MLB Top 50 Free Agent Predictions

Posted: November 6, 2013 in Uncategorized


The good folks over at MLBTradeRumors have, once again, begun their 2013-2014 MLB Free Agency Prediction Contest. Basically, one can predict where they believe each of the top-50 free agents (as rated by MLBTR) will go once all is said and done this offseason. As a baseball aficionado with a passion for pointless prognostication, I figured that this would be a great opportunity to shed some of my (nonexistent) fortune telling and (lack of) wisdom.

Instead of merely projecting the destination of each free agent, I will also be predicting the contract that they will receive from said team. Now, I absolutely have no inside information short of what I have read and studied from others. I also don’t pretend that my financial figures will be even close to correct. I do, however, have confidence that I will come close with both the destination and the financial figures once spring training roles around next year. Without further ado, let us begin the 2013-2014 MLB Top 50 Free Agent Predictions:

(Player’s name and position will be listed, followed by the team he is projected to sign with and a predicted contract figure)

1. 2B Robinson Cano – Resigns with New York Yankees (10 years, $250 million)

The Cano camp floated a $300 million asking price at the All-Star break. But, that was merely to get him to sign during the season and forego free agency. After a disastrous season that saw New York miss the playoffs and the Red Sox win the World Series; there is little chance that Cano ends up elsewhere. After all, the Yankees have the most money and a pressing need. If they lost Cano, there is very little else at second base this offseason to supplement his loss.

2. OF Jacoby Ellsbury – Resigns with Boston Red Sox (6 years, $138 million with an option for a 7th season)

Many Red Sox fans believe that Ellsbury has played his final game in a home uniform at Fenway. I, on the other hand, don’t believe that they can afford to lose their leadoff hitter coming off a spectacular championship season. Yes, they have Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings. But, the Sox have a less than stable situation at the corner outfield spots. With Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava coming off career seasons and Shane Victorino an injury risk, the Red Sox will either have to pony up the money to bring back Ellsbury or find a comparable replacement. In the end, a reunion between the two seems the most likely scenario. Boston won’t want to commit fully beyond six years. So, a vesting option on a seventh seems like a good middle-point for the two sides at $23 million a season.

3. OF Shin-Soo Choo – Signs with New York Yankees (6 years, $96 million)

I know, I know. Another Yankees free agent bonanza. Choo, along with Ellsbury, is one of the premier leadoff hitters on the market. New York, meanwhile, will have a need in the outfield with Curtis Granderson heading towards free agency. New York has money, and if they are so inclined, could afford to improve their lineup dramatically this offseason. Choo would fit right in as the Yankees’ leadoff hitter. A Korean native, Choo has made it known that he would like to play in New York. The Mets are a definite possibility. But, if they get into a bidding war with the Yankees, I think we all know who would win.

4. C Brian McCann – Signs with Texas Rangers (5 years, $90 million)

The Rangers have made the playoffs or played a one-game playoff each of the past four seasons. However, like the Philadelphia Phillies before them, they have a taken a step back each of the last three seasons. With the loss of AJ Pierzynski to free agency, catcher is a huge hole in Arlington. They have shown limited interest in Carlos Ruiz. Which leaves either McCann or former Red Sox Jarrod Saltalamachia. With Nelson Cruz departing, offense will be a need as well. McCann provides the best power threat of any catcher in baseball and would be a great fit in the American League on a long-term deal, as he could be moved to the DH later on in his career.

5. RHP Masahiro Tanaka – Signs with Los Angeles Angels (6 years, $78 million)

Angels GM Jerry DiPoto confirmed recently that Los Angeles has scouted Tanaka multiple times and remains very interested in his services. The 25-year old Japanese right-hander went 24-0, 1.27 last season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Since 2007, he is 99-35, 2.30 in the Japan Pacific League. Los Angeles, of course, is not shy to shelling out big dollars. Although, recently, their biggest contracts have gone to offensive stars. Their reliance on offense has only proven futile, with back-to-back disappointing seasons. The Angels have enough offense to win a championship with Pujols, Trout, Hamilton, Trumbo, etc. Their problem has been finding pitchers to supplement their duo at the top, Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. Tanaka will come cheaper than most top free agent starters. Although, the team that signs him will have to pay a posting fee of upwards of $70-100 million just to speak with him about a contract. It seems ridiculous. But, teams have ponied up seriously change to sign fellow Japanese phenoms like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish. Someone will spend the money and why not the team that has seemed so willing to toss dollars into the fan?

