2012 Top 50 Free Agents With Predictions

The sixth annual MLB Trade Rumors Top 50 Free Agents list is here!  The entire list of available free agents can be found here, and you can filter by position and signing team with our free agent tracker here.

This year, I'm excited to introduce a new contest that will allow you to test your free agent prediction abilities against those of the MLBTR writing team as well as other readers.  After players start signing, we'll have a leaderboard showing the contestants with the best "batting averages" on their picks.  Once everyone has signed, the winners will receive sweet prizes.  Here are the top 50 free agents for which you'll be making predictions, along with my guesses.

1.  Albert Pujols – Cardinals.  The Cubs, Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners, Rangers, Marlins, Nationals, and Dodgers are other potential suitors, but a significant premium would be required to lure away the longtime Cardinal.  $225-230MM over nine years seems a fair compromise for the Cardinals and their superstar first baseman.

2.  Prince Fielder – Mariners.  Fielder has the same potential suitors as Pujols, with the Brewers also a possibility.  The Scott Boras client is a tough free agent to place, as there are good reasons for every team to avoid a potential $150MM+ commitment.  The Mariners and Cubs are the most likely matches for me.  Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik drafted Fielder in '02 with the Brewers, and his team lacks a premium bat.

3.  Jose Reyes – Brewers.  Reyes is another difficult top free agent to predict.  The Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Giants, Pirates, Reds, Twins, Rays, and Cardinals could have a need at shortstop, but not all of those teams can or should spend $100MM+ on Reyes.  The Mets will entertain re-signing Reyes, but the Brewers seem more likely to approach Ryan Braun's speculated $120MM price range.

4.  C.J. Wilson – Nationals.  Wilson's poor postseason may have damaged his stock slightly, but in his defense he racked up 250 innings over 39 starts this season in total and started 37 games in 2010.  $100MM is still possible for Wilson, though 78% of MLBTR readers think he'll fall short.  Front-of-the-rotation starting pitching is a big need for many teams, including the Nationals, Marlins, Royals, Blue Jays, Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs.

5.  Yu Darvish – Blue Jays.  Darvish is not technically a free agent, and in fact he hasn't even decided about being posted at this point.  If he does come over from Japan, a $100MM commitment will likely be required.  The Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Nationals, Mariners, and Royals could put in bids, and it wouldn't be surprising to see a few "mystery teams" enter the fray.

6.  Edwin Jackson – Marlins.  Jackson, a Scott Boras client, could also make sense for the Nationals and several other teams looking for a 200-inning starter with upside.  Since Jackson is only 28, Boras could seek a four-year deal.

7.  Jimmy Rollins – Phillies.  Rollins probably won't find the five-year deal he seeks, but the Phillies have the need and the means to reach a new agreement with him.

8.  Aramis Ramirez – Orioles.  Ramirez seeks a multiyear deal, and as the best available free agent third baseman he's justified.  He could give the Orioles a powerful corner bat on a three-year deal.  

9.  Carlos Beltran – Red Sox.  Beltran is a tough player to place, if the Giants are unable to re-sign him.  He's a 34-year-old Scott Boras client who's likely to seek at least three years despite significant injury concerns in 2009-10 and a disinterest in being a designated hitter.  It'll take a team with a right field opening and a tolerance for risk.

10.  Jonathan Papelbon – Red Sox.  I can picture the Red Sox going as high as three years and $39MM to retain Papelbon, though the closer will test the market.  A half-dozen teams could seek closers this winter, but the list is short on big spenders and it's been a while since we've had a $40MM+ reliever.

11.  Michael Cuddyer – Twins.  Cuddyer would fit with the Rockies, Red Sox, or Cubs, but he's spent his entire career with the Twins and may prefer to stay.

12.  Mark Buehrle – White Sox.  Buehrle is another player who is difficult to picture with another club. The lefty finds the National League enticing, however, and he could join Ozzie Guillen in Miami since the Cardinals don't have an opening.

13.  David Ortiz – Blue Jays.  Ortiz backed off from his comments about Red Sox drama, and there's a limited market for an expensive player with no ability to play defense.  Still, he'd give Toronto's offense a nice boost without requiring more than a two-year deal.  That might leave Edwin Encarnacion having to play a significant amount of first base, however.

