MLB Free Agency 2013: Where the Top 30 FAs Want to Play Next Season
There has been a virtual multitude of predictions about the possible landing spots for each MLB free agent on the market.
Movement has already been realized, with Torii Hunter accepting a two-year, $26 million contract with the Detroit Tigers and Melky Cabera a two-year, $16 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.
However, just where is it that the players themselves would like to play next season?
For the most part, players don't publicly offer up their preferences. In some cases, they may state their preference for a contending team or a particular league. However, oftentimes, they are advised not to air their preferences for fear that it could hinder future negotiations.
Bleacher Report will take a look at the teams that free agents would most like to play for. In some cases, players have stated their desires. In other cases, we'll cite instances where teams have stated their desire for a particular player.
We may speculate on a few players as well.
30. Cody Ross: Boston Red Sox
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The Boston Red Sox realized a huge bargain in the 2012 season with the performance of outfielder Cody Ross.
For the low, low price of $3 million, the Red Sox got a .267 average, 22 HR, 81 RBI and an .807 OPS. That included a .921 OPS with 13 HR at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox would like Ross back, but this time, it won't be at a bargain rate.
Ross would like to come back as well, but with the inability to get a deal done as of yet, he is likely to get offers from other teams, despite his preference to stay in Boston.
"They had a chance to trade me at the deadline and get something decent in return, and didn't trade me in hopes of re-signing me," Ross said. "It just hasn't happened. Now, there are quite a few other teams involved and we have a chance to play out the process. But everybody knows how much I love Boston."
29. Carlos Villanueva: Kansas City Royals
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Carlos Villanueva has filled several roles as a pitcher during his seven-year career. Last year with the Toronto Blue Jays, he appeared in 38 games—16 as a starter.
Villanueva's preference is to start, but his versatility can be invaluable, especially for teams like the Kansas City Royals. He can easily transition to the rotation for a team that experienced both injury and poor performance. His acquisition would be both affordable and prudent.
28. Angel Pagan: San Francisco Giants
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There's no question that the trade that brought center fielder Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants was a wise choice.
The Giants were more than pleased with Pagan's performance—a .288 average, .788 OPS, 29 steals and a league-leading 15 triples—and according to Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area, they are "focused" on re-signing him.
Considering the bounce-back year he experienced and his role in the Giants' championship season, I imagine Pagan would like to return to the Bay Area as well if the right deal can be worked out.
27. A.J. Pierzynski: Atlanta Braves
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Catcher A.J. Pierzynski is coming off one of his most productive seasons and will likely be mulling over several offers as a free agent.
But if he had his preference, his destination would be the Atlanta Braves (via Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago).
“In a perfect situation, if there were no other deciding factors (money, another catcher), my ideal situation would be to play for the Braves,” Pierzynski said. “I grew up a Braves fan. That would be ideal, but with Brian McCann I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
No question it won't happen, but it's always nice to dream.
26. Jeremy Guthrie: Kansas City Royals
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After what can only be termed as a miserable experience during his time with the Colorado Rockies, starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie completely turned his season around with the Kansas City Royals.
Guthrie posted a 5-3 record and 3.16 ERA in 14 starts following his trade from the Rockies.
According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, the Royals would love to bring Guthrie back. However, Guthrie will probably wait to see what the market will bear for his services. He's likely looking for at least a three-year deal, and while Royals GM Dayton Moore is interested, he understands Guthrie's stance.
“I think he’s looking at other opportunities, and we’ll see where that goes,” Moore said.
“It’s hard to predict what is going to happen with a lot of these guys in free agency. It only takes one or two clubs…He’s looking to get the best deal.”
25. Ryan Ludwick: Cincinnati Reds
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Outfielder Ryan Ludwick, much like Cody Ross, was an absolute bargain for the Cincinnati Reds in 2011.
Ludwick hit .275 with 26 HR, 80 RBI and an .877 OPS—all for just $2.5 million.
He declined his $5 million option for the 2013 season, but that doesn't mean there isn't interest on both sides for Ludwick to return next season.
“We talked to his agent last night,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said last month. “There’s interest on both sides.”
24. Shaun Marcum: Chicago Cubs
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Starting pitcher Shaun Marcum will likely not be returning to the Milwaukee Brewers next season, but it's quite possible he could find another home in the NL Central Division.
