2006 Top 50 Free Agents Rumors

Rangers Designate Jeff Beliveau For Assignment

The Rangers designated lefty Jeff Beliveau for assignment to open a 40-man roster spot for newly-acquired catcher Robinson Chirinos, according to a team press release.  The Rangers had claimed Beliveau off waivers from the Cubs in December.

Beliveau, 26, posted a 3.89 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, and 0.82 HR/9 in 44 relief innings for the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate last year, making his big league debut in July.

Ethier Likely Headed To Arbitration

According to Tony Jackson of the Los Angeles Daily News, "it now appears that an arbitration hearing is all but inevitable for Andre Ethier."

Ethier’s hearing is currently scheduled for Tuesday, February 17.  He requested $3.75MM and the Dodgers countered with a $2.65MM bid back when figures were due.  Jackson notes that the Dodgers have won their last two arbitration cases, with Eric Gagne in 2004 and Joe Beimel in 2007.

Heyman’s Latest: Furcal, Sabathia, K-Rod

Jon Heyman has a few new posts on his Fan-Nation blog:

  • Heyman thinks its peculiar that Rafael Furcal passed up his last offer of 4 years, $35-40MM, especially while the shortstop market is thinning out. The Giants signed Edgar Renteria. The Cubs want a lefty-bat. The Braves need to deal Yunel Escobar before they’ll be interested in Furcal. Again, Buster Olney noted today that Furcal was asking 4 years, $52MM.
  • Can the Giants afford CC Sabathia? They’ve already signed Renteria, Jeremy Affeldt, and Bobby Howry. And he would be the team’s second $100MM contract having already made the mistake of overpaying Barry Zito. They admit they need a bat more than another arm. And while Sabathia would like to play in San Francisco, would he like to make less than Zito’s $18MM on the same team?
  • No surprise that Francisco Rodriguez is sitting atop the Mets closer wish-list. According to Heyman, he’s followed by Brian Fuentes, Kerry Wood, and then a combination of Trevor Hoffman and Huston Street, who would need to be dealt from the Rockies. Heyman doesn’t complete the list beyond those 4 options and notes that the Hoffman/Street option is a popular idea in the organization. For K-Rod, 3-4 years would be the Mets threshold.

Olney’s Latest: Sexson, Ibanez, Ortiz

Buster Olney’s blog post is overloaded with rumors today. Here’s a rundown:

  • Olney’s Speculation: Will the Red Sox will express interest in Khalil Greene with Julio Lugo on the DL for 4-6 weeks? Olney also wonders if the Dodgers will seek Huston Street if Takashi Saito is seriously hurt.
  • Scout Speculation:  Huston Street and Matt Murton to the Rays for prospects? 
  • Bobby Kielty was granted release by the Red Sox.
  • Richie Sexson could decide where to go based on greatest offered playing time.  I’d say that’s expected for a veteran starter.
  • Olney says that requests for Max Scherzer are keeping the Dbacks from making any moves, such as for Raul Ibanez.
  • David Ortiz is slated to return to the lineup on July 25th, which leaves the Red Sox less than a week to evaluate him and make a move if necessary.  Olney details some options:
    • Acquire a hitter during the waiver period after the deadline.  This would rule out comparable replacements such as Matt Holliday or Mark Teixeira.
    • Make a "preemptive strike" for Holliday or Teixeira costing them "at least one of their best prospects".
    • Target a "second or third tier bat" such as Ibanez or Xavier Nady.
    • Continue on with or without an effective Ortiz, hoping their offense is good enough.

Odds And Ends: Duncan, Mather, Huntington, Trachsel, Rusch

A few notes to wrap up what I’ve come across this Saturday:

  • The Hardball Times has an interview with Pirates GM Neal Huntington. It’s plenty long. He talks about the dynamics in dealing with his former team, the Cleveland Indians.
  • Steve Trachsel might be on his way out with the Orioles. Tough to argue against that move. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the O’s are in the cellar, and might not climb out for the rest of 2008.
  • Chris Duncan down, Joe Mather up. Could Mather be the piece that rounds out a powerful outfield? Or could he be trade bait to bring back, say, a second baseman?
  • Glendon Rusch is back in the majors, having been recalled by the Rockies.

