MLB Free Agency: Updated Destination Predictions for Top 55 Targets This Winter

Doug MeadCorrespondent INovember 5, 2012

MLB Free Agency: Updated Destination Predictions for Top 55 Targets This Winter

0 of 55

    As of this past weekend, all MLB free agents are free to negotiate with all teams, and the action will likely get frenetic in the coming weeks.

    Well over 175 players will now be actively shopping their services to teams looking to restock for the 2013 season and beyond.

    While there's still the chance that many players could re-sign with their former teams, they'll likely test the free-agent waters first. At this point, it's about market value. And how that market is set will determine each player's future earnings and destination.

    So, just where is it that the top free agents could find themselves next season?

    I will attempt to play Carnac the Magnificent—the great Johnny Carson's turbaned psychic character—and attempt my best guess as to where 55 of the top MLB free agents may be playing in the 2013 season.

55. Travis Hafner

1 of 55

    With the exception of the first 23 games of his career with the Texas Rangers, designated hitter Travis Hafner has spent his entire career with the Cleveland Indians.

    The Indians declined Hafner's 2013 option on his contract for $13 million, instead paying him a buyout of $2.75 million.

    Injuries have played a huge role in Hafner's career since 2008. He's played in over 100 games just once in the past five years.

    2013 Destination: Cleveland Indians. Hafner could be signed by the Tribe, but for a vastly reduced price and only for a part-time role as DH.

    It's clear that Hafner loves Cleveland and the surrounding area. If the market shows no interest, he could return to the area where he has made his permanent home and finish off his career.

54. Russell Martin

2 of 55

    Before the start of the 2012 season, catcher Russell Martin turned down a three-year, $20 million contract offer by the New York Yankees, preferring instead to sign for one year and $7.5 million.

    Martin may one day rue that decision.

    After hitting just .211 with 21 HR and 53 RBI, Martin now finds himself staring at free agency rather than sitting at home in front of a fireplace, waiting for his third season with the Yankees.

    2013 Destination: New York Yankees. Martin could find work elsewhere, but the Yankees simply don't have better options right now. While catchers are aplenty in the system, none of them will be ready to ascend to the majors in 2013.

53. Kevin Youkilis

3 of 55

    Corner infielder Kevin Youkilis will certainly present as an interesting case study this offseason.

    The Chicago White Sox declined Youkilis' $13 million option for the 2013 season, making him a free agent.

    The problem lies in Youkilis' health and his dwindling production in recent seasons. He again spent time on the disabled list this past season in Boston before his trade to the White Sox. Youkilis has not played in over 140 games in any one season since 2008.

    2013 Destination: Cleveland Indians. Youkilis fits in both adding production at first base and in filling in when needed at third. The fact that Terry Francona is now managing the Tribe could be a factor as well.

52. Jason Marquis

4 of 55

    After his release from the Minnesota Twins following a horrible first two months of the 2012 season (2-4, 8.47 ERA, seven starts), Jason Marquis signed on with the San Diego Padres.

    Marquis was actually decent for the final four months of the season. He posted a 6-7 record with a 4.04 ERA in 15 starts.

    He has bounced around during his career, pitching for eight different teams in his 13 seasons.

    2013 Destination: San Diego Padres. Marquis could be re-signed for around $2 million, giving the Padres a cheap insurance policy for their starting rotation.

51. Joe Blanton

5 of 55

    Starting pitcher Joe Blanton's 2012 season went from so-so to mediocre following his trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers in early August.

    Blanton posted a 2-4 record and 4.99 ERA in 10 starts, and the Dodgers fell out of playoff contention in the final weeks.

    With six veteran starters returning for the Dodgers in 2013 (Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly, Josh Beckett), there's certainly no room at this point for Blanton.

    2013 Destination: Minnesota Twins. Twins general manager Terry Ryan is absolutely looking for pitching but will not break the bank in doing so.

