Tag Archives: Jacoby Ellsbury

2014 AL East Preview

By: Jon

The AL East is definitively the best division in baseball since they have the current champions, the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Orioles, and Blue Jays. The East has a legitimate threat of possessing three of the five playoff teams in the AL. Besides the Blue Jays, who still have a possibility of finishing over .500, the other four teams have a great chance of winning the division.

 

1) New York Yankees

The Yankees want to win one more before the Captain retires
The Yankees want to win one more before the Captain retires

The Yankees regained the title as the most expensive team in baseball after they spent nearly $500 million on free agents this offseason. The Yankees will be starting a completely new club from last season as only one player, Brett Gardner, will be starting Opening Day this and last season. The Yankees have a lot of talent, but they have many questions that may lead to their demise. Although the Yankees outfield should be the catalyst of team with Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, and Jacoby Ellsbury, the infield has many questions because the players, Kelly Johnson, Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts, and Mark Teixeira, are all coming off  injury and have questions about their age. If the Yankees stay healthy, they should be one of the best teams in baseball and will contend for a championship.

On offense, the Yankees have speed, power, and high batting averages. The middle of the order, McCann, Tex, Soriano, and Beltran, should record a good deal of RBIs since they will have many opportunities to drive in runs. Jacoby Ellsbury, Derek Jeter, and Brett Garnder have shown that they have the ability to get on base, steal bases, and score runs at a very high level. In terms of defense, the team should be one of the best in the league, especially in the outfield. Jacoby and Brett are two of the fastest outfielders in the league and should be able to easily cover every ball in the outfield. Although he is old, Beltran is an above average outfielder with a great arm and instincts. On the infield, the return of Tex will be great since he is a premier fielder and prevents errors with his ability to scoop throws. Although Jeter or Roberts do not have great range, they are steady players and will not make many errors in the field.

On the pitching staff, the Yanks have some questions as well. If Tanaka, Nova, and Pineda can continue their success from Spring Training, the team will have a great pitching staff with each player has a lot of talent. Although CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda have experienced poor spring trainings and did not have a good finish to last season, the Yankees need them to return to their old form. The Yankees have a few quality options, Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, and David Phelps, if injuries hamper their starting five. Unlike past seasons, the Yanks are not expected to have a good bullpen. The Yanks must answer a few questions if they are going win games with their bullpen like they have in the past. The Yankees need to replace the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, an eighth inning pitcher to replace David Robertson, and a lefty specialist to replace Boone Logan. If the Yankees’ starters fail to get injured, they can use their extra starting pitchers or prospects to man the positions. Although the Yankees have many questions, they have a lot of talent and expectations that their fans hope they can meet this season.

Predicted Yankees Record: 95-67

2) Boston Red Sox

The Sox are hoping to repeat this season
The Sox are hoping to repeat this season

The Red Sox are the defending champion and many believe that they have a great chance of winning the division and repeating as champions. The Red Sox are currently ranked second on this list because they lost a few good players to free agency that must be replaced. The biggest loss the Red Sox endured was Jacoby Ellsbury, who went to the hated New York Yankees for $153 million. Although Jacoby was occassionally injured, he was a great table setter for the Red Sox and was a lock for at least 90 runs a season. The Red Sox are hoping that Jackie Bradley Jr will be able to succeed at the major league level, although he was unable to hit in the majors at the start of last season. Bradley, although an above average defender, will not be able to replace Ellsbury’s defense because he does not have the speed. At shortstop, the Red Sox will have to replace the production from Stephen Drew. Drew was a solid option for the Red Sox because he was a good defensive player and could hit well for a shortstop. The Red Sox hope that top prospect Xander Bogearts will be able to turn his potential into production and replace the void left by Drew. Xander got his first taste of major league experience last season in the playoffs and regular season.

Besides those losses, the Red Sox kept the same team as last year. On offense, the Red Sox have a lot of good sluggers, Ortiz, Pedroia, and Napoli, and other quality hitters, which gives them a balanced offensive attack. The Red Sox have at least five or six players that can hit over .300 this season. Last season, they had three players hit over .300 and five that hit over .294. Like last season, they should rank as one of the best run scoring teams in the league.

