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2014 MLB Free Agency: Where the Top 50 sign Part 2

2014 MLB Free Agency: Where the Top 50 sign Part 2
November 17, 2013
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Yesterday, I posted part one of my predictions of where the Top 50 MLB free agents end up this offseason with a look at 50 to 26. Today I wrap things up with the predicted destinations of the top 26 to 1 free agents.

The MLB offseason is fascinating because of the rampant rumors and predictions where everyone is going to land. The Indians had a strong showing in 2013, but have a lot of work to replace some outgoing free agents and try to improve at the same time. All of that sets up for what should be yet another intriguing offseason around MLB, and in Cleveland as well.

Again, as a note, I am using the top 50 list from MLBTradeRumors.com, with one exception.  After Marlon Byrdsigned 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.

25. Joaquin Benoit, RHP
Prediction: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2103: 4-1, 2.01 ERA, 67.0 IP, 22 BB, 73 SO, 24 SV

As I stated in part one, the Angels are in desperate need of pitching, and that extends to the bullpen too.  Ernesto Frieri was adequate in the closers role, but he probably fits better as a setup man.  With plenty of high paid players and arguably the best player in the game in Mike Trout, Los Angeles still feels like they can compete next season.  Finding a closer to help solidify that bullpen is a major need.

24. Grant Balfour, RHP
Prediction: Texas Rangers
2013: 1-3, 2.59 ERA, 62.2 IP, 27 BB, 72 SO, 38 SV

Balfour has been one of the most consistent closers in the game the past two seasons.  Texas has had no problems with their closer role during those two seasons as Joe Nathan returned to being one of the best closers in the Majors.  This winter, Nathan enters free agency and may be out of Texas' price range.  For a team that expects to contend for a World Series, they may not like the idea of hoping Joakim Soria or Neftali Feliz are healthy enough to take over for Nathan.  Balfour would help solidify the 9th inning while also lengthening the bullpen by allowing Soria and Feliz to work the 7th and 8th.

23. Bronson Arroyo, RHP
Prediction: San Francisco Giants
2013: 14-12, 3.79 ERA, 202.0 IP, 34 BB, 124 SO

Arroyo would be a nice compliment to Madison BumgarnerMatt Cain, and Tim Lincecum.  He has been very consistent in his career and has equaled or surpassed 200 innings in eight of his last nine seasons (199 innings in 2011).  His major issue has been his inability to keep the ball in the park, but Great American Ballpark may have played a large part in that.  Moving to AT&T Park in San Francisco would cut down on those homers and make Arroyo even more efficient.

22. Bartolo Colon, RHP
Prediction: Kansas City Royals
2013: 18-6, 2.65 ERA, 190.1 IP, 29 BB, 117 SO

Kansas City is most likely going to lose Ervin Santana, so they will be looking for a new pitcher to slot in betweenJames Shields and Jeremy Guthrie.  I know several Indians fans like the idea of bringing Colon back to Cleveland, and I also think it may be worthwhile, but he fits better in Kansas City.  Colon is a pure contact pitcher and Kansas City's large park and outstanding defense will be a nice fit for the veteran righty.

21. Jhonny Peralta, SS-3B
Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers
2013: .303 AVG, .358 OBP, 11 HR, 55 RBI, .815 OPS

Peralta had a great 2013, despite his suspension for PED use, and rumor has it he's looking to turn that season into a big pay day this winter.  In order for Peralta to be a fit with Los Angeles, he would need to be willing to return to third base.  There was talk that he was open to staying in left field in order to remain with Detroit, so why not go back to third base for another team that has World Series aspirations?  As a side note, is anyone else noticing how many former Indians are on this list?

20. Ricky Nolasco, RHP
Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays
2013: 13-11, 3.70 ERA, 199.1 IP, 46 BB, 165 SO

Nolasco is getting a lot of attention already this winter.  There have been reports that he already has several multi-year offers, and possibly even a couple of four-year offers.  All of this interest may be due to the fact that Nolasco is not tied to any draft pick compensation.  Toronto has a protected first round pick anyway, but it would still be ideal to sign a pitcher without having to give up any pick at all.  The rotation is an area of need and the Blue Jays front office is not afraid to spend.

