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2015 MLB Free Agents Rumors
The ninth 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 is the fourth year for our free agent prediction contest, which allows you to test your prognostication abilities against those of the MLBTR writing team as well as other readers. Last year 4,443 people entered, with Mark Fenske taking home the batting title with 13 correct picks out of 48, a .271 average. Ed Creech topped MLBTR writers with 11 correct. The contest is back for 2015 and is open now! You can enter your picks anytime between now and November 7th at 11:59pm central time, and you’re free to make changes up until that point (I will certainly make changes up until the end). A Facebook account is required to participate in the contest. Once all top 50 players have 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. Player names are linked to our Free Agent Profiles.
Please note that I’ve given up on trying to create a scenario where all 50 signings fit together, so you’ll see some redundant picks where multiple players are listed for a team that could only sign one of them. I looked at each player individually and made a pick.
1. Max Scherzer – Yankees. Scherzer is the best starting pitcher in a free agent market loaded with quality arms, a 30-year-old strikeout machine with a Cy Young award on his resume. Including the postseason, he tallied a 3.08 ERA in 461 1/3 innings spanning 2013-14. Clayton Kershaw’s seven-year, $215MM deal seems out of reach, as does its $30.7MM average annual value. A better target would be something closer to the total outlay the Yankees made last winter for Masahiro Tanaka: seven years, $175MM. Extension talks with the Tigers broke down in March after Scherzer rejected a six-year, $144MM offer. The Kershaw, Tanaka, and Zack Greinke deals all included opt-out clauses, something agent Scott Boras will likely seek as he negotiates on behalf of his best free agent starting pitcher since Barry Zito. As he has before, Boras may attempt to bypass GMs in favor of convincing a team’s owner to invest. The Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, Astros, Dodgers, Rangers, Giants, Nationals, Orioles, and Mariners are speculative suitors we’ve kicked around, with varying degrees of probability. And we can’t count the Tigers out entirely quite yet.
2. Jon Lester – Cubs. Lester, a 30-year-old southpaw, posted a 2.46 ERA this year in 219 2/3 innings for the Red Sox and Athletics. He was actually better this year than Scherzer in terms of ERA, and the two share identical 3.58 career marks. Owing to a midseason trade to Oakland, Lester is ineligible for a qualifying offer. Unable to work out an extension with Lester, the Red Sox traded him, but both sides have made an offseason reunion sound more likely than it usually is when a pending free agent star is dealt. However, the Cubs are viewed as the industry favorite for Lester, given Theo Epstein’s time in Boston, the Cubs’ need for frontline starting pitching, and their large spending capacity this winter. Lester should command at least the six years and $147MM Greinke received two years ago, and potentially more.
3. James Shields – Red Sox. The last of the Big Three starting pitchers of the 2014-15 offseason, Shields would have been the best available starter in a lot of previous winters. Big Game James has been a workhorse throughout his career with the Rays and Royals, with a 3.21 ERA in 227 regular season innings this year. He’s less of a strikeout pitcher than the two hurlers listed above him, he turns 33 in December, and he received a qualifying offer. The Red Sox are expected to make a push for him if they fail to sign Lester, but he could certainly land with any of the teams we listed for Scherzer and probably a few more. Shields could be in line for a five-year pact worth $100MM or more, though some teams will likely stop at four years given his age.
4. Hanley Ramirez – Yankees. Ramirez is the best available free agent position player this year. The Dodgers and previous GM Ned Colletti were unable or unwilling to extend him, leaving shortstop an open question for 2015 for new chief Andrew Friedman. Ramirez is a premium right-handed bat at a time when offense is harder to come by, yet he managed only 214 games from 2013-14 due to injuries. He also comes with defensive question marks as a shortstop, and could spend much of his next deal at the hot corner. The new Dodgers regime could re-engage Ramirez, but otherwise his market is unclear. The Yankees, Giants, Mariners, and Tigers are speculative matches, though there’s no perfect fit at this point. A six-year deal is likely for Ramirez, and he has a shot at reaching seven years like Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury did last winter.