6. RHP Ervin Santana – Signs with Minnesota Twins (5 years, $75 million)

This time last year, Santana was nothing more than a reclamation project, traded from Anaheim to Kansas City for a little-known minor leaguer. After a stellar 2013 (9-10, 3.24), Santana appears to be the #1 domestic free agent pitcher on the market. Of course, that means he will have plenty of suitors to big against each other. In the end, Santana will find a home at Target Field in Minneapolis. This is for multiple reasons. First, the Twins have a dramatic need. Minnesota’s starting pitching was the worst in the American League in almost every major statistical category. They went into last season with Vance Worley as their opening day starter. By May, the Vanimal was spending his evenings in Rochester (AAA).

The Twins, considered a small market by some, are actually a decent franchise. Their new stadium drove attendance up towards the top for a few seasons prior to their disastrous 2012-2013 campaigns. With Justin Morneau’s contract off the books, the Twins should have at least $20 million to spend this offseason. It might not be wise to binge it all on an erratic starter like Santana. But, when have MLB general managers ever been wise? Beyond just the franchise’s need for starters, Santana has pitched well at Target Field (2-0, 3.10) over the course of his career. The match seems right.

7. RHP Matt Garza – Signs with Seattle Mariners (5 years, $70 million)

It seems ridiculous that Matt Garza could get a five year deal at $14 million per. But, with the dearth of starting pitching in this league, many undeserving contracts will be given out. Garza, for his part, has been quite consistent over the course of his career. He has never had an ERA over 4 since his first full season in 2007. Of course, he also has only once surpassed 11 victories and injuries have crept up from time-to-time. Still, teams like Seattle, Minnesota, Texas, and Anaheim will bid large sums of money for the talent of this 29-year old. I think that the Mariners, having lost out on Jacoby Ellsbury, will spend their money to supplement Felix Hernandez at the top of the rotation. A top-three of Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Garza could rival most team’s rotations.

8. RHP Hiroki Kuroda – Resigns with New York Yankees (1 year, $15 million)

It’s either New York, Japan, or retirement for the 38-year old veteran. Kuroda (11-13, 3.31) enjoyed another strong statistical campaign in the Bronx last year and has made it known that he won’t play for any other MLB team. Now, with the Yankees signing both Cano and Choo so far in these rankings; they may be hesitant to spent a significant sum on starting pitching. But, pitching wins championships and a one-year contract regardless of the monetary value is always a good deal in today’s baseball economy. Kuroda will be convinced to return to New York by their aggressiveness in the offseason.

9. RHP AJ Burnett – Retirement

Burnett has publicly acknowledged that he will either resign with Pittsburgh or retire this offseason. The 36-year old has earned roughly $120,000,000 over the course of his career. So, it’s not as though he needs to return to pay off the children’s dental bills next season. At 10-11, 3.30, Burnett proved that he still has something left. But, with Pittsburgh already on the hook for Wandy Rodriguez’s $13 million player option, they may be hesitant to fork over $13+ million for another season of Burnett considering what they have in the minor league system.

10. 1B Mike Napoli – Signs with Pittsburgh Pirates (3 years, $45 million)

Our first big time shocker of the list. Napoli enjoyed a spectacular season as the first baseman for the Red Sox. Boston could have had him on a three-year contract. But, they were hesitant after injuries crept up in their scouting and physicals. I bet they wish they could do that all over again. Napoli will be the premier first base bat on the market. Pittsburgh, losing Justin Morneau to free agency, will have the need and the money assuming they do not bring back Burnett. Napoli could provide All-Star caliber protection for Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez in the Pirates’ order.

11. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez – Signs with Los Angeles Dodgers (4 years, $52 million)

Ubaldo is one of the stranger cases as we head towards free agency. He declined his player option to remain in Cleveland. The Indians, for their part, have shown absolutely zero interest of bringing Jimenez back on a multi-year deal. Who could blame them? They traded most of their prospect pool for the right-hander back in 2011 and he rewarded them by going 13-21, 5.25 over his first 1.5 years in Cleveland. In a contract year, Jimenez suddenly rediscovered his talent, finishing 2013 at 13-9, 3.30. There are many skeptics as to whether or not he will keep up that type of production on a multi-year contract. But, if there’s one team that can afford to screw up this type of deal, it is the Dodgers. Los Angeles has a need at the back-end with Ricky Nolasco a free agent. We all know that their ownership has deep pockets and a will to win. With Jimenez, they could find their perfect #4 starter.

12. OF Carlos Beltran – Resigns with St. Louis Cardinals (2 years, $30 million)

Beltran enjoyed a renaissance campaign in 2013. There are rumors that he could end up in New York (with either the Mets or Yankees) or even return to Kansas City; where his career began over a decade ago. But, in the end, I think that St. Louis will feel the most pressure to sign the veteran slugger. He is well liked by Cardinals fans and has proven to be one of the most clutch postseason hitters of this or any era (save for game six of the 2006 NLCS). The Cardinals are always contenders and with Beltran, they’ll have a bonafide power threat for the next two years.

13. OF Curtis Granderson – Signs with New York Mets (2 years, $32 million)

One of the best power hitters in the game from 2011-2012, Curtis Granderson slugged 84 homers over that timeframe. Of course, it remains to be seen how much of an effect Yankees Stadium had on those numbers. But, few will argue that, when healthy, the Grandy-man can be a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat. Many believe he will accept his qualifying offer from the Yankees after dealing with an injury riddled 2013 (.229-7-15 in 61 G). But, if another team is willing to discuss a multi-year deal, I find it hard pressed for Granderson to turn it down. Especially if that other team is the Mets (which would allow him to remain at his home in New York). For the Mets, this deal makes sense because it’s relatively short-term and gives them a real threat behind (or in front of) David Wright in their order.

14. SS Stephen Drew – Signs with St. Louis Cardinals (4 years, $48 million)

I am a little bit more skeptical about this deal now that the Red Sox have provided Drew with a qualifying offer. If he signs elsewhere, that team will have to fork over a first round pick (assuming they are not picking in the top-10, in which case the signing team would surrender a second round pick). For St. Louis, a team that prides itself on finding gems like Michael Wacha and Kolten Wong in the draft, it could be enough to sour them on Drew. Still, we saw how poor the Cardinals’ shortstops were in the World Series. Even though Drew hit worse than Ricky Otero during the playoffs, he provides Gold Glove caliber defense and the offensive potential that dwarfs the current crop of castoffs in St. Louis.

15. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Signs with Philadelphia Phillies (3 years, $27 million)

Philadelphia is going to have to address their hole behind the plate this offseason. Now, resigning Carlos Ruiz always seemed to be the #1 priority. However, recent news suggesting that both Colorado and Boston have already begun their pursuit of “Chooch” seems to be dimming the likelihood of a reunion. The Rockies have already offered Ruiz a multi-year deal. With McCann expected to become a very rich man and Ruiz pursued by two big spenders, the Phillies, who have multiple holes to fill this offseason, may find “Salty” more to their tastes.

Coming off of a strong year (.273-14-65), Saltalamacchia will get a multi-year contract. But, he should be affordable for under $10 million a year assuming the Phillies are willing to give him at least three seasons. The pros of going with “Salty” over Ruiz includes a BIG power upgrade (55 over the last three seasons) and youth (the former Ranger and Red Sox doesn’t turn 29 until May). The cons, however, are also pretty significant. Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter. But, only in the sense that he does indeed try to bat right-handed against lefties. It doesn’t mean that he can, in fact, hit well from both sides of the plate (career BA vs. RHP – .263, vs. LHP – .206). He’s also not the greatest defensive backstop. He’s no liability. But, there’s a reason that Boston went with David Ross over Saltalamacchia in high pressure situations this postseason. Still, it would be fun to have to type his name for the next few seasons, and his relative health, youth, and playoff experience may be enough to convince Ruben Amaro that he is the right man for the job.

