Friday, January 11, 2013
Best fits, predictions for remaining FAs
By Jim Bowden
Michael Bourn remains a free agent as many teams quickly filled their center field needs.
In about a month, pitchers and catchers will be reporting for spring training, and yet several significant free agents remain unemployed. Some were even once thought to be among the best in this offseason’s free agent class, but because of bad timing, trades or teams’ reluctance to part with draft picks, the lucrative contracts these players were seeking simply haven’t materialized.
Here are the best players left on the free agent market, as well as where they fit best and a prediction of where I think they will sign.
So where does that leave Bourn? Logical fits are the Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs, but neither team is willing to surrender a draft pick to sign Bourn. Meanwhile, other seemingly good fits like the Miami Marlins and Twins simply don’t want to commit that type of money. This bizarre and unfortunate market means there will probably be a contending team that gets lucky by signing Bourn.
Best fits: Braves, Phillies, Rangers, Giants
Prediction: Atlanta is where Bourn will likely land, but he sure won’t get the fair market value that Upton received.
2. Rafael Soriano | RP Last year it was the closer’s market that collapsed after the Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million deal. The market got so bad that Ryan Madson, arguably the second-best closer on the market, had to settle for a one-year, $6 million contract. He ended up having Tommy John surgery and missed most of the 2012 season.
This year, the market for closers has basically been nonexistent. Soriano walked away from a $14 million player option, instead deciding to take a $1.5 million buyout in hopes of a multiyear deal. It certainly made sense at the time, especially considering he’s one of just three closers to have two 40-save seasons over the past three years.
The problem is there haven’t been any significant offers. His best fit all along has been the Detroit Tigers, a team that is presently counting on 21-year-old Bruce Rondon, who has no major league experience. Instead, the Tigers have already spent their money on free agents Anibal Sanchez and Torii Hunter.
Further complicating things for Soriano is the fact that most teams that were in need of a closer have already addressed the issue. And like Bourn, teams will have to forfeit a draft pick to sign Soriano. With the new salary cap rules for the draft and international signings, even big-market clubs don’t want to give up draft picks, preferring to build their teams through scouting and player development.
Best fits: Tigers, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Reds, Nationals
Prediction: Blue Jays or Nationals.
3. Kyle Lohse | RHP Coming into the offseason, Lohse was considered the third-best starting pitcher on the free agent market behind Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez. Both received multiyear deals. But according to sources, the 33-year-old right-hander hasn’t received an offer even approaching a three-year deal.
Which team is willing to give up a draft pick for Lohse?
Unlike Sanchez and Zack Greinke, Lohse will cost the signing club a first- or second-round draft choice. That’s because according to the new collective bargaining agreement, if a player is traded midseason -- like Greinke and Sanchez -- there is no draft-pick compensation if he is signed as a free agent. This made Greinke and Sanchez that much more appealing than Lohse. Still, given the way Lohse has pitched the past few years, it is puzzling not a single team has stepped up.
Best fits: Orioles, Royals, Angels
Prediction: Don’t be surprised if the Rangers take a one-year flier on him.
4. Mike Napoli | 1B/DH/C The Boston Red Sox thought they had made a splash at this year’s winter meetings when they reached a tentative agreement with Napoli on a three-year, $39 million contract, pending a physical. However, when the physical showed a significant health risk/injury to his hip, the deal was never finalized.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington reaffirmed to me yesterday Napoli’s status still is as a free agent, and he is free to sign with any of the 30 clubs. The Red Sox say their No. 1 goal remains to improve their offense at first base, and Napoli continues to be their first choice. The Red Sox and Napoli’s lead agent, Brian Grieper, continue to try and find some middle ground with which both sides can be satisfied. This means salary, length and language to protect the club all have to be worked out, a process that is not as simple as both sides would have liked.
Best fits: Red Sox, Orioles, Indians
Prediction: I think this deal still gets done with the Red Sox.
5. Delmon Young | LF/DH Young’s best year was 2010 when he hit .298/.333/.493 with 46 doubles and 21 home runs with the Twins. He struggled badly in 2011, but stellar performances in the playoffs the past two years -- which included winning ALCS MVP in 2012 -- helped reestablish his market value and viability as a major-league player. No matter how you slice it, teams like guys who have shown they can perform in October.
However, Young's 2012 regular season was rocky. He posted a pedestrian .707 OPS and was arrested early in the year and charged with aggravated harassment after making an anti-Semitic remark. He had offseason ankle surgery and is expected to be ready by Opening Day, but for whom? His below-average defense in left field and off-the-field issues have turned off many teams. Both the Yankees and Braves -- who have glaring needs in left field -- have been very public in stating they have no interest. Young is just 26, but which GM is willing to give him another chance?
Best fits: Rays, Phillies, Padres, Astros, Indians
(t) 6. Joe Saunders | LHP and Shaun Marcum | RHP Both of these pitchers could stay on the back burner for a while, with teams still hoping to sign Lohse. However, there is no shortage of teams looking to add another quality middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.
Best fits: Mets, Orioles, Cubs, Padres, Pirates and Mariners
Prediction: A return to Baltimore is the best fit for Saunders, while the Mets would be a good landing spot for Marcum.