50. Grady Sizemore

6 of 55

    In the mid-to-late-2000s, one would have been hard-pressed to find a more impressive center fielder than Grady Sizemore. During the four-year stretch from 2005-2008, Sizemore averaged 27 home runs and 29 stolen bases.

    Then the wheels fell off—literally. Wheels as in knees.

    Sizemore's knees kept him out for over half his team's games over the following three seasons, then missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing back surgery in February.

    At this point in Sizemore's career, he's much better off playing a reduced role as a fourth outfielder. It's highly doubtful that he can ever recover to the point of playing every single day.

    2013 Destination: New York Yankees. The Yankees love guys like Sizemore. Witness both Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez in the last few years, former stars who played a leading role on the bench.

49. Jonny Gomes

7 of 55

    Before the Oakland Athletics completed a trade that netted center fielder Chris Young from the Arizona Diamondbacks, there was a good possibility that outfielder and clubhouse leader Jonny Gomes might have been re-signed.

    However, A's general manager Billy Beane all but confirmed the likelihood that Gomes would not be back next season.

    The addition of Young gives the A's five outfielders (Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith, Young), which makes Gomes the odd man out.

    2013 Destination: Cleveland Indians. Gomes would give Indians manager Terry Francona great flexibility with his ability to DH or play left field—a clear area of need for the Tribe.

48. Maicer Izturis

8 of 55

    A free agent for the first time in his career, utility infielder Maicer Izturis should draw interest from several teams needing infield depth.

    Izturis can play second, short and third equally as well, and he has the ability to hit .270 and steal 15-20 bases.

    2013 Destination: Cleveland Indians. The Indians need a backup for Asdrubal Cabrera, and with the injuries that have occurred at third base over the previous two seasons between Lonnie Chisenhall and Jack Hannahan, it could be the perfect landing spot for Izturis.

47. Carlos Lee

9 of 55

    First baseman Carlos Lee should have no doubt in his mind whatsoever that the next contract he signs will be nowhere close to the deal he penned with the Houston Astros in late 2006.

    In fact, at this point in his career, Lee would be lucky to get a fourth of the annual average of that particular deal.

    Lee is nowhere near the slugger that regularly hit 25-300 and 100 RBI on an annual basis. He couldn't even manage double digits in home runs this season—the first time ever in his career.

    2013 Destination: Seattle Mariners. The M's could use a Plan B option for first base with the underperforming Justin Smoak. In fact, the M's can use any amount of offense, considering they've finished last in the American League in runs scored for the past four seasons.

    However, Lee shouldn't be signed for anything more than $2-$3 million at this point. And his pride could see him sitting at home in early April if he honestly thinks he's still worth sizable money.

46. Casey Kotchman

10 of 55

    First baseman Casey Kotchman could be looking at signing a deal this winter as a reserve for the first time in his career.

    Kotchman hit just .229 with 12 HR and 55 RBI for the Cleveland Indians this past season. In fact, he fell just two at-bats shy of qualifying for the lowest on-base percentage (.280) of any player in the American League.

    2013 Destination: ?

    My crystal ball is coming up totally empty regarding Kotchman for next season. Considering his showing this past season, he is clearly signing his next contract with a team just looking for depth.

45. Alex Gonzalez

11 of 55

    Shortstop Alex Gonzelez's first season with the Milwaukee Brewers was cut short after just 24 games when he tore the ACL in his right knee. Gonzalez missed out on a chance to activate the vesting option on his contract for next season, falling far short of the plate appearances required.

    2013 Destination: Milwaukee Brewers. Gonzalez has expressed a willingness to return, and the Brewers have received favorable reports of Gonzalez's rehab following his surgery.

    In addition, Gonzalez would give the Brewers depth, especially with a young and inexperienced shortstop in Jean Segura.

44. Scott Rolen

12 of 55

    Third baseman Scott Rolen just ended his 17th season in the majors. He spent the last three-plus of those seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.

    Rolen is former Rookie of the Year, an eight-time Gold Glove winner and a seven-time All-Star.