16. LHP Scott Kazmir – Signs with Baltimore Orioles (2 years, $18 million)

What a difference a year makes. Prior to opening day, Kazmir was nothing but an afterthought. He hadn’t pitched since April, 2011, when he went 1.2 innings for the Angels before being shut down with arm troubles. Kazmir returned with Cleveland last season and was absolutely stellar (10-9, 4.04). His 9.2 K/9 is tops among free agent starters and he is the best lefty available. Baltimore would be a great fit as Kazmir could provide veteran leadership to a young pitching staff. He has also proven successful in the AL East in the past during his reign with Tampa Bay.

17. OF Nelson Cruz – Signs with Philadelphia Phillies (2 years with a vesting option for a third, $24 million)

This deal could be worth $36 million if Cruz’s option would vest. Regardless, it’s quite obvious that the Phillies need to do something with their corner-outfield woes. Whether that’s going hard after a premier free agent like Ellsbury or Choo remains to be seen. With their other holes, it would be prudent of Ruben Amaro to look to fill the void with somebody a little bit cheaper than the players mentioned previously.

That’s where Cruz comes in. A right-handed power bat, Cruz would provide the clout from the right side of the plate that Philadelphia has lacked since they shipped Hunter Pence to San Francisco in July, 2012. Of course, Cruz doesn’t come without some question marks. He was suspended 50-games last year for steroids. He’s also not the swiftest of defenders or a very good baserunner. But, he provides a dramatic improvement in power over the castoffs that Philadelphia has sent out the past few seasons (Juan Pierre, Laynce Nix, John Mayberry, Delmon Young, etc). In just 109 games last season, Cruz hit 27 home runs. He’s also proven to be a very good postseason hitter (.278-14-27 in 34 career games). Though, Philadelphia seems far away from that realm after two consecutive dismal campaigns.

18. 2B Omar Infante – Signs with Kansas City Royals (3 years, $24 million)

Omar Infante is one of the more curious cases this offseason. He doesn’t have a big name. But, he provides big production at a position that typically doesn’t see dramatic offensive numbers. Last season, Infante provided the Tigers with plus production (.318-10-51) and strong defense. Detroit’s division rival, Kansas City believes that the time is now to contend. However, they haven’t had a quality second baseman in decades. Infante would give them a great #2 hitter in front of their big producers in the middle.

19. RHP Joe Nathan – Signs with New York Yankees (2 years, $24 million)

New York lost Mariano Rivera to retirement and while they could go with David Robertson or another internal candidate; it would seem prudent for them to grab someone with closing experience on a short term deal. There is no better available ninth inning reliever than Nathan, who opted out of his contract with Texas. The 38-year old has never won a title, and his best bet might be to go to the Bronx.

20. RHP Ricky Nolasco – Signs with Toronto Blue Jays (3 years, $36 million) 

Another hurler who experienced a career year with impending free agency, Nolasco was one of the best pitchers in the National League from July 1st on (9-3, 3.45). The Blue Jays are in need of a veteran right-hander after the loss of Josh Johnson to free agency.

21. SS Jhonny Peralta – Signs with New York Mets (2 years, $16 million)

The Mets have been trying to figure out their shortstop woes since Jose Reyes departed following the 2011 season. Now, with contention just a heartbeat away, New York should begin to spend their capital by filling needs in their lineup. Peralta (.303-11-55 in 107 G) was stellar for Detroit prior to his 50 game suspension for steroids. On a short-term deal, he could be a steal for the Mets.

22. RHP Bartolo Colon – Signs with Houston Astros (1 year, $9 million)

It doesn’t seem like a smart investment for a perennial 100 loss franchise to spend big on a 40+ year old pitcher. But, the Astros have a prospect pool rife with young talent both on the mound and in the field. What they don’t have (and what they’ve lacked for years) is a veteran presence at the top of the rotation to take pressure off the younger arms. With expectations and payroll low, they can afford to spend some of their capital on a veteran like Colon, who is coming off a spectacular campaign in a similar role with the Athletics (18-6, 2.65). The Astros are lucky in that his market doesn’t seem very vast.

23. RHP Bronson Arroyo – Signs with Cleveland Indians (2 years, $20 million)

Cleveland’s rotation was a pleasant surprise this season. But, they’re going to likely lose one or both of Jimenez and Kazmir this winter. To replace them, a wise move would be to grab the veteran Arroyo from their cross-state rivals in Cincinnati. The 36-year old has been the model of consistency since joining the Reds, as his ERA has sat between 3.74 and 3.88 in four of the last five seasons. Another plus would be his relationship with Manager Terry Francona, who was the skipper for Boston when Arroyo was there from 2004-05.