In terms of pitching, the Red Sox have a deep rotation even though they do not possess a dominant ace. The combination of Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Felix Doubront, and Clay Buchholz should give the Red Sox an above average staff as long as they do not have to deal with injuries. If the Red Sox do face injuries, they may have serious issues because they do not have many long men/spot starters on their roster. The Red Sox have a very good farm system with good pitching prospects, but it is unknown if they want to hurry these prospects to the bigs. In the bullpen, the Red Sox have one of the best in the league. If Uehara can give the Red Sox similar numbers to last season, they will be in great shape because they have solid lefties and power arms out of the bullpen. The Red Sox should be a 90 win team and compete with the Yankees and other AL East teams for the division and the Pennant.

Predicted Red Sox Record: 94-68

3) Tampa Bay Rays

The pitching could lead the Rays to the playoff
The pitching could lead the Rays to the playoffs

The Rays have been steady winners over the last five seasons. Before their nice run, the Rays were one of the worst teams in baseball and never made the playoffs. Previously, they would always receive high picks in the draft, which enabled them to build a core and achieve success. Although the Rays have lost stars over the past few seasons, they have a deep farm system to replace their stars with stud prospects.

Although the Rays normally win with their pitching and defense, the Rays offense has improved drastically and should be a strength this season. The middle of the order will be led by Evan Longoria, Wil Myers, James Loney, and Matt Joyce. These power hitters should easily be able to drive in a lot of runs since Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings, and possibly star shortstop prospect, Lee, are all good table setters and have the ability to reach base. The Rays should continue playing great defense because Longoria, Myers, Escobar, Loney, and Desmond are excellent defenders and do not commit many errors.

Although the offense is improving, the pitching is the best part of the team. The staff is led by former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price. Along with Price, the Rays have Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Jeremy Hellickson, Chris Archer, and possibly Jake Odorizzi. Besides Hellickson, each starter had an ERA below 3.50. The Rays’ pitching staff should continue stopping opposing offenses and lead the Rays to the playoff as long as Price stays in the rotation. Since Price has achieved a lot of success, the Rays are looking to trade him since it is unlikely they will be able to re-sign him next offseason. Although the Rays would receive a King’s Ransom for Price, the players will not be able to immediately help the Rays, if they trade him at the trade deadline. Like many prior seasons, the Rays’ bullpen is different from last season and has many questions. The Rays have signed a few relievers that are coming off bad seasons and were able to sign them at a bargain. The Rays will rely heavily on Grant Balfour, Heath Bell, Joel Peralta, and lefty flamethrower Jake McGee. Each reliever has experienced success in the past and the Rays hope they can catch lightning in a bottle once again.

The Rays were able to win 92 games last season despite them starting slowly because of poor pitching. However, this season, the pitching should not let the Rays down at the start of the season and should enable them to win over 90 games again this season. The AL East should have a great fight at the top since each of the three aforementioned teams has the ability to win 95 games. The Rays do not have as much depth or offensive talent as the Red Sox and Yanks, so it is unlikely they will beat them during the regular season.

Predicted Rays Record: 92-70

4) Baltimore Orioles

The O's need Crush Davis to have another great season in order to succeed
The O’s need Crush Davis to have another great season in order to succeed

Unlike previous seasons, the Orioles spent a lot of money this offseason to improve their team. Last season, the Orioles won 85 games, but still finished 6.5 games out of the wild card race. The Orioles possessed one of the best and most explosive lineups in the league a season ago. The Orioles are led by the middle of their order, which includes stars Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and JJ Hardy. Although the lineup was already deep, they signed power hitting outfielder, Nelson Cruz, to a one year deal. Also, the Orioles will be returning Manny Machado from a serious knee injury, which will bolster the squad. In terms of defense, the Orioles have a solid defense because Jones, Hardy, Wieters, and Machado are great fielders and man the most important defensive positions.

