Full MLB Offseason Breakdown and Predictions Entering February

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2014

Full MLB Offseason Breakdown and Predictions Entering February

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    Brad White/Getty Images

    With the calendar turning over to February and the start of spring training fast approaching, there are still a number of moves to be made between now and Opening Day.

    The free-agent market is still flush with impact starting pitching, as Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, A.J. Burnett and Bronson Arroyo are all still available. A trio of position players who received qualifying offers are also still looking for new homes in Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales.

    What follows is a breakdown of what to expect from the final few weeks of the MLB offseason, starting with a quick overview of the remaining free agents, followed by a closer look at the top eight guys still available and the teams pursuing them. Finally, there will be a rundown of the trade market.

     

    *All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.

Notable Remaining Free Agents

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    SP Paul Maholm
    SP Paul MaholmKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Position Players

    Player (Age) 2013 Stats
    OF Nelson Cruz (33)109 G, .266/.327/.506, 18 2B, 27 HR, 76 RBI, 49 R
    SS Stephen Drew (30)124 G, .253/.333/.443, 29 2B, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 57 R
    1B Kendrys Morales (30)156 G, .277/.336/.449, 34 2B, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 64 R
    IF Jeff Baker (32)74 G, .279/.360/.545, 8 2B, 11 HR, 21 RBI, 21 R
    OF Andres Torres (35)103 G, .250/.302/.342, 17 2B, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 33 R
    DH Travis Hafner (36)82 G, .202/.301/.378, 8 2B, 12 HR, 37 RBI, 31 R
    IF Placido Polanco (38)118 G, .260/.315/.302, 13 2B, 1 HR, 23 RBI, 33 R

    *2012 stats

     

    Starting Pitchers

     Player (Age)2013 Stats
    RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (29)32 GS, 13-9, 3.30 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 194 K, 182.2 IP
    RHP Ervin Santana (31)32 GS, 9-10, 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 161 K, 211 IP
    RHP A.J. Burnett (37)30 GS, 10-11, 3.30 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 209 K, 191 IP
    RHP Bronson Arroyo (36)32 GS, 14-12, 3.79 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 124 K, 202 IP
    LHP Paul Maholm (31)26 GS, 10-11, 4.41 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 105 K, 153 IP
    LHP Joe Saunders (32)32 GS, 11-16, 5.26 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 107 K, 183 IP
    LHP Chris Capuano (35)24 G, 20 GS, 4-7, 4.26 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 81 K, 105.2 IP
    LHP Johan Santana (34)*21 GS, 6-9, 4.85 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 111 K, 117 IP

    *2012 stats

     

    Relief Pitchers

     Player (Age)2013 Stats
    RHP Fernando Rodney (36)68 G, 5-4, 37 SV, 3.38 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 11.1 K/9
    RHP Francisco Rodriguez (32)48 G, 3-2, 10 SV, 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 10.4 K/9
    LHP Oliver Perez (32)61 G, 3-3, 2 SV, 3.74 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 12.6 K/9
    RHP Andrew Bailey (29)30 G, 3-1, 8 SV, 3.77 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 12.2 K/9
    RHP Ryan Madson (33)*62 G, 4-2, 32 SV, 2.37 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 9.2 K/9
    RHP Kevin Gregg (35)62 G, 2-6, 33 SV, 3.48 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 8.1 K/9

    *2011 stats

A Closer Look at Free Agent OF/DH Nelson Cruz

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    OF/DH Nelson Cruz
    OF/DH Nelson CruzJim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

    What He Brings to a Team

    Nelson Cruz is the top power hitter left on the market, and he has the potential to be an impact middle-of-the-order bat for whoever winds up signing him.

    The qualifying offer he received in the offseason, and fact that his 2013 season ended with a 50-game PED suspension, has stalled the market for the 33-year-old. Something close to the four-year, $60 million deal Curtis Granderson received this offseason is likely his asking price, but he may wind up having to settle for a one- or two-year contract.

     

    Potential Suitors (with rumors)

    Seattle Mariners (via Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports):

    The Seattle Mariners suddenly are back in business, showing strong interest in free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz and closer Fernando Rodney, according to major-league sources.

    Texas Rangers (via Rosenthal):

    The Texas Rangers still could emerge as a fallback option for Nelson Cruz, most likely on a one-year deal. Signing the right-handed hitting Cruz would enable the Rangers to trade the left-handed-hitting Mitch Moreland, creating a more balanced lineup.

    The Detroit Tigers could use Cruz to help ease the loss of Prince Fielder in the middle of their lineup, but the team would likely only be interested if his price drops down the road. They have downplayed their interest to this point (via Jason Beck of MLB.com):

    Dombrowski asked about Nelson Cruz. Won't address him specifically but said, "I'd be surprised if we made any major moves."

