MLB Free Agency 2013: Predictions for the Top 20 Free Agents
The free agency period for Major League Baseball officially kicked off this past Saturday.
Five days after the World Series has concluded, teams can pursue other players who have filed for free agency and have not re-signed with their own teams.
The rumors about players on the market will be hot and heavy and all over the place.
What teams might be interested in the top players? More importantly, which top players are free agents this winter?
This will be the fourth installment of my annual free agent predictions. If you want to look back at my previous free agent prediction stories, the links are below:
Some of these stories have been very popular and successful, and it's because of you, the readers, and I can not thank you enough for that.
With that being said, let's take a look at the class of 2012-2013 free agents and make predictions for each of the top players.
Potential Suitors: Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Tigers, Brewers, Giants, Braves
The top prize of the market is former MVP Josh Hamilton.
The 31-year-old had a fine season in 2012, hitting .285 with 43 home runs and 128 RBI for Texas, but it's no guarantee that Hamilton will return to Texas, nor will he give them a hometown discount.
Hamilton can definitely get $20-25 million per season, but the problem is the length of a deal.
He'll be 32 at the start of next season; it's very risky giving him a long-term deal.
Either way, Hamilton is going to be a rich man this winter.
Prediction: Rangers; five years, $135 million
Potential suitors: Angels, Red Sox, Rangers, Braves, Orioles, Tigers, Dodgers
The Angels made the gamble at the deadline to add Zack Greinke from the Brewers and he pitched very well for them, going 6-2 in 13 starts in the second half.
Even though the Angels didn't make the playoffs, Greinke did everything he could to add value to his stock heading into free agency.
With Jake Peavy off the market, Greinke is the biggest prize as far as starters go, and he's looking at a tremendous payday.
It all depends on how far teams are willing to go to land Greinke's services.
Prediction: Angels; seven years, $151 million
Potential suitors: Yankees, Orioles, Rangers, Braves, Phillies, Nationals
Ever since he was called up as a 19-year old, B.J Upton has only known one team as home.
Come this winter, Upton is likely finding a new home, because it's very doubtful the Rays are bringing him back.
The 28-year-old center fielder is one of the top two center fielders on the market and could command anywhere from $10-18 million on the open market.
Whoever signs Upton has to deal with the fact that he hits for a low average and strikes out a lot during the season.
Yet his upside is that he can be a 30-30 player every year with his talents.
Prediction: Phillies, five years, $65 million
Potential suitors: Braves, Orioles, Tigers, Nationals, Phillies, Giants, Rangers
The Atlanta Braves made a qualifying offer to Bourn, and if he accepts it he'll make $13.3 million on a one-year deal in 2013.
But because Bourn is a very talented center fielder that hits for a higher average and steals a ton more bases than B.J. Upton, he may be a more prime target for teams to pursue.
Everyone has him picked to land with the Nationals, who have an opening in center field.
Putting Bourn in their outfield would make an already good playoff team an even better one.
Prediction: Nationals; five years, $70 million
Potential suitors: Nationals, Cubs, Orioles, Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Rangers, Angels
With Jake Peavy off the market, the options after Zack Greinke get interesting.
Edwin Jackson's name has come up for the second year in a row because the Nationals only gave him a one-year deal in 2012.
He had a sub-.500 record in 2012, which is exactly what he has been in his career, but record isn't what teams are interested in.
He'll give you 180-200 innings and 30-32 starts every season and can stay relatively healthy, which is very important for any team looking to contend and build a solid rotation.
He's been around in the league for 10 years, but he's only 29 and still has a lot of career left to pitch well.
Prediction: Orioles; two years, $23.5 million
Potential suitors: Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Rangers, Tigers, Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, Padres
Dan Haren was very close to not making this list at all.
He was nearly dealt last week from the Angels to the Cubs in exchange for reliever Carlos Marmol, but the deal ended up falling through.
So instead, the Angels declined the $15.5 million option on Haren and let him walk as a free agent.
Despite a down season in 2012, Haren is one of the better named pitchers on the market who can still help a contender.
Once his former teammate Zack Greinke is off the market, I think Haren is the most in-demand starter who will likely draw a lot of interest.
I'm not sure if his preference of playing on the West Coast will still be in play here.
Prediction: Red Sox, four years, $49 million
Potential suitors: Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Rangers, White Sox, Braves, Astros, Nationals
Mike Napoli's value as of recently has gone up, especially playing in a nice hitters' park in Texas.
In two seasons he hit 54 home runs with the Rangers while playing catcher, first base and designated hitter.
The fact that Napoli can play multiple positions only increases his value, even though his primary position right now is at catcher.
He won't play every single game at catcher, especially at age 31, but if he remains with an AL team, he can rotate between three spots while keeping his bat in the lineup.
