MLB Free Agency 2014: Top Free Agent/Trade Buzz for Every Team
MLB free agency is just about a week away, and the rumor mill is already buzzing with potential trades and teams that may sign free agents.
From the big names like Jacoby Ellsbury and Robinson Cano, to the not-so-big names like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Omar Infante, this offseason promises to be full of surprises.
So, what is expected this offseason?
Here's a look at the top free agent/trade buzz for every team.
Note: All stats obtained from ESPN unless otherwise noted.
The Baltimore Orioles have nine pending free agents and Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports the team is taking it slow with them:
The Orioles have nine pending free agents—Alexi Casilla, Scott Feldman, Jason Hammel, Nate McLouth, Michael Morse, Brian Roberts, Francisco Rodriguez, Chris Snyder and Tsuyoshi Wada—and executive vice president Dan Duquette said: “We haven’t moved on any of those free agents yet.”
And there's no need to rush on these players. None will be given a qualifying offer, and none are considered the best at their position on the free-agent market.
Of the nine free agents, McLouth and Morse are the only ones I see coming back. Jonathan Schoop will take over at second base, knocking Roberts and Casilla out of the conversation. Then there's Dylan Bundy, who will likely earn a rotation spot, leaving Feldman and Hammel out as well.
Then again, you can never have too much pitching, so the Orioles could opt to try and keep those guys.
Regardless, the Orioles have time, and they're in no rush to make decisions on nine players right now.
Boston Red Sox
After missing out on Jose Abreu, the Boston Red Sox now must re-sign Mike Napoli.
Napoli originally signed a three-year deal with the Red Sox last offseason, but medical issues came up and he was limited to a one-year contract. This year, Napoli will be seeking at least a three-year deal again, and the Red Sox have to retain their first baseman.
The market for first basemen is thin this offseason with the biggest names being Kendrys Morales and Justin Morneau. Napoli has played better than both this year and is a huge reason why the Red Sox are where they are.
Napoli has been nothing but great in the middle of the Red Sox's order. The Red Sox seem to have a winning formula with him there, so why change it?
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are expected to be players on the free-agent market this offseason, but one move that could fly under the radar is who will replace Mariano Rivera.
The Yankees currently have David Robertson in house, and according to MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, Robertson is ready to assume that role if it's given to him:
Robertson has earned a crack at those duties by proving himself as an elite setup man. Already owning an All-Star Game appearance to his name, he was 5-1 with a 2.04 ERA in 70 appearances this year, finishing nine games and striking out 77 in 66 1/3 innings.
"I think he's a guy that has the ability to [close]," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Right now, that's our best candidate."
Of course, the Yankees could choose to go another route with Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit and Brian Wilson on the market.
All of the focus is going to be on Robinson Cano and the Alex Rodriguez situation. But it's what happens with the closer's role that will be the talk of the town if it goes to someone other than Robertson.
Tampa Bay Rays
David Price said he felt like his career with the Tampa Bay Rays was over, according to Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune:
As was the case with every highly paid player in team history, Price thinks he has priced himself off the Rays' payroll.
“If you go with what's been done in the past, I guess you're going to have to think you're going to get traded,” Price said Wednesday night on a conference call.
If Price is indeed traded, there will be no shortage of teams interested in the lefties services. But like the Rays received in deals for Matt Garza and James Shields, teams will be needing to pay a hefty price tag.
Let's compare Garza, Shields and Price in their last two years with the Rays:
Shields blasts Price in strikeouts, but quality starts and WHIP are close, and Price holds the edge in ERA.
Looking at what Tampa Bay got in deals for Shields (Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi) and Garza (Hak-Ju Lee and Chris Archer), it's safe to say they should get that (and more) for Price. Also consider Price has a Cy Young Award to his credit as well.
The Rays have a big decision to make this offseason, and if they choose to move Price, some team will be gaining one of the best young aces in the game.
Toronto Blue Jays
A year after trading away the top catching prospect in baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays are now looking for backstop help.
And, according to Bob Elliot of the Toronto Sun, they're looking at Hank Conger and Chris Ianetta of the Angels:
The Jays also are attempting to acquire a catcher from the Los Angeles Angels.
Toronto has targeted either Chris Iannetta or Hank Conger, according to those familiar with the Jays’ plans.