5. Pablo Sandoval – Giants. Sandoval, 28, is immensely popular in San Francisco, padding his postseason heroics this year. The third baseman, nicknamed Kung Fu Panda, flashed 30 home run power in 2011, but averaged fewer than 16 longballs per 150 games in the three seasons that followed. A great bad-ball hitter, the portly switch-hitter seems likely to be paid on his postseason reputation more so than his recent regular season results. The thin market for free agent bats doesn’t hurt, either. The Giants and Sandoval have mutual interest in a new deal, while the Red Sox are the oft-cited alternative. The Yankees, Blue Jays, White Sox, Tigers, Astros, Angels, Marlins, and Brewers are a few other teams that don’t have third base entirely locked down. Sandoval’s weight could give some teams pause, but if an older player like Choo received seven years, it has to be a possibility for Sandoval as well. The average annual value may fall short of $20MM, on a six or seven-year deal.
6. Victor Martinez – White Sox. Martinez experienced a well-timed renaissance at age 35, hitting .335/.409/.565 with a career-high 32 home runs in 641 plate appearances. The switch-hitter had one of the best offensive years in the game, let alone among free agents. Since he turns 36 in December and spends most of his time at designated hitter, he’ll fall short of the contracts received by Hanley Ramirez and Sandoval. He’s said to be seeking a four-year deal, which would be risky for any team but is justified based on his 2014 performance. The White Sox hope to steal him away from their division-rival Tigers, while the Mariners, Orioles, Angels, and Rangers could be other possibilities.
7. Melky Cabrera – Blue Jays. Cabrera has an argument for the best free agent outfielder in this year’s class. A switch-hitter, Cabrera is a 30-year-old left fielder who doesn’t strike out often. He has a PED blemish on his resume, and like the three bats above him, he’ll require draft pick forfeiture to sign. We’re still expecting a five-year deal approaching $70MM. The Blue Jays will attempt to retain him, and the Mariners, White Sox, Rangers, Orioles, Tigers, Mets and Cubs could be other possibilities.
8. Russell Martin – Cubs. As the only catcher on this list and possibly the only viable free agent starting option at the position, Martin is in the catbird seat. A career-best .402 on-base percentage further bolsters his case, and he’s known as an excellent defender and handler of pitching staffs. The Pirates made a qualifying offer and extend their budget to try to re-sign him, but he’d make a fine upgrade over Welington Castillo for the Cubs. The Dodgers could also get involved, and Martin would be an upgrade for the White Sox, Rockies, Tigers, Astros, and Mariners as well.
9. Nelson Cruz – Orioles. Cruz led all of MLB with 40 home runs this year, and he socked two more in the ALDS. His type of power is extremely difficult to find these days, and the qualifying offer won’t crush his market like it did a year ago. At that time, Cruz was coming off a PED suspension. His age, 34, is another deterrent, and he’s limited defensively as well. A four-year deal in the $60-70MM range is possible this time. The Orioles will attempt to re-sign him, while the Mariners could be more convinced this time around after coming close to signing him last winter.
10. Yasmany Tomas – Phillies. Tomas is a unique free agent, in that he defected from Cuba this year and will be just 24 years old. A right-handed hitting corner outfielder with huge power, Tomas comes with a lesser reputation and less certainty than countryman Jose Abreu did a year ago, yet Tomas could still top Rusney Castillo’s $72.5MM record for a Cuban player (set in August). That could mean a seven-year deal worth around $100MM. Tomas makes sense even for rebuilding teams, bringing the Phillies into play. Earlier this month, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez also named the Rangers, Padres, Giants, Mariners, and Dodgers as other teams with strong interest.
