles, 104 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, .991 OPS

Last 3 Years: .303/.404/.569 35 HR, 99 RBI, 37 doubles, 109 runs scored, 20 stolen bases, .973 OPS

What else can be said about Trout at this point? It is a moot point to state that he’s the best player in the game, because it goes without saying. At the age of 24, the conversation about how good he can be is done, rather it is about just how legendary he can become. He continued to push his own boundaries again last season, setting career highs in home runs and OPS last season, while also remaining in the AL top 10 in batting average, runs scored and leading the circuit in slugging percentage as well.

While many make light of the fact that his stolen base total declined down to 11 last year, it is far from a loss of a skill set. Rather, it just shows the unavoidable evolution of his game from an ultra-catalyst at the top of the order and into a multi-skilled middle of the lineup bat. Because while his stolen base total dropped, so did his strikeout rate, while his walk rate climbed. Simply put, he is getting better overall because for as much raw talent as he possesses, he is gaining maturity & discipline to go along with it, which is truly a frightening thought. Thus far in his career, Trout is yet to finish any lower than second in an MVP race and he has essentially become the measuring mark for whether another player is worthy of the award instead of him. Because that is what the best player in the game should do annually, and he has yet to fail to live up to his role.

 

Just A Bit Outside: Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays; Denard Span, Giants; Dexter Fowler, Cubs; Randal Grichuk, Cardinals.

As it has for as long as the game has existed, center field is the home of some of the best-rounded talents in the game. It takes a blend of being able to do it all to be truly considered one of the elite players at the position, and currently there is an especially gifted group manning the position.

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In each of the past two seasons, a center fielder has won a league Most Valuable Player nod. And it would be fair to say that there are multiple favorites to bring yet another MVP to position this year. Due to this surplus of talent, ten spots are nowhere near enough to capture all of the significant players at the heart of the outfield. Even an All-Star from a year ago that had a downturn in the second half of the season failed to make his way onto the list. Thus is the nature of one of the game’s most competitive spots.

Yet with that being said, let us take a look at the players that did make the cut. Starting with a duo that most likely populates the top five of the best players in the game, regardless of position.

 

1. Mike Trout, Angels (#1 in 2014): He won his elusive MVP –or as elusive as one can be for a 22-year-old – a year ago, and did it by attacking the season in a completely different way than he had in his previous two years. Trout played the part of heart of the order producer instead of all-world table setter that he had in his first two seasons, and the results lead to yet another stunning display of complete dominance. He connected for a career-best 36 home runs and 111 RBI, while leading the AL in runs scored for the third consecutive year. When coupled with his 39 doubles, 9 triples, superb base running and solid outfield play, there is no wonder why he is now firmly entrenched as the game’s top talent.

2-year average: .305 average/.964 OPS/32 home runs/104 RBI/39 doubles/24 stolen bases/.994 Fld%

2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (#2 in ’14): He followed up his MVP 2013 year with another comprehensively brilliant year. He led the NL in a varied platter of measures including on-base % (.410), on-base + slugging % (.952), total runs created (130), extra base hits (69) and offensive Wins Above Replacement level (7.8). Toss in the fearless range he shows defensively and the leadership model he puts on, and there is perhaps on one more complete player than him—maybe.

2-year average: .316 average/.931 OPS/23 home runs/84 RBI/38 doubles/22 stolen bases/.981 Fld%

3. Adam Jones, Orioles (#4 in ’14): Mr. Consistency was at his usual high standard again last season, right in the 30 home run, 100 RBI, .280 average neighborhood again (a true split of .281/29/96, to be exact), while playing to a third straight Gold Glove in the field as well. Jones is the understated MVP of the O’s, who drove them towards their American League East Title on the strength of his dependable everyday output.

2-year average: .283 average/.795 OPS/31 home runs/102 RBI/32 doubles/10 stolen bases/.989 Fld%

4. Carlos Gomez, Brewers (#7 in ’14): The ever-excitable Gomez has continued to round into one of the game’s top all-around talents, with a rare blend of power and speed that is unleashed at a moment’s notice. He topped 20 home runs for the second consecutive year, while swiping 30 bases for the third straight campaign. He remains on the short list of best defensive outfielders alive as well, capable of reaching any part of his mid-field terrain with the same ease.

2-year average: .284 average/.838 OPS/24 home runs/73 RBI/30 doubles/37 stolen bases/.987 Fld%

5. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers (#4 in Right Field in ’14): Puig made the shift over from right out of necessity last season, and for the time being he profiles to stay there. But with his freakish athletic gifts, there is really nothing he can’t do, as his diverse offering across the board showed last year. He turned in 37 doubles, 9 triples, 16 home runs and 11 stolen bases, as well as 15 total outfield assists with his cannon of an arm (8 from center). While the process of him finding harmony in using all of his gifts is a work in progress, the talent is undeniably tantalizing.

