Wednesday, November 13, 2013

2014 MLB Free Agency Predictions

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As the MLB quietly enters it's free agency period, it is time to asses which teams will pursue the available free agents.  Today, I will predict where I see the top 50 MLB free agents will land.

1. Robinson Cano (2B/New York Yankees) - Yankees

Let's be honest, when have the Yankees ever had a star player enter free agency and did not retain him?  Cano is a power hitting second baseman, a rarity in baseball, and will get paid as such by New York.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury (OF/Boston Red Sox) - Texas Rangers

Ellsbury is a threat on the basepaths and a great contact hitter, but he also comes as an injury risk.  Texas lost Josh Hamilton last year and will likely lose Nelson Cruz this season, so outfield will be a need.

3. Shin-Soo Choo (OF/Cincinnati Reds) - Detroit Tigers

Choo, a Scott Boras client, will likely seek to earn more than the five-year, $90 million San Francisco recently paid Hunter Pence.  Choo is a leadoff hitter who has some pop in his bat, but struggles from the left side and is better as a defender in a corner outfield spot.  Detroit could plug him in left field.

4. Brian McCann (C/Atlanta Braves) - New York Yankees

Another rarity, McCann is a power hitting catcher who plays behind home plate well.  The Yankees struggled at catcher all season after allowing Russell Martin walk last year.

5. Masahiro Tanaka (RHP/Rakuten Golden Eagles [NPB]) - Chicago Cubs

According to scout, Tanaka will not be as good as fellow Japan native Yu Darvish, but could possibly command a bigger contract.  Chicago has some money coming off the books this season and general manager Theo Epstein will look to make a splash this offseason.

6. Ervin Santana (RHP/Kansas City Royals) - Philadelphia Phillies

Santana will look to cash in after a great season in Kansas City that resurrected his career.  Philadelphia will look for a starter behind Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee to replace Roy Halladay.

7. Matt Garza (RHP/Texas Rangers) - Los Angeles Angels

The Angels are coming off a disappointing season after bringing in several high-profile players over the past two years.  Their pitching staff struggled as a whole and the Angels will need to bring in help.

8. Hiroki Kuroda (RHP/New York Yankees) - Yankees

Kuroda, who will turn 39 in February, was the most reliable starter for the Yankees last season.  Despite this, his advanced age may force the team to offer him just another one year deal.

9. A.J. Burnett (RHP/Pittsburgh Pirates) - Pirates

Burnett played well for the Pirates since he was acquired from the Yankees, but I still don't trust him in the postseason or high-pressure situations.  Regardless, I still see Pittsburgh bringing him back.

10. Mike Napoli (1B/Boston Red Sox) - Red Sox

The Red Sox have made it apparent that their top priority for the offseason is re-signing Napoli.  Napoli had a solid season at first base after spending his previous seven years as a catcher.

11. Ubaldo Jimenez (RHP/Cleveland Indians) - Washington Nationals

Jimenez had a very poor start to 2013, but quickly rebounded into a very respectable starting pitcher.  Recently, Jimenez refused the Indians $14.1 million qualifying offer.

12. Carlos Beltran (OF/St. Louis Cardinals) - New York Yankees

This is a rumor that is nearly a decade old now, but it could finally happen.  Beltran has still performed well despite his age.

13. Curtis Granderson (OF/New York Yankees) - New York Mets

The Mets need outfield help and have expressed interest in Granderson.  Granderson was injured throughout most of 2013, but the injuries are broken bones and not lingering issues.

14. Stephen Drew (SS/Boston Red Sox) - St. Louis Cardinals

Shortstop was a lingering issue for the Cardinals all season.  Drew played great defense in Boston and could be had at a reasonable price.

15. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C/Boston Red Sox) - Red Sox

Saltalamacchia will have his fair share of suitors, but at the end of the day, I see him returning to Boston.  At age 28, Saltalamacchia could be prepared for a big payday.

16. Scott Kazmir (LHP/Cleveland Indians) - Kansas City Royals

If the Royals lose Ervin Santana, they will need to find a way to replace him.  Kazmir was a castaway before revitalizing his career in Cleveland.  Kazmir turns 30 in January, but doesn't have as much mileage as other available pitchers his age.

17. Nelson Cruz (OF/Texas Rangers) - Cincinnati Reds

The Reds may not want to pony up the money Choo wants, but they will still need to find an outfielder this offseason.  Cruz could possibly be had on a short "prove it" contract after his suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal.

