1) Robinson Cano
The top free agent this offseason is one of the best baseball players in the league, which should allow him to net one of the largest deals in MLB history. Earlier this offseason, Cano and his free agent, Jay-Z, made a request for a $310 million contract over ten years, which would make him the highest paid player in the history of baseball. However, the Yankees countered with a 7 year $160 million deal, which would make him one of the highest paid players in the league and the highest paid second baseman of all time. The 31 year old has been one of the most consistent and valuable players over the last few seasons. In the last four years, Cano has averaged 160 games per season, 195 hits, 28 home runs, .310 average, 105 RBI, and .530 slugging percentage. Cano has finished inside the top six in MVP voting the last four seasons, won five silver sluggers, earned two gold gloves, and has went to 5 All-Star Games. Although people are afraid about giving major deals to free agents past the age of 30 because of past history, Fielder, Rodriguez, Pujols, and Teixeira, Cano will be given a huge money deal by some team. During the first 3-4 years of the deal, Cano will probably play like a player that will earn $25 million per season. However, teams should be wary of giving him more than 7 years because eventually he will be unable to continue his production. Cano has been a great hitter because of his strong quick wrists, but eventually Father Time will slow his speed and diminish his results. Cano needs another team, besides the Yankees, to bid for his services, if he is going to garner a $200 million deal, like Fielder and Votto. However, it is unlikely that another team will be able to pay his contract. Teams, such as the Tigers, Mets, Mariners and Nationals, will attempt to increase the Yankees offer, but the teams do not have the resources or need to give $25+ million to one player. Before the Kinsler deal, the Tigers had a need at second base, but they will need to save money for Cabrera and Scherzer. The Nationals may be the dark horse, but it is unlikely that they will sign another 100 million dollar deal after the Jayson Werth experiment. The Mets and Mariners have already dictated that they do not want to spend a lot of money on one play, but rather buy a few players to fill their holes.
Prediction: Cano signs with Yankees for 7 years and $180 million
2) Jacoby Ellsbury
The speedy outfielder has probably played his last game for the Boston Red Sox. Ellsbury wants a big money deal and the Red Sox want to give their young stars a chance to play at the ned level. Although talented, Ellsbury will not be able to net a deal over $120 million because their are too many questions about his health. During Ellsbury 7 year career, the center fielder has played in 145 games only three times. Also many teams are wondering if his speed will deteriorate as he ages and loses his legs. However, Ellsbury has top flight agent, Scott Boras, who will sell him as a player similar to Carl Crawford, who was given a $142 million deal from the Red Sox. Ellsbury will be demand this offseason because he is one of the best lead off hitters in a league, which has a few quality lead off hitters. Also, Ellsbury has shown that he can hit for power. During his best season in 2011, Ellsbury hit 32 home runs and drove in 105 RBI. However, Ellsbury has not hit more than 10 home runs in any other season so the 2011 campaign seems like a fluke. However, Ellsbury’s stolen base numbers have been consistent during his healthy seasons. In the four seasons where he played in more than 13o games, Ellsbury has averaged 55 steals, .295 average, 8 triples, 100 runs, and .350 on base percentage. Along with his ability to hit and run, his speed enables him to become one of the best outfielders in the league. Ellsbury has the ability to cover a lot of ground, which he has shown in one of the biggest center fields in baseball. This offseason, Ellsbury will be pursued by the Mariners, Mets, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees. However, Ellsbury would best fit in Seattle. Ellsbury is originally from Seattle and has noted that he would love to play for his home town team. Also, the Mariners desperately need outfield help and some offensive fire power on the team.
