Updated 2014-2015 MLB Free-Agency Predictions Post-Trade Deadline

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2014

Updated 2014-2015 MLB Free-Agency Predictions Post-Trade Deadline

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    While fans and teams alike are still trying to recover from the chaos that unfolded at the trade deadline, baseball draws closer to a second wave of chaos with each passing day—the start of free agency.

    From big-time starters like Jon Lester and Max Scherzer to All-Star sluggers like Nelson Cruz and, depending on the season, Hanley Ramirez, there's no shortage of impact players set to hit the open market after the current campaign.

    Much can—and will—change between now and then, but it's never too early to start looking at where those players might be calling home in 2015 and beyond—and what it's going to cost to get them there.

    Let's take a look at 20 of the biggest names poised to hit the open market and predict where they might end up.

Asdrubal Cabrera Signs with the Toronto Blue Jays

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    Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (CLE/WAS): .245/.304/.388, 34 XBH (9 HR), 41 RBI, 7-for-9 SB, 93 wRC+

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 29

    2014 Salary: $10 million 

    As reported by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman (via Fox Sports' Jon Morosi), Toronto seriously considered making a run at Asdrubal Cabrera to play second base before he was ultimately traded from Cleveland to Washington. It would stand to reason that the Nationals would consider signing the eight-year veteran when he hits the open market after the season.

    While you could make a case in favor of the Blue Jays signing a third baseman, which would allow them to keep Brett Lawrie at second base, the top free agents at the hot corner are going to command substantial multiyear deals on open market.

    Cabrera is not.

    Cabrera, a two-time All-Star, is mediocre on offense and defense. The former is less of an issue for a Toronto lineup that is one of the most explosive and productive in the game than the latter. However, based on early returns from his time in Washington, Cabrera's defense at second base might not be an issue.

    More than anything else, Cabrera isn't going to be incredibly expensive to sign.

    While an executive from the Rogers Corporation, which owns the team, disputed the notion that the Blue Jays were unable to add salary at this year's deadline, according to Sportsnet's Jeff Blair, it's hard not to imagine that salary didn't play a part in the team's inaction.

    With the club expected to have more payroll flexibility in 2015, fitting Cabrera into its plans shouldn't be an issue. 

    Prediction: Signs a three-year, $24 million deal with Toronto

Melky Cabrera Re-Signs with Toronto

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (TOR): .309/.359/.475, 45 XBH (14 HR), 59 RBI, 5-for-7 SB, 130 wRC+

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 30

    2014 Salary: $8 million 

    I'm a big enough man to admit when I'm wrong, and I was dead wrong when I graded Toronto's two-year, $16 million deal with Melky Cabrera before the 2013 season a C-.

    As that deal enters its final months, both sides get a resounding A.

    Cabrera fits in perfectly with the Blue Jays, both in terms of his production and his personality in a clubhouse where the biggest stars—Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes—like Cabrera, are from the Dominican Republic.

    Keeping the Melkman around is going to require a significantly bigger investment on Toronto's part, but it's one that the club will surely make, given a lack of quality internal options to replace him. 

    Prediction: Signs a four-year, $55 million deal with Toronto

Nelson Cruz Signs with the Seattle Mariners

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (BAL): .262/.332/.518, 48 XBH (29 HR), 75 RBI, 3-for-7 SB, 131 wRC+

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 34

    2014 Salary: $8 million 

    If I were in charge of the Baltimore Orioles, I'd seriously consider contacting the authorities to ascertain the whereabouts of one Nelson Cruz, for the player that returned from the All-Star Game in Minnesota doesn't resemble the one that headed there for the Midsummer Classic.

    Since his return, Cruz, who was hitting .287 with 28 home runs and 75 RBI at the break, has hit .105 with one home run and one RBI. Yet there's a team out there that will be so focused on his first-half production that, quite frankly, it's not going to matter what he does down the stretch.

    He's never going to get the four-year, $75 million deal that Heyman said he was looking for last winter, especially when National League clubs, playing without a designated hitter, won't touch him.

