MLB Free Agency Musical Chairs
I do this every year and every year I find myself wrong on most of my predictions, but it’s still an exercise that I find enjoyable. I’m going to take a look at some of the bigger ticket free agents on the market during this off-season and predict where they might head. Up until a few days ago, I think many Royals fans believed they may actually have a seat at the table this year when discussing the top guys, but some comments by Dayton Moore indicated that probably would not be the case, so there goes that. So here’s my prediction of where the top 15 free agents (in my mind) are headed.
- Josh Hamilton, 2012 Team: Texas Rangers - Hamilton’s free agency case is one of the most interesting in quite some time. We all know his history and we know that he’s slid a little bit over the past year or so a couple times. We also know he’s an elite hitter who can play some defense, so he’s going to still elicit quite a response from many teams around the big leagues. I think Hamilton is aware of his weaknesses and will make his choice with that in mind.
2013 Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers
- Zack Greinke, 2012 Team: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – This is the guy many Royals fans want. He’s the best free agent pitcher on the market and will be highly coveted. Greinke, like Hamilton, has had his issues in the past. And, like Hamilton, I think he will be cognizant of those weaknesses when choosing his next home. I think he was comfortable in California, but he really loves to hit.
2013 Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers
- Anibal Sanchez, 2012 Team: Detroit Tigers – I’m not sure Sanchez is the third best player on the market, but with pitching as such a high priority he moves up my list. Sanchez has been a consistently good, but not great pitcher throughout his career. He has never topped 200 regular season innings, but that doesn’t make him extremely valuable and a pitcher almost any team would love to have. I think his asking price got raised during the playoffs as he shut down the A’s, Yankees and Giants with very good single starts in each series. Teams value playoff experience and they value a guy who strikes guys out and can throw strikes.
2013 Prediction: Texas Rangers
- B.J. Upton, 2012 Team: Tampa Bay Rays – In 2007, B.J. Upton was on his way to becoming one of the very best players in all of baseball. He hit for average, power, took some walks, could run and played great defense. Since then, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. Until 2012, he appeared to have settled in as a guy who didn’t give you a great batting average but did provide pop, speed, defense and some on base ability. The on base ability somewhat disappeared in 2012, but I still think he’s a solid free agent option, though whoever signs him will overpay for what they get unless he taps into 2007.
2013 Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks
- David Ortiz,¬†2012 Team: Boston Red Sox – The guy doesn’t seem to age and he just keeps hitting. In 2012, he put up his best numbers since 2007 and he was easily the best hitter in an injury plagued lineup. Of course, he was injury plagued himself, but even at 90-100 games, he’s a great value in what should be the twilight of his career.
2013 Prediction: Boston Red Sox
- Edwin Jackson,¬†2012 Team: Washington Nationals – For the first time in three seasons, Jackson spent the whole year with one team and had a really solid season. I think most people assume he’ll never break out and become the ace many thought he could be, but he is a solid middle of the rotation starter who will give you strikeouts and mostly limit the walks. He’s likely going to get more money than he deserves due to¬† a dearth of free agent pitchers, but he’ll mostly give you 180-210 quality innings and there’s serious value in that.
2013 Prediction: Los Angeles Angels
- Michael Bourn, 2012 Team: Atlanta Braves – If you like plus defense in center, the ability to get on base at an above average clip and blazing speed, then Michael Bourn is your guy. He doesn’t have a ton of pop, but he can put up a pretty solid batting average with a few doubles and more than his share of triples. He does strike out a ton, but if he was a perfect player, he wouldn’t be heading for his fourth team by the time he turns 30.
2013 Prediction: Washington Nationals
- Hiroki Kuroda, 2012 Team: New York Yankees – Kuroda just keeps on pitching and keeps on pitching well. He doesn’t walk many, he strikes out his fair share and he gives quality innings every single season. He’s getting older, so he’s probably working on more of a year-to-year basis at this point, but I think he’s worth every penny. He’s a guy I’d really love the Royals to go after, but they won’t and even if they did he wouldn’t want to come to Kansas City probably.
2013 Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers
- Nick Swisher, 2012 Team: New York Yankees – Swisher has been with the Yankees for four seasons, and he has been remarkably consistent in that time putting up an OPS+ of between 120 and 129 every season while giving them great at bats, some pop and decent defense in right field. He’s heading into his decline phase most likely, which I think a lot of teams are weary of due to the type of player he is, but he still has at least two or three good years left in him.
2013 Prediction: New York Yankees
- Ryan Dempster,2012 Team: Texas Rangers – Dempster has had a very up and down career. He’s been a great starter at times and he’s been a terrible starter at times. He’s also been a bad closer before and an above average one. He’s hitting the free agent market as a starter, though, and is probably in line for one last contract before he hangs it up. He struggled when moving from the National League to the American League in 2012 and will probably look to head back to the senior circuit in 2013. He may even get more familiar than just that.
2013 Prediction: Chicago Cubs
- Mike Napoli, 2012 Team: Texas Rangers – There aren’t a ton of catchers out there with the kind of power Napoli has. The big knock on him when he was with the Angels was his defense. While it’s still not what you’d like from a catcher, it’s better than it was in those days. It looks like 2011 was the big time outlier in Napoli’s career, so don’t expect that kind of production, but he could really help a team out looking for a guy to catch 60 games and DH another 90 or so.
2013 Prediction: Seattle Mariners
- A.J. Pierzynski, 2012 Team: Chicago White Sox – Pierzynski had his best season at age 35, which is usually a sign of a fluke happening. It was the first time in his career he slugged better than .500 and he obliterated his previous career high in home runs. Pierzynski is the type of guy I’m told you love to have on your team, but we all know that he’s hated when he’s off it.
2013 Prediction: New York Yankees
- Brandon McCarthy, 2012 Team: Oakland Athletics – Before the gruesome head injury, McCarthy was headed toward a really nice free agent payday and was probably going to have a bidding war going on. He’s always been injury prone, so you can’t count on 33 starts from him, but he’s been very good the last couple years when he has been out there. He’s worth the money for the times he can get on the mound. I think the head injury is going to hurt him on the market.
2013 Prediction: Oakland Athletics
- Angel Pagan, 2012 Team: San Francisco Giants -¬† When I looked at the free agent list, I didn’t expect him to make my top 15, but when you factor in his defense with his offensive ability, I think he might come as a pretty big steal. You all know I think the Royals should be looking to upgrade in center, and Pagan is one place I’d look. That said, I don’t think he’s coming to Kansas City. I think he’s actually quite comfortable where he is.
2013 Prediction: San Francisco Giants
- Torii Hunter, 2012 Team: Los Angeles Angels - Hunter has lost a step or two, but he’s still a very good defensive right fielder. He is also coming off a solid offensive year, but could benefit from a move to a smaller ballpark, both offensively and defensively. He’s a guy who is loved around the game and is considered a great clubhouse guy, so he won’t have any shortage of offers.
2013 Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies
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