14.  Ryan Madson – Phillies.  If the Phillies don't re-sign Madson, and the Red Sox keep Papelbon, who would give Madson big money to close?  As a Scott Boras client, Madson could seek a four-year deal with a salary approaching $10MM.

15.  Hiroki Kuroda – Dodgers.  Kuroda doesn't want to play anywhere else, according to Dodgers GM Ned Colletti.

16.  Carlos Pena – Pirates.  Pena is a nice fit for the Pirates on another one-year deal, assuming they don't re-sign Derrek Lee.

17.  Francisco Rodriguez – Marlins.  K-Rod, a Scott Boras client, would like to return to the closing role on a three-year deal.  The Marlins would have the opening and the money, if they non-tender Juan Carlos Oviedo.

18.  Roy Oswalt – Rangers.  Oswalt could return to Texas for a winning team, and he'll require a much shorter commitment than C.J. Wilson.

19.  Javier Vazquez – Retirement.  There's a strong sentiment that Vazquez will retire, but he'd be in demand if not after posting a 1.92 ERA and 6.05 K/BB ratio since mid-June.

20.  Heath Bell – Padres.  Bell hopes and expects to return to the Padres, perhaps on the first multiyear deal of his career.

21.  Coco Crisp – Giants.  Though he posted a low on-base percentage in 2011, Crisp could fill the Giants' need for a center fielder and leadoff man.

22.  Hisashi Iwakuma – Twins.  The Twins bid on Iwakuma last year when he was posted, and this year they can simply sign him as a free agent.

23.  Kelly Johnson – Dodgers.  Johnson could provide the Dodgers some offense from second base, though the Blue Jays and Tigers could also be in the mix.

24.  Josh Willingham – Reds.  As one of few affordable right-handed power sources on the market, Willingham could fit with the Reds, Rockies, Indians, and others. 

25.  Paul Maholm – Rockies.  Though Maholm does not appear to be on the Rockies' radar at the moment, he's coming off a decent season and won't require a huge commitment.

26.  Grady Sizemore – Marlins.  Sizemore is a classic risk/reward case, and the Marlins don't seem interested in playing it safe this winter.  

27.  Bartolo Colon – Red Sox.  Colon had an excellent comeback season, but he will still have a hard time finding a two-year deal.  Perhaps he could take an incentive-based contract and remain in the AL East with the Red Sox.

28.  Erik Bedard – Blue Jays.  If the Blue Jays hit on a wild card like Bedard and also land Darvish, they'd have a fearsome rotation.  Bedard is a healthy free agent for the first time, and perhaps he'll lean toward his native Canada.

29.  David DeJesus – Cubs.  DeJesus could be an asset for the Cubs at the outfield corners on a one-year deal.

30.  Jason Kubel – Dodgers.  Kubel could improve the Dodgers' offense as their left fielder, unless they go with Jerry Sands at the position.

31.  Ramon Hernandez – Pirates.  Hernandez would give the Pirates offense out of the catcher spot, though GM Neal Huntington may balk at giving up a second-round pick to sign him.

32.  Jeff Francis – Pirates.  Francis is one of many starting pitchers who could add depth to the Pirates' rotation at a reasonable cost.

33.  Chris Capuano – Mariners.  After subtracting Doug Fister this summer, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik seems likely to add a piece to his rotation.

34.  Tsuyoshi Wada – Orioles.  Wada is expected to come to MLB as a free agent, though one question is his ability to handle a full rotation workload.

35.  Clint Barmes – Twins.  Barmes provided good value this season, and the Twins have a clear middle-infield need.

36.  Casey Kotchman – Rays.  Kotchman posted a fine 2011 season after signing a minor league deal, but his price should remain reasonable as teams wonder whether he can do it again.

37.  Freddy Garcia – Yankees.  Even with Sabathia in the fold, the Yankees will need additional rotation depth.  Another stint with Garcia makes sense if his price remains reasonable.

38.  Aaron Hill – Diamondbacks.  Hill's stellar 142 plate appearances for the Diamondbacks this year provided hope he can bounce back in 2012.

39.  Johnny Damon – Orioles.  Damon probably requires a designated hitter opening, yet his level of offense doesn't justify a full-time spot.  He's a difficult free agent to place.

