Baseball's offseason began the moment Sergio Romo's last pitch hit Buster Posey's mitt to give the San Francisco Giants the World Series title, and the Major League Baseball Players Association wasted no time releasing a list of the new free agents.
Topping the group are Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels right-hander Zack Greinke and Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz.
Hamilton, 31, presents an interesting dilemma for prospective employers. He's two years removed from being the American League Most Valuable Player, when he won the 2010 AL batting title with a .359 average and added 32 homers and 100 RBI. This year, Hamilton had 43 homers and 128 RBI, second in the league in both categories, while batting .285.
He is an admitted former drug addict and alcoholic, and he has experienced relapses in his recovery. The question becomes whether teams are more concerned about his life off the field than his production on it.
Greinke, 29, figures to land a mega-contract as the top starting pitcher on the market. He was dealt from Milwaukee to Los Angeles at midseason after reportedly turning down a five-year, $100 million offer from the Brewers.
Following the move, Greinke did little to hurt his value, going 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA in 13 starts for the Angels. He went 9-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 21 starts for Milwaukee this year.
In nine major league seasons, the first seven with the Kansas City Royals, Greinke has a 91-78 record and a 3.77 ERA. He won the AL Cy Young Award in 2009, when he finished 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA in 33 starts.
Ortiz carries a big bat and a big personality, and signs point to him remaining in Boston. Last week, ESPNBoston.com reported that the team was closing in on a contract agreement with the 36-year-old veteran.
Ortiz hit .318 with 23 home runs and 60 RBI in 90 games this season, but he played just one game after July 16 due to a right Achilles tendon injury.
Bobby Valentine, after being fired as the Red Sox's manager, accused Ortiz of quitting on the team. However, Ortiz has built up enough good will with Red Sox fans due to his role with the team's 2004 and 2007 World Series champs that the comments of an unpopular former manager are unlikely to influence Ortiz's local reputation.
Among the other notable hitters on the list of free agents are Atlanta Braves outfielder Michael Bourn, Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Cincinnati Reds third baseman Scott Rolen, Detroit Tigers designated hitter Delmon Young, Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, New York Yankees outfielders Nick Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki, Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder B.J. Upton and Rangers catcher Mike Napoli.
The top free agent pitchers include Baltimore Orioles left-hander Joe Saunders, Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez and closer Jose Valverde, Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis and Washington Nationals right-hander Edwin Jackson.
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera also will be a free agent. However, New York general manager Brian Cashman said last week that Rivera, the all-time saves leader, was considering retirement after missing most of the 2011 season due to a knee injury.