Free agency is upon us, and with it brings an air of excitement, even to teams which lost 90-plus games last season (who could I be talking about?). Tonight, I’m going to give you five lead-pipe locks as to what’s going to happen in free agency, as well as make a few stray observations.
1. The team who signs Josh Hamilton will regret it in the first year.
He chased an obscene amount of pitches last season, and is constantly injured. Whether he is paying the price for the decisions he made as a young man, or if he’s simply just a guy that’ll always be nagged by injuries, he simply can’t continue to chase nearly every other pitch that’s out of the strike zone. It’s a three-year trend for Hamilton, and it’s one he needs to reverse if he wants to play nice for even half of his next contract.
2. Joe Blanton will be a Minnesota Twin.
It makes too much sense not to happen. Blanton is durable, slightly above league-average when it comes to strikeouts — though that might dip in the AL, and should come at a price tag that the Twins see fit. The Twins are in the market for up to three starters, and I think it’s a lock Blanton is one of them.
3. Nobody will give Joakim Soria a closer job.
He won’t be healthy until a month or two into the season. Why on earth — even if you’re just bargaining for a deal — would you say you NEED a closer’s job? Or even infer it by saying you’re only willing to set up for Mariano Rivera? Soria’s a great pitcher, but he’s been out a while and would have to be eased into the closer’s role anywhere anyway. This is just a pipe dream.
4. Shaun Marcum will be the best value signing among all starting pitchers.
Marcum is possibly looking at a one-year deal to prove his health, despite being quite durable up to this last season in his career. That abbreviated 2012 season probably cost Marcum three years of this offseason’s contract, and possibly a few million off of the contract’s AAV. If Marcum is healthy, he could be a top-25 starter in either league, and I think that’s a pretty valuable arm.
5.Carlos Villaneuva will sign with a team, but they won’t promise him 30 starts.
Villanueva only threw 125.1 innings last season and wore down at the end; why would anyone think he’d be capable of 30 starts — ~170-180 innings — just one calendar year later? I think that’s the best-case scenario from Villanueva, and I understand why it’s his bargaining position, but I don’t think it’s a very smart one. I think he’ll get two years and $5-ish million to pitch as much as he can. With so many starters available in his quality level, I think he’d do well to just take the best offer.
6. Delmon Young will sign the last multi-year deal of his career this offseason.
He’s virtually a zero on offense, can’t play the outfield, and that basically adds up to ‘out of baseball by thirty’. For real, though, there’s no reason for anyone to sign him as a DH. He doesn’t offer any position flexibility whatsoever, so he’s not likely to stick around as a fourth outfielder after his days as a ‘regular’ are up — maybe they already are. He’s not a chemistry guy, he’s not a ‘CF-in-a-pinch’, and he’s not a pinch hitter. And he’s not going to sign a contract becoming of those positions either. I still staunchly say he’ll be out of baseball by 30.
* Joel Pineiro could be slightly interesting if he’s healthy enough to go in 2013.
* Despite Brandon League’s salary, there should be plenty of cheap, effective relief arms available. Jose Veras comes to mind.
*I think at least one of Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Jim Thome, or Ichiro will retire.
* Grady Sizemore should probably join them.
* Joe Saunders will get too big of a contract.
* So will Mike Napoli.
* I still believe Jonathan Sanchez could be a competent MLB starter. If Oliver Perez can be resurrected….
* If someone takes even the slightest chance on Daisuke Matsuzaka, they’ll be disappointed.
* Jeff Keppinger will be one of the free agent bargains. He’s a poor man’s Placido Polanco with the bat (though terrible with the mitt).
* The Hisashi Iwakuma re-signing will be a good one for the Mariners. He’ll be a great trade chip when all the young starters converge on Seattle.
* Travis Hafner will make a very good bench bat, a la Thome with the Twins (though not to that extent).
* Stephen Drew will be best suited signing a deal shorter than two years.
* Melky Cabrera will struggle to repeat 2012 and it’ll have nothing to do with PEDs.
* Michael Bourn is going to get a ridiculously good contract. For him.