2015 Free Agent Power Rankings

Less than one month remains in the 2014 regular season, so our 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings are starting to resemble the beginning of the Top 50 Free Agents list, which will come out in early November after teams make qualifying offers.  Click here for the previous edition of the power rankings, and click here for the full list of 2015 free agents.

1.  Max Scherzer.  Scherzer has a 3.07 ERA in eight starts since the power rankings were last published.  The 30-year-old ranks second in the AL with 220 strikeouts, fifth with 187 2/3 innings, 13th with a 3.26 ERA, and 5th with a 2.84 SIERA.  His Tigers are a good bet for the playoffs, which would mark Scherzer’s fourth consecutive postseason.  Scherzer could secure the largest free agent contract ever signed by a pitcher, a record currently held by C.C. Sabathia‘s seven-year, $161MM deal from six years ago.  More recently, free agent Masahiro Tanaka required a $175MM commitment, but $20MM of that was paid to his former team.  Both of those pitchers received opt-out clauses, a likely goal for Scherzer.

2.  Jon Lester.  Lester ranks fourth in the AL with a 2.55 ERA, fifth with 186 strikeouts, sixth with 183 2/3 innings, and eighth with a 3.06 SIERA.  He hasn’t missed a beat since being traded to the Athletics at the July deadline.  Because of the trade, Lester boasts a free agency advantage of not being eligible for a qualifying offer after the season.  He’s headed to the playoffs for the fifth time in his career.  Lester is only six months older than Scherzer, and some teams shopping in the high-end of the free agent pitching market may prefer him.  The Red Sox told Lester they’ll be aggressive in trying to sign him as a free agent, and the lefty says he’s prioritizing his family’s happiness over money.

3.  James Shields.  Shields currently leads all free agent starters with 192 innings, but Scherzer could temporarily overtake him Thursday with a decent outing.  At 33 years old in December, Shields belongs slightly below the Scherzer/Lester tier in what is shaping up to be the best trio of free agent starters since this website began nine years ago.  Shields is looking to reach the playoffs for the fourth time in his career with a Royals club that hasn’t been there since 1985.  ESPN’s Buster Olney and WEEI’s Rob Bradford have suggested the Red Sox could make a play for Shields.  A four-year deal for Shields would be easier to stomach than six or seven years for Scherzer or Lester, although a strong finish could give Big Game James a case for five years.

4.  Hanley Ramirez.  Ramirez spent a few weeks on the DL in August for an oblique strain.  It was his first DL stint of the year, though he missed around 15 games previously due to various ailments.  The 30-year-old is beginning to look injury-prone, and his bat will be less impressive if he doesn’t stick at shortstop for most of his next contract.  The game is flush with cash, but is this a $100MM player?

5.  Pablo Sandoval.  Sandoval has proven to be a useful player who hits for average with slightly above-average pop and surprisingly solid defense given his physique.  He’s a better hitter than Chase Headley and is much younger than Aramis Ramirez, so Sandoval is the best third baseman available.  The Giants seem likely to make a play to re-sign him.

6.  Victor Martinez.  Martinez has been on fire since our last set of power rankings, hitting .344/.433/.526 in 180 plate appearances.  He’s been among the best hitters in all of baseball this year, and no other free agent comes close to his 2014 production.  Martinez is mostly a designated hitter at this point, and he’ll turn 36 in December.  He’ll probably find a team willing to take their chances on a three-year deal, possibly in excess of the $45MM Carlos Beltran received.

7.  Yasmani Tomas.  Last month, Rusney Castillo set a Cuban free agent record in signing a seven-year, $72.5MM contract with the Red Sox.  Tomas is a different type of outfielder, a corner guy with middle of the order power.  He’s also younger, at 24 years old in November.  The Phillies have been linked to Tomas in the early going, but he still has to be cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Control before becoming a free agent.  Once that happens, Tomas could have the widest market of anyone on this list given his age.

8.  Melky Cabrera.  Cabrera’s solid campaign continues, as he’s hitting .305/.355/.464 in 605 plate appearances.  He recently turned 30 and figures to aim for a five-year deal.  He may only achieve three or four, owing to subpar defense, a potential qualifying offer, and his 2012 suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.

