Saturday, November 9, 2013

Top 20 MLB Free Agents

Here is our top 20 MLB free agents list! Our predictions for where each player will sign is in in parenthesis.

Some other notable Free Agents include: Chris Young, Brian Wilson, Roy Halladay, Corey Hart, Suk-Min Yoon (Korea), Josh Johnson, Kendrys Morales, and Scott Kazmir.

1. Robinson Cano (Yankees)
Cano is coming off another strong season in which he batted .314 with 27 homers. The Yankees second baseman is 31 years old and will command a high price on the open market. It is reported that he will be asking for a contract worth up to 300 million, but we feel that he will most likely sign for a contract around 7 years worth 215 million dollars.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury (Mariners)
Although Ellsbury’s bat has regressed from his great 2011 season, his outstanding defense and speed secure his spot at the top of this free agent class. Injuries have been a problem in the past but a .300/20/100 year with 50 steals and Gold Glove defense is always a possibility with this all-star center-fielder. Expect Ellsbury to sign a deal in the range of 7 years 150 million.

3. Masahiro Tanaka (Yankees)
Tanaka is probably the biggest question mark on this list. He has never played in the MLB before but scouts say he is the real deal. He absolutely dominated in Japan and had gone 30 consecutive starts without a loss earlier this year; although it is yet to be seen whether his abilities will translate into success in the MLB, he will certainly get paid like a star this off-season. We expect Tanaka to sign a 6-7 year deal at well over 20 million a year.

4. Shin Soo Choo (Mets)
Choo will be a major asset for whichever team that signs him. He has a very solid bat and an excellent eye and despite a decrease in defensive value in 2013 (he had to play a new position), in 2014 he should shift back to his normal spot in right field. Choo will most likely sign a deal in the range of 5 years 100 million.

5. Mike Napoli (Rangers)
Napoli had a strong season in 2013 for the Red Sox. While it remains to be seen whether he will resign with the Sox, his stock clearly rose over the past year and he should get a contract in the range of 3 years, 45 million.

6. Ubaldo Jimenez (Angels)
After an atrocious 2012 season for the former-ace, Jimenez made some serious mechanical changes in 2013 and they certainly paid off. Since April 29th, Ubaldo has pitched to an astounding 2.61 era and struck out 9.7 batters per 9 innings. As the best starter starter with MLB experience in this free agent class, Jimenez will be a hot commodity on the open market.

7. Ervin Santana (Nationals)
Santana had huge bounce-back season in 2013 and was one of the main reasons the Royals were in contention for the playoffs until mid-September. Although he only won 9 games this past season he posted an impressive 3.24 and will be a major asset for whatever team signs him. Expect Santana to sign a deal similar to that of CJ Wilson who signed for 5 years 80 million dollars.

8. Brian McCann (Red Sox)
McCann is solid behind the plate and is one of the strongest catchers offensively in the league. His leadership abilities are also attractive to teams and we predict that McCann will get a contract in the range of 4 years 65 million.

9. Curtis Granderson (Phillies)
An injury-plagued 2013 season certainly affected Granderson’s stock in a negative way. An off-season of rest, however, should benefit Granderson as he hopes to return to his old form for the 2014 season. While Granderson might not get as much money as he would have had he not been injured, he should still get a sizeable contract. Don’t be surprised if Phillies GM Ruben Amaro makes a run at Granderson, trying to sign him at a relatively discounted price. 4 years 60 million would be a fair deal.

10. Ricky Nolasco (Yankees)
A change of scenery certainly benefitted Nolasco as he posted a 2.07 ERA while striking out 62 in just 74 innings with the Dodgers after struggling for the Marlins earlier in the season. Although he struggled in his last 3 starts of the season, Nolasco will be a solid mid-rotation starter in 2014. We expect Nolasco to sign a deal around 4 years worth 55 million dollars.

11. Matt Garza (Phillies)
After being traded by the Cubs at the 2013 deadline, Garza struggled with his new team, the Rangers. His SO/BB ratio was a surprisingly high 3.36, the highest of his career. He let up more hits per 9 (9.5) in 2013 than in any season since 2007. Despite these regressions, he should still be paid well this offseason, perhaps by Ruben Amaro, the Phillies’ general manager, who constantly thinks his team can contend. 4 years 50 million dollars would be reasonable for Garza.

12. Stephen Drew (Pirates)
Stephen Drew might be the most overrated player on this list, but analysts still say that there will be major interest for his services. He struggles offensively and despite being known for his glove, Drew posted a -2 Rtot (Runs saved above the average league SS) during 2013. Shockingly, it is reported that Drew declined the QO offered by the Red Sox so he will be searching for a deal that most likely will fall within the range of 2-3 years at 15 million a year. If the Pirates do not end up signing Drew, don’t be surprised to see him at Busch Stadium in St. Louis next year.

