MLB: Top 15 Players Who Will Be Free Agents This Offseason
Taking A Look At The MLB Free Agency Field
With 28 MLB teams already in offseason mode and the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals soon to join the pool after the 2013 World Series ends, it is official that the free agency period is almost upon us. This will bring a plethora of moves as teams look to make major deals in hopes of becoming the 2014 World Series champion.
With free agency looming, the rumor mills have already started to churn on overdrive, as every baseball fan in the world wonders what their favorite team's front office will decide to do over the offseason. Of course, this chatter is no more than rumors at this point, as no team would dare to make a move while the World Series is being played. But, that does not mean that many rumors does not carry at least a bit of merit.
But before any team can begin to even think about making a move that will better their franchise, they first must gain a grip on what the open market will look like. With this in mind, I have compiled a list of the top 15 MLB players who will be available via free agency and what their value will be during the upcoming offseason, in turn letting front offices and their fans know what this portion of the market will look like.
15. Bronson Arroyo
Bronson Arroyo has cut out a niche as a very productive starting pitcher in recent seasons despite containing one of the most varied array of slow pitches ever seen, and has continued to be efficient during the 2013 season. In 32 games with the Cincinnati Reds, he compiled a 14-12 record and 3.79 ERA over 202 innings pitched. At 36-years old, it is obvious that Arroyo is not going to be a long-term fix in the rotation; but after throwing 200 innings or more and maintaining a 3.88 ERA or lower in four of the last five seasons, he will surely be a valuable pickup as an innings eater. A two-year, $22 million contract seems to be a reasonable deal for both Arroyo and any team looking for an effective veteran arm.
14. Stephen Drew
The 2013 season has seen Stephen Drew return to his top form as he has been a rock at shortstop for the Boston Red Sox. In 124 regular season games, Drew put up a statistical line of .253/.333/.443 with 29 doubles, eight triples, 13 home runs and 67 RBIs, which has been shown to be well above average by his 3.2 oWAR. Defensively, Drew has not been as spectacular, but he has been above average with a 0.6 dWAR, which exemplifies the fact that he scoops up all of the balls that come his way. Overall, Drew compiled a 3.1 WAR, which should help him earn a three-year contract worth $24 million.
13. A.J. Burnett
The 2013 season was impressive for A.J. Burnett, as he compiled a 10-11 record with 209 strikeouts, a 1.21 WHIP and 3.30 ERA over 191 innings in his second season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Burnett still possesses one of the best two-pitch combinations in the world even at 36 years of age, as his ability to mix and match low-to-mid-90s heat with a looping curveball that sits in the mid-80s is nearly unhittable at times. Although Burnett has made it clear that he will only re-sign with the Pirates, there will undoubtedly be a number of teams looking to pry him away with a deal in the range of two years and $25 million. It is likely that Burnett will turn these offers down and return to Pittsburgh for a discounted rate of one year and $10 million.
12. Jhonny Peralta
The 2013 season has been quite adventurous for Jhonny Peralta, as he performed great on the field for the Detroit Tigers but was a walking circus off of it. Peralta compiled a statistical line of .303/.358/.457 with 30 doubles, 11 home runs and 55 RBIs while also playing above-average defense at shortstop. Off the field, he had to deal with a 50-game suspension as a result of connections to the Biogenesis Clinic that will put doubts into the mind of any prospective employer. A successful return from this suspension in the postseason will alleviate some doubts, and likely will earn Peralta a two-year, $20 million deal.
11. Ervin Santana
The 2013 season showed the good side of Ervin Santana as he started 32 games and threw 211 innings with a 9-10 record, 3.24 ERA, 161 strikeouts and 1.142 WHIP. Throughout the season, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound pitcher showed great command and looked like a genuine top-of-the-line starter for the Kansas City Royals. This was a far cry from his poor 2012 season with the Los Angeles Angels, when Santana looked erratic at best. Getting teams to believe that this impressive season will be the start of a great run in the future will be the key to Santana receiving the large contract that he will be pursuing. Doing so should not be entirely difficult, considering he is only 30-years old and possesses an impressive fastball-slider combination that leaves many scouts drooling. A four-year, $60 million contract does not seem out of the realm of possibilities.
10. Curtis Granderson
After making $15 million during the 2013 season, there is little doubting that outfielder Curtis Granderson will be in for a lowered salary in 2014 -- the question is just how much. During the 2013 season, Granderson was limited to 60 games played for the New York Yankees, during which he hit .229/.317/.407 with eight stolen bases, seven home runs and 15 RBIs. Despite this limitation in 2013, there is still no doubt that Granderson possesses a good bat and plays good defense, which makes it likely he would reject a $14.1 million qualifying offer in search of a longer deal. If he does reject this offer, there will likely be significant interest on the open market, which will likely include teams looking to offer Granderson a deal worth roughly three years and $36 million.
9. Bartolo Colon
A late-career resurgence for Bartolo Colon has seen him return to the All-Star form displayed in the late 1990s, and the 2013 season may have been the highlight of this comeback. During this season, he started 30 games and compiled an 18-6 record with a 2.65 ERA for the Oakland A's. This production was arguably the best from any pitcher 40 years or older in the history of baseball, and would seem to earn Colon a huge paycheck on a one-year deal. This likely will not be the case, though, as Colon will be hampered from the numerous steroid rumors that have followed him since his resurgence began in 2011, highlighted by a 50-game suspension in 2012. A one-year, $8 million deal with incentives to push it higher seems likely heading into the 2014 season.
8. Hiroki Kuroda
The 2013 season was yet another productive year for Hiroki Kuroda as he compiled a 11-13 record with a 3.31 ERA in 201.1 innings pitched in 32 games started for the New York Yankees. This production brings his career total to 1,120 innings pitched and a 3.40 ERA since coming to MLB from Japan in 2008. At 38-years old, it is clear that time is running out on Kuroda's, which is even further enforced by his desire to spend at least one season pitching in Japan once again before retiring. Many teams will look to woo Kuroda into sticking around on a one-year contract in the range of $15 million though, as good pitching comes at a premium. In the end, Kuroda will only end up signing for the Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers or returning home.
7. Mike Napoli
After seeing a three-year, $39 million contract dwindle down to one year and $5 million as a result of a degenerative hip condition, it would be understandable if Mike Napoli came into spring a little upset with the Boston Red Sox. This did not happen even in the slightest though, as Napoli has put up an impressive statistical line of .259/.360/.482 with 38 doubles, 23 home runs and 92 RBIs. In the field, Napoli also played an impressive first base, although his production goes much further than just providing an effective bat and glove. This is because the first baseman started the trend of Red Sox players growing beards, and has been an influential clubhouse presence as the team went from last in the AL East in 2012 to competing in the World Series in 2013. There is no way to put a dollar value on this presence, and it will likely result in Napoli earning a deal worth roughly the same three years and $39 million that he just missed out on last offseason.
6. Matt Garza
After a merry-go-round of trades and contract rumors, Matt Garza will finally be given a chance to hit the free agent market this offseason and decide his long-term future. This long-term future will likely be plentiful in money, as he compiled a 10-6 record with 136 strikeouts and a 3.82 ERA in 155.1 innings pitched over 24 games started for the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers in 2013. With a powerful arsenal that relies heavily on a fastball sitting in the low-to-mid 90s and a diving slider, interest in Garza will be at a fever pitch this offseason. This fervor over Garza will will likely result in him receiving a five-year, $75 million contract.
5. Carlos Beltran
Over the last decade, Carlos Beltran has been a force to be reckoned with, and 2013 exemplified this. In 145 games played for the St. Louis Cardinals, the 36-year old put up a statistical line of .296/.339/.491 with 30 doubles, 24 home runs and 84 RBIs, while also playing a solid right field. This contribution in the regular season and his status as one of the best playoff hitters ever will surely have a number of teams lining up to sign Beltran this offseason. Expect him to get a three-year, $30 million deal in what will the last contract of a thoroughly impressive career.
4. Jacoby Ellsbury
Throughout his seven-year career with Boston Red Sox, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has consistently been a force, but questions have remained about his durability. This is because Ellsbury only appeared in 134 games or more in three of his first six seasons, while the others have been marred by various injuries. He did appear in 134 games in 2013, putting up a statistical line of .298/.355/.426 with 31 doubles, eight triples and nine home runs while serving as the Red Sox leadoff man. In the field, he has been nearly as valuable by providing great play in Fenway Park's vast center field, which is justified by his 1.9 dWAR. At 30-years-old, many teams will look at this great play and overlook any durability issues, which will likely earn Ellsbury a six-year, $95 million contract.
3. Shin-Soo Choo
Shin-Soo Choo was excellent at the plate in 2013 for the Cincinnati Reds, playing in 154 games and putting up a statistical line of .285/.423/.462 with 34 doubles, 21 home runs, 54 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. This line will surely have any team in baseball intrigued, which will lead to Choo's value likely shooting through the roof. His value will also be added by playing the premium position of center field, and should result in a six-year, $105 million contract.
2. Brian McCann
Throughout the 2013 season, it appeared as if the Atlanta Braves were doing all they could to get rid of catcher Brian McCann, leading one to wonder if their front office is insane. After all, McCann provides veteran leadership behind the plate and a power bat from a premium position, so it is clear that he is supremely valuable. Coming off a 2013 season in which he compiled a statistical line of .256/.336/.461 with 13 doubles, 20 home runs and 57 RBIs in 102 games, McCann is in for a big payday. A deal around seven years and $108 million for the 29-year old looks likely.
1. Robinson Cano
Robinson Cano is without a doubt the top free agent in all of MLB. Over the last seven seasons with the New York Yankees, he has missed a total of 13 games while hitting .302 of higher in six of those years, and has at least 25 home runs and 94 RBIs in five of them. On the defensive end of things, Cano has been spectacular, winning gold gloves in 2010 and 2012 and and being announced as at least a finalist in 2013. What does all of this mean exactly for his next contract? Well, simply that the second baseman is in for a huge pay day, with his camp stating he is searching for a 10-year, $310 million deal. Don't expect that number to be hit, but it would be easy for Cano to earn a seven-year deal at $23 million annually once the bidding begins.