Departed MLB Free Agents Teams Will Miss the Most in 2014
The New York Yankees need to fill a Robinson Cano-sized hole in their lineup, but the club is far from the only team that has lost a big-name MLB free agent this offseason.
In determining just how detrimental the departure of a given free agent will be, there's far more than on-field production to consider. There are plenty of players who provide value that transcends any statistical breakdown. Tim Hudson is widely renowned for his work on the mound, but he's equally, if not more respected, for his intangibles off it.
With these considerations in mind, here's a rundown of the departed MLB free agents that teams will miss the most in 2014.
Note: All stats via Baseball-Reference.com.
With pitchers like Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Kris Medlen all on the roster, the Atlanta Braves possess enough depth to absorb the loss of Tim Hudson.
However, that's not to say that the Braves won't miss the veteran right-hander in 2014. As Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains, the end of Hudson's time in Atlanta will create a void in the clubhouse:
Here's where Hudson's departure hurts the Braves: Leadership. The Braves have a young rotation that again proved fallible in the postseason. Hudson was a steadying influence...the locker room is woefully short of leaders.
As Schultz makes clear, the biggest downside to losing Hudson will be the effect it has off the field. Just as the club's young stars will need to continue to develop on the diamond, they will also need to develop into leaders.
Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez
The Cleveland Indians have lost a considerable amount of pitching depth this offseason.
Scott Kazmir already has signed a two-year, $22 million deal with the Oakland A's. As Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, the club is not counting on the return of Ubaldo Jimenez either.
They've kept their porch light on for Ubaldo Jimenez, their other free agent starter, but if he finds his way back to Cleveland it will most likely be in an opposing uniform.
That's a lot of talent to lose in one offseason. The departure of Kazmir will be particularly problematic. After posting a 4.60 ERA in the first half of the season, Kazmir turned in a 3.38 ERA after the break. The left-hander also recorded an impressive 9.2 K/9 ratio, which was his highest mark since the 2008 season.
In nine seasons with the Braves, McCann earned seven All-Star nods and he clubbed at least 20 home runs in each of the last six campaigns.
So, suffice it to say that the club will miss the catcher in 2014. Next season, the Braves will go with a rotation behind the plate of Evan Gattis, Gerald Laird and Ryan Doumit. It's worth noting that Gattis actually hit 21 home runs in 2013, which was one more than McCann.
Still, the team will miss the intangibles that McCann provides. As Terence Moore of MLB.com puts it, the catcher "assumed the role last season as ultimate protector of the Braves' integrity." It's hard to fault Atlanta for failing to match the five-year, $85 million deal that the New York Yankees doled out to McCann. As is the case with Hudson, though, the Braves will certainly miss McCann's presence and leadership skills in 2014.
Joe Nathan was one of the best closers in baseball in 2013.
The veteran right-hander posted a 1.39 ERA and converted 43 out of 46 save opportunities. However, Nathan never really figured into the club's offseason plans, as general manager Jon Daniels explained to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram back in November: "Joe's been outstanding for us on an off the field. We've got some other areas that are maybe a higher priority for us to address and how we are going to allocate our resources."
As Daniels predicted, there were no resources left to be allocated for the six-time All-Star. With Nathan now off to close for the Detroit Tigers, the Rangers will be left to choose from a number of in-house options. The top three candidates are Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers and Joakim Soria. Feliz and Soria both bring closing experience, but none of that trio will be able to match the dominant level of the departed Nathan.
The Boston Red Sox will certainly feel the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury in 2014. Last season, Ellsbury hit .298 and racked up 52 stolen bases while setting the table for the World Series winners.
As Ian Browne of MLB.com explains, "The Red Sox seem pretty set on going with [Jackie] Bradley [Jr.] as their center fielder for next season." Bradley has appeared in just 37 big league games and owns a .189 batting average.
Browne points out, though, that Bradley is arguably a better defender than Ellsbury and the club only needs him to be a "serviceable" No. 9 hitter. Clearly, Bradley won't provide offensive production at anywhere near the same level as Ellsbury.
The drop off from Ellsbury to Bradley will be substantial in 2014. In the long run, though, the Red Sox will be glad to not be on the hook for a seven-year, $153 million deal.
It's hard to argue with the Yankees' decision not to hand out a 10-year contract to Robinson Cano.
For a reminder of just how poorly such lengthy deals work out, all the club has to do is look to Alex Rodriguez. The problem, however, is that the options to replace the five-time All-Star are less than compelling.
So far, the Yankees have brought in Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts to take over at second base. As Quinn Roberts of MLB.com writes, "Barring any other big moves, Roberts could wind up being the Yankees' primary second baseman in 2014 if he stays healthy."
Staying healthy will be a lot to ask from Roberts next year. Over the past four campaigns, the 36-year-old has averaged just 48 games per season. However, Roberts' former manager Buck Showalter believes the veteran will produce in the Bronx, as he explained to Joel Sherman of the New York Post:
We are going to miss him. He is competitive...You saw glimpses [last year] of what everyone used to see, and I believe it is still there. He takes very good care of himself. He has something left. I'd be surprised if he didn't do well for the Yankees. And I mean that.
If the Roberts acquisition doesn't work out, the Yankees' best option would be to turn to the trade market. As Sherman notes, Howie Kendrick, Brandon Phillips and Rickie Weeks are among the available names, but all come with high price tags.
If you want to talk baseball find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.
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