24. OF Marlon Byrd – Signs with Texas Rangers (3 years, $30 million)

Another curious case, Marlon Byrd was an afterthought heading into 2013. His one year, $700,000 contract with the Mets seemed like just another average veteran latching on with a mediocre team. Instead, Byrd made the most of his “prove it” contract, finishing 2013 with a line of .291-24-88 with both New York and the Pittsburgh Pirates. A return to Pittsburgh is possible. But, Texas has the financial edge over the Bucs. With the potential loss of both Nelson Cruz and David Murphy, the Rangers will need to grab an outfield bat.

25. RHP Grant Balfour – Signs with Detroit Tigers (2 years, $18 million)

The Tigers made the best out of a bad situation in their bullpen last season. The poor performance of Jose Valverde notwithstanding, Detroit somehow survived their lack of an experienced closer to advance to the ALCS. However, Boston’s superior bullpen proved to be the difference in the end. Balfour has been the Athletics’ full time closer for two seasons now. With 62 saves under his belt over that timeframe, the 35-year old is finally going to cash in as a closer this winter. The Tigers, contenders once again in 2014, will need to boost their bullpen depth.

26. RHP Joaquin Benoit – Signs with Cleveland Indians (3 years, $24 million)

Benoit was the beneficiary of the poor performance of others in that Detroit bullpen. A career setup man, the 36-year old saved a career high 24 games for the Tigers in 2013. His previous contract (3 years, $16.5 million) was considered an overpay for a setup man. Expect Benoit to get more money on a similar term this offseason. Cleveland has a need at the position after they non-tendered former closer Chris Perez.

27. RHP Scott Feldman – Resigns with Baltimore Orioles (3 years, $20 million)

Feldman rebounded enough in 2013 to warrant a multi-year contract this winter. Whether it comes from the team he ended his season with (Baltimore) or elsewhere remains to be seen. The Orioles, regardless of whether or not they sign a fellow veteran like Scott Kazmir, will need to keep their rotation depth and have shown interest in bringing back the former Texas Ranger.

28. DH/1B Kendrys Morales – Resigns with Seattle Mariners (2 years, $26 million)

I don’t think the market will be as rich as Kendrys thinks it will be. Morales, once a valuable power producer for the Angels, has seen his numbers take a dip since his gruesome leg injury back in 2010. Last season, the Designated Hitter produced to the clip of .277-23-80. While that’s not bad at all, Morales doesn’t get on base a whole lot (.336 OBP). He’s also a very, very poor fielder. One of the worst in baseball, in fact. That limits his market to American League teams in need of a DH. In the end, a return to the Pacific Northwest might be the best option for both sides.

29. C Carlos Ruiz – Signs with Colorado Rockies (2 years, $14 million)

“Chooch” will always be a fan favorite in Philadelphia. The guy will never have to buy a beer in the City of Brotherly Love after his clutch performances over the past decade. However, his time in Philly may be coming to an end. The Rockies have made Ruiz their #1 priority heading into the winter. Few could blame them. Even though Colorado already has a strong incumbent backstop in Wilin Rosario (.292-21-79), they have a big hole opening up at first base with Todd Helton retiring. With the slim market for first basemen this offseason, the Rockies appear prepared to give Ruiz the backstop job and shift Rosario, a power threat, to first. This would not only improve their offense. But, would give them one of the best defensive catchers in the game with a young rotation penciled in for 2014. Ruiz has also raked during his career at Coors Field (.351-2-8), which makes him even more enticing to the Rockies.

30. RHP Josh Johnson – Signs with Kansas City Royals (1 year, $10 million)

Josh Johnson was one of the brightest young pitchers in the game a few seasons ago. He has always been injury prone. But, the Blue Jays believed that his potential during a free agent year was too much to pass up. Unfortunately, little went right north-of-the-border this season. Johnson was abysmal (2-8, 6.20) and heads into free agency with his value at its lowest. He’ll still get plenty of coin from a team in need of pitching. But, his chances at a multi-year deal seem slim (barring an option of some kind). Kansas City would jump at the chance to acquire a live arm like Johnson to replace Ervin Santana in their rotation behind James Shields.