    Seattle, which desperately needs another impact bat in the heart of its lineup, will.

    The Mariners fell short in their attempts to sign him over the winter—they'll pay him enough to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself. 

    Prediction: Signs a four-year, $48 million deal with Seattle

Michael Cuddyer Re-Signs with Colorado

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (COL): .317/.366/.500, 12 XBH (5 HR), 16 RBI, 3-for-3 SB, 128 wRC+

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 36

    2014 Salary: $10.5 million 

    Limited to only 31 games this season due to a fractured shoulder, Michael Cuddyer is "still a few weeks away" from returning to action, Colorado manager Walt Weiss told MLB.com's Matt Slovin.

    A lack of time to show that his shoulder is fully healed—and that he can be as productive as he was before the injury—is going to seriously limit his earning power and market as a free agent.

    Cuddyer told Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post that he'd love to re-sign with the Rockies. Provided that his shoulder is fully healed, the Rockies would certainly love to have Cuddyer's bat back in the middle of their lineup. 

    Prediction: Re-signs with Colorado for two years, $30 million

Jorge De La Rosa Re-Signs with Colorado

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (COL): 23 GS, 11-7, 4.27 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 128.2 IP, 115 H, 3.4 BB/9, 6.9 K/9

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 33

    2014 Salary: $11 million 

    Jorge De La Rosa has been Colorado's best starting pitcher for a number of years, and while he'd be a lock to draw interest from several teams as a free agent, the Rockies can severely limit his market by extending him a qualifying offer.

    It won't get to that point.

    Despite needing an influx of new talent in the rotation, owner Dick Monfort told Saunders that he wants to keep De La Rosa around. He'll do just that, inking the southpaw to a short-term extension just before the end of the regular season. 

    Prediction: Re-signs with Colorado for two years, $30 million

Stephen Drew Re-Signs with the New York Yankees

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (BOS/NYY): .183/.266/.338, 13 XBH (4 HR), 16 RBI, 1-for-2 SB, 62 wRC+

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 32

    2014 Salary: $10.1 million 

    There's going to be an opening at shortstop in New York after the season, and the Yankees don't have a young, up-and-coming prospect ready to take the reins from Derek Jeter.

    You can bet that the Yankees will check in on Hanley Ramirez, arguably the best position player available in free agency, and they'll do their due diligence with Colorado about swinging a deal for Troy Tulowitzki.

    But both of those options are going to be incredibly expensive, and both players have shaky injury histories that make either one a significant risk.

    Currently Jeter's double-play partner at second base, Stephen Drew is the more durable—and less expensive—option. The Yankees will have to pay a bit more than they'd probably like to, but when compared with the alternatives, Drew's deal will seem like a relative bargain. 

    Prediction: Re-signs with New York for three years, $45 million

Adam Dunn Signs with the Baltimore Orioles

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    2014 Stats (CWS): .227/.358/.444, 32 XBH (17 HR), 44 RBI, 1-for-2 SB, 122 wRC+

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 35

    2014 Salary: $15 million

    With Cruz heading west, Baltimore finds itself in need of a powerful bat to fill the void at designated hitter.

    There's not a better full-time DH left on the market than Adam Dunn.

    He's not the right-handed bat that Cruz is and doesn't hit for average, but Dunn still has power and knows how to get on base consistently.

    In a stacked Orioles lineup, that's really all they need out of their designated hitter. 

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $12.5 million deal with Baltimore

Chase Headley Signs with the San Francisco Giants

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (NYY/SD): .235/.301/.361, 24 XBH (8 HR), 37 RBI, 4-for-6 SB, 90 wRC+

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 30

    2014 Salary: $10.525 million 

    San Francisco would prefer to keep Pablo Sandoval around, but the actions of one of its division rivals makes that impossible.

    So the Giants will turn to plan B, Chase Headley.

    While his offense is a bit too inconsistent for anyone's liking, Headley's defense is as good, if not better, than Sandoval's, and he comes at a fraction of the cost, allowing San Francisco to allocate more money to bolstering a rotation that could be without Matt Cain. 