    However, the last several seasons have been marred by injuries, so Rolen's time as an everyday third baseman has likely come to an end.

    2013 Destination: Retirement. I believe Rolen will walk away. If he does, he'll be one of only three third baseman in MLB history to collect 2,000 hits (2,077), 500 doubles (517), 300 home runs (316) and 1,200 RBI (1,287).

    Note: Stats courtesy CBSSports.com

43. Eric Chavez

13 of 55

    Third baseman Eric Chavez may not be able to play every day at this point in his career, but he's clearly proven there's still plenty left in the tank.

    A myriad of injuries led to Chavez accepting work as a part-time player for the New York Yankees. However, after hitting .281 with 16 HR and 37 RBI in 278 at-bats this past season, he has shown he is still invaluable both offensively and defensively.

    2013 Destination: New York Yankees. I'm guessing that Chavez stays right where he is. He may be needed next year if the Alex Rodriguez trade rumors actually come to fruition.

    Back on Oct. 17, ESPN.com ran a poll, asking fans if they felt Rodriguez would be traded. A resounding 72 percent responded in the affirmative.

42. Brett Myers

14 of 55

    During his career, Brett Myers has been a starter, a closer and a middle reliever. Just how he'll be used in 2013 and by whom is anyone's guess.

    The Chicago White Sox declined the $10 million on Myers' contract for the 2013 season, opting to pay him a $3 million buyout instead.

    2013 Destination: New York Mets. My guess is that general Sandy Alderson will look to Myers to help stabilize his porous bullpen.

41. Jeremy Guthrie

15 of 55

    The start of the 2012 season for Jeremy Guthrie really couldn't have gone much worse.

    He was absolutely horrible for the Colorado Rockies, posting a 3-9 record and 6.35 ERA in 19 appearances. He lost his spot in the starting rotation before being traded to the Kansas City Royals for the equally disappointing Jonathan Sanchez.

    Guthrie resurrected his season with the Royals, posting a 5-3 record and 3.16 ERA in 14 starts.

    2013 Destination: Toronto Blue Jays. Guthrie clearly showed in the second half of the season that his stay in Colorado was an aberration. The Jays are in need of pitching and might be amenable to Guthrie's demand of a three-year contract.

40. Jeremy Affeldt

16 of 55

    For any team looking for a left-handed specialist—and one who's not too bad at pitching to right-handed hitters, either—Jeremy Affeldt may be the answer.

    The San Francisco Giants reliever is now officially a free agent, and he'll likely be highly sought-after for his ability to consistently take care of left-handed hitters.

    2013 Destination: Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox bullpen is in dire need of help. Andrew Bailey will likely return as the closer, but there is no one directly behind him that anyone can confidently say is a lock as a setup guy.

39. Brandon Lyon

17 of 55

    Reliever Brandon Lyon did good work with the Toronto Blue Jays following his trade from the Houston Astros.

    After an injury-filled 2011 season, he was strong throughout 2012, posting a solid 3.10 ERA in 67 appearances, including a 2.88 ERA in 30 appearances with the Jays.

    2013 Destination: Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays have given indications they'll keep either Lyon or Jason Frasor. I'm guessing Lyon.

38. Juan Pierre

18 of 55

    After signing a minor league contract with no guarantees, outfielder Juan Pierre was arguably one of the most consistent offensive performers for the Philadelphia Phillies during the 2012 season.

    Pierre hit .307 with 37 stolen bases in 130 games in 2012, showing there's definitely life left in those 35-year-old legs.

    2013 Destination: Cincinnati Reds. Pierre gives the Reds depth in the outfield and a speed and on-base option at the top of the lineup.

37. Stephen Drew

19 of 55

    The Oakland Athletics declined the $10 million 2013 option on the contract of shortstop Stephen Drew.

    The move certainly wasn't a surprise, but Drew did adapt in Oakland, hitting .250 with five HR and 16 RBI in 39 games.