11. Ervin Santana – Giants. A qualifying offer and high asking price forced Santana into a late one-year deal with the Braves last winter, but he should have a better outcome this time around as one of the best second-tier pitchers. He’s a durable arm to plug into the middle of any rotation. 32 in December, Santana has averaged 207 innings from 2010-14. His strikeout rate jumped to 8.2 per nine this year, his best mark since ’08. The Red Sox, Yankees, Twins, Astros, Mariners, Rangers, Cubs, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Giants figure to be in the market for starting pitching.
12. Kenta Maeda – Astros. Maeda, 27 in April, is the next big thing out of Japan. The right-handed starting pitcher is expected to be posted by the Hiroshima Carp in November. Assuming multiple teams reach the $20MM posting fee maximum, it will be open bidding among those clubs afterward. As a team that fell short on Tanaka last year, the Astros could bring Maeda in to front their rotation for less than the Big Three starters will cost. Most of the teams named for Ervin Santana could be possibilities here.
13. David Robertson – Cubs. Robertson is the best free agent reliever this winter, and the 29-year-old may be aiming to top Jonathan Papelbon’s four-year, $50MM deal. Indeed, a reliever of Robertson’s caliber hasn’t hit the free agent market since Papelbon three years ago. The Yankees tendered a one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer, which Robertson should easily turn down in search of a career payday. The Cubs and White Sox are other potential fits given large amounts of payroll space and protected first-round picks.
14. Brandon McCarthy – Pirates. McCarthy came up big after a July 6th trade from the Diamondbacks to the Yankees, posting a 2.89 ERA in 14 starts. The cerebral righty has a history of shoulder problems, however, and 2014 was his first time topping 170 2/3 innings. That might make an Edwin Jackson-level four-year deal hard to come by, but it’s easy to picture a dozen different teams showing interest.
15. Francisco Liriano – Red Sox. The 31-year-old southpaw may come out seeking a four-year deal, but like McCarthy, low innings totals might prevent him from getting it. Liriano brings lots of strikeouts and grounders but plenty of walks too. He had a 3.20 ERA over the last two seasons in Pittsburgh; will that success carry over to a new team? Liriano also carries the weight of a qualifying offer, so teams with protected first-rounders like the Red Sox, Rangers, Cubs, and Diamondbacks could be better fits.
16. Chase Headley – Red Sox. Headley is one of the game’s best defensive third basemen. The 30 home run power he showed in 2012 looks like a fluke, but he remains an above average hitter who draws a good share of walks. Unlike Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and Aramis Ramirez, Headley is not eligible for a qualifying offer. He seems in good position for a four-year deal. The Yankees may look to bring him back as A-Rod insurance, while the Red Sox might be their primary competition if they can’t sign Sandoval. The Giants and Brewers could consider Headley if Sandoval and Aramis Ramirez move on, respectively.
17. Andrew Miller – Tigers. Miller’s stock rose dramatically after a dominant 2014 campaign. He’s a hard-throwing lefty with a nasty slider and a huge strikeout rate, and he also kept his walks in check for the first time this year. Unlike Robertson, Miller is not eligible for a qualifying offer. He could be the first non-closing reliever to snag a four-year deal since 2007, and it’s easy to name a dozen potential suitors who would love to plug him into the eighth or ninth inning.
18. Justin Masterson – Cubs. Masterson, 30 in March, was very good in 2011 and ’13 when he was able to keep his walk rate in check. The lanky righty has a bowling ball sinker and the groundball rate to back it up. The Indians were unable to lock him up long-term, trading him to the Cardinals on July 30th. Masterson struggled with both teams, but knee inflammation was a mitigating factor. The Cubs are a good fit given the Theo Epstein connection and Masterson’s Midwest upbringing, but it’s likely a dozen teams will show interest in the pitcher. There’s a good chance he gets multiyear offers, but he may prefer one year to rebuild value.