Prediction: Ellsbury signs with Mariners for 6 years $105 million
3) Shin Soo Choo
Choo is another leadoff hitter that will be paid handsomely this offseason because of his ability to hit at the top of the order. After playing in Cleveland for seven seasons, Choo was traded to the Reds and had one of the best seasons of his career. Since Choo has become a regular starter midway through the 2008 season, he has been extremely durable and consistent, besides for one season. Choo has displayed the ability to bat for average as well as power from the top of the order, which is unique in today’s game. Over the past few seasons, Choo has averaged 20 home runs, .295 average, 20 steals, 75 RBI, and 95 runs. However, Choo’s biggest asset is his ability to reach base. Over the past few seasons, Choo has averaged an on base percentage of .400, which is extraordinarily high for a player, who does not strike out frequently. Choo is a versatile player that can play any position in the outfield. Choo does not have great speed, but is a smart defender and has a great arm in the outfield. Choo’s arm enables him to gun down base runners and play center and right field. During the offseason, Boras will display Choo as a player similar to Jayson Werth. Choo and Werth are similar players, but as the Nationals have realized, Werth is not worth a $126 million deal. Luckily for Choo, he expects to have a lot of interest from different teams, such as the Rangers, Yankees, Mariners, Tigers, Mets, and White Sox. Choo will probably end up with the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have recently traded for Prince Fielder and want to win in the American League. Also, the Rangers must replace the production of Nelson Cruz, who is leaving this offseason in free agency. Choo will fit nicely into the number one hole for the Rangers because they just traded their lead off hitter, Ian Kinsler, to the Tigers for Prince Fielder. Choo’s ability to reach base will give Fielder and Beltre more opportunities to collect RBI. Although other teams will make a run at Choo, Texas is willing to spend a lot of money for his services and will probably out bid the other competitors
Prediction: Choo signs with Rangers for 6 year $100 million
4) Masahiro Tanaka
The Japanese superstar and ace has received a lot of hype this offseason because of his past success. Over the past few seasons, Tanaka has risen in the ranks in Japan because of his recent success and progression. Last season, Tanaka had one of the best seasons in Japanese history. Last season, Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeouts. Many believe that Tanaka is one of the best Japanese pitchers in history and feel that his stuff will translate to success in Major League Baseball. Tanaka’s stock has risen because of the success to Yu Darvish. Although Tanaka does not have the stuff and talent like Darvish, Tanaka should be a possible number one or a very good number two in a pitching staff. Tanaka has success because he has a good fastball, slider, and splitter. The closest MLB resemblance to Tanaka is Hiroki Kuroda. Besides for their Japanese decent, they both love to throw fastballs, sliders, and splitters. The Japanese pitchers have experienced success recently because they are one of the few pitchers that throw splitters and sliders. Tanaka is similar to Kuroda because they both throw in the low to mid 90s with their fastballs and occasionally throw into the high 90s. This offseason, Major League teams must pay a posting fee before talking with Tanaka. Many believe that the posting fee for Tanaka could reach $75 million, but it will probably be closer to $65 million. Since the posting fee does not affect a team’s luxury tax situation, teams, such as the Yankees and Dodgers, will be more encouraged to pay for Tanaka’s posting privileges. After paying the posting fee, teams must pay Tanaka’s contract, which will be around $50-60 million. Since the fee will cost around $120-130 million, Tanaka’s services will be limited to the big market clubs. Since most of Tanaka’s money will not count against the luxury tax, the Yankees will sign Tanaka. The Yankees are desperate for top end young pitching and Tanaka will fill these needs for the Yankees. After the Haren signing, the Dodgers have six starting pitchers and will be reluctant to sign another expensive starting pitcher.