18. Omar Infante (2B/Detroit Tigers) - Tigers

The second best second baseman on the market, but again, I don't see him straying too far from home.  It is surprising that the Tigers did not extend a qualifying offer.

19. Joe Nathan (RHP/Texas Rangers) - Detroit Tigers

This deal is all but done.  Detroit needs a new closer and Nathan is interested in going to a contender.  Nathan will be overpaid, however, after a phenomenal season in Texas due to his age and difficulty replicating last year's numbers.

20. Ricky Nolasco (RHP/Los Angeles Dodgers) - Cleveland Indians

Cleveland is in position to lose two starters this offseason in Jimenez and Kazmir.  Nolasco can put up similar numbers with a cheaper contract.

21. Jhonny Peralta (SS/Detroit Tigers) - New York Mets

Peralta is another player linked to the Biogenesis scandal so he may be forced to sign a short deal to prove himself.  The Mets would like to sign him on a cheap deal.

22. Bartolo Colon (RHP/Oakland Atheltics) - Athletics

There is mutual interest for Colon, 40, to return, but the two sides are in disagreement over contract length.  Colon wants a three-year deal while Oakland only wants to offer one.  In the end, I think the two sides will meet in the middle and agree to a two year plan.

23. Bronson Arroyo (RHP/Cincinnati Reds) - San Francisco Giants

The Mets and Phillies are both pursuing Arroyo, but I expect the Giants to emerge late and offer Arroyo a bigger contract.  San Francisco is looking to retool their rotation this offseason.

24. Marlon Byrd (OF/Pittsburgh Pirates) - Philadelphia Phillies

This deal is done, pending a physical.  Marlon Byrd is returning to the team he spent his first three-plus seasons with on a two year deal worth $16 million.

25. Grant Balfour (RHP/Oakland Athletics) - Texas Rangers

If the Rangers again try to plug Neftali Feliz as a starter instead of the ninth-inning guy, they will need to find a new person to close out games.  Balfour's expected salary is too big for Oakland to be able to bring him back.

26. Joaquin Benoit (RHP/Detroit Tigers) - Chicago Cubs

Chicago has some money to spend, so they will look to find a new closer after shutting down the Carlos Marmol experiment last year.  Benoit was better than he was given credit for last season in Detroit.

27. Scott Feldman (RHP/Baltimore Orioles) - Houston Astros

The Cubs made the most out of their one-year pact with Feldman and were able to flip him to Baltimore for a few players.  Feldman could re-sign with the Orioles, but I see him as a better fit in Houston after spending his first eight years with the Rangers.

28. Kendrys Morales (1B/Seattle Mariners) - Mariners

The Mariners have money to spend this offseason, but I think their biggest priority will be to retain Morales., who provides power both at first base or as a designated hitter.

29. Carlos Ruiz (C/Philadelpia Phillies) - Colorado Rockies

Ruiz is a very underrated catcher both defensively and as a late inning bat.  Pitchers trust Ruiz's calls.  The Rockies have lobbied hard for Ruiz and if the Phillies don't react quickly enough, he will sign elsewhere.

30. Josh Johnson (RHP/Toronto Blue Jays) - Milwaukee Brewers

A once dominating pitcher in the National League, injuries and pitching in the AL East has derailed Johnson.  I think American League teams may shy away from him, but now the Brewers who need to bolster their rotation.

31. Tim Hudson (RHP/Atlanta Braves) - Braves

Hudson's season was put to an end early after fracturing his ankle.  If the 38-year-old doesn't opt to retire, I can see the Braves bringing him back on a one-year deal.

32. Fernando Rodney (RHP/Tampa Bay Rays) - New York Yankees

With the Yankees lacking any in-house candidate to replace Mariano Rivera, they Yankees will likely look for any of the surplus of closers available this offseason.  Rodney rejuvenated his career this season in Tampa.

33. A.J. Pierzynski (C/Texas Rangers) - Minnesota Twins

The Twins have moved Joe Mauer to first base full time officially and have been in talks of reuniting with Pierzynski, the team he began his career with.

34. Dan Haren (RHP/Washington Nationals) - Kansas City Royals

Haren bounced back in the second half of the year, but I don't see the Nationals trusting Haren with another contract.  The Giants are an option as well, but in the end, I see him replacing Ervin Santana.