2-year average: .305 average/.888 OPS/18 home runs/56 RBI/29 doubles/11 stolen bases/.949 Fld%

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6. Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees (#3 in ’14): His first year in pinstripes did not necessarily live up to the lofty standards that his contract may have brought on, but at the same time it was far from a lost year as well. He played his usual lockdown center field, leading the AL in range factor at the position. Offensively, his batting average dropped to a personal full-season low, but he still swiped 39 bases, hit 16 home runs, which contributed to his AL-best power x speed ratio (most home runs multiplied by stolen bases).

2-year average: .285 average/.764 OPS/12 home runs/62 RBI/29 doubles/46 stolen bases/.994 Fld%

7. Lorenzo Cain, Royals (Not Ranked): Cain’s defensive contributions played a huge part in the overall success of the Royals, and he was mostly robbed of a Gold Glove by Jones’ reputation this past year. But he made his talents clearer than ever before, topping both .300 and 20 stolen bases for the first time in his career, then revving it up to a sensational .333 postseason average as well. A star may be being born.

2-year average: .278 average/.708 OPS/4 home runs/50 RBI/25 doubles/21 stolen bases/.996 Fld%

8. Marcell Ozuna, Marlins (Not Ranked): The middle portion of the Marlins dynamic young outfield had a powerful first full-season in 2014. He popped 23 home runs and drove in 85 runs, while playing a very solid defensive campaign as well. Ozuna contributed eight outfield assists, and while he is the least decorated of his outfield mates, his potential is just as exciting.

2-year average: .268 average/.746 OPS/13 home runs/58 RBI/22 doubles/4 stolen bases/.988 Fld%

9. Denard Span, Nationals (Not Ranked): The always steady leadoff man and uber-consistent defender had perhaps his most notable season to date a year ago. He turned in a .302 average and 31 stolen bases, as well as a career-best 39 doubles and .416 slugging %. In addition, he tied as the NL leader in hits with 184, although that was the lowest full-season league leading total since 1988.

2-year average: .290 average/.739 OPS/4 home runs/42 RBI/34 doubles/26 stolen bases/.995 Fld%

10. Juan Lagares, Mets (Not Ranked): He is the most exciting outfielder to watch in all of the game and perhaps since Jim Edmonds and Andruw Jones roamed MLB outfields a decade ago. Lagares can flat go get it and has one of the most impressive CF arms the game has seen in years, so the 25-year-old was correctly honored with his first Gold Glove a year ago. While his offensive output is still developing (his on-base% increased by 40 points last year), he is talented enough in his specialty to have made a 5.5 WAR figure based mostly on his defense alone.

2-year average: .262 average/.669 OPS/4 home runs/40 RBI/22 doubles/10 stolen bases/.983 Fld%

 

Runners Up: Charlie Blackmon, Adam Eaton, Jon Jay, A.J. Pollack

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics

There is no position in the history of the game that has more of an illustrious history than center field. Decked out with the likes of Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Ken Griffey Jr, Joe Dimaggio, Tris Speaker and Mickey Mantle, reaching up rungs of the middle of the outfield means nothing less than immortality.

And while the center fielders of today’s game still have quite a ways to go before they are to be mentioned in that class, it still remains perhaps the most impressive gathering of a talent pool of any in the game. To be in the top 5 of the position is to be among the 1% or so of the best players in the game. In the listing below, there is an impressive selection of both crowned, and in many people’s minds, uncrowned MVPs.

At this position, to be in the handful of the best of the best, “V” is better suited to stand for “versatile” than anything else, because to be among the best requires at least four of the 5 Tools of the complete ballplayer to be put to use, and with at least one being at an elite level.

But that’s enough of the posturing—here are the best of the best in the heart of the outfield today.

10. Coco Crisp, Athletics: He has long been one of the most effective runners in the game, stealing 35 bases on average since arriving in Oakland, as well as being charged with guarding the super spacious center field in the o.Co Coliseum. But he also added a power swing last summer, hitting 22 balls over the fence as well.

9. Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks: The best outfielder in the game with the glove, he’ll move back from right field this year to line up between Mark Trumbo and AJ Pollack. He was good for 4 defensive wins above replacement a year ago, and took home his second Gold Glove in three years.

8. Austin Jackson, Tigers: The multi-skilled Jackson has been one of the most active run scorers in the game (395 since 2010), reaching base in front of Miguel Cabrera’s historic run. He has twice led the AL in triples within the last three years, and cut his long-plaguing strike out total down to 129 last year.

