Another year, another list of free agent predictions, which will most likely be completely wrong. Only time will tell how accurate this list is. DISCLOSURE: If you bet money based off these prediction, I am not liable for your losses.
(List from MLBTradeRumors)
1. Max Scherzer – Rangers
After a disappointing 2014 campaign, the Texas Rangers will be looking to rebound in 2015, as they get players like Prince Fielder, Elvis Andrus, and Yu Darvish back from season ending injuries. Even with those players back, the Rangers will still need to bolster their rotation if they want to be contenders. In comes Max Scherzer, who, coming off a Cy Young Campaign in 2013, had another great year in 2014, going 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA. While he will be expensive, adding Scherzer will definitely improve what is otherwise a lackluster rotation behind Yu Darvish and Derrick Holland.
Other Possibilities: Red Sox, Cubs, Yankees
2. Jon Lester – Red Sox
After spending 8 1/2 years in Boston, winning 2 World Series during his time there, Lester was traded to the Oakland A’s at this year July Trading Deadline for Yoneis Cespedes, in one of the biggest and most surprising deadline deals in recent history. After posting a 10-7 record and a 2.52 ERA in Boston, Lester continued to succeed in Oakland, going 6-4 with a 2.35 ERA in 11 starts. While he did struggle in his one postseason start this year (7.1 IP, 6 ER), Lester provided solid pitching for the A’s down the stretch. Even though they weren’t contenders in 2014, the Red Sox set themselves up nicely to make a run in 2015 with the acquisitions of Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, and Joe Kelly at the Trade Deadline. With the addition of Lester back in Bean Town, the Red Sox could put up a fight with the Orioles for AL East supremacy. However, look for the Cubs to also be a strong contender to the southpaw, as current Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and Lester have a strong connection going back to their days in Boston.
Other Possibilities: Cubs, A’s, Yankees
3. James Shields – Cubs
Since coming over from Tampa Bay back in 2013, Shields has put up great numbers in his two seasons in Kansas City, going 27-17 with a 3.18 ERA during his time there. While “Big Game James” didn’t live up to his nickname in the Royals postseason run (7.20 ERA in 5 starts), Shields will still have no problem making top-starter money this offseason. The Cubs will be looking to make a splash in Free Agency this offseason, with numerous prospects on the cusp of the MLB. With former Rays manager and baseball mastermind Joe Madden at the reign in 2015, the Cubs will have a legitimate shot at signing Shields, as Shields may feel quite comfortable in the South Side, with his former manager now running the show.
Other Possibilities: Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers
4. Hanley Ramirez – Yankees
During his tenure in LA, Ramirez managed to put together 2 1/2 sensational years offensively at the shortstop position, ranking top 3 in a majority of offensive statistics. While his offense is a positive for Ramirez, his defense at short and his health are two major red flags for perspective teams. Ramirez, who will turn 31 in December, has only been able to play 211 games in 2013-14. He has also been one of the worst defensive shortstops over that span. Possibly the best move for Ramirez would be a shift back to third, where he played in his final season in LA. However, Ramirez is one of few potential shortstops on the market, and a team like the Yankees, who just lost their shortstop, are in desperate need for someone to man that position. Ramirez will likely get a contract of about 7 years, $160 million, and the Yankees always have the funds to buy free agents.
Other Possibilities: Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox
5. Pablo Sandoval – Giants
Sandoval, who turned 28 in August, will be the top third baseman on the market this offseason, which will entitle him to a large payday. However, over the past 4 seasons, Sandoval’s numbers have been regressing, and his weight will be a concern for any team that wants to sign him long-term. The Giants, who offered Sandoval a qualifying offer, will have a gaping hole at third of Sandoval decides to leave them.
Other Possibilities: Red Sox, Nationals, Angels
6. Victor Martinez – Mariners
In 2014, Martinez managed to have a career in his age 35 season, hitting .335/.409/.565 and 32 home runs. Martinez will be looking to cash in on his big year, but teams might be weary of signing Martinez to more than a 1 year deal, as he is already 35. V-Mart will also most likely have to sign with an AL team, as he can’t play the field anymore. This past year, the Mariners were on the cusp of making the postseason, finishing 1 GB of the A’s for the second wild card spot. If the Mariners want to make their first postseason since 2001, they will need to improve offensively, including at their DH, which was the worst in the AL in almost all offensive categories. Adding Martinez will provide some much needed protection for Robinson Cano, and add depth to their lineup.
Other Possibilities: White Sox, Tigers, Orioles
7. Melky Cabrera – White Sox
After receiving a 50-game suspension in 2012, Melky Cabrera signed a 2 year, $16 million deal with the Blue Jays in the 2012-13 offseason. After an injury plagued 2013, Cabrera put together a quality 2014 season, hitting .301 with 16 home runs in 139 games. Cabrera, who turned 30 in August, will most likely be seeking a multi-year deal with a team needing a corner outfielder. However, since the Blue Jays offered Cabrera a qualifying offer, any team that would want to sign Cabrera would forfeit their first round draft pick. However, initial reports has the two sides being far apart on negotiations. A team like the White Sox, who are in need for a corner outfielder, could make the Melk Man a sizable, multi-year offer.