13. AJ Burnett (Pirates)
Burnett’s age (37) will certainly play a factor in negotiations with teams. He has posted a WAR of 3 or above in 3 of his past 5 seasons and had a strong 2013 campaign, posting a 3.30 ERA on a strong Pirates team. According to Fangraphs he has the most valuable curve ball in the league which is a major asset because he will still have that weapon even as his velocity declines. Burnett will be seeking a 1-2 year deal at 15 million per year.

14. Bartolo Colon (A’s)
Colon’s value might be the hardest to pinpoint on this list. Despite his age (he is 40 years old), he posted outstanding numbers in 2013. Advanced statistics suggest that this was not a fluke as for the most part his peripherals were on par with the rest of his career. For example, opposing hitters had a .295 BABIP against Colon in 2013 while his career average is just .296. Colon will most likely sign a 1 year deal worth around 12 million dollars.

15. Carlos Beltran (Red Sox)
Despite his age, Beltran will be a very popular player this offseason. Teams know what they are getting with him; an above average bat with solid power as well as an ample amount of playoff experience. He would be the perfect fit for a team like the Red Sox who will contend in 2014 and have holes to fill in the OF. A one year, 15 million dollar deal would be appealing to both sides.

16. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Toronto)
The switch-hitting catcher enjoyed a career year in 2013 with a .273/.338/.804 batting line and 14 homers -- excellent numbers for a catcher considering the replacement level for the position. It is unlikely that he maintains such numbers considering his .372 batting average on balls in play (.322 career BABIP). Given the market for catchers (McCann, Ruiz, Navarro, and Pierzynski are only viable starting options), it is very likely that Saltalamacchia is given more than he is worth, think something around 4 years, 55 million.

17. Hiroki Kuroda (Yankees)
Kuroda enjoyed another fantastic year with the Yankees, posting a 3.31 ERA and 150 strikeouts. The 38 year old Kuroda (He turns 39 on February 10) has been the definition of consistent production, averaging more than 200 innings in the past 4 years while maintaining an ERA below 3.40 and striking out at least 150 each year throughout that span. However, due to Kuroda’s age, it appears as though he will either sign with the Yankees or leave the MLB (either returning to NPB or retiring for good). Expect a 1 or 2 year deal with an average annual value of between 8-9 million for Kuroda.

18. Dan Haren (Padres)
After finishing 7th in the Cy Young voting in 2011, the former All-Star starter suffered a precipitous decline in his first season in the nation’s capitol. Haren posted a very poor 4.67 ERA but the ERA does not tell the full story as Haren’s peripherals remained solid and he struck out 8.0 batters per 9 innings and walked only 1.6/9. The advanced metrics also suggest that Haren had been unlucky, his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) was 4.09 and his Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) was an even better 3.67. Chalk on the fact that he pitched to an excellent 3.29 ERA in his final 87 ⅔ innings (from July 1 on) and you have an excellent ‘buy low candidate on a one-year incentive-laden deal, whichever team that signs him could be looking at the steal of 2014 free agency.

19. Nelson Cruz (Rangers)
Before being suspended for being part of the Biogenesis scandal, Cruz was enjoying a fine season in which he was elected to his 2nd career all-star game. The former 4-A player was on pace to eclipse his career high of 33 homers set in 2009 but ended his season with 27 through just 109 games. Although some of his over-the-wall power in 2013 was just a lucky HR/FB% (21.3% in 2013, 16.6% in career), teams should about the same contributions from Cruz. Cruz’ age, history with PEDs, and injury problems (has played at least 130 games only once in the majors) will limit his free agent value, don’t be surprised if the Rangers re-sign him at a rather suitable price (perhaps 2 years 18 million?).

20. Jhonny Peralta (Cardinals)
The comparisons between Peralta’s 2013 and Melky Cabrera’s 2012 are plentiful: both players enjoyed career years, both players were suspended for PEDs, and both players had insanely high BABIPS. Cabrera’s 2012 BABIP was .379, .069 points higher than his career averages while Peralta’s 2013 BABIP is .374, .059 points higher than his career average. Much like Cabrera’s 2013 season, expect a drop in production from Peralta- not due to PEDs but due to his BABIP reverting to the mean. Peralta will digress from his performance in 2013 but he will still be a valuable 15 homer player with the ability to play at many different positions. It will be interesting to see whether he or any of the other biogenesis players view a drop in their value this off season due to their relationship with drugs but I still think that a team like the Cardinals would be willing to sign him to a multi-year contract for about 10 million per season. If the Cardinals are unable to acquire Peralta, the Mets seem like they could be a possible fit.

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