2014 MLB Free Agency: Where the Top 50 sign Part 1
One of the most exciting aspects of the offseason is reading all of the rumors and predicting where the top free agents will land. After a strong showing in 2012's free agent market, and a 2013 playoff run, the Indians could be in store for another exciting offseason.
In part one of my two part series predicting where the top 50 free agents will land, I start with players 50 to 26. As a note, I am using the top 50 list from MLBTradeRumors.com, with one exception. AfterMarlon Byrd signed with the Phillies, there was a hole in the top 50 list. So, I added former Indian closer Chris Perez as number 50 just to stir up some conversation.
50. Chris Perez, RHP
Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers
2013: 5-3, 4.33 ERA, 54.0 IP, 21 BB, 54 SO, 25 SV
Perez punched his ticket out of Cleveland with a horrible final two months of the 2013 season. He is now a free agent in a deep closer's class, and may be best suited to look for a one year set up man's job to re-establish himself. In LA, Perez's large personality would probably fit right in, and he would be able to fill the role that fellow free agent Brian Wilson filled during the playoffs this past fall. He likely wouldn't get an opportunity to close withKenley Jansen having that role locked down, but getting to pitch in the backend of a contending team's bullpen could be intriguing to Perez. I could also see the Athletics or the Rays as a fit, as they are both small market contenders who will be looking for a new closer.
49. Chris Young, OF
Prediction: Cincinnati Reds
2013: .200 AVG, .280 OBP, 12 HR, 40 RBI, .659 OPS, 10 SB
The Reds are expected to lose Shin-Soo Choo this winter, and many feel that prospect Billy Hamilton is not ready to assume an everyday role in centerfield. Cincinnati may look for a veteran to either bridge the gap to Hamilton, or serve in a platoon role with him in 2014. After a terrible 2013 season, Young is a buy-low candidate and possesses many of the same qualities as former Reds centerfielder Drew Stubbs.
48. Roy Halladay, RHP
Prediction: New York Yankees
2013: 4-5, 6.82 ERA, 62.0 IP, 36 BB, 51 SO
The Yankees are looking for pitching this offseason, and lots of it. Halladay had a miserable 2013 and is coming off of an injury. I don't ever doubt Roy Halladay though. If he truly feels like he is healthy again this winter and that he can help a team, I fully believe that he will be able to do just that. He is a potentially great buy-low candidate for New York, and the Yankees would allow Halladay to pitch for a contender; something he has already expressed a desire for.
47. Jason Hammel, RHP
Prediction: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2013: 7-8, 4.97 ERA, 139.1 IP, 48 BB, 96 SO
The Angels are another team desperate for some rotation depth. Although Hammel struggled in 2013, he was the top guy on a 2012 Baltimore staff that reached the playoffs. He shouldn't cost much in terms of both salary and years, and he could be a nice addition to the back of the Angels rotation.
46. Brian Wilson, RHP
Prediction: Oakland Athletics
2013: 2-1, 0.66 ERA, 13.2 IP, 4 BB, 13 SO, 3 HLD
This is just a hunch on my part. There have been zero rumors that I have seen connecting Wilson to Oakland. There's just something about Wilson that seems to fit perfectly into the Oakland clubhouse. After losing Grant Balfour, the A's will need to find a new closer. There has been talk that they may stay in-house for Balfour's replacement, but if a proven closer like Wilson lowers his asking price, Oakland may be inclined to bring him in and let their 7th and 8th inning guys stay in those roles. A plus for Wilson is that he would be able to stay on the West Coast, where he has spent his entire career.
45. Jesse Crain, RHP
Prediction: Cleveland Indians
2013: 2-3, 0.74 ERA, 36.2 IP, 11 BB, 46 SO, 19 HLD
And here is our first Indians signing. Crain was dominant until an injury in late June sidelined him for the remainder of the season. He is a guy that has experience in the backend of a bullpen. Crain should come at a discount due to his 2013 injury, and may be willing to accept even less money if a team were to offer a shot at the closer's role. With so much uncertainty in the back of the Cleveland bullpen, a guy like Crain could potentially help a ton. He could possibly serve as closer, or fill a setup role. Plus, he has pitched his entire career in the AL Central, which may make him even more interested in a job with the Indians.