Other Possibilities: Tigers, Blue Jays, Mets
8. Russell Martin – Blue Jays
As the best catcher in the free agent pool, Russell Martin will be seeing a lot of offers from teams that are in need of catchers. Martin had a great year in the Pittsburg not only offensively, but defensively as well, throwing 39% of runners behind the dish. While the Blue Jays did just sign catcher Dioner Navarro to a two year deal last offseason, they could always move him to DH and play Martin at catcher, since they just traded away DH Adam Lind.
Other Possibilities: Cubs, Pirates, Astros
9. Nelson Cruz – Orioles
After signing a 1 year, $8 million contract with the O’s last off season, Cruz put together a monster 2014 campaign, hitting .271/.333/.525, leading all of baseball in home runs with 40. Cruz, who was coming off a PED suspension in 2013, is going to get a pay raise, as he was already offered a qualifying offer by the Orioles earlier this week. While he may turn that offer down, there is still mutual interest between the O’s and Cruz to bring Cruz back to Baltimore for at least the next several seasons.
Other Possibilities: Mariners, Tigers, Blue Jays
10. Yasmany Thomas – Rangers
The 24 year old Cuban defector Thomas has a chance to receive the biggest contract for a Cuban player. A bar for contracts has already been set for Cuban outfielders by other defectors like Yasiel Puig and Rusney Castillio. Thomas is a high risk, high reward player, as there isn’t much certainty than other past Cuban outfielders. But Thomas’s raw power could potential score him a 7 year, $100+ million contract. The Rangers, who are losing Alex Rios this offseason, will have to find someone who can play right field for them in 2015 and beyond, and the power hitting righty will be able to fill that void.
Other Possibilities: Phillies, Tigers, Padres
11. Ervin Santana – Pirates
Ervin Santana is in another tricky situation this off season. While there are plenty of teams that would want the almost 32 year old righty, the Braves offered him a $15.3 million qualifying offer. While that is a lot of money, Santana might not want to take the one year offer, and look elsewhere for a multi-year deal. However, other clubs may be hesitant to sign Santana, because they would have to forfeit their first round draft to the Braves in exchange for him. If Santana declines his qualifying offer, look for him to be one of the last pitchers to sign this off season. Meanwhile, the Pirates may lose 40% of their rotation this off season, as both Francisco Liriano and Edison Volquez are free agents. If they lose them both, they will definitely be in the market for a starting pitcher.
Other Possibilities: Braves, Royals, Red Sox
12. Kenta Maeda – Rockies
As this offseason’s major Japanese pitcher, Maeda, 27, will get a lot of looks from teams that missed out on Tanaka last year. While his stuff is not as good as Tanaka’s is, he still may cost as much as him, as any team that wants to sign him will still have to pay $20 million posting fee to the Hiroshima Carp. A team with a weak rotation, like the Rockies, will be able to use Maeda as a top of the rotation guy.
Other Possibilities: Twins, Astros, Dodgers
13. David Robertson – Tigers
As the top reliever on the market this offseason, Robertson will be seeing a lot of offers from a bevy of teams that have a weak bullpen. One of those teams are the Detroit Tigers, who’s bullpen was 27th in the league in ERA. What may deter the Tigers from signing him is the fact that he was offered a qualifying offer by the Yankees. Robertson is one of the players who may accept his qualifying offer, but if he doesn’t, Detroit could be a major suitor for the reliever.
Other teams: Cubs, White Sox, Blue Jays
14. Brandon McCarthy – Braves
During his time in New York after the trade deadline, Brandon McCarthy had one of the bests stretches in his career, going 7-5 with a 2.89 ERA in 14 starts. This season was also McCarthy’s first season pitching 200 innings (he actually had exactly 200 between his time with the Yankees and the Diamondbacks). The Braves, who might be losing starters Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang, might also be without starters Kris Medlen (who may not even be back with the Braves in ’15) and Brandon Beachy for the start of the season. Signing the veteran McCarthy will help out the young Braves rotation headed by Julio Tehran and Alex Wood.
Other Possibilities: Royals, Pirates, Yankees
15. Francisco Liriano – Royals
After nine up and down seasons in Minnesota/Chicago, Liriano signed a two year deal with the Pirates, and really turned his career around, with a 3.20 ERA over his two years in Pittsburgh. However, Liriano is another player who is hurt by the qualifying offer, as a team would have to forfeit their first round pick to sign him. Fresh off of their first AL Pennant in 29 years, the Royals will have their work cut out for them this off-season, having to replace pitcher James Shields and DH Billy Butler. While Liriano isn’t as nearly as dominant as Shields is, he could slip into the rotation behind youngsters Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura.