7. Carlos Gomez, Brewers: He took his game to a new level a year ago, finishing with the highest WAR figure in the NL. This came on a combination of 61 extra base hits and 40 stolen bases, in addition to his nearly unequaled range and ability in the field.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Los Angeles Angels

6. Matt Kemp, Dodgers: Injuries sunk the former Triple Crown threat to career-low in games played a year ago, but he is far too talented to consider a “has been” yet. From 2011-12 when he at 100%-to-mostly healthy, his average effort was a .315/.387/.567 slash line, with 31 home runs, 98 RBI and 24 stolen bases. He’s just got to get out there and do it again.

5. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies: Moving over from left field this season, where he was among the best defenders in all of the game. He won his second consecutive Gold Glove in left, while reaching 26 home runs, 70 RBI and 21 stolen bases, despite having his season cut short to only only 110 games.

4. Adam Jones, Orioles: He has become one of the most impressive all-around players in either league, winning his third Gold Glove a year ago, while hitting a career-best 33 home runs, 108 RBI and 186 hits.

3. Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees: The most dangerous leadoff hitter in the game, he’s both a terror on the bases (52 steals per year in his last four full campaigns) and carries a consistent stick to the plate as well (career .297 hitter). With the generous right field fence in his new home in the Bronx, a return of his power stroke could also be in play.

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2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: The reigning National League MVP does some of everything, and does it all good. He spread his contributions around the board more in 2013 than in 2012, but within the past two seasons he has led the NL in hits once, took home a Gold Glove, two Silver Sluggers and stolen 47 bases—all while resurrecting the D.O.A. Pirates franchise.

1. Mike Trout, Angels: The game’s best all-around talent is easily the class of his position, and that’s saying a lot considering the level McCutchen is at. In his two full pro seasons, he has changed the course of 18.8 games by his impact alone. There was no sophomore slump for Trout, who in year two came within one double, one triple and three RBI of being the only player in history to post a 40 double/10 Triple/20 home run/100 run/30 stolen base season—all while hitting .323 at the reverent old age of 21 years.

Just A Bit Outside: Dexter Fowler, Chris Denorfia, Denard Span

For more on the rankings and the now near sprint to spring in real-time on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For more content, head to The Sports Fan Journal and I-70 Baseball.

Ellsbury jumped ship from Boston for the Bronx, and collected the third biggest outfield deal ever to do so.

Ellsbury jumped ship from Boston for the Bronx, collecting the third biggest outfield deal ever to do so.

Yesterday may very well have been the busiest day in baseball transaction history. From the Tigers continuing their subtle overhaul in the morning, to the Yankees making yet another cannonball into the free agent pool later in the night, baseball’s landscape was turned over as quick as a third inning infield.

As a matter of fact, it happened so quick that the most recent Top 60 rankings of the free agent field, which posted late yesterday afternoon, was made to be outdated in the matter of about one hour. So in response to the rapid fire day that was Transaction Tuesday, here is a breakdown of each signing, with the benefits (and sometimes fallouts) of the deal struck within the last few days.

Updated Top 50 Free Agents list to come out shorty, to preview the surefire hurricane of moves to come at this weekend’s MLB Winter Meetings as well

2. Jacoby Ellsbury-Center Fielder-30 years old-2013 Team: Boston Red Sox

Signed: New York Yankees—7 years, $153 million (with options)

The Yankees made the biggest commitment of the winter so far, in locking up one of the best top of the order presences in the game. Ellsbury gives an instant boost to the speed potential (AL-best 52 steals in 2013) of the team, and when coupled with Brett Gardner, gives the team a formidable defensive outfield duo as well. His injury history will always be brought up, but on many fronts, this was a very strong move for the Yanks.

18. Joe Nathan-Relief Pitcher-39 years old-2013 Team: Texas Rangers

Signed: Texas Rangers—2 years, $20 million

The Tigers wasted no time in putting back out money they saved via the trades that moved Prince Fielder and Doug Fister out of town recently. Nathan represents a much needed absolute presence in what has been a questionable backend of the Detroit pen for years now. Coming off of another elite season in the ninth inning (43 saves, 1.39 ERA), he is primed to continue as one of the game’s best.

21. Ricky Nolasco-Starting Pitcher-31 years old-2013 Teams: Los Angeles Dodgers/Miami Marlins

Signed: Minnesota Twins—4 years, $48 million

Twins starting pitching was the worst in baseball last summer, sporting a 5.26 ERA spread over 11 different arms. Bringing Nolasco on is not a look for a single fix, but to offer a dependable option somewhere in the mix. They overpaid some for his services, but desperation will lead to things like that.

