MLB Free Agency: Looking Ahead at the Next 3 Free Agent Classes

Phillip BrownSenior Analyst IIJanuary 21, 2012

MLB Free Agency: Looking Ahead at the Next 3 Free Agent Classes

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    The 2011-2012 offseason is coming to a close. Players like Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, CJ Wilson, Prince Fielder, Yoenis Cespedes and Aramis Ramirez will all cash in but what about the next three years? Who will be a free agent then?

    Some of these players will get extensions but some will hit the free agent market. Who is in for a big payday in the next three years? Let's find out.

    I will be using Cot's Contracts for player's contracts.

    * denotes a player with a team, player or vesting option

Notable 2012-2013 Free Agent Position Players

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    This positional class is very heavy in terms of catchers and outfielders. Josh Hamilton and Yadier Molina lead those classes and will be in for huge paychecks. Most of these options will get picked up so don't get too excited for players like Curtis Granderson, Ian Kinsler, David Wright and Stephen Drew.

    Questions to Consider:

    • Will David Ortiz finally get a long-term deal or will he get one-year deal after one-year deal for the rest of his career?
    • Will Josh Hamilton stay loyal to the team that gave him a second chance or will he leave if a bigger offer comes along?
    • Will the Cincinnati Reds re-sign Brandon Phillips, will they use that money to re-sign Joey Votto or do they have the money to re-sign both of them?

    Will BJ Upton finally end up with the Washington Nationals via free agency or trade?

    Potential $100 Million Deals:
    Yadier Molina, Josh Hamilton, David Wright*, Curtis Granderson*, Ian Kinsler*, Brian McCann*

    Catcher First Base Second Base Shortstop Third Base Outfield
    Brian McCann* David Ortiz Ian Kinsler* Stephen Drew* David Wright* Josh Hamilton
    Yadier Molina James Loney
    Brandon Phillips Erick Aybar Placido Polanco* Curtis Granderson*
    Mike Napoli
    Travis Hafner* Freddy Sanchez Jhonny Peralta* Kevin Youkilis* Melky Cabrera
    Russell Martin Aubrey Huff* Maicer Izturis Marco Scutaro Ty Wigginton* Andre Ethier
    Miguel Montero
    Lance Berkman   Jason Bartlett* Chipper Jones* BJ Upton
    Miguel Olivo*  Carlos Pena   Ryan Theriot Scott Rolen
    Michael Bourn
    Carlos Ruiz*     Alex Gonzalez Mark Teahen Carlos Quentin
    Jeff Mathis
          Brandon Inge* Shane Victorino
    Nick Swisher
              Ichiro Suzuki
              Grady Sizemore
              Torii Hunter

Notable 2012-2013 Free Agent Pitchers

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    This pitching class is stacked. Pitchers like Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and James Shields will likely not hit free agency due to their team options but Cole Hamels, Matt Cain and Zack Greinke will all get contracts close to $100 million. Mariano Rivera will either re-sign with the Yankees or retire, which leaves Jose Valverde as the top reliever. Valverde, Adams, League and Rodriguez should all get multi-year deals.

    Questions to Consider:

    • Will the New York Yankees grab a starting pitcher and improve their rotation yet again or are they really set on a $189 million payroll?
    • Will the best closer of all time and the best pitcher of our generation in Mariano Rivera hang up the cleats or re-sign with the Yankees?
    • Will Scott Boras get Ryan Madson a multi-year deal after the one-year "pillow contract" with the Cincinnati Reds?

    Potential $100 Million Deals:
    Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Zack Greinke

    Starters Relievers
    Cole Hamels Mariano Rivera
    Matt Cain Jose Valverde
    Zack Greinke Brandon League
    Dan Haren* Mike Adams
    Ervin Santana* Joakim Soria*
    Anibal Sanchez Jeremy Affeldt
    James Shields* Ryan Madson*
    Brandon McCarthy Brian Fuentes*
    Francisco Liriano Juan Oviedo
    Shaun Marcum Francisco Rodriguez
    Hiroki Kuroda Huston Street*

Notable 2013-2014 Free Agent Position Players

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    This class is very strong at almost every positon. This class is not just full of superstars, it is incredibly deep and teams looking for bargains will be very happy.

    Arguably two of the three best third basemen, Ryan Zimmerman and David Wright, will be free agents this offseason. Third base is a very top heavy position and teams will be lining up waiting to sign one of the few elite players at that position in the majors.

    Questions to Consider:

    • How much will two of Scott Boras' clients get? Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury will likely re-sign with their current teams but how much will it cost to re-sign the two superstars?
    • Is this really it for Joey Votto in Cincinnati?
    • Will the New York Mets let David Wright walk like Jose Reyes, will he re-sign with the team or will they trade him for a couple top prospects?
    • Will Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP, get a big deal or will his injury issues scare teams off?
    • Will Mark Reynolds get a big payday because of his massive power or will his low batting average, poor defense and high strikeout rate keep the price down?

