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Cullen: MLB free agent class comes with plenty of risk

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Scott Cullen
11/5/2012 2:27:24 PM
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This year's Major League Baseball Free Agent class isn't the most inspiring lot. Sure, there are players that will help any team, but virtually all of the top players on the market have flaws of some sort.

Even a superstar like Josh Hamilton, who is the best player available, comes with at least some small warning signs. Hamilton did play in 148 games this past season, putting up big numbers (43 HR, 128 RBI, .285 AVG, .930 OPS) in the process, but it was only the second time in six major league seasons that he played more than 135 games in a season. Considering Hamilton's past hard-core drug use, there are legitimate concerns about how that could affect his health long-term comparables. There certainly aren't many reasonable comparables for a generational talent that came back from the depths of heroin addiction to become one of the premier sluggers in the game.

Melky Cabrera was on his way to earning a hefty payday in free agency before he was busted for using performance-enhancing drugs. Cabrera was hitting a career-high .346 with a .906 OPS when he was suspended and he ended up watching on the sidelines as his San Francisco teammates went on to win the World Series. The risk that Cabrera may not be as productive when clean should limit his appeal on the open market, but he's an interesting option for a team looking to make a bargain investment.

Of course, what a player did in the 2012 season is only part of the consideration when it comes to free agency. Position, pedigree, age and cost are all factors that will contribute to a player's value.

Adam LaRoche, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro all enjoyed strong seasons, but it's not easy for a team to pay for a career season, knowing that it won't be easy to duplicate in upcoming seasons. Some will do it, but it's a recipe for regret most of the time.

Virtually every team could use more starting pitching, which will help explain when free agent pitchers land lucrative deals. Zack Greinke, who was traded to the L.A. Angels of Anaheim midseason, is the jewel of the class, but Hiroki Kuroda, Ryan Dempster, Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson are proven veteran starters that had some measure of success.

For those seeking value with upside, perhaps starters like Brandon McCarthy, Hisashi Iwakuma, Shaun Marcum and Carlos Villanueva might be able to take a turn in the rotation and not cost an exhorbitant sum.

In any case, over the next few months, there will be significant player movement, both in free agency and through trades and I'll have Numbers Game articles breaking down the biggest deals.

Here are the Top 100 rated players headed for free agency, based on the 2012 season.

(The ratings below are based on linear weight production for players during the 2012 season. Again, that's not the only consideration in determining a player's value, but at least a decent one-glance indication at their level of play for the most recent season.)