26. Jarrod Saltalamacchia-Catcher-29 years old-2013 Team: Boston Red Sox

Signed: Florida Marlins—3 years, $21 million

He played the waiting game with Boston, and in the end lost out. However, the Marlins are the winners in adding a winner to work behind the plate, as well as some much needed depth to the lineup. The switch-hitter raised his average over 50 points in 2013, but could lose some of his power numbers in his cavernous new home.

38. Scott Kazmir-Starting Pitcher-30 years old-2013 Team: Cleveland Indians

Signed: Oakland Athletics—2 years, $22 million

Oakland made a big commitment to Kazmir on the heels of his comeback season, as a part of their increasingly all-in approach for next summer. If he can stay healthy for a second straight year, it’s a good deal but if not, it could be a return to woes that previous deals with Brett Anderson and Rich Harden brought to the Bay.

49. Dioner Navarro-Catcher-30 years old-2013 Team: Chicago Cubs

Signed: Toronto Blue Jays—2 years, $8 million

Toronto made the decision to cut its losses with the boom-or-bust J.P. Arencibia, and Navarro represented a cost controlled option to do so with. In 89 games as the part-time backstop in Chicago, he hit .300 and struck out only 36 times in 266 plate appearances.

50. Justin Morneau-First Baseman-33 years old-2013 Teams: Minnesota Twins/Pittsburgh Pirates

Signed: Colorado Rockies—2 years, $13 million

While he’s not the player he was at his MVP peak anymore, neither is he the one he was just a few years ago where his future was in doubt completely due to injuries. He hit 17 home runs, including 9 in August, and could represent a fine, low-cost replacement for Todd Helton that could be in for a slight return back to his previous form.

52. A.J. Pierzynski-Catcher-37 years old-2013 Team: Texas Rangers

Signed: Boston Red Sox—1 year, $8.25 million

The Red Sox stayed on the same path that they took last winter; adding a veteran to their core that will work in a timeshare. Pierzynski will join David Ross has the catching tandem in Boston, as well as yet another injection of character into a team full of it.

60. Ryan Vogelsong-Starting Pitcher-36 years old-2013 Team: San Francisco Giants

Resigned: Giants—1 year, $3 million

Vogelsong had a down season in comparison to his 2011-12, but that works in the Giants favor, as they were able to resign him at a non-hazardous $3 million deal. This rounds out their rotation, and is a very escapable commitment if he once again cannot find his way.

67. Paul Konerko-First Baseman-38 years old-2013 Team: Chicago White Sox

Resigned: White Sox—1 year, TBA

The White Sox franchise cornerstone has decided to return for what will most likely be his final year with the team. With the presence of Adam Dunn and the signing of Jose Dariel Abreu, his role will be more of a part-time/ceremonial one, which will give him a chance to do a victory lap and be an added bench bat.

69. Kelly Johnson-Second Baseman-32 years old-2013 Team: Tampa Bay Rays

Signed: New York Yankees—1 year, $3 million

With the ability to play second base, as well as throughout the outfield, Johnson was acquired to be the Yankees utility man ideally, but to also be a safety net if Robinson Cano does not return.

75. Phil Hughes-Starting Pitcher-27 years old-2013 Team: New York Yankees

Signed: Minnesota Twins—3 years, $24 million

Continuing their quest to add quality innings, the Twins inked Hughes to slide into the top half of their rotation as well. However, the length of the deal is all wrong, as it is a serious commitment to a guy that posted a ERA’s that have surpassed 5.00 two of the last three years.

The Tigers filled one of their long-standing glaring needs with Joe Nathan earlier today.

The Tigers filled one of their long-standing glaring needs with Joe Nathan earlier today.

Here is the latest of the greatest around the rumor mill for the current ranks. Before the next Cut The Check signings recap drops, here is where it all stands right now, headed into this weekend’s MLB Winter Meetings, the busiest and most active stretch of transactions of the baseball year.