    2013 Destination: Oakland Athletics. I believe that general manager Billy Beane and Drew somehow get a deal done with a contract that works for both. While the free-agent market for shortstops is thin, I just don't see teams beating down Drew's door with big money in their hands.

36. James Loney

20 of 55

    The market for first basemen is considered weak this offseason. But the market for weak-hitting first basemen is another story altogether.

    James Loney is certainly high on that list. Following his trade to the Boston Red Sox, Loney hit just .230 with a .574 OPS. I'm guessing the Red Sox will want just a wee bit more production than that at first base next season.

    2013 Destination: ?

    Seriously, considering Loney's lack of production at a position demanding such, I can't honestly think of any team that would consider him as a full-time option.

35. Carlos Pena

21 of 55

    Speaking of weak-hitting first basemen...

    It's a foregone conclusion that first baseman Carlos Pena won't be back with the Tampa Bay Rays next season. Pena hit just .197 with 19 HR, 61 RBI and a career-high 182 strikeouts.

    2013 Destination: Baltimore Orioles. I could see Duquette signing Pena to a reasonable contract and using Pena in more of a platoon situation. But reasonable wouldn't be Pena's 2012 salary of $7.25 million. More like less than half of that.

34. Lance Berkman

22 of 55

    After playing in just 32 games and enduring three stints on the disabled list in 2012, Lance Berkman certainly couldn't be faulted by anyone if he decided to retire.

    However, I don't think his days are done quite yet.

    2013 Destination: Houston Astros. I could absolutely see Berkman returning home for his swan song. He could certainly be used in the DH role with the Astros moving to the AL West next season.

33. Kelly Johnson

23 of 55

    The market for second basemen in this offseason's free agent class is also pretty thin.

    Kelly Johnson is close to the top of that list even after another disappointing season.

    Johnson hit just .225 with 16 HR and 55 RBI for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012. While he showed promise following his trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks in August 2011, that promise never materialized into results this season.

    2013 Destination: Oakland Athletics. Maybe as protection for Jemile Weeks, but only if price is right.

32. Delmon Young

24 of 55

    It's all but assured that the Detroit Tigers won't ask left fielder/designated hitter Delmon Young back for the 2013 season.

    Young hit .267 with 18 HR and 74 RBI for the Tigers. And at 27 years old, he clearly has age on his side. Whether or not teams shy away from signing Young because of anger management issues remains to be seen.

    2013 Destination: Seattle Mariners. Young makes more sense to teams as a designated hitter at this point. His defense is not even close to Gold Glove-caliber, and the Mariners can certainly use the help offensively.

31. Roy Oswalt

25 of 55

    One good thing about starting pitcher Roy Oswalt as heads into next season: He'll be well-rested.

    Signed in late May by the Texas Rangers, Oswalt made only 17 appearances last season, nine of them starts.

    Oswalt likely won't be thinking about retirement—he'd much rather go out on high note after his disappointing showing in Texas.

    2013 Destination: New York Yankees. Oswalt would be an excellent option as a No. 5 starter or just for added depth. He'll likely come at a price far below the $5 million paid by the Rangers last season.

30. Francisco Liriano

26 of 55

    Starting pitcher Francisco Liriano is without question a pitcher with great potential. Unfortunately, Liriano is a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-like pitcher.

    He can also be maddeningly inconsistent.

    Liriano can throw a no-hitter with six walks and two strikeouts one minute, then go three innings and give up four runs on three hits the next.

    I liken Liriano to the prize inside a box of Cracker Jacks.

    You just never know what you're going to get.

    2013 Destination: Chicago Cubs. According to Bruce Levin of ESPN Chicago, the Cubs will be going after affordable pitchers with upside. Liriano fits that mold.

29. Ichiro Suzuki

27 of 55

    Ichiro Suzuki seemed to find a fountain of youth while playing for the New York Yankees.

    His .322/.34/.454/.794 much more closely resembled his career line of .322/.365-.419/.784.

