2014 MLB Free Agency: The Top Remaining Free Agent at Each Position
There have been a few notable free-agent signings so far this offseason, but most of the big names are still available out there on the market.
This week has featured the new contracts of players like catcher Brian McCann (New York Yankees), shortstop Jhonny Peralta (St. Louis Cardinals) and pitcher Jason Vargas (Kansas City Royals), but the deals are sure to get bigger as more high-profile players make their respective decisions during free agency. If there's anything we've learned so far, it's that the contract values are solid from a player's point of view with baseball revenues at an all-time high.
Let's take a look at the top players available at each position as we head into the Thanksgiving weekend.
C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has taken over as the top catcher available on the market after Brian McCann inked a five-year, $85 million with the New York Yankees earlier this week.
While McCann's big deal was in the neighborhood that most expected, the same can't be said for the sizable three-year, $26 million commitment made by the Philadelphia Phillies to Carlos Ruiz. Saltalamacchia and his agent surely noticed Ruiz's ability to secure such a healthy deal at the age of 34.
Saltalamacchia is just 28 and coming off a solid 2013 campaign when he hit .273/.338/.466 with 14 homers and 65 RBI while serving as a big part of the Boston Red Sox clubhouse. Boston reportedly offered Saltalamacchia a two-year deal earlier this offseason, but with the contract Ruiz was able to land, the younger catcher looks wise to test the market.
1B: Mike Napoli
Mike Napoli, like Jarrod Saltalamacchia, was a major part of the World Series run made by the Boston Red Sox in 2013.
Napoli added some more miles to his career (and some dollars to his next contract) by making the full-time switch to first baseman this year, and he posted some solid power numbers in the process. In 2013, Napoli batted .259/.360/.482 with 23 HR and 92 RBI in 139 contests after spending his career mostly as a catcher to that point.
The Red Sox have reportedly made re-signing Napoli a priority, per Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, and it would appear they have one fewer competitor, as the previously interested Texas Rangers have since traded for slugging first baseman Prince Fielder.
2B: Robinson Cano
Robinson Cano still stands as the top overall free agent available this offseason, even if "available" isn't the right word to use.
Few, if any, teams could likely meet his contract demands. Cano and his negotiators, led by rapper-turned-agent Jay Z, are reportedly holding firm on their asking price of 10 years and more than $300 million.
Cano and Jay Z made headlines last week when, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, they initiated a meeting with the New York Mets. "They requested a meeting," Alderson said. "We had a nice dinner. They made a presentation. We talked generally. And that was it. As I said, we were approached."
After general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters that Cano's camp might have been too aggressive, some see it as a desperate move on Cano's part.
He will surely get paid this offseason as one of baseball's top all-around talents but might have to back down at the negotiating table if he wants a deal done soon.
3B: Juan Uribe
Third base appears to be the weakest position group in this year's free-agent class with the 34-year-old Juan Uribe leading the candidates.
Uribe bounced back in 2013 by hitting .278/.331/.438 with 12 HR and 50 RBI while helping the Los Angeles Dodgers make the playoffs. But Uribe comes at an injury risk, as he played in just 143 contests during the 2011-12 seasons combined.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported earlier this offseason that Uribe was seeking a three-year deal, although that might be unreasonable for a player of his age and caliber. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors speculated Uribe would secure a two-year contract in the neighborhood of $12 million, which seems more likely for the third baseman at this point of his career.
SS: Stephen Drew
Stephen Drew's agent, the notoriously effective Scott Boras, must have had a huge smile on his face when shortstop Jhonny Peralta signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals earlier this week.
Peralta was widely viewed as the second-best shortstop available on the market this winter, and his new accord with the Cardinals was more than double the expectations of CBS Sports' Jon Heyman and two of his baseball sources. Expect Drew and Boras to point to Peralta's big contract as a starting point for negotiations.
If there's one thing going against Drew, it's that he has trouble staying healthy. He played in 124 of 162 games in 2013, while also missing significant time in 2012 (79 games played) and 2011 (86 games played). Still, after batting .253/.333/.443 with 13 HR and 67 RBI at an important defensive position for the best team in baseball in 2013, Drew is in line for a nice payday.
Outfielder: Jacoby Ellsbury
Jacoby Ellsbury is also represented by Scott Boras, who has already tried to justify his contract demands close to the seven-year, $142 million deal Carl Crawford negotiated with the Boston Red Sox in 2010.
That's a lot to ask for a player who had one marquee year in 2011 (.321/.376/.551, 32 HR, 105 RBI) but has been otherwise just a decent outfielder. Ellsbury's defense might add to his value but not to the unreasonable territory where Boras is trying to place his client.
According to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com, the Red Sox aren't expected to match Ellsbury's contract demands this offseason. Unless Boras reels in his expectations, there might not be any teams who want to sign him this winter.
Outfielder: Shin-Soo Choo
Shin-Soo Choo enjoyed a solid 2013 season as one of the most productive leadoff hitters in baseball.
Batting in front of sluggers like Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, Choo hit .285/.423/.462 with 21 HR and 54 RBI. Also represented by Scott Boras, Choo will be in for a nice haul this offseason.
There are plenty of pros and cons for the 31-year-old, but he would be a great fit at the top of a lineup like the Boston Red Sox or Texas Rangers. At this point, his greatest asset at the plate is his ability to get on base, so he'll need some run-producers behind him to be most effective.
Outfielder: Carlos Beltran
At the age of 36, Carlos Beltran may be a more attractive option to some teams because he won't need a long-term deal like the ones sought by Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo.
Beltran is reportedly seeking a three-year contract this offseason following a productive two-year run in St. Louis. Over the past couple of seasons, Beltran batted a combined .282/.343/.493 with yearly averages of 28 homers and 90 RBI.
Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News recently reported that the New York Yankees have made signing Beltran a priority this offseason after inking Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million deal.
SP: Matt Garza
Matt Garza and Ervin Santana are widely viewed as the top two starting pitching candidates available this offseason.
Garza, however, has been much more consistent throughout his career, as he has posted a sub-4.00 ERA in each of the past seven seasons. Garza was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers in 2013, making 24 starts between the two clubs. In all, he went 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 7.9 K/9 Ratio.
The Toronto Blue Jays have recently reached out to Garza, who figures to command a healthy five-year contract after Jason Vargas was able to secure a four-year, $32 million deal with the Kansas City Royals earlier this week.
RP: Joe Nathan
Nathan just turned 39 so his age might be a concern, but you can't argue with his results in 2013, as he converted 43 of 46 save opportunities with a 1.39 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 10.2 strikeout rate. Nathan was linked to the Detroit Tigers earlier this season, but it appears they have decided on Brian Wilson to take over their ninth-inning role, per Lynn Henning of the Detroit News.
If this past season was any indication, Nathan is still a premier option at the back end of the bullpen and should be for the next couple of years.