Although the Orioles’ offense and defense is very good, the pitching could pose problems for the Orioles as they attempt to make the playoffs. The Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez this offseason and are hoping that he returns to his Rockies’ second half form. The Orioles do not have an ace, but have multiple quality pitchers. The Orioles’ staff, Jimenez, Tillman, Norris, Gausman, and Chen, is deep and should be able to win games against the back of opposing teams’ staff. If the Orioles do experience injuries, they have multiple options that will allow them to continue winning. In the bullpen, the Orioles have multiple weapons that can throw hard and strike out opposing hitters late in games. Although the O’s dumped former closer Jim Johnson, they will be replacing him with Tommy Hunter. Hunter throws extremely hard and has been able to pitch well over the past few seasons as an eighth inning pitcher. Along with hard throwing from the right side, Brian Matusz is a lefty specialist that pitches in the mid to high nineties and has improved over the past few seasons.

Although the Orioles improved their team this offseason, the other teams in this division have improved as well, so it is unlikely they will noticeably improve their win total from last season.

Predicted Orioles Record: 85-77

5) Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays hope they can avoid the East cellar
The Jays hope they can avoid the East cellar

The Blue Jays entered last season as one of the best teams on paper and many thought they would be one of the best teams in the league. However, the Jays did not meet expectations as they suffered many injuries and their players did not play to previous standards.

Like the other American League East teams, the Blue Jays have a threatening lineup. On the infield, the Blue Jays have Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, and Maicer Izturius. In the outfield, the Blue Jays will be led by Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, and Colby Rasmus. The Blue Jays have one of the best 3-4 hitting duos in the league because Bautista is one of the best power hitters and Encaracion has turned into one of the better hitters after a sluggish start to his career. At the top of the order, the Blue Jays will have Reyes and Cabrera at the one-two positions as they both have great speed and the ability to reach base at a very high percentage. If the duo can stay healthy, they will score a lot of runs and help the Blue Jays score runs because Bautista and Encarnacion should both be able to record at least 100 RBIs. Although the Jays have the potential for a great offense, their defense does not have the same ability.

In terms of pitching, the Blue Jays have many questions in their rotation, which negatively separates them from the rest of the teams. Although the Blue Jays gave up two very good prospects to the Mets, they did not receive great production from RA Dickey last season. Although Dickey should be able to achieve more success this season because he is now healthy, it is unknown if he can return to his Cy Young form. After Dickey, the Jays have Brandon Marrow, Mark Buehrle, JA Happ, and Esmil Rogers in the rotation. Mark Buehrle and Esmil Rogers are steady pitchers and should provide the Blue Jays with consistent quality outings. Although Marrow and Happ have great talent and have shown they can produce at the major league level, they are consistently injured and cannot pitch at their full potential. If the duo can remain healthy, the Blue Jays can compete in the East and win about 85 to 90 games.

Although the Jays may have the worst starting rotation in the division, it is likely they have the best bullpen. The back of the Jays bullpen is very solid with Sergio Santos as the closer and Steve Delbar and Brett Cecil as the set up men. Last year, Cecil and Delbar had great seasons and made the All-Star team. If the Jays can maintain a lead into the 7th inning, they will have a great chance of winning games and competing for the last Wild Card spot. Unless the Jays have a few surprises in the rotation, it is unlikely they will win more than 80 games in the difficult AL East.

Predicted Blue Jays Record: 78-84

 

Pics and stats from ESPN.com

Analyzing and Grading the Free Agent Moves in the MLB before the GM Meetings

By: Jon

Free Agent Signings:

1) Robinson Cano

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10 yr – 240M with the Mariners

Although Cano did not receive the largest contract in MLB history, like he originally wanted, he achieved the third largest contract in history and the largest for a second baseman. Although Cano is one of the ten best players in the league, the Mariners drastically overpaid for his services. Unlike other players who have reached ten year deals, Rodrgiuez and Pujols, Cano has never won an MVP, cannot carry a team through the playoffs, draw fans into the stadium, or manufacture money for his team. In the recent past, many people did not believe that another player would receive another 10 year 200+M deal in free agent because of the past results. Since Rodriguez, Pujols, and Cano have signed similar deals, they should be compared. Unfortunately for the Mariners, they hope that Cano does not have the problems with age. As seen in Anaheim and New York, the two albatrosses are the worst contracts in baseball because the players are not performing like their franchises originally believed when they signed their contracts. While Cano may continue his success for the first three or four years of the contract, the Mariners will be disappointed by the final 6 years of the deal. Unless Cano can draw other free agents or stars to the Mariners, the Mariners will continue to fail and not meet expectations because their offense will be horrible. In Seattle, Cano will not even be the face of the franchise and his future stats should decline because of the stadium and the bad lineup behind him. Instead of filing one hole, the Mariners should have signed multiple players with the $240M they gave to Cano.

