91 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report
138 – Number of days until Opening Day
As General Managers and Owners continue to meet in Orlando, free agent acquisitions and trade rumors are swirling and the excitement that the Hot Stove provides is heating up! This week at BEONDECK, I am giving you my top 15 free agents and where I think they will play in 2014. Yesterday Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, and Curtis Granderson were highlighted as #3, #4, and #5 on my list of the top 15 free agents. Today, we look at the next three free agents on my list.
7. Nelson Cruz
Nelson Cruz was on pace for a bounce back season, but his year was cut short after he was suspended in the Biogensis case. Cruz and Jhonny Peralta join Melky Cabrera as players that hit the free agent market after being suspended for drug related issues. It remains to be seen if the suspension will cost Cruz alot of money on the free agent market. The sample size Cruz brings to the negotiating table is strong and because of it, I think he will be viewed as a normal free agent. Cruz will probably command a contract with an annual salary of $8-$11 million annually. It will not be surprising if Cruz takes a short-term deal to re-establish his value following the suspension. He is a better fit for an American League club where he can DH on occasion. That said, look for the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins, and Baltimore Orioles to be in the mix.
PREDICTION: Seattle Mariners
8. Mike Napoli
I don't think there is another player on the market this year that is sitting as comfortable as Mike Napoli. Last year, the Boston Red Sox discovered a degenerative hip condition during his physical which led to the Red Sox renegotiating his three-year $39 million dollar deal down to a one-year $5 million dollar deal. Napoli never seemed bothered by the injury and he posted normal offensive numbers this year and helped the Red Sox win a World Series. I doubt Napoli will accept a contract with an annual salary of anything less than $13 or $14 million. He could even make more if the right team comes along. Since the Red Sox are the most familiar with his medicals, they seem to be in a position of strenght to keep Napoli. There is a possibility that the Texas Rangers will be in the mix as well.
PREDICTION: Boston Red Sox
9. Matt Garza
Matt Garza may just be the best free agent pitcher on the market this offseason. If it was not for the fact that Garza has a history of arm injuries, I would have ranked Garza in my Top 5 free agents. He was sidelined with an elbow injury in 2012 and dealt with a shoulder strain at the beginning of 2013. Once he got back on the mound this year, he did not seem to have any lingering effects and threw the ball well. He posted a 3.82 ERA in 155 1/3 innings. A annual contract of $13-$15 million is probably what he will get in this market. Garza may be another player who would benefit from a short-term deal. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays could all be in the mix and don't be surprised if the Texas Rangers try to keep him.
PREDICTION: Toronto Blue Jays