9.  Russell Martin.  By measure of Fangraphs wins above replacement, Martin has been roughly as valuable as Jose Bautista this year while playing in 70% as many games.  Martin has been one of the best catchers in all of baseball, with an uncharacteristic .414 OBP and his typical excellent defensive work.  It’s hard to find even a surefire starter among the other free agent catchers, so the 31-year-old Martin is about to cash in.  A four-year deal north of $50MM seems possible.

10.  Nelson Cruz.  Cruz leads MLB with 36 home runs, yet he’s tumbled from sixth to tenth on this list.  The 34-year-old’s success amounts to two good months to start the season, after which he’s hitting .214/.282/.406 in 340 plate appearances.  He could still reach 40 home runs, which can’t be ignored, but with another qualifying offer Cruz might find free agency disappointing again.  Cruz said recently he’d like to work out an extension with the Orioles before the end of the season, but talks to date have been casual.

26-year-old Japanese righty Kenta Maeda remains worth watching; he has a 2.73 ERA in 142 innings.  Ervin Santana has been excellent in eight starts since our last power rankings and seems primed for a multiyear deal.  Jason Hammel has settled in in Oakland, pitching quite well in four of his last five starts.  Jake Peavy and Brandon McCarthy have excelled following trades, while Justin Masterson‘s stock has plummeted and he’s been moved to the Cardinals’ bullpen.  Francisco Liriano and Jorge De La Rosa also warrant mention as multiyear deal candidates, though De La Rosa may end up with a qualifying offer attached to his name.  Josh Beckett may be lost for the season with a hip injury, muddying his free agent picture.

On the position player side, Aramis Ramirez continues putting up strong numbers, and Mike Morse has remained useful in recent weeks.  Asdrubal Cabrera has hit well in his new role as the Nationals’ second baseman.  J.J. Hardy didn’t hit a home run until June 21, but he’s gone deep nine times since while playing his typical brand of elite defense at shortstop and should secure a nice multi-year deal.  Nick Markakis has been steady and productive for most of the season.  Late signees Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales have continued to struggle after being traded, calling their offseason strategy into question.


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73 Comments on "2015 Free Agent Power Rankings"


Karkat
11 months 26 days ago

Sox at the very least need one of those top three if they’re going to have a shot at 2015.

East Coast Bias
11 months 26 days ago

I think Boston ends up signing James Shields, with Lester going to the Cubs, and Max going to the highest bidder.. I have no clue who that could be.

BoSox4Life
11 months 26 days ago

Scherzer to the Yankees…no question about it they will be the highest bidder.

bobbleheadguru
11 months 26 days ago

Dodgers, Angels, Cubs … or even Mariners could outbid the Yankees.

Also, the Yankees may value Lester equally, and may be able to get him at a lower price.

Seamaholic
11 months 26 days ago

Angels won’t, unless they’re losing a lot of salary this off-season I’m not aware of. They won’t go over the lux cap, especially after a year when they could well end up with the best record in baseball.

bobbleheadguru
11 months 26 days ago

I suppose the market is not as big as some might think then…

Especially when there are 2 “nearly equal” pitchers entering the market at the same time.

Other than Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, maybe Mariners, how many teams would spend $150MM+ on a starting pitcher at or above 30 years old?

Is it possible that the Tigers Scherzer Spring of 2014 offer of $144MM will be close to the final price tag for both of these pitchers?

chicothekid
11 months 26 days ago

they are not losing much salary next season. that was part of the reason they claimed they didn’t want colon. they couldn’t afford him next season as he put them into luxury tax.

josebatista89
11 months 25 days ago

I still believe Lester is going back to Boston.

11 months 26 days ago

I agree with this.

docmilo5
11 months 25 days ago

Why is Shields going to want fewer years for a last place team? I could see the Cubs getting 2 of the top 3. It’s not Lester they go after. I would love to see Shields stay in KC however.