Posted by Joe Pawlikowski, who writes for River Ave. Blues, a Yankees blog, and can be reached here.

More On Mike Lowell

Michael Silverman has a little detail on Boston’s three-year offer to Mike Lowell: it’s between $12-15MM per season.  It’s all guaranteed, and it doesn’t seem to be a "take it or leave it" offer, but they won’t add a fourth year.  So it’s for $45MM on the high end.  If you agree with Jon Heyman’s 4/52 prediction, Lowell would be leaving a minimum of $7MM on the table.

Silverman adds that the Red Sox won’t go nuts trying to replace Lowell with a big name if things don’t work out.  They figure that if Kevin Youkilis can win a Gold Glove at first, he might be adequate at third base.  They peeked their head in on Miguel Cabrera and balked at the price of Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay BuchholzJoe Crede might be someone for the Sox to consider. 

The Yankees, Angels, and Phillies will be in on Lowell if he can’t come to an agreement with Boston.  However, Phils GM Pat Gillick has stated his focus is pitching rather than third base.

Top 50 Free Agents Review #11-20

We looked at how I did predicting the destinations of the top ten free agents back in March.  I got four out of the ten correct, five if the Rocket stays in Houston.  Let’s take a look at the next group, where there weren’t as many easy picks.  My pick is first here.  My Top 50 Free Agents list from last October can be found here.

11. B.J. Ryan – Phillies/Blue Jays.  I definitely underestimated just how much cash the Jays were willing to toss around.  I figured that the Phils would have room in the budget for a closer once Wagner defected and would go after the best available one in Ryan.  They did have some interest in him as their Plan B.

12.  Johnny Damon – Red Sox/Yankees.  I said he’d stay with the Sox but didn’t like the idea as outlined here.  Turns out New York was more willing to take on huge sunk costs than Boston was.  As a result, Andy Marte is an Indian. 

13. Ramon Hernandez – Mets/Orioles.  Definitely didn’t see this one coming with Javy Lopez already on the team and the free-spending Mets showing interest.  The Mets went with Paul Lo Duca instead.  If they miss the playoffs by one game, this decision will loom large.

14.  Paul Byrd – Red Sox/Indians.  I figured David Wells would have his request accomodated, and no one saw the Beckett deal coming.  Byrd looked like he’d be a value signing at something like 2/$12MM, but that didn’t happen.

15.  Erubiel Durazo – White Sox/Rangers. One of my bigger blunders, in that I don’t think I realized Durazo had undergone Tommy John surgery in the summer of ’05.  He obviously was not considered the 15th best free agent by any team.  I really liked the fit with the Sox, but that Thome guy is doing OK so far.

16. Kenji Johjima – Mariners/Mariners.  I said the Japanese star could be a bargain, and he was at $5MM annually.

17.  Tom Gordon – Marlins/Phillies.  Oops!  Keep in mind that this was before any sign of a fire sale and Gordon is a Florida native.  I thought he’d take a two-year deal when I was trying to decide how the available closers would get shuffled around.

18.  Jeff Weaver – Blue Jays/Angels.  The Jays were thinking much bigger than Weaver, opting for the riskier, higher upside of A.J. Burnett.  Weaver for one year was a fantastic move by the Angels.

19.  Jarrod Washburn – Brewers/Mariners.  Figured Doug Melvin would make a play for the Wisconsin native.  But at that price it would not have made sense for the Brew Crew.  Not that it made sense for Seattle.

20.  Bill Mueller – Brewers/Dodgers.  I figured Bill Hall would be used in a utility role again, but the Brewers went in a different direction with Koskie.