19. Joe Nathan, RHP
Prediction: Detroit Tigers
2013: 6-2, 1.39 ERA, 64.2 IP, 22 BB, 73 SO, 43 SV

The second Nathan hit the free agent market, Detroit emerged as the favorite for the shutdown closer.  The Tigers are built to win right now, but their main area of concern has been their bullpen.  Adding one of the top closers in baseball would cement their status as AL Central and possibly World Series favorites.  And when the news of Nathan's signing begins to circulate, Indians fans everywhere will scowl, as they know the one area of weakness for Detroit has been addressed in a serious way.

18. Omar Infante, INF
Prediction: Detroit Tigers
2013: .318 AVG, .345 OBP, 10 HR, 51 RBI, .795 OPS

Infante will likely look to get paid handsomely after a fantastic 2013 season.  If the Yankees lose Cano, Infante could become their number one target.  Baltimore could also have their sights set on the second baseman.  In the end, I think he winds up right back where he enjoyed the best season of his career.  Infante was a big part of the 2013 Tigers, and Detroit won't be afraid to pay him.

17. Nelson Cruz, OF
Prediction: Texas Rangers
2013: .266 AVG, .327 OBP, 27 HR, 76 RBI, .833 OPS

Cruz will have a number of suitors this winter, as there are several teams looking for right handed power.  Seattle and Kansas City may be Texas' biggest competitors.  Cruz is beloved by Texas fans, and his power certainly plays up in the humid air of Arlington.  He has some durability and defensive concerns, but the Rangers have the ability to rest him by letting him DH on occasion.  That's something Kansas City can't offer with Billy Butler on the team, and Seattle may have trouble with that scenario as well if they do indeed re-sign Kendrys Morales.

16. Scott Kazmir, LHP
Prediction: Oakland Athletics
2013: 10-9, 4.04 ERA, 158.0 IP, 47 BB, 162 SO

Ever since his days in Tampa, I have been a huge Scott Kazmir fan.  I was really upset when he fell apart in Los Angeles and disappeared from the league.  I was ecstatic when the Indians signed him to a minor league deal last offseason.  I monitored every pitch he threw in spring and loved that he was performing well.  Then I was even more ecstatic throughout the 2013 season as Kazmir showed he was all the way back – and in an Indians uniform!  If Antonetti is unable or unwilling to re-sign Kazmir, I may have a mini breakdown; but it's looking like that will be the case.  So, he'll be an Athletic.  Oakland may lose Colon and Kazmir has incredible potential on a two-year deal around $20 million.  That's all I can really bare to say about this signing.

15. Jarrod Saltalamachia, C
Prediction: Miami Marlins
2013: .273 AVG, .338 OBP, 14 HR, 65 RBI, .804 OPS

The Marlins continue to look for ways to score some runs.  Catcher was a major issue in Miami last season and Saltalamachia is a catcher who may be in their price range and can offer some protection for Giancarlo Stanton.  Salty will pair with Stanton, Uribe, and top prospect Christian Yelich to provide at least the base for an average offense.  And that may be all they need to scare some teams, thanks to that up-and-coming rotation.

14. Stephen Drew, SS
Prediction: Boston Red Sox
2013: .253 AVG, .333 OBP, 13 HR, 67 RBI, .777 OBP

Drew's value is in his defense, but he performed very well at the plate in 2013.  Even though he struggled offensively throughout the postseason, Drew remained a constant in the lineup because of his excellent defense at shortstop.  The Red Sox have highly regarded shortstop prospect Xander Bogaerts ready to step in, but their best team may be with Drew at short and Bogaerts manning third – making Will Middlebrooks expendable.  Due to the draft pick compensation tied to Drew, Boston may be able to get him at a bit of a discount after his market begins to shrink.

13. Curtis Granderson, OF
Prediction: Detroit Tigers
2013: .229 AVG, .317 OBP, 7 HR, 15 RBI, .723 OPS

The rich get richer.  Detroit is looking for an everyday left fielder to pair with Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter.  Granderson is a former Tiger who was very well liked in his time there and his presence would only help the already stacked Detroit offense.  If Granderson signs with the Tigers and he returns to his 2011-2012 form, it will just further prove that life isn't fair.