19. Aramis Ramirez – Brewers. Ramirez, 36, still might be a top ten hitter as a third baseman, and he was basically Sandoval’s equal with the bat this year in the regular season. Ramirez has spent his entire career in the NL Central, most recently with the Brewers. They’ve picked up their side of his $14MM mutual option, and we believe Ramirez will turn down his side to keep his options open and try for a two-year deal. If a compromise can’t be reached with the Brewers, the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, White Sox, Indians, Astros, Angels, and Giants could be fits. UPDATE: Ramirez has accepted his side of the mutual option, preferring to play on a one-year deal.
20. Colby Rasmus – White Sox. Rasmus, a young free agent at age 28, hits the market coming off a disappointing season in which he lost his starting role with the Blue Jays. He has a pair of star-caliber seasons on his resume in 2010 and 2013, but he struggled mightily in 2011, ’12, and ’14. He offers big power and has little free agent competition as a center fielder, but he also strikes out a lot and has struggled to hit left-handed pitching. His market will open up considerably if he is willing to play a corner outfield position. He should receive multiyear offers but may prefer one year. The White Sox, Orioles, Tigers, Twins, Mets, Cubs, and Giants could be possibilities.
21. Jed Lowrie – Blue Jays. Lowrie, 31 in April, might be the best middle infielder on the free agent market now that J.J. Hardy has signed an extension with the Orioles. The power Lowrie showed from 2012-13 is rare among shortstops, but his production dropped off this year, his second with Oakland. Lowrie’s negative defensive runs saved figures from each of the last three seasons back up his reputation as a shaky defender, and his market would widen if he’s open to second base. Assuming the A’s can’t afford a possible three-year deal to bring him back, the Blue Jays, Yankees, Mets, Nationals, Reds, and Dodgers could be suitors.
22. Jason Hammel – Twins. Hammel is a quality mid-tier starting pitcher. The 32-year-old posted a 3.47 ERA for the Cubs and A’s this year with an 8.1 K/9 rate. He was useful in 2012 as well, but has had some off years and has never reached 178 innings in a season. He still should be able to find a two or three-year deal. Aside from the Twins, the Astros, Mariners, Rangers, Braves, Pirates, and Giants could make sense.
23. Asdrubal Cabrera – Mets. Cabrera is neck-and-neck with Lowrie for the top free agent shortstop position. He’s got consistent home run power and good durability. Like Lowrie, his defense has been questioned and an openness to second base would help. Any of the clubs listed for Lowrie could be fits for Cabrera, as we at MLBTR pegged them for very similar contracts. It could come down to a matter of preference between the two middle infielders for those teams.
24. Nick Markakis – Orioles. The Orioles chose a $2MM buyout over Markakis’ $17.5MM mutual option, so it wasn’t surprising when they also declined to make a qualifying offer. Markakis has settled in as a durable right fielder with a solid OBP. Without a qualifying offer, that might be enough for a four-year deal. The Orioles are the only team he’s ever known, but if they are unable to re-sign him, the Blue Jays, White Sox, Twins, Rangers, Mets, Reds, and Giants could be fits.
25. Adam LaRoche – Padres. LaRoche, 35 this month, posted a career-best .362 on-base percentage in 2014. He also popped a healthy 26 home runs, third among free agents. One negative is that he has been ineffective against left-handed pitching. The Nationals recently chose a $2MM buyout over LaRoche’s $15MM mutual option, and chose not to make a qualifying offer. Without that encumbrance, LaRoche can try for a three-year deal but may still settle for two. The Brewers are off the board for LaRoche after acquiring Adam Lind, but the Padres, Pirates, and Marlins may look to upgrade at first base. The Orioles, White Sox, Tigers, Royals, Mariners, and Angels could make sense in some scenarios.
