2004 Free Agent Wire

Two weeks and a day after the conclusion of the World Series is the day the market for baseball's free agents will open and the money starts flying. Every winter is filled with signings, trades, and the restructuring of 30 baseball teams.<BR><BR> Inside, the updated list of 2004 free agents, with rankings by position.

The Chicago Tribune reports the Cubs will not exercise their mutual $11.5 million option with OF Moises Alou for the 2005 season.

RHP Brian Boehringer became a free agent when the Pirates declined to pick up his $3 million club option for 2005. The Pirates instead paid a $300,000 buyout. Boehringer went 1-1 with a 4.62 ERA in 21 relief appearances this season then underwent season-ending shoulder surgery Aug. 12.

RHP Tim Drew, brother of J.D. Drew, has been outrighted by the Braves and will become a free agent.

RHP Travis Smith has been outrighted by the Braves and will become a free agent.

INF Carlos Guzman has been activated from the 15-day disabled list by Atlanta and then released. Guzman's contract was purchased from Class A Rome on August 15, and he was placed on the DL in a maneuver for the postseason roster. He never played in any games for the Braves.

C Ramon Castro, counted on for at least 15 home runs when the season started as Florida's replacement for catcher Pudge Rodriguez, decided to become a free agent after the Marlins outrighted him to Class AAA Albuquerque. Castro wore out his welcome after going on the disabled list June 2 with an inflamed big toe on his right foot. At the time, he'd batted .135 with three home runs and eight RBI in 32 games. Some teammates questioned his work ethic and wondered if the catcher was distracted by a rape trial scheduled for December. Castro was accused of sexual assault by a woman in Pittsburgh in August 2003.

RHP Billy Koch, acquired in a trade from the Chicago White Sox on June 17, was released by the Marlins after a disappointing season. The Marlins had high such hopes for Koch, a former star closer for the Oakland A's and Toronto Blue Jays, that they traded away infield prospect Wilson Valdez.

RHP Aaron Small was outrighted to Albuquerque by the Marlins, but he elected free agency.

RHP Elmer Dessens became a free agent when the Dodgers bought out his 2005 contract option. Dessens, 33, was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in August in exchange for a minor league outfielder. The Diamondbacks also sent the Dodgers the $300,000 to buy out the club option in that trade. Dessens was 1-0 with a 3.20 ERA in 12 appearances for the Dodgers.

SS Barry Larkin, who won't return to the Reds next year, has played 2,340 games, 12th on the all-time shortstop list, but hopes to hook on with another team next season and continue to move up the ladder. With 121 games, he can pass Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith and take over 10th place.

Major League Baseball's Top Free Agents

Top 25 Overall:
01. Carlos Beltran, CF
02. Adrian Beltre, 3B
03. Pedro Martinez, RHS
04. J.D. Drew, OF
05. Carl Pavano, RHS
06. Troy Glaus, 3B
07. Carlos Delgado, 1B
08. Brad Radke, RHS
09. Edgar Renteria, SS
10. Nomar Garciaparra, SS
11. Magglio Ordonez, OF
13. Troy Percival, RHR
14. Matt Clement, RHS
15. Roger Clemens, RHS
16. Armando Benitez, RHR
17. Odalis Perez, LHS
18. Jason Varitek, C
19. Russ Ortiz, RHS
20. Corey Koskie, 3B
21. Steve Finley, CF
22. Matt Morris, RHS
23.(tie) Eric Milton, LHS
23.(tie) Kris Benson, RHS
25. Rafael Palmeiro, 1B/DH

Next Five: (in no particular order)
RHS-David Wells and SS-Orlando Cabrera

Starting Pitchers:
01. RH-Pedro Martinez
02. RH-Carl Pavano
03. RH-Brad Radke
04. RH-Matt Clement
05. RH-Roger Clemens
06. LH-Odalis Perez
07. RH-Russ Ortiz
08. RH-Matt Morris
09. LH-Eric Milton
10. RH-Kris Benson
11. RH-Derek Lowe
12. RH-Kevin Millwood
13. LH-David Wells
14. RH-Orlando Hernandez
15. LH-Wilson Alvarez