Prediction: Tanaka signs with the Yankees for 4 years $60 million with a posting price of $70 million
5) Matt Garza
The free agent right hander is in line for a big pay day this offseason. Most people believe that Garza is the best American pitcher in free agency because of his past success a few seasons ago. When healthy, Garza has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball. Although Garza is not a number one or two on a championship team, he can be a reliable number three. Since his first full season in 2008, Garza has not pitched over a 4.00 ERA and was an innings eater during his healthy seasons. During the middle of his career with the Rays and first year with the Cubs, Garza average 200 innings, 175 strikeout, and 3.70 ERA. However, the past two seasons have been a nightmare for Garza because of his injury history. If Garza did not have an injury history, he probably could command a contract, like the AJ Burnett and Anibal Sanchez deal. However, teams will be wary, which will take years and money off of his contract. Also, American League teams may worry because of trouble he experienced with the Rangers during the latter part of last season, 4.37 ERA. This offseason, Garza will attempt to earn a deal similar to Anibal Sanchez, but it is unlikely that he will obtain success. Although Garza will not have the same contract, he should attract a lot of suitors this offseason, especially if Tanaka cannot come to America. Teams, such as the Royals, Astros, Phillies, Blue Jays, Twins, Nationals, and Yankees, will be competing for his services. However, the Blue Jays are probably most likely to land the right hander. Garza was originally a Twin before he was traded to the Rays and has shown a desire to return to the AL East. Also, the Blue Jays have stated that they would like to sign a big name free agent pitcher because their pitching was atrocious last season. Although the AL East is a difficult division to pitch in, Garza has achieved success with the Rays and has the confidence to succeed once again. Garza will probably sign a contract for around 75-80 million dollars over 5-6 seasons. Also, Garza is not connect to a draft pick so the team that signs him will not have to lose a pick
Prediction: Garza signs with the Blue Jays for 5 years $75 million
6) Ervin Santana
The 30 year old right hander is coming off the best season of his career and will be paid handsomely because of his success. Although Santana did not post a winning season, he recorded an outstanding 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 211 innings, and 161 strikeouts. Santana is similar to Garza because they both have the ability to pitch 200+ effective innings, but are occasionally injured or ineffective. Like Garza, Santana projects to be a number three on a playoff team or a number two on an average team. Over his career, Santana’s biggest asset has been his ability to log innings. In four of his last six seasons, Santana has pitched over 210 innings with an ERA under 4.oo and a WHIP under 1.33, which are quality numbers. However, in the other two seasons Santana was absolutely awful, allowing an ERA of over 5.00 and pitching under 180 innings. If Santana can translate his success from this season to his new club, his club will be receiving a steal. Like Garza, Santana will be attempting to receive a $100 million deal, but it is unlikely that he will obtain that figure. The teams, Yankees, Marlins, Phillies, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Astros, and Nationals that are going after Garza will be looking at Santana as well because of the strikingly close similarities. However, the Nationals will probably be the winners of the Santana sweepstakes. After winning the NL East two seasons ago, the Nationals had a horrible season because they could not hit or pitch well enough to win games. However, they have the finances and desire to make the playoffs again this season. The addition of Santana will relieve some of the pressure on Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, who moderately underperformed last year. Santana should be able to net a deal close to Garza and Sanchez.
Prediction: Santana signs the Nationals for 5 years and $82.5 million
7) Hiroki Kuroda
The veteran right handed pitcher has been the best pitcher for the Yankees over the past two seasons. The 38 year old Japanese pitcher has been more than the Yankees could have expected, when he signed with them two seasons ago. Over the past two seasons, Kuroda has averaged a 3.32 ERA, 210 innings, 1.16 WHIP, and 160 strikeouts. Although Kuroda has been consistent and very good, he did not pitch well toward the end of last season. Unfortunately, Kuroda may have a dead arm, which could affect his performance this season. Although it is uncertain if Kuroda will re-sign with the Yankees or retire from MLB, it has been reported that Kuroda is leaning toward returning for another season in pinstripes. If the Yankees are able to monitor his innings closer, Kuroda should have the arm strength to pitch consistently and effectively for the entire season. Kuroda is a ground ball pitcher with a good fastball and slider combination. Even during his troubles, Kuroda was able to pitch in the low to mid 90s with his fastball. The Yankees will attempt to sign Kuroda by offering a large one year contract, similar to the last two seasons. Kuroda will be asking for about $18-20 million, but it is unlikely that the Yankees will oblige because of the struggles he experienced toward the end of the season. However, Kuroda may have some leverage because the Yankees are desperate for starting pitching. Currently the Yankees have only two starting pitchers, but CC and Ivan Nova both have questions that must be answered, if the Yankees are going to return to the playoffs. Eventually Kuroda will probably re-sign with the Yankees for a one year deal around $15-18 million. Besides the Yankees, it is unlikely that Kuroda will pitch for another MLB team because he has expressed discontent in moving. If their is a dark horse for Kuroda, it will be the Angels because he has pitched in California and they have the money to spend on starting pitching, which they desperately desire.