The Blue Jays currently have J.P. Arencibia at catcher, but he had a sub-par 2013, forcing the Jays to look elsewhere. Let's compare the three catchers:
At the plate, none offer too much, other than Ianetta getting on base more than one-third of the time. But behind the plate, all are horrible at throwing out runners trying to steal.
However, outside of Brian McCann, the catcher market is horrible this year. So, bringing in someone with experience behind the dish is the next best thing.
Chicago White Sox
With the recent signing of Jose Abreu, the Chicago White Sox created for themselves a potential logjam at first base and designated hitter.
Adam Dunn is currently under contract for 2014 as well. Paul Konerko, on the other hand, is a free agent who is considering retirement.
In a story posted Tuesday, I looked at what's next for Konerko after the signing of Abreu.
Dan Padilla of ESPN Chicago wrote the White Sox are still looking at possibly re-signing Konerko:
General manager Rick Hahn insisted the White Sox remain interested in talking to Konerko about a one-year deal. Konerko said before the season ended that if he does come back it would only be for one more season and then he would slip into retirement.
The biggest obstacle to bringing back Konerko wouldn't seem to be financial as much as it would seem to be too many versions of the same type of player.
MLB.com's Scott Merkin wrote that the signing of Abreu will likely be Chicago's only move in free agency outside of possibly re-signing Konerko:
The addition of Abreu will likely stand as Chicago's sole major foray into the free-agent market. The goal for the White Sox in this reshaping process is to add players who can help in the present and future, as opposed to serving simply as quick fixes.
The Cleveland Indians will almost certainly make a qualifying offer to Ubaldo Jimenez this offseason, according to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.
The righty was dominant after the All-Star break, posting a 1.82 ERA, helping the Indians into the playoffs:
Once Jimenez voids his option for 2014 (valued at $8 million), as expected, the Indians will almost certainly give him a one-year, $14.1-million qualifying offer for next season. Cleveland has interest in bringing the starter back on that kind of contract, but (Tim) Lincecum's deal, which includes $17 million in 2014, makes it clear that a better multi-year pact will likely be offered elsewhere.
While the money may be out there for Jimenez, the Indians won't be able to compete with big-money teams if it gets to a bidding war.
However, losing Jimenez would hurt the team, especially considering there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the starting rotation.
Like David Price, Max Scherzer could find himself on the trading block this offseason.
While the Detroit Tigers could easily afford Scherzer when he's eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, they could also potentially get a lot in return if they traded him.
Scherzer went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts this year, putting him in line for the AL Cy Young Award.
Chris Iott of MLive.com opines that a trade could be a possibility if the Tigers don't feel like Scherzer will re-sign with Detroit after next season:
It seems more likely that they will keep him, though his increase will be sizable for a team that had a 2013 payroll of around $150 million.
Scherzer's case might be different than those (GM Dave) Dombrowski has had in the past. He very well could decide to push the Tigers to arbitration, in part based on the year he had and also because Scott Boras is his agent.
Regardless of what happens, Scherzer is about to get a huge increase from his $6.73 million salary in 2013.
Kansas City Royals
But don't look too far into it. Royals' GM Dayton Moore previously said that anyone could be had for the right price, according to the Kansas City Star's Dayton Moore:
Royals general manager Dayton Moore previously made it clear that he’s willing to trade anyone for the right price.
“You’ve got to look at all of your options,” he said. “We’ve got to be open-minded to everything.”
Butler, who hit .289 with 15 home runs and 82 RBI last year would bring back a few good pieces, but does this mean the Royals are turning back to their old ways?
They did a good job last year in bringing in Ervin Santana and James Shields. But Kansas City fans won't forget them letting the likes of Zack Greinke, Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon go.
South Korean pitcher Suk-Min Yoon is on the Minnesota Twins' radar, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Mike Radcliff, Twins vice president for player personnel, added recently that the team was "fully engaged" in the Yoon process after watching him pitch numerous times in Korea and on the world stage at such events as the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic.
There had been talk of a showcase for Yoon, 27, but Radcliff made it sound as though the Twins had already placed a value on him.
"It doesn't really matter to us," Radcliff said. "We've watched him forever."
Yoon posted a 4.00 ERA this season in 87.2 innings in 30 appearances (13 starts).
The Twins ranked 29th in baseball in 2013 with a 4.55 ERA.
While Yoon isn't the same caliber pitcher that fellow Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu is, he could still bring a lot of quality to a rotation. He was the 2011 MVP of the Korea Baseball Organization in which he posted a 2.45 ERA in 172.1 innings.
