MLB Free Agency

MLB Free Agency 2015: An Early Team-by-Team Preview

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2014

MLB Free Agency 2015: An Early Team-by-Team Preview

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    There is still a lot of baseball to be played between now and the offseason, but it's never too early to look ahead at what promises to be an exciting winter around the league.

    This year's free-agent class will be headlined by a trio of legitimate aces in Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields. On the offensive side of things, Hanley Ramirez, Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz, Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera highlight what is a deeper crop of bats than a year ago.

    With that in mind, what follows is an early free agency preview for all 30 teams, with a breakdown of who's going and who could be coming.

    It features a close look at each team's top free agent, a complete list of other free agents and a quick take on what will be the team's biggest priority in free agency.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Free Agents

    • None

    With J.J. Putz released, Eric Chavez retired and both Joe Thatcher and Brandon McCarthy traded at the deadline, the Arizona Diamondbacks don't have any upcoming free agents.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Add a veteran innings eater to the starting rotation

    With just under $80 million in salary commitments for next year after opening this season with a $112 million payroll, it should be a busy offseason as the D-Backs look to turn things around in 2015.

    Provided rookie Jake Lamb can lock down the third base position, the team's biggest need is shoring up a starting rotation that has been one of the worst in baseball this season.

    There is certainly some potential in the trio of Wade Miley, Chase Anderson and Josh Collmenter. Those three, along with injured All-Star Patrick Corbin, top prospect Archie Bradley and incumbents Vidal Nuno, Randall Delgado and Trevor Cahill, give the Diamondbacks plenty of options.

    However, adding a proven veteran to the mix who can anchor the staff and provide what the team was hoping to get when it signed Bronson Arroyo has to be atop Arizona's wish list.

Atlanta Braves

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    Top Free Agent

    • SP Ervin Santana (31 years old)
    GSIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    24155.113-63.713.371.2812.78.21.6

    After turning down a qualifying offer from the Kansas City Royals, Santana wound up accepting the same $14.1 million salary to join the Atlanta Braves after a rash of injuries to the starting rotation.

    With Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen no sure thing on their rehab trail from a second Tommy John surgery and Aaron Harang also headed for free agency, the Braves may very well look to bring the 31-year-old back on a multiyear deal.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • SP Aaron Harang, SP Gavin Floyd, C/OF Ryan Doumit, UT Emilio Bonifacio, C Gerald Laird

    Harang has been a terrific find on a one-year, $1 million deal, and his 3.74 FIP suggests that his success this season has been anything but lucky. Still, the team may be weary of bringing the 36-year-old back on anything but a similar low-cost, one-year deal, and someone else may be willing to pay more. The rest of this group likely won't be back.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Fill out the starting rotation

    Julio Teheran and Alex Wood figure to be staples in the Braves rotation for the foreseeable future, and Mike Minor is still in the long-term plans despite a rough season, but the other two rotation spots are up in the air for 2015.

    As mentioned, Santana is certainly a candidate to be re-signed, but expect the team to push for at least one more high-end arm to fill out the staff and make another run at the NL East title.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Top Free Agent

    • LF Nelson Cruz (34 years old)
    BA/OBP/SLGOPS+H2BHRRBIRSBWAR
    .260/.329/.5161341202232846733.1

    Cruz turned down a qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers last offseason, but he had trouble finding any interested suitors in free agency due in large part to his PED suspension in 2013.

    He wound up agreeing to a one-year, $8 million deal, and he's been worth $13.9 million already this season, according to FanGraphs. He'll be in for a big raise, but with Chris Davis falling off significantly, the Baltimore Orioles may be forced to pony up.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • SS J.J. Hardy, RP Andrew Miller, OF Delmon Young, RP Evan Meek, SP Johan Santana

    He's having a down year from a power standpoint, but Hardy is still a Gold Glove-caliber fielder who is capable of hitting 20-plus home runs. If the team decides to slide Manny Machado over to his natural position, that would likely mean the end of the road for him in Baltimore.

    The team paid a steep price to land Miller at the deadline, trading top prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, and it could make an effort to re-sign him.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Re-sign Nelson Cruz or find a way to replace his production

    After taking a significant pay cut last year, Cruz may wind up going to the highest bidder this offseason, and there's a decent chance that won't be the Orioles.

    His run production in the middle of their lineup has been a big reason for their success this year, and if they are not able to bring him back, they will have to find a way to replace his production.

Boston Red Sox

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    Top Free Agent

    • RP Koji Uehara (39 years old)
    GIPW-LSVERAWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    5657.25-226/281.400.7801.111.12.8

    The Boston Red Sox went into full-on fire sale mode at the trade deadline, but one player they opted to hold on to was All-Star closer Koji Uehara.

    They'll make every effort to bring him back on a short-term deal this offseason. He'll be due a significant raise over his current $5 million salary, and he may very well wind up accepting a qualifying offer and becoming the highest-paid closer in the game.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • RP Craig Breslow, RP Burke Badenhop, C David Ross, UT Kelly Johnson, SP Ryan Dempster

    Most of the upcoming free-agent crop was unloaded, and the guys who are left are unlikely to be back outside of Uehara.

    Breslow has been great in the past, but he's struggled to a 5.00 ERA in 47 appearances. Badenhop has a 2.50 ERA in 55 appearances and should be able to land a big league job somewhere.