East Coast Bias
11 months 25 days ago

Boston isn’t obviously planning on being a last place team next year.

At this point, it’s all speculation, here say, and educated guesses, and I opt to trust my own opinion than yours.

docmilo5
11 months 25 days ago

I don’t think Boston planned on being a last place team this year, either. It’s always interesting to see who sticks to their guns and who crumbles as far as contract length goes. I would guess of the three top pitchers, Shields is the oldest and may be had for fewer years.

Seamaholic
11 months 26 days ago

Sox would have to completely reverse themselves on signing 30+ pitchers to long term deals. I don’t think they will. Instead, they’ll package up some of their kids for a P.

Bob Bunker
11 months 25 days ago

What P is under 30 though. And how many kids are they giving up for a 1 year rental? Webster and Cechini for 1 year of someone like Ian Kennedy would be interesting but Swihart, Owens, Betts, Xander, and Rubby shouldn’t even be on the table for a 1 year player.

Rob Schumann
11 months 20 days ago

Personally, I think the Rays are going to have one of their pitchers available.. They need hitting badly and have several solid pitchers once again.. Mets, & Marlins could be willing to barter also..

Bob Bunker
11 months 25 days ago

Lester makes the most sense to me: No draft pick attached, still only 30, having a better year, and proven in Boston.

No sense paying Shields 20-25 million for his age 33-36 seasons when you can get Lesters age 31-34 seasons and then have to deal with the older years down the road.

Bill Couch
11 months 26 days ago

A guy that has one complete game in his career the highest paid pitcher in baseball?Unless someone needs to sell tickets that bad i dont see it.He also has had one of the highest run support for starters the last 2 seasons.Hes a great pitcher but not Highest paid.if you gave Shields the same run support his numbers in terms of wins would be just as good.

11 months 26 days ago

No one’s valuing him based on his Wins total. Scherzer is a better pitcher than Shields across the board, whether you’re looking at traditional metrics like ERA, strikeout rate, opponent batting average, WHIP, K/BB ratio etc. or sabermetric indicators like FIP, xFIP, SIERA, WAR, etc. He’s also two and a half years younger than Shields.

His lack of complete games is a non-issue.

bobbleheadguru
11 months 26 days ago

Scherzer’s only weakness is lack of complete games. I would rather have a pitcher that has 4 “+ pitches” than one that gets complete games…

… And by your logic, if Scherzer pitched on a lesser team, he would have more complete games, because “complete games” are tied to certain extent to team performance and managerial decisions.

East Coast Bias
11 months 26 days ago

Watch the Japanese pitcher and Cuban position player be the best signings again.

Karkat
11 months 26 days ago

I think Maeda could be an interesting option for Boston if the price is right.

EXCEPT, “Kenta” is the short name used for KFC in Japan (“Ken-ta-ki” -> “Kenta”) and the mascot is thereby occasionally referred to as “Kenta-kun”. Colonel Sanders allegedly put a curse on the Hanshin Tigers because of fans defacing his statue after winning a series, and the Sox have had enough curses AND fried chicken related incidents in their history.

Eric Christensen
11 months 26 days ago

Bring Martin back to LA…

Seamaholic
11 months 26 days ago

Rockies are absolutely desperate for a catcher. If they let Cuddyer and Anderson go (likely), they’ll have the money, and they won’t be outbid.

vtadave
11 months 25 days ago

I think you meant to say that if the Dodgers want a guy, THEY won’t be outbid.

kungfucampby
11 months 26 days ago

Qualify Offers are the new reserve clause.

Ted
11 months 25 days ago

Yeah, a one time, one year offer for $15MM+ is the same as being the teams property forever, paid whatever they deem appropriate.

bobbleheadguru
11 months 26 days ago

I think the Tigers offer the same contract to BOTH Scherzer and Price. First one to take it gets the contract.

Looks like that will be Price.