12. Carlos Beltran, OF
Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals
2013: .296 AVG, .339 OBP, 24 HR, 84 RBI, .830 OPS

I think Beltran will let his market play out and field offers from the many teams that will beg for his services, but eventually return to St. Louis.  After what he's done the past three seasons and his incredible postseason success,  Beltran can pretty much just pick wherever he wants to play next season.  St. Louis has the money and they have seen how important Beltran is to that team.  His return to the Cardinals would make both Jon Jay and Matt Adamsexpendable.

11. Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP
Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers
2013: 13-9, 3.30 ERA, 182.2 IP, 80 BB, 194 SO

From the day the Indians acquired Jimenez, I ridiculed the move.  For what amounted to two full seasons, I was completely right.  Then the second half of 2013 happened, and I found myself wishing his 2015 option was just a club option so that he could remain an Indian.  The guy put the Indians on his back in September and carried them into the playoffs, and that alone means they won that 2011 trade with Colorado.  Now, Jimenez is going to turn that second half surge into a big pay check.  The Dodgers don't seem to care too much about money or draft picks.  They only care about fielding the NL All-Star team.  Going into the 2014 season, Jimenez will be the highest paid 4th starter in the game.

10. Mike Napoli, 1B
Prediction: Boston Red Sox
2013: .259 AVG, .360 OBP, 23 HR, 92 RBI, .842 OPS

Napoli was a perfect fit in Boston; especially his beard.  After having to settle for a one-year deal due to a failed physical, he should have no trouble getting a multi-year deal this winter.  I don't really see a whole lot of competition for Napoli.  Sure there will be teams that really want him and throw plenty of money his way, but I believe he really wants to stay in Boston and the Red Sox want him back.  He'll be manning first base for Boston again in 2014.

9. A.J. Burnett, RHP
Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates
2013: 10-11, 3.30 ERA, 191.0 IP, 67 BB, 209 SO

Burnett will either play for the Pirates in 2014 or he'll retire.  He has said that himself and I don't really see any way he plays for anyone but Pittsburgh.  If the Pirates can convince him to come back, he would undoubtedly still be able to help that rotation, and probably still be their number one.  If he does decide to retire, Pittsburgh will most likely search for another veteran arm in free agency.

8. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP
Prediction: New York Yankees
2013: 11-13, 3.31 ERA, 201.1 IP, 43 BB, 150 SO

Kuroda is another guy who will either return to his old team or retire.  There is also some speculation that he may return to Japan to finish up his career.  There's not much to say about this, as Kuroda is in the same situation as the previously mentioned Burnett.  So, Kuroda will be a Yankee, or he won't be with any Major League team.

7. Matt Garza, RHP
Prediction: Seattle Mariners
2013: 10-6, 3.82 ERA, 155.1 IP, 42 BB, 136 SO

Each offseason, the Mariners are tied to every big name offensive player in free agency, and they never end up with one of them.  Why not take a new approach?  The Mariners have an opportunity to add Garza to a pitching staff that features Felix HernandezHisashi Iwakuma, and top prospects Taijuan WalkerJames PaxtonStephen Pryor, and Danny Hultzen.  That may be their best plan if they can't lure the big name hitters to Safeco Field.  Offense puts the fans in the seats, but pitching wins championships.

6. Ervin Santana, RHP
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies
2013: 9-10, 3.24 ERA, 211.0 IP, 51 BB, 161 SO

Santana is in line for a large pay day after his stellar 2013 season.  In the eyes of Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, there is no such thing as rebuilding – just retooling.  They've already added to the offense by signing Marlon Byrd.  Santana may get overpaid this winter, but slotting him between Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels would give the Phillies are very nice start at turning things back around.

5. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP
Prediction: New York Yankees
2013: Played in Japan

There has been some recent news that Tanaka may not be available to MLB teams this winter due to a breakdown in talks over the posting system.  If he is made available, I don't see him going anywhere but New York.  The Dodgers may be interested as well, and you can't ever count them out with all of their money.  I think the issues over the posting system get solved and Tanaka is a Yankee in 2014.