Could the Houston Astros be in on Shin-Soo Choo as well?
According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, the Astros could make a run at Choo in the offseason:
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has emphasized on-base percentage like almost no other baseball executive, and Choo had a .423 on-base percentage in 2013, second only to Reds teammate Joey Votto in the National League. Choo hit .285 with 21 home runs, 107 runs and 20 stolen bases, but his most marketable skills is his ability to get on base.
The Astros, saddled by a disastrous TV deal at the moment, have said publicly that they aren't opposed to a major rise in payroll, with owner Jim Crane saying recently, “I would say the payroll could go to $50-$60 [million] very quickly, and if this [TV situation] gets resolved, it could go higher.”
Not many people expect Choo to sign with the Astros, but the fact that they're looking at a free agent like him shows they want to put a better product on the field.
Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels are in desperate need of pitching. And according to a tweet by ESPN's Buster Olney, the Angels are willing to trade Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo to make that happen.
The Angels ranked 24th in baseball with a team ERA of 4.23, while also having a starter's ERA of 4.30. So, there are some definite changes to be made.
C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver and Joe Blanton are all under contract for next year, while Jerome Williams and Tommy Hanson are arbitration eligible. Trumbo and Bourjos are both arbitration eligible for the next three years.
And it's not like the Angels would need an ace-type pitcher in return for one of the two. A No. 2 or No. 3-type pitcher would do. After all, Wilson and Weaver are already 1A and 1B on the staff.
Bartolo Colon may be turning 41 next season, but he still feels like he can contribute.
Colon went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA last year and was one of the best pitchers in the American League.
If he enjoyed his time with Oakland that much, and the sides can come to an agreement, there's no reason not to believe Colon will the ace of the staff next year.
I don't see Seattle as being one of the primary contenders for Price for the simple reason that if the Mariners are willing to pay such a steep price in young prospects to make a big trade, it would make far more sense to pursue an impact bat. The M's could well add another pitcher this offseason, but I'd imagine more of a mid-rotation veteran than a top-end ace.
It all sounds good in theory to trade for Price, but the Mariners ranked 22nd in runs scored (624), 28th in batting average (.237) and 20th in slugging percentage (.390). And with Felix Hernandez making $150 million-plus over the next six years, it's hard to see the Mariners paying another pitcher that kind of money.
If the Mariners aren't going to re-sign him, then why trade for him at all?
With former Texas Rangers (and current Red Sox) teammates Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Napoli hitting free agency this offseason, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan expects the Rangers to make a run at the pair:
The Rangers were seventh in the league in runs scored. Napoli was missed. Both he and Saltalamacchia are worth considering by anybody this winter, especially a team looking for offensive help.
Neither Saltalamacchia or Napoli are worrying about free agency right now with Game 6 of the World Series scheduled for Wednesday. But once it's over, their futures are ahead of them.
Do they return to a place where they both spent a good amount of time? Napoli will be the best first baseman on the market this offseason, while Saltalamacchia will be the No. 2 catcher, behind Brian McCann.
Addressing the recent signings of Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, Bradley said as a mid-market team, the Braves can't keep making big-money mistakes:
In a world where dollars didn’t matter, Brian McCann would be worth keeping just because he’s Brian McCann. But baseball isn’t such a realm, and if the Braves are going to stay good and perhaps get better enough to win in October–even though October baseball defies projection–they can’t keep shredding dollar bills. They can't expect to be a successful mid-market team if they keep making big-money mistakes.
If that's the case, then letting McCann go elsewhere might be the smart move.
The fact remains that McCann will be 30 next year, which is old for a catcher. For the Braves to get into a bidding war with other teams just to retain him would be ludicrous.
Although it may not be the popular thing, letting McCann walk might be the smart thing. Plus, Evan Gattis and Christian Bethancourt are more than capable at filling the full-time catching role.
Could Dan Uggla return to the Miami Marlins?
According to Joe Frisario of MLB.com, if the Braves can get a team to pick up at least $6 million of the $26 million owed to Uggla the next two seasons, they'd likely deal him:
It's no secret the Marlins are searching for a power bat, and there is a limited amount on the market. So bringing back Uggla may be worth the risk, even though he appears to be on the decline.
Uggla batted .179 with 22 home runs and 55 RBI in 2013, and has never really gotten things going in Atlanta.