    Prediction: Signs a three-year, $45 million deal with San Francisco

Torii Hunter Re-Signs with Detroit

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (DET): .276/.312/.464, 35 XBH (15 HR), 62 RBI, 4-for-7 SB, 113 wRC+

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 39

    2014 Salary: $14 million 

    Torii Hunter knows that the end is near, but the veteran outfielder isn't ready to call it a day. 

    "I'm a man. A man is supposed to work," he told Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal in April. "This is the only thing I know, the only thing I'm supposed to do," he said, adding that he'd like to play another two or three years.

    While not the player he used to be, Hunter continues to be productive, and Detroit isn't about to blow things up. He'll have to go year to year (and take less money) at this point in his career, but Hunter stays where he's been since 2011. 

    Prediction: Re-signs with Detroit for one year, $8 million

Hiroki Kuroda Retires from MLB, Signs with the Hiroshima Carp

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (NYY): 22 GS, 7-7, 3.98 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 135.2 IP, 138 H, 1.8 BB/9, 6.2 K/9

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 40

    2014 Salary: $16 million 

    After years of toying with the idea of retiring from MLB and finishing out his career in his native Japan—he came very close to doing just that over the winter, as he told Rosenthal—Hiroki Kuroda will do just that.

    While he's never won a World Series or appeared in an All-Star Game, Kuroda has nothing left to prove in the major leagues. He's been one of the most consistent pitchers around since signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008, never posting an ERA above 4.00 or a WHIP above 1.25.

    Sure, he could re-up on another one-year deal with the Yankees or the Dodgers, but the allure of returning to where his career began in 1997 as a 22-year-old will be too strong for him to ignore for another year.

Jon Lester Signs with the New York Yankees

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (BOS/OAK): 22 GS, 11-7, 2.59 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 149.2 IP, 137 H, 2.0 BB/9, 9.1 K/9

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 31

    2014 Salary: $13 million 

    Allow me to save you, honorable Bostonian, the trouble of posting the requisite "Stupid Yankees Fan" or "Lunatic New Yorker" comment in the comment section below for even suggesting that Jon Lester would dare sign with the hated New York Yankees.

    I get it.

    But the Red Sox had their chance to keep Lester in the fold, and they blew it when making him a low-ball four-year, $70 to $80 million extension offer that the team had to know wasn't going to be accepted, given what the going rate for front-line starting pitchers is these days.

    As for Lester's stance earlier this season that he wanted to re-sign with the Red Sox? He wasn't so committed to his former employers when asked about his future plans by The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy, saying only "We'll see where that relationship goes later on."

    That relationship is over. It's going nowhere.

    ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand recently examined whether Lester's future would take him to the Bronx, looking at the team's rotation as the major factor:

    Consider this: Going into next spring, the Yankees will have these question marks in their rotation: 

    1. CC Sabathia will have missed most of this year after knee surgery. 

    2. Masahiro Tanaka, at best, will be pitching with a rehabilitated right elbow. At worst, he will need surgery and miss the entire season. 

    3. Ivan Nova will not join the club until sometime during the season after Tommy John surgery. 

    4. Michael Pineda will have pitched very little over the past three years, making him hard to count on. 

    5. Hiroki Kuroda probably won't be back. 

    That leaves the Yankees with...a whole lot of nothing.

    Adding Lester, who is battle-tested in the AL East and has a track record of success, would go a long way toward shoring up that incredibly shaky rotation. 

    Prediction: Signs a five-year, $145 million deal with New York

Victor Martinez Works out an Extension with Detroit

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (DET): .321/.381/.567, 44 XBH (23 HR), 65 RBI, 2-for-4 SB, 154 wRC+

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 36

    2014 Salary: $12 million 

    Detroit knows that if Victor Martinez hits the open market—even with draft pick compensation attached to him—another team is going to come in and snag him on a multiyear deal.

    Designated hitters who can hit for power and contend for batting titles—even in their late 30s—draw a lot of attention when they hit the open market.

