During the 2013 MLB offseason, a number of top stars will be on the market and they will draw a lot of attention from teams around the league. The traditional big spenders like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels will be involved, but there will be some others interested in these players as well.
Just one or two unexpected signings could really shake things up and cause teams to go after players that they initially did not consider to be their top targets.
The following are bold predictions for the top MLB free agents on the market during the 2013 offseason. There is a decent chance that at least one or two of these moves become a reality.
It looked like Melky Cabrera was going to cash in big-time on his outstanding season after he was near the top of the batting average leaderboard in the National League. However, things changed very quickly for Cabrera.
After testing positive for a PED, Cabrera was suspended for 50 games and his performance over the past year plus has been brought into question (h/t ESPN). This has certainly had a negative impact on Cabrera's free-agency outlook.
There still may be a team out there that is willing to give Cabrera a multi-year deal, however.
Japanese teenage pitching phenom Shohei Otani has decided that he will not pitch in the NPB and instead will go directly to the MLB (h/t Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas).
The young 6'4" Japanese pitcher will draw a lot of interest around the league largely because he has demonstrated the ability to dial his fastball up to 100 mph (h/t Mark Feinsand of The New York Daily News).
Durrett has mentioned that the Texas Rangers are intrigued by Otani. Texas has a good selling point in the fact that they have Yu Darvish, who can help Otani since he made his own adjustment to the United States last year.
If the Detroit Tigers do not win the World Series this year, then they will be a huge contender for every free agent this winter. Tigers owner Mike Ilitch will be willing to open up his checkbook to ensure that his team wins a World Series in the next few years (h/t Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News).
Even if the Tigers win the World Series, their ownership could be willing spend big money to try to pick up another title. Detroit needs a replacement for Delmon Young, and Josh Hamilton would be a perfect fit for them.
Coming off a 2008 season in which he went 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA, Kyle Lohse was able to get a four-year, $41 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Lohse has been even better than that over the past two seasons and ended 2012 with a 16-3 record and a career-best 2.86 ERA. He is one of the best starters on the market and someone is going to pay for him.
There should be at least one team out there that is willing to give Lohse at least a four-year deal. He could see close to $15 million a year based on his production over the past few seasons.
A.J. Pierzynski has spent the last eight years of his career with the Chicago White Sox. The team would obviously like to bring him back for next year, but following a contract year in which Pierzynski hit 27 home runs and drove in 77, that may not be easy.
Catchers that can produce well with the bat are a very valuable commodity. This means that some other team's offer could cause Pierzynski to wear a different jersey for the first time in a long time.
Almost every team will be looking for pitching this winter and there will be no better starter on the market than Zack Greinke. It will take a massive deal to sign the former Cy Young winner.
One of the teams that will be going after quality starters will be the Toronto Blue Jays (h/t Robert MacLeod of The Globe and Mail). While Greinke is going to be expensive, acquiring him will allow the Blue Jays to become instantly competitive in the American League East and give them an intimidating starting rotation.
After a disappointing tenure with the Chicago White Sox that was marred by injuries, Jake Peavy finally got his career back on track during the 2012 season. Even though he only posted an 11-12 record, he had a 3.37 ERA, which was his best since 2008.
Peavy will be looking for a long-term deal at a high AAV (annual average value), but he might find that teams are not willing to give it to him considering his injury issues in the past. There is a chance that Peavy needs to settle for a one- or two-year deal this winter.
Brandon McCarthy was in the midst of a solid season for the Oakland Athletics when he was hit in the head with a line drive on September 5 during a game against the Los Angeles Angels. McCarthy has been recovering fairly well since the incident (h/t ESPN).
For many players coming off of major injuries, teams are only willing to give them a one-year deal. However, given McCarthy's abilities and the fact that he basically pitched a full season, some team might give him a two-year contract.
James Loney has already gotten a taste of the American League East this season after he was sent to Boston in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. He may end up spending a lot more time in that division.
Carlos Pena is a free agent this winter and the Tampa Bay Rays will need to find a way to replace him. Loney could be a great fit for them. Since he is coming off a weak season, the Rays could bring in Loney on the cheap and then have money left over to spend on their other needs.
While the Cincinnati Reds would love for Ryan Ludwick to pick up his half of the $5 million mutual option he has for 2013, it will not be happening (h/t Jon Heyman of CBS Sports). After a blazing second half, Ludwick had a 26 home runs and a .275 batting average on the year.
Ludwick will be one of the outfielders on the market this winter and could get a big deal. He may be able to get at least two years and $20 million from the Reds. There may be other teams that are willing to top that type of contract.