Grade: B-

2) Jacoby Ellsbury

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7 yr – 153M with the Yankees

The 30 year old free agent signed the third largest deal for an outfielder, this offseason. While Jacoby Ellsubry is a quality All-Star player, many people believe that the Yankees overpaid by $30 million. The major question about Jacoby Ellsbury regards around his ability to stay healthy and remain on the field. When healthy, Ellsbury is one of the best lead off hitters in the league and has the ability to manufacture runs for the club. Fortunately for the Yankees, Ellsbury should be able to rejuvenate his power production because of the short porch in right field. If Ellsbury can average 20 home runs and 30-40 steals for the first 5 years of the deal, the contract will be deemed as a success for the Yankees. Along with providing speed to the slow Yankees, Ellsbury plays great defense and has the ability to hit .300 while recording 100+ runs. Unfortunately for the Yankees, the deal that most relates to Ellsbury’s deal is Carl Crawford. While Carl played horribly for the first two years of the contract, the last season has been an improvement because he has remained healthy for the past season. If the Yankees can manage Ellsbury and limit his number of steals, Ellsbury should be able to remain a star for most of the length of the contract. If the Yankees can trade Gardner, a lesser version of Ellsbury, for a mid level pitcher, the Yankees should be happy with this deal and look forward to his success.

Grade: A-/B+

3) Ricky Nolasco

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4 yr – 49M with the Twins

For the first time in Twins’ history, the franchise has spent more than 21M on a player in free agency. While Nolasco is a quality pitcher, he would have been able to net nearly $50 without the abundance of TV money that is entering the sport. As seen with many of deals this offseason, the additional money has been given to the players. Last season, Nolasco had the second best season of his career, 13 wins, 3.70 ERA, and 165K. Nolasco became a prominent free agent this offseason because of the success he encountered with the Dodgers, during the playoffs and the stretch run. While Nolasco’s ERA has ranged from 5.06 to 3.52, he has been able to pitch around 200 innings for the past six years with the Dodgers and the Marlins. The Achilles heel of Nolasco over the past few seasons has been allowing home runs. During his worst seasons, Nolasco allowed nearly 25 home runs per season. During the latter half of last season, Nolasco gave up only 6 home runs while recording a 3.52 ERA. In Minnesota, Nolasco’s home run numbers should decline, which will allow him to decrease his ERA and legitimatize his new deal. If Ricky can continue his success in Minnesota, the Twins should be able to improve their horrible pitching staff and make a run out of the NL Central dweller. While other pitcher may net close to $80 million, the deal for Nolasco will look better.

Grade: B+

4) Brian McCann

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5 yr – 85M with the Yankees

The former All-Star and Atlanta Braves has signed the second largest deal for a catcher in Major League Baseball history. McCann has been one of the best power hitting catchers over the past few seasons. Over the past six seasons, McCann has hit over 20 home runs per season, has played above average defense at catcher, and has been voted to seven All-Star games. In New York, McCann should be able to hit 25-30 home runs because of the short porch in right. McCann is has shown in the past that he is great at pulling the ball with power, which fits greatly with the Yankees. Unlike most free agents, McCann is still in the prime of his career and should be able to provide at least 4-5 quality years with the Yankees. Over the next 3-4 seasons, McCann should be able to play catcher at a high level. The Yankees desperately needed a catcher this offseason because they have not had an All-Star level catcher since Jorge Posada. When the Yankees are at their best, they have an above average catcher that can bat in the middle of the order. If McCann cannot play catcher over the last few seasons of the deal, the Yankees should be able to move him to first base or DH, which will allow him to play catcher for a few extra seasons. Along with providing skill at the catching performance, McCann is a great leader and should provide a voice to a locker room that has been lost, since Posada retired. In almost every level, the deal with McCann makes perfect sense.