31. RHP Tim Hudson – Resigns with Atlanta Braves (1 year, $12 million)

The 38-year old Hudson was experiencing another strong season with the Braves (8-7, 3.97) when it all came to crashing halt in August when the Mets’ Eric Young Jr. stepped on Hudson’s ankle during a play at first. The injury was tough to take, not only because of the gruesome nature of it. But, also because few knew whether or not we would see the great right-hander pitch again. Hudson appears adamant that his career is not over, and that he wants to pitch in 2014. A reunion with the Braves seems likely because of Atlanta’s financial constrictions. Their poor signings of BJ Upton and Dan Uggla, coupled with many big arbitration cases ahead, have left Atlanta without the financial freedom to go and sign a veteran starter to a multi-year deal. A return of Hudson would add experience and depth to their already strong rotation.

32. RHP Fernando Rodney – Signs with Chicago Cubs (2 years, $17 million)

Rodney is another guy who wishes that his free agency came a year ago. The veteran followed up a meteoric 2012 campaign (2-2, 0.60, 48 SV) with a rather average 2013 (5-4, 3.38, 37 SV). Still, he is an experienced closer in a league that overvalues ninth inning relievers. There are plenty of teams that need relievers heading into next season, so finding a spot for Rodney can be a bit of a crapshoot. But, the Cubs are one of those teams that has the financial flexibility to bring in a veteran and a need at the back end. The Cubs may not want to spent big money on Balfour or Nathan since they won’t be contending any time soon. So, Rodney could be a good stopgap.

33. C AJ Pierzynski – Signs with Atlanta Braves (1 year, $7 million)

At 36, Pierzynski’s best days are clearly behind him. Still, he is a veteran backstop with decent offensive talents who should be capable of starting at least 100 games behind the dish this season. That makes him a valuable commodity to a couple of teams. Atlanta is likely to lose Brian McCann to free agency. While they have some very, very good prospects waiting in the wings, it would be prudent for them to find a veteran to hold down the fort for at least one more season. Pierzynski followed up a brilliant 2012 with a bit of a disappointing season last year (.272-17-70). But, for the price, there are few better options for Atlanta.

34. RHP Dan Haren – Signs with San Francisco Giants (2 years, $20 million)

There was once a time when Dan Haren was considered one of the ten best pitchers in baseball. Those days are long gone. After a pitiful first half last year with Washington, many considered Haren to be finished as a top-3 starter. But, a brilliant second half polished off his overall numbers (10-14, 4.67) and might just provide the backdrop for a multiyear deal this offseason. One of the teams who could be interested is San Francisco, who is looking for a starter at the back end of their rotation. In a big venue like AT&T Park, Haren could recapture some of the magic that made him a three time All-Star.

35. LHP Jason Vargas – Signs with Washington Nationals (2 years, $18 million)

I’m not in love with this prediction because I feel as though Washington would want to grab a right-hander this offseason to replace Haren. But, at this point, there aren’t a lot of options for the Nationals to pick through. Vargas is one of those under-the-radar guys who could be had for a lot cheaper than pitchers with comparable numbers. Over the last four seasons, the southpaw has averaged 10-11, 3.97. Granted, a lot of that success came in the spacious confines of SafeCo Field in Seattle. But, it’s not as though Nationals Park is a hitters’ haven. A rotation of Straburg, Gonzalez, Zimmerman, Vargas, and Detwiler is likely enough to get the Nats back to the playoffs if their offense comes around.

36. RHP Suk-min Yoon – Signs with Los Angeles Dodgers (4 years, $10 million)

Another Japanese talent that will likely join a west coast team. Yoon has seen his numbers decline over the past few years in Japan. In 2013, he finished with a 4.00 ERA and a 7.8 K/9. Those are both career lows, which suggest a poor time for him to come over to MLB. Still, someone will fork over the posting fee and the money required to bring him in. After the Angels landed Tanaka in our hypothetical scenario, why not have the free spending Dodgers bring in Yoon on a cheaper deal?