AmericanMovieFan
11 months 26 days ago

Sherzer: 8 years/$200MM (Angels or Mariners)

Lester: 6 years/$135MM (Boston or NYY)

Shields: 4 years/$60MM (Royals if they contend)

Ramirez: 5 years/$100MM ($5MM of which is buyout and signing bonus) (Dodgers)

Sandoval: 6 years/$105MM (Giants)

Martinez: 3 years/$45MM w/ vesting option (Boston)

Melky: 4 years/$55MM (Jays or Texas or Mariners)

Martin: 3 years/$30MM w/ club option (Mets or Orioles)

Cruz: 3 years/$45MM w/ club option (Orioles)

Karkat
11 months 26 days ago

On what planet is Victor Martinez a fit for Boston?

phil mitchell
11 months 26 days ago

you a boston fan? Nice photo

Karkat
11 months 26 days ago

I spent SEVERAL minutes constructing this masterpiece back in 2010

windwalker
11 months 25 days ago

Planet Uranus might be a god fit.

bobbleheadguru
11 months 26 days ago

Thanks for your take. Here are some thoughts.

1. Martinez makes no sense in Boston. They still have a DH who is pretty good, remember? And the Tigers would beat that contract if they had to.

2. Lester will not sign for that much less than Scherzer… and Boston will not go that high with him.

3. What does “Royals if they contend” mean? They are currently in 1st place in the AL Central.

AmericanMovieFan
11 months 26 days ago

The thing is, Lester keeps saying it isn’t entirely about money, but it clearly is to some extent if he turned down Boston’s previous offers. He’ll want top dollar and years, but he’ll be willing to give Boston a “discount” so as not to break any records, the way Scherzer will most certainly try to do.

As for Martinez- I just see him and Boston reuniting. Call me crazy. It probably won’t happen, I know.

josh
11 months 26 days ago

Why in the world would the Mets go after Russell Martin? They’re pretty certain that catcher is a position of depth with d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind him. Neither of them is a sure thing but I’m sure they’d rather take their chances especially given d’Arnauds performance of late. They’ve been pretty open about looking for LF and SS help but crazier things have happened so I guess we’ll see.

Rob Schumann
11 months 20 days ago

Agreed.. I could see the Red Sox chasing Martin though.. Will probably be the Dodgers getting him though..

windwalker
11 months 25 days ago

With Ortiz, Craig, and Napoli still encamped in Boston, not even a over sized shoe horn would fit Victor into the Sox plans. Not to mention age and salary requirements.

chicothekid
11 months 26 days ago

Under no circumstances will the Mets be signing a catcher this season. They are content with TDA right now, as he keeps getting better at the plate and is excellent at framing pitches. They also have Plawecki in AAA who is going to be MLB ready in short order. You might as well have the Cardinals or Yankees signing him, because both of them are just as likely as the Mets this year.

Jim Johnson
11 months 26 days ago

Why would the Orioles sign Martin? They have Wieters coming back and currently have arguably the best defensive catcher in baseball as his backup.

11 months 26 days ago

This is awful.

jeremy
11 months 26 days ago

why would the dodgers give ramirez that much who bat not the same, he cant play SS that well at all anymore and plus he cant stay healthy. dodgers are better off giving either one of the cubans from the minors the SS spot. if they do resign him it wont be for 100 mill it might not even be close to what ethier got. i hope they give him no more then 60 max and if he doesnt like it then too bad because he doesnt deserve a big contract with his declines unless he goes to the AL

Charlie Burns
11 months 26 days ago

Angels’ owner will not allow them to go over the luxury tax, so they have zero chance of signing Scherzer for over 20 million a year. Well, unless they somehow pull off a trade of Hambone, Pujols or Trout (ha!), but none of those are even remotely going to happen in the offseason.

Mark Kelevara
11 months 26 days ago

Don’t see Hanley staying with the Dodgers. Unless he has an amazing September and leads us to a WS, I see him moving to the AL.

Jeremy Schiff
11 months 25 days ago

The mets need a shortstop and outfielder, not a catcher

Alex
11 months 21 days ago

I don’t think the Mets would want Russell Martin. D’Arnaud is hitting over .280 since being recalled from the minors. Not to mention Reckor as a solid back up and Plawceki making the minor league all star game.

