MLB Free Agency: 10 Players to Watch

The SportmeistersAnalyst INovember 20, 2009

By Ryan of The Sportmeisters

The MLB Free Agency season is upon us, and after the New York Yankees' excessive spending led to a World Series title, will another season of open piggy banks arise?

Probably not, but there are still quite a few players that could break the bank and teams that will shell the dough for their services. Let’s take a look at 10 free agents and what they bring to the table.

Please note: this is not an order of who is the best free agent, just a focus on 10 players.

1. Jason Bay, OF

Bay has experience in both the National and American leagues, increasing his ability to play in either. He’s 30 and still has many good years left, enough to grab possibly a five or six-year contract before possibly moving to the AL as a DH in the future.

Last season was his first full season in Boston and he shined, hitting .267. His 36 home runs were good enough for third in the AL, and his 119 RBI took second. He also earned his first Silver Slugger award and third All-Star nomination.

Bay is arguably the hottest free agent on the market and will command at least $100 million on the market, requiring some teams to really break the bank on him.

2. Matt Holliday, OF

At 29, Holliday has an extra year in him, leading some to believe he is the hottest outfielder on the market. He spent the first half of the year in Oakland before being traded to St. Louis for the stretch run.

While in Colorado he was a three-time All-Star and a three-time Silver Slugger. Even though he was traded, he still finished with a .313 batting average, 24 home runs and 109 RBI. He also brings postseason experience, including a World Series appearance in 2007.

Holliday will also be looking for a six or possibly seven-year deal, well in excess of $100 million. Look for teams to offer both Bay and Holliday, with the two using each other’s potential deals as leverage.

3. Hideki Matsui, OF

Godzilla lives, but for how many more seasons? A combination of age (35) and injuries in previous years moved the outfielder to the DH role for the New York Yankees. He still played in 116 games in 2009, hitting .274 with 28 home runs and 90 RBI. The 28 home runs were the most since he hit 31 in 2004, his second season.

Matsui might not have gotten as much attention without his phenomenal showing in the 2009 playoffs, specifically the World Series. In the six-game series, Matsui hit .615 with three home runs and eight RBI to earn World Series MVP honors.

Due to his injury history and age, it is highly unlikely anyone from the National League will take a look. Rumors have floated of Matsui’s retirement, but I believe it will depend on whether or not he gets an offer he likes.

4. John Lackey, SP

Lackey is being touted as the top pitcher in free agency this season, with his youth and experience being key factors. Lackey is 30 years old, but already has five years of postseason play under his belt.

His strikeouts have tapered since his career high of 199 in 2005, and while he’s a far cry from his 2007 All-Star campaign (19-9, 3.01 ERA), he still gets batters out. His last two seasons have seen career lows in hits, runs, earned runs, and innings pitched since his rookie campaign.

Lackey has the experience and ability to be a solid No. 2 or No. 3 pitcher, depending on the team. If he is looking for ace money, he might scare away a few, but could still pull a big contract with the right team.

5. Adam LaRoche, 1B

LaRoche is another young player (29) who has many years left. He's played mostly in the NL for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves, with the exception of a short stint in Boston. Despite that, he still managed to hit .277 with 25 home runs and 83 RBI.

He has yet to break .300 in a season, has toppled 30 home runs once, and has yet to break 100 RBI in a season, but it his defensive skills that truly stand out. LaRoche had two errors last year, a career low, just a year after having eight, a career high.

He is still young and can improve on his power, and should grab somewhere in the six-year, $80 million range unless some team decides to make a leap for him.

6. Jose Molina, C

Molina isn’t the best offensive bat in the free agency market, but he is arguably the top defensive catcher available. Used by the New York Yankees the past two seasons as a backup to starter Jorge Posada, Molina performed admirably in his backup role despite missing half of 2009 with an injury.

His value really shined in the playoffs as he caught AJ Burnett primarily in his two World Series starts, including the Game Six clinching win. Defensively, he had a .997 fielding average, committing only one error in 2009. For his career, he has thrown out 40 percent of baserunners attempting steals.

Molina will get another look as a backup catcher, potentially in the AL where the starter can still perform as a DH. Molina’s bat leaves questions, but his defensive value is still worth something.

7. Vladimir Guerrero, OF

Guerrero has started to slip, mainly due to an injury in 2009, but the 34-year-old slugger can still put it up there.

Not counting last season’s injury where he hit .295 with 15 home runs and 50 RBI, Guerrero had a streak of 11 seasons with a .300 average (1997-2008). He also hit more than 30 home runs in a season eight times and had 100+ RBI nine times. He is an eight-time All-Star, the 2004 AL MVP, and a seven-time Silver Slugger.

His injury will scare some prospective teams, but he should still find work, most likely in the AL, where he can DH on an off day.

8. Chone Figgins, 3B

In his eight-year career the utility speedster has spent time at every position except pitcher, catcher, and first base and is a nice find for any team.

Since 2004, he has had over 30 steals per season, with a career high 62 in 2005. He is developing more patience, shown in the 101 walks he had—almost twice his previous career high. His batting average hovers right under .300 for the most part.

He was a 2009 All-Star, and has playoff experience as part of the Los Angeles Angels. At 31, he still has wheels and the ability to get on base and put his team in a position to score. I foresee quite a few teams shelling out some decent dollars at a speed demon that can play multiple positions.

9. Adrian Beltre, 3B

The two-time Gold Glove winner (2007-08) already has 12 seasons under his belt at the age of 31.

He played in 111 games, hitting only .265 with eight home runs and 44 RBI, his lowest since his rookie campaign. This was due to a groin injury that occurred, shelving the 2004 Silver Slugger since August. Despite this, he was looking to be on pace with his past performance since his breakout 2004 season.

The injury risk is there, especially considering Beltre doesn’t wear a cup, but if he can get back to form, a team could steal him for two or three years.

10. Andy Pettitte, P

Is there anything left in the tank for the 37-year-old?

After a stellar 14-8 campaign, not including his 4-0 2009 postseason, Pettitte is back on the market. He has spent time on both National and American Leagues. Considering his age, moving back to the NL might be easier on his arm.

He is a far cry from the 20-win season in 2003, and rumors have been floating of his retirement. I wouldn’t see more than a one-year contract for Pettite, but if he wants to return, I’m sure a team will give him a shot.

The crop isn’t as thick as last season, but there are still some decent prospects to help improve your favorite squad.


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