    While it would be difficult to expect those numbers from a 39-year-old throughout a full season at this point in his career, Suzuki clearly showed something was left in the tank.

    2013 Destination: New York Yankees. Joel Sherman of the New York Post stated that Suzuki has a strong desire to return to the Big Apple, citing the winning atmosphere and professionalism of the franchise.

28. Angel Pagan

28 of 55

    With the World Series now concluded, San Francisco Giants center fielder Angel Pagan can now take a few breaths, relax and spend some time with his family.

    Then he can think about his next contract.

    Pagan was stellar in his first season with the Giants, hitting .288 with 29 stolen bases and a major league-leading 15 triples. While he only hit .188 in the postseason, he was still a pest and provided outstanding defense throughout.

    2013 Destination: San Francisco Giants. Pagan seems to enjoy playing by the bay, and the Giants certainly seemed to enjoy having him around.       

27. Jose Valverde

29 of 55

    This postseason, closer Jose Valverde certainly pitched his way out of Motown.

    Back-to-back stinkers in the ALDS and ALCS did Valverde in, despite a three-year run in Detroit that netted 110 saves.

    2013 Destination: New York Mets. It's no secret that general manager Sandy Alderson will revamp his bullpen for a second consecutive offseason. If Valverde can be signed for a deal far lower than his previous contract with the Tigers, it might make sense for New York.

26. Melky Cabrera

30 of 55

    So much has already been written and said about the plight of left fielder Melky Cabrera, so we won't rehash that here.

    Suffice to say that Cabrera has his work cut out for him in order to sign that big contract.

    2013 Destination: Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies are in need of outfielders. Cabrera will definitely have to prove himself all over again, but the Phillies may take a chance if the price is right. They hit a home run with Juan Pierre last year on a minor league contract.

25. Cody Ross

31 of 55

    There's no question that outfielder Cody Ross found Fenway Park to his liking this past season.

    Ross hit .298 with a .921 OPS at home last season, compared to just .232 with a .684 OPS on the road. His 22 HR and 81 RBI came at the bargain price of just $3 million last season.

    2013 Destination: Boston Red Sox. Ross has much more value to the Red Sox than any other team at this point.

24. Jonathan Broxton

32 of 55

    Reliever Jonathan Broxton excelled in two different roles for two different teams last season.

    He piled up 23 saves with a 2.27 ERA for the Kansas City Royals, then posted a 2.82 ERA in 25 appearances for the Cincinnati Reds.

    2013 Destination: Cincinnati Reds. It's a perfect spot for Broxton, who will continue to excel in his role as a seventh-to-eighth inning setup man and serve as protection for closer Aroldis Chapman.

23. Mike Adams

33 of 55

    Reliever Mike Adams is hitting free agency for the first time in his career, and he'll likely be one of the most sought-after bullpen arms.

    Adams has consistently been one of the best right-handed relievers in all of baseball over the past several years. The Texas Rangers would likely have to spend big to bring him back into the fold next season.

    2013 Destination: Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies relied on younger arms to act as the bridge between the starters and Jonathan Papelbon. The results were inconsistent at best.

22. Shane Victorino

34 of 55

    Outfielder Shane Victorino has stated a desire to continue his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but only as a starter.

    With left fielder Carl Crawford in the fold and progressing nicely in his rehab following Tommy John surgery, Victorino might find it difficult finding regular playing time in L.A.

    2013 Destination: Tampa Bay Rays. With B.J. Upton hitting free agency, there is an opening in the Rays outfield. Victorino's .275 lifetime average and .341 OBP would give the Rays a leadoff presence that's been lacking in recent years.

21. Marco Scutaro

35 of 55

    At the age of 37, there's no doubt that infielder Marco Scutaro just enjoyed the most meaningful season of his 11-year career.

    Scutaro acted as the catalyst for the San Francisco Giants in 2012, hitting .362 in 61 games following his trade from the Colorado Rockies. He also won the NLCS MVP Award while helping to lead his Giants back from a three-games-to-one deficit. Scutaro's 14 hits tied an LCS record.