    — Jason Beck (@beckjason) January 25, 2014

    Minnesota Twins (via Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN):

    #MNTwins are still a long-shot to land FA OF Nelson Cruz. Still monitoring. Told they have seen him swing at some point this winter.

    — Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) January 29, 2014

     

    Prediction

    One-year, $15 million deal with the Detroit Tigers during spring training.

A Closer Look at Free Agent SS Stephen Drew

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    What He Brings to a Team

    Shortstop is always a thin position in free agency, and when Jhonny Peralta agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals in November, Stephen Drew became the only other viable everyday option at the position on the market.

    He's been hurt as much as anyone by the new qualifying offer system, as he's a slightly above-average option at the position, but he is not good enough for teams to be willing to sacrifice their first-round pick to sign him.

     

    Potential Suitors

    The Toronto Blue Jays were pointed to as a potential team in the mix by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in an MLB.com video, though he still views a reunion with the Boston Red Sox as the most likely outcome:

    I think there's a pretty good chance of (Drew signing with the Red Sox), my understanding is they're willing to do a multi-year deal, and they might even sweeten it with an opt-out clause, so maybe two years with an opt-out clause in Boston. 

    Toronto is a team in the mix here, I think, and they're in the mix for a lot of players right now.

    The New York Mets have a clear need at shortstop, as they have failed to add anyone to a position that hit .215/.285/.276 for the team last season. To this point, GM Sandy Alderson has balked at the idea of signing the shortstop, though (via Anthony DiComo of MLB.com):

    We haven't ruled (signing Drew) out, but I think doing anything is unlikely, Alderson said. I know there's been a lot of speculation about Drew and the Mets, but at this point, that's what it remains -- speculation.

     

    Prediction

    Two-year, $24 million deal with the Boston Red Sox that includes a mutual option for a third year. Xander Bogaerts slides over to third base, and Will Middlebrooks goes to the bench.

A Closer Look at Free Agent 1B/DH Kendrys Morales

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    What He Brings to a Team

    Kendrys Morales may never return to the pre-injury form that saw him post a .924 OPS with 34 home runs and 108 RBI while playing for the Los Angeles Angels in 2009. He did manage to hit 23 home runs with a team-high 80 RBI while playing half his games in the spacious Safeco Field last season, though.

    He's a switch-hitter and a proven run producer, but he's below average defensively. Like the two guys before him on this list, he has suffered from receiving a qualifying offer to kick off the offseason.

     

    Potential Suitors

    The Pittsburgh Pirates have the most glaring need of any team in the league at first base. Gaby Sanchez is a solid platoon option against left-handed pitching, but he hit just .204 with a .619 OPS against righties last year. That leaves the unproven Andrew Lambo in position to get the bulk of the at-bats. However, the team has not been tied to Morales in any rumors this offseason, and they may be unwilling to mortgage their first-round selection for a 2-WAR player who is limited defensively.

    Jon Heyman of CBS Sports recently talked about the market for Morales in an MLB.com video, pointing to the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays as possible destinations:

    One possibility, I think, could be going back to Seattle...I think they still like Morales a lot. Texas maybe, but they would have to trade (Mitch) Moreland, the Blue Jays would probably have to trade (Adam) Lind.

    Some believe Morales may wind up having to wait until after the June draft to find a new home, as teams will no longer have to sacrifice a pick after that point, and injuries could create a bigger market by then as well. Buster Olney of ESPN touched upon that idea in a recent article:

    There is a lot of sentiment among some executives that Kendrys Morales' best play at this stage of the winter -- other than to take a salary lower than the $14.1 million qualifying offer he rejected from the Mariners last fall -- would be to wait until after the June draft to sign, which would separate him from the draft-pick compensation that hangs on him. And by then, injuries will manifest and create openings that are not there now. But following that strategy might be really difficult for a player who already has missed the better part of two seasons in his career because of an ankle injury.

     

    Prediction

    One-year, $14.1 million deal from the Seattle Mariners, as he essentially winds up accepting their qualifying offer.

A Closer Look at Free Agent SP Ubaldo Jimenez

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    SP Ubaldo Jimenez
    SP Ubaldo JimenezKevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    What He Brings to a Team

    After a rough first year-and-a-half in Cleveland, Ubaldo Jimenez rebounded in a big way to lead a surprisingly effective Indians rotation last season.