40.  Aaron Harang – Angels.  Would Harang accept a below-market deal to stay close to home?

41.  Jamey Carroll – Tigers.  The versatile Carroll fits at the top of the Tigers' order, playing mostly second base.

42.  Rafael Furcal – Cardinals.  The Cardinals and Furcal are known to have mutual interest in a new deal; he showed promise in his Cards stint this year.

43.  Juan Pierre – Reds.  Pierre will have to take a more reduced role next year, perhaps under Dusty Baker again.

44.  Frank Francisco – Mariners.  Francisco was homer-prone this year, but he's still an asset in the late innings.

45.  Jason Marquis – Mets.  Marquis may have to take a one-year deal with the Mets to realize his goal of playing in New York.  

46.  Joel Pineiro – Cubs.  Pineiro had great success in '09 in the NL Central, and could be a bargain if he rights the ship.    

47.  Jonathan Broxton – Mets.  Broxton had arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur and loose bodies from his elbow in September and expects to be ready for Spring Training.  Though he may not be the Broxton of old, I expect incentive-laden offers to be plentiful.

48.  Joe Nathan – Twins.  Nathan is excited about free agency, but after so many successful years closing for the Twins he may want to return to the role full-time in 2012.

49.  Kerry Wood – Cubs.  It's Cubs or retirement for Wood, and there's no reason not to bring him back.

50.  Bruce Chen – Royals.  As long as Chen's price tag doesn't get excessive, he's a good fit back with the Royals.

Full Story | 407 Comments | Categories: Uncategorized

407 Responses to 2012 Top 50 Free Agents With Predictions Leave a Reply

  1. Swing n a miss!

  2. mlbtr u did a terrible job at predicting u only predicted dejesus correct other than some resigns with the same former teams 

  3. aricollins 4 years ago

    I hope he’s right too. Especially since Beltran is a good fit for them and Ortiz signing with the Jays would give them nearly the highest compensation pick possible (#17 overall).

  4. johnsilver 4 years ago

    For a useless troll, you sure picked the wrong closer to predict imminent doom…

    How about checking out his past performance on blown saves vs success? 219-29 for his career and at one time he had the all time post season, consecutive save record.. Without digging it up..Was in the low 20’s..

  5. You think Damon is going to retire when he is close to 3,000 hits? No way the Marlins sign Reyes, and Buehrle already said if he isn’t on the White Sox he won’t play I believe. And the Dodgers have no point in giving him any deal. They need to rebuild, centering around Kemp, Gordon, and Kershaw.

  6. Andy_B 4 years ago

    no way do the cardinals sign Jackson and Pujols.  Cards have five pitchers under contract.  Jackson would be an expensive luxury.  

  7. aricollins 4 years ago

    I don’t think Darvish goes to the Yankees, and I don’t think Theo/Hoyer start their first year with a splash that could hurt them when they’re ready to actually contend a couple years from now. They have some time as the New Management before they get pressure to sign some big FAs. Also doubt Jackson resigns with the Cardinals.

  8. Matt Moore 4 years ago

    As a Tigers fan I can tell you that Aramis Ramirez will not be playing for them in 2012. This is not just a opinion, I am certain. The lineup would look like this

    Austin Jackson-CF
    Brennan Boesch-RF
    Aramis Ramirez-3b
    Miguel Cabrera-1b
    Victor Martinez-dh
    Alex Avila-C
    Jhonny Peralta-SS
    Delmon Young-LF

    I think that would probly be the lineup if they keep Delmon Young. And it is officially the slowest lineup in MLB history! I mean, yea they would kill the ball but nobody besides Jackson and Boesch even have average speed. I know we made it all the way to the ALCS with our turtles but a fast guy who gets on base would give us a much better chance in the playoffs.

    But I actually agree that they could sign Chen if the Royals dont sign him. They need a crafty lefty.

  9. mondaymorninggm 4 years ago

    theres no way the cards pick up edwin jackson. they already hav 5 starters who all make 6 plus million a year and they have zero money to spend after pujols. if they have 5  bucks leftover they need middle infielders. but the list looks preety good overall. i’d take it over dierkes’s.

