2008 MLB Free Agents Rumors

Best Available Free Agents By Position

Let’s go position by position and name the best available free agent at each.  Here’s the current list.

Catcher – Damian Miller.  There’s just nothing out there; teams moved fast on catchers this year.

First base – Mike Lamb.  Some might say Tony Clark, but I’ll take the guy who gets on base a little bit at the expense of a few home runs.  Lamb’s platoon splits are inconsistent; I’m not sure how he’d handle 500 ABs.  Brad Wilkerson is another intriguing option here.

Second base – Tadahito Iguchi.  Solid guy who won’t hurt you, especially if he can be had for two years instead of three.

Shortstop – David Eckstein.  The best candidate here by default.  It’s a nice time to be shopping a shortstop.

Third base – Mike Lamb.  I’ll take him again rather than nominate Pedro Feliz.  It’s a bleak hot corner market.

Left fielder – Barry Bonds.  I think he offers the most production overall, baggage and questionable defense included.  The market at this position isn’t terrible, with guys like Geoff Jenkins and Shannon Stewart out there.

Center field – Aaron Rowand.  He has his detractors, but he’s still better than Mike Cameron.

Right field – Kosuke Fukudome.  Even if he hasn’t officially declared he’s the top guy easily.  This is a weak position for free agents beyond him.

DHs – Barry Bonds.  If you have an open DH spot and are a contender, you should sign Barry. Mike Piazza could rebound, as another option.

Starting pitcher – Hiroki Kuroda.  I’d take the gamble that Kuroda is a touch better than four or five years of Carlos Silva.  That’s only a hunch though.

Closer – Octavio Dotel.  It’s him or Keith Foulke.  Dotel has the better stuff, though both are health risks.  Some team might really overpay for Dotel as the last decent guy with the closer label.

Right-handed middle relief – Luis Vizcaino.  His control isn’t great, but he’s durable and hasn’t had a truly bad year since ’03.  He knows he’s the best right-handed middle reliever out there, and wants four years.

Left-handed middle relief – Ron Mahay.  I like him a bit more than Jeremy Affeldt in terms of results.  Plus Mahay is from Crestwood, always a good thing.  However nobody is talking about Mahay’s control – it’s bad – or his age – he’s old.  Three year deal, here we come.

Free Agent Starting Pitching Stat Leaders

The Baseball-Reference Play Index is an awesome tool for just $29 per year.  Read all about it here.

Let’s look at the statistical leaders for starting pitchers.

Looking for a good strikeout rate?
K/9 Leaders, min 50 IP
Freddy Garcia – 7.76
Bartolo Colon – 6.89
Jason Jennings – 6.45
Roger Clemens – 6.18

Looking for good control?
BB/9 Leaders, min 50 IP
Carlos Silva – 1.60
Jeff Weaver – 2.15
Rodrigo Lopez – 2.38
David Wells – 2.40
Bartolo Colon – 2.63
Kyle Lohse – 2.66
Roger Clemens – 2.82
Andy Pettitte – 2.88
Freddy Garcia – 2.95

Free Agent Offensive Stat Leaders

The Baseball-Reference Play Index is an awesome tool for just $29 per year.  Read all about it here.

The B-Ref PI now allows for filtering by 2007 free agents.  So, it’s easy to find statistical leaders.

Looking for power?
SLG Leaders, min 300 PAs
Barry Bonds – .565
Aaron Rowand – .515
Geoff Jenkins – .471
Sammy Sosa – .468
Brad Wilkerson – .467
Jose Guillen – .460
Mike Lamb – .453
Luis Gonzalez – .433
Mike Cameron – .431
Shawn Green – .430
Cliff Floyd – .422

Looking for OBP?
OBP Leaders, min 300 PAs
Barry Bonds – .480
Aaron Rowand – .374
Cliff Floyd – .373
Kenny Lofton – .367
Mike Lamb – .366
Luis Gonzalez – .359
David Eckstein – .356
Sean Casey – .353
Jose Guillen – .353
Shawn Green – .352

2008 MLB Free Agent Review

Here’s a look at the current free agent class, and here’s my 2008 Top 50 Free Agents predictions.  Let’s go through each position briefly as a review before things kick into high gear tomorrow.