    A compensatory draft pick does nothing to help this current crop of Tigers in their pursuit of a World Series crown. Rather than risk having to fill the position with a lesser bat, Detroit locks up V-Mart before he hits free agency on a slightly above-market deal. 

    Prediction: Signs a three-year, $52 million extension before hitting free agency

Kendrys Morales Signs with the Houston Astros

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (MIN/SEA): .222/.250/.307, 12 XBH (1 HR), 18 RBI, 0-for-0 SB, 50 wRC+

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 31

    2014 Salary: $7.41 million 

    Last winter, being tied to draft pick compensation did a number on Kendrys Morales' earning power. This time around, Morales has nobody to blame but himself for what is sure to be a soft market for his services.

    Viewed by teams as a full-time designated hitter, Morales will find only a handful of teams with any genuine interest, and only one—Houston—willing to offer him a full-time job.

    While agent Scott Boras will try to convince Morales to play the waiting game yet again, the veteran will take the best offer he can get from Houston, as he will be determined to re-establish his value and hit the open market once again after the 2015 season. 

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $9 million deal with Houston

Hanley Ramirez Re-Signs with the Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (LAD): .273/.365/.455, 38 XBH (12 HR), 56 RBI, 12-for-16 SB, 136 wRC+

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 31

    2014 Salary: $16 million 

    While Morosi reported that Los Angeles and Hanley Ramirez weren't discussing a contract extension when June rolled around, the two sides had been engaged only a few weeks earlier, according to Heyman:

    Ramirez, eligible for free agency after this season, is seeking a contract in excess of $100 million, and probably well north of that figure. While no exact numbers have gotten out, it is thought that he is actually seeking something in excess of $130 million. With Jacoby Ellsbury getting $153 million and Shin-Soo Choo $130 million as free agents, the figure as an asking price for Ramirez wouldn't be a surprise.

    While Ramirez's play suggests he's worth something in the range of $25 million a year, one big question could be the length of the contract due to his recent injury history. Compromises may be needed on the part of both parties, but there's still probably ample reason to work hard to bridge any differences, as both sides have flourished since he came to LA in the summer of 2012.

    Back in February, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported that Ramirez was willing to slide over to third base as part of his next contract, but didn't want to bounce between the hot corner and shortstop.

    With shortstop prospect Corey Seager close to making his big league debut, third base is where Ramirez will have to play if he wants to stick with the Dodgers.

    As Heyman opined, both sides will have to give a little, but a deal will get done that keeps Han Ram in Los Angeles for years to come. 

    Prediction: Re-signs with Los Angeles for five years, $125 million

David Robertson Re-Signs with the New York Yankees

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 42 G, 1-3, 2.68 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 43.2 IP, 31 H, 3.1 BB/9, 14.6 K/9, 30-for-32 SV

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 29

    2014 Salary: $5.215 million 

    David Robertson hasn't let the pressure of replacing Mariano Rivera get to him, thriving in his first year as a full-time closer in New York.

    He's anchored what might be the best bullpen in baseball—it's certainly the best part of this year's Yankees squad. While the Yankees could opt to go with Dellin Betances in the ninth inning, the bullpen in the Bronx is far better when it has both members of this dynamic duo. 

    Prediction: Re-signs with New York for four years, $32 million

Pablo Sandoval Signs with the Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (SF): .280/.327/.429, 32 XBH (12 HR), 49 RBI, 0-for-0 SB, 115 wRC+

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 28

    2014 Salary: $8.25 million 

    Back in April, San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean was at the end of his rope when talking to CSN's Andrew Baggarly about keeping Sandoval in a Giants uniform past 2014:

    Anything’s possible. I just don’t know how probable it is because right now Pablo is pretty much going to have to play to get to the (salary) number that they think he’s going to be able to command on the open market. We disagree that he’s going to get that number, per se, from the Giants on the open market.

    That number, according to Heyman, was a multiyear deal worth more than $100 million.

