2012 MLB Free Agents Rumors

Draft Signings: Wood, Perez, Diamondbacks, Reds

Here are Sunday's notable non-first round draft pick signings…

  • The Braves have agreed to terms with second rounder Alex Wood for $700K, tweets Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA. The left-hander from the University of Georgia was the 85th overall pick, which carries a slot value of $583K.
  • The Padres have signed third rounder Fernando Perez for a below slot $400K, according to Jim Callis of Baseball America (on Twitter). Selected 102nd overall, the third baseman from Central Arizona Junior College was slotted for $467K.
  • The Diamondbacks have signed 11th round selection Ben Eckels for $125K, tweets Callis. Arizona's draft budget will be reduced by $25K after giving the high school right-hander from California a bonus over $100K.
  • The Reds have signed 18th round pick Jackson Stephens for $100K, reports Callis (on Twitter). The high school right-hander and third baseman hails from Alabama.

Remaining Free Agent Groundballers

With Aaron Cook and his 57% career groundball rate now off the free agent market, it's a good time to have a look at some available hurlers who have a habit of keeping the ball on the infield.

There's no official distinction for what makes one a groundballer, of course, but the average MLB pitcher induces grounders about 44% of the time. So, we're looking at guys who clock in above that rate for their career and who logged at least 100 innings in 2011.

  1. Paul Maholm – 52.3%. He's not spectacular by any stretch but is reliable and should find a home as someone's No. 4 or 5 starter. 
  2. Joel Pineiro – 49.2%. His 60.5% rate as a Cardinal in 2009 looks like an outlier, but whoever signs him will hope he can recapture that form.
  3. Hiroki Kuroda – 48.6%. His career average would be higher were it not for a big dip in 2011 – down to 43.2%. Is that noise, or a change in profile for an aging pitcher who's battled injuries?
  4. Roy Oswalt – 47.3%. He hovered around 50% during his prime but seems to have settled in close to league average the past couple years. I wonder if his back troubles have been a factor.

As you can see, most of the extreme groundballers (50% or more) are off the market. Edwin Jackson, the prize of the remaining class, has had some pretty notable swings in groundball rate from year to year, which is Edwin Jackson in a nutshell.


Next Offseason’s Best Available Starters

Starting pitchers Wandy Rodriguez, Bronson Arroyo, and R.A. Dickey signed multiyear contracts this offseason, weakening an already poor 2011-12 free agent class.  Let's take a look at the best remaining options for next winter's shoppers.

Free Agents

  • C.C. Sabathia – There is an expectation that Sabathia will opt out of his remaining four years and $92MM with the expectation of a bigger contract.  If he does, there is the possibility of the Yankees extending him before he hits the open market.  Sabathia could top his own seven-year, $161MM record for a pitcher.
  • C.J. Wilson – Wilson is in the running as the second best free agent starter in this group, though an extension with the Rangers remains possible.
  • Mark Buehrle – Buehrle seems unusually willing to talk about his future.  Assuming he doesn't retire, he told Dan McNeil, "It's going to have to be with a contender and somewhere where my family is comfortable."  His list of potential destinations will be pretty short, with the White Sox and Cardinals leading.
  • Ryan Dempster – Dempster has a $14MM player option for 2012.  I imagine interest is mutual in Dempster remaining with the Cubs, but the righty is entitled to seek more security than one year and $14MM.
  • Edwin Jackson – Jackson is a breakout candidate for 2011, as explained here.
  • Hiroki Kuroda – Like Buehrle, Kuroda is not going to market himself to the highest bidder.  He'll probably aim to re-sign with the Dodgers or at least remain on the West Coast.
  • Roy Oswalt – Oswalt gets a $2MM buyout on his $16MM mutual option regardless of which side declines.  The best business move is to test the market, but like some others on this list Oswalt figures to be picky.
  • Joel Pineiro – He'll need to come back strong from a shoulder injury.
  • A few more free agent starters will surely emerge during the season, as Pineiro did in 2009.  Click here to browse the full list.  Others will join the list as non-tenders, but probably not anyone who belongs on this list.

Trade Candidates

  • James Shields: His contract offers the best flexibility you'll find for a solid veteran starter, with club options for '12, '13, and '14.  If the Rays have someone ready to take his place, next offseason might be the time to cash in.  Fausto Carmona is on a similar contract, but doesn't have Shields' trade value.
  • Chris Carpenter: Theoretically the Cardinals could exercise Carpenter's $15MM option for 2012, and then try to trade him for a cheaper starter.
  • Braves starters: They're in the catbird seat, with Jair Jurrjens and Derek Lowe among the trade candidates if they decide to use their pitching surplus to fix another area.
  • Astros starters: Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez would be attractive trade chips, whether at this year's deadline or in the offseason.  Still, I see the Astros keeping them.  Same goes for the Orioles and Jeremy Guthrie.
  • The Brewers, Mets, Giants, Phillies, and Angels have some interesting trade candidates, most of whom will be getting more expensive in 2012.  It's too early to call whether guys like Shaun Marcum, Mike Pelfrey, or Jonathan Sanchez will become available, though. 


The New Free Agent Second Baseman Market

As MLBTR's Transaction Tracker shows, second basemen Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks, and Freddy Sanchez have agreed to extensions since the beginning of the year.  Extensions always reduce the appeal of projected free agent groups, and for 2012 second base took a big hit.

Nine free agents currently project as potential starters at second base in 2012: Clint Barmes, Jamey Carroll, Mark Ellis, Bill Hall, Aaron Hill, Omar Infante, Kelly Johnson, Jose Lopez, and Brandon Phillips.

Phillips would bring the second base class some name value after the losses of Uggla and Weeks.  Offensively Phillips does not stack up with either player.  But with Weeks getting $10-11MM per free agent year, the Reds have a case for retaining Phillips at an $11MM net price for one more year.  The Blue Jays have the option of retaining Hill for $8MM for '12, which would look reasonable with a return to form.

Barmes is expected to play shortstop for the Astros this year, though he'll miss most of April with a broken bone in his hand.  Hall will serve as his double play partner.  They'll earn almost $7MM combined this year, but both must re-establish themselves as effective everyday players.  The Rockies appear open to trading Lopez, who needs regular work to avoid slipping into utility status.  Carroll, who has a solid .356 career OBP, has a chance to establish himself as a regular if he can move past Casey Blake on the Dodgers' depth chart once Blake is healthy.  The Giants' Mark DeRosa could seek a starting second base job, though he hasn't played much there since '08.

Infante, the Marlins' starting second baseman, has a chance to further cement himself as a regular.  He hit .309/.353/.411 in 300 games with the Braves during 2008-10, and should be looking at the second multiyear deal of his career with a strong 2011.  Ellis and Johnson are looking to prove they're worth multiple years at $5-6MM per.  Both were easily worth that salary in 2010, so they're looking for repeat seasons.


2012 Free Agent Class Analysis

Our 2012 MLB Free Agent list has just been posted.  Since that post will be a permanent addition to the sidebar, comments on it are closed.  Leave comments here instead!

The 2012 list shows players who are eligible to become free agents after the 2011 season.  My system is to allow a player to only be on one list at a time, so those on the 2010 or 2011 lists are not on the 2012 one.  The 2012 list is for players who are signed through 2011 (some may have '12 options) and also for those who currently have between four and five years of service time.  Part of the latter group will be non-tendered after the '10 season, at which point they'll join the '11 list and be removed from '12.  Now that you're sufficiently confused, let's analyze this group!


2012 MLB Free Agents

MLBTR's up-to-date list of 2012 MLB free agents is below.  These are players who are eligible for free agency after the 2011 season.  The player's 2012 age is in parentheses.  Players on the 2013 free agent list are not on this one.  The cutoffs for this list are generally 20 innings pitched or 50 plate appearances in the Majors in 2011.

If you have any corrections or omissions, please contact us.  To see who represents these players, check out our agency database.  For instant free agent updates, be sure to follow us on Twitter @mlbtraderumors.

List updated 6-22-12

Catchers
Josh Bard (34)
Ramon Castro (36)

First basemen
Jorge Cantu (30)
Ross Gload (36)
Derrek Lee (36) – Type B, offered arbitration

Second basemen
Alex Cora (36)
Bill Hall (32)
Felipe Lopez (32)
Julio Lugo (36)

Shortstops
none

Third basemen
Jorge Cantu (30)
Wes Helms (36)
Felipe Lopez (32)

Left fielders
Felix Pie (27)
Marcus Thames (35)

Center fielders
Marlon Byrd (34)
Aaron Rowand (34)

Right fielders
J.D. Drew (36)

Designated hitters
Manny Ramirez (40)

Starting pitchers
Kyle Davies (28)
Armando Galarraga (30)
Jon Garland (32)
Sergio Mitre (31)
Carlos Silva (33)
Jeff Suppan (37)
Javier Vazquez (35)
Brandon Webb (33)

Right-handed relievers
D.J. Carrasco (35)
Scott Linebrink (35)
Joel Zumaya (27)

Left-handed relievers
Joe Beimel (35)
Zach Braddock (24)
John Grabow (33)
Damaso Marte (37)
Trever Miller (39)
Dennys Reyes (35)
Arthur Rhodes (41) – Type B, no arbitration offer
Mitch Stetter (31)

Cot's Baseball Contracts was used in the creation of this list.