    Scutaro then delivered the World Series title to the Giants with his RBI single in the 10th inning of Game 4.

    2013 Destination: San Francisco Giants. I see the Giants signing Scutaro to a two-year deal.

20. Brandon McCarthy

36 of 55

    The Oakland Athletics have a great stable of young pitchers who shined during the latter stages of the 2012 season.

    Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Travis Blackley and Brett Anderson all played a part in helping lead the A's to the AL West title.

    In addition, the A's brought Bartolo Colon back for the 2013 season, signing him to a one-year, $3 million contract on Saturday.

    That would seem to indicate that the A's just don't have room for starter Brandon McCarthy.

    McCarthy was rounding back into form after returning from a stint on the disabled list after being struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Los Angeles Angels shortstop Erick Aybar. The blow ended McCarthy's season.

    Despite the support and encouragement McCarthy received from his A's team following his emergency brain surgery, they appear to be moving on without him.

    2013 Destination: Los Angeles Angels. The Angels are obviously going to be making a big play for free-agent starter Zack Greinke, especially now that Ervin Santana and Dan Haren are no longer part of the team.

    However, they still need another starter. McCarthy could be the one to help fill that void.

19. Torii Hunter

37 of 55

    After hitting for the highest average of his career and providing veteran leadership over the past five seasons, outfielder Torii Hunter is now wondering where he'll be playing in 2013.

    All signs indicate that Hunter may not be back with the Los Angeles Angels next season, and Hunter himself has his doubts as well.

    "It's kind of disappointing, but what are you going to do?" Hunter said last week . "If they don't make an offer by Friday, I guess I'm out of there."

    That offer did not come, and Hunter will now look to shop his talents elsewhere.

    2013 Destination: New York Yankees. According to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, Hunter is very much on the Yankees' radar for 2013:

    The Yankees have interest in Torii Hunter, a source said. Hunter is unlikely to get a qualifying offer, so he wouldn't cost a draft pick.

    — Mark Feinsand (@BloggingBombers) November 1, 2012

    It wouldn't surprise me to see the Yankees sign both Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki.

18. Ryan Ludwick

38 of 55

    Last week, Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick declined his portion of a $5 million mutual option for the 2013 season.

    Ludwick put up a tremendous second half to finish the 2012 season with a .275 average, 26 HR and 80 RBI.

    2013 Destination: Cincinnati Reds. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweeted last week that the two sides are continuing to negotiate, but it's unlikely the Reds will go beyond two years.

17. Mike Napoli

39 of 55

    Catcher Mike Napoli is coming off a clearly disappointing 2012 season. Knee and quad injuries kept his production far below that of his 2011 season.

    Napoli did not receive a qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers, so several other teams seeking offensive help behind the plate will be more than just a bit interested.

    2013 Destination: Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays are clearly a team in need of help offensively from the catcher's spot. Rays catchers combined to hit just .227 with 11 HR and 59 RBI.

    Money will likely be an obstacle, though.

    If the Rays can't work out an amenable deal, the Boston Red Sox could be in play. Napoli can play first, and his swing certainly works at Fenway Park.

16. Shaun Marcum

40 of 55

    While starting pitcher Shaun Marcum missed over two months of the 2012 season with elbow tightness, he returned to post three straight quality starts to end the 2012 season.

    Still, the injury history is certainly a concern, especially elbow issues just three-plus years removed from Tommy John surgery.

    2013 Destination: San Diego Padres. The Padres' new ownership will be looking to spend for quality pitching this offseason.

15. Joe Saunders

41 of 55

    Southpaw Joe Saunders was solid for the Baltimore Orioles down the stretch this past season and was terrific in the postseason with a 1.59 ERA in two starts.

    Saunders would love to get a multi-year deal after settling on a one-year, $6 million contract last year with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    2013 Destination: Baltimore Orioles. My guess is that GM Dan Duquette works out a two- to three-year deal to keep Saunders and his veteran presence in Baltimore.