  10. Redbirds16 4 years ago

    I don’t think Boston offers Ortiz Arb. He should just accept it if that’s the case.

  11. MaineSox 4 years ago

    I could be mistaken but I think that is the highest available pick (someone correct me if I’m wrong).  The Jays could always sign a higher ranked FA and the Sox would get a second round pick though.

  12. commenter3346 4 years ago

    Yes, give an injury-prone player a 3 year deal for a lot of money despite being out of his prime & better from his left side, like most players are on the Red Sox… when they have Kalish & prospects that they could use for right field & focus on pitching.
    Nope, they insist they must have a proper replacement for Drew. 

  13. notsureifsrs 4 years ago

    if the red sox sign carlos beltran and bartolo colon, ben cherington can go straight to hell

  14. Matt Talbert 4 years ago

    Beltran in Boston would make the lineup illegal.

  15. slider32 4 years ago

    Beltran goes to the Giants, remember Tim is only right 20% of the time.

  16. cyberboo 4 years ago

    Anyone that thinks AA would trade his top first round pick for Ortiz is dreaming.  AA stockpiles picks, he doesn’t give them away, especially to a division rival.  lol.  

  17. Guest 4 years ago

    Damon is a very interesting one that I am having a tough time pegging. His desire to play is there, but I’m not even sure he’s offered a contract to play anywhere. 

  18. aricollins 4 years ago

    He’d probably get around $14M if he accepted, whereas he could probably get 2/$20M or more on the market. And if he accepted, paying Ortiz $14M on a one-year deal ain’t too bad for the Sox. Pretty sure they offer.

  19. notsureifsrs 4 years ago

    they’re worried about decline in 2+ years, not next year. they’d love it if he accepted arbitration

  20. MaineSox 4 years ago

    I’ve said this multiple times in other threads, but there is almost zero chance that they don’t offer him arbitration.  If they don’t just re-sign him it will be because they don’t want to go multiple years, so if he accepts arbitration they will have successfully gotten the one year deal they really wanted; if he declines they get draft picks.  There really is no lose in that situation for the Red Sox.

  21. mike292929 4 years ago

    Of course they will offer Arbitration. Ortiz wants a multi year contract, not 1 year. Trust me, the red sox are not scared of offering Ortiz arbitration. 

  22. Guarantee u boston offers arb.  They love picks.  and will take that gamble.  No way ortiz wants just one yr deal.

  23. aricollins 4 years ago

    I think the compensation picks start at #16.

  24. Andy Mc 4 years ago

    Consider the Jays out if they have to surrender a 1st-rounder.

  25. yeah the jays would never give up a high draft pick for a DH

  26. Redbirds16 4 years ago

    Given Vlad Guerrero’s market last year (and to a lesser extent Damon and Manny) I don’t think Ortiz’s market will be that strong. I don’t think he comes close to a 2/20 deal on the open market if he’s tied to a first round pick. Ortiz will have to cut his losses and take a higher annual salary on a one year deal. Best way to do that is to accept the Arb offer.
    So maybe Boston offers Arbitration, I can’t imagine that would make Big Papi very happy. Considering their ‘clubhouse problems’ (which I think exist on some level but are overhyped by the East Coast media), that might not be the best direction to go in…

  27. Matt Talbert 4 years ago

    Look at this:
    That’s just sick.

  28. I can see the A’s making a play for him. Beane needs all the offense he can get. Maybe even the Orioles, White Sox, or Twins for the right price. I wouldn’t mind the Yankees offering him a contract instead of Jones. Damon is a winner, I’d love to have him back.

  29. Steve_in_MA 4 years ago

    I just don’t see the Marlins giving up on Hanley Ramirez to invest circa $100MM in Jose Reyes.  It would be an improvement on both ends, moreso on defense than offense, but that’s a ton of tickets they’d have to sell, just to break even.  The Sox won’t go after Oswalt or Pierre.  I think they might go for Maholm or someone like him to replace Lackey for the season.  But your list is, IMHO, much better than Tim’s.

  30. notsureifsrs 4 years ago

    more stem cells

  31. It would be. I’d like to see them both here, but that’s not going to happen. Damon obviously can hit in the postseason, too. That’s why I think they should go for him. Come October, the Yanks’ bats disappear.