The Chicago Cubs are the team that may currently have the most interest in signing him.
There's certainly familiarity there—Marcum worked with Cubs manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio when all three were with the Brewers.
Marcum missed over two months with elbow tightness in 2012, just three years removed from Tommy John surgery, so teams are likely to shy away from a long-term deal. But for the Cubs, a prior relationship certainly helps.
23. Kevin Youkilis: Chicago White Sox
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Third baseman Kevin Youkilis hit just .235 with a career-low .745 OPS in 2012. However, the Chicago White Sox are more than interested in bringing Youk back.
Speaking at the GM meetings in Indian Wells, CA in early November, Sox GM Rick Hahn acknowledged a desire to retain Youkilis, despite declining the 2013 option on his contract for $13 million.
“There’s obviously external options in the free agent market, such as Youkilis, who we’ve made no secret about and continue to have interest in,” Hahn said (via Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago). “We’ll continue to have dialogue with and there’s a handful of trade ideas that we’re bandying about here.”
22. Marco Scutaro: San Francisco Giants
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After providing a spark for the San Francisco Giants in the second half of the regular season and the playoffs, infielder Marco Scutaro is now looking for a new home as a free agent.
If he had his preference, it would be to stay right where he is, according to Joey Nowak of MLB.com.
"Sometimes there are decisions that you can't control," Scutaro said. "I don't know what they're thinking; I don't know what other teams are thinking. The only thing I can say is hopefully it works out because I want to come back here."
21. Jonathan Broxton: None
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When Brandon League signed a three-year, $22.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, reliever Jonathan Broxton had to have been pretty excited.
Broxton put together a nice bounce-back season with the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds in 2012. With a market that's short on quality closers, League's contract helped to set the bar for what Broxton could receive this offseason.
Broxton will go where the money takes him, no matter what team is offering the cash.
20. Lance Berkman: Houston Astros
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Free agent first baseman/outfielder Lance Berkman spent the first 11-plus years of his career playing for the Houston Astros.
According to recent reports, he could well be returning home.
Berkman missed all but 32 games this past season with the St. Louis Cardinals with knee injuries. However, he could fill a role as a designated hitter for the Astros with their move to the AL West Division in 2013.
Berkman and the Astros got together last week (via ESPN).
"He was just seeing where we were at," Astros owner Jim Crane said. "He expressed some interest in maybe working a deal out. We haven't gotten to that (contract discussion). I think his knee is still up in the air. So we've got to get that all worked out. It was a get-acquainted meeting, really."
19. Joakim Soria: New York Yankees
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Despite the fact that he's returning from his second Tommy John surgery, closer Joakim Soria is already drawing considerable interest on the free-agent market.
Oscar Suarez, Soria's agent, indicated that eight teams have contacted him already. Suarez also said that Soria would love to join the New York Yankees if GM Brian Cashman was so inclined to inquire.
"If the Yankees call, we will be all ears," Suarez said. "If there is a fit, Joakim would be elated to work with Mo (Mariano Rivera). He would close everywhere except there."
With Rafael Soriano opting out of his contract with the Yankees, there certainly could be an opening, and Soria would be much cheaper as well.
18. Mike Adams: Philadelphia Phillies
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At 34 years of age, reliever Mike Adams will be testing the free-agent waters for the first time in his career. He's also coming off surgery to repair Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
Despite the surgery, Adams is regarded as one of the best non-closers on the market, and no doubt several teams will have great interest in acquiring his services.
One of those teams could be the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies have shown interest in Adams for several years, most recently at the 2011 trade deadline. The Phillies have a need to build a better bridge between its starters and closer Jonathan Papelbon. Adams could certainly help fill that void.
17. Stephen Drew: Oakland Athletics
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Shortly after he was named American League Manager of the Year, Oakland A's manager Bob Melvin made no secret his desire for his A's to come back as a unit next season, including shortstop Stephen Drew.
"We hope he comes back," Melvin said (via Nate Stuhlbarg of CSN Bay Area). "At the end of the day it comes down to what he wants to do -- whether or not he wants a long-term deal or to be closer to his home."
Drew hit .250 in 39 games for the A's following his trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
16. Shane Victorino: Los Angeles Dodgers
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Shortly after Shane Victorino was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers in late July, he indicated he would be open to staying in Los Angeles.