44. Justin Morneau
Prediction: Tampa Bay Rays
2013: .259 AVG, .323 OBP, 17 HR, 77 RBI, .734 OPS
Morneau saw his power fall off dramatically after an August trade to Pittsburgh. His September and October power outage may have lowered his price some in the free agent market. That's a perfect opportunity for the Rays to swoop in and pick him up. With the Rays, Morneau could play for a contender and hit in the middle of the lineup, behind guys like Evan Longoria and AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers. And we all know what would happen if Morneau went to Tampa. He would regain his former MVP stroke and lead the Rays through a September playoff chase. Because that's what happens when players go to Tampa.
43. Joe Smith, RHP
Prediction: New York Yankees
2013: 6-2, 2.29 ERA, 63.0 IP, 23 BB, 54 SO, 25 HLD
And now we have our first opportunity to see the Indians lose a player (not counting Perez). I do think that the Indians want Smith back; however, Antonetti and company saw firsthand this season how volatile bullpens can be, and even though Smith has been the one constant for the past three seasons, they just can't afford to pay $5-or-so million over three years on a bullpen piece. A non-closer, at that. The Yankees, on the other hand, can. New York lost Mariano Rivera and David Robertson looks to be the heir apparent. The Yankees may still try to sign a closer, and if they do, then Smith and Robertson could form a nice bridge to the 9th. If they decide to give Robertson a chance to close, then Smith would be a nice primary set up man.
42. Paul Maholm, LHP
Prediction: Minnesota Twins
2013: 10-11, 4.41 ERA, 153.0 IP, 47 BB, 105 SO
Not a whole lot to say about this one. It just makes sense. Maholm is a veteran who probably would be best suited pitching in a pitcher's park. The Twins are in dire need of pitching, and they play in a pitcher's haven. Maholm is much like a left-handed Kevin Correia, whom Minnesota signed last offseason. Like I said, this one just makes sense.
41. Juan Uribe, INF
Prediction: Miami Marlins
2013: .278 AVG, .331 OBP, 12 HR, 50 RBI, .769 OPS
The Marlins have a rotation that has the potential to be dominant in the coming years. Add to that the fact that they play in one of the best pitcher's parks in baseball, and that rotation looks even better. Now they just have to find a way to score some runs. After a very nice 2013 season (especially defensively), Uribe may be looking for an opportunity to be a team's regular third baseman. The Marlins could certainly offer him that. A bonus for Miami is that if Uribe gets off to a great start, they could ship him to a contender for prospects.
40. Nate McLouth, OF
Prediction: Baltimore Orioles
2013: .258 AVG, .329 OBP, 12 HR, 36 RBI, .729 OPS, 30 SB
McLouth looked like a star in the making with Pittsburgh from 2005-2009. He was sent to Atlanta during the 2009 season and struggled mightily in his time with the Braves (2009-2011), hitting just .229 in that span. He went back to Pittsburgh for the 2012 season and again looked like a shell of his former self and was released. That's when he signed on with the Orioles and his career has picked back up from there. Seeing how he has fared since 2009 with teams other than Baltimore, McLouth may be smart to just stay put.
39. Edward Mujica, RHP
Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks
2013: 2-1, 2.78 ERA, 64.2 IP, 5 BB, 46 SO, 37 SV
I always think I made a typo when I see the “5 BB”, but it's real. Mujica has incredible control. The Diamondbacks dealt with several injuries and overall ineffectiveness in their bullpen in 2013 that ended with Brad Ziegler as their closer. I assume they don't feel comfortable entering the 2014 season with Ziegler handling the 9th. Mujica lost his closer's job at the end of the season to Trevor Rosenthal, so his price tag may have come down some. However, he proved in 2013 that he is more than capable of handing the pressures of the 9th inning.