    Ross is a solid backup catching option, but the Christian Vazquez/Dan Butler duo looks prepared to hold down the position for the immediate future.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Re-sign Jon Lester

    After lowballing him with a four-year offer in the $70-$80 million neighborhood in the offseason, the Red Sox were unable to come to terms on an extension for their ace.

    He was dealt to the Oakland A's for Yoenis Cespedes at the deadline, but that doesn't mean the team won't make every effort to bring him back to Boston this offseason.

    It will likely take something in the neighborhood of the six-year, $144 million deal Cole Hamels received from the Philadelphia Phillies and perhaps more, as there will be no shortage of teams in the running for his services this winter.

Chicago Cubs

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    Top Free Agent

    • SP/RP Carlos Villanueva (30 years old)
    G/GSIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    35/564.25-64.873.291.4232.47.8-0.3

    Villanueva has had mixed success as a swingman throughout his career, but he has clearly been better suited as a reliever this year.

    He's 1-4 with a 10.53 ERA in five starts this season, compared to 4-2 with a 2.40 ERA and two saves in 30 appearances out of the bullpen. He won't be making $5 million again next year, but he should be able to land a major league contract as a solid reliever capable of starting in a pinch.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • None

    The Chicago Cubs traded impending free agents Emilio Bonifacio and Jason Hammel at the deadline and released Nate Schierholtz, so Villanueva is their lone expiring contract heading into the offseason.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Add a front-line starter

    The emergence of Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks this season gives the Cubs a promising duo moving forward, but they're still in need of a bona fide ace to front their staff.

    Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson also figure to be back next season, but expect the Cubs to make a serious run at someone from the trio of Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields. The team is still a work in progress, but adding one of them could be enough to push it into legitimate contention.

Chicago White Sox

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    Top Free Agent

    • DH Adam Dunn (34 years old)
    BA/OBP/SLGOPS+H2BHRRBIRSBWAR
    .227/.350/.442121771619494210.4

    He's never going to sniff a .250 batting average again, but Dunn still provides a solid on-base presence with legitimate power from the left side of the plate.

    In the final year of a four-year, $56 million deal, he could be an intriguing buy-low candidate for someone looking to strike gold on a one-year lottery ticket. With 459 career home runs, he'll be motivated by his pursuit of that 500 mark.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • RP Matt Lindstrom, 1B Paul Konerko

    Lindstrom has been terrific at times, but he's missed almost three months with an ankle injury, and he may have to settle for a minor league deal this winter.

    Konerko, meanwhile, is headed for retirement. He'll go down as the franchise's all-time leader in total bases while ranking second to Frank Thomas in home runs and RBI.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Explore buy-low starting pitching options

    The Chicago White Sox took a chance on signing Felipe Paulino to a one-year, $1.75 million last offseason, but that didn't pay off. Despite that flop, the team should continue to explore buy-low starting pitching options to fill out the rotation.

    The crosstown Cubs have hit on Scott Feldman and Jason Hammel the past two seasons, and the White Sox should make a run at similar scrapheap options.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Top Free Agent

    • UT Ramon Santiago (34 years old)
    BA/OBP/SLGOPS+H2BHRRBIRSBWAR
    .239/.333/.304823361121610.3

    The Cincinnati Reds signed Santiago to a minor league deal after he spent the previous eight seasons with the Detroit Tigers, and he has been a useful utility man for them this season.

    Kris Negron could wind up stepping into that role next season after a strong showing in limited action so far this year, so expect the veteran to be headed elsewhere in the offseason.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • None

    Technically, the Reds don't have any other free agents, but they do have options on Ryan Ludwick ($9 million) and Jack Hannahan ($4 million) that are likely to be declined.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Add an impact bat in left field

    Left fielders have hit a combined .258/.310/.378 with nine home runs and 46 RBI on the year for the Reds, with Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey seeing the bulk of the playing time there.

    The Reds' offense as a whole has been an issue. Declining their $9 million option on Ludwick and using that money to make a run at an impact bat to replace him could help get them back on track for another postseason push in 2015.

Cleveland Indians

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Top Free Agent

    • DH Jason Giambi (43 years old)
    BA/OBP/SLGOPS+H2BHRRBIRSBWAR
    .128/.212/.27739612520-0.5

    It's been years since Giambi was an impact player on even a part-time basis, but his value to the team goes beyond his on-field production, as he brings serious veteran leadership to the clubhouse.

    The 43-year-old has shown interest in managing in the past and was a finalist for the Colorado Rockies job before that went to Walt Weiss. He's dealt with a number of injuries this season, and that could be reason enough for him to finally hang it up after 20 seasons and 440 home runs.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • SP Shaun Marcum, RP Mark Lowe

    Marcum was 33-19 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.179 WHIP from 2010 to 2012, but he was just 1-10 with a 5.29 ERA in 2013, and he has not thrown a pitch at the major league level this season.

    A 3.64 FIP last year suggests he threw the ball better than his record and ERA indicated, and considering he's still just 32, someone will likely take a chance on him.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Add a reliable veteran starting pitcher

    Corey Kluber has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the game this season, but no other Cleveland Indians starter has an ERA under 4.00 on the season.

    Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and T.J. House have shown flashes this year, but after Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir departed in free agency last offseason, the team needs to add another proven arm to front the staff alongside Kluber.