4. Brian McCann, C
Prediction: Texas Rangers
2013: .256 AVG, .336 OBP, 20 HR, 57 RBI, .796 OPS

McCann will be heavily pursued by the big name team looking for catching help.  And there's a lot of them.  Boston, New York (AL), Texas, and Philadelphia are all looking for new catchers and all have money to spend.  To me, Texas seems the most likely to overspend on McCann, so they land him.  For the first time in a long time, the Rangers offense had its struggles in 2013.  I don't think they let that happen again in 2014, and it starts with adding the power hitting catcher.

3. Shin-Soo Choo, OF
Prediction: Seattle Mariners
2013: .285 AVG, .423 OBP, 21 HR, 54 RBI, .885 OPS, 20 SB

Seattle fans rejoice as they finally land a big name offensive player!  Choo, the on-base machine, returns to where his career began and immediately becomes the face of the franchise.  He seems to have found his niche in the leadoff spot of a lineup and will benefit from a return to the corner outfield.  The offense in Seattle still needs work, but adding Choo, and throwing Garza into an already strong rotation, will help the Mariners as they try to contend in 2014.  As a bonus, Seattle has a protected pick and will have to forfeit only a second round pick for Choo's services.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF
Prediction: Boston Red Sox
2013: .298 AVG, .355 OBP, 9 HR, 53 RBI, .781 OPS, 52 SB

Scott Boras claims his client, Ellsbury, is garnering more interest than big names like his normally generate.  But then again, he's Scott Boras.  I don't doubt that several teams will be interested in the star center fielder.  However, we saw last winter that Boras doesn't exactly play well in this new MLB free agency, full of qualifying offers.  I see teams being scared off by Boras' asking price, Ellsbury's durability, and the thought of giving up a first round pick.  Some teams like the Cubs, Mets, and Mariners could all look to pounce while they have a protected pick, but something tells me Ellsbury would rather just return to Boston if he can't get the massive contract he and Boras are looking for.

1. Robinson Cano, 2B
Prediction: New York Yankees
2013: .314, .383 OBP, 27 HR, 107 RBI, .899 OPS

Sorry folks, no big surprises to wrap up my predictions.  I know there have been some rumblings about New York looking at other second base options in the event that Cano were to sign elsewhere, but I think that's just to make Cano think the Yankees would be willing to move on if he asks for too much.  I don't really see much competition for Cano this winter.  There are plenty of teams that would like to have the All-Star second baseman, but not many can actually afford him.  St. Louis and Seattle are about the only teams I can think of that may surprise people and enter the race, but in the end, Cano will be a Yankee for a long time.

Again, feel free to critique my predictions and make some of your own.

User Comments

Andy
November 18, 2013 - 8:26 PM EST
I'd be all for it for Haren or Kazmir, but count me out on Hughes and Johnson. Hughes has never really shown at the Major League level what made him one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. And Johnson is always hurt.
Walter
November 18, 2013 - 6:00 PM EST
With Hudson going to the Giants, curious what the forum thinks about giving 2/23 for Haren, Hughes, Johnson, or Kazmir?
Hermie13
November 18, 2013 - 3:20 AM EST
That said, not easy to put together a top 50 list. Several I don't agree with but think many make sense.
Hermie13
November 18, 2013 - 3:14 AM EST
I can't see the Tigers signing all 3 of Nathan, Infante, and Granderson.

They're current team payroll for 2014 sits at $155.5M with arby estimates and league min guys added in. That's already a raise of $7M on 2014...which was $15M higher than any other Tiger season ever.

Now you're adding in at least $30M in free agents for 2014...the Tigers payroll would be around $185M!!

Sure they could more a starter like Porcello or Fister and save $7M, or maybe Victor and save $10M, but you're still looking at a huge jump.

Consider that $133M was the Tigers largest payroll heading into 2013...sure they are open to spending and jumped to $148M, but $185M?!? Detroit has deep pockets, but that's just insane for them.