  • The Yankees and Robinson Cano appear to have reached a standoff, and it is one that is separated by about $80 million mile markers. This is the type of divide that leaves no other choice but for other teams to enter the fray, and by the looks of it, the Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals could enter the Winter Meetings with a true, legit shot at landing baseball’s premier second baseman.
  • The outfield scene is starting to shift some. Carlos Beltran has been the most widely rumored and courted property available, and he has already received a three-year offer that is touching nearly $50 million from one of his suitors, that is yet to be revealed. Meanwhile, the scene for Jacoby Ellsbury has heated up over the last week, with the Red Sox reemerging as candidates to retain him, and the Yankees weighing him as a serious option too. Shin-Soo Choo has remained a hot property, but there is a link between several of the same locations for him, Ellsbury and Nelson Cruz. The first of which signs likely sees the others follow suit with a similarly interest team that lost out on another.
  • The Yankees have begun to look to work on their rotation issues as well, and have extended an offer to Hiroki Kuroda.
  • The Twins could still add another arm after Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco, in their search to amend one of baseball’s worst units in 2013
  • There are a few teams that are waiting out the scene to see who emerges after the dust settles on the big tag players available over the next few weeks. The teams that are primed to get involved at the point are led by the Mets, Rockies and Phillies, all of which could emerge with some substantial acquisitions at a more reasonable cost for their respective situations.

But with that said, here is the current lay of the land on the rumor mill, as this is the last update before the Winter Meetings this weekend start to clear off the chalkboard in a major way. The next update will have new names inserted in from the non-tendered players.

  1. Robinson Cano-2B: Yankees, Mariners, Nationals
  2. Jacoby Ellsbury-CF: Red Sox, Yankees, Mariners, Cubs
  3. Shin-Soo Choo-RF: Yankees, Rangers, Mariners, Reds, Tigers
  4. Matt Garza-RHP: Yankees, Twins, Angels, Orioles, Nationals
  5. Carlos Beltran-RF/DH: Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Mariners, Indians, Reds
  6. Ubaldo Jimenez-RHP: Yankees, Nationals, Angels
  7. Nelson Cruz-RF/DH: Rangers, Mets, Mariners, A’s, Orioles
  8. Mike Napoli-1B: Red Sox, Rockies
  9. Ervin Santana-RHP: Angels, Yankees, Twins, Royals
  10. Masahiro Tanaka-RHP: Yankees, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Japan
  11. Stephen Drew-SS: Dodgers, Nationals, Mets, Yankees, Red Sox
  12. Curtis Granderson-LF: Mets, Yankees, Cubs, White Sox
  13. Hiroki Kuroda-RHP: Yankees, Angels, Japan
  14. Joe Nathan-RHP: Signed w/ Tigers (2 yrs/TBA)
  15. Grant Balfour-RHP: Yankees, Rockies, Tigers, Rays
  16. Kendrys Morales-1B: Mariners, White Sox, Indians, Mets
  17. Ricky Nolasco-RHP: Signed w/ Twins (4 years, $49 million)
  18. Fernando Rodney-RHP: Indians, Rays, Cubs
  19. Omar Infante-2B: Cubs, Orioles, Reds, Yankees
  20. Jarrod Saltalamacchia-C: Signed w/ Marlins (3 years, $22 million)
  21. Joaquin Benoit-RHP: Phillies, Tigers
  22. Brian Wilson-RHP: Dodgers
  23. Edward Mujica-RHP: Phillies, Angels, Tigers, Yankees
  24. A.J. Burnett-RHP: Pirates
  25. Nate McLouth-LF: Orioles, Yankees
  26. Bronson Arroyo-RHP: Angels, Twins, Giants, Phillies
  27. Bartolo Colon-RHP: Marlins, Angels
  28. Scott Kazmir-LHP: Signed w/ Athletics (2 yrs, $22 million)
  29. Jesse Crain-RHP: Red Sox, Rockies, Cubs
  30. Corey Hart-1B/RF: Brewers, Mets, Pirates
  31. James Loney-1B: Rays, Rockies, Pirates
  32. Chris Perez-RHP: Astros, Athletics, Tigers
  33. Raul Ibanez-DH: Yankees
  34. Boone Logan-LHP: Yankees
  35. Gavin Floyd-RHP: Twins, Orioles
  36. Jason Kubel-OF/DH:
  37. Michael Morse-OF:
  38. Dioner Navarro-C: Signed w/ Blue Jays (2 yrs, $8 million)
  39. Justin Morneau-1B: Rockies
  40. Scott Downs-LHP:
  41. A.J. Pierzynski-C: Signed w/ Red Sox (1 yr, $8.25 million)
  42. Matt Albers-RHP:
  43. Scott Feldman-RHP: Orioles
  44. J.P. Howell-LHP:
  45. Ryan Vogelsong-RHP: Resigned w/ Giants (1 yr, $3 million)
  46. Rafael Furcal-SS: Mets, Royals
  47. Scott Baker-RHP: Cubs,
  48. Jose Veras-RHP:
  49. Garrett Jones-OF (new, non-tendered):
  50. Jason Hammel-RHP: Giants
  51. Kevin Gregg-RHP:
  52. Juan Uribe-3B: Dodgers
  53. Chris Capuano-LHP: Twins
  54. Paul Konerko-1B: White Sox, Retirement
  55. Barry Zito-LHP:
  56. Kelly Johnson-2B: Yankees,
  57. Joba Chamberlain-RHP: Royals, Braves, Giants, Astros
  58. Phil Hughes-RHP: Signed w/ Twins (3 yrs, $24 million)
  59. Francisco Rodriguez-RHP:
  60. Mark Ellis-2B: Orioles

