The offseason's top 25 free agents
Market open to all clubs as exclusivity ended at midnight
The flag went up at midnight ET Tuesday for teams to get down to brass tacks -- or golden nuggets -- with other clubs' free agents. The beginning of this race won't quite resemble the roaring start of an Indy 500, with the market expected to gradually warm up, but there are some players available to make general managers' hearts race.Are any of them actually worth their weight in gold? Silly question. These are highly skilled baseball players, worth way more. At the 27-year peak value that gold hit the other day -- $793.80 an ounce -- a 180-pound infielder weighs in at $2,286,144, considerably below the average Major League salary. An alphabetical look at 25 who figure to be very popular in the coming weeks: A-Rod, 3B: Going with the nickname because Alex Rodriguez has to be on top of any list. We all know about the numbers and the talent. But this week, he'll become the first three-time MVP to never appear in a World Series. Suitors: Angels, Dodgers, Giants and Mets. Barry Bonds, LF-DH: The tarnished image has begun to overshadow the talent, but plenty of that still remains. Bonds fell a couple of dozen plate appearances shy of qualifying for the lead, but his .480 on-base percentage was, by far, the Majors' best. Suitors: Angels, A's and Padres. Milton Bradley, OF: For a guy with his name, he sure hasn't been playing many games lately. Bradley has missed 254 of them in the past three seasons due to various injuries. But the talent is there, and he hasn't yet turned 30, so teams continue to be intrigued. Suitors: Padres, Phillies, Twins and Mariners.
Luis Castillo, 2B: A three-time All-Star and a triple Gold Glove Award winner, Castillo has been an unappreciated gem for a dozen seasons. During his short stay in New York, the Mets certainly grew to appreciate the near-.300 career hitter who can still be a weapon on the bases, especially following a recent surgery to clean out his right knee. Suitors: Mets and Astros.
Francisco Cordero, RHP: After a 44-save season, Cordero, virtually, has the closers' market to himself. There's a new hole in Houston's bullpen, but would he really want to return to the state of Texas? Suitors: Astros and Brewers.David Eckstein, SS: Indications are that Eckstein will have to fight the not-enough-tools battle all over again, but the little guy is simply a winner. And he's coming off his career-best .309 season, though he lost 45 games to a painful back. Suitors: White Sox. Pedro Feliz, 3B: Not on the A-list of available third basemen (including trade possibilities), but Feliz has averaged 21 homers and 82 RBIs since 2004. The Yankees could be looking at him and envisioning Scott Brosius. Josh Fogg, RHP: Fogg stands out in a paltry group of starting pitchers, with a winning record (10-9). The righty is also boosted by the "Suppan Syndrome" -- Jeff Suppan having cashed in a year ago on his appearance in the World Series. Suitors: Phillies, Braves and Royals. Eric Gagne, RHP: OK, so Gagne won't set up for anyone. But in his weirdly split 2007, he did convert 16 out of 17 saves in Texas before moving to Boston. And how about his career 95-percent conversion rate? He'll only be 32 years old at the start of the 2008 season. Suitors: Mets, Giants, Cubs, Orioles and Rangers. Jose Guillen, OF: Guillen's on his way to his ninth team in 12 seasons. Yet his 23 homers and 99 RBIs in Seattle attested to another pattern, that the guy is a player. Suitors: Cardinals and Royals. LaTroy Hawkins, RHP: The neo-value of middle relievers gets Hawkins on this list, especially because his last impression was the best, as he held batters to a .133 average in five postseason appearances. Hawkins has become more effective in his later years as he's stopped being a worrier. Hawkins would prefer to stay in Colorado, but he won't lack alternatives.
Livan Hernandez, RHP: As the Kenny Lofton of the mound (he has pitched for three different teams in the postseason), Hernandez may be on his way to a sixth team. He's posted wins in double figures and topped 200 innings for eight consecutive seasons, and he is always good for 33-34 starts per year. Suitors: Mariners, Mets and Phillies.Torii Hunter, CF: He's a magical defensive player with a heavy bat and a sensational personality. Dealing ace Johan Santana would put the Twins in a position to keep Hunter. But the Texas native can either opt to be a homebody or go in search of his legend. Suitors: Rangers, Astros, Nationals, Braves, Twins, White Sox and Yankees. Geoff Jenkins, OF: A left-handed hitter with pop (an average of 21 homers during a 10-year career) can be viewed as a finishing piece in a lot of places. Jenkins didn't like giving up playing time in Milwaukee, so some teams might shy away. Suitors: Tigers, Royals and Red Sox. Andruw Jones, CF: A year late, a few million bucks short? Jones could've broken the free-agent bank in either of the past two years, but he hits the market after a 40-point drop in average, 15 fewer homers and 35 fewer RBIs. Suitors: Dodgers, Astros and Rangers. Scott Linebrink, RHP: See "Hawkins." Also, it's only been a couple of years since Linebrink was considered absolutely untouchable by the Padres. The rise in his homer yield is alarming (21 in the past two seasons after four in 2005), but he still could be the man for teams looking for someone unflappable to throw strikes in the seventh and eighth innings. Suitors: Astros, Phillies and Mets. Paul Lo Duca, C: He can chafe people, but he's a terrific situational hitter and a trusty caddy for pitchers. Although the Mets are keeping him on the radar, Lo Duca may not like the perception that he's their third option. Suitors: Rockies, Orioles, Pirates and Mets. Mike Lowell, 3B: As great of a 2007 as he had on the field, leading in RBIs a lineup that included a couple of guys named David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, Lowell is even more valuable in the clubhouse. Contract length may still lure him out of Boston. Suitors: Yankees, White Sox, Phillies and Red Sox. Kazuo Matsui, 2B: Matsui finally adjusted to big league pitching (.288), and he's always been an underrated runner (87 percent career stolen-base percentage). Suitors: Astros, White Sox and Phillies. Jorge Posada, C: After a career year (.338, 20 homers and 90 RBIs) at 36, Posada figured he was worth a four-year deal. The Yankees came up with that late on Monday -- along with $52 million. Aaron Rowand, CF: Rowand showed what kind of season he can have when not running into walls (.309 average, 89 RBIs -- 20 more than his previous high -- and first Gold Glove). Suitors: White Sox, Astros, Padres, Dodgers and Phillies. Mariano Rivera, RHP: The man with the devastating cutter was on the receiving end of an unkind cut himself when the Yankees declined to talk extension prior to the season. Most people can't conceive of Rivera actually suiting up with anyone else -- but he's still out there. Suitors: Yankees, Cubs, Mets and Giants. Carlos Silva, RHP: Teams don't look at Silva's 13-14 record -- they look at the fact that it came on the same team whose weaknesses also chained Santana to a 15-13 mark. The 28-year-old righty is a contact pitcher who went 47-45 after joining the Twins' rotation in 2004. Suitors: Mets and Twins. Yorvit Torrealba, C: A defensive specialist with an occasional bat, Torrealba got a lot of credit for nurturing the Colorado staff into that fantastic second-half showing. A surprising number of teams are targeting him ahead of some of the bigger catching names on the market. Suitors: Mets, Rockies and Marlins. Randy Wolf, LHP : The southpaw was having a fine season (9-5, 4.33 ERA) before shoulder inflammation shelved Wolf for the second half. With few left-handed starters in the pool, he'll be a good risk for some team. Suitors: Dodgers and D-backs.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.