14. Dan Haren

42 of 55

    It certainly seemed like starting pitcher Dan Haren would be pitching at Wrigley Field in 2013, but on Friday night, the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs were unable to work it out.

    As a result, the Angels declined the 2013 option on Haren's contract for $15.5 million, paying him $3.5 million to become a free agent.

    Haren's velocity took a dip in 2012, as back issues flared up during the season. Haren did post a much better second half, though, with a 3.58 ERA and 1.123 WHIP.

    2013 Destination: Toronto Blue Jays. If Haren's back is fully healthy, there's no reason to think he can't return to form. The Jays will spend to bring in quality pitching, and Haren fully healthy at $10-$12 million annually could be well worth it.

13. Edwin Jackson

43 of 55

    The market for starting pitcher Edwin Jackson will probably be a bit more narrow if he's seeking a multi-year deal averaging an eight-figure annual salary.

    Jackson settled on a one-year deal last season with the Washington Nationals, but he won't settle for that this offseason.

    2013 Destination: San Diego Padres. I like Jackson's game at Petco Park. A lot.

12. Adam LaRoche

44 of 55

    First baseman Adam LaRoche returned from delicate labrum surgery in 2011 to post a stellar season for the Washington Nationals.

    LaRoche hit 33 HR with 100 RBI in 2012 and was arguably the most consistent bat in the Nats' lineup for much of the season.

    LaRoche has declined his $10 million mutual option for the 2013 season. The Nationals did make a qualifying offer to LaRoche.

    2013 Destination: Washington Nationals. The two sides will get together and make this a done deal.

11. A.J. Pierzynski

45 of 55

    Catcher A.J. Pierzynksi enjoyed his finest offensive season in 2012 with 27 HR and 77 RBI. His .827 OPS was also a career high.

    Coming off a two-year, $8 million contract, Pierzynski certainly classes up a free-agent market largely devoid of quality catchers.

    2013 Destination: Chicago White Sox. I just don't see owner Jerry Reinsdorf letting Pierzynski walk away.

10. Ryan Dempster

46 of 55

    Starting pitcher Ryan Dempster found the going a bit rough following his trade from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers.

    While the Rangers won eight of Dempster's 12 starts, he struggled to a 5.09 ERA, and the Rangers are already well-stocked with starters for the 2013 season.

    2013 Destination: Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers would love to find another veteran to complement Yovani Gallardo at the top of the rotation, along with youngsters Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta, Marco Estrada and Mark Rogers.

9. Nick Swisher

47 of 55

    Throughout most of his career, right fielder Nick Swisher has provided consistent offense during the regular season. It's the postseason numbers that may cause general managers to pause and think.

    Nonetheless, Swisher is good for 25-28 HR and 85-90 RBI each season—certainly not numbers to scoff at.

    2013 Destination: Seattle Mariners. There's no question the Mariners are on the hunt for offense, considering they've finished last in the American League in runs scored for the past four seasons. Swisher can provide help in the outfield and at first base if Justin Smoak continues to disappoint.

8. Anibal Sanchez

48 of 55

    If there were any doubts about the ability of starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez to pitch under pressure, he certainly alleviated those concerns during the postseason.

    After closing with a 2.43 ERA in his final six starts of the regular season for the Detroit Tigers, Sanchez took his game to another level in the playoffs.

    The Tigers won only one of Sanchez's three postseason starts, but it was absolutely no fault of his own. He posted a stellar 1.77 ERA and 0.984 WHIP. At just 28 years of age, Sanchez is also one of the youngest free-agent pitchers available.

    2013 Destination: Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are looking to upgrade their rotation despite having six veteran starters returning in 2013.

7. Hiroki Kuroda

49 of 55

    Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda certainly found the city of New York to his liking.

    Kuroda gave the Yankees a terrific season on a one-year deal, posting a 16-11 record and 3.32 ERA in 33 starts.