Prediction: Rangers, three years, $28 million
Potential suitors: Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, Braves, Angels, Rangers, Padres, Cubs
Anibal Sanchez's stock really rose once he was able to get out of Miami and onto the Detroit Tigers.
Despite only going 4-6 with the team in 12 starts, he had a 3.74 ERA and gave the Tigers a lot of depth when the went on their second-half run into the postseason.
In October, Sanchez did only have a 1-2 record, but had a 1.77 ERA in three starts. Despite taking two losses in the postseason, in each of those games Sanchez pitched into the seventh inning and only gave up two runs.
I don't think Sanchez is an ace, but he would make a pretty good two or a very solid No. 3, just like he was in Detroit.
Prediction: Tigers, four years, $40 million
Potential suitors: Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, Rangers, Braves, Marlins, Brewers, Giants, Padres
Nick Swisher had a nice four-year run with the Yankees, but because he was a major disappointment for them in October, they are deciding to let him walk away.
The Bombers did make him a qualifying offer for 2013, but Swisher quickly turned it down in hopes of a multi-year deal on the free agent market, which he's likely to get.
However, earlier in the year, it was rumored that he wanted "Jayson Werth money," which is seven years and $126 million, and he can keep dreaming if he thinks he's worth that much.
He'll still give you a solid 20 home runs and 80-90 RBI in a season, plus he can play right field, first base and be a DH if needed.
He's also a good guy to have in the clubhouse and is a likable teammate.
Prediction: Brewers, five years, $70 million
Potential suitors: Yankees. Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, Rays, White Sox, Braves, Brewers, Giants
After an eight-year run with the Phillies, "the Flyin' Hawai'ian" got dealt at the deadline to the Dodgers as part of the Phillies cutting payroll.
2012 was a down year for Victorino, who ended up hitting .255 on the season with 11 home runs and 55 RBI, but he did have 39 stolen bases on the year between the two teams.
With the Phillies, Victorino was the primary center fielder, but with the Dodgers, he played all three spots because of Matt Kemp already patrolling center.
Because he did play left and right field, that only increases Victorino's value for teams looking for versatility.
I think Victorino's choice depends on what happens with Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton and where they land first.
Prediction: Braves; three years, $27.5 million
Potential suitors: Yankees, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Padres, Japan
After four seasons with the Dodgers, many people weren't sure how Hiroki Kuroda was going to transition into the American League.
Not only did he transition well, he was probably the Yankees' most consistent pitcher through the entire season, posting a 16-11 record and a 3.32 ERA in 33 starts.
He also pitched very well for the Yankees in the playoffs, going 0-1, but got no run support from the Yankee offense, who were in a month-long funk against everyone.
Last season, Kuroda didn't sign with the Yankees until January and seemed like he had to settle on a one-year deal.
This time, I expect Kuroda to get picked up very quickly, and for a little more money, which he has earned for his fine season.
Prediction: Yankees, one year, $12 million
Potential suitors: Yankees, Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers, Padres, Orioles, Blue Jays
Kyle Lohse couldn't have had a better year pitching in his walk season.
He went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 33 starts for the Cardinals, but he didn't pitch so well in Game 7 of the NLCS against the future World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.
Aside from the shaky outings in the NLCS, Lohse did pitch well in the wild card outing against the Braves and then again against the Nationals.
He is 34 years old, so giving him a long-term contract is very risky, but a two- or three-year deal sounds reasonable.
He's definitely not an ace, but more of a middle of the rotation type, best suited as a No. 3 or 4.
Prediction: Orioles, three years, $30.5 million
Potential suitors: Yankees, Tigers, Mets, Marlins, Twins, Giants, Dodgers
Mariano Rivera's ACL injury couldn't have come at a better time for Rafael Soriano.
After a rough 2011 season, Soriano filled in as the temporary closer in 2012 and reverted back to his old ways when he pitched with Atlanta and Tampa Bay, saving 42 games with a 2.26 ERA.
He had one more season worth $14 million for 2013, but with Rivera likely coming back for at least one more season, Soriano opted out to get one more big payday as a closer.
He's the top closer available on the free agent market and he'll set the trend for others. I don't think he'll be waiting around until January to sign as a set-up man this time around.
Prediction: Tigers, three years, $37.5 million
Potential suitors: Giants, Dodgers, Red Sox, Orioles, Rays, Tigers, Indians, A's, Braves, Brewers
I really wonder how many times New York Mets fans were shaking their head watching Angel Pagan all October long.
When Carlos Beltran shifted out of center field, then out of New York, it seemed like Pagan would be the future heir to the center field job in Queens, but he was dealt to the Giants before the 2012 season.