37. 1B James Loney – Signs with Milwaukee Brewers (2 years, $12 million)

It wasn’t that long ago that James Loney was considered one of the best young first basemen in the game. Then, he actually played a full season and was found to be grossly overrated as a prospect. After 6 1/2 mostly underwhelming seasons with the Dodgers, the veteran ended up landing a minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays last winter. Unsurprisingly, another veteran’s career was reborn in central Florida. Loney, 29, hit .299-13-75 in 158 games with the Rays, greatly boosting his free agent stock. It wasn’t long ago that Loney was considered to be nothing more than a AAAA player. Now, he will likely receive a multiyear deal from a team in need. One of those teams remains the Brewers, who gambled that either Corey Hart or Mat Gamel would be healthy to play first in 2013. That gamble failed, and now Milwaukee is still searching for a first baseman.

38. RHP Phil Hughes – Signs with New York Mets (4 years, $24 million)

Another product of the New York hype machine, Phil Hughes never lived up to the enormous potential he showed as a minor league in the mid-aughts for the Yankees. Perhaps it was pitching at Yankee Stadium that caused his numbers to inflate like a balloon. But, it’s no surprise that Hughes is coming into this offseason with limited value and low expectations. At 4-14, 5.19, his free agency couldn’t come after a worse year. Still, someone will give him a contract. If they’re willing to risk a long term deal, they could even get him for very, very cheap. One of those teams who should be interested is the Mets. Their ballpark is more conducive to his pitching style, and they have the money to afford him if they spread out the years a little bit. New York will be without Matt Harvey for 2014. So, they will need to acquire at least one starting pitcher if they don’t want to rush youngsters like Noah Syndergaard.

39. 1B/OF Corey Hart – Signs with Boston Red Sox (1 year, $5 million w/incentives)

Hart is a real wild card this offseason. A two-time All Star, the veteran was one of the best hitters in the best offense in the National League in 2012 (.270-30-83). In fact, from 2007-12, few could boast better average numbers per 162 games (.277-28-91). Of course, a knee injury kept him from playing a single inning in 2013, greatly reducing his market value. His most likely scenario would be returning to Milwaukee on a cheap contract (or at least cheaper than the qualifying offer that Milwaukee recently refused to offer the veteran). Boston, who is predicted to lose Mike Napoli, could fit the mold for Hart. After all, Ben Cherrington was a master at getting the most out of risky investments in 2013.

40. RHP Edward Mujica – Signs with Washington Nationals (2 years, $12 million)

Mujica was always a valuable relief piece dating back to his days with San Diego. But, it was the growth that he experienced as a closer for the Cardinals this past year that put him on the map to earn a multiyear contract his winter. A return to St. Louis is an option (where he saved 37 games). But, their refusal to put Mujica on the World Series roster showed that they are not committed to him longterm. Washington, who had serious bullpen trouble last year, could use his versatility.

41. OF Nate McLouth – Signs with Chicago White Sox (1 year, $6 million)

Despite their signing of Jose Dariel Abreu, the lowly White Sox still have needs in the outfield, where the departure of Alex Rios left them without much experience. Avisail Garcia, Alejandro de Aza, and Dayan Viciedo have to be considered the frontrunners for the three starting spots. But, Chicago would be wise to find a valuable fourth outfielder who can start in a pinch like McLouth. The 32-year old reestablished his value in Baltimore last year, hitting .258-12-36 with 30 SB.

42. INF Juan Uribe – Signs with New York Yankees (1 year, $6.5 million)

Uribe is coming off of a massive contract with the Dodgers that he signed after his memorable 2010 postseason with the Giants. A multi-year deal for the 36-year old seems unlikely. But, his numbers in 2013 (.278-12-50) were good. The Yankees should be in the market for a utility infielder who can start if need be. After all, they’re losing Kevin Youkilis (not a top-50 FA) to free agency and have to deal with the uncertainty of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter for at least one more season.

43. LHP Paul Maholm – Signs with Miami Marlins (1 year, $7 million)

Maholm was stellar to start the 2013 season. His 3-2, 3.30 April inspired many to believe that a long term deal was on the horizon this winter. But, the 31-year old came back to reality and his chariot morphed back to a pumpkin. Overall, his 10-11, 4.41 is not terrible. But, the lack of strong peripherals will likely limit the value he holds on the open market. A team like Miami, that is, a franchise without a veteran presence in their rotation, could be interested. The Marlins vowed not to lose 100+ games in 2014. So, they could be at least moderately active on the free agent market.

