Predicting the Top-50 Free Agents: 1-10

Every year lists the top-50 free agents, and in recent years has even gone so far as to have a contest to see who can predict the most landing spots correctly.

All this week, I’m going to go ten-by-ten and do my predictions.

Today, here’s one through ten:

No. 1 Robinson Cano, 2B – Yankees (.314/.383/.516, 27 HR, 107 RBI) – QO

I just can’t envision any other team giving into what Cano is likely to command, which may be in the vicinity of $30 million per year. Even with a possible market of only one, I think it’s possible Cano could get that kind of dough as the only sure-fire superstar on this year’s market.

Off the top of my head, other teams that might be interested if the price comes down *could* include the Orioles, Mets, and maybe the White Sox.

No. 2 Jacoby Ellsbury, CF – Mariners (.298/.355/.426, 52 SB, 31 2B) – QO

This makes almost too much sense. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is almost obligated to make a big splash, and what better way than to nab the local boy coming off a World Series win? Ellsbury grew up about 300 miles from Safeco Field, and could fill a need for the Mariners both in center, and at the top of the order. At $20ish million a year, Jack Z can give that contract and know that A. if it works out, it’ll be for the good and he’ll keep his job or B. he won’t have to worry about it, because he’ll be long gone.

No. 3 Shin-Soo Choo, OF – Mets (.285/.423/.462, 112 BB, 21 HR) – QO

Choo is looking for a big deal, and the Mets make sense because they wouldn’t forfeit a second rounder rather than a first to sign him.  Choo makes a ton of sense for the Mets, whose three highest-employed outfielders (by plate appearances, non-Marlon Byrd division) were Juan Lagares, Eric Young, and Andrew Brown. Or Lucas Duda, if you want to include him. But of those three, the highest OPS goes to Brown with a .688 mark. Ouch. Choo reportedly was looking for $100ish million on an extension, but I think a five-year deal at $75-80ish million could get it done. Maybe at touch more. If SSC signs elsewhere, Curtis Granderson makes too much sense.

No. 4 Brian McCann, C – Rangers (.256/.336/.461, 20 HR) – QO

I think the Rangers outbid the Yankees (and Red Sox) here, with the Bombers eventually settling on A.J. Pierzynski (and maybe the Red Sox turning back to Jarrod Saltalamacchia). I’m not entirely rote on the Yankees’ luxury cap situation, but I think their need to sign Cano might preclude them from spending big dough on another free agent hitter. A pitcher, perhaps, but not a hitter. But as for the Rangers, catcher is about the only spot that offense won’t have nailed down, with Pierzynski and Geovany Soto departing.

I think the Braves — right or wrong — will be OK with handing over the catching duties to Evan Gattis going forward. At least until Christian Betancourt proves ready.

No. 5 Masahiro Tanaka, SP – Dodgers (24-0, 7.8 K/9, 0.94 WHIP, 5.7 K/BB in Japan)

If this seems bonkers, keep in mind that some in the business think the Dodgers will wind up with Tanaka AND trade for David Price. That’s absolutely bananas, and might be evident of one of two truths. Either the game is more flush with cash than even we can imagine, or this new ownership group wants to win at any/all costs. Either way, wow.

No. 6 Ervin Santana, SP – Phillies (9-10, 3.24 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 1.14 WHIP) – QO

The Phillies will be among many teams looking to upgrade their rotations this year, and with an aging roster and a quickly closing window to win, it may not make sense to sign Santana. But if Ruben Amaro Jr. is compiling a team to save his job, it’ll make a lot of sense to tie his money to pitching as the Phillies had the sixth-worst rotation ERA in baseball last year — granted, with an inflated ERA when FIPs are considered.

No. 7 Matt Garza, SP – Angels (10-6, 3.82 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 1.24 WHIP) – Ineligible for QO

For a team that allegedly entered the season with great starting pitching depth, the Angels certainly had more than their fair share of woes. As a unit, the rotation finished with the ninth-worst ERA and K/9. For a team built to win now — financially — adding help in the rotation will be paramount. I considered a reunion with Santana here, but I’m not entirely sure how much each side wants to revisit that. Garza comes with no pick compensation attached to a team that’ll need those top picks to supplement an aging and expensive roster. Of course, he also makes sense for about a dozen other teams, so this is in a way a stab in the dark.

No. 8 Hiroki Kuroda, SP – Yankees (11-13, 3.31 ERA, 6.7 K/9, 1.16 WHIP) – QO

Kuroda has had the ‘company line’ so to speak that’d he’d only sign with the Dodgers or Yankees, and while it’s unclear if that’s still the case, it doesn’t look like Los Angeles would have much reason to bring him back. Kuroda at $12-15mm for one year makes sense for both sides, I think.

No. 9 A.J. Burnett, SP – Pirates (10-11, 3.30 ERA, 9.8 K/9, 1.22 WHIP) – QO

See Kuroda, except he said he’d retire if he doesn’t return to the Pirates. We’ll see how true to his word he is, perhaps. Wandy Rodriguez exercised his option for next year at $13 million, so it’s unclear how much more the Bucs have to spend on pitching.

No. 10 Mike Napoli, 1B – Red Sox (.259/.360/.482, 23 HR, 92 RBI, 73 BB) – QO

The Red Sox initially signed Napoli to a three-year, $39 million deal in December last year. But after a physical showed hip issues, the two sides eventually settled on a one-year deal at $5 million plus incentives (up to $13 million). In that sense, and after a solid season, there’s little reason for Napoli to take any sort of discount. He’s far and away the best first baseman on the market, and it seems to have been a good fit. Now, will a new 3/$39 deal make sense? I’d bet it’s right around there when the dust settles.

About Brandon Warne

Sportswriter trying to make it.
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