26. Jake Peavy – Cubs. Peavy enters free agency for the first time in his career, and the 2007 Cy Young winner is now a mid-rotation starter. He posted a 3.73 ERA for the Red Sox and Giants this year. His stock improved given a 2.17 ERA in San Francisco, even if he won’t be able to repeat the 3.2% home run per flyball rate he experienced there. His agent may seek a three-year deal, but two seems more likely. Peavy seems likely to weigh factors other than money heavily in his decision. He likes the idea of a free agent package deal with buddy Jon Lester, though the Cubs aren’t likely to sign all three pitchers for which they’re listed here. There should be plenty of suitors for Peavy, but his personal preference will play a big role.
27. Hiroki Kuroda – Retirement. Kuroda, 40 in February, has been a lock for about 200 innings and a sub-4.00 ERA for the past five seasons. He’s always had great control, and brought his walk rate down to 1.6 per nine this year for the Yankees. Currently, it’s unclear whether Kuroda will pitch in 2015. If he does, his options figure to be limited by choice, but he’s at least not burdened by a qualifying offer. A return to the Dodgers, his first MLB team, is worth considering, especially because his family still lives in the area. On that note, the Angels shouldn’t be ruled out either.
28. Mike Morse – Rangers. Morse is a productive right-handed bat. He’s mostly played the outfield corners and first base in his career, but more time at designated hitter might help keep him healthy and limit runs lost due to subpar defense. The Rangers, Indians, Royals, Athletics, and Padres could be fits on a likely two-year deal.
29. Michael Cuddyer – Mariners. Cuddyer is similar to Morse on this market: a corner outfielder/first base bat who should probably focus on the American League for a chance to act as a designated hitter semi-regularly. Cuddyer, 36 in March, averaged 93 games per season on his three-year Rockies contract due to injuries but hit exceptionally well there, including solid road numbers in 2013-14. The Mariners figure to be in on him, and the Orioles, Rangers, and Mets are other possibilities. UPDATE: Cuddyer received a surprising qualifying offer from the Rockies, and stands a good chance of accepting it.
30. Alex Rios – Giants. If Morse and Cuddyer are best-served as bat-only players, the outfield market this year is pretty thin. Rios could be a cheaper alternative to Markakis. He’ll be 34 in February and is coming off a replacement-level performance, owed in part to an injury-plagued August. Rios isn’t much of a power or walk threat, but he hits for average, mashes lefties, and generally avoids the DL. A one-year deal to rebuild value makes sense, and the Giants, Mets, Twins, Orioles, Indians, Royals, Mariners, Phillies, and Reds could be fits. Rios switched to the Boras Corporation for representation on the eve of his free agency.
31. Edinson Volquez – Braves. As a 31-year-old coming off a 3.04 ERA for the Pirates, Volquez is in good shape for his first two or three-year deal. His 6.5 K/9 this year was a career-low for any full season, but his 3.3 BB/9 was a career-best and he still gets groundballs and throws hard. There’s upside here, and it could interest teams like the Braves, Twins, Astros, Mariners, Rangers, Marlins, Giants, and Diamondbacks.
32. Luke Gregerson – White Sox. Gregerson has long been one of the game’s top setup men, and he posted a career-best 2.12 ERA this year. Over his six years in the Majors, he leads MLB in holds. Gregerson limits free passes, keeps the ball on the ground, and stays healthy. He gets it done without throwing hard, but it should be noted that he’s spent his career in pitchers’ parks and hasn’t been as good on the road. Gregerson seems a lock for a healthy three-year deal, and the White Sox, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, Astros, Mariners, Rangers, Cubs, Rockies, Yankees, and Dodgers figure to be among the teams seeking relief help.
33. Torii Hunter – Rangers. Hunter, 39, continued to show consistent right-handed power this year with 17 home runs. However, his poor defense in right field negated much of his value, so remaining in the American League seems wise. He’s leaning toward playing in 2015 and hopes to remain with the Tigers. Otherwise, the Orioles, Indians, Royals, Athletics, Mariners, and Rangers could take a look at him.