Top 50 Free Agents Review #1-10

With the season on the horizon, I figured that it’s time to take a look back at my Top 50 Free Agents list.  I published this baby on October 25, 2005, which was before any of the other lists came out.  My goal was to beat Steve Phillips and ESPN, so we’ll tally it up at the end.  The list is in the format Player – Prediction/Actual.

1.  Roger ClemensAstros/Undecided.  The Rocket has been holding up this entire review for quite some time.  He’ll probably come back to Houston, so this one will be a win.  But does anyone really think he’d play anywhere else?

2.  Daisuke MatsuzakaMariners/Lions.  Back before Japan’s best pitcher made a splash in the WBC, it looked like his team might post him and allow the Mariners, Yankees, Athletics, and Red Sox to compete for his services.  He would’ve probably been a more valuable commodity than A.J. Burnett if he’d come over.  Alas, Seibu’s manager said that it was obvious that his 2005 season record (2.30 ERA, 9.4 K/9) was "not convincing enough" for the team to post him. Keep an eye on this one for the 2006-07 offseason.   

3.  Paul KonerkoWhite Sox/White Sox.  I had a feeling it would be impossible for the Sox to let him walk even with the demand for a five-year deal.  The Angels and Orioles were deeply involved, with the Orioles even topping Chicago’s offer.  In the end, Paulie stayed put.  You have to respect that.

4.  A.J. BurnettNationals/Blue Jays.  I figured the team would have an owner by December and that the new regime would open up the checkbook for the best available starting pitcher.  Burnett and Washington had mutual interest, but Toronto simply outbid everyone else.   

5.  Brian GilesCardinals/Padres. We’ll probably never really know how amenable Giles was to leaving San Diego.  He certainly could’ve gotten more than three years and $30MM.  Giles has the type of skills that age well, and he was the best available outfielder by far.  Maybe the Cardinals never could’ve signed Giles even if they wanted to.  But the difference between Juan Encarnacion and Giles is probably four full wins in 2006, so keep that in mind at the end of the season.  Same goes for the Cubs, who went with Jacque Jones.

6.  Rafael FurcalCubs/Dodgers.  The Cubs really needed to overpay to get Furcal.  I like Ronny Cedeno, I really do.  But the 2006 difference in value is something close to three wins.  Those three wins might’ve pushed the Cubs over the hump for a division title.  The Dodgers swooped in with a shorter contract offer with a high annual average salary.  If L.A. eventually uses Cesar Izturis at second base, Derek Lowe will really reap the benefits of his new middle infield.

7.  Nomar GarciaparraDodgers/Dodgers.  I figured they’d employ him on the left side of the infield – Nomar doesn’t really have the bat for first base anymore.  For one year at a price of $6-10MM, it’s a low risk investment for a major market team.  Still, I’m not sure if he’ll be measurably better than Hee Seop Choi, who was waived.  But c’mon, it’s No-mah!

8.  Hideki MatsuiYankees/Yankees.  This was a gimme, he didn’t really consider signing elsewhere.  He’ll continue to rack up the RBIs.

9.  Kevin MillwoodOrioles/Rangers.  Sosa and Palmeiro off the books, and the chance to reunite Millwood with Leo Mazzone?  Peter Angelos passed, as he often does on health risks.  Baltimore instead settled for a host of lamer moves: acquiring Kris Benson, Corey Patterson, and LaTroy Hawkins, signing Ramon Hernandez despite the presence of Javy Lopez, and signing Kevin Millar and Jeff Conine for veterany goodness.  All that for fourth place?  Hell, the D-Rays are a starter or two away from making the O’s a last place club.  With Burnett off the market, Texas went with the best available starter.

10.  Billy WagnerMets/Mets.  The Phillies swung and missed, and instead signed up for three years of Tom Gordon and his creaky elbow.  Mets fans can rest easy in the ninth inning, as Braden Looper is somewhere far, far away (St. Louis).

I realized that 50 is a lot of players, so I’ll break this into a five-part series.