    The right-hander was 6-5 with a 1.82 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 10.7 K/9 after the All-Star break, returning to the dominant form that he showed during his time with the Colorado Rockies. He's capable of anchoring a staff when he's on, and there's no reason to think the 30-year-old can't be a frontline arm again in 2014.

     

    Potential Suitors

    After Matt Garza agreed to a contract that will pay him $12.5 million annually, Jimenez may wind up having to accept less than the $14.1 million that he turned down at the beginning of the offseason.

    The Toronto Blue Jays have been in the market for a quality starting pitcher all offseason, and with both of their first-round picks protected thanks to their poor finish last season, they seem like a good bet to sign Jimenez or Ervin Santana. They were named, along with the Baltimore Orioles, as potential landing spots by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in an MLB.com video:

    My understanding is Jimenez may be willing to do a three-year deal now, maybe three-for-39 (million). I think Cleveland is waiting in the wings if it drops even further there, but I do see Toronto as a player...Baltimore as well.

    Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer also touched on the idea of a reunion with the Cleveland Indians if Jimenez lowers his asking price or does not find a deal to his liking on the open market:

    If Jimenez can’t get a three to four year deal, and comes knocking on the Tribe’s door, I bet both parties would jump at the chance to sign a one-year deal at or below $14 million. It would allow the Indians to keep a grip on their payroll and add a key arm to their rotation, while giving Jimenez a chance to prove last year wasn't a fluke and take another bite of the free-agent apple after the 2014 season.

     

    Prediction

    One-year, $15 million deal with the Cleveland Indians.

A Closer Look at Free Agent SP Ervin Santana

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    What He Brings to a Team

    Consistency on a year in, year out basis has been an issue for Ervin Santana throughout his career. After going a combined 29-22 with a 3.65 ERA in 2010 and 2011, he was 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA and an AL-high 39 home runs allowed in 2012.

    The Los Angeles Angels shipped him to the Kansas City Royals in a cost-cutting move last offseason, and he rebounded with the best season of his career. If he pitches like he did last year, he has the potential to be a difference making arm, but the question as to which Santana you will get remains.

     

    Potential Suitors

    The market for Santana has started to heat up since Masahiro Tanaka signed, and according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, there are eight teams that have shown interest:

    Free agent right-hander Ervin Santana is drawing interest from eight teams including the Rockies, Orioles, Mariners, Yankees and Dodgers, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation. The Marlins and Cubs also recently inquired about him, but their interest does not appear to be too serious at this time.

    Santana's market is expected to heat up in the near future, with league sources speculating that teams like the Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Royals and Tigers could become involved.

    Like Jimenez, the four-year, $50 million deal that Matt Garza agreed to could certainly have an influence on the contract Santana ends up signing. According to Bob Dutton of the Seattle News Tribune, Santana could wind up having to settle for far less than a four-year, $60 million he was reportedly seeking a week ago:

    Re: Santana; industry insiders say Garza deal means Magic unlikely to get more than 3y/$40m. Maybe much less. Could put many teams in play.

    — Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) January 26, 2014

     

    Prediction

    Three-year, $40 million with the Toronto Blue Jays.

A Closer Look at Free Agent SP A.J. Burnett

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    David Maxwell/Getty Images

    What He Brings to a Team

    After saying during the season that he would likely either retire or re-sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, A.J. Burnett announced earlier this week that he was not only planning on pitching in 2014 but that he was also open to signing elsewhere.

    The 37-year-old enjoyed a career renaissance over the past two seasons in Pittsburgh after a rough go with the New York Yankees. His 3.30 ERA last season was his best since 2002, and he led the National League with a 9.8 K/9 mark.

     

    Potential Suitors

    A reunion with the Pittsburgh Pirates remains an option, but now that Burnett is going to hit the open market, he will likely end up out of their price range. A week or so ago, the team was reportedly prepping to open 2014 without Burnett, according to team president Frank Coonelly (h/t Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com):

    We'd love to have A.J. back, but right now we've turned the page and we're heading to Bradenton (Fla.) thinking he's not going to be with us. But if he surprises us and calls up tomorrow and says he wants to pitch again, we'd love to have him.

    After news broke that he was willing to sign outside of Pittsburgh, the Baltimore Orioles were immediately pointed to as potential landing spot since Burnett lives in Maryland. Peter Gammons of ESPN claimed the Orioles were "all in" on him, and that the Tampa Bay Rays were interested as well:

    Orioles "all in" on AJ Burnett, Rays in, early in process

    — Peter Gammons (@pgammo) January 30, 2014

    Despite adding Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez at the end of last season and signing Roberto Hernandez this offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies are also said to be in on Burnett, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN:

    #Phillies would still have interest in Burnett if he plays RT @jcrasnick: #Pirates not optimistic on A.J. Burnett. http://t.co/ZxM7GHTRl6

    — Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) January 23, 2014

     

    Prediction

    Two-year, $26 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles.