    2013 Destination: New York Yankees. Kuroda received a qualifying offer from the Yankees. According to David Lennon of Newsday, Kuroda will either pitch for the Yankees or return back to Japan and pitch for his former team, the Hiroshima Carp.

6. Kyle Lohse

50 of 55

    With a 30-11 record and 3.11 ERA over his past two seasons, Kyle Lohse won't have any problem whatsoever finding work this offseason.

    Lohse will certainly garner much attention, but whether or not teams will want to commit to a four-year deal to a 34-year-old could be a sticking point.

    2013 Destination: Boston Red Sox. I see the Red Sox definitely making a play here, although I think the Kansas City Royals could have interest as well, if owner David Glass is indeed serious about ponying up cash to bolster his rotation.

5. Rafael Soriano

51 of 55

    Now that closer Rafael Soriano has opted out of his contract with the New York Yankees, he will be the most coveted closer on the free-agent market.

    However, Soriano's agent, Scott Boras, is reportedly looking for a four-year, $60 million contract for his client. With Mariano Rivera returning next season, the Yankees won't be in the running, and at that price, very few teams will be interested.

    2013 Destination: Detroit Tigers. With the Tigers saying goodbye to Jose Valverde, obviously there's a need at the back end of the bullpen. However, if Soriano and Boras insist on four years and $60 million, he could well be sitting at home when spring training starts.

4. B.J. Upton

52 of 55

    At just 28 years of age, it's certainly possible that center fielder B.J. Upton's best years are ahead of him.

    Upton put together a nice power surge in the second half of last season with the Tampa Bay Rays to finish with 28 HR and 78 RBI. He also stole 30 bases for the fifth consecutive season.

    2013 Destination: Philadelphia Phillies. It just seems like a perfect fit here. Upton gives the Phillies a solid defensive presence, great speed and another power bat to complement Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.

3. Michael Bourn

53 of 55

    Michael Bourn is highly coveted this offseason for his abilities as a leadoff hitter, his tremendous speed and his terrific defensive prowess in center field.

    Bourn received a qualifying offer from the Atlanta Braves—one he'll assuredly turn down.

    2013 Destination: Cincinnati Reds. If there is one thing the Reds absolutely want and need, it's a leadoff hitters. Prospect Billy Hamilton could certainly be that guy, but he's likely still at least a year away.

    I look for the Reds to trade Drew Stubbs this winter and bring Bourn on board.

2. Zack Greinke

54 of 55

    Without question the most coveted starting pitcher on this year's free-agent market, you likely won't find too many teams that wouldn't want to add Zack Greinke to their starting rotation.

    In reality, few teams will be able to match his asking price.

    oming off a season in which he posted a 15-5 record and 3.48 ERA in 33 starts with the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels, Greinke will easily top the $100 million mark and could command an annual salary of $25 million.

    2013 Destination: Los Angeles Angels. The Angels traded off three top-25 organizational prospects in order to acquire Greinke in late July. GM Jerry DiPoto would not have pulled off that deal if he didn't think he had a decent chance of signing Greinke long-term.

    The Angels have already rid themselves of the contracts of Ervin Santana and Dan Haren to facilitate the signing of Greinke.

1. Josh Hamilton

55 of 55

    The presumed top player in this year's free-agent class, outfielder Josh Hamilton not only brings a wealth of offense to the table, but considerable baggage as well.

    Hamilton hit 43 HR with 128 RBI despite going through long periods of slumps. According to Texas Rangers owner Nolan Ryan, attempting to quit smokeless tobacco in June helped in Hamilton suffering through a massive slump in June and July.

    Hamilton is certainly a special hitter. But with those special abilities come the substance abuse issues and the hand-holding needed to keep Hamilton on the straight and narrow.

    2013 Destination: San Francisco Giants. I see the Giants swooping in and offering Hamilton a five-year, $150 million contract. After winning two World Series titles in three seasons, adding Hamilton would give fans cause to throw the word "dynasty" around when talking about the Giants.

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.