    While Sandoval has played well, Sabean was right—the Panda isn't going to get that kind of contract from any team, much less the Giants, who have other areas of need to address in free agency as well.

    Arizona has a glaring need at third base and for a second impact bat to go along with Paul Goldschmidt in the middle of the lineup.

    Sandoval fills both of those needs. 

    Prediction: Signs a five-year, $75 million deal with Arizona

Ervin Santana Signs with the Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    2014 Stats (ATL): 21 GS, 10-6, 3.59 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 138 IP, 131 H, 2.7 BB/9, 8.1 K/9

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 32

    2014 Salary: $14.1 million 

    As much as Arizona needs another big bat, it needs a front-of-the-rotation starter even more.

    Bronson Arroyo, Patrick Corbin and Daniel Hudson may not start the season on with the team as they work their way back from Tommy John surgery. That leaves the Diamondbacks with Wade Miley, Josh Collmenter and not much else.

    Santana has proven to be both durable and effective, eclipsing the 200-inning plateau in three of the past five years. He's exactly the kind of veteran arm that Arizona needs at the front of its rotation, even after Corbin and the rest of the team's walking wounded return to action. 

    Prediction: Signs a four-year, $74 million deal with Arizona

Max Scherzer Signs with the Texas Rangers

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 22 GS, 13-3, 3.27 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 146 IP, 130 H, 2.5 BB/9, 10.3 K/9

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 30

    2014 Salary: $15.525 million 

    Max Scherzer's fate in Detroit was likely sealed in spring training when he turned down the team's six-year, $144 million extension offer—the same deal Cole Hamels agreed to with Philadelphia in 2012, per Morosi—well before the Tigers acquired David Price from Tampa Bay.

    With Price in the fold, Scherzer is a goner.

    While the 30-year-old has had another tremendous season for the Tigers, he hasn't been quite as good as he was during his American League Cy Young Award-winning season of 2013. Yet he's still going to command a huge contract as one of the truly elite arms on the free-agent market.

    He'll have no shortage of suitors, but he'd be an absolutely perfect fit in Texas. The Rangers have absolutely no clue what to expect from any of their currently injured starters in 2015 and desperately need to add a big-time arm to help Yu Darvish atop the rotation.

    Texas will pay a bit more than it'd like, but it'll ultimately wind up with a player who is arguably the best free agent available, regardless of position. 

    Prediction: Signs a six-year, $150 million deal with the Texas Rangers

James Shields Signs with the San Francisco Giants

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 24 GS, 10-6, 3.43 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 157.1 IP, 163 H, 1.9 BB/9, 7.3 K/9

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 33

    2014 Salary: $13.5 million 

    Whether Cain's elbow is healthy enough for him to start the 2015 season or not, San Francisco is going to have at least one spot in its rotation that needs to be filled.

    James Shields is a perfect fit to fill that void.

    A consistent innings eater—he's on track to post his eighth consecutive season with at least 200 innings pitched—Shields gives his team a chance to win more often than not. His ability to pitch deep into games takes pressure—and lessens the workload—off a team's bullpen, something the Giants could use. 

    Prediction: Signs a four-year, $65 million deal with San Francisco

Koji Uehara Re-Signs with the Boston Red Sox

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 49 G, 5-2, 1.42 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 50.2 IP, 31 H, 1.1 BB/9, 11.5 K/9, 22-for-24 SV

    Age on Opening Day 2015: 39

    2014 Salary: $5 million 

    One of the few pending free agents that Boston didn't try to move at the trade deadline, Koji Uehara has done his best work at the back end of Boston's bullpen. Over the past two seasons, Uehara has posted a remarkable 1.22 ERA and 0.63 WHIP, converting 43 of 48 save opportunities in the process.

    While signing a pitcher going into his age-40 season isn't always a wise decision for a team to make, Uehara seems to be getting better as he gets older.

    On a one-year deal, there's little risk for Boston to keep him around. 

    Prediction: Re-signs with Boston for one-year, $12.5 million

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and are current through games of Aug. 4.

    All current contract information courtesy of Cot's Contracts.

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