  32. Guest 4 years ago

    Have to agree despite of the talk on Fielder to the Cubs. I think Theo will be a little tentative year 1 handing out $200mm deals. 

  33. aricollins 4 years ago

    Not a bad list, though.

  34. Lunchbox45 4 years ago

    there is plenty of room on the jays wagon, we’d love to have you.

  35. chico65 4 years ago

    I second that

  36. jondogg2010 4 years ago

    No es Colon por favor

  37. Guest 4 years ago

    Damon back to the Yankees for a year and $1.5mm is possible, but he’s just not flexible for a position other than DH. At least Jones can man LF or RF for 30 games. I think the Twins and A’s are decent calls. 

  38. FrankTheFunkasaurusRex 4 years ago

    They won’t be acquiring Ryan Madson. I guarantee that.

  39. Lunchbox45 4 years ago


  40. MaineSox 4 years ago

    It’s not an improvement on offense if you assume that Hanley will bounce back and be his old self again next year, and at (almost) 28 years old there is a pretty good chance Hanley didn’t just fall off a cliff.

  41. MaineSox 4 years ago

    I really doubt Ramirez gets 4/52, he’ll be 34 next year and isn’t nearly as good as he used to be.

  42. Van Wilhoite 4 years ago

    If any reliever is to blame for the September collapse it’s Daniel Bard- 0-4 10.64 ERA in Sept.

  43. slider32 4 years ago

    Papelbon to the Phillies!

  44. mike292929 4 years ago

    sereisly bros, yu gots somthang aganst ilitirat peeple.

  45. Ever notice every time bleacher creature post something he gets “2 liked this”.  I say the contest should be guess bleacher creatures other two account names.

  46. DizzyValance 4 years ago

    I like that you call someone illiterate but you can’t get the YOUR/YOU’RE usage right.

  47. Matt Talken 4 years ago

    “WHEN IT MATTER MOST.” I think is the more ironic obnoxious part about this.

    Probably not a good idea to criticize other people’s grammar unless you’re going to be perfect with your own.

  48. Yankees420 4 years ago

    Who else speaks in all caps?  Or would that be too obvious?

  49. Bluejaysnation 4 years ago

    I agree!! Bard ruined my fantasy playoff dreams!!

  50. Yankees420 4 years ago

    But that’s much more complex and subjective, plus we wouldn’t have a winner until next season is over.  Although I like the general idea of it.

  51. BumWino 4 years ago

    Great thinking outside the box, Larry, but after all the work put in to participate in your free-agent game, I sure wouldn’t want to be the guy who has to tell the eventual winner, “You win a cookie.” 

  52. Matt Talbert 4 years ago

    I don’t understand why you WOULDN’T want Beltran.  He can flat out hit and play solid d .  Though he isn’t worth a 3 year top FA money deal like he wants.  1-2 years with a qualified mutual option pending on games played.

  53. Is Ortiz going to be offered arbitration?

  54. You could just do it in terms of WAR. 

  55. chico65 4 years ago

    Dude can’t stay healthy and would be blocking younger players.  Even though they both hit lefty, I think Kalish and Reddick combined could hit something around .260-.270 with 20 dingers, 20 or so steals, and good defense.  OBP might be a bit of a drop off from JD Drew, but otherwise I think the two are capable of filling his production.  The Sox are much better off spending that money on retaining Papelbon and otherwise bolstering the pitching corps than on an aging outfielder with bad knees who doesn’t want to DH.

  56. 0bsessions 4 years ago

    Because he’s exactly the kind of player Boras will extract an overpay for. I’d take him on a one year deal, but I don’t trust his injury history combined with his age.

  57. YanksFanSince78 4 years ago

    That contract seems reasonable but then it falls on deaf ears because you’re talking about a Scott Boras client. I guarantee you he starts off asking for something like 4/$60 mil-5/$75 mil.

  58. tdot32 4 years ago

    because they don’t need an expensive health risk? they need a pitching staff.

  59. slider32 4 years ago

    That’s what it takes to play with big boys, AA will have to make a move on two good hitters and a good starter to compete in the East.

  60. slider32 4 years ago

    Forget about Beltran you need a pitcher, and the Sox had the best team last year!

