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
92 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report
139 – Number of days until Opening Day
I received great feedback after Monday's blog when I announced my top 3 free agents this offseason. Some of you felt that I rated Brian McCann too high, but I'll stick with my decision to put McCann in the top 3 free agents. Look, how often does a catcher of McCann's caliber hit the market? McCann will have multiple suitors and the Los Angeles Dodgers are my pick to land him. Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury along with McCann made my top 3 free agents on Monday. Here are my next three free agents.
4. SHIN-SOO CHOO
Shin-Soo Choo enters free agency coming off a huge year in Cincinnati at the plate. Choo hit .285 with 21 home runs. Granted, he did hit in a very friendly ballpark in, but teams interested in Choo are certainly looking to add his bat much more than his defense. His defense has slipped the past two seasons which does lower his value. Hunter Pence signed a $90 million dollar extension with the San Francisco Giants at the end of the season and this is the perfect contract for Choo to use as a baseline. Choo has been as good as Pence and they are the same age. The Houston Astros appear to be a surprise suitor and the Seattle Mariners are in need of outfield help. Neither of these teams offer Choo to win now. The Texas Rangers could also use some outfield help and should compete next year.
PREDICTION: Texas Rangers
5. CARLOS BELTRAN
I'm sure some may question my selection to have Carlos Beltran this high. Despite his age Beltran (he turns 37 in April) continues to produce at the plate and a move to the American League could be the next stop for him. Beltran has at least two more productive years in him and there may be a team that is willing to give him a third year. Torii Hunter got a two-year $26 million deal from the Detroit Tigers last year and Beltran should get the same deal. Beltran will likely to only consider contenders. The New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, and Baltimore Orioles seem to be solid suitors, but I think the team that makes the most sense is the Boston Red Sox. Beltran can be a DH, but at Fenway Park he can play left field which does not require alot of running around with the Green Monster. Beltran has no reason to rush his decision and in the end it will pay off.
PREDICTION: Boston Red Sox
6. CURTIS GRANDERSON
Curtis Granderson is going to be an interesting free agent to keep an eye on this offseason because he enters it looking to rebuild his value after an injury-riddled season in 2013. He can provide a ton of power, but his batting average has dropped dramatically the past few seasons. Its tough to put a finger on what type of contract Granderson will receive this offseason. He may have to settle for a contract with an annual salary of $10-$12 million range due to the injuries this past year and the lower batting average. The Chicago White Sox have been rumored to have interest in the Chicago Native. The Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox could lose outfielders and would open the door as possible destinations. The New York Yankees extended him a qualifying offer, which he declined.
PREDICTION: Chicago White Sox