44. RHP Joe Smith – Signs with Philadelphia Phillies (2 years, $9 million)

A veteran, side-winding right-hander, Joe Smith has been as steady as they come over the past five seasons. With Cleveland, Smith has gone three consecutive campaigns with at least 70 G and 60+ IP. Philadelphia is likely to rely on a lot of young arms in their 2014 bullpen. If they can find the money to bring in a veteran RHP like Smith, they would be wise.

45. 1B Justin Morneau – Signs with Tampa Bay Rays (1 year, $8 million)

As mentioned earlier in James Loney’s section, Tampa Bay has been a safe haven for struggling veterans looking to recapture their past glory. Morneau would be a perfect fit for Tropicana Field. The 2006 AL MVP has just not been the same since a concussion ended his 2010 season (during which he was hitting .345-18-56). Since then, the 32-year old has averaged just 13 HR and 61 RBI per season. Tampa Bay will likely lose Loney to free agency. But, they could replace his production and then some with Morneau.

46. RHP Jesse Crain – Signs with Colorado Rockies (1 year, $2 million)

Crain has been a valuable setup man over the course of his 10 year career. In 2013, he was stellar during the first half of the season with the White Sox (2-3, 0.74). However, a June injury ended his season prematurely. The Rockies are in need of bullpen help after non-tendering injured closer Rafael Betancourt. Crain, if healthy, could be a bargain.

47. RHP Brian Wilson – Signs with Los Angeles Angels (2 years, $10 million)

Talk about bargains. Few signings during last season were as fruitful to both sides as Wilson’s was with the Dodgers. Opposing batters would “fear the beard” once again as the former Giants’ closer went 2-1, 0.66 in 18 G with L.A. Why not stay out west if you’re the 31-year old? The Angels relied on Ernesto Frieri (3.80 ERA, 37 SV) as their closer last season. He was far from perfect, and the supporting cast in front of him is less than stellar. Wilson could compete with Frieri for the closer’s role during spring training, with the loser providing A+ setup relief work.

48. RHP Jason Hammel – Signs with Minnesota Twins (1 year, $3.5 million)

This looks like a similar deal to the one Mike Pelfrey signed with the Twins a year ago. Hammel, 31, is coming off a disappointing season in Baltimore (7-8, 4.97). His 2012 numbers (8-6, 3.43) suggest that a better performance is possible for the former Colorado Rockie. Minnesota, even after their signing of Ervin Santana, would like to boost their rotation with veteran talents like Hammel.

49. RHP Roy Halladay – Signs with Philadelphia Phillies (1 year, $7 million with a vesting option for 2015 at $10 million)

A lot of what teams decide to do with Doc will rely on medical reports that I, obviously, do not have. But, the Phillies are likely going to need to bring in a pitcher to round out their rotation this offseason. While there are options like Nolasco, Jimenez, and Hammel, Halladay remains the most likely one. Yes, his past two seasons have been poor in red pinstripes. But, no Phillies fan will ever forget his performance in 2010-11 and neither will Ruben Amaro. If Philadelphia strikes out in their pursuit of one of the other veterans. Or, if they feel as though it would be cheaper and more advantageous to risk running out Roy for another season, they could opt to bring the former Cy Young back on a short-term contract.

50. OF Chris Young – Signs with Houston Astros (1 year, $1.5 million)

Once one of the mainstays in the middle of the Arizona Diamondbacks order, Chris B. Young was traded to Oakland last winter. The spacious confines of O.Co Coliseum were not kind to Young, who experienced the worst offensive season of his career (.200-12-40 in 107 G). Young has not hit over 20 HR since 2011, and his batting average, which was never good, has declined precipitously each of the last three seasons (2010 – .257, 2011 – .236, 2012 – .231, 2013 – .200). I wouldn’t be surprised if Young didn’t even get a major league offer. But, he’s only 29 years old, and is versatile and athletic with power potential. So, a short term contract with a bottom feeder like Houston could be just what the doctor ordered.


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