38. Corey Hart, OF-1B
Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers
2013: Did not play (knee surgery)
Sorry Tribe fans, I don't see Hart coming to Cleveland. It's been reported that Hart is willing to except a much lower salary than he would get on the open market in order to return to Milwaukee. The Brewers are the only organization Hart has ever known, so it makes sense that he would want to re-establish his worth with Milwaukee in 2014. The Brewers also got the worst offensive output from first basemen in the league last season, so it's not like they couldn't use him. Look at what Hart had to say about Milwaukee: "I’ve talked to my agent. This is my home – I’ve been with them almost half my life. I’d like to continue as long as they’ll let me. This might have been the silver lining to let me stay here – maybe a lower salary with incentives helps my case....I told them I would be very generous to stay here. I wouldn’t sit there and ask for anything outlandish. I’d definitely take a discount to stay here because I think I owe it to them to stay here and be a cheaper player. Nobody wants to play for free but I basically sat there and watched all season. I owe it to them and the fans to come back at a cheaper price." He's not going anywhere.
37. Phil Hughes, RHP
Prediction: Kansas City Royals
2013: 4-14, 5.19 ERA, 145.2 IP, 42 BB, 121 SO
Homer-friendly Yankee stadium has not helped Hughes at all. What he needs is a team with a big ballpark and outfielders who can run down fly balls. And that is why he will be a Kansas City Royal. The Royals could use help at the back of their rotation, and Hughes still has the potential to turn into a solid middle of the order arm. For the price he will cost, it's pretty much a win-win for Kansas City.
36. James Loney, 1B
Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates
2013: .299 AVG, .348 OBP, 13 HR, 75 RBI, .778 OPS
Loney seems like a perfect fit for the Pirates. They are expected to lose first baseman Justin Morneau and may look to follow the Tampa Bay model of pitching and defense. They have the pitching, and Loney would only improve an already solid defense (aside from Alvarez at third base). If 2013 was no fluke, Loney could also help lengthen the Pittsburgh lineup and give some protection for MVP Andrew McCutchen.
35. Suk-min Yoon, RHP
Prediction: Minnesota Twins
2013: Played in Korea
I admittedly don't know a whole lot about Yoon. He is a 27-year-old righty who has experience both as a starter and a reliever. Scouts have said that he throws a low 90s fastball with an above average changeup. The Twins are looking everywhere for pitching, in both the bullpen and the rotation. Yoon could probably help in one of those roles.
34. Jason Vargas, LHP
Prediction: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2013: 9-8, 4.02 ERA, 150.0 IP, 46 BB, 109 SO
Vargas had a solid but unspectacular year in 2013 with the Angels. With Los Angeles needing pitching in a bad way, they should try to hang onto the lefty. Vargas can be prone to the long ball, so the Angels large park and good outfield defense suits him very well. As a middle-to-back of the rotation lefty, Vargas could have a lot of offers this winter. Los Angeles makes the most sense for both sides.
33. Dan Haren, RHP
Prediction: Cleveland Indians
2013: 10-14, 4.67 ERA, 169.2 IP, 31 BB, 151 SO
Spoiler alert!: This is the only pitcher in the top 50 that I have the Indians signing. I know, I don't like what that means either. Haren is a guy who could possibly be had on a one-year deal, maybe with an option for 2015. For most of his career, Haren has been a workhouse, compiling over 200 innings pitched in every season from 2005-2011. He dealt with some injury issues in 2012, and spent some time on the DL in 2013 for what he said was more for mental reasons than health. After that DL stint, Haren looked like his old self, pitching to a 3.29 ERA in his remaining 16 appearances (15 starts). He may not be a top of the rotation guy anymore, but he still has value as a 4th or possibly 3rd starter. Hopefully Mickey Callaway could find a way to bring out the 2011 Haren that had a 3.17 ERA in 238.1 innings for the Angels.
32. A.J. Pierzynski, C
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies
2013: .272 AVG, .297 OBP, 17 HR, 70 RBI, .722 OPS
Pierzynski will be 37 in December, but he just continues to hit. He is also extremely durable, playing in no less than 114 games since 2001. He has pretty good pop and does not strike out much, although he will also try his absolute hardest to never walk. His hard-headed personality could fit well in Philadelphia, and the Phillies could be looking for a new catcher if incumbent Carlos Ruiz heads elsewhere this winter.