34. A.J. Burnett – Royals. Burnett turned down a $12.75MM player option with the Phillies, preferring to pitch for a contender in 2015 even if it means taking less money. Burnett, who will turn 38 in January, had an off year with the Phillies as his walk rate jumped up to 4.0 per nine. With teams like the Orioles, Nationals, and Mets not seeking starting pitching and the Yankees probably not seeking a reunion, Burnett may have to relax his oft-cited preference to play near his Maryland home if the Red Sox and Pirates aren’t interested.
35. Sergio Romo – Dodgers. Romo, 32 in March, was removed from the Giants’ closing role in late June. As a flyball pitcher, he can be prone to the home run, but even this year his strikeout and walk rates suggested the skills for the sub-3.00 ERAs he strung together from 2010-13. He should find a strong three-year deal somewhere, especially if he’s open-minded about pitching the eighth or ninth inning. If the Giants don’t re-sign Romo, the Red Sox, Blue Jays, White Sox, Astros, Cubs, Rockies, and Dodgers could be in the mix.
36. Francisco Rodriguez – Blue Jays. K-Rod returned to the ninth inning with a 44-save season with the Brewers. Saves don’t pay like they used to, and Rodriguez did allow 14 home runs in 68 innings. Still, a solid two-year deal should be attainable with any of the teams listed above for Romo, or the Brewers if he takes a discount.
37. Rafael Soriano – Astros. Soriano has cashed in on saves with multiple previous contracts. With the Nationals this year, he saved 32 games but lost his closer job in early September. He’s still a useful member of a bullpen, capable of ERAs in the low 3.00s despite extreme flyball tendencies.
38. Ryan Vogelsong – Giants. Vogelsong, 37, didn’t appear in the Majors from 2007-10, but has re-established himself as a solid #4 starter. The Giants could use the innings he provides, but the other teams listed for Hammel and Volquez would also make sense.
39. Aaron Harang – Giants. Released by the Indians in March, Harang went on to toss 204 1/3 innings of 3.57 ball for the Braves. The durable 36-year-old veteran would make a solid addition to the back end of someone’s rotation on a two-year deal. Remaining in the NL and in a pitcher-friendly park give him the best shot at repeating his 2014 numbers, but he should garner interest from AL clubs as well.
40. Nori Aoki – Reds. A three-time Nippon Professional Baseball batting champion, the Brewers won the rights to negotiate with Aoki three years ago. He was traded to the Royals last December. Aoki, 33 in January, has a .353 career on-base percentage in MLB. A left-handed hitter, Aoki has actually hit southpaws better than righties for the past two seasons. He’s known for some circuitous routes in right field, but his defensive numbers are acceptable. Aoki seems in line for a multiyear deal, and could fit with the Reds, White Sox, Twins, Mets, and Giants. The Royals are also believed to be interested in retaining him.
41. Billy Butler – Mariners. Butler is limited to American League teams where he can spend most of his time at DH. A right-handed bat, he turns 29 in April. He’s slugged just .396 over the past two seasons, and this year his walk rate dropped to a career-worst 6.8%. The Royals have declined his club option, and he may need to find a new home. The Mariners, Orioles, Indians, A’s, and Rangers are potential matches, and the Mariners have been connected to him multiple times in recent offseasons.
42. Stephen Drew – Athletics. Drew was saddled by a qualifying offer last winter and did not find the offers to his liking. The shortstop sat out until May 20th, removing the draft pick cost from the equation and signing for a pro-rated version of the $14.1MM qualifying offer with Boston. He was flipped to the Yankees at the trade deadline in a rare deal between the AL East rivals. Perhaps it was the long layoff, but Drew was brutal with the bat in 2014. Still, there’s no question he can play a capable shortstop, and that’s not as certain for Jed Lowrie or Asdrubal Cabrera. Drew figures to sign his third consecutive one-year free agent deal. The A’s, Yankees, Astros, Mets, Reds, Padres, Blue Jays, Marlins, and Nationals are all possibly seeking help in the middle infield.