102613-Ellsbury

The free agent winter continues to revolve, and on the heels of the first ‘Cut The Check’ recap, it is time to see where everything stands on who’s available still. But the rankings have logic, and before we jump into where they stand, here’s why they are where they are—as well as how long they may stay there.

A few words on the big picture and select free agents:

  • The Yankees and Robinson Cano are at a stalemate. Thus far, there has only truly been interaction between both, but with the Winter Meetings looming, its getting closer and closer to leaving the window open for a mystery party. Ultimately, the Yanks are the only team with the type of resources to match Cano’s requests, but they have made it clear they will not go anywhere close to the much-discussed $300 million mark he requested, and are deep into the free agent scene everywhere else as well. There’s a time limit to everything.
  • Outside of Cano, the Yanks top target is Carlos Beltran currently. Upgrading their offense is a top priority, and the signing of Brian McCann was a big start towards those efforts. GM Brian Cashman has also made it clear that Curtis Granderson is also in the picture to return, but there is a chance that time schedules for each may not align if the Yankees don’t act early enough and it probably wouldn’t be resolved until Cano’s situation is.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury is the top outfielder available, but has had a slow to develop market. It is cloudy as to who the top suitors are currently, but there is still potentially no player available that could have more teams emerge that have interest in him. A later signing works best in his favor, as he will benefit from more teams entering the fray later on. While they are not in on him now, he would make logical sense for a soon to-be aggressive Cubs team and the Mariners, who are looking to make a big splash of some sort, could be a win for him as well. A return to Boston, doesn’t seem likely currently.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals struck first in the shortstop picture in signing Jhonny Peralta, and it leaves Stephen Drew without a clear favorite in the competitors market at shortstop. Another short-term deal could be in the picture there, in the same style as last season went for him.
  • The starting pitching scene will likely start up within the next week, but it has become slow to take off due to none of the top tier arms in this year’s class (which are in all reality just midgrade arms within the actual game) wanting to take the first deal, and then see the next guy set their negotiations from it.
  • The closer scene is defined by how many ninth inning spots stay open. When the Angels committed to Erneso Frieri and then signed Joe Smith to setup in front of him, it confirmed one potential spot had closed. The Yankees and Tigers are the two highest profile teams in need of solidifying their final frame.
  • And finally, there are the Rangers, who made a gain in acquiring Prince Fielder, but took a loss in missing on McCann. However, they could be in line for a number of significant gains, starting in the form of Shin-Soo Choo. If the Yankees concentrate on Beltran first, it leaves open a chance for the Rangers to pursue him for their right field vacancy, while still staying in position to resign Nelson Cruz as well.

And there it is; there are the rumors and reasoning, and here is where the current free agent scene stands.

