xml:space="preserve">

Because the Orioles' free-agent first base and relief pitching vigil is seemingly never-ending, I thought it would be interesting to look again at the overall free-agent class – which was considered pretty shallow in October.

At the beginning of this offseason, ESPN ranked the top 50 free agents. Two days before Christmas, most of the better ones have been picked over and presented to a new city.

Advertisement

Consider this: Of ESPN's Top 20 ranked free agents, 13 have already signed. That seems pretty high to me, a pseudo-old-school writer who remembers years past when many of the big names stayed on the board until after Christmas. The new free agency calendar, which allowed negotiations to begin roughly 10 days earlier, looks like it has made a difference.

Of the 18 in ESPN's Top 50 that have not officially signed for 2011, five don't really count.

Second baseman Orlando Hudson has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the San Diego Padres pending physical; Andy Pettitte is either going to retire or re-sign with the New York Yankees; relief pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma has returned to the Rakuten Eagles because he could not agree to a deal with the Oakland A's, who won his posting bid; and relievers Frank Francisco and Jason Frasor have accepted arbitration and are returning to their original clubs.

That leaves just 13 of ESPN's top 50 available – and we are not at Christmas yet. Those 13, in order, are: third baseman Adrian Beltre (4), starter Carl Pavano (7), reliever Rafael Soriano (17), DH Manny Ramirez (19), starter Brad Penny (21), DH Jim Thome (24), OF/DH Johnny Damon (27), DH Vladimir Guerrero (28), first baseman Derrek Lee (32), relievers Grant Balfour (35), Jon Rauch (37) and Brian Fuentes (42) and 1B Nick Johnson (48).

By the way, you haven't missed anything. As of this writing, reliever Kevin Gregg and first baseman Adam LaRoche, two of the Orioles' top remaining targets, hadn't signed with anyone yet. But ESPN did not rank either in its Top 50.

MLBtraderumors.com, however, ranked LaRoche 34th and Gregg 48th when the offseason began. Six of that site's top 20 haven't signed: Beltre (3), Soriano (7), Pavano (13) and the trio of DHs, Thome (18), Guerrero (19), and Ramirez (20).

The Orioles have inked one player that was in ESPN's Top 50: Reliever Koji Uehara, who was listed as the 23rd best available free agent before re-signing a one-year deal with the Orioles. Uehara was 49th on the list prepared by mlbtraderumors.com.

By ESPN's count, there are nearly 150 free agents still out there.

Go to mobile.baltimoresun.com to get news on your mobile device. Text BASEBALL to 70701 for Orioles text alerts.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement