2014 MLB Free Agency: Top 10 Hitters on the Market
Who Is The Best Hitter In The 2014 Free Agent Class?
The 2013 MLB free agent class isn’t the most star-studded lineup of position players, but there are many quality names in need of new contracts. I don’t, however, see many of those big-name guys uprooting their lives and moving elsewhere.
Regardless if these players decide to stay where they are now or move on to “greener” pastures, they will inevitably sign lucrative contracts from teams who desire their services.
Last offseason, one big-name free agent hitter decided to sign a deal with a new ball club — solely chasing the largest deal if you ask me. Josh Hamilton signed a five-year, $133 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. The huge contract isn’t working out very well for the Angels so far. Hamilton hit just 21 home runs and posted a career-low .250 batting average in 2013. He was just one of the many underperforming pieces of the Los Angeles Angels that finished 18 games out of first place.
This offseason will see its fair share of spending. The players on the following top-10 list will have teams lining up at their doorsteps with contracts in hand. The Los Angeles Dodgers have set the pace in spending for big market ball clubs, and plenty of other organizations will begin to willingly pay more money to field a more talented team. The Dodgers were talented, but just not enough.
This free agent class includes two players suspended for 50 games during 2013 for their involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Their reputations are tarnished, so how much money will teams be willing to give them? A postseason star, possibly the best ever, sits in the free agent pool waiting to be scooped up; where will he sign?
Here are the 10 best hitters on the market this winter.
10. Jhonny Peralta, INF
Despite the 50-game suspension for his involvement with the Biogenesis scandal, Jhonny Peralta is still a valuable player on the free agent market this winter. In 2013, Peralta hit for an average of .303 with 11 home runs and 55 RBIs. He started nine of the 10 games he played in during the postseason, hitting .333 with a home run and six RBIs. Some team will want to swoop in and acquire the infielder -- most likely a team needing his service at third base.
9. Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH
Kendrys Morales has finished his one-year contract with the Mariners and will most likely be looking to cash in after a productive season in Seattle. He hit .277 with 23 home runs and 80 RBIs along with a .785 OPS. Morales splits time between first base and designated hitter, but he’s more of a fit as a DH in my mind. He’s played in the American League his entire career, so he’ll most likely stay in the league whether it’s with the Mariners or another team looking for an upgrade at the DH slot.
8. Nelson Cruz, OF
Also involved in the Biogenesis scandal, Nelson Cruz will be a sought-after free agent this winter. The All-Star in 2013 had a wonderful season for the Texas Rangers, who have since sent him a qualifying offer to stay in Arlington. Cruz hit 27 home runs and drove in 76, adding a .833 OPS to the mix — all this despite missing 50 games. He was key to the Rangers’ push for the postseason before accepting his punishment. Despite his name linking him with performance-enhancing drugs, Cruz is still one of the biggest names in this free agent class. There’s no telling if he’ll be the same player post-scandal, but some team with money to spend will snatch him up.
7. Curtis Granderson, OF
Coming off an injury-riddled 2013 season in which he saw just 214 at-bats, Curtis Granderson should be much higher on this list. However, Granderson just could not stay off the disabled list early on in 2013. His numbers over the past four season with the New York Yankees have been staggering: 115 home runs, 307 RBIs and a .829 OPS over 513 games. There’s truly no reason for Granderson to leave Yankee Stadium, which features one of the shortest and easiest right fields to hit home runs. Granderson has never really been a guy to hit for average — he's a career .261 hitter — so staying with the Yankees would make sense.
6. Brian McCann, C
Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann is much higher on other top free agent lists, but this is as far as he goes on mine. He’s definitely one of the most productive catcher in recent years, but there are far better hitters available this winter. McCann has had injury woes over the past few seasons — he hasn’t played in more than 130 games in a season since 2010. Sure, he’s a catcher, but if you’re going to spend upwards of $100 million on a hitter this offseason, you want to spend it on a guy that will play more than 150 games. In 102 games last year, McCann hit .256 with 20 home runs and 57 RBIs. If a team wants to invest in a marquee catcher for three or four years, McCann will be their guy. He’ll get paid big time, but long-term deals would not be my recommendation.
5. Mike Napoli, 1B/DH
Mike Napoli’s catching days are over. The 32-year-old did not play a single game behind the plate in 2013, his singular but World-Series-winning season with the Boston Red Sox. His value is no longer at the catcher position, but his bat is still a valuable commodity. Napoli crushed 23 home runs and drove in 92 runners in 2013, in which he posted a .259 BA and .842 OPS. He wasn’t extremely productive in the postseason, hitting .217, but he did provide two well-timed home runs: a game-winning shot against the Detroit Tigers in Game 3 of the ALCS and another in Game 5. He no longer hits for average, but he’s a power bat that some team will pay a pretty penny for.
4. Carlos Beltran, OF
As far as pure hitters go, Carlos Beltran should be at the top of this list. His age, however, drops him to No. 4. The 36-year-old once again crushed pitching in the postseason by driving in 15 runs and parking two homers. His 2013 season was another All-Star campaign: .296 BA, 24 home runs and 84 RBIs. He will make an immediate impact for some team’s outfield. If his regular-seasons numbers aren’t enough motivation to sign him, his postseason resume will be. Beltran will sign another lucrative contract, my guess is for just one or two years though.
3. Shin-Soo Choo, OF
Shin-Soo Choo is rising faster than any other player on this list. In 2013, Choo earned a staggering .885 OPS, the highest of his career in a season which he played more than 150 games. He walked 112 times, including an MLB-best 26 HBP. His defense in center field is spectacular as well. Now represented by Scott Boras, Choo will most definitely cash in on a long-term contract with a contending team this winter.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF
Jacoby Ellsbury is a phenomenal baseball player, though his injury history raises some questions. He’s played in a combined 384 games over the past four seasons. Last season, however, was a success for Ellsbury. He led the league in stolen bases with 52 and held a .298 BA. He’s one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball, and he will get paid big money for holding that title. There’s no telling if he’ll return to Boston or not, but I would advise any team going after Ellsbury not to invest long term. I’d give him two years, three tops.
1. Robinson Cano, 2B
The New York Yankees second baseman is most definitely the biggest name and best hitter this free agent class has to offer. He initially demanded a $300 million contract from the Yankees, but has since been rejected for the insane demand. Cano is considering moving to rapper Jay-Z’s new sports agency, so his payout will be astronomical. Over the past five seasons, Cano has a .314 BA with 142 home runs, 513 RBIs and an .899 OPS. One could make the argument that he should be hitting more home runs consider Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field, but he’s been phenomenally productive for New York. My guess is that he stays in the Bronx on a huge long-term deal from general manager Brian Cashman.