    Potential $100 Million Deals:
    Brian McCann, Joey Votto, Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, David Wright, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Hunter Pence, Evan Longoria*

    Catcher First Base Second Base Shortstop Third Base Outfield
    Brian McCann Joey Votto Robinson Cano Asdrubal Cabrera Evan Longoria* Jacoby Ellsbury
    Geovany Soto Justin Morneau Ian Kinsler Stephen Drew Mark Reynolds Curtis Granderson
      Paul Konerko Ben Zobrist* Yuniel Escobar* Michael Young Adam Jones
      Michael Morse Brian Roberts Rafael Furcal Chipper Jones Alex Gordon
      Aubrey Huff Martin Prado Jhonny Peralta David Wright Shin Soo Choo
      Travis Hafner
    Chase Utley Derek Jeter* Placido Polanco Nelson Cruz
            Kevin Youkilis Corey Hart
            Ty Wiggington Carlos Beltran
            Ryan Zimmerman Hunter Pence
              Chris Young*

Notable 2013-2014 Free Agent Pitchers

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    Teams looking for starting pitching will love this class. Yes, Tim Lincecum and Adam Wainwright lead the way and will command huge deals, but there are other good pitchers. Any team looking for a veteran can sign Dan Haren, Tim Hudson or Chris Carpenter. There are also a few high-risk high-reward young pitching talent that will be cheaper than they appear due to injuries, such as Josh Johnson and Jair Jurrjens.

    Any team looking to sure of the bullpen is not as lucky but there are some good pieces, such as Eric O'Flaherty, who had the lowest ERA in the majors in 2011.

    Questions to Consider:

    • Will the Angels lose two of their four best starting pitchers?
    • Will "The Freak" remain in San Francisco, who seem disinclined to give him a long-term deal, or will he take a bigger contract and leave town? Will fan favorite Brian Wilson stay in San Francisco or will he be too expensive for a closer?
    • Will the Miami Marlins be contenders by this time and re-sign Josh Johnson or will their huge spending lead to disappointment and Josh Johnson walking away?
    • Will Jair Jurrjens' knee issue scare away teams or will his ace potential get a team to shell out a big deal for him?

    Potential $100 Million Deals:
    Tim Lincecum, Adam Wainwright

    Starters Relievers
    Tim Lincecum Eric O'Flaherty
    Adam Wainwright Ryan Madson
    Dan Haren Joakim Soria
    James Shields* Joaquin Benoit
    Brandon Morrow Rafael Soriano
    Ervin Santana Carlos Marmol
    Matt Garza JJ Putz
    Chris Carpenter Javier Lopez
    Tim Hudson Brian Wilson
    Jair Jurrjens
    Josh Johnson  
    Ryan Vogelsong  
    Roy Halladay*  
    Johan Santana*  
    Jon Lester*  

Notable 2014-2015 Free Agent Position Players

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    This is probably the weakest positional class I have seen in years. Victor Martinez will be a full-time DH, there is not much talent at first base and outfield, which is normally a strong position, has nobody worth a long-term deal.

    Shortstop and third base has some nice names, but there are no real superstars in this list.

    Questions to Consider:

    • Will Hanley Ramirez leave Miami to become a shortstop somewhere else or will he enjoy playing next to Jose Reyes and re-sign?
    • Will the San Francisco Giants be able to re-sign Pablo Sandoval knowing Buster Posey will be hitting the open market soon?
    • Will Derek Jeter retire or will he be looking to sign a new deal with the New York Yankees?
    • Will Brett Gardner get a big deal because of his defense and speed or will he lose his speed with age?
    • Will Billy Butler leave Kansas City or will he stay due to the massive amounts of young talent in their farm system and on their major league club?

    Potential $100 Million Deals:
    Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Evan Longoria*, Dustin Pedroia*

    Catcher First Base Second Base Shortstop Third Base Outfield
    Victor Martinez Billy Butler Dustin Pedroia* Jimmy Rollins* Pablo Sandoval Colby Rasmus
      Adam Dunn Ben Zobrist* JJ Hardy Hanley Ramirez Nick Markakis
        Rickie Weeks* Elvis Andrus Evan Longoria* Brett Gardner
          Yuniel Escobar* Aramis Ramirez* Alfonso Soriano
          Derek Jeter Ian Stewart Seth Smith
    Chase Headley Franklin Gutierrez
    Michael Cuddyer
              Jason Bay

Notable 2014-2015 Free Agent Pitchers

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    This would be the best starting pitching class of all time, too bad some of these players will sign extensions. Arguably the four best pitchers in the majors—Verlander, Kershaw, Halladay and Hernandez—are in this class.

    The relief pitchers are few and far between but the ones that are there are all above average closers.

    Questions to Consider:

    • Will the New York Yankees finally get their man in Felix Hernandez, or will they go after the younger Clayton Kershaw barring a very likely extension once the Los Angeles Dodgers get a new owner?
    • Will Roy Halladay still be an elite pitcher at 37-years-old and get a multi-year deal or will he just be an expensive one-year deal for a team waiting for a long term answer?
    • Will Justin Verlander be a Detroit Tiger for life?
    • Will Justin Masterson reach his potential and become an ace? Will he follow CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee's lead by leaving Cleveland or will he stay?
    • Will the Milwaukee Brewers lose Yovani Gallardo after losing Prince Fielder and possibly Zack Greinke?

    Potential $100 Million Deals:
    Clayton Kerhsaw, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Justin Masterson

    Starters Relievers
    Clayton Kerhsaw Heath Bell*
    Roy Halladay Jason Motte
    Felix Hernandez David Robertson
    Justin Verlander Joe Nathan
    Johan Santana Chris Perez
    Johnny Cueto*  
    James Shields  
    Josh Beckett  
    Yovani Gallardo  
    Jon Lester  
    Luke Hochevar  
    Justin Masterson  
    John Lackey