If a trade to the Marlins were to happen, it would be a move simply to get rid of Uggla and not worry about anything in return other than a little salary relief.
New York Mets
Although he's going to test the free-agent market, there seems to be a mutual interest in LaTroy Hawkins returning to the New York Mets.
According to Marc Carig of Newsday, a reunion is possible between the two sides:
Mutual interest remains in a potential reunion next season for LaTroy Hawkins and the Mets. But according to a source, a deal is unlikely before the veteran reliever reaches the open market.
Teams can negotiate exclusively with their own free agents until five days after the World Series, when talks with other clubs are permitted.
Hawkins, 40, signed a minor-league deal with the Mets before spring training and emerged as a stalwart in the bullpen.
As far as what his role would be with the Mets, it's still unclear, but he'll be 41 next year, and his time to make money is running out.
Could the Philadelphia Phillies make a run at Carlos Beltran this offseason?
According to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News, the Mets and Phillies could be the two teams battling it out for Beltran's services:
More important than Beltran's overall numbers is the fact that he is a switch-hitter who carries a career .289/.355/.523 batting line facing lefties from the right side of the plate.
In other words, he would offer the Phillies' left-heavy lineup more balance than virtually any other free-agent candidate. Problem is, the free-agent market is the ultimate case of caveat emptor, and there are plenty of reasons to think a team could end up regretting even a contract similar to the 2-year, $26 million deal Beltran signed with the Cardinals before the 2012 season.
Age does play a factor and is something the Phillies deal with in their players already.
Still, with multiple issues in the outfield, bringing in a little stability like Beltran could go a long way in helping the Phillies make a playoff run in 2014.
For the season, Haren went 10-14 with a 4.69 ERA, but he had a respectable 3.29 ERA after coming off the disabled list on July 8. Haren will be a free agent, and he is well aware that he most likely will not be back with the Nationals.
The signing didn't exactly work out for the Nationals, but then again, nothing really went right for the Nationals in 2013.
Sources say an extension looks like a long shot at this point, with neither side confident a sizable gap in their thinking can be closed when talks restart in earnest this winter.
Samardzija, 28, has said repeatedly that sheer dollars will not be the primary factor for a guy who already has made more than $17 million in his career. But neither side anticipates a hometown discount, either, and Samardzija has said—and shown—he’s confident enough to go year to year and test his value as a free agent after the 2015 season.
Signing Samardzija to an extension isn't as pressing this winter as it would be next winter. But the fact remains he's asking for a lot of dollars after going 17-26 with a 4.10 ERA and 394 strikeouts the last two years.
The Cincinnati Reds may not be actively shopping Brandon Phillips, but he's also not guaranteed to be on the team come Opening Day.
According to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon, Reds' general manager Walt Jocketty stated that no player is untouchable:
"[Phillips] texted wanting to know if we were trading him. I told him that I have not spoken to anybody about that," Jocketty said on Tuesday. "I'm not talking to any clubs about him."
However, Jocketty would not go so far as to guarantee that Phillips would be with the Reds at the start of Spring Training.
"I'm not saying that," Jocketty said. "We've got some things we've got to look at on how we're going to improve our club. I'm not going to say nobody is untouchable. Obviously, we want to keep as much of this club intact as we can."
Phillips batted .261 with 18 home runs and 103 RBI last year.
Corey Hart has told the Milwaukee Brewers he will take a pay cut to remain in Milwaukee.
According to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Hart said he wasn't going to ask for anything outlandish from the Brewers:
I told them I would be very generous to stay here. I wouldn’t sit there and ask for anything outlandish. I’d definitely take a discount to stay here because I think I owe it to them to stay here and be a cheaper player, Hart said. Nobody wants to play for free but I basically sat there and watched all season. I owe it to them and the fans to come back at a cheaper price.
Having sat out all of 2013, Hart is looking to show he can still put up the same kind of numbers he did from 2010-12. During that time, Hart batted .279 with 87 home runs and 248 RBI.
Justin Morneau is looking to join a winner this offseason, according to Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Because of that, it might mean Morneau doesn't return to Minnesota:
Unless there isn’t a market for Morneau, chances are he won’t be back with the Twins next season because winning, like he said, is his top priority when it comes to signing with a club. And right now, it doesn’t appear the Twins will be in that position.