35. Jason Vargas (LHP/Los Angeles Angels) - Angels

Vargas pitched well after being traded to the Angles until a blood clot in his shoulder sidelined him for two months.  Either way, I can see the Angles bringing him back to solidify the back end of their rotation.

36. Suk-Min Yoon (RHP/Kia Tigers [KBO]) - Minnesota Twins

There are differing reports on exactly how well Yoon will be in the majors.  Some teams do not see him as a starting pitcher, while other could see him as a middle rotation option.  Ultimately, a mid-level team like the Twins will likely snatch him as a starter.

37. James Loney (1B/Tampa Bay Rays) - New York Mets

A non-power hitting first baseman will be a hard sell in New York, but Loney gets on base and blays superior defense to Ike Davis, who the Mets are reportedly shopping.  Lucas Duda may get an opportunity to man first base, but he has been inconsistent in his career at the position.

38. Phil Hughes (RHP/New York Yankees) - San Diego Padres

Hughes is the youngest available pitcher who isn't coming from another country, but as a fly ball pitcher, he may scare away a lot of teams.  Petco Park, a pitcher's stadium, will offer Hughes an opportunity to succeed.

39. Corey Hart (1B/Milwaukee Brewers) - Brewers

The Brewers have made it apparent that their top priority in the offseason is the re-sign Hart, who missed all of 2013 after having surgery on both of his knees.  Hart has drawn interest from other clubs, however, so the Brewers will likely need to pay a pretty penny for him.

40. Edward Mujica (RHP/St. Louis Cardinals) - New York Mets

Mujica's value went down in September when his workload caught up to him and the Cardinals practically avoided using him in October.  He could still demand closer money, but may be open to being a set up man for other clubs.  The Mets could bring him in as a set up man who could push Bobby Parnell.

41. Nate McLouth (OF/Baltimore Orioles) - Orioles

McLouth has been a quietly solid addition for the Orioles, especially when batting from the right side.  Playing in more than 130 games for the first time since 2008 saw him wear thin late, but it is a building point.

42. Juan Uribe (3B/Los Angeles Dodgers) - Miami Marlins

With incumbent third baseman Placido Polanco now a free agent and likely headed towards retirement, the Marlins have the opportunity to make a cheap upgrade.  Uribe quietly had the second best WAR among third basemen in the National League, trailing only David Wright.

43. Paul Maholm (LHP/Atlanta Braves) - Toronto Blue Jays

Maholm's poor second half may hurt his value, but he could be had for a cheaper price than other free agents available.  Additionally, he is a groundball pitcher and a lefty so he has value there.

44. Justin Morneau (1B/Pittsburgh Pirates) - Tampa Bay Rays

Much like Carlos Pena and James Loney before him, Morneau can become another first baseman who resurrects his career in Tampa Bay.  Morneau seems to have put his concussion issues behind him, but is no longer the League MVP that he was in 2006.

45. Joe Smith (RHP/Cleveland Indians) - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia has been linked to Smith, who could ultimately unseat Mike Adams as the bridge to Jonathan Papelbon.  The bullpen is the top of the Phillies shopping list for this offseason.

46. Jesse Crain (RHP/Tampa Bay Rays) - Oakland Athletics

A shoulder injury forced Crain to not pitch for the Rays, who acquired him at the deadline last July.  Smaller market clubs would be more likely to take a risk on Crain in a short deal.

47. Brian Wilson (RHP/Los Angeles Dodgers) - Seattle Mariners

In a small sample size with the Dodgers, Wilson showed he still has plenty left in the tank and could still be a closer for many clubs.  The Angles could also be in play for Wilson, if they decide to bring in some competition for Ernesto Frieri.

48. Jason Hammel (RHP/Baltimore Orioles) - Miami Marlins

An injury risk, Hammel will likely be forced to go with a one-year deal to show he can stay healthy.  A non-contending team such as the Marlins will be more likely to pick him up because of this.

49. Roy Halladay (RHP/Philadelphia Phillies) - Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh has a good team, but I don't trust their rotation in the postseason.  Halladay has become a shell of his former self, but he can still be a great clubhouse presence.  I can see him as a great mentor for Charlie Morton as well, who rebuilt his delivery similar to Halladay's.

50. Chris Young (OF/Oakland Athletics) - Chicago Cubs

Chicago will be looking to replace both Alfonso Soriano and possibly Nate Schierholtz this offseason.  Young could be had for cheap after posting a career low in batting average.

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