MLB Free Agent Rankings, 2012 Season

No. Player Team Pos. Rating
1. Josh Hamilton Texas CF 81.37
2. Adam LaRoche Washington 1B 74.98
3. Angel Pagan San Francisco CF 73.28
4. Marco Scutaro San Francisco 2B 72.50
5. Melky Cabrera San Francisco LF 69.27
6. Nick Swisher N.Y. Yankees RF 69.26
7. Kyle Lohse St. Louis SP 66.41
8. Shane Victorino Los Angeles CF 64.94
9. Michael Bourn Atlanta CF 64.76
10. David Ortiz Boston DH 64.21
11. Zack Greinke L.A. Angels of Anaheim SP 64.09
12. A.J. Pierzynski Chicago White Sox C 61.38
13. Torii Hunter L.A. Angels of Anaheim RF 61.31
14. Ichiro Suzuki N.Y. Yankees RF 59.22
15. Ryan Ludwick Cincinnati LF 58.90
16. B.J. Upton Tampa Bay CF 58.38
17. Carlos Lee Miami 1B 54.34
18. Cody Ross Boston RF 52.30
19. Kevin Youkilis Chicago White Sox 3B 50.99
20. Hiroki Kuroda N.Y. Yankees SP 50.77
21. Jhonny Peralta Detroit SS 50.16
22. Jeff Keppinger Tampa Bay INF 48.71
23. Juan Pierre Philadelphia LF 44.66
24. Raul Ibanez N.Y. Yankees DH 44.10
25. Russell Martin N.Y. Yankees C 44.06
26. Delmon Young Detroit DH/LF 43.58
27. Ryan Dempster Texas SP 43.31
28. Mark Reynolds Baltimore 3B 43.06
29. Scott Hairston N.Y. Mets OF 42.63
30. Carlos Pena Tampa Bay 1B 42.01
31. Mike Napoli Texas C 41.79
32. Anibal Sanchez Detroit SP 41.59
33. Kelly Johnson Toronto 2B 40.50
34. Jonny Gomes Oakland DH/OF 36.27
35. Edwin Jackson Washington SP 35.56
36. Casey Kotchman Cleveland 1B 34.00
37. Scott Rolen Cincinnati 3B 31.08
38. James Loney Boston 1B 30.52
39. Kevin Millwood Seattle SP 30.30
40. Maicer Izturis L.A. Angels of Anaheim INF 29.61
41. Luke Scott Tampa Bay DH/OF/1B 28.64
42. Placido Polanco Philadelphia 3B 27.80
43. Travis Hafner Cleveland DH 27.76
44. Fernando Rodney Tampa Bay RP 27.71
45. Kevin Correia Pittsburgh SP 26.74
46. Joe Blanton Los Angeles SP 25.71
47. Brandon McCarthy Oakland SP 25.54
48. Ryan Theriot San Francisco SS/2B 25.08
49. Joe Saunders Baltimore SP 25.04
50. Hisashi Iwakuma Seattle RP 24.56
51. Adam Kennedy Los Angeles INF 24.31
52. Casey McGehee N.Y. Yankees 3B/1B 24.24
53. Juan Rivera Los Angeles OF/1B 24.01
54. Eric Chavez N.Y. Yankees 3B/1B 22.85
55. Shaun Marcum Milwaukee SP 21.55
56. Reed Johnson Atlanta OF 21.39
57. David Ross Atlanta C 20.26
58. Stephen Drew Oakland SS 20.18
59. Andruw Jones N.Y. Yankees DH/LF 19.62
60. Dan Haren L.A. Angels of Anaheim SP 19.53
61. Jose Lobaton Tampa Bay C 17.86
62. Scott Feldman Texas SP 17.78
63. Ronny Cedeno N.Y. Mets SS 17.20
64. Carlos Villanueva Toronto SP 15.49
65. Francisco Liriano Chicago White Sox SP 15.49
66. Gerald Laird Detroit C 15.18
67. Yuniesky Betancourt Kansas City 2B 15.16
68. Rod Barajas Pittsburgh C 14.30
69. Johnny Damon Cleveland LF 14.15
70. Jose Lopez Cleveland INF 13.35
71. Carlos Zambrano Miami SP 12.57
72. Tim Byrdak N.Y. Mets RP 12.56
73. Erik Bedard Pittsburgh SP 12.56
74. Tyler Clippard Washington RP 12.01
75. Lyle Overbay Arizona 1B 11.90
76. Yorvit Torrealba Milwaukee C 11.72
77. Chris Young N.Y. Mets SP 10.91
78. Jonathan Broxton Cincinnati RP 10.77
79. Rafael Soriano N.Y. Yankees RP 10.69
80. Cesar Izturis Washington SS 10.62
81. Lance Berkman St. Louis 1B 10.48
82. Brandon League Los Angeles RP 9.79
83. Jason Grilli Pittsburgh RP 9.78
84. Jon Rauch N.Y. Mets RP 9.38
85. Sean Burnett Washington RP 9.00
86. Jose Valverde Detroit RP 8.84
87. Wilson Ramos Washington C 8.76
88. Bartolo Colon Oakland SP 8.72
89. Casey Janssen Toronto RP 8.70
90. Jeff Baker Atlanta INF 8.52
91. Rick Ankiel Washington CF 8.19
92. Humberto Quintero Kansas City C 8.02
93. Aubrey Huff San Francisco 1B 7.30
94. Jim Thome Baltimore 1B 7.07
95. Matt Diaz Atlanta OF 6.78
96. Mike Fontenot Philadelphia 2B/SS 6.44
97. Jason Giambi Colorado 1B 6.26
98. Xavier Nady San Francisco OF/1B 6.23
99. Jamey Wright Los Angeles RP 6.11
100. Matt Treanor Los Angeles C 6.07

Player rankings are based on statistical production and are intended to value the impact a player has on the game. Scott Cullen can be reached at scott.cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook

Josh Hamilton (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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