Colorado Rockies

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    Top Free Agent

    • RF Michael Cuddyer (35 years old)
    BA/OBP/SLGOPS+H2BHRRBIRSBWAR
    .331/.376/.5461424386192030.7

    Reigning NL batting champion Michael Cuddyer has been limited to just 33 games this season, as he's been sidelined with hamstring and shoulder injuries.

    He's been productive over the 130 at-bats he has seen, so there should be plenty of interest in him this offseason despite his age. With the emergence of Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson, though, it remains to be seen if the Rockies will make a run at re-signing him.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • SP Jorge De La Rosa, RP Matt Belisle, SP Franklin Morales, RP Nick Masset

    More on De La Rosa below, as he will be one of the more interesting free-agent cases as someone who the Rockies value highly but could also be hotly pursued on the free-agent market.

    Belisle has made an MLB-high 357 appearance since joining the Rockies in 2010, posting a 3.70 ERA and 1.267 WHIP over that span. Morales has been a valuable swingman, while Masset has failed to return to form after missing two years due to injury.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Re-sign Jorge De La Rosa

    De La Rosa is one of the few pitchers who has enjoyed consistent success in Coors Field over the years, going 43-14 with a 4.06 ERA in 78 games (73 starts).

    The team valued him to the point that it was reportedly seeking promising young arm Kevin Gausman when the Orioles showed interest at the deadline.

    He earned $11 million this season in the final year of his contract, and bringing him back with a slight raise on something like a three-year, $36 million deal makes sense for the pitching-starved Rockies.

Detroit Tigers

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    Top Free Agent

    • SP Max Scherzer (30 years old)
    GSIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    25169.014-42.982.761.1362.410.45.7 

    After winning AL Cy Young honors last season, Scherzer turned down a six-year, $144 million extension in the offseason, and he's putting up fantastic numbers once again in a contract year.

    The addition of David Price, who has a year of team control left after being acquired at the trade deadline, could mean the end of the line for Scherzer in Detroit. Chances are the team will only be able to lock one of them up long term, so that will be one of the more interesting storylines of the winter.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • DH Victor Martinez, RF Torii Hunter, UT Don Kelly, RP Joba ChamberlainRP Phil Coke, RP Jim Johnson, RP Joel Hanrahan

    Martinez is putting up the best numbers of his career this year, and he's been huge stepping into the role of protecting Miguel Cabrera in the lineup. He'll be 36 next season, but the Tigers will no doubt make an effort to re-sign him, albeit on a short-term deal.

    Hunter could also be brought back on a one-year contract, provided he's willing to take a pay cut on what was a $14 million salary this season. If not, the team could opt to go with an outfield of Andy Dirks, Rajai Davis and J.D. Martinez.

    Chamberlain has been one of the few reliable relievers in the Tigers pen, and he could be back, along with the versatile Kelly, who has been with the team since 2009. The other three relievers are likely gone, though.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Re-sign Max Scherzer or extend David Price

    As mentioned earlier, the Tigers will likely have to choose which front-line arm they lock up long term, and regardless of who that winds up being, they will need to come to terms on that extension this offseason.

    They can't afford to let Scherzer walk without locking up Price, as he'd be entering a contract year himself, and they could then be in danger of losing them both.

Houston Astros

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    Top Free Agent

    • RP Jose Veras (33 years old)
    GIPW-LSVERAWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    3131.12-10/55.171.4685.58.9-0.4

    After he closed for the Houston Astros and then served as a key setup man for the Detroit Tigers in 2013, the Chicago Cubs signed Veras to a one-year, $4 million deal to serve as their closer this season.

    He flopped big time in that role, and after he was released he went full circle and landed back in Houston. The veteran has a 3.00 ERA in 19 appearances since returning to the Astros, and that could be enough to drum up some interest again this offseason.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • RP Jesse Crain

    An All-Star in 2013, Crain missed the stretch run with a shoulder injury. He has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery since, and while there is still a chance he returns this season, he'll likely have to prove himself on a minor league deal.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Continue to explore low-cost starting pitching options

    As they continue to wait on the development of their high-end young talent, the Astros will likely stick to bargain hunting once again this offseason, especially on the pitching side of things.

    They struck gold with their waiver claim of Collin McHugh last December, and hunting for similar low-cost options to fill out the rotation seems like the right approach as they continue to rebuild.

Kansas City Royals

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    Top Free Agent

    • SP James Shields (32 years old)
    GSIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    26172.111-63.293.661.2131.87.21.9

    The Kansas City Royals gave up a king's ransom to acquire Shields from the Tampa Bay Rays prior to last season, shipping a package of prospects built around Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi to land the workhorse veteran.

    He was 13-9 with a 3.15 ERA and an AL-high 228.2 innings last season, and he's been a rock atop the staff once again this year. Regardless of how good he's been, the Royals will have to make the playoffs this season to justify the trade.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • RF Nori Aoki, LF Josh Willingham, RP Scott Downs, RP Jason Frasor, RP Bruce Chen, RP Luke Hochevar, DH Raul Ibanez

    The team added Willingham, Downs, Frasor and Ibanez in-season to help shore up the roster for the playoff push, but all four will likely be gone this offseason. The same goes for Aoki, who was acquired from the Brewers in the offseason but has seen his production dip in KC.