Jason
11 months 15 days ago

the Team that gives Hanley Ramirez 100 million will regret it in a HUGE way

Drew Pike
11 months 13 days ago

Seattle’s starting 5 I think is pretty much set, unless there is another injury. I don’t see them spending a ton of money on a starting pitcher. Actually Seattle will probably use a pitcher or two in trades. Not likely a starter, but one or two from the BP. I could see them signing Young again, and maybe extending Kuma, instead of playing out his option, other than that, I don’t see a lot of money spent on FA pitching. Young could start if needed, or move to long relief in the pen.

Greg
11 months 26 days ago

Seems like JJ Hardy warrants at least some mention.

11 months 26 days ago

Very true. That was an oversight. I can’t speak to Tim’s thoughts on him, but he’s right on the fringe of the Top 10 for me. Always seems to be underrated, but an elite defender with plus power for his position.

Pete22
11 months 26 days ago

His awful 1st half put him out of the top 10. He was mentioned though and if he finishes strong could very well be a top 10, but may face the same problems as Drew with a QO.

bobbleheadguru
11 months 26 days ago

My Tigers take on this:

1. I think the Tigers will probably focus on getting Price and/or Porcello signed to an extension one year before FA.

Scherzer is gone. They will be happy to give him the Qualifying Offer and move on. Tigers Out. Boston Out. That leaves LA teams, the Cubs, the Yankees and also the “Mystery Team”.

2. VMART will return to the Tigers, unless they win the World Series. He wants to win one more than he wants to cash in. No other team offers a better opportunity to be a DH and be on a contender for the next couple of years. And the Tigers have not been cheap with any player they want to keep in the last 8 years.

3. Tomas bidding will be interesting. Tigers were the runner up with Castillo. They probably stopped bidding because they liked Tomas more.

They need an Corner OFer with power more than they need Castillo’s speed. They have a poor farm system, so they have more urgency to take a chance in potentially getting a great young player. I think they will be favored to get him.

11 months 26 days ago

I’m not sure you can really say no other team offers a better opportunity for the DH slot as a contending team. The Tigers are sliding downward.

bobbleheadguru
11 months 26 days ago

Name one. There are only 15 teams that have regular DH’s. Several already have solid DH options, or have an organization philosophy of rotating position players through DH.

Even with major injuries to Cabrera, Verlander and Sanchez, the Tigers are tied for 1st place (assuming 10th inning suspended game between Indians/Royals ends as expected).

Do you really think all three will be injured like that again next year?

11 months 26 days ago

White Sox, Angels, and Mariners. There’s three that could make the playoffs next year and beyond.

I don’t think Verlander will be the same elite pitcher and they’re going to lose Scherzer. Cabrera will play better, but this is an expensive top heavy team. Are they going to field a 200 million dollar team?

bobbleheadguru
11 months 26 days ago

I had not thought of the Angels. I thought you might bring up the Mariners, but with such a strong AL West, that is a difficult pick. I guess the White Sox might try to overpay to get VMART.

Interesting that Torii Hunter will be out there as well. Perhaps a DH possibility for some of these teams?

Verlander has to turn into Maddux 2.0.

No reason to think the Cabrera cannot turn into Big Papi 2.0… in 3-4 years. Until then, if healthy, .320/30/110 will be the norm.

Scherzer has already been replaced by Price.

11 months 26 days ago

All three have the need and the funds to get V-Mart. So does Detroit though.

There’s a good chance he stays put. He should be considered essential by DD. But there will be heavy competition for his services.

Ausome7
11 months 25 days ago

I think they’ll be in on Shields as well considering they’ve tried to get him before and he also happens to be David Price’s BFF

SteveF
11 months 26 days ago

Hardy,, Cruz and Markakis will all return to Baltimore…Best Clubhouse and Team Chemistry with a Respected Manager and a Winning Ballclub go a long way when it comes Resigning…Orioles are Building a Great Team for Many years to come

lwayne
11 months 26 days ago

Most of these players will be busts for the money after they sign their large contracts. Look at the others already signed in the last few years. Hard for most to maintain their work ethic with all that ham on their backs. Most to all of these players will be good after they sign, but not as as good as they are paid and will not provide the path to the WS the paying team is desiring.