Big Fish: Jorge Posada
Possible Bargains: Michael Barrett, Ramon Castro

First basemen
Big Fish: None
Possible Bargains: Tony Clark

Second basemen
Big Fish: Luis Castillo
Possible Bargains: Tadahito Iguchi

Big Fish: None
Possible Bargains: Alexei Ramirez

Third basemen
Big Fish: Alex Rodriguez, Mike Lowell
Possible Bargains: Mike Lamb, Corey Koskie

Left fielders
Big Fish: Barry Bonds
Possible Bargains: Milton Bradley, Brad Wilkerson

Center fielders
Big Fish: Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones, Aaron Rowand
Possible Bargains: Milton Bradley, Alexei Ramirez

Right fielders
Big Fish: Kosuke Fukudome
Possible Bargains: Jose Guillen, Milton Bradley

Big Fish: Barry Bonds
Possible Bargains: Mike Piazza

Starting pitchers
Big Fish: Carlos Silva, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte
Possible Bargains: Kris Benson, Matt Clement, Bartolo Colon, Jon Lieber, Kazumi Saito, Randy Wolf

Big Fish: Francisco Cordero, Mariano Rivera, Eric Gagne
Possible Bargains: Keith Foulke, Masahide Kobayashi

Middle Relievers
Big Fish: Jeremy Affeldt, Ron Mahay, Scott Linebrink, David Riske
Possible Bargains: Troy Percival, Kerry Wood

Elias Rankings Released

This is like Christmas for baseball nerds like me.  The Elias rankings are out – here’s the AL and here’s the NL.

I’ve updated the 2008 MLB Free Agents post to reflect those who are off the market and also added Types.  And here’s a look at which first round picks are protected and which aren’t.

Random thoughts:

  • The Yankees could get nice consolation prizes in the form of first-round picks if they lose Jorge Posada or Mariano Rivera.  For example if the Mets sign Posada the Yankees get their #22 overall pick.  If the Phils sign Rivera the Yanks get their #24 overall pick.
  • Would the Red Sox offer arbitration to Curt Schilling, even if they’re lukewarm about keeping him?  He’s a Type A.
  • If the Mets want to go with the freshly signed Easley at 2B, they can net a pick for Luis Castillo because he’s a Type B and will get a multiyear deal.
  • I believe Tadahito Iguchi cannot be offered arbitration, so his Type A status doesn’t mean much.
  • The Cards may snag a pick by offering arbitration to David Eckstein, if they don’t want to sign him for three years.  He’s a Type B.
  • It would be odd if Mike Lowell and Alex Rodriguez swapped teams, as the Red Sox would nab their rival’s #28 pick and the Yanks would get Boston’s #30. 
  • The Yankees should root for the Mets to sign A-Rod.  That way they get the #22 pick next year and the best player moves out of the league. 
  • Should the Giants offer arbitration to Barry Bonds?  He’s a Type A but they could be stuck with him.
  • The Twins might get a first round pick for Torii Hunter.  The Phils could get one for Aaron Rowand. Both are Type A.
  • The Braves got screwed – Andruw Jones‘ awful season knocked him down to a Type B.
  • The Brewers could win big with two first-round picks and two supplemental picks if they let Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink walk and they sign with the right teams.
  • The "bigger" names among starters – Kyle Lohse, Carlos Silva – net no draft picks for the Phils or Twins.  It had been previously suggested that Silva was Type B.

Southpaw Relievers

Let’s take a look at the available free agent relievers this winter.  The number following the player is his 2008 age.

Jeremy Affeldt (29) – There seems to be a growing sentiment that Affeldt will get paid decently this winter.  He’s had a big-time walk problem in recent years and didn’t correct it in ’07.  A low hit rate kept his ERA under 4.00…he could be a bust.  He made $1.25MM in ’07 but could get some kind of silly three-year Scott Schoeneweis deal.

Joe Kennedy (29) – Interesting year for Kennedy, who pitched for Oakland, Arizona, and Toronto.  He made 16 starts for the A’s.  He walked more than he struck out.  If there’s a positive, it’s that he allowed only 9 HR in 110 innings. 

Ron Mahay (37) – Mahay was part of the Teixeira deal, and he pitched well for both clubs.  Like a lot of these guys, his control is poor.  But he only allowed 4 HR in 67 innings and posted a 2.55 ERA (again on the strength of a low hit rate).  He made $1.2MM this year.

Trever Miller (35) – He was very good in ’06 but his command slipped this year en route to a 4.86 ERA.  He made $1.3MM.

J.C. Romero (32) – The Phils picked him up after the Red Sox released him, and he did a nice job with a 1.24 ERA in 36 innings.  But his success was owed to an absurdly low and unsustainable hit rate of 3.72 per nine innings.  Romero still walked a ton of hitters, as is his custom.  Romero’s agent has talked to the Phils but isn’t optimistic.  He should get at least $2MM per year from some team.

Ron Villone (38) – He wasn’t really much worse than any of these other bums.

