Baseball executives A.J. Hinch and Kenny Williams each batted around .219 in their big league careers. That may help you visualize how I'm doing in MLBTR's free agent prediction contest this offseason. With 7 of 32 correct, I currently rank 922nd out of over 5,000 entries. In contrast, MLBTR readers Kay Jay, David Silverberg, Alex Gregor, and Shaun O'Toole lead the pack, pulling .375 averages that even Ty Cobb couldn't manage in his career.
A look at my October 31st predictions also shows that top 25 free agents Prince Fielder, Edwin Jackson, Ryan Madson, Hiroki Kuroda, Carlos Pena, Roy Oswalt, Javier Vazquez, Coco Crisp, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Paul Maholm remain unsigned. It's no coincidence that half of them are represented by the Boras Corporation. Here are some possibilities for the 10 best free agents still on the market.
2. Prince Fielder – $153MM over six years might allow Boras to save face, claiming the second-highest average annual value in baseball history even if it'd mean falling well short of the $200MM landmark. Obviously, $180MM over seven years would be better and isn't crazy, while an opt-out could sweeten the deal for Fielder and let him hit free agency again as a 30-year-old. As MLB.com's Richard Justice notes, the market for Fielder is plain mysterious at this point. If there's an obvious candidate to vastly overpay for Fielder, they've yet to be revealed. The Orioles, Mariners, and Cubs are in the mix to some extent. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has recently mentioned the Nationals and Rangers, though those teams are viewed as unlikely by other reporters. The Cubs and Mariners remain the current favorites.
6. Edwin Jackson – Though his pitching record won't change, Jackson will look more and more appealing over the next few weeks to teams looking for a rotation upgrade. In a December 25th MLBTR poll of almost 17,000 MLBTR readers, the Yankees were the top pick with 19% of a well-divided vote. Four days ago, Heyman named the Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, Rockies, Marlins, and Tigers as teams looking for pitching. The Pirates could be a dark horse, and if the Jackson market dips to around three years and $33MM more teams may jump in. For EJax, things are just getting started.
14. Ryan Madson – The Red Sox and Angels have been linked to Madson, who may or may not have been offered four years and $44MM by the Phillies before they signed Jonathan Papelbon. If Madson is to find three years and $30MM, the Red Sox and Angels will have to start a bidding war.
15. Hiroki Kuroda – If the Yankees take a pass, Kuroda could fall to the Red Sox, Cubs, or Hiroshima Carp. One would think a half-dozen other teams would be in the mix for Kuroda on a one-year deal.
16. Carlos Pena – It's been quiet on the Pena front, but he could work for the Rays, Indians, Cubs, or Brewers if the price falls. I think another one-year deal is in order.
18. Roy Oswalt - Six days ago, Heyman named the Red Sox, Marlins, Blue Jays, and Yankees as Oswalt suitors, excluding other teams that acquired starters since then. On a one-year deal, any would-be contender could conceivably jump in.
19. Javier Vazquez – Four days ago, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro said Vazquez maintains he is retiring.
21. Coco Crisp – Crisp seeks a multiyear deal from a contender, and the Cubs and Dodgers could be possibilities. The Marlins or Nationals could offer him the chance to stay in center field.
22. Hisashi Iwakuma – My ranking for Iwakuma was probably too high; he might be looking at a one-year deal. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported two teams have viable interest in the righty, but the A's are lukewarm on him.
25. Paul Maholm – I think Maholm will be able to find a two-year contract. The Cubs were in the mix prior to adding Travis Wood and Andy Sonnanstine. The Rockies have options, but they could still be a fit.