ESPN’s Keith Law posted his top 50 free agents, which you can read by clicking here (you need to be an insider).
The top three shouldn’t surprise you: Matt Holiday, Jason Bay and John Lackey.
Law ranks third baseman Adrian Beltre at No. 27, with the following comment: The last time Beltre entered his walk year, he had a career season, with 48 home runs and a .388 OBP in 2004, levels he had never seen before and wouldn’t see during the course of his five-year contract with Seattle. This time around, Beltre was hurt and mostly terrible at the plate, sort of a fitting capo to a contract that overvalued Beltre and that he couldn’t justify even with his plus defense. He remains superb in the field, worth at least a win over an average third baseman, with great range and an above-average arm. His swing has become long and over the last two years he’s been vulnerable to average fastballs in addition to his old habit of chasing breaking balls moving down or away from him. The surgery he had in June -- the second to remove bone spurs from his right shoulder -- was apparently a success, and that injury probably cost him a lot of bat speed. Getting healthy and getting out of Safeco Field, which kills right-handed power, should restore Beltre to a respectable level of offense. And that, coupled with his glove, will give his new team three or four more wins. Beltre will also be more reasonably compensated this time around.
Law slots pitcher Erik Bedard at No. 28, with the following:
Bedard had a great season for Seattle, striking out 162 batters in 164 innings with a 3.24 ERA; of course, it took him two calendar years to do it. His two seasons with the Mariners ended in surgery, and an operation to fix the torn labrum he suffered this year will probably keep him out past Opening Day 2010, although he should be able to pitch later in the year. Before the injury, Bedard was mostly between 89-93 mph with an above-average curveball, but he almost always went fastball with two strikes, so he likely lacked confidence in the curve or wasn’t comfortable throwing it. If Bedard’s recovery from surgery appears to be going well, he’ll probably have a number of offers from teams looking for a buy-low opportunity to get a former front-line starter who might want to make 20 starts in a bid to land a big free-agent contract for 2011.
Law’s projection for Bedard’s return matches the e-mail I received last night from a Mariners beat writer, who said it would be “a long shot” if the former Oriole is ready to pitch on Opening Day. It seems to be a foregone conclusion that he won’t be available for the start of spring training.
I’m still inclined to predict that Bedard signs with the Orioles and eventually heads the rotation. As Law writes, it’s a buy-low opportunity. And Bedard enjoyed his stay in Baltimore, though the losing wore him down like so many others.
John Lackey isn’t coming here. The Orioles will sniff around and back off. I know it, you know it. He’ll get the big bucks from a contender.
The Orioles’ best chance to upgrade the rotation comes from the collection of pitchers whose medical records will get as much attention as their won-loss records. And Bedard appears to be the frontrunner at the moment.
Meanwhile, I landed a ticket to the Springsteen concert tonight. Maybe I’ll see you there.
If he breaks out “Sherry Darling,” I’ll be singing louder than anyone, including The Boss, which will be extremely uncomfortable for the people sitting close to me. I’ll apologize in advance.