For original rankings, refer to the first edition of the Top 75 Free Agents

  1. Robinson Cano-2B: Yankees, Nationals
  2. Jacoby Ellsbury-CF: Rangers, Yankees, Giants, Mariners
  3. Shin-Soo Choo-RF: Yankees, Rangers, Mariners, Reds, Tigers
  4. Matt Garza-RHP: Yankees, Twins, Angels, Orioles, Nationals
  5. Carlos Beltran-RF/DH: Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Mariners, Indians
  6. Ubaldo Jimenez-RHP: Yankees, Nationals, Angels
  7. Nelson Cruz-RF/DH: Rangers, Mets, Mariners, A’s
  8. Mike Napoli-1B: Red Sox, Mariners, Rockies
  9. Ervin Santana-RHP: Angels, Yankees, Twins, Royals
  10. Masahiro Tanaka-RHP: Yankees, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Japan
  11. Stephen Drew-SS: Dodgers, Nationals, Mets, Yankees
  12. Curtis Granderson-LF: White Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Mets
  13. Hiroki Kuroda-RHP: Yankees, Angels, Japan
  14. Joe Nathan-RHP: Tigers, Yankees
  15. Grant Balfour-RHP: Yankees, Rockies, Tigers, Rays
  16. Kendrys Morales-1B: Mariners, White Sox, Indians, Mets
  17. Ricky Nolasco-RHP: Twins, Yankees, Mets, Nationals
  18. Fernando Rodney-RHP: Indians, Rays, Cubs
  19. Omar Infante-2B: Cubs, Orioles, Reds, Yankees
  20. Jarrod Saltalamacchia-C: Red Sox, White Sox, Twins
  21. Joaquin Benoit-RHP: Phillies, Tigers
  22. Brian Wilson-RHP: Tigers, Rockies
  23. Edward Mujica-RHP: Phillies, Angels, Tigers, Yankees
  24. A.J. Burnett-RHP: Pirates
  25. Nate McLouth-LF: Orioles
  26. Bronson Arroyo-RHP: Angels, Twins, Giants, Phillies
  27. Bartolo Colon-RHP: Athletics, Marlins, Angels
  28. Scott Kazmir-LHP: Twins, Orioles, Mets
  29. Jesse Crain-RHP: Red Sox, Rockies, Cubs
  30. Corey Hart-1B/RF: Brewers, Mets, Pirates
  31. James Loney-1B: Rays, Rockies
  32. Chris Perez-RHP: Astros, Athletics, Tigers
  33. Raul Ibanez-DH: Yankees
  34. Boone Logan-LHP: Yankees
  35. Gavin Floyd-RHP: Twins, Orioles
  36. Jason Kubel-OF/DH:
  37. Michael Morse-OF:
  38. Dioner Navarro-C: Mets
  39. Justin Morneau-1B: Rockies
  40. Scott Downs-LHP:
  41. A.J. Pierzynski-C: Twins, White Sox
  42. Matt Albers-RHP:
  43. Scott Feldman-RHP: Orioles
  44. J.P. Howell-LHP:
  45. Ryan Vogelsong-RHP: Giants
  46. Rafael Furcal-SS: Mets, Royals
  47. Scott Baker-RHP: Cubs,
  48. Jose Veras-RHP:
  49. Garrett Jones-OF (new, non-tendered):
  50. Roy Halladay-RHP: Blue Jays, Phillies
  51. Kevin Gregg-RHP:
  52. Juan Uribe-3B: Dodgers
  53. Chris Capuano-LHP: Twins
  54. Paul Konerko-1B: White Sox, Retirement
  55. Barry Zito-LHP:
  56. Kelly Johnson-2B: Yankees,
  57. Joba Chamberlain-RHP: Royals, Braves, Giants, Astros
  58. Phil Hughes-RHP: Twins, Royals, Padres, Giants, Marlins
  59. Francisco Rodriguez-RHP:
  60. Mark Ellis-2B:

For more on the free agent globe as it rotates, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Beltran_

The Awards have been handed out, the trophies laid down and the weather’s turned. This would seem to mean that baseball season has come to close….but everybody should know that never really happens. All the fall means is that the next season is underway, and its already getting into full swing with the free agent, Hot Stove bonanza already getting under way.

Its where the competitors get their fillings and the have-not’s look for their facelifts. Everybody (except for maybe the Marlins, Astros, Twins and of course the Cubs) has a shot still, and that is what makes Stove season so great. And while it is still mostly in the negotiations part of the year, its a prime time to shift the next season here in the CHEAP SEATS into gear.

This is not the first edition of the Free Agent rankings and countdown here this season, as that was intro’d a few months ago. But a lot has changed since then: stock rose via the playoffs, some players decided to stay home, the international kids jumped into the pool and the market began to set the value for what was available. Alas, the purpose of this list is based on how I see the crop of available free agents, based on talent, ranking in comparison to positional value, demand and age, as well a pure ranking of skill on top. It is not an exact science, but it gets the job done. Along with this, there will a breakdown of positions along the way, as well as the ‘Cut The Check’ sessions which evaluate each signing through the winter. Players such as Hunter Pence, who part of the class in the original countdown, but signed before the season ended will not be included.

And with that, here’s it is, the Top 75 players available in the free world today, via current rank. Some have signed already, but will be reflected here for purposes of showcasing the full group. In the first edition of Cut The Check, their signings will be recapped and accessed, and reranks will occur.