43. Emilio Bonifacio – Braves. Bonifacio offers speed, defense, versatility, and relative youth, although he doesn’t hit much. He’s the free agent leader for wins above replacement at both second base and center field, though that’s more a function of the weak market at those positions. As a super-utility guy on a two-year deal, he could provide depth for a lot of teams.
44. Casey Janssen – Dodgers. Janssen, 33, posted a 2.46 ERA from 2011-13 but posted a 5.65 mark in the final three months of 2014. He suffered a case of violent food poisoning over the All-Star break and wasn’t the same afterward. Given his track record, he could be a bargain buy for the many teams seeking late-inning relief.
45. Pat Neshek – Astros. Neshek, a 34-year-old sidearmer, signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals in February and went on to make the All-Star team. He posted a stellar 1.87 ERA in 67 1/3 innings overall, appears in line for a two-year deal and could fit in the bullpen of contending clubs and non-contenders alike.
46. Brandon Morrow – Dodgers. Morrow, 30, has been limited to 212 1/3 innings over the last three seasons due to an oblique strain, an entrapped radial nerve in his forearm, and a torn tendon sheath in a finger on his throwing hand. He still averages 94 miles per hour on his fastball, and he wants to continue as a starting pitcher rather than a reliever. The fifth overall draft pick in 2006, Morrow should battle Brett Anderson as this winter’s most attractive high-risk, high-reward starting pitcher. Those types generally draw a long list of bargain-seekers, though teams in pitcher-friendly environments should be more appealing to the player.
47. Jason Grilli – Yankees. Grilli, 38 in November, re-emerged as an effective reliever with the Pirates in 2011. The Bucs sent him to the Angels in a change of scenery swap for Ernesto Frieri in late June this year. Grilli did solid work for the Halos and should be a popular late-inning option.
48. Brett Anderson – Twins. Anderson, just 27 in February, is a tantalizing free agent. He set a career-high with 175 1/3 innings as a rookie in 2009 with the A’s, and has seen injuries pile up since. He tallied only 123 frames for all of 2012-14 due to Tommy John surgery, a broken foot, and surgeries his back and a broken finger this year. It would make sense for him to focus on a pitcher-friendly ballpark as he looks to re-establish himself, and Minnesota was among the teams to show interest before he was traded to the Rockies last year.
49. Josh Johnson – Padres. Johnson, 31 in January, was the prime high-risk, high-reward starting pitcher from last offseason. He had Tommy John surgery in late April, however, so 2015 will be an abbreviated campaign at best. Johnson’s front-rotation abilities are getting further in the rearview mirror, but his potential if healthy remains interesting. The Padres turned down a $4MM club option, but Johnson’s agent Matt Sosnick said, “His first choice is to go back to San Diego.”
50. Jung-ho Kang – Orioles. After hitting 38 home runs in the Korea Baseball Organization in 2014, Kang could be the first position player to make the leap from KBO to MLB. MLBTR spoke to an international scouting director who finds Kang fringy at shortstop, suggesting he’s better suited for second or third base. He doesn’t possess any plus tools, and may profile as a utility guy with good instincts and a little bit of pop. That still has value.
We’re listing Japanese pitcher Chihiro Kaneko as an honorable mention at this point, as it’s not certain he’ll be posted. We’re also keeping Cuban defectors Hector Olivera and Jose Fernandez in this section because of the uncertain timeline of their potential free agency.
Other honorable mentions: Kendrys Morales, Joba Chamberlain, Rickie Weeks, Chris Capuano, Gavin Floyd, Roberto Hernandez, Chris Young, Neal Cotts, Burke Badenhop, Zach Duke, Chad Billingsley, Luke Hochevar, Geovany Soto, A.J. Pierzynski, Tsuyoshi Wada
The Major League Baseball Player’s Association has announced the official class of