Grade: A

5) Mike Napoli

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2 yr – 32M with the Red Sox

The beard is going to return to Red Sox for another two seasons, which should be exciting for Red Sox fans. Although Red Sox did not have the most talent last season during their championship run, they had great locker room players and many of the players were clutch down the stretch. One of the two main reasons for the Red Sox’s success is Mike Napoli. Last year, Mike Napoli rebounded because he was healthy for most of the season. Mike Napoli returned to the success he established in Texas, which allowed him to score and drive in multiple runs for the Red Sox. Along with improving offensively, Mike Napoli, surprisingly, became a quality defensive first baseman, which was underrated and under appreciated. The deal with Napoli is similar to other deals that the Red Sox signed over the past years. The Red Sox have decided to give short deals to older free agents with great personality, which has enabled the team to bond together and achieve success. Napoli is a great teammate and should help the young players that are coming through the Red Sox farm system. Over the next two seasons, Napoli will be able to fill the Red Sox first base position and provide All-Star statistics to the middle of the Red Sox order, as they attempt to repeat as champion. At $16M per season, the Red Sox are not breaking the bank for an elder player with talent.

Grade: A-

6) Curtis Granderson

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4 yr – 60M with the Mets

The power hitting outfielder will be traveling across town to the Mets and hopes to provide protection to David Wright. Before a terrible year filled with injuries, Granderson was one of the best power hitters in baseball, after two 40 home run seasons. Last season, Granderson played only 61 games because of two fluke injuries to his wrist, which demolished his whole season. The Mets desperately needed an outfielder that could hit in the middle of a playoff team. Last season, the Mets offense was horrible because they do not have much power and the outfield was especially bad after the trade of Marlon Byrd. While Granderson has sacrificed his batting average and on base percentage, his power numbers and his ability to drive in runs has been great. Over the past two seasons before his injury, Granderson has struck out 350 times. The Mets have overpaid for Granderson because they were in desperate need of a quality outfielder and he had all of the leverage. While Granderson will improve the Mets’ order and should improve the entire lineup as a whole, the Mets needed a top outfielder and a better bat than Curtis Granderson can provide. Curtis will have difficulty maintaining his home run power without the short porch in Yankee Stadium. Also, Granderson will have trouble covering the huge outfield in Citi Field over the latter half of the contract.

Grade: B

7) Jhonny Peralta

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4 yr – 53M with the Cardinals

Even though Peralta was suspended for 50 games, the Cardinals did not hesitate to give him a multiyear deal worth half of 100 million dollars. Last season, the Cardinals may have lost the WS because their shortstop position was one of the worst in MLB. The Cardinals are a large market team and have a chance to win the WS again this season. The addition of Peralta changes the Cardinals shortstop from a weakness to a strength. Although Peralta is not the best defensive shortstop, he is one of the best offensive shortstop and extends the Cardinals offense that was already one of the best in baseball. Also, Peralta was needed to replace Carlos Beltran, who left to New York, since Oscar Taveras is a rookie and an unknown in the outfield, this season. Although Peralta is not one of the top five players in the free agent class, his signing created a lot of controversy and commotion. Many people and baseball loyalist feel that he was not really punished for his use of PED. Also, many people feel that the Cardinals may have overpaid for Peralta since they are wondering if he can replicate his performance without the use of performance enhancing drug. Although it may have been an overpay, the Cardinals desperately needed a quality shortstop and feel that they are one player away from winning the WS in 2014.