What a trade for Brian Sabean, who got great production out of Pagan, hitting .288 with eight home runs and 56 RBI while stealing 29 bases and lead the majors with 15 triples.
He's not going to have the flashier numbers like the other center fielders on the market, but playing on the World Series championship team certainly helped his free agent stock.
He's 31 though, so I wouldn't expect too crazy of a contract.
Prediction: Giants, three years, $28 million
Potential suitors: Indians, Orioles, White Sox, A's, Mariners, Rangers, Phillies, Brewers
One of the first parts of the breakup of the Boston Red Sox through former manager Bobby Valentine was trading Kevin Youkilis.
After being such a big part of the team for nine years, Valentine causes such friction in the locker room, Youkilis ends up getting traded to Chicago.
He did finish out the year hitting 19 home runs and 60 RBI, but he finished hitting just .235 and his on-base percentage was .336, which are all lows for him.
He can still play third base, or he can always play first, just like he did in Boston when they would move him back and forth to each spot.
A lot of people feel like he's on the downside of his career at age 34, but I think he can still be a solid everyday player who could benefit from a change of scenery.
Prediction: Indians, two years, $18 million
Potential suitors: Brewers, Braves, Cardinals, Padres, Orioles, Twins, A's, Reds
Ryan Dempster's trade stock was at an all-time high this summer, and it really came down to two teams who were vying for him.
The Rangers ended up getting him over the Yankees, and while he did post a 7-3 record, he also had a 5.09 ERA and allowed 43 runs in 69 innings with Texas.
I think Dempster is more comfortable pitching in the National League, just like he did with the Cubs and Reds for many years.
He's definitely not going to get $13-14 million a season like he did with his last contract with Chicago, but a nice two-year deal for $16-18 million is reasonable for Dempster's ability, especially in the NL
Prediction: Brewers, two years, $17.5 million
Potential suitors: Yankees, Orioles, Rays, A's, Braves, Brewers, Cubs, Giants, Padres
It was very hard to picture Ichiro Suzuki in any other uniform other than the one of the Seattle Mariners.
But then this past July, the Yankees traded for the long-time superstar outfielder due to the injury of Brett Gardner and Ichiro made the most of his opportunity.
Ichiro hit .322 with the Yankees, hit five home runs, 27 RBI and stole 14 bases while playing all three outfield positions.
Some wondered if he would complain if the Yankees would put him towards the bottom of the order and maybe even in left field, but he was the complete opposite; he was a perfect citizen in the Bronx.
Now at 39-years-old, he's at the twilight of his career chasing perhaps his last chance at a championship, plus a chance to get to 3,000 hits.
He currently sits at, 2,606, and if he stays healthy over the next few years, I can see him getting to that milestone.
Prediction: Yankees, one year, $7 million
Potential suitors: Red Sox, Orioles, Mets, Marlins, White Sox, Phillies, Mariners
Before he got busted over the summer for PEDs, Melky Cabrera was in line for a huge contract this winter and would have been a lot higher on this list.
His stock rose even higher when he won the 2012 MLB All Star Game MVP Award, but again, it all came crashing down.
But, he tested positive for PEDs, then tried to cover it up, which basically made the San Francisco Giants banish him from the roster and did not even activate him after his suspension was over.
So while the Giants were going on their route to the World Series, Melky had no part of it. He does get a World Series ring though, the second of his career.
Instead of a six-year deal, Melky is looking at a one-year deal to try and re-establish his credibility and his reputation and prove that he can still produce off the PEDs.
Prediction: Mets, one year, $5.5 million
Potential suitors: Nationals, Red Sox, Orioles, Rays, Mariners, Rangers
The 2012 season was definitely one of the finest in Adam LaRoche's career.
He was always a solid 20 home run, 80 RBI hitter when he played with the Braves and Pirates, but with the Nationals, his career took off.
He hit 33 home runs and 100 RBI while hitting .272, plus he won the 2012 National League Gold Glove Award for his superior skills over at first base.
LaRoche is a big reason Washington was able to take off and have the kind of year they did, despite falling short in the first round.
I can't imagine Washington letting him go after the season he had, but with free agent money, you never know.
Prediction: Nationals, three years, $33.3 million
Potential suitors: Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Mariners, A's, Rangers, Phillies, Giants, Padres
Cody Ross was a bargain for the Red Sox in 2012 as they got him on a one-year deal in 2012.
Ross hit .267 with 22 home runs and 81 RBI for a Boston team that looked like they never had a chance when the season started.
Ross was one of the few who produced normally for Boston, which helped his free agent stock, along with his rapport with the organization and fans.
I think Ross will get some offers, but to me there seems to be a lot of mutual interest in bringing him back to Beantown.
Prediction: Red Sox, two years, $14 million