The Pittsburgh Pirates traded for Morneau for a playoff run and have exclusive rights to him until five days after the World Series.
If winning is what Morneau is looking for (along with playing time), then Pittsburgh might be the place to stay.
St. Louis Cardinals
Not many teams have the pieces to pull off a trade for Troy Tulowitzki, but the St. Louis Cardinals are one team that could do it.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that a pitching surplus gives the Cardinals options this offseason:
With such a reservoir of talent—not just the arms, but outfielder Oscar Tavares, too — St. Louis would be viable for any big name that came on the market. For example, to move shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado probably would want a high-end starter and power-hitting first baseman as key elements. You wonder if St. Louis would have to give up much more than (Shelby) Miller and Matt Adams (who might be blocked at first by Allen Craig) to get it done.
If the Cardinals were to make a move to get Tulowitzki, their depth throughout the organization would fill in the gaps for the pieces they lost. In return, they'd get one of the best shortstops in the game.
A year after trading away power bat Justin Upton, the Arizona Diamondbacks will be looking for a power bat this offseason.
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com writes that the Diamondbacks would look more towards a trade for an impact bat rather than free agency:
We're going to look at free agents, but I think this is one of the weaker free-agent markets I've seen in some time, so that might lead us toward looking at trade partners more, Towers said. I think there's some clubs we might match up pretty well with, considering they've got depth in areas we have needs and we have depth in areas where they have needs.
Arizona ranked 25th in home runs (130) last year, with Paul Goldschmidt hitting 36. The next three on the list for Arizona combined for 36 home runs.
So to say they need a big bat in the lineup is an understatement for the Diamondbacks.
Despite the multiple rumors saying Troy Tulowitzki is on the block, Colorado Rockies' owner Dick Monfort said it's not going to happen.
According to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, Tulowitzki is going nowhere if Monfort has a say:
He would fit perfectly with the Cardinals, who have the prospects to make a mega deal happen, starting with first baseman Matt Adams and some mix of outfielder Stephen Piscotti, second baseman Kolton Wong and reliever Carlos Martinez.
The reason it hasn't and is not expected to this winter? Rockies owner Dick Monfort has said he will not trade Tulo or Carlos Gonzalez during the offseason.
Forget the fact that the Rockies could get a huge haul for either player, Monfort is not going to let the faces of the franchise leave.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers may have one of the top payrolls in baseball, but it doesn't appear their spending is going to stop.
In addition to trying to lock up Clayton Kershaw for the foreseeable future, the Dodgers also have their eyes set on Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, according to Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times.
Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA during the regular season and has gone 2-0 in the playoffs, including a complete-game, 12-strikeout performance Sunday:
The Dodgers have been unusually open in their interest in signing Tanaka. At that infamous season wrap-up press conference, General Manager Ned Colletti was asked about the team’s interest.
“We've scouted him a lot, we're very much aware of him,” said Colletti. “We saw him as recently as two days ago.
If the Dodgers were to sign Tanaka, that would give them an almost unbeatable rotation with Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the mix.
San Diego Padres
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweeted the San Diego Padres have interest in Mark Trumbo.
However, it may be a tough match considering the top three young arms in the Padres' system—Casey Kelly, Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland—are all in some stage of recovery from Tommy John surgery.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Padres also have Yonder Alonso already on the roster at first base. And with no DH in the National League, a corresponding move involving Alonso would have to be made.
Here's how Trumbo and Alonso compared to each other in 2013:
|Mark Trumbo||Yonder Alonso|
Outside of the average and on-base percentage, Trumbo would be an upgrade over Trumbo. But also remember that Petco Park is more of a pitcher's park than a hitter's park.
How would Trumbo's bat be affected by the dimensions in San Diego?
San Francisco Giants
MLB.com's Chris Haft reports it's not far-fetched to think the San Francisco Giants would trade Pablo Sandoval:
It’s logical to anticipate that Sandoval will thrive in 2014, the final year of his three-year, $17.15 million contract, to propel himself boldly into free agency. Such a projection also would be flimsy given Sandoval’s performance, which has fluctuated along with his weight.
At the same time, Sandoval retains enough cachet to attract multiple suitors. The Giants might be able to include him in a package that would fetch them a serviceable starting pitcher.
In 2013, Sandoval batted .278 with 14 home runs and 79 RBI. It was only last year that Sandoval was the World Series MVP. Now, the Giants are looking at possibly moving him.
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