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
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

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Bobby A.

Slim pickings after the mid-20s