Today on 500 Level Fan we continue with some traditional offseason posts with a look at free agency. I
have selected 15 of the top MLB free agents and will once again stick my neck out on the line and try to predict where they will sign. If the last three years are any indication, I will likely be very, very wrong.
In fact, I have slowly been getting worse at this exercise. It could be an indication that the free agent market is becoming increasingly difficult to predict. Or it could simply be that I am getting stupider with age. Who knows. What I do know is that in 2010 I correctly predicted four free agent signings (Jeter and Rivera to the Yankees, Carl Pavano to the Twins, Victor Martinez to the Tigers), in 2011 I nailed two (Jimmy Rollins to the Phillies, C.J. Wilson to the Angels), and last year I was only right on one (Angel Pagan to the Giants). So, that means that overall I am a dazzling 7 for 31, batting .226. Embarrassing.
But this year could be worse. Of the 15 names selected, there doesn’t appear to be any easy picks. Not a good sign.
So sit back relax, and get ready to be impressed…
The “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” Division
2013: Yankees, 2014: Yankees
There has been a lot of talk about Mr. Cano, especially since he joined forces with Jay-Z as his agent. Will he sign a $300-million contract? Will he bolt New York and join the Dodgers? The answer is no, at least on this site. The Yankees have a ton of money coming off the books (and might have even more if A-Rod’s contract is voided), and are motivated by a rare playoff absence last year. Cano stays.
2013: Red Sox, 2014: Red Sox
Napoli originally signed a 3-year deal with the Red Sox, only to have a bad hip reduce it to one. Now he enters this offseason coming off a 92 RBI, .842 OPS season, and armed with a World Series ring and a cult following in Boston. I can’t see him and his rabies infested beard going anywhere else.
2013: Tigers, 2014: Tigers
It’s hard to be noticed when you play on a team with Verlander, Scherzer, Cabrera, Fielder, Martinez, and Hunter, but Infante quietly put together a great season in 2013. He mixed solid defense with a .318 average and 10 HR – not bad at all for a second baseman not named Cano. Detroit was incredibly close to making a second consecutive World Series appearance last year, and will keep their core together to take another run. That core includes Infante.
The “I Guess I’ll Stay” Division
2013: Royals, 2014: Royals
Rumours abound that he is looking for $100-million, and he won’t find that in KC (nor do I think he finds that anywhere). But Santana should realize that he and James Shields made for a pretty formidable top of the rotation, and with the Royals young core on the cusp of contention, staying in Kansas City makes the most sense.
2013: Indians, 2014: Indians
There’s a good chance that Jimenez parlays his 2013 return to form (3.30 ERA, 194 K) into a big payday elsewhere. But he pitched well in Cleveland, and the Tribe have a solid team coming off a playoff birth. I think he sticks around.
2013: Cardinals, 2014: Cardinals
The Yankees want him and can pay him a ton, and Oscar Tavares is ready to take over in St. Louis. But the Cardinals are a good team who will likely be even better next year, and gave Carlos his first trip to the World Series. Both parties will eventually realize that they are better off together than apart.
The Logical Train of Thought Division
2013: Red Sox, 2014: Mariners
Logic: The Red Sox have a young replacement ready (Jackie Bradley), and aren’t likely to re-sign him. Seattle has been looking for a dynamic offensive player for years, and recently tried (and failed) to acquire Justin Upton and Josh Hamilton. Ellsbury is from nearby Oregon and this would be a homecoming of sorts. It makes too much sense.
2013: Japan, 2014: Yankees
Logic: The Yankees missed the playoffs mainly due to poor pitching. Sabathia is aging and banged up, Pettitte is retired, Kuroda may leave, and Phil Hughes stinks. They have tons of money and are looking for an impact starter. Done.
2013: Reds, 2014: Astros
Logic: Choo should probably stain in Cincinnati, but will likely price himself out of the Reds budget. Houston is terrible and a few years away from even thinking about contending, but they also have a ton of money to spend and are looking for a player to jump start their turnaround. Choo fits the bill.
2013: Braves, 2014: Rangers
Logic: A.J. Perzynski is now a free agent so the Rangers do not have a catcher. They have apparently had interest in McCann for years, who is now a free agent for the first time. 2 + 2 = 4.
2013: Yankees, 2014: Cubs
Logic: New York does have a ton of money, but are likely to throw most of it at Cano and Tanaka, not leaving much for a 32-year old player who missed 100 games last year. But Granderson can still hit (84 HR in ’11 and ’12 combined), he is from Chicago, and the Cubs are entering stage two of their rebuild.
The “I Have Absolutely No Idea” Division
2013: Cubs/Rangers, 2014: Blue Jays
Garza struggled with Texas in his return to the AL at the deadline last year, which has the potential to either scare away some AL teams and/or drop his price a bit. Regardless, the Jays clearly need pitching help and would probably be willing to overpay a bit citing his track record in the AL East. I’m not sure if the signing will be a good one or not, but it seems to make sense.
2013: Rangers, 2014: Mets
This is an absolute wild guess. I’m assuming that Cruz’s steroid suspension will drive him out of Texas and into somebody else’s outfield. The Mets, armed with a pretty solid young pitching staff to go along with David Wright, might not be as far away as people think. If they can get outfield help, specifically a power hitting outfielder, they may be even closer.
2013: Marlins/Dodgers, 2014: Orioles
Nolasco pitched well for LA, but tanked in the playoffs, a fact that may leave a bad taste in the mouths of the Dodgers brass. Baltimore seems to constantly have pitching issues, and by all accounts they have money to burn. I can see an overpay to bring Nolasco to Camden Yards and try to get the team back into the postseason.
2013: Rangers, 2014: Tigers
Even at 38, Nathan showed no signs of slowing down last year in Texas, finishing with 43 saves, a 1.39 ERA, and a 0.90 WHIP. Detroit’s bullpen was up and down all season long, and though Joaquin Benoit filled the closer’s role nicely, he is now a free agent, and Tigers fans will forever be haunted by the site of him allowing a game-tying grand slam to David Ortiz in the 8th inning of Game 2 of the ALCS. If any team is willing to overpay for the “proven and established” closer, it’s Detroit.