Early Look At The 2014 MLB Free Agent Class
Tim Lincecum Headlines 2014 Free Agent Class
Other than Kyle Lohse, the 2013 MLB free agent class has all signed with a team. Highlighted by Josh Hamilton signing with the Los Angeles Angels, surprising moves by the Cleveland Indians going and giving 4-year contracts to both Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, Zack Greinke signing what was a the time the biggest contract ever give to a pitcher until Felix Hernandez received his extension.
Plenty of teams went out and made splashes this off-season, including the Miami Marlins complete liquidation of their team, trading Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, and John Buck to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays also made a trade with the New York Mets acquiring 2012 Cy Young award winner, R.A. Dickey. Toronto, also signed LF Melky Cabrera to a 2-year deal, to sum up a busy winter for GM Alex Anthopolous.
We also some former Major League star sign contracts with teams overseas, Kosuke Fukodome, Andruw Jones, Jose Lopez, Nyjer Morgan, and Casey McGehee. While we also saw some Japanese and Korean players come to the MLB, LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Oakland Athletics going out to get SS Hiroyuki Nakajima.
We saw a very exciting off-season in 2013 with a lot of money being spread around to players who didn’t necessarily deserve it (Anibal Sanchez $90 million), but also star players getting a contract that they have earned, like Josh Hamilton. The 2013 free agent class was a very top-heavy one, but the potential 2014 class is very balanced and deep. The 2014 off-season has potential to be even more exciting than the one we just witnessed.
San Francisco Giants RHP Tim Lincecum will look to rebound from a putrid 2012 season; he saw his BB/9 rate increase to 4.4, compared to his career rate of 3.5/9, and there is no doubt that his fastball is losing velocity. However, he has been able to keep his strikeout rate above 9 per 9 innings pitched. Lincecum is due $22 million this season, and with two Cy Young Awards to his name, I think Lincecum deserves the benefit of the doubt. Expect Lincecum to have a rebound season, and if Brian Sabean does not want to pay him, somebody will.
C Brian McCann is due $12 million in last year of his contract with the Atlanta Braves, he will be 29 when he hits the market. Various injuries have slowed down McCann production in the last couple of years, in 2012, had a batting line of .230/.300/.399, all career lows. However, if healthy, McCann will be heavily sought after, as he is one a few catchers that will be available.
RHP Adam Wainwright will make $12 million in the last year of his contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. Wainwright seems like the type of player that would receive an extension, but I could’ve said the same thing about Kyle Lohse. Wainwright will be 32 when he hits the market, he had a decent in 2012, coming of Tommy John surgery, posting a 3.94 ERA in 32 starts.
New York Yankees second basemen Robinson Cano will be 31 years old when his contract expires after this season, which is the primary concern for Brian Cashman and the Yankees front office. Cano is a perennial MVP candidate and will want a contract that that reflects that. Will we have to wait and see if Cashman is willing to handout a $100 million + contract to a superstar on the wrong side of 30?
The New York Yankees have a similar decision to make about CF Curtis Granderson; he will be 32 when his contract expires after this season. Granderson saw his WAR (Wins Above Replacement) drop from 5.3 in 2011 to 2.7 in 2012. Unless Granderson has a strong bounce back season in 2013, it will be unlikely that he will still be wearing pinstripes in the 2014 season.
The Cincinnati Reds recently acquired OF Shin-Soo Choo, but his contract is up after 2013 season. Choo is projected to play center field for the Reds, a position he has never played before. Choo was an average right fielder during his time with the Cleveland Indians. If Center Field doesn’t work out, the 30-year old Choo, could be looking for a new team in 2014.
RF Hunter Pence will be playing his first full season with the San Francisco Giants on a 1-year contract that is worth more than $13 million. Pence was an instrumental part of the Giants 2012 world series run, but saw a drop in WAR from 2.2 in 2011 to 0.8 last season with the Phillies and giants, hardly worth $13 Million. Pence will be 30 when his contract expires.
