MLB Free Agency: 7 Impact Players Who Will Sign Rapidly This Offseason
Once free agency begins in MLB, someone has to sign first.
The top players available will likely sit back and wait for the best offer as suitors fight it out in a bidding war. But for those who know exactly what they want to do and find a willing partner early in the process, there's no sense in waiting. Get that contract and go on with the rest of your offseason.
Those players who employ Scott Boras as their agent will almost certainly wait longer, even after baseball's winter meetings, to get the offer they want. So free agents like Michael Bourn and Rafael Soriano (who's expected to opt out of his contract with the New York Yankees) won't sign with a team immediately.
However, that leaves an open pool for the rest of the 2013 free-agency class to jump into. Some of them won't wait, as they'll receive offers very soon after the bidding can officially begin and won't see a need to shop around for anything better.
Here are seven significant free agents who could sign with their current teams or new clubs quickly after the open market bidding begins.
There will definitely be a high-priced bidding war for Zack Greinke's services this winter. But how many teams think he's a good fit for their rotation and can meet his price?
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox could make a run at Greinke. But the Yankees reportedly have concerns about how he would handle playing in a big media market with a tenacious press corps, and the Red Sox could share those worries.
Could the Los Angeles Dodgers be included in this group as well? L.A. is a huge market, but perhaps the media is a bit less aggressive. Yes, Greinke has already played for the Angels, but playing in Orange County is different from Los Angeles.
The Angels will certainly do all they can to keep him, and if Greinke wants to stay there, the two sides will likely reach a deal quickly.
But how many other teams will really take a shot at Greinke?
The Texas Rangers surely will. He would be an excellent addition to the Baltimore Orioles. The Atlanta Braves pursued him at the trade deadline, but with the emergence of Kris Medlen, their interest might be lessened.
The market for Greinke could be rather small, and he'll likely get a big offer right off the bat.
David Ortiz seems likely to return to the Boston Red Sox for an 11th season.
Though he might test the free-agent market, given his dissatisfaction with how last year's negotiations with the Red Sox went. Ortiz wanted a two-year deal, but was offered arbitration by Boston and had to settle for a one-year contract.
If the Red Sox make such an offer again, Ortiz will likely walk. Under those circumstances, it could take him a while to sign as American League teams decide if they want a pure designated hitter who's coming off an Achilles tendon injury.
But according to MassLive.com's Ron Chimelis, the Red Sox and Ortiz have basically agreed on a two-year deal. However, the two sides are reportedly far apart on how much money the contract will be worth.
Ortiz's market is limited to AL clubs since he doesn't play a position anymore. Would an NL team make him an offer to play first base? Maybe, but would the Miami Marlins or Pittsburgh Pirates pay what Ortiz is looking for?
Besides, the Red Sox need Ortiz's bat in the middle of their lineup. Depending on who else Boston might sign in free agency, Ortiz will probably be their top slugger next season.
The New York Yankees can't afford to lose Hiroki Kuroda.
He was the team's unquestioned No. 2 starter behind CC Sabathia. And during the last month of the season, Kuroda was better than Sabathia.
The right-hander will turn 38 in February and will probably seek a one-year deal like the one he signed with the Yankees for this past season. That contract was worth $12 million, and Kuroda will probably get something simliar next year.
According to MLB.com's Ken Gurnick, the Los Angeles Dodgers could be interested in bringing Kuroda back. He pitched with the Dodgers for five seasons before joining the Yankees.
The Dodgers could have dealt Kuroda at various times during his tenure with them, but would never waive his no-trade clause. If he leaves the Yankees for any team, it would probably be the Dodgers.
The market for Kuroda is apparently a two-team race. Neither the Yankees or Dodgers seem likely to let Kuroda hang around unsigned for very long.
The bidding for centerfielders on the free-agent market should be competitive. But Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn seem likely to wait for a team to meet their price.
That could leave an opening for B.J. Upton to quickly sign with any club looking for a centerfielder at a lower price.
A team like the Philadelphia Phillies or Atlanta Braves could swoop in quickly to address a big need on its roster for a right-handed hitting centerfielder and then move on to other offseason concerns. The Texas Rangers could show strong interest too if it becomes clear that they won't re-sign Hamilton.
Upton could wait to see what happens with Hamilton and Bourn. But the guess here is that he'll receive offers early in the free-agent process and will sign with a team before the bigger names at his position find a deal to their liking.
Could Ryan Dempster be the first big-name free agent to sign?
Calling Dempster an "impact" free agent could be stretching it a bit. He probably won't be in as much demand as other starting pitchers on the market.
But he has a proven track record of success pitching in the National League and could be a top-three starter for several clubs.
We already know who Dempster wants to play for. He vetoed a trade to the Atlanta Braves before the July 31 trade deadline in hopes that the Los Angeles Dodgers would come through with a better offer and make a deal with the Chicago Cubs.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti didn't want to give up a top prospect for a pitcher who could become a free agent after the season. Plus, he had negotiating leverage with the Cubs since Dempster made his intentions known.
But now, Dempster can deal with the Dodgers directly and try to reunite with former Cubs teammate Ted Lilly in Los Angeles. The Dodgers have a need for Dempster since Lilly and Chad Bilingsley might not be ready to pitch by the beginning of next season.
If Nick Swisher is indeed seeking "Jayson Werth money"—meaning the seven-year, $126 million deal Werth received from the Washington Nationals in Dec. 2010—then he could end up waiting for an offer well into January.
But if the market immediately shows Swisher that he won't receive that kind of contract on the open market and he lowers his expectations accordingly, he could find several suitors looking to snap him up quickly.
Swisher could be perceived as a lower-cost alternative to Josh Hamilton, a switch-hitter who can play both corner outfield spots (and even help out in center occasionally) and first base.
Teams such as the Phillies, Rangers, Braves and Orioles could make a run at Swisher. Perhaps even the Cleveland Indians or Pittsburgh Pirates might show interest.
That could mean that the market for Swisher turns out to be a large, rather competitive one. But under those circumstances, a team might try to break out of the pack and make a strong bid that Swisher can't refuse.
Calling Kevin Youkilis an "impact" player is probably pushing it.
But he can still provide a team with 18 to 20 home runs and 80 RBI while playing decent defense at third base. Youkilis can also fill in at first base if needed, and maybe even play that position full-time for a team.
However, given the lack of quality third basemen on the free-agent market, Youkilis will surely find a job with a team needing someone at that position.
Those clubs that need a third baseman will likely pounce on him quickly, and Youkilis will probably take the first good offer that comes his way unless it's from a team he doesn't want to play with. (Would Youkilis play for the Chicago Cubs if his former general manager with the Red Sox, Theo Epstein, makes the best offer?)
But will the market for Youkilis be that strong? The Phillies appear to be a great fit for Youkilis. What about the Indians? Youkilis could conceivably return to the Chicago White Sox, though at a lesser salary after they declined his $13 million and paid a $1 million buyout.
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