The teams next to the players reflect teams that are rumored or have currently expressed interest in each player, via news outlets and sourcing (not sources, I cite those)…

  1. Robinson Cano-2B: Yankees, Nationals
  2. Jacoby Ellsbury-CF: Red Sox, Cubs, Giants, Mariners
  3. Shin-Soo Choo-RF: Yankees, Rangers, Reds, Red Sox, Tigers
  4. Brian McCann-C: Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees, Angels
  5. Matt Garza-RHP: Yankees, Blue Jays, Angels, Giants, Orioles
  6. Carlos Beltran-RF/DH: Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Mariners
  7. Ubaldo Jimenez-RHP: Yankees, Giants
  8. Nelson Cruz-RF/DH: Mariners, A’s,
  9. Mike Napoli-1B: Red Sox, Rangers, Rockies
  10. Ervin Santana-RHP: Angels, Yankees, Twins, Royals
  11. Jose Dariel Abreu-1B: Signed w/ White Sox (6 yrs/$68 million)
  12. Masahiro Tanaka-RHP: Yankees, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Japan
  13. Stephen Drew-SS: Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees
  14. Curtis Granderson-LF: White Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Mets
  15. Tim Lincecum-RHP: Signed w/ Giants (2 yrs/$35 million)
  16. Hiroki Kuroda-RHP: Yankees, Angels, Japan
  17. Dan Haren-RHP: Yankees, Twins, Pirates, Cubs,
  18. Joe Nathan-RHP: Tigers, Yankees, Angels
  19. Grant Balfour-RHP: Yankees, Rockies, Tigers, Rays
  20. Kendrys Morales-1B: Mariners, White Sox, Indians, Mets
  21. Ricky Nolasco-RHP: Twins, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers
  22. Jhonny Peralta-SS/3B: Mariners, Mets, Pirates, Yankees
  23. Marlon Byrd-OF: Signed w/ Phillies (2 yrs/$16 million)
  24. Fernando Rodney-RHP: Indians, Rays, Cubs
  25. Omar Infante-2B: Tigers
  26. Jarrod Saltalamacchia-C: Red Sox, White Sox, Twins
  27. Tim Hudson-RHP: Signed w/ Giants (2 yrs/$23 million)
  28. Josh Johnson-RHP: Royals, Rangers, Giants, Padres
  29. Joaquin Benoit-RHP: Phillies, Tigers
  30. Brian Wilson-RHP: Indians, Tigers, Rockies
  31. Edward Mujica-RHP: Phillies, Red Sox, Tigers, Yankees
  32. Alexander Guerrero-2B/SS: Signed w/ Dodgers (4 yrs/$28 million)
  33. Carlos Ruiz-C: Resigned w/ Phillies (3 yrs/$26 million)
  34. A.J. Burnett-RHP: Pirates
  35. Nate McLouth-LF: Orioles
  36. Bronson Arroyo-RHP: Twins, Giants, Phillies, Reds, Dodgers, Angels
  37. Bartolo Colon-RHP: Athletics, Marlins, Braves
  38. Scott Kazmir-LHP: Twins, Orioles, Mets
  39. Jesse Crain-RHP: Red Sox, Rockies, Cubs
  40. Corey Hart-1B/RF: Brewers, Mets, Pirates
  41. James Loney-1B: Rays, Rockies
  42. Chris Perez-RHP: Astros, Athletics, Tigers
  43. Raul Ibanez-DH:
  44. Boone Logan-LHP:
  45. Gavin Floyd-RHP:
  46. Jason Kubel-OF/DH:
  47. Michael Morse-OF:
  48. Joe Smith-RHP: Phillies
  49. Dioner Navarro-C: Yankees, Phillies, Mets
  50. Justin Morneau-1B: Rockies
  51. Scott Downs-LHP:
  52. A.J. Pierzynski-C: Twins, White Sox, Phillies
  53. Matt Albers-RHP:
  54. Scott Feldman-RHP: Orioles
  55. Javier Lopez-LHP: Giants, Yankees
  56. Jason Hammel-RHP: Giants,
  57. Mark Ellis-2B:
  58. Jason Vargas-LHP:
  59. J.P. Howell-LHP:
  60. Ryan Vogelsong-RHP: Giants
  61. Rafael Furcal-SS: Mets, Royals
  62. Scott Baker-RHP: Cubs
  63. Jose Veras-RHP:
  64. Kevin Gregg-RHP:
  65. Juan Uribe-3B: Dodgers
  66. LaTroy Hawkins-RHP: Signed w/ Colorado Rockies (1 yr/$2.5 million)
  67. Paul Konerko-1B: White Sox, Retirement
  68. Barry Zito-LHP:
  69. Kelly Johnson-2B: Yankees,
  70. Geovany Soto-C: Signed w/ Texas Rangers (1 yr/$3.05 million)
  71. Rajai Davis-OF:
  72. Brendan Ryan-SS: Resigned w/ Yankees (1 yr/$2 million
  73. Joba Chamberlain-RHP: Royals, Braves, Giants, Astros
  74. Chris Young-OF: Mets, Red Sox, Astros
  75. Phil Hughes-RHP: Twins, Royals, Padres, Giants

For more in real-time rumoring and winter randomness, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. Also, follow on Facebook and Google Plus as well.