    Chen has struggled this year and will likely be cut loose, but the team could look to bring back Hochevar on an incentive-laden deal after he missed the 2014 season with Tommy John surgery.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Replace James Shields

    There is no question that the Royals would love to keep James Shields, but the chances they will be able to compete with what he will get on the open market are slim. Expect him to turn down a qualifying offer and sign on with the highest bidder this coming offseason.

    That means the team will need to find a replacement for him in the rotation on the free-agent market and one that will come for significantly less than the six figures Shields could command.

    The Royals did a great job in a similar situation last offseason, signing Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million deal to take the spot vacated by free agent Ervin Santana.

Los Angeles Angels

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    Top Free Agent

    • RP Jason Grilli (37 years old)
    GIPW-LSVERAWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    4640.11-311/153.571.3643.69.6-0.1

    Grilli converted 33 of 35 save chances and made his first All-Star appearance in 2013, but he was hit hard to kick off this season and quickly lost his job to setup man Mark Melancon.

    The Los Angeles Angels picked him up in a swap of struggling closer, shipping Ernesto Frieri to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he has a 2.24 ERA in 24 appearances since moving to Los Angeles.

    It's not out of the question to think that someone could give him a chance to close once again this offseason, but if not, the Angels could certainly have interest in bringing him back as a setup man.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • RP Joe Thatcher, IF John McDonald

    Thatcher is currently sidelined with an ankle injury, but he's been one of the better left-handed relievers in the game the past few years, and he should have no trouble finding a big league deal. McDonald will be 40 next season, but he is still a versatile defender and could find a utility job again next year.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Re-sign Jason Grilli or add another late-inning reliever

    The Angels bullpen was a serious hole early on this season, but the trio of Joe Thatcher, Jason Grilli and Huston Street was acquired to shore things up.

    Thatcher and Grilli are both headed for free agency in the offseason, and while the Angels will return a solid trio of Joe Smith, Kevin Jepsen and Street, another proven late-inning arm could help keep the pen from being an issue again next season.

    Re-signing Grilli is certainly an option, but if he walks for a chance to close elsewhere, the team will need to address the setup role once again.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Top Free Agent

    • SS Hanley Ramirez (30 years old)
    BA/OBP/SLGOPS+H2BHRRBIRSBWAR
    .277/.367/.4551329827125850122.5

    Ramirez may not be putting up the same MVP-caliber numbers that he did last year, and he has been injury-prone throughout his career, but he is still one of the most productive shortstops in the game when he is on the field.

    With no real in-house option to replace him and no one anywhere near his equal on the free-agent market, expect the Los Angeles Dodgers to work hard to bring him back.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • SP Josh Beckett, RP Jamey Wright, RP Paul Maholm, RP Chris Perez, SP Roberto Hernandez, SP Kevin Correia

    Of the above group, Wright is probably the most likely to return, as the 39-year-old is having a solid season in middle relief.

    Hernandez and Correia were brought in as depth for the stretch run, due in large part to injuries suffered by Beckett and Maholm, and chances are all four will be looking for new homes in 2015. The same goes for Perez, who flopped in LA.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Re-sign Hanley Ramirez

    Ramirez is never going to win a Gold Glove, and the time he's missed due to injury the past two seasons is certainly concerning, but what option do the Dodgers really have other than to re-sign him?

    Most peg top prospect Corey Seager as a third baseman long term, though he is still manning shortstop in the minors. A return to shortstop for Dee Gordon is a possibility, but he's thrived at second base this season, and moving him just opens up another hole.

    It will likely take nine figures to lock Ramirez up given the premium put on productive shortstops, but the way the Dodgers have been spending the past few years, that's really not an issue.

Miami Marlins

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    Top Free Agent

    • OF Reed Johnson (37 years old)
    BA/OBP/SLGOPS+H2BHRRBIRSBWAR
    .227/.262/.340663210221140-0.4

    Johnson has been one of the better fourth outfielders in the league throughout his career, and he won a spot on the Miami Marlins roster out of camp on a minor league deal.

    His production has been down across the board this season, though, and it may be the end of the line for the scrappy veteran.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • 2B Rafael Furcal, RP Kevin Gregg

    Furcal was originally signed to be the everyday second baseman for the Marlins, but injuries have limited him to just nine games, and the 36-year-old may very well be headed for retirement.

    Gregg was a terrific scrapheap find by the Cubs a year ago, but he's struggled to a 10.00 ERA in 10 appearances since joining the Marlins, and he'll have to settle for a minor league deal if he opts to keep pitching.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Find an everyday second baseman

    With the aforementioned Furcal unable to stay on the field, second base has been a revolving door for the Marlins this season. A combination of Derek Dietrich, Donovan Solano, Jordany Valdespin, Ed Lucas and Jeff Baker have manned the position this year, hitting a combined .230/.302/.333 in the process.

    The 25-year-old Dietrich has flashed some decent power, but counting on him to be the everyday guy is risky, and chances are the team will have to go outside the organization to address the position.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Top Free Agent

    • RP Francisco Rodriguez (32 years old)
    GIPW-LSVERAWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    5857.04-438/422.840.9301.910.41.3

    The Milwaukee Brewers traded K-Rod to the Baltimore Orioles at the deadline last year, only to scoop him up in free agency once again on a one-year, $3.25 million deal that has proved to be one of the best bargains of the offseason.

