Free agency is here, and with it, SI.com's annual ranking of the top 50 players available: The Reiter 50. Who are the biggest prizes available in this year's market?
At 12:01 a.m. ET on Tuesday, five days after the Giants and Royals concluded the World Series, a different sort of high stakes game will begin. That is when Major League Baseball's clubs can begin making offers to free agents.
This year's class is, in one way, unique. Many winters feature no available pitchers who can be considered legitimate No. 1 starters, leading teams to talk themselves into the likes of John Lackey (the Red Sox, in 2009), Carlos Silva (the Mariners, in '07) and Kevin Millwood (the Rangers, in '05). This offseason has three, two of them genuine aces. Clubs long ago began pondering whether to make a run at what is likely the best class of free-agent starting pitchers ever. Each of its members has the potential not only to remake a rotation instantly, but also to become a financial albatross for years to come if an elbow starts to ache or performance sours.
Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields, then, occupy the top three spots in the seventh annual Reiter 50, SI.com's ranking of the game's top 50 free agents. With spending limits on draft picks and international signings, free agency remains one of the few ways teams can splash around their ever-increasing cash reserves — and they will. While clubs in search of a rotation-topper are in luck, most of those in need of a catcher, a centerfielder or a middle infielder will have to look elsewhere, as the market is extremely shallow at those positions.
A few guidelines: As always, potential free agents with options that have already been picked up or are likely to be (including potential top 10 options Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist) are not included. The list does include two international players who are not technically free agents, but are available on the market. And each player's listed age represents his official MLB age for next season, which equates to how old he will be as of July 1. Now: the Reiter 50, as well as the identity of the club that might make for the best fit for each of its members.