MLB Free Agency 2013: New Destination Predictions for Top 10 Available Players
Plenty of MLB free agents continue to search for work during the final weeks of the 2012-13 offseason. The destinations for top available players become increasingly clear as teams with outstanding roster deficiencies run out of options.
At the onset of this winter, we were basically guessing blindly. Those sitting atop the leaderboard of the MLB Trade Rumors Free Agent Prediction Contest, for example, made mostly incorrect picks. Even here at Bleacher Report, featured columnists couldn't predetermine who would go where.
But new information is a luxury that ensures fewer incorrect guesses.
Here's where we can expect Michael Bourn, Kyle Lohse and other unsigned stars to settle down.
10. Delmon Young: Tampa Bay Rays
Expect Delmon Young to sign with the team who drafted him No. 1 overall a decade ago.
The Tampa Bay Rays desperately need another power source in the lineup.
Ideally, Young will serve as their designated hitter. Early in 2013, however, his outfield experience could come in handy.
Roger Mooney of The Tampa Tribune writes that highly-touted slugger Wil Myers won't begin this season with the MLB team. Keeping him in the minors for a couple months allows the Rays to delay his arbitration eligibility by a full year.
Sam Fuld projects as the Opening Day left fielder. Aside from an excellent April 2011, he has been an offensive liability. In case the 31-year-old struggles, Young is capable of taking the field with Ryan Roberts filling the vacated DH spot.
The condition of his ankle coming off of November surgery will affect how much of his one-year deal gets guaranteed.
9. Brian Wilson: Toronto Blue Jays
Despite missing most of the 2012 campaign, Brian Wilson has drawn plenty of interest around the league.
He went through a private workout with the New York Mets on Jan. 12, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Meanwhile, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the San Francisco Giants would be interested in retaining him with a modest major league deal.
It was previously rumored that Wilson liked the Boston Red Sox, but they have since completed their bullpen by acquiring Joel Hanrahan.
The Toronto Blue Jays feel comfortable with their relief corps as currently comprised. The fear is that dominant southpaw Darren Oliver will retire if not traded or offered a pay raise.
Freeing up his salary should give the Blue Jays just enough flexibility to outbid the other serious suitors.
8. Scott Hairston: Philadelphia Phillies
As powerful outfielders in their early 30s who struggle against right-handed pitching, Jonny Gomes and Scott Hairston are practically baseball clones. When the former received a $10 million deal from the Boston Red Sox, Hairston naturally aimed for something similar.
He once seemed destined to get it from one of the New York teams, but CBS Sports' Jon Heyman hears that both have backed off:
Fortunately, there are several other platoon opportunities available.
Most notably, the Philadelphia Phillies seek a veteran to occupy a corner spot. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports identifies Hairston as a possible fit.
The team would otherwise be forced to surrender young talent in a trade for older alternatives, such as Alfonso Soriano or Vernon Wells.
7. Kelly Johnson: Kansas City Royals
There really hasn't been any news on Kelly Johnson since he became a free agent following the World Series.
At this point, he's clearly the best middle infielder on the market.
The Kansas City Royals have exhausted their spending money, but Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star makes an interesting point. Newfound starting-rotation depth could convince K.C. to move Bruce Chen or Luke Hochevar, both of whom will earn more than $4 million in 2013.
Johnson should come cheap after posting a less-than-stellar .225/.313/.365 triple-slash line. In spite of the numbers, he's more productive at second base than in-house candidates Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella.
6. Joe Saunders: Baltimore Orioles
Re-signing Joe Saunders would represent the biggest transaction of the Baltimore Orioles' offseason.
Though the franchise controls plenty of potential starters, none of them can be completely trusted. Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez were rookies in 2012; Jason Hammel and Chris Tillman had only known mediocrity in previous seasons.
With an average of 195 innings pitched over the past five seasons, Saunders is completely different.
The fear of falling behind in the ultra-competitive AL East should motivate the O's to trump the offers of several other mid-market teams. According to Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun, the left-hander "had a blast" last fall and prefers to return.
5. Javier Vazquez: Chicago White Sox
Taking a summer off has reportedly done wonders for Javier Vazquez. His Puerto Rican winter league stats show promise and his velocity tops out in the mid-90s.
Representatives of the 36-year-old tell Jim Bowden of ESPN.com that most MLB teams have spoken to them about a potential comeback. Vazquez is particularly interested in contending, so those with recent success hold the recruiting edge.
A rotation spot opens on the Chicago White Sox if they find a suitor for impending free agent Gavin Floyd.
However, they won't compromise their depth until John Danks (shoulder surgery) returns to full strength. Team doctors plan to examine him later this month, writes Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com.
According to Ruben Rodriguez of El Nuevo Dia, Vazquez is "not in a hurry or under pressure" to sign a contract. The White Sox just needs him to stay patient.
4. Shaun Marcum: New York Mets
The New York Mets have shed a ton of payroll in recent months.
It started in early November when they terminated Jason Bay's contract. Then, they non-tendered Mike Pelfrey and Andres Torres and shipped R.A. Dickey north of the border. Losing Scott Hairston to free agency also saves some green.
As a result, Shaun Marcum is a very realistic target for them. Being a fly-ball pitcher, he would thrive at Citi Field.
Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports hears from major league sources that the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers want him on their staffs. But the Bucs just signed Jeff Karstens, and neither downsized Petco Park nor hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark suit Marcum's strengths.
He'll get a multi-year commitment.
3. Mike Napoli: Boston Red Sox
Yes, Mike Napoli is still technically a free agent. It has been more than six weeks since he and the Boston Red Sox agreed to terms on a $39 million deal, yet the staredown continues.
The team worries that his hip could lead to significant injuries in the near future.
Rest assured, these two sides will arrive at a resolution.
No other team would pay Napoli a comparable salary and let him play the field. Boston, meanwhile, won't find a better producer on the depleted free-agent market.
2. Kyle Lohse: San Diego Padres
A few days into 2013, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote that Kyle Lohse had not received any contract offers.
Inferior starting pitchers in his age group like Ryan Dempster and Jeremy Guthrie already signed for $26.5 million and $25 million, respectively.
Every general manager is scared away by Lohse's tie to draft-pick compensation. Impeding minor-league growth would be for naught if this 12-year veteran begins to decline.
After missing out on the cheaper, middle-of-the-rotation guys, the San Diego Padres might lure Lohse with a lucrative pillow contract. Remember, they seriously considered Edwin Jackson before length became an issue.
1. Michael Bourn: Texas Rangers
Predictably, a Scott Boras client tops this list. This marks the third consecutive year that one his finest players coming off an All-Star season is still unemployed in January.
But things worked out well for Adrian Beltre ($80 million deal in 2011) and Prince Fielder ($214 million last winter), right?
Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels has been "keeping lines of communication open," according to Jon Paul Morosi. The 30-year-old fits in perfectly as the club's lead-off hitter and center fielder.
Aside from the Seattle Mariners and Atlanta Braves (who would use Bourn in left), expect one or more "mystery teams" to drive up the price.
Even if the contract doesn't reach nine figures, it should wind up awfully close.
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