    His 38 saves lead the NL, and his 0.930 WHIP is the lowest mark of his impressive career. The two-year, $14 million deal Fernando Rodney received last offseason seems like a reasonable expectation for Rodriguez, and the Brewers may be willing to pay that to keep the ninth inning locked down.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • RP Zach Duke, 1B Mark Reynolds, RP Tom Gorzelanny, 1B Lyle Overbay

    Duke has reinvented himself as a reliever this season, and he's been the team's best setup man, posting a 1.90 ERA and 11.4 K/9 over 56 appearances. He's likely earned himself a multiyear deal, and at the very least, he'll earn a huge raise over the $850,000 he made this season.

    Reynolds and Overbay have formed a passable platoon at first base this year and provided solid veteran leadership in the process. Reynolds still has plus power, which should be enough for him to keep finding a big league job.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Find a long-term answer at first base

    With Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay both headed for free agency after signing one-year deals in the offseason, the Brewers will again be searching for an answer at first base this winter.

    Hunter Morris remains the Brewers' best in-house option, but he missed time with a broken arm, and his all-or-nothing approach at the plate has kept him from seeing significant big league action to this point.

Minnesota Twins

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    Free Agents

    • None

    Impending free agents Kevin Correia, Josh Willingham and Kendrys Morales were all traded, so the Minnesota Twins don't have any expiring contracts on the roster.

    They will need to decide whether or not to pick up their $3.6 million option on reliever Jared Burton, who has posted a 3.37 ERA and 1.146 WHIP over 187 appearances in his three seasons with the team.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    •  Find another Phil Hughes

    The Twins handed out the two biggest free-agent contracts in team history last season in an effort to improve what was the league's worst starting rotation, signing Ricky Nolasco (four years, $49 million) and Phil Hughes (three years, $24 million).

    Nolasco has been a disaster, but Hughes has actually been a nice find, going 13-8 with a 3.76 ERA and a 2.61 FIP that ranks fifth in the American League.

    Taking a chance on a similar mid-level starter this offseason would be well worth it, as, outside of Hughes, the rotation has been a mess once again this season.

New York Mets

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    Top Free Agent

    • RP Daisuke Matsuzaka (33 years old)
    G/GSIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    28/974.13-33.874.111.3325.38.60.1

    Post-hype Dice-K has turned himself into a serviceable middle reliever, and he is still capable of making a spot start here and there. He is 2-3 with a 4.24 ERA in nine starts this season and posted a 3.25 ERA in relief.

    There is value in a veteran arm that provides that kind of versatility to a pen, and he should be able to find a job in a similar role next season if he opts to stay stateside.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • None

    Outfielders Chris Young and Bobby Abreu were recently released, leaving Dice-K as the only free agent on the active roster.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Upgrade at shortstop

    This is something that may be more likely to be addressed via trade, as the team has a wealth of attractive arms it could deal from.

    Regardless, the shortstop position remains the New York Mets' biggest priority for the offseason. Picking up a young player who can hold down the position for years would be ideal, but if the Mets can't pull off a trade, making a run at Hanley Ramirez is also an option.

    If they're not willing to pony up what it will take to sign him, there are lower-level veteran options like J.J. Hardy and Stephen Drew that could be available as well.

New York Yankees

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    Top Free Agent

    • RP David Robertson (29 years old)
    GIPW-LSVERAWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    4546.21-333/352.511.0073.113.71.3 

    Following in the footsteps of Mariano Rivera was no enviable task, but Robertson has been lights-out in moving from the setup role to ninth inning duties.

    He's a homegrown talent, and he's still in his prime, so there's no reason to think the New York Yankees won't want him back next season. He'll be expensive, but he's their best option at this point and should prove worth the investment.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • SP Brandon McCarthy, SS Derek Jeter, SP Hiroki Kuroda, 3B Chase Headley, IF Stephen Drew, SP Chris Capuano, RF Ichiro Suzuki, RP Rich Hill

    Most of the guys from the list above will be gone via free agency, and we all know Jeter is headed for retirement, but there are a few that the team could look to re-sign.

    McCarthy has looked great since coming to the Yankees and should still come relatively cheap. The left side of the infield looks like a question mark, with Jeter retiring and the status of Alex Rodriguez still uncertain, so re-signing Drew and Headley may wind up being the team's best options.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Sign a front-line starter to pair with Masahiro Tanaka

    Provided he doesn't wind up needing Tommy John surgery, Tanaka looks like he'll be the Yankees' ace heading into 2015 and beyond.

    The rest of the staff is a huge question mark, though, and improving that rotation will likely be the focus of the Yankees' offseason.

    There are three really big fish out there in Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields, and one would have to think the Yankees will do everything in their power to walk away with at least one of them.

Oakland Athletics

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Top Free Agent

    • SP Jon Lester (30 years old)
    GSIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    25170.213-82.582.671.1132.09.23.2

    Not since Randy Johnson and Kevin Brown hit free agency after the 1998 season has a pitcher put up better numbers in a contract year than what Lester has this season.

