89 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report
136 – Number of days until Opening Day
General Managers and Owners have completed their meetings in Florida and at BEONDECK, we're wrapping up the top 15 free agent list for this offseason. On Thursday, we learned that MLB was withdrawing its proposal for a new bidding system with Japan, making it uncertain whether prized pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will be on the market this offseason. Uncertainty was one of the reasons I lowered my ranking for Tanaka on this top 15 free agent list. There are several unknown factors that come along with Japanese players and it will be interesting to see if this situation is resolved and Tanaka will be made available by his current team in Japan. Here are the last three players in my top 15 free agent list.
13. Joe Nathan
Joe Nathan is coming off his best season since 2009 after he had struggled with arm issues the past two years. He reasserted himself as a dominant ninth-inning closer in his second season removed from Tommy John surgery. In 2013, Nathan had 43 saves, a 6-2 record, a 1.39 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings with the Texas Rangers. he will be pursued by multiple teams this offseason. One of those teams will not be the Rangers as Neftali Feliz will be given every opportunity to win back the closer role for them. The Detroit Tigers appear to be interested in Nathan and he is interested in the Tigers. It makes sense as Nathan is familiar with the American League Central after his time in Minnesota. The Cleveland Indians may be in the mix as well.
PREDICTION: Detroit Tigers
This 40-year-old right hander is coming off a solid 2013 campaign with the Oakland Athletics. His two-seam fastball has tremendous movement and all his does is throw strikes. He relied on strong Athletics defense and he will need to find a team that provides that same type of strong defense if he is going to continue to have success in 2014. Since his shoulder surgery in 2010, Colon has proven that he is durable and can give a team a complete season. It's doubtful the Oakland Athletics will pursue Colon with the asking price expected to be out of their range. There will be a few suitors, but the team that makes a lot of sense is the Pittsburgh Pirates. Their pitching and defense philosophy fit Colon. Signing a 40-year-old is dangerous, but you can be sure a 2.65 ERA will not be ignored. The Cleveland Indians will be in the mix along with Pittsburgh and possible the Los Angeles Angels.
PREDICTION: Pittsburgh Pirates
15. Tim Hudson
Tim Hudson is 38-years-old, but like Bartolo Colon, he has figured out more ways to pitch late in his career. Hudson was throwing the ball really well before he broke his ankle this past season. Hudson finished the 2013 regular season with an 8-7 record, 3.97 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 131 1/3 innings. Hudson is a staff leader and I can't imagine that the Atlanta Braves won't want him back. Having said that, there will be other suitors for Hudson and the San Francisco Giants are in need of adding starting pitching. I think Hudson is a better off in the National League so while American League teams will pursue him, I think he stays in the Senior Circuit.
PREDICTION: San Francisco Giants
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