Prediction: Kuroda signs with the Yankees for 1 year $17 million
8) AJ Burnett
After three disastrous years with the Yankees, Burnett was traded to the Pirates and has experienced great success over the last two seasons. The 15 year veteran has been able to resurrect his career in Pittsburgh, which will enable him to score a good deal. Over the past two seasons, Burnett has been the ace of the staff, recorded averaged a 3.40 ERA, 195 innings, 200 strikeouts, and 1.22 WHIP. Even though he was unable to pitch in the media intense environment of New York, the small media market of Pittsburgh was great for Burnett’s mental health and confidence. Although the Pirates would love to re-sign Burnett this offseason, he has expressed interest in retiring. However, it seems unlikely that the Pirates will be unable to convince Burnett to return because of the money they can offer him. Also, the Bucs have a good chance at having another good season. The Pirates need Burnett because of the leadership and innings that he can provide for a young pitching staff. The Bucs will be putting young players into their rotation and the young players will have innings limits. Burnett seems very content with Pittsburgh, but a few dark horse teams that may attempt to sign Burnett are the Astros, Royals, or Brewers. However, Burnett will ultimately re-sign with the Bucs and lead their young, talented staff. If Burnett wants to sign a long term deal, he could probably get a 3 year 40 million dollar deal, but he probably wants to take it one or two seasons at a time until he retires.
Prediction: Burnett signs with Pirates for 2 years and $30 million
9) Carlos Beltran
The veteran free agent is likely to join his sixth team of his career. Over his career, Beltran has been one of the best players of his generation and has chance of making the Hall of Fame. Although Beltran has never won a World Series championship, he is arguably the best postseason hitter of all time because he has hit for power and a high average. Although he is known for his postseason success, Beltran is still playing at an All-Star level in the outfielder. Over the past two seasons with the Cardinals, Beltran has averaged .285 average, 81 Runs, 28 Home Runs, 90 RBI, and .493 slugging percentage. Even though Beltran is 36, he still has the ability to play quality defense in right field. Although Beltran can still play the outfield, it would behoove him and his future team, if he goes to the American League and plays some DH. The DH could save Beltran’s legs and enable him to continue hitting for a few more seasons at a high level. Although it is unlikely, Beltran has been asking teams for a four year deal, which would allow him to play until he is forty years old. However, recent reporters have reported that teams are only willing to offer Beltran a two year deal. Currently, teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Royals, Rangers, Orioles, Pirates, and Cardinals, are bidding for his services. However, it is most likely that the Yankees will be signing Beltran this offseason. The Yankees have made Beltran their number one priority, since they are waiting on Cano and Tanaka. The Yankees need another outfielder/DH and Beltran would definitely fit the mold. Also, Beltran has the ability to hit in the postseason, which would make him an instant favorite among Yankee fans. Beltran has stated that he would like o play with the Yankees.
Prediction: Beltran signs with Yankees for 2 years and $33 million
10) Mike Napoli
The power hitting first baseman was a great addition for the Red Sox, last season. If the Red Sox did not find Napoli’s medical problems, he would have signed a 3 year $39 million deal, during the past offseason. Instead, Napoli signed a one year five million dollar deal, which was an absolute bargain for the Sox. Although Napoli has posted quality numbers, he has missed a lot of games during every season of his career. Napoli has played over 115 games only twice in his career, but has recorded over 20 home runs for the past six seasons. Although Napoli is a good power hitter, he does not hit for average. Besides for his 2011 season where he hit .320, Napoli has never hit over .273 in a season. Last season, Napoli posted his second best season of his career, which should enable him to net a multiyear deal this offseason. Napoli hit .259, 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 79 runs, and .360 on base percentage. Although Napoli does not play great defenses, he is a clutch player and racked up numerous big hits while leading the Red Sox to the World Series title. However, last season, Napoli had his best defensive campaign of his career at first base. This offseason, Napoli will be wanting a deal similar to the deal he received last season, before failing the physical. Besides the Red Sox, the Orioles, Royals, Rangers, Mariners, and Twins have expressed interest in Napoli because of the offense he can provide to a team. However, it is likely that Napoli will remain with the Red Sox because he fits their needs. Since the Red Sox will be losing Jacoby Ellsbury, they need to find and retain offense, in order to repeat next season. Napoli’s right handed bat is perfect for Fenway Park, so they should be able to repeat his numbers from last season. Others will try to pry Napoli, but he loved his season with the Red Sox and his beard will perfectly with the other players.
Prediction: Napoli signs with the Red Sox for 3 years and $45 million
Info from MLBtraderumor, mlbbaseballreference, and espn.