    He's the definition of a rental player for the Oakland A's, as the chances of them shelling out an extension north of $100 million are slim to none, so he'll be hitting the open market at season's end.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • SS Jed Lowrie, SP Jason Hammel, RP Luke Gregerson, IF Alberto Callaspo, OF Jonny Gomes

    It looked as though Addison Russell was being groomed to take over for Lowrie at shortstop, but he was traded to the Cubs in July, so bringing back Lowrie is still a possibility.

    Hammel has been a disaster since being acquired and will walk, but the other three player are all capable of being valuable complementary pieces and could all be back at the right price.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Sign a veteran shortstop or re-sign Jed Lowrie

    With limited production at second base and a virtually nonexistent free-agent market at the position, the A's can't afford to let shortstop become a black hole offensively as well.

    Whether it is re-signing Jed Lowrie or making a run at one of the other veterans on the market, like J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera or Stephen Drew, shortstop is one position the team can't afford to punt on.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    Top Free Agent

    • SP Kyle Kendrick (29 years old)
    GSIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    25154.15-114.904.651.3742.65.3-0.4

    Kendrick has never been anything more than a back-of-the-rotation starter, but he is capable of eating innings, and it's not crazy to think he could benefit from a change of scenery.

    He's still fairly young, and at 69-66 with a 4.45 ERA over eight seasons, there are worse option to take a mid-level flier on. He could be next year's Jason Hammel.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • OF Grady Sizemore, SP Jerome Williams, C Wil Nieves

    Sizemore has been a nice find for the Phillies, as he's hit .297/.336/.426 in 101 at-bats since he was plucked from the scrapheap following his release from Boston.

    The team has expressed some interesting in bringing him back, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.

    "He's played well enough to certainly be in consideration for 2015 and beyond," said GM Ruben Amaro "But again that's one of those questions we'll continue to assess. What we do with our outfield will be one of those questions, and he could very well be a part of it."

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Don't sign anymore veterans to multiyear deals

    At some point, the Phillies are going to have to start rebuilding, and adding more veterans to the mix on multiyear deals is not the way to do that.

    Last offseason, they re-signed Carlos Ruiz (three years, $26 million), while adding Marlon Byrd (two years, $16 million) and A.J. Burnett (two years, $22.5 million) in free agency.

    Addition by subtraction needs to be the name of the game this offseason, as they should work hard to unload whatever high-priced veteran pieces they can.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Top Free Agent

    • C Russell Martin (31 years old)
    BA/OBP/SLGOPS+H2BHRRBIRSBWAR
    .282/.407/.39212877126483533.8

    The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Martin away from the New York Yankees with a two-year, $17 million deal, and that has proved to be a steal. He's been good for 8.1 WAR since joining the team, and considering he's still just 31 years old, there's no reason to think he can't keep performing at his current level for at least a couple more seasons.

    Unless the Pirates think Tony Sanchez is capable of stepping into the everyday role, which seems unlikely, Martin looks like a prime candidate to be re-signed.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • SP Francisco Liriano, SP Edinson Volquez, IF Clint Barmes, UT Jayson Nix

    Liriano has not been as dominant as he was a year ago, but his 3.75 FIP and 9.7 K/9 are still solid numbers, and he should have no trouble finding a multiyear deal from someone.

    Volquez had an up-and-down start to the year, but he's gone 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA in his last 10 starts, and his free-agent stock is climbing with each quality start he turns in.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Re-sign Russell Martin

    You can make a case for addressing the rotation being the biggest priority considering both Liriano and Volquez will be looking for significant raises and will likely wind up elsewhere, but the team has enough in-house talent that it at least has options.

    The same can't be said for the catcher's position.

    Tony Sanchez was expected to be the catcher of the future when he was taken with the No. 4 pick in the 2009 draft, but his progression offensively has left him looking more like a career backup.

    That makes bringing back Martin priority No. 1, and his game-calling abilities will be even more important as more of the young guns from the minors join the big league rotation.

San Diego Padres

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Top Free Agent

    • RP Tim Stauffer (32 years old)
    GIPW-LSVERAWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    3249.04-20/03.861.5714.09.70.1

    The San Diego Padres' Opening Day starter in 2011, Stauffer has actually made more appearances out of the bullpen (98) than he has as a starter (73) during his nine-year career.

    He's been used exclusively as a reliever the past two years, posting a 3.79 ERA and 8.9 K/9 over 75 appearances, and the team may very well bring the homegrown talent back to be part of its bullpen again in 2015.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • None

    With Chase Headley and Chris Denorfia traded in July, the team has no upcoming free agents outside of Stauffer.

    The Padres will have to decide whether or not to pick up a $4 million option on Josh Johnson, who looked like a good buy-low candidate before missing the entire 2014 season with Tommy John surgery.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Add a consistent run producer

    The Padres' offense has been bad this season. How bad? The team's 407 runs scored are 60 less than the next-worse team this year, and six teams have already scored more than the 536 runs they are on pace to score.

    Their core pieces of Jedd Gyorko, Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal have not progressed as hoped, and outside of outfielder Seth Smith, their lineup has put up below-average production on a player-by-player basis.

    That has undermined one of the better pitching staffs in all of baseball, and while the Pads will continue to work with the restrictions of a small-market team, they have to find someone capable of driving in runs on a semi-consistent basis if they are going to have any shot at contending.

San Francisco Giants

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Top Free Agent

    • 3B Pablo Sandoval (28 years old)
    BA/OBP/SLGOPS+H2BHRRBIRSBWAR
    .281/.326/.4301161262114555603.8

    He's not always played up to his potential, and his weight will always be an area of concern, but Sandoval remains one of the best all-around third basemen in the game.