Maybe they sign Nathan and Infante (and backload the deals) and trade Porcello and Martinez but even then they're pushing their payroll to the limits. Still looking at a payroll over $165M.
Andy
November 17, 2013 - 7:57 PM EST
I wrote these pieces on Thursday I believe. In the next couple of days I saw a report saying Drew would not be returning to Boston. So yes, I too no longer think he will be going back to Boston; although it still wouldn't surprise me. We'll see what happens though. Things should start getting pretty interesting in the coming weeks.
Hiram
November 17, 2013 - 2:08 PM EST
Drew going back Boston isn't happening , IMO
Seth
November 17, 2013 - 1:35 PM EST
You are giving Dayton Moore WAY too much credit in thinking he would sign Colon. Colon and Feldman would be great low-cost fits for the Royals. Would've been great low-cost fits last year too. Choo to the Mariners makes a lot of sense. Choo is a big buyer-beware to me, and Mariners' free agents usually suck. They'll give him a big contract and he'll start bailing on the inside pitches again, hit .270 with 10 HRs while playing even more lackadaisical defense than usual.

Do the Dodgers need pitching? I don't see them as a fit for Jimenez, especially when they need to extend Kershaw. Kershaw, Ryu, Greinke, they'd have no need to risk significant cash on Jimenez. I would think the Angels would make more sense.

Walter, there is about a 0% chance that Kazmir would have rejected a qualifying offer. 1 year 14 million, for a guy who had an ERA of 4, after not pitching at all in the majors for 2 years? Teams don't care about giving up draft picks to sign guys like Ellsbury, but signing Kazmir to a multi-year deal and losing a 1st round pick? That would be a tough sell. His market would be nil if the draft pick loss were attached, but 14 million for him is also a significant overpay. Don't think Colon will get $14 million, for example, so why not just sign him?

I find it hard to believe the Indians will just let Kazmir walk without a fight, unless they know something about his arm that we don't (which is quite possible). I would see no reason why they wouldn't jump to sign him at even 2/20. It's the type of high-upside, limited financial risk contract that should be right in their wheelhouse. If someone else wants to get a little crazy and go to 3 years with him then that would be the point I'd let him walk.
Dennis
November 17, 2013 - 12:03 PM EST
I think you got more right 26 - 50. than 1-25. Do not think the Red Sox will resign either Ellsbury or Drew. They are good at moving on think Martinez and Clemens and they do not mind a revolving door at SS - always seems to be someone different every year.. Big Papi is different. He is their franchise. Can not believe Seattle would be that big a players either. The Cubs need to make big moves not sure who - they need a lot. Salty mightbe nice start or a pitcher? I agree on Cano. Who knows maybe the Indians will surprise again this year. The possibility is always there.
Walter
November 17, 2013 - 11:55 AM EST
Second thoughts, if Kazmir #16 best FA agent out there than the Indians should have made a qualifying offer. He would have rejected that and Indians would have another high pick. I think if the Indians can not resign Kazmir they would need to sign at least 2other from Haren, Hudson, Hughes or Colon.
BrianM
November 17, 2013 - 11:40 AM EST
Good finish to your list. We had more similar choices in this half than we did the first half.

1. Cano, Robinson - Yankees
2. Ellsbury, Jacoby - Red Sox
3. Choo, Shin-Soo - Mariners
4. McCann, Brian - Rangers
5. Tanaka, Masahiro - Dodgers
6. Santana, Ervin - Blue Jays
7. Garza, Matt - Royals
8. Kuroda, Hiroki - Yankees
9. Burnett, A.J. - Pirates
10. Napoli, Mike - Red Sox
11. Jimenez, Ubaldo - Royals
12. Beltran, Carlos - Philllies
13. Granderson, Curtis - Yankees
14. Drew, Stephen - Mets
15. Saltalamacchia, Jarrod - Red Sox
16. Kazmir, Scott - Indians
17. Cruz, Nelson - Mets
18. Infante, Omar - Tigers
19. Nathan, Joe - Tigers
20. Nolasco, Ricky - Yankees
21. Peralta, Jhonny - Cardinals
22. Colon, Bartolo - Orioles
23. Arroyo, Bronson - Twins
25. Balfour, Grant - Angels
26. Benoit, Joaquin - Tigers

I don't think the Royals will sign both of Ubaldo and Garza, but I do think they go after one of them, and I'm worried they actually have a decent shot at landing Beltran too. They could be tough next year.

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