Kyle
11 months 26 days ago

My prediction for Lester is a 6 years 162 million deal. My prediction for Scherzer is 7 years 189 million. Free agent pitching is outrageously expensive…

bobbleheadguru
11 months 26 days ago

Will be interesting to see who signs first.

It is possible that Lester can leverage Scherzer’s contract and get slightly more… if Scherzer signs first.

That is what Verlander agent did to the Tigers twice. He got the exact same contract (years and $s) as Felix Hernandez TWICE (in the same offseason, both times)… except $5MM more (total) each time.

Pete22
11 months 26 days ago

Its also risky due to injury. Before this year Lester had an uneven 3 years. Scherzer has only been elite the last 3 after struggling earlier in his career, and has regressed a but this year from last year. Both will be north of 30 (scherzer 7 months younger). I see Lester getting 6/140 and Scherzer getting 7/160, Plus a couple of option years tagged on and a buy out.

I think teams will be targetting offense this offseason, since its in shorter supply, although there are not many great offensive players.

jeremy
11 months 26 days ago

i hope the dodgers play it smart with Hanley Ramirez because look what happen with ethier he got a big contract and he hasnt been the same since. plus hanley showing signs of decline and dodgers dont need to get in a mess by giving him a big contract. at most he shouldnt get more then 60mill max. part of me just says move on and let one of the cubans man SS or have a platoon with both of them

BlueSkyLA
BlueSkyLA
11 months 25 days ago

The Dodgers don’t have any reason to go long or big for Hanley, so I would not worry about it. A QO probably makes sense, though, if he doesn’t land on the DL again.

Nathan Boley
11 months 26 days ago

Scherzer – Angels maybe? I don’t see Tigers resigning him. Doubt the Dodgers will as well. Cubs would probably love to have him, so there’s a possibility.
Lester – Maybe Red Sox or Cubs. Or Angels. There’s only so many teams that will pay these guys.
Shields – I can see him in a Red Sox uni.
Hanley – Maybe the Mariners? I don’t think there will be a very big market for him. Somebody will overpay and realize how often he is banged up.
Sandoval – Giants will resign.
VMart – I get the feeling he won’t stay in Detroit either. He could go somewhere like the White Sox or the Rangers or something. Maybe even the Orioles if Cruz leaves?
Martin – Probably the Dodgers or the White Sox. He won’t stay in Pittsburgh, sadly.

Mike1L
11 months 26 days ago

I’ll make a guess that the Yankees don’t sign any of the top ten, particularly not any of the pitchers. The only bright spot in this dismal year for them is that they have found a handful of decent arms. And they also learned that unless their position players perform at the level they should, signing another guy isn’t going to do much. I think they plug the hole at shortstop-but I can’t see it with Hanley. He’s not going to be able to stay on the field, and particularly not at that position.

josebatista89
11 months 25 days ago

I know that this is pie in the sky but here goes make believe gm. For the Mets, i would go hard after John Lester,or Max, then if i get one of them i would call up the Marlins first and I’d offer a package of Matt Harvey, Noah Synderguard, Ralph Montero, and Daniel Murphy, for Gincarlos Stanton, Steve Chisek.

josebatista89
11 months 25 days ago

The second team would be Red’s if the Marlins reject the offer and I’d offer Matt Harvey, and Ralph Monetro for Jay Bruce Mike Leak and Nick Masset.

Bill McCloud
11 months 24 days ago

Scherzer should would look good in his hometown Cardinal’s uni!!!

Dalton
11 months 21 days ago

You all are forgetting about the Phillies! They will get Tomas!

tim mitchell
11 months 20 days ago

Max is going to the Cubbies.

Manchershaw Engineer
11 months 20 days ago

Except he grew up a Cardinals fan and has publicly stated in the past his disdain for the Cubs and Wrigley.

My money’s on the Yankees for Scherzer, Lester back to the Saux, and Shields getting way overpaid by the Cubs.