There are others to consider as well, vets like Mike Myers and Eddie Guardado.  There’s no reliable Jamie Walker type here, but Mahay may be the best of the bunch.  Any team that gives a three-year deal to any of these types probably doesn’t know what it’s doing or has too much money to spend. 

Sunday A-Rod Recap

I hate to post about the same guy twice in a row, but there’s been a flurry of Alex Rodriguez speculation on this fine October Sunday.  To break it down, here’s a brief recap:

  • The New York Post reports the Yankees are expected to make an offer to prevent A-Rod from free agency.  However, the offer will approach neither $300MM nor 12 years.  I think this is both expected and a smart move by the Yanks because…
  • Nick Cafardo likens Scott Boras’ approach toward marketing A-Rod’s "Iconic Value" to the exaggeratory strategy he took with Daisuke Matsuzaka.  And Johnny Damon, for that matter.
  • Bob Klapisch reports that in Torre’s wake, there will be much posturing from Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Alex Rodriguez who we can expect to wait as long as possible to make any decision(s).  And this is because…
  • The New York Daily News’ Mark Feinsand notes that "it is unlikely that the Yanks will have all of their issues resolved" before the tenth day following the World Series, when A-Rod will decide whether or not to opt out.  Mike Lupica meanwhile points out that the unrest in the Yankee system is a golden opportunity for A-Rod to indeed opt out with a plausible excuse.  Or as Scott Boras so eloquently put it to CNN.com, the "state of flux is a grand issue."  And further leverage for the player and his agent.

Posted by Nat Boyle

Marlins Would Benefit Most from A-Rod

Chris Isidore of CNNMoney.com analyzes the viability of a $300MM contract for Alex Rodriguez and the likelihood of him still being in the Bronx.  Isidore writes:

"A-Rod could produce $48 million per year in revenue and asset appreciation for the Yankees, allowing the team to pay him $34 million in salary, along with a 40 percent luxury tax, and still break even."

Isidore dispels the notion that the YES Network is actually doing better with A-Rod in pinstripes by pointing out a significant decline in viewership since his acquisition in ’04, and that YES fetches most of its profits from fees assessed to cable/satellite providers.  In a most probable scenario, if A-Rod signs elsewhere, YES will lose "only about a 3 percent drop in overall revenue for YES," writes Isidore.

While this isn’t what I refer to as a "substantial rumor," Isidore points out how the one team that would see the greatest economic benefit from signing Rodriguez is the team that resides in his hometown of Miami:  The Florida Marlins.  Isidore notes:

"…for deep-pocketed successful teams like the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Red Sox or Angels, there’s a marginal economic benefit from bringing him in, even as fabulous a player as he is. But look at the upside for the Marlins, not just in ticket revenue but also the structure of a new stadium deal.’"

Posted By Nat Boyle

Koskie to Return as Free Agent

Here’s a feel good story from The Star Tribune:  Third baseman Corey Koskie has fully recovered from the post-concussion syndrome that sidelined him for half of the 2006 and the entirety of the 2007 seasons.  Doom and gloom loomed earlier this month as the Brewers declined his $6.5MM option and retirement seemed a legitimate possibility for the big Canadian.

Koskie has recovered from his persistent headaches and can be considered an official free agent in the weak 2008 third base market at the moment consisting of Pedro Feliz, Mike Lamb, and Mike Lowell.

The 34 year old hasn’t played 100 games in any of the last 3 seasons; however, he still displays 20 HR power when active.  That production potential alone makes him a decent 1-year bargain option to be had for conceivably around $4-5MM.

Posted by Nat Boyle

Tomohiro Nioka Could Come To MLB

Tomohiro Nioka is a 31 year-old shortstop for the Yomiuri Giants of Japan.  He’s starting to generate a little buzz as a possible MLB crossover this winter, especially given the weak free agent shortstop market.

Nioka will be a free agent this winter (no posting fee required).  I haven’t seen any recent quotes indicating that he wants to come over here, but he did say "I’d most definitely consider playing in the Major Leagues" back in 2003.

The Daily Herald’s Scot Gregor notes that the White Sox could opt to pursue Nioka over Juan Uribe.  The Sox have had success in the past with the Tadahito Iguchi and Shingo Takatsu signings.  Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star expects Nioka to come over, but doesn’t see the Jays signing him.

Nioka hit .295/.346/.457 with 20 HR in 508 ABs this year.  You can find his earlier numbers here.  I talked to one Japanese fan who considers Nioka a poor man’s Akinori Iwamura.  He ranks Nioka’s defense as good but not great.

It seems likely that Nioka’s teammate, pitcher Koji Uehara, will attempt the jump to MLB this year.  Perhaps Nioka will follow suit and plug a hole for the White Sox, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, Giants, or Cardinals.