OF/1B Corey Hart has been a vital part of the Milwaukee Brewers batting order for the last 6 seasons, averaging 24 HR’s a season. However, after showing that he is nothing special in the outfield, Hart was moved to First Base last season to replace Prince Fielder, where he cost the team 12 runs in 103 games. The Brewers could look for upgrade at first base in the next couple of seasons, if so, Corey Hart will be looking for a new team at the age of 31.
The Texas Rangers have already seen Josh Hamilton leave vie free agency, they would be stupid to let go of someone as consistent as David Murphy. Murphy at 31, a former #17 overall pick by the Boston Red Sox in 2003, has hit very well during his six seasons in Texas, with a line of .286/.348/.453 (AVG/OBP/SLG). Murphy is a player with a lot of hidden value and if Jon Daniels fails to see that value, another team will, and Murphy will wear a different uniform in 2014.
30-year old 1B/OF Mike Morse will be starting his second stint with the Seattle Mariners on a 1-year deal. Morse had a breakout season in 2011 with the Washington Nationals, hitting for a line of .303/.360/.550 along with 31 home runs. Morse missed time due to injury last season and hit 18 Home Runs in 102 games. Safeco field’s new dimensions will be put to the test early on; if the park plays hitter-friendly Morse could have another year like 2011 and become a fan favorite in Seattle. However, if Safeco stays pitcher-friendly Morse could be gone before August and will be forced to test free agency in the winter.
Seattle Mariners 1B/DH Kendrys Morales is in the same boat as Mike Morse, both hitters will have to test the new dimensions of Safeco Field to determine their future with the team. Morales at 29, is also known for his one breakout season, 2009, he had a line of .306/.355/.569 along with 34 HR. A freak leg injury cost Morales close to two seasons of his career; he is still capable of putting numbers comparable to 2009. If he has a good season, look for the Mariners lock him for another couple years; if not, Morales will struggle to find a job after the 2013 season.
Toronto Blue Jays RHP Josh Johnson was acquired in the off-season blockbuster trade with Miami Marlins. At 29, Johnson has “no-hit” stuff; his fastball sits in the mid-90’s with a very good breaking ball. Johnson also has the durability of Mark Pryor; he has made 30 starts just twice in his 8 year career. GM Alex Anthopolous, will have some serious thinking to do, given how much money slightly above-average pitchers, with good stuff having been making (see Greinke, Zack). A good season could mean a $100 million+ contract for Johnson, but I wouldn’t bet on that elbow.
After 15 MLB seasons we know two things about St. Louis Cardinals OF Carlos Beltran. 1. He will get hurt. 2. He will produce at an all-star level when healthy. From 2009-10 with the New York Mets Beltran played only 142 games. We also saw a knee injury hinder Beltran for most of 2012 playoffs. When healthy Beltran is incredible, in 15 seasons he was made 8 all-star appearances and has hit 334 HR’s. If Beltran shows that he can stay healthy in 2013, I guarantee he will produce at a high level, but at 35 he will have limited opportunities in the NL. Expect Carlos Beltran to be a looking for a new home in the American League in 2014, where he has the option to DH.
Chicago Cubs RHP Matt Garza has been very consistent throughout the course of his career, with an ERA 3.84 in 7 seasons. Garza has never had a particularly bad season, but has never had a season that proves him as one the best pitchers in the league. At 29, Garza already has a no-hitter to his name, and he has the stuff to support it. Garza will not be a member of the cubs next season, likely to be traded at the deadline and he has the potential to be one of the top arms available on the free agent market after the 2013 season.
Philadelphia Phillies RHP will likely be a free agent after the 2013 season; he has a $20 million option that vests with 225 IP in 2013, 415 IP in 2012-2013 and not being on the DL at end of 2013 season. Halladay only threw 159 innings in 2012, meaning he would need to increase his innings by 100 to get the 415 IP mark he needs. Halladay has hinted at retirement, but will likely go back to the Phillies on a short-term deal.