Other Possibilities: Cubs, Pirates, Braves
16. Chase Headley – Red Sox
Chase Headley quietly put together a very solid 2014 season, finishing the year with a 4.4 WAR, 7th best of all third basemen. While his offensive numbers won’t blow you away, Headley is one of the better third basemen in the league defensively. Unfortunately for Red Sox fans, protect Wil Middlebrooks isn’t progressing the way the team hoped, and it looks like it may be time for the team to move on from him. Headley could provide solid defense for the Red Sox at the hot corner, and fill a hole for the Red Sox the Middlebrooks couldn’t.
Other Possibilities: Giants, Yankees, Blue Jays
17. Andrew Miller – Cardinals
After a very good 2014 campaign with the Red Sox and the Orioles, Miller could help numerous teams in need for lefty set up man. Already this offseason, the Cardinals have been heavily connected with Miller, with a few uncertainties in their bullpen.
Other Possibilities: Brewers, Cubs, Tigers
18. Justin Masterson – Diamondbacks
To steal a line from the Tom Hanks classic Forrest Gump, “I got shot in the buttocks.” Wait, that wasn’t the line I wanted. What I meant to say was, “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.” Well, in this scenario, Justin Masterson is like a box of chocolates, as you don’t know what you’re going get with him. After posting good numbers in 2011 and 2013 (3.21 ERA in 216 IP in ’11 and 3.45 ERA in 193 IP in ’13), Masterson struggled in 2012 and 2014 (4.93 ERA in 12, 5.88 ERA in ’14). It’s going to be hard to say what to expect from Masterson in 2015, which is why I expect a team like the Diamondbacks, whose rotation was 27th in the MLB in ERA in 2014, to take a waiver on Masterson as a low risk-high reward candidate.
Other Possibilities – Twins, Cubs, White Sox
19. Aramis Ramirez – Brewers
Ramirez and the Brewers both accepted their ends of his mutual option. He will be a Brewer for at least one more year.
Other Possibilities: NONE
20. Colby Rasmus – Tigers
After a down year, in which Rasmus lost the starting job, the 28 year old outfielder will be looking for a starting job outside of Toronto. In order to do that, Rasmus may have to shift from Centerfield, where he’s played the majority of his career, to a corner outfield position. The Tigers, who may be losing Torii Hunter, will need to sign someone who can take the vacant right field job.
Other Possibilities: White Sox, Mets, Giants
21. Jed Lowrie – Nationals
Other Possibilities: Mets, Blue Jays, Athletics
22. Jason Hammel – White Sox
Other Possibilities: Twins, Dodgers, Cubs
23. Asdrubal Cabrera – Blue Jays
Other Possibilities: Mets, Nationals, Yankees
24. Nick Markakis – Orioles
Other Possibilities: Giants, Mets, Royals
25. Adam LaRoche – Marlins
Other Possibilities: Mariners, Orioles, White Sox
26. Jake Peavy – Padres
Other Possibilities: Giants, Cubs, Royals
27. Hiroki Kuroda – Retirement
Other Possibilities: Yankees, Dodgers
28. Michael Morse – Mets
Other Possibilities: Giants, Royals, Rangers
29. Michael Cuddyer - Rockies
Other Possibilities: Giants, Mets, Tigers
30. Alex Rios – Royals
Other Possibilities: Giants, Mariners, Twins
31. Edison Volquez – Royals
Other Possibilities: Braves, Diamondbacks, Marlins
32. Luke Gregerson – Blue Jays
Other Possibilities: White Sox, Cubs, Tigers
33. Torii Hunter – Tigers
Other Possibilities: Twins, Orioles, Retirement
34. A.J. Burnett – Brewers
Other Possibilities: Royals, Pirates, Red Sox
35. Sergio Romo – Red Sox
Other Possibilities: Dodgers, White Sox, Astros
36. Francisco Rodriguez – Brewers
Other Possibilities: Blue Jays, Red Sox, Cubs
37. Rafael Soriano – Astros
Other Possibilities: Cubs, Rockies, Diamondbacks
38. Ryan Vogelsong – Giants
Other Possibilities: Royals, Dodgers, Cubs
39. Aaron Harang – Twins
Other Possibilities: Rockies, Marlins, White Sox
40. Nori Aoki – Reds
Other Possibilities: Royals, Giants, Mets
41. Billy Butler – Indians
Other Possibilities: Royals, Orioles, White Sox
42. Stephen Drew – Athletics
Other Possibilities: Mets, Astros, Reds
43. Emilio Bonifacio – Athletics
Other Possibilities: Nationals, Blue Jays, Braves
44. Casey Janssen – Yankees
Other Possibilities: Dodgers, Indians, Brewers
45. Pat Neshek – Indians
Other Possibilities: Astros, Twins, Diamondbacks
46. Brandon Morrow – Rockies
Other Possibilities: Dodgers, White Sox, Diamondbacks
47. Jason Grilli – White Sox
Other Possibilities: Orioles, Brewers, Mets
48. Brett Anderson – Mets
Other Possibilities: Twins, Cubs, Diamondbacks
49. Josh Johnson – Padres
Other Possibilities: Twins, Rays, Astros
50. Jung-Ho Kang – Dodgers
Other Possibilities: Orioles, Nationals, Astros