SP's W/Option Years:
01. RH-Chris Carpenter-x
02. RH-Woody Williams-x
03. RH-Brett Tomko-x


Closers:
01. RH-Troy Percival
02. RH-Armando Benitez
03. RH-Jose Mesa

Closers W/Option Years:
01. RH-John Smoltz-x
02. RH-Trevor Hoffman-x
03. RH-Ugueth Urbina-x
04. RH-Eddie Guardado-m


Relief Pitchers (non-closers):
01. RH-Billy Koch
02. RH-Scott Williamson
03. RH-Bob Wickman
04. RH-Antonio Alfonseca
05. LH-Rheal Cormier
06. RH-Chad Fox
07. LH-Chris Hammond
08. RH-Terry Adams
09. RH-Jay Powell
10. LH-Steve Kline

Relief Pitchers (non-closers W/Option Years:
01. RH-Mike Timlin-x
02. RH-Rod Beck-x
03. LH-Alan Embree-x


Catchers:
01.-Jason Varitek
02.-Damian Miller
03.-Mike Matheny
04.-Einar Diaz
05.-Dan Wilson


First Basemen:
01.-Carlos Delgado
02.-Richie Sexson
03.-Rafael Palmeiro
04.-John Olerud

First Basemen W/Option Years:
01.-J.T. Snow-x
02.-Tino Martinez-x
03.-Travis Lee-x


Second Basemen:
01.-Todd Walker
02.-Roberto Alomar
03.-Tony Womack
04.-Miguel Cairo
05.-Mark Grudzielanek

Second Basemen W/Option Year:
01.-Jeff Kent-x


Third Basemen:
01.-Adrian Beltre
02.-Troy Glaus
03.-Corey Koskie
04.-Joe Randa

Third Basemen W/Option Years:
01.-Mike Lowell-z
02.-Bill Mueller-x
03.-Vinny Castilla-m


Shortstops:
01.-Edgar Renteria
02.-Nomar Garciaparra
03.-Orlando Cabrera
04.-Cristian Guzman
05.-Jose Valentin
06.-Omar Vizquel
07.-Alex Gonzalez
08.-Barry Larkin
09.-Deivi Cruz
10.-Royce Clayton


Outfielders:
01.-Carlos Beltran
02.-J.D. Drew
03.-Magglio Ordonez
04.-Steve Finley
05.-Jermaine Dye
06.-Danny Bautista
07.-Carl Everett

Outfielders W/Option Years:
01.-Jeromy Burnitz-m
02.-Moises Alou-m
03.-Richard Hidalgo-x
04.-Juan Gonzalez-m
05.-Craig Biggio-x


Notes:
X=Team Option
M=Mutual Option
Z=Player Option

The player option on Mike Lowell's contract depends solely on the status of the Florida Marlins securing the funding on a new stadium in Miami, Florida.

If the Marlins failt to obtain proper funding by November 1, Lowell has five days to decide whether to become a free agent or to stay with the Marlins for the balance of his four-year contract.

Should Lowell opt to stay and the Marlins choose to trade the 30-year-old the final two seasons of the contract would be voided and Lowell would become a free agent following 2005.

The overall top 25 was limited to free agents without option years yet to be determined. Those who could still become free agents that would have cracked the top 25 would have ranked as follows. Lowell (10th), John Smoltz (13th), Trevor Hoffman (16th), Jeff Kent(15th), Moises Alou (22nd)and Woody Williams (25th).

The criterion used to rank the players in each list included the player's overall talents, both offensively and defensively for position players, the player's age, the market for each player, the league-wide need for the player's talents as well as the position the player plays.

Jason A. Churchill of Inside The Park, part of the Scout.com MLB network, ranked the top free agents and contributed to this report.

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