31. Fernando Rodney, RHP
Prediction: Chicago Cubs
2013: 5-4, 3.38 ERA, 66.2 IP, 36 BB, 82 SO, 37 SV
The Cubs will be in the market for a new closer this winter after they finally gave up on the Carlos Marmol project. During the 2013 season, Chicago picked up Pedro Strop from Baltimore and Daniel Bard from Boston. Both pitchers have had success in the past and display a powerful arm with some nasty stuff, but are coming off of very poor years. With Bard, Strop, and Rodney, the Cubs could potentially have a pretty dynamic 1-2-3 punch in the back of their bullpen. Also, with Bard, Strop, and Rodney, the Cubs could have a pretty disastrous backend of a bullpen.
30. Tim Hudson, RHP
Prediction: Texas Rangers
2013: 8-7, 3.97 ERA, 131.1 IP, 36 BB, 95 SO
I get the feeling that if Terry Francona really wants a guy, and he fits into the Indians budget, then Chris Antonetti will do everything he can to get that guy. Francona seems to really want Hudson. The only reason I don't have Hudson becoming an Indian is because if Antonetti truly is refusing to go more than one year for Scott Kazmir, how could he possibly be willing to give Hudson the multi-year deal he's looking for? If Hudson accepts a one year deal, I expect it to be with either the Braves or the Indians. I think Texas will give him the two-year deal he's looking for though. They need pitchers who can keep the ball in the park, and they have tremendous infield defense that a sinker baller like Hudson would love to have behind him.
29. Josh Johnson, RHP
Prediction: Houston Astros
2013: 2-8, 6.20 ERA, 81.1 IP, 30 BB, 83 SO
It's difficult to predict a top 50 free agent signing with a bad team because every single free agent says they want to play for a contender. I think this one makes sense for both parties. For the Astros, they have more than enough money to spend on a one year contract for a pitcher like Johnson. Even if he is a disaster like last season, it won't hurt Houston any. If he regains his old form, Houston can send him to a contender at the deadline for a nice haul or prospects. For Johnson, he gets a chance to re-establish his worth and also assures himself that if he pitches well, he will be playing for a contender in the second half of the season. Really a win-win for both sides.
28. Carlos Ruiz, C
Prediction: Boston Red Sox
2013: .268 AVG, .320 OBP, 5 HR, 37 RBI, .688 OPS
I had a hard time placing Ruiz due to the number of teams that are looking for catching help this offseason. If Ruiz is looking to play for a contender, he could do no better than the reigning World Series champs. Ruiz will be 35 in January and signing with Boston would allow him to split some time with David Ross. If not the Red Sox, I could also see Tampa Bay, the Yankees, and Toronto. And heck, if Baltimore trades Matt Wieters, why not make it the whole AL East and say Baltimore too?
27. Kendrys Morales, 1B-DH
Prediction: Seattle Mariners
2013: .277 AVG, .336 OBP, 23 HR, 80 RBI, .785 OPS
I don't see many teams willing to give up their first round pick for Morales. By extending Morales a qualifying offer, Seattle put themselves in the driver’s seat to retain their designated hitter. With the Mariners looking at every possible option to improve their offense, bringing back their best offensive player would probably be a pretty good start.
26. Scott Feldman, RHP
Prediction: Baltimore Orioles
2013: 12-12, 3.86 ERA, 181.2 IP, 56 BB, 132 SO
Feldman didn't fare as well in the American League with Baltimore as he did in the National League with the Cubs in 2013. Still, he proved to be an effective back of the rotation starter, and one the Orioles are rumored to be interested in keeping. He is a ground ball pitcher and Baltimore's defense is at the top of the league. After a nice 2013 season, Feldman could receive several multi-year offers, but in the end he returns to the team that traded for him last season.
Feel free to critique my selections and offer up some predictions of your own. Also, be on the lookout in the next day for part two, when I predict the destinations for free agents 25 to 1.
Morse is going to bounce back as last year is clearly the outlier in his career. If Hart is shown the door and is healthy, he's a dangerous hitter. And I just wonder what type of salary Morales will command because three switch hitters in the middle of the lineup is a matchup nightmare for the opposition.
