2014 Free Agent Power Rankings Rumors
About 23% of the 2013 MLB regular season is complete. It's been almost a month since our last power rankings, and the list has changed quite a bit.
1. Robinson Cano. The spokeswoman for Cano's foundation, Sonia Cruz, was connected to Biogenesis late last month. While MLB will investigate the connection, Cano's long-term value seems unaffected at present. There's nothing new to report on the idea of the Yankees extending Cano midseason.
2. Shin-Soo Choo. Choo ascends to second on the list, as his .451 OBP leads all of baseball. He has a decent chance of topping his career high of 22 home runs, set in 2010, and the Reds' leadoff hitter could also score 120 runs. A qualifying offer is looking very likely for Choo after the season.
3. Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury was amazing in 2011, and good in 2008-09. He's healthy now, and he won't turn 30 until September. He even leads the American League with 12 steals. Still, I had to drop him a spot on the list, because he's still not hitting much. WAR rewards him for his baserunning and for playing center field, but if he finishes anywhere near .257/.311/.365 offensively, a megacontract is not in the offing even with Scott Boras making the pitch.
4. Chase Utley. Utley has played in every game this year, and may be able to reach 150 for the first time since 2009. He may also return to his 30 home run, 100 RBI days, and his timing is excellent.
5. Hunter Pence. Pence holds steady on the list, despite his worst walk rate since '07. OBP-centric teams won't be drawn to him, but the 30-year-old should finish with solid numbers and earn a respectable contract.
6. Brian McCann. McCann made his season debut on May 6th, returning from shoulder surgery, and he jumps two spots on this list. His first six games have gone well, and if he remains healthy and hits at his pre-2012 level for the remainder of the season, he'll be a hot commodity in free agency.
7. Tim Lincecum. Lincecum also jumps up two spots, despite erratic work this year. He's healthy and striking guys out. The skills demonstrated in his first eight starts, walks and all, suggest a 3.72 ERA moving forward. If he ends up with a 3.80 ERA on the season and 200+ strikeouts, Lincecum will be a solid 29-year-old free agent starter. Given Lincecum's superstar past, however, it's difficult to predict what kind of contract is appropriate.
8. Matt Garza. Garza's fourth minor league rehab outing will take place Thursday, as he recovers from a lat strain. In theory, he could make his season debut May 21st in Pittsburgh. If that happens, he could make 13 starts prior to the July 31st trade deadline before the Cubs have to decide whether to make a deal. If they do, the removal of a potential qualifying offer would boost his free agent value.
9. Mark Reynolds. Reynolds is a new addition to the list, with his blazing .279/.368/.598 start. He's tied for the AL lead with 11 home runs. He's looked more like the Reynolds of old in May, but the second 40 home run season of his career remains possible. Age is on his side as well, as he turns 30 in August.
10. A.J. Burnett. I was initially going to give the #10 spot to Josh Johnson, who at one point was ranked as high as #3. But even though he'll turn 37 in January, I can't ignore the fact that Burnett has a 3.34 ERA, 8.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, and 0.73 HR/9 in 258 1/3 innings for the Pirates since the beginning of the 2012 season. He still averages a healthy 92.3 miles per hour on his fastball, and he's basically everything we hope Johnson can be, except seven years older.
Johnson lost his spot on the list, as he's currently on the DL because of soreness in his right triceps muscle. The injury will keep him out of commission for over a month. Roy Halladay has been removed as well, as he'll undergo surgery tomorrow to remove a bone spur and clean up fraying in the labrum and rotator cuff. Neither pitcher should be written off, but they've lost their top ten spots to healthy players. Among those vying to break into the top ten at some point this year: Nelson Cruz, Nate McLouth, Mike Napoli, Curtis Granderson, the resurgent James Loney, Paul Maholm, Ervin Santana, and Hiroki Kuroda.
Roughly nine percent of the regular season is in the books, and it's time for a new installment in our 2014 Free Agents Power Rankings series. Since our last update, top potential free agent starter Adam Wainwright was locked up by the Cardinals through 2018.
The full list of players who will be eligible for free agency can be found here.
1. Robinson Cano. Interesting news earlier this month, as Cano fired agent Scott Boras in favor of CAA and Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports. Seasoned baseball agent Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA will take lead on contract negotiations, though the agent told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports Jay-Z will be "intimately involved." There's a general feeling that Cano's agency switch makes an extension more likely, but we haven't heard of any progress on that front lately. In an MLBTR poll a week ago of over 13,000 readers, 78% felt Cano would be extended by the Yankees.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury is not off to a blazing start -- he's got six extra-base hits in 67 plate appearances, but he's drawing fewer walks than ever. I'm willing to overlook that for now and focus on the fact that the 29-year-old appears fully healthy.
3. Shin-Soo Choo. The 30-year-old doesn't appear suited for center field, but he's off to a great start offensively. With good health, he could hit 15+ home runs and score 100 with his usual solid OBP, which should play quite well in free agency.