    His numbers this year would look even better if not for a dreadful first month of the season, as he's hit .309/.344/.465 since the beginning of May.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • LF Michael Morse, SP Jake Peavy, SP Ryan Vogelsong, RP Sergio Romo

    Morse has been a nice find on a one-year, $6 million deal, but the team likely won't overpay to bring him back if someone else is willing to give him a multiyear deal.

    Peavy and Vogelsong are both passable starters, but it would make sense for the team to explore other options. Romo was ousted from the closer's role after struggling, and likely cost himself a good deal of money in the process, but he could still be brought back.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Re-sign Pablo Sandoval

    The San Francisco Giants have focused heavily on re-signing their own free agents the past few years, handing out extensions to Jeremy Affeldt, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Marco Scutaro since the start of 2012.

    That leaves Sandoval as the only real core piece that is not locked up long term. With a virtually nonexistent market for third basemen, expect the team to make every effort to get him back in the fold.

    Something similar to the five-year, $90 million deal the team gave Hunter Pence last year could wind up being what it takes to lock him up, but that beats having a glaring hole at the hot corner.

Seattle Mariners

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Top Free Agent

    • SP Chris Young (35 years old)
    GSIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    24146.212-63.074.581.1112.95.63.0

    Young didn't throw a pitch in the majors in 2013, and he had not made over 20 starts in a season since 2007 prior to this year, so it's fair to say he's been one of the biggest surprises in the baseball here in 2014.

    His 4.58 FIP suggests he's been pitching over his head, as does his .224 opponent's BABIP, but the Seattle Mariners could still look to bring him back on a one-year deal as insurance for their young rotation.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • RP Joe Beimel, RF Corey Hart, DH Kendrys Morales, OF Chris Denorfia, OF Endy Chavez

    Beimel has been a key part of the Mariners' AL-best bullpen, posting a 1.23 ERA in 43 appearances, and he's been well worth his $850,000 salary.

    The hope was that Hart could provide some right-handed power between Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager in the middle of the lineup, but he's been sidelined by a hamstring injury and ineffective when he has been on the field.

    Morales and Denorfia were picked up as low-cost attempts to improve the offense, and the team seems to like Morales, so he could be back. Chavez has carved out a nice career as a fourth outfielder, and he'll likely land somewhere in that role again next season.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Add a right-handed power hitter

    The decision to not sign Nelson Cruz is likely atop the Mariners' list of offseason regrets, and it's no surprise that finding a player with his run-producing abilities from the right side is atop their wish list.

    Provided he's not re-signed by the Orioles, the Mariners could make a run at rectifying last winter's mistake. Other targets could include Michael Cuddyer, Mike Morse and Josh Willingham.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    Top Free Agent

    • RP Pat Neshek (33 years old)
    GIPW-LHLDERAWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    5652.15-0190.860.5731.09.82.5

    Outside of the aforementioned Chris Young in Seattle, there may not be a better out-of-nowhere story in 2014 than Neshek.

    Despite decent numbers in Oakland a year ago, when he posted a 3.35 ERA in 45 appearances, the 33-year-old received little interest on the free-agent market and wound up settling for a minor league deal with the Cardinals.

    He won a spot on the Opening Day roster, quickly emerged as the team's most reliable setup arm and turned that into an unlikely All-Star appearance. Now he's due a substantial raise over the $1 million he made this season, and it will be interesting to see if it's the Cardinals who give it to him.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • SP Justin Masterson, C A.J. Pierzynski, 2B Mark Ellis, RP Jason Motte

    Masterson and Pierzynski were added as Band-Aids for the stretch run, and chances are they won't be back next year.

    The same goes for Ellis, who was signed as an insurance policy for rookie Kolten Wong, but has hit just .192/.267/.228 in 167 at-bats before landing on the DL with an oblique strain.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Re-sign Pat Neshek or add a late-inning reliever

    The Cardinals bullpen as a whole has not been nearly as good this season, as its collective ERA has climbed from 3.45 to 3.70.

    Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez have not been as dominant as expected, and Jason Motte has not had the impact the team hoped he would in returning from a 2013 season that was lost to Tommy John surgery.

    Neshek has been the team's best reliever by far, and the Cards will either need to make a push to re-sign him this offseason or look to add someone else capable of stepping into the eighth-inning role.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Mike Carlson/Getty Images

    Free Agents

    • None

    The Tampa Bay Rays don't have any free agents to worry about, but they do have a pair of team options to address in Ben Zobrist ($7.5 million) and Joel Peralta ($2.5 million).

    Chances are that both will be exercised, as Zobrist continues to be one of the game's most valuable players for his versatility and Peralta remains one of the more reliable eighth-inning guys in the game.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Continue to shop in the bargain bin

    It was obvious the Rays were going to have to move ace David Price at some point, and with the big left-hander likely looking at a salary in the $20 million neighborhood in his final year of arbitration, they pulled the trigger at the deadline this year.

    However, with Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, James Loney and Grant Balfour due a combined $13 million in raises and guys like Alex Cobb, Desmond Jennings and Jake McGee all headed for significant pay spikes in arbitration, it's not as though the Rays suddenly have money to spend.

