MLB Free Agency: Where Top FA Hitters Will Sign, 2011 Stats Predictions
The 2010 Free Agent class for hitters is similar to many Free Agent classes of the past. It contains many aging sluggers nearing the end of their careers, players coming off outstanding years; or terrible ones, and then the three guys that every team wants to have suit up for them. Everyone knows the headliners of this years class, the speedy Carl Crawford, the shaggy power threat Jayson Werth, and the talented slugger Adam Dunn.
Today I will be taking a look at where some of the top sluggers available will sign, and what kind of numbers they will put up for their new teams.
One of the best players, Victor Martinez, has already reached a deal with the Detroit Tigers on a four year $50 million deal. Which as was about eight million dollars less than I expected when I started my draft for this article, however, I was correct in expecting the Tigers to be his new team.
Carlos Pena 1B
Prediction: Chicago Cubs
Contract: 2 years, $15.5 million
Stats for 2011: .245/.373/.512, 33 HR, 97 RBI
Carlos Pena had the worst year of his career in 2010. He hit under the infamous "mendoza line" with an awful average of .196. His average was fueled, in part, by a career low batting average on balls in play (.BABIP) which is considered to be influenced greatly by luck from year to year so a rebound is expected. Even though Pena has some colossal power, he does not produce a lot of RBI's, he has only eclipsed 100 once.
Despite all the bad from 2010, Carlos Pena continued to slug. He hit 28 homeruns, which is quite a testament to his power because he only mustered 95 hits. Also, there is many things to be liked about Pena's game outside of the long ball. Pena is extremely patient at the plate and walks in over 13% of his plate appearances over the course of his career. Carlos Pena is also relatively young, being only 32 years old. Outside of his bat, Pena's defense at first is his strongest attribute and he is known as a solid defender at 1st. Which are all reasons he would appeal in Chicago, and also the fact that they would not have to move any of their current players to afford him.
Two other destinations: The Washington Nationals & The Texas Rangers
Adam LaRoche 1B
Prediction: The Los Angeles Dodgers
Contract: 2 years, $20.5 million
Stats for 2011: .267/.354/.476, 26 HR, 101 RBI
In 2010 Adam LaRoche had some trouble finding work, and he reportedly turned down a two year contract to play with the eventual world champion San Francisco Giants to play on the short term with Arizona. LaRoche is a remarkably consistent left handed hitter, and has hit exactly 25 home runs three years in a row. According to UZR, LaRoche had the second best year of his career defensively last year.
LaRoche fits in LA for a few reasons, first off he will be a short term commitment and could perhaps even be had for as short term as one year. Also, unlike their current 1B, James Loney, LaRoche will give some value at the plate. Hitting in front of Matt Kemp, LaRoche could see his numbers spike even more than they did in 2006 when he hit 32 HR and hit .285, both career highs. Also, it is widely speculated that LA will be after a first baseman this year due to the fact that Loney might be non-tendered (essentially released), that they want a short term upgrade, and that they are increasing payroll.
Two other destinations: The Chicago White Sox & The Seattle Mariners
Adrian Beltre 3B
Prediction: Boston Red Sox
Contract: 4 years, $58 million
Stats for 2011: .277/.335/.481, 23 HR, 80 RBI
In 2010 Adrian Beltre had the second best year of his career. He hit .321/.365/.553 and played excellent defense like always. However, Beltre is not that kind of offensive threat consistently, as his lifetime numbers are .275/.328/.462. Beltre seems to have a knack for performing well before contract years when he is healthy. In 2004, his last year in L.A., Beltre produced .334/.388/.629 with 48 home runs. That off season he signed with Seattle. The contract was later seen as somewhat of an overpay, however most of his power loss can be atributed to the Mariners home park which kills right handed bats. Beltre's true production level for 2011 is hard to estimate, because it may depend at least partially on where he plays, I think playing 81 games at Fenway Beltre can hit better than his career numbers. However, if he played in Oakland he would produce closer to his Seattle numbers of .266/.317/.442 which is not enough to warrant $10+ million a year.
The rumors swirling around Beltre link him to Oakland quite often, but I just do not see it as a fit. For one thing Oakland is notoriously cheap and would rather trade for talent on expiring contracts then pay multi year deals to top players. Also, I read a report from an agent who was in negotiations with Oakland that said that their interest in Beltre is only for appearances sake. Taking those two things in account, and the fact that Boston lost Victor Martinez, I think Beltre will resign in Boston.
Two other destinations: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim & The Oakland Athletics
Adam Dunn 1B
Prediction: The Washington Nationals
Contract: 3 years, $45 million
Stats for 2011: .255/.378/.520, 42 HR, 107 RBI
Adam Dunn is essentially the same player every single year. Teams know what they have in Adam Dunn, a guy who is terrible and lumbering on defense, a guy who will walk in 15+% of his plate appearances, and more than anything else, will hit 40 home runs. Since 2004, Dunn has hit 46, 40, 40, 40, 40, 38, and 38 bombs.
Adam Dunn will be widely sought out this summer, however he has limited his market to NL teams because he refuses to DH. A reunion with Washington seems to be unavoidable for a few reasons. For one thing, they love Dunn and have been trying to get him to resign since before the World Series (talks broke down because Dunn wants four years). Secondly, a lot of NL teams are set at 1b, San Francisco, San Deigo, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Florida, New York, and Philadelphia are set long term at 1b and would not likely add Dun to loaf in the out field. That leaves eight National League teams left, and of those only the Cubs have shown interest so far. It seems destiny that Dunn will end back up in Washington.
Two other destinations: The Chicago Cubs & The Atlanta Braves
Jayson Werth OF
Prediction: The Boston Red Sox
Contract: 5 years, $80 million
Stats for 2011: .287/.399/.519
Jayson Werth is without a doubt the second best hitter on the free agent market. His numbers since moving to Philadelphia and playing full time are incredible, he has hit .282/.380/.506 with 99 doubles and 95 home runs in just 543 games. Werth is also known as a solid defender in RF and is truly a superstar. Werth is not yet 32 years old, and has quite a few good to great years left in his because he was a late bloomer and didn't produce much until he reached 28 years old.
Boston makes a ton of sense for Werth because they need outfield help, have the money, and hate trading prospects to improve their team. Also, more importantly, they have contacted his agent about Jayson Werth's interest in playing in Boston. Jason Bay's 4 year $66 million contract will serve as a starting point and Werth will certainly eclipse that.
Two other destinations: The Detroit Tigers & The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Carl Crawford OF
Prediction: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Contract: 6 years, $112 million
Stats for 2011: .301/.355/.436, 16 HR, 77 RBI, 51 SB
Carl Crawford is one of the best hitters in all of the MLB when it comes to the non-power hitting category. In terms of average, Crawford has hit .300 or higher almost his whole MLB career, and since 2005 he has only failed to hit .300+ one time (2008). Also in eight big league seasons, he has stolen 409 bags, and 400 in the last seven seasons. His career high in stolen bases came in 2010 when he swiped 60. There is almost no lead off man in baseball who hits the way Carl Crawford does. Crawford plays primarily LF, but could easily play CF above averagely.
Carl Crawford has been destined to play for the Angels since the All-Star game. At the game, the first reports came out that current Angels OF Torii Hunter has been pitching Anaheim to Crawford. Since the game, the two players have texted a lot about how great it would be for Crawford to join the Angels. Also when appearing on World Series coverage Hunter told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick that he liked the idea of Crawford in playing for the Halos. Crawford also fits into the type of ball the Angels play and they have the money to make him the only $100 million player who has never hit 20 HR in a season.
Two other destinations: The Boston Red Sox & The Detroit Tigers