  61. Morley C 4 years ago

    Perhaps you should come up with a better nickname for Pedroia than “Peds”. Not that I’m a fan of the Red Sox or anything, but seriously man, surely you know the connotation in baseball with those letters.

  62. nestleraisinets 4 years ago

    so basically it’s mostly the same lineup since we won’t see beltran anyway during the season…

  63. POTATORAY 4 years ago

    Which guys will bring the chicken and the beer?

  64. 0bsessions 4 years ago

    Seconded. I don’t get that pick. I’d say Ortiz is much more likely to stick around than Papelbon. I can’t think of anyone willing to give up a pick for an aging pure DH.

  65. AlexTG 4 years ago

    The only way they sign Ortiz after he declines arb is if they also sign pujols or fielder so the pick is already gone.

  66. 0bsessions 4 years ago

    What possible use could the Yankees have for Damon?

    Unless Cashman goes off his rocker and decides he needs more DH’s and signs Damon, Vlad and Ortiz, I don’t see it happening.

  67. 0bsessions 4 years ago

    Agreed. He didn’t make any huge splashes early on in his Red Sox tenure either. Presumably, he’ll want to take a year to seriously familiarize himself with their system and assess their needs in comparison to upcoming free agent and trade probabilities before making any significant moves.

  68. 0bsessions 4 years ago

    It’s like some people expect Epstein to just come in and fix the mess that’s taken half a decade to develop in a month.

    He’s not a wizard and even a legitimate wizard up in Toronto still hasn’t fixed what Ricciardi did up north yet. These things take time.

  69. 0bsessions 4 years ago

    Probably 90% likely.

  70. rbeezy 4 years ago

    As a Tigers fan you should meet Brandon Inge. Hence why they will be in the bidding for Ramirez and have the money to pay him. Expect a trade for a 2B or resign Santiago and platoon again with Raburn.

  71. Guest 4 years ago

    That was basically their lineup this year, so I dont see how adding ramirez will hamper that blazing fast lineup they put out there this year.

  72. chico65 4 years ago

    I’d be careful about using the term “pure” with Big Papi given his history

  73. Yankees420 4 years ago

    But then do you use fWAR or bWAR? Plus with the amount of people that would enter you would have tons screaming that WAR isn’t what should be used.  

  74. I would not exactly call their system loaded. Other than the 2 young pitchers, not much there to make anyone salivate.

  75. chico65 4 years ago

    Then surely you appreciate the irony of Pedroia being involved with PEDs.  

  76. FrankTheFunkasaurusRex 4 years ago

    He was going to opt out. What’s the difference?

  77. FrankTheFunkasaurusRex 4 years ago

    while making it 100% clear that he would opt out if he wasn’t given an extension.

  78. common_cents360 4 years ago

    Sizemore is going to the Mariners.

  79. Matt Moore 4 years ago

    Yea, but I think they would add a speed guy bfor adding another slow guy.

  80. BumWino 4 years ago

    Griffin wrote that piece after a major liquid lunch. 

    Alex Anthopoulos beat the system by letting both Olivo and Buck walk, then replacing them with a rookie making less than $500 K.  Ho-hum.  Just another move that represented “real baseball value”. 

    Still, this was one salary-dump that paid off.  Arencibia had a great rookie season.

  81. BumWino 4 years ago

    Yes, yes, yes.  Rogers profit before tax last year was $4.65 billion and in 2009 it was $4.08 billion.

    Ajay, old pal, you’re comparing apples and oranges.  I said payroll, not the owners pre-tax profits or net worth. 

    Paul Beeston has been beaking off about $120 and $150 million for an eventual payroll figure.  “The money is there,” AA continually reassures us.  Yet the team’s so tight it can’t even retain necessary temporary players like Johnson and Frankie Fat until they are forced aside by youngsters from within the organization.

    Offer Kelly and Fats arbitration and get ever more draft picks. That’s all they know.

    So it’s another player-development, fourth-place finish for 2012.  Ajay, I believe that you and I are basically on the same page.  No real argument with your post.  But fourth place is starting to get old.  Fast.

  82. the jays pay roll is under 100 mil LA probably wont sign him with a 110 mil payroll so the jays will definetely not sign him.

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