    The franchise has done a great job bargain shopping in recent years, with guys like James Loney, Fernando Rodney and Kyle Farnsworth all performing well above expectations. It will need to continue to find ways to improve without spending big free agency.

Texas Rangers

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    Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

    Top Free Agent

    • SP Colby Lewis (35 years old)
    GSIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9WAR
    22122.18-105.524.171.6592.97.6-0.9

    Lewis missed half of the 2012 season and all of 2013 dealing with a torn flexor tendon in his elbow, and the Texas Rangers brought him back this offseason on a minor league deal.

    His 5.52 ERA is not pretty, but his 4.17 FIP suggests he's had some bad luck. He also has a 3.29 ERA in his last six starts, and his solid postseason track record and a decent finish to the season should be enough to drum up some free agency interest.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • RP Neal Cotts, C Geovany Soto, IF Adam Rosales

    Cotts has been a great reclamation project for the Rangers, posting a 2.28 ERA in 116 appearances over the past two seasons after being out of the league for three years prior to that.

    It's somewhat surprising he hasn't been moved to a contender, and the 34-year-old southpaw should have no trouble finding work next season.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Add a durable, veteran starting pitcher

    A lot of the Rangers' problems this season can be blamed on injury, but the fact is that they just don't have very good starting pitching.

    With Martin Perez recovering from Tommy John surgery and both Matt Harrison and Derek Holland missing significant time with injuries as well, the Rangers have used a total of 13 different starting pitchers this season.

    Yu Darvish is the only one with an ERA under 4.00 and one of just two (Lewis being the other) who thrown more than 100 innings. Finding a veteran who can throw 180-plus innings and help shoulder some of the responsibility at the front of the rotation is a must.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Top Free Agent

    • LF Melky Cabrera (30 years old)
    BA/OBP/SLGOPS+H2BHRRBIRSBWAR
    .316/.369/.4791341603215677553.0

    After hitting just .279/.322/.360 and posting a minus-0.3 WAR in the first year of a two-year, $16 million deal last year, Cabrera is back to performing at a high level offensively this season.

    A PED suspension significantly cut into his free-agent value last time around, but he has proved himself this season and should be in line for a decent raise and perhaps an extra year or two from whoever signs him this time around.

     

    Other Free Agents

    • RP Casey Janssen, CF Colby Rasmus

    Janssen was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2004, and his 375 games (sixth) and 84 saves (fourth) place him among the all-time leaders in franchise history.

    He's been terrific since moving to the closer's role in 2012, converting 75 out of 83 save chances with a 2.71 ERA, and as long as he's not looking for an exorbitant amount of money, he should be back.

    Rasmus has been one of the more frustrating players in the league since debuting as a highly touted 22-year-old with the Cardinals back in 2009. He was a 4.6 WAR player a year ago, but his numbers have dropped across the board, and he's at just 0.6 so far this season.

    That being said, he's still just 28 years old, and someone will likely overpay for his tools in hopes that he'll put it all together.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Re-sign Melky Cabrera, find a stopgap for center field

    With two-thirds of the starting outfield headed for free agency, re-signing Melky Cabrera looks like the first step of the Blue Jays' offseason plans. They were the team willing to take a chance on him two years ago, and he may be willing to give them a discount to return the favor.

    As for center field, Rasmus will likely walk, but the team doesn't necessarily need to spend big on a long-term option at the position.

    Dalton Pompey has been one of the breakout prospects of 2014, as the 21-year-old has hit .313/.393/.466 with 37 steals and reached Double-A this season. He's still at least a year out, so finding a stopgap option for next year looks like the best approach.

Washington Nationals

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Top Free Agent

    • 2B Asdrubal Cabrera (28 years old)
    BA/OBP/SLGOPS+H2BHRRBIRSBWAR
    .248/.310/.387981072410456171.4

    Proving he can still play a passable second base down the stretch here only adds to the value that Cabrera will have as a free agent this offseason. While his production is down, he's still a plus offensive option for a middle infielder.

    If he sticks at second base, he's probably the best option on the market, and he could be a consolation prize for those who miss out on Hanley Ramirez and J.J. Hardy and are in need of a shortstop.

    He'll be a nice buy-low candidate regardless, as he's still just 28 years old and two years removed from back-to-back All-Star appearances.

     

    Other Free Agents
    • OF Scott Hairston

    Hairston has made a career out of crushing left-handed pitching, and he turned a 20-homer season in 2012 into a two-year, $5 million deal last time he hit free agency.

    He's done very little at the plate this season, though, and will likely have to settle for a minor league deal this time around.

     

    Top Free Agency Priority

    • Add a proven left-handed reliever

    The Nationals have a fairly complete roster top to bottom and no significant players headed for free agency, provided Adam LaRoche exercises his end of a $15 million mutual option.

    One area that has been a weakness the past two seasons, however, is left-handed relief pitching. The unproven duo of Fernando Abad and Ian Krol handled southpaw duties in 2013, and it's been Jerry Blevins and ousted starter Ross Detwiler handling things this season.

    Signing someone like Andrew Miller to a multiyear deal could legitimately solve that problem and plug what has been the one obvious hole on this roster in recent years.

     

    *All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted and current through Monday, August 18. All injury and contract information via MLBDepthCharts team pages, per Baseball Prospectus.

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