A Closer Look at Free Agent SP Bronson Arroyo

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    What He Brings to a Team

    His stuff is not going to wow anyone at this point in his career, but Bronson Arroyo has been as consistent as they come since joining the Cincinnati Reds back in 2006. The Reds do have a replacement for the 36-year-old in left-hander Tony Cingrani, however, so expect Arroyo to sign elsewhere.

    In his eight years with the team, he has made at least 32 starts and thrown at least 199 innings each season. Over that span, he also went 105-94 with a 4.05 ERA and has posted back-to-back seasons with an ERA under 3.80.

     

    Potential Suitors

    Despite being one of the better arms on the market, Arroyo has yet to receive an official offer from anyone this offseason, and he is none too happy about that fact, according to an article from Jayson Stark of ESPN:

    I get Kershaw, I get why he got all that money. But then you've got guys like Dice-K, who came over here and was good for the first couple years but then didn't pan out. And when he doesn't pan out, they all just forget and go on to the next guy who's not proven, and pay him. Meanwhile, they forget about guys like me, who have done the job for the last eight or 10 years, and treat them like they've never done anything in this game. That's hard, man.

    After missing out on Masahiro Tanaka, the Los Angeles Dodgers are still interested in adding another starter and Arroyo is among the arms they are looking at, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:

    arroyo's people also had conversation with dodgers after tanaka went to yanks. uncertain how interested LAD is tho.

    — Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 24, 2014

    They are far from the only team, though, as the aforementioned article from Stark noted that 12 teams have made contact with Arroyo's agent, but none of them have made an offer yet:

    He had strong interest from the Twins earlier in the offseason, but they re-signed Mike Pelfrey instead. And while Arroyo has been linked to a long list of teams at various times -- Orioles, Dodgers, Mariners, Mets, Angels, Phillies, Pirates, etc. -- he's still in limbo, along with a surprising number of other veteran starters.

     

    Prediction

    Two-year, $24 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers

A Closer Look at Free Agent RP Fernando Rodney

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    What He Brings to a Team

    Though he was not nearly as dominant in 2013 as he was in 2012, right-hander Fernando Rodney still managed to convert 37-of-45 save chances with a 3.38 ERA last season for a playoff-bound Tampa Bay Rays team.

    If you take away his 2012 season, during which he was 48-of-50 on save chances with a 0.60 ERA, Rodney has been an average reliever at best in his career. In his other 10 seasons combined, he has gone 124-of-169 on save chances with a 4.17 ERA. Still, he's the top closer option left on the market, and he still has a very good chance of landing a multi-year deal.

     

    Potential Suitors

    Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports named the Seattle MarinersNew York Mets and Baltimore Orioles as teams who have shown interest in Rodney:

    The Seattle Mariners suddenly are back in business, showing strong interest in free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz and closer Fernando Rodney, according to major-league sources. Rodney, who also is drawing interest from the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles, according to sources, would give the Mariners a proven ninth-inning option.

    Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports also named the Mets and Orioles as teams with interest, as Bobby Parnell and Tommy Hunter are currently penciled in as the closers for their respective teams at this point:

    Mets, Orioles, two others in on Rodney.

    — Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo) January 24, 2014

     

    Prediction

    Two-year, $16 million deal with the Seattle Mariners.

The Trade Market

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    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    The trade market is relatively quiet at this point in the offseason, but there are still a handful of moves that could be made before the start of the season.

    First basemen Mitch Moreland (TEX), Justin Smoak (SEA), Adam Lind (TOR), Ike Davis (NYM) and Lucas Duda (NYM) could all be moved in the right deal. And with the Pittsburgh Pirates still looking for a left-handed hitting first baseman to platoon with Gaby Sanchez, one of the aforementioned players could wind up there.

    Second baseman Nick Franklin is out of a starting job after the Seattle Mariners signed Robinson Cano, and the team could still look to move him in a deal in order to land another starting pitcher.

    Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki (NYY) has been pushed to the bench after the team signed Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury this offseason, while the White Sox also have an outfield log jam with Dayan Viciedo or Alejandro De Aza ticketed for the bench.

    The two top arms that were rumored to be availableDavid Price (TB) and Jeff Samardzija (CHC)both now appear to be staying put, and the starting-pitching market at this point looks to be barren.

    Closer Jonathan Papelbon (PHI) is on the market for teams looking to improve their bullpen, but considering he's due $26 million over the next two years, moving him may be easier said than done.