Loney hit .351 on the road last season. However I agree he won't repeat that line. Still don't think offense should be the priority at all.
We need at least two good arms, one for the back of the bullpen & one in the rotation.
Would love to get Crain (if Smith does not return) & maybe Haren or Hudson.
It appears most people think niether Hart or Beltran will come here. In that case guess who makes alot of sense? Good old Jhonny Peralta. He can platoon with Chiz and gives the Indians another option at DH. I would like to add David Murphey as well but they will probably bring Giambi back. Although I feel David Murphey is the better player at this point.
So, lets say Hudson or Haren and Peralta.
That leaves bullpen. Jesse Crain is perfect but I would like to be more creative. I want Brain Wilson. I think him and Swisher on the same team would be fun. Hes only pitched what 15 innings the past 2 years? Other then him Lopez, Mujica and of course Smith should get long looks. I think Colon might be better of in the bullpen at this stage in his career.
Its funny if Chris Perez had pitched for lets say The Pirates instead of The Tribe the past few years I think he would look to sign him.
27. Feldman, Scott - Nationals
28. Morales, Kendrys - Mariners
29. Ruiz, Carlos - Rockies
30. Johnson, Josh - Brewers
31. Hudson, Tim - Braves
32. Rodney, Fernando - Rays
33. Pierzynski, A.J. - Yankees
34. Haren, Dan - Padres
35. Vargas, Jason - Angels
36. Yoon, Suk-min - Angels?
37. Loney, James - Rangers
38. Hughes, Phil - Twins
39. Hart, Corey - Indians
40. Mujica, Edward - Rockies
41. McLouth, Nate - A's
42. Uribe, Juan - Indians
43. Maholm, Paul - Cubs
44. Smith, Joe - Yankees
45. Morneau, Justin - Rays
46. Crain, Jesse - Astros
47. Wilson, Brian - Giants
48. Hammel, Jason - Yankees
49. Halladay, Roy - Mets
50. Young, Chris - Brewers
I am going to guess Perez to Seattle.
I wish I could take back a couple of mine (McLouth, Hart), but overall I really like both our lists. I remember doing this last year and it seemed like a nice handful of players had a small group of teams that they were predetermined to go to, and in most of those instances things happened as expected. This year with depth of the SP, CL, and Catchers, it is really tough to project who will end up where. It will be a very interesting offseason. I look forward to the 2nd part of your predictions.
I also want Loney to put in this lineup and I think the Indians will make a concerted effort to get him too because they were very much interested in him last year as it was reported. He doesn't hit a lot of HR's but has shown he can drive in 90 runs a year and hit with good average. It is important that the Indians get a good lefty for the bullpen too I would like Parra, Howell, Thatcher(if he's nontendered).
I'd like our odds of landing Haliday or Johnson better since both are coming off of terrible injury ridden years (not unlike Kazmir) but have been proven elite starters in the past. I also like the chances of snagging Hughes better than getting Haren.
I can see Haren maybe going to the A's or Mariners, maybe a team like the Padres will take a chance on him, but I don't see him staying East of the Mississippi at all, and if he ended up further East than Colorado I'd be surprised.
Jesse Crain would be a nice signing, if healthy. He's certainly a buy low target for the Tribe. He's a guy I feel they should heavily pursue along with one or both of Edwin Mujica and Jose Veras. Both could fill a number of roles and IMO, might be value signings.
Maybe the Tribe will get creative and pursue Suk-Min Yoon or recent Cuban defector 23 yr old Raciel Iglesias. FWIW, Yoon is coming off a shoulder injury, and was moved from his starting role to the bullpen after the injury. Iglesias is more of a prospect at this point. The smallish (5'11) righty hits mid-90's with his FB, but seems locked in as a bullpen arm long term. At this point, either may be low risk / high reward signings at the right price.
Personally, I'd love to see the Tribe retain Kazmir and Smith, but at this point it seems doubtful. That in mind, it seems likely the Tribe will be involved in a few deals to add some controllable arms to the mix long term.