However, that was before the huge deal with the Boston Red Sox that sent left fielder Carl Crawford to L.A.
In all likelihood, Victorino won't be back with his preferred team.
15. Ryan Dempster: Los Angeles Dodgers
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When the Chicago Cubs cut a deal with the Atlanta Braves before last season's trade deadline to trade starting pitcher Ryan Dempster, he vetoed the deal.
Why? Because his preferred destination was the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Dempster later accepted a trade to the Texas Rangers, posting a 5.09 ERA in 12 starts.
He is now a free agent, and his preference likely hasn't changed. So far this offseason, however, the Dodgers haven't granted Dempster's wish.
14. Kyle Lohse: Washington Nationals
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Following the St. Louis Cardinals' loss to the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS, starting pitcher Kyle Lohse knew that his five years in a Cardinals uniform was about to end.
The Cardinals will go into the 2013 season with a full complement of starters, and Lohse will be looking for a new home.
He would prefer that home to be a contender (per B.J. Rains of Fox Sports Midwest):
"I can't do anything until the World Series is over," Lohse said. "We'll see what offers are out there. There are certain places I'd like to go and certain places I probably wouldn't. There will be some big decisions coming up, and we'll see how it plays out.
"I'm not going to be obviously jumping at the first offer out there. There's a lot of stuff that goes into it with my family that I have to worry about. I definitely want to play for a winner. There's a lot of stuff that comes into play. It will be interesting. It's too early right now because I don't know what teams are interested. Obviously I haven't heard from anybody. We'll see how it goes."
Early speculation has Lohse possibly headed to the Washington Nationals, who will likely be losing Edwin Jackson.
13. Brandon McCarthy: Oakland Athletics
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The Oakland Athletics re-signed pitcher Bartolo Colon to a one-year contract earlier this month, seemingly shutting the door on the chances of Brandon McCarthy returning in 2013.
McCarthy landed on the disabled list twice last season and was on his way back to full health before a line drive off the bat of Los Angeles Angels shortstop Erick Aybar hit him in the head and ended his season on Sept. 5.
He received tremendous support from both the A's organization and the fans during his recovery and has since stated on several occasions his desire to return to Oakland.
However, with Oakland's great young corps of starters and the re-signing of Colon, McCarthy's preference may not be realized.
12. Edwin Jackson: None
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Starting pitcher Edwin Jackson has never stated a preference as to where he'd like to play. But there is apparently no shortage of teams that are willing to sign him.
Jackson was not given a qualifying offer by the Washington Nationals, but according to MASNSports.com, he hasn't closed the door on a return, either.
"Yeah, that's still how I view it," Jackson said. "Now, it's just an open gate for every team to be able to contact me. But I still haven't closed the doors on any team just because they didn't put in an offer. That doesn't mean I'm closing the door. It just enabled more competition to get in the mix, more teams can put in offers."
As to where he'd like to play in 2013, Jackson offered no hints.
"I have no clue what's going to transpire," he said. "When everything starts to take place, I'll just deal with it as it comes."
11. Adam LaRoche: Washington Nationals
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Adam LaRoche may have declined his option to return to the Washington Nationals next season, but there's no question about who wants him back: manager Davey Johnson.
Johnson has championed the cause for LaRoche's return since before the season ended.
“We need him back more than we need me back,” Johnson said in September.
And he was more than willing to do whatever it takes to make sure LaRoche returns.
“I’ll promise him he won’t have to give me shots next year in golf," he said. "That’ll hook him in. He doesn’t have to let me play the up tees.”
I have a feeling a multi-year deal might help to seal the deal as well.
10. Rafael Soriano: Money
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Rafael Soriano turned down a guaranteed $14 million next season for the New York Yankees by opting out of the last year of his contract.
What sane person would actually do that?
One who knows there are others willing to pay more.
Soriano's 42 saves last season in place of the injured Mariano Rivera virtually guaranteed him a long-term deal with someone. While turning down $14 million may seem crazy, it's not crazy when you know there's a sucker—er, team—out there willing to pony up big dollars.
9. Dan Haren: Los Angeles Angels
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The Los Angeles Angels first explored trade options and then declined the option on pitcher Dan Haren's contract for the 2013 season.