Grade: B

8) Carlos Beltran

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3 yr – 45M with the Yankees

The possible Hall of Famer and one of the greatest playoff players in MLB history will be headed to the team with the greatest playoff resume. After replacing Albert Pujols in St. Louis two years ago, Beltran will counted on to replace the offense of Robinson Cano. During the past two seasons, Beltran did perform better than Pujols. Although it is unlikely that the 36 year old will play better than the 31 year old Cano, Beltran will minimize the loss of Cano because he is still a productive offensive force. If the Yankees make the playoffs this season, Yankee fans will see the difference between Carlos Beltran and Robinson Cano. Ironically both players have played in 51 playoff games and Carlos Beltran clearly has the better statistics. Beltran has a line of .333/.445/.683 with 16 home runs and 40 RBI. Cano has a slash of .222/.267/.419 with 8 home runs and 13 RBI. Although Beltran will not have the impact like Cano in the regular season, he will greatly improve the Yankees’ offense during postseason play. Beltran is a switch hitter, which will provide more options for the Yankees so they do not become a solely left handed batting team. Although Beltran can still play an effective right field, he can play DH, which will enable him to hit through the length of his contract. Although Beltran will not continue batting .290/25+HR/95+RBI throughout the three years, he should be an above average hitter or quality platoon man during the last season of the deal.

Grade: B+

9) Joe Nathan

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2 yr – 20M with the Tigers

The active leader in saves will be good pick up for the Detroit Tigers because their bullpen cost them a trip the WS. Last postseason, the starting pitching performances by the Tigers starting staff were some of the greatest performances by a team in playoff history. Although the team experienced great success at the start of games, the team lost because their bullpen was unexperienced and failed during tough situations. Joe Nathan will provide stability to the team, although he is almost done with his career. Over the last two seasons with the Texas Rangers, Nathan has saved 80 games with a 1.80 ERA and made two All-Star games. Nathan will need to replace Benoit as a closer for the Tigers. With the Tigers, Nathan should be able to replicate his statistics. Although Nathan has switched teams three times, he has consistently been success in the bullpen, which has enabled him to finish top five in the Cy Young voting twice. A contract for $10 million per season for an All-Star closer is not considered horrible or an excessive overpay. Even if the Tigers paid more for Nathan than other teams, they may be only one closer or relief player away from making or winning the WS.

Grade: A

10) Scott Feldman

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3 yr – 30M with the Astros

In the one of the biggest overpays of the offseason, the Astros signed starting pitcher Scott Feldman to a three year deal above market value. After the best season of his career, Feldman cashed in on a big deal with the lowly Astros. For the first half of last season, Feldman pitched with the Chicago Cubs and was effective for the Cubs. In 15 games with the Cubs, Feldman was 7-6 with 3.46 ERA and 67 K in 91 innings. After the trade, Feldman was not the same pitcher with Orioles in the offensive AL East. With the Orioles, Feldman had a 4.27 ERA. Before Feldman’s success in Chicago, Feldman was a below average starter with the Texas Rangers. During his years as a starter with the Rangers, he never accumulated an ERA under 4.08 and never pitched more than 190 innings Besides for his quality half season with the Cubs, Feldman has been a below average 4th or 5th starter. However, the Astros are paying Feldman as a number 3 or a very good number 4 starter. The Astros are hoping that Feldman is a pitcher that is better in the NL, without the DH. The Astros also hope that he can remember how to pitch in the NL Central and replicate his success from last season. However, it seems unlikely because Feldman is a bad pitcher and not deserving of a 30 million dollar deal.

Grade: C

Pictures and Stats from ESPN.com

 

2014 MLB Top Free Agents and Predictions

By: Jon

1) Robinson Cano

Cano is looking to be paid for his success
Cano is looking to be paid for his success

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

Jacoby Ellsbury has the speed and talent to be a 100 million dollar player
Jacoby Ellsbury has the speed and talent to be a 100 million dollar player

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's ability to reach base should make him a rich man this season
Choo’s ability to reach base should make him a rich man this season

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 phenom hopes to have the success like Yu Darvish
The Japanese phenom hopes to have the success like Yu Darvish

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

Garza hopes to be paid like a number 2 starter, although his injury history
Garza hopes to be paid like a number 2 starter, although his injury history

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

Santana wants to turn his big year into a hefty contract
Santana wants to turn his big year into a hefty contract

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

Kuroda looks like he will return with the Yanks this season
Kuroda looks like he will return with the Yanks this season

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

Burnett hopes his worse days are behind him
Burnett hopes his worse days are behind him

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 greatest postseason hitter of all time hopes to reach his second WS
The greatest postseason hitter of all time hopes to reach his second WS

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

Napoli wants to keep his beard in Bean town
Napoli wants to keep his beard in Bean town

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.