MLB Free Agency/Trades 2013: 12 Predictions for the Offseason Hitting Market

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2012

MLB Free Agency/Trades 2013: 12 Predictions for the Offseason Hitting Market

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    Earlier this week, I wrote a piece making predictions for the offseason pitching market. Now it's time to take a look at the offensive side of things.

    Josh Hamilton is undoubtedly the marquee name on the free-agent market, but there are a handful of second-tier guys who also figure to cash in and make a significant impact on the 2013 season.

    The trade market also has some intriguing options, as the Indians look to part with some of their veteran pieces and other teams look to move offense for pitching.

    Here are my predictions on where the top 12 hitters, both free agents and trade targets that I think will be dealt, will be playing when the 2013 season starts.

Josh Hamilton Signs with Seattle Mariners

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    To this point, where Josh Hamilton will be playing in 2013 remains a complete mystery, as no team has emerged as the front-runner for his services and there are a number of teams reportedly vying for them.

    While they aren't traditionally big spenders, there is likely no team that needs the addition of Hamilton's bat more than the Mariners, who finished last in the AL in batting average and runs scored each of the past three seasons.

    With an onslaught of solid pitching prospects nearing big league ready, signing Hamilton is the type of move that could bring the Mariners offense up to par—and in a deep AL West it's a move they will step up and make this offseason.

Michael Bourn Signs with Washington Nationals

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    The Nationals have long been in search of a legitimate center fielder, and it appears that this may very well be the offseason that they find one as Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton are both available on the free-agent market.

    For a right-handed heavy team seeking a true leadoff hitter, the switch-hitting speedster Bourn is clearly a better fit than the right-handed Upton and his low average.

    He won't come cheap, but for a Nationals team that is already a viable title contender, he could be the piece that pushes them over the top, making the cost well worth it.

B.J. Upton Signs with Atlanta Braves

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    With the departure of Michael Bourn, the Braves will be in need of a center fielder, and according to a tweet from Mark Bowman of MLB.com, Upton is currently the team's No. 1 target.

    He is likely to earn a contract north of his actual value based solely on his tremendous skill set and upside that could come with a change of scenery.

    For the Braves, it may very well be worth paying that salary as they look to make another run at the postseason after a disappointing bow-out in the wild card game this past season.

Asdrubal Cabrera Acquired by Arizona Diamondbacks

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    With virtually nothing in the way of a viable shortstop option on the free-agent market (sorry Stephen Drew), there may be no more valuable trade commodity this offseason than Cabrera.

    For a rebuilding Indians team in search of young pitching, the Diamondbacks are the ideal trade partner. Set to open the season with the light-hitting Cliff Pennington as their starting shortstop, they clearly could benefit from acquiring Cabrera.

    I think they could land him without moving Trevor Bauer or Tyler Skaggs, as a package built around Pat Corbin and David Holmberg should be plenty intriguing for Cleveland.

Adam LaRoche Re-Signs with Washington Nationals

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    LaRoche opted out of his end of a $10 million option to start the offseason, looking instead for a multi-year deal after putting together a .271 BA, 33 HR, 100 RBI season coming back from injury.

    That is not to say he won't be back with the Nationals though, and according to CBS Sports, GM Mike Rizzo has named re-signing LaRoche as the team's No. 1 priority.

    Something in the neighborhood of a three-year, $36 million deal seems reasonable and would allow the Nationals to shop Michael Morse provided they also sign a center fielder this offseason.

Angel Pagan Re-Signs with San Francisco Giants

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    Last offseason, the Giants and Mets swapped underperforming outfielders, as San Francisco shipped Andres Torres to New York for Angel Pagan.

    The move wound up being one of the best of the entire offseason, as the Giants came away as the clear winners with Pagan hitting .288 BA, 8 HR, 56 RBI, 95 R out of the leadoff spot in the San Francisco lineup.

    Following that performance, one has to imagine the Giants would love to bring the 31-year-old back, and while he's in for a big raise over the $4.85 million he made last season, he'll still represent a cheaper option than B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn.

Nick Swisher Signs with Boston Red Sox

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    Their lineup a shell of what it was on Opening Day of 2012, the Red Sox have plenty of money to spend this offseason and needs at both corner outfield spots as well as first base.

    I recently wrote a piece exploring how Swisher's bat could impact the Red Sox offense, and while there are a number of teams interested in him, I think it will be the Red Sox who will land him.

    A willingness to offer a fourth year could be enough for the Red Sox to secure his services, and Swisher could play a big role in the reshaping of the franchise both on and off the field.

Mike Napoli Re-Signs with Texas Rangers

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    For his sake, it's too bad he was not a free agent at the end of last season, as Napoli was one of the breakout stars of 2011 with a .320 BA, 30 HR, 75 RBI regular season and a terrific postseason.

    Instead he hits the open market following a season in which his average plummeted to .227; while his value is no doubt lower than it would have been last winter he still had 24 HR and 56 RBI as one of the top power threats at the catcher position.

    While the Rangers let him hit the market without even making him a qualifying offer, there aren't many other catching options out there (A.J. Pierzynski and Russell Martin), and in the end I think the Rangers bring Napoli back.

Marco Scutaro Re-Signs with San Francisco Giants

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    Few players in baseball history have done more to boost their free-agent stock with a strong postseason than Scutaro did with the Giants in 2012. 

    He went a ridiculous 14-for-28 during the NLCS to take home MVP honors, and drove in the what was the eventual winning run in the decisive game of the World Series.

    Much like they did with Aubrey Huff following their 2010 title, the Giants will likely do whatever it takes to bring Scutaro back, even if it means overpaying a bit.

Logan Morrison Acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays

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    After trading a fifth of their roster to the Blue Jays in a blockbuster deal, the Marlins may not be done. They are reportedly shopping first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison, according to a tweet from Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post.

    The 25-year-old is under team control through the 2016 season and would be a welcome addition to the offensively challenged Rays. He would likely move back to his natural position of first base, and he is as good a candidate as any for a breakout season.

    He likely wouldn't cost any of the Rays' top prospects, and after hitting 34 home runs in 758 at-bats the past two seasons he is a legitimate 30-home-run candidate if he can stay healthy.

Shane Victorino Signs with Cincinnati Reds

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    Victorino has been one of the most complete offensive players in the game since moving into an everyday role with the Phillies back in 2006, combining speed, power and a decent average to make an impact in a number of ways.

    He was dealt to the Dodgers at the deadline last season, and his .245 BA, 2 HR, 15 RBI line with them did little to boost his free-agent stock.

    For a Reds team searching for a leadoff hitter and left fielder, Victorino would appear to be the perfect fit. Coming off a subpar season he could wind up being a bargain given the impact he could potentially make.

A.J. Pierzynski Re-Signs with Chicago White Sox

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    It's not often that a player puts together a career year at the age of 35, especially if that player is a catcher, but that is exactly what Pierzynski did for the White Sox last season.

    After failing to reach double digits in home runs in 2010 and 2011, Pierzynski exploded for a .278 BA, 27 HR, 77 RBI season for a career-best .827 OPS on his way to his first Silver Slugger award.

    There are a handful of teams looking for a catcher, but in the end Pierzynski has always seemed content in Chicago, and with Tyler Flowers (.213 BA, 7 HR, 13 RBI) far from a sure thing to step in for him the White Sox will pay up to keep the guy who's suited up behind the plate for them for the past eight seasons.