It could be the end of the dream for Haren, who has always wanted to play in Anaheim.
"I'm sick of changing teams," Haren said in October. "Coming to L.A. was a dream come true, really, so it's going to be hard if I leave. Wherever I go, I'll obviously give 100 percent effort, just like I did every start here. But L.A. has always had more of a significance to me, just because I grew up so close to Angel Stadium. Regardless of where I play, I'll probably reside close to the Orange County area."
8. Mike Napoli: Texas Rangers
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Catcher Mike Napoli certainly endured a rough 2012 season. Despite a year filled with injuries, he nonetheless will be sought by several teams this offseason, including the Boston Red Sox.
However, there's no question Napoli's preference is to remain with the Texas Rangers.
"I love playing in Texas," Napoli said. "I love the atmosphere there, the clubhouse, playing for Wash, a winning ballclub. I love playing there. I know how the Rangers' clubhouse is, and it's amazing. I've never been a part of anything like that in terms of chemistry and how everyone is."
7. Nick Swisher: Colorado Rockies
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Nick Swisher's run in New York has likely come to an end, and he could be heeding the words "Go West, young man."
According to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, quite a few teams will have interest in Swisher, but his preference could be to move closer to the West Coast.
Cafardo suggested the Colorado Rockies might actually be the best fit.
6. Hiroki Kuroda: Los Angeles Dodgers
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Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda spent one very productive season with the New York Yankees, but if had his way, he'd be back in Southern California.
While there were rumors that Kuroda's preference was to continue with the Yankees before moving back to Japan, another report suggests otherwise.
According to Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles, Kuroda confided in people close to him that his preference was to pitch in Southern California to be closer to his daughters, who currently attend elementary school in the area.
The presumption is that the Dodgers would be that team, considering Kuroda spent four years there before moving on to the Yankees last season.
5. Anibal Sanchez: The Team That Puts Up the Most Money
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Starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez impressed everyone this past postseason with his performance. It's that effort that will land him a big payday.
Where that will be has yet to be determined. Sanchez is reportedly looking for a six-year, $90 million contract.
If Sanchez has a stated preference for a team, he hasn't revealed that team. But if any of them pony up what Sanchez wants, he'll follow the money, preference be damned.
4. Michael Bourn: Philadelphia Phillies
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As one of the top position players on the open market this offseason, center fielder Michael Bourn will have no shortage of teams desiring his services.
However, the one team that might intrigue Bourn the most might be the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies drafted Bourn in 2003, but they traded him to the Houston Astros in 2007 in the deal that netted reliever Brad Lidge.
Bourn could certainly come full circle in his career by returning to the team that gave him his first chance.
3. B.J. Upton: Washington Nationals
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Center fielder B.J. Upton has never known any franchise but the Tampa Bay Rays since he was first drafted in 2002.
However, he now has a choice to make.
As a highly sought-after free agent, Upton will draw plenty of interest from several teams. But none of those teams has been more actively interested than the Washington Nationals.
The Nationals have been inquiring about Bourn since last season and have recently reached out once again, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
2. Zack Greinke: Atlanta Braves
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Zack Greinke has certainly established himself as a great pitcher, with a Cy Young Award and 91 wins in nine seasons to his credit.
But Greinke considers himself a great athlete as well and one who loves to hit.
In that vein, he would probably love a return to the National League. And he has stated in the past a preference to play with the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves' training camp is near Greinke's home in Orlando. However, the Braves appear to be set with their rotation, so Greinke will have to be satisfied with a team willing to pay him upwards of $150 million.
He can always visit the batting cages on his off days.
1. Josh Hamilton: Milwaukee Brewers
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As the top position player on the free-agent market this offseason, Josh Hamilton will be the topic du jour until he finally inks his new contract.
Until that time, much of the talk will focus on his perceived issues—prior substance abuse and injury history at the top of that list.
In terms of his substance abuse issues, Hamilton's former accountability partner with the Texas Rangers, Johnny Narron, is now with the Milwaukee Brewers.
While the Brewers might be interested in Hamilton's services, his cost could put them out of contention. But one would think that Hamilton's preference would be to reunite with a man who was a huge part of his growth in sobriety—a man who knows Hamilton inside and out.
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.