90 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report
137 – Number of days until Opening Day
The first signs of movement in the free agent market have begun this offseason. Nick Punto signed a one-year contract with the Oakland Athletics and Marlon Byrd signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies this week. Neither of those players made it onto my top 15 free agent list, but they are the most recognizable names to come offer the board. Yesterday, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, and Matt Garza were highlighted as #7, #8, and #9 on my list of top 15 free agents. Today, we look at the next three on my list.
10. Masahiro Tanaka
Masahiro Tanaka is viewed by many to be the top avaliable pitcher on the free agent market this year. I know all about his devastating splitter and understand why the expectations are high for him. However, Tanaka does not have the power fastball like Yu Darvish and with no experience at the Major League level he fell in my rankings. I'm not going to punt Tanaka out of my top 10, but I am also not going to rank a player that I have not seen him throw one pitch to the best hitters in the world. Will he make me look bad - maybe - but I'm sure to be in minority that I need to see it. The auction bid for Tanaka is going to set a record and one has to wonder if anyone will outbid the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lets not forget that the Dodgers bid for Hyun-Jin Ryu was three times that of the next team. Every team has interest in Tanaka, but the Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs, and New York Yankees will be the favorites.
PREDICTION: Los Angeles Dodgers
11. Ervin Santana
When I read that Ervin Santana was asking for a contract worth a $100 million, I could not help myself but laugh at loud. Ervin Santana and $100 million dollars in the same sentence? When he's on, Santana looks like a strong middle of the rotation starter. When he is off, the ball is flying out of the ballpark at a ridiculous rate. Santana struggled mightily in 2012, but 2013 was much better and he was able to stay healthy. He has started at least 30 games over the past four seasons. So given that improvement, Santana looks like a solid option in a bad market. Last year, Anibal Sanchez received $16 million a season from the Detroit Tigers, which seems high for Santana. That said, he could get a contract with an annual salary of $13 to $14 million a year in this market. The Kansas City Royals made Santana a qualifying offer, which he declined. The Royals are not going to stay in the bidding if Santana has multiple suitors, but I think general managers around the league don't have alot of confidence in him. I think interest is going to be very light for the right-hander. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays may kick the tires a little bit, but I think Santana remains in Kansas City.
PREDICTION: Kansas City Royals
12. Ubaldo Jimenez
After two years of inconsistent performances, Jimenez had a solid campaign in 2013 for the Cleveland Indians. Jimenez does not have the dominating fastball like he once did, but he has gained the off speed stuff - mostly sliders. I have very little confidence in Jimenez maintaining his resurgence after how mightily he struggled in 2011 and 2012. Edwin Jackson's four-year $52 million deal is a decent baseline for Jimenez to use in his negotiations with teams. Jimenez has expressed how much he enjoys Cleveland and that he would like to stay. The Los Angeles Dodgers and The Toronto Blue Jays may be a fit, but like Ervin Santana I think both these teams are just kicking the tires and won't make a legitimate offer to Jimenez. Jimenez will probably take less to stay in Cleveland.
PREDICTION: Cleveland Indians
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