4. Josh Johnson. JJ looked good in his last start against the White Sox, a nice bounceback from a career-worst 1 1/3 inning stint against Detroit. In an MLBTR poll Monday of over 15,000 readers, Johnson was voted the best free agent starter of the upcoming class. However, he won that vote with about 19.6% of the total, and plenty of readers favored Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Matt Garza, or Paul Maholm.
5. Hunter Pence. He's shown some pop in the early going, but Pence's walk rate is down and his strikeout rate is up. Pence's ranking here is tenuous.
6. Chase Utley. A new entrant to this list, Utley is finally healthy and is hitting for big power. His .566 slugging percentage ranks fourth among qualified second basemen. A healthy campaign should lead to a multiyear deal, though at age 35 in December it may be difficult to find a third guaranteed year.
7. Matt Garza. That Garza ranks as the second best free agent starter speaks to the huge question marks in this free agent class, since he hasn't pitched in the Majors since July 21st of last year due to injuries. Garza is slated for a minor league rehab appearance tomorrow, weather permitting, and Cubs manager Dale Sveum told reporters including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune that the righty will make four rehab starts before the team decides whether to activate him.
8. Brian McCann. As he rehabbed from shoulder surgery, McCann encountered some tenderness in his right wrist. It's said to be a minor issue, and he should begin catching in extended spring training soon.
9. Tim Lincecum. There's been nothing positive about Lincecum's first three starts, as he leads MLB in walks allowed and has surrendered three home runs in 16 innings. It's much too early to declare him finished as a useful starting pitcher, but he is in danger of dropping out of the top ten free agents.
10. Roy Halladay. It hasn't been much better for Doc, who looked quite bad in his first two starts of the season. He did shut down the Giancarlo Stanton-less Marlins on Sunday, a team currently hitting .209/.272/.271. Tomorrow's start against the Cardinals will be a better test.
Four starting pitchers are nipping at the heels of Lincecum and Halladay: Paul Maholm, A.J. Burnett, Tim Hudson, and Hiroki Kuroda. Curtis Granderson does not yet have a timetable to resume swinging a bat after fracturing his right forearm, but perhaps he will return in May and make a run at the list.
With the regular season less than a week away, it's time for another entry in our 2014 Free Agents Power Rankings series. One contender for our top ten was eliminated earlier this month, as 27-year-old Scott Boras client Carlos Gomez surprisingly inked a three-year, $24MM extension with Milwaukee.
The full list of players who will be eligible for free agency after this season can be found here.
1. Robinson Cano. Cano remains atop the list, despite the Yankees making what GM Brian Cashman termed "a significant offer" when talking to reporters in late February. Cashman's mention of the team's offer seemed to be something of a public relations move. It would be a big surprise if Cano does not make it to the open market.
2. Adam Wainwright. Talking to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak acknowledged that "time's ticking" on a potential Wainwright extension. The Cards and Wainwright's agent Steve Hammond made progress last week, but the 31-year-old righty is set to take the hill a week from today in Arizona. Negotiations may cease at that point.
3. Josh Johnson. By all accounts, Johnson has looked sharp this spring. So far, he's met his spring goal of allowing no walks. He's maintaining his spot for now.
4. Jacoby Ellsbury. The Red Sox and Ellsbury are being careful to preserve the center fielder's health. The speedster hasn't attempted any steals this spring, and he was removed early from yesterday's game with an ankle injury. The injury seems to be day-to-day, but Ellsbury will need to play in 140+ games this year to shake some of his injury-prone reputation.
5. Shin-Soo Choo. With Choo moving up a spot, Boras now represents three of my top five 2014 free agents. Choo missed six games this spring with back spasms, but he seems fine now. Choo is not without his flaws, but he gets on base and could score a lot of runs atop the Reds' lineup this year. His willingness to play center field has to be viewed as a plus.
6. Roy Halladay. If my fantasy baseball drafts are any indication, folks are down on Doc this year. As MLB.com's Todd Zolecki put it, Halladay "has had a rough month, struggling in starts because of dead arm, lethargy and illness, respectively." The righty has worked at 87-89 miles per hour recently, but his most effective seasons have been in the 91-92 range. The bell rings for Halladay April 3rd in Atlanta, at which point we can start evaluating him more seriously.
7. Hunter Pence. Pence jumps an impressive three spots, more by virtue of the struggles of those around him on this list than by his strong spring. Earlier this month Pence told Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio and ESPN that he'd prefer to sign an extension with the Giants rather than test free agency. I imagine the Giants will need to see a few months of production first.
8. Brian McCann. It was revealed recently that McCann will not be cleared to begin his minor league rehab assignment before April 16th, after his October shoulder surgery. GM Frank Wren said McCann wasn't behind or ahead of schedule. Previously, though, there had been talk of a mid-April return to the Braves. If McCann misses all of April, that hurts his stock a bit. For insight into the injury and McCann's relationship with the Braves, check out Ken Rosenthal's FOX Sports article from earlier this month.
9. Tim Lincecum. Lincecum at least appears healthy, but his spring hasn't been encouraging. If he repeats his lackluster 2012 season, Lincecum will be off this list. Wrote ESPN's Keith Law earlier this month, "His stuff was about where it was late last year, but I think the concerns about him having difficulty pitching off that fastball in a starting role are legitimate."
10. Matt Garza. Garza will start the season on the DL due to a strained lat muscle, after being shut down last year in July due to elbow issues. With a possible mid-May season debut, Garza will need to come on strong and stay healthy thereafter to maintain a spot in our top ten.
A few players on the fringes of the list, such as Curtis Granderson and Corey Hart, will also begin the season on the DL. That could leave an opening for others like Nelson Cruz, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Jason Hammel, and Chase Utley to muscle their way into the picture.
Here at MLBTR, we're always looking ahead. As the 2012-13 offseason winds down, we've already got an eye on players scheduled to reach free agency after the 2013 campaign. The full list can be found here; enjoy our first entry in the new 2014 Free Agents Power Rankings series below.
1. Robinson Cano. Cano is the clear number one choice, a corner type bat at a middle infield position. 2014 will be his age 31 season, and agent Scott Boras is surely licking his chops with an eight-year megacontract in the $200MM range within his sights. Should the Yankees allow Cano to reach the open market, I expect the Dodgers to be players.
2. Adam Wainwright. Wainwright stands as the best pitcher scheduled to become available after the 2013 season. Wainwright's Tommy John surgery is firmly in the rearview mirror, having taken place two full years ago. If he returns to a Cy Young level in 2013, he's looking at Greinke money or better. The Cardinals, however, aim to keep Wainwright off the market by locking him up prior to Opening Day.
3. Josh Johnson. Here's where the rankings get debatable. 2013 is crucial for Johnson, who had a pretty good 2012 after missing much of the previous season with a shoulder injury. Traded to the Blue Jays in November, Johnson can be among the game's best power pitchers when he's right. He can also move down this list quickly with a serious DL stint.
4. Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury's detractors will point to significant time missed due to rib and shoulder injuries in 2010 and '12. On the other hand, 2014 is his age 30 season and he finished second in the 2011 MVP vote with a massive nine-win season. With a healthy '13, Boras might be able to talk his way around Ellsbury's previous injuries.
5. Roy Halladay. One of the game's best pitchers from 2006-11, Doc slipped in 2012 due to a shoulder injury. Halladay will be 37 for most of the 2014 season, but he doesn't operate on the same plane as other pitchers. Assuming he doesn't rack up 259 regular season innings this year, Halladay's 2014 option will not vest and he'll be a free agent. His potential impact this year remains large.
6. Shin-Soo Choo. Choo was sent from the Indians to the Reds as part of a three-team December trade. An arbitration hearing looms prior to his contract year season. He may be out of his element, playing in the National League and manning center field regularly for the first time in his big league career. One knock he'll try to overcome is his struggles against lefties -- he's hit just .239/.329/.318 against them over the last three years. Still, he could put up strong offensive numbers overall atop the Reds' lineup.
7. Brian McCann. McCann underwent shoulder surgery in mid-October, but the Braves had enough confidence to exercise his $12MM option the following month. If he returns to form, he'll be an elite offensive catcher playing at age 30 in 2014. He has a chance to move up this list once he returns from the injury.
8. Tim Lincecum. There was a time not long ago that Lincecum was a candidate to become baseball's first $200MM pitcher, with a pair of Cy Youngs under his belt. However, 2012 was a career-worst season for Lincecum, who averaged below 91 miles per hour on his fastball, walked 4.4 per nine innings, and allowed nearly a hit per inning. Since he'll pitch at age 30 in 2014 and has never been hurt, he gets the benefit of the doubt for now and a top ten spot.
9. Matt Garza. Garza had also been cruising toward a big payday until 2012, when an elbow injury derailed his season. He's another guy who will play at age 30 in '14 and is entering a pivotal contract year. A midseason trade could benefit Garza greatly, erasing the issue of a qualifying offer.
10. Hunter Pence. Pence hit 24 home runs and drove in 104 runs in 2012, but it was still an off-year as he struggled mightily upon being traded to the Giants. If he posts an offensive line around his career average, he'll be in good shape entering free agency aside from a potential qualifying offer concern.
These rankings will change significantly throughout the season, with so many players entering critical contract years. Some players with a chance to muscle their way into my top ten include Curtis Granderson, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Gomez, Corey Hart, and Phil Hughes. I'm not ranking Ben Zobrist, Chris B. Young, Jon Lester, or James Shields here in anticipation of their club options being exercised after the season.