With the start of the World Series, free agency is just days away – potentially. Officially, it starts immediately the following the final game. So who are the top free agents and where are they going? Here’s a look, numbers 25 through 1. (50-26 here)
#25.) Joe Blanton, SP
Masked by an unsightly ERA, 4.71, Blanton turned in his best season since 2007 this year, totaling 2.4 fWAR to go along with the best K-rate and second best BB-rate of his career. His Skill Independent ERA, or SIERA, was 3.45, among the top 20 in baseball. Look for a numbers savvy NL team – like the Cubs, Astros, or Brewers – or an AL team desperate for starting pitching to sign him.
Prediction: Minnesota Twins, 3 years and $34 million
Actual: Los Angeles Angels, 2 years and $15 million
#24.) Roy Oswalt, SP
He could very well decide to retire, after all the return on Texas’ $5 million investment was next to nothing. However, looking beyond the ugly ERA – 5.80 – in 59 innings this year, a lot of Oswalt’s peripherals were as good as ever: 9 K/9, 1.68 BB/9, and a 3.17 SIERA. He just happened to suffer through bad luck – a lot of bad luck (.378 BABIP, 67% strand rate, 1.68 HR/9). He’ll likely look to hook on with a contender, probably one in the NL, though it could happen midseason again.
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies, 1 year and $5 million
#23.) Torii Hunter, CF
Went from declining player to putting up near MVP-caliber numbers, Hunter is widely expected to resign with the Angels. His once dominant center field glove has played exceptionally well in right.
Prediction: Angels, 2 years and $26 million
Signed: Detroit Tigers, 2 years and $26 million
#22.) Stephen Drew, SS
With the trade of Cliff Pennington, Oakland all but confirmed that Drew will be picking up his half of the $10 million mutual option. And there’s no way Drew declines his half.
Prediction: Stays with Oakland
#21.) Gavin Floyd, SP
Durable middle of the rotation-type starter, Floyd will flash number two potential from time to time. The White Sox hold a $9.5 million club option, and the ballclub has yet to indicate if it intends to exercise it or not. They’d be foolish not to.
Prediction: Chicago White Sox will exercise $9.5 million club option
#20.) Melky Cabrera, CF
After being left completely off of the Giants’ playoff roster, Cabrera likely have to settle on a one year deal, which could potentially be handcuffed with a club option for 2014. It’s tough to see where the market will fall for one player that once seemed destined for fourth outfielderdom that ends up hitting .346/.390/.516 while being busted for PEDs.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Rays, 1 year and $4 million (plus option)
Actual: Toronto Blue Jays, 2 years and $16 million
#19.) Hiroki Kuroda, SP
The Yankees’ second best starter behind C.C. Sabathia, Kuroda flourished in his first season with New York. And there’s no way the team lets the soon-to-be 38-year-old go. He’ll likely look for a two-year deal, but may have to settle for one.
Prediction: New York Yankees, 2 years and $26 million
Actual: New York Yankees, 1 year and $15 million
#18.) Shane Victorino, LF
Entering that point of his career where this little speed bump in production could be sign of things to come. Victorino posted his worst full season showing at the plate of his entire career, hitting .255/.321/.383. And his total offensive production was 6% below the league average. He’ll show some signs of improvement next year thanks to a rebound in BABIP.
Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers, 3 years and $33 million
Actual: Boston Red Sox, 3 years and $39 million
#17.) Adam LaRoche, 1B
After setting a career high in homeruns, 33, and fWAR, 3.8, LaRoche will likely decline his half of the $10 million mutual option with the Nationals, hoping to cash in for a large deal. His production looks largely sustainable for the next two to three years. Plus, his bat would help balance a rather right-handed heavy lineup.
Prediction: Washington Nationals, 4 years and $46 million
#16.) Ryan Dempster, SP
Old and typically reliable, Dempster failed to top 200 innings for the first time since his reconversion back into the rotation (2008). He’s a solid starter who best fits as number three-type. He struggled a bit in his Rangers debut – 5.09 ERA in 12 starts – but they have a better than most shot at contending for the next three to five years.
Prediction: Texas Rangers, 3 years and $33 million
#15.) Ervin Santana, SP
Arguably the second most talented pitcher on the list, Santana, for whatever reason, has never been able to repeat his breakout 2008 season. Sure, he’s flashed it at times, but by and large, he’s been ho-hum league-average. He could definitely benefit from a switch to the National League, and with the Brewers’ rotation likely to wave Shaun Marcum, the right-hander would seem to be a great fit.
Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 4 years and $48 million
Actual: Kansas City Royals, traded
#14.) David Ortiz, DH
As I’ve already detailed, Ortiz would be a solid bet for good production over the next two years. And the Red Sox are widely expected to resign him.
Prediction: Boston Red Sox, 2 years for $27.5 million
Actual: Boston Red Sox, 2 years for $26 million
#13.) Brandon McCarthy, SP
McCarthy’s a bit of a wild card, having thrown just 280 innings over the past two years, albeit with above-average production. If he had a longer track record he’d rank higher. Solid number three starter – maybe a low end number two – capable of posting between three and four wins above replacement – if he can make 32 starts.
Prediction: Boston Red Sox, 4 years for $45 million
#12.) Dan Haren, SP
The Angels are going to decline the $15.5 million club option for next year, making the 32-year-old a free agent. He had a bit of a disappointing year in 2012, posting his highest ERA (4.33) since 2004. His homerun rate – 1.43 HR/9 – will regress next season, and he should be capable of posting two or three more years of 3+ fWAR seasons.
Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 4 years for $48 million
Actual: Washington Nationals, 1 year and $13 million
#11.) Nick Swisher, OF
He was reportedly looking for a Jayson Werth-type deal, but will be hard-pressed to find anything remotely close to that. He’s solid defensively with 25+ homerun power and one of the best walk rates in the game. He could land in Arizona if they move Justin Upton. Baltimore might throw their name in the hat as well. Maybe Pittsburgh too.
Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 5 years for $75 million
#10.) Edwin Jackson, SP
Solid, lower-tier number two starter with room for growth, Jackson turned in another solid year in 2012, his first for the Nationals. Teams like the Royals and Brewers could also pursue the right-hander. But he’s expressed an interest in returning and owner Ted Lerner hasn’t shied away from spending.
Prediction: Washington Nationals, 5 years for $75 million
Actual: Chicago Cubs, 4 years for $52 million
#9.) Angel Pagan, CF
Extremely underrated – perhaps even here – Pagan’s 4.8 fWAR was the sixth highest total for center fielders in baseball, ahead of several larger names including Josh Hamilton, Adam Jones, and B.J. Upton. The problem, though, is the lack of a track record: at 31, he’s played only three full seasons, one which was even better (5.4 fWAR) and the other slightly above replacement level. He stretched a bit in center field and you’d like to see him get on base a little more often (.333 career OBP), but he’s a well-rounded player. San Francisco probably won’t let him get away, especially with GM Brian Sabean’s affinity for veterans.
Prediction: San Francisco Giants, 4 years and $52 million
Actual: San Francisco Giants, 4 years and $40 million
#8.) B.J. Upton, OF
His overall production has been masked by low batting averages (.242 since 2009), but he shows above-average pop and speed to go along with a solid glove in centerfield. His plate discipline this season (7.1 BB%) declined a bit and could see a move back up towards his career norms (10.6%) next season. And, assuming Bourn leaves Atlanta, Upton would be the ideal fit, though the team would have to look elsewhere for its leadoff hitter. Again, the Indians may be linked to Upton too.
Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 5 years for $60 million
Actual: Atlanta Braves, 5 years for $75.25 million
#7.) Jake Peavy, SP
Peavy was finally able to overcome the shoulder injuries that have side tracked his career for the past three-plus years. And despite already logging 11 MLB seasons, the right-hander’s just 31-years-old. He’s no longer as dominant as he once was, but he’s still an upper tier starting pitcher. Any team signing Peavy, obviously, will be assuming that those shoulder issues are completely in the past. Chicago is expected to decline his $22 million option.
Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 4 years for $60 million
Actual: Chicago White Sox, 2 years and $29 million (plus vesting option)
#6.) Mike Napoli, C/1B/DH
The best right-handed bat available, Napoli is coming off of a disappointing season in which he just .227/.343/.469. His total offensive production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was still 14% above the league average. He’s shown an elite eye at the plate with tremendous power. And with his ability to play first, the Red Sox seem like an obvious landing spot. The Indians could also be in the hunt as well.
Prediction: Boston Red Sox, 4 years for $60 million
Actual: Boston Red Sox, 3 years and $39 million
#5.) James Shields, SP
If the Rays decline Shields’ $9 million club option, the soon-to-be 31-year-old could stabilize a number of rotations for the next couple years. He’s topped 200 innings six consecutive years, and outside of one season – 2010 – he’s posted between 3.7 and 4.9 fWAR. The Blue Jays, Red Sox, White Sox, and Rangers are all possible landing spots. Toronto could be poised to make a strong run next season, but could really use another starter behind Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. Of course, the possibility exists that Tampa Bay exercises the option and then trades him to a team too.
Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays, 5 years and $85 million
#4.) Anibal Sanchez, SP
One of the more underrated players in the game, Sanchez has averaged four wins above replacement over the last three seasons, to go along with strong peripherals (8.06 K/9 and 2.79 BB/9). He’s a solid, front-of-the-rotation type starter – though not quite elite – who turns 29 in March. And Detroit, who parted with its top pitching prospect, to acquire Sanchez will make a strong run at keeping him. Oh, and making it to the World Series should help too.
Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 5 years for $85 million
Actual: Detroit Tigers, 5 years for $80 million
#3.) Michael Bourn, OF
League average hitter with elite speed and matching defensive skills, Bourn’s coming off of a career season, totaling 6.4 fWAR. The problem, however, is the overwhelming majority of his production is largely driven by his speed and as he continues to age his decline from All-Star level production could drop to league-average starter rather rapidly. For example, even though he’s swiped 103 bases over the past two seasons, his total offensive production has been just 4% better than the league average.
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies, 5 years for $75 million
#2.) Josh Hamilton, OF
Miscast as a center fielder, Hamilton hit a career high 43 homeruns this season, tied for second best in baseball. He’s the elite bat of the free agent class, but has shown serious durability issues throughout his career and has topped 4.4 wins above replacement just once. His contract has the potential to be quite burdensome in the next three years or so. And some teams may be weary of his past track record.
Prediction: Texas Rangers, 5 years and $120 million
Actual: Los Angeles Angels, 5 years and $125 million
#1.) Zack Greinke, SP
Without question the top starter on the market, Greinke’s posted the fifth highest fWAR total among pitchers since 2008, with 28.5. Only 29 and still in the middle of his prime, he should be expected to perform at an elite level for the next four years, barring any injury. The market will likely be a bit thin – the Dodgers and Yankees will most likely be out of the bidding, and the mega-media market in Boston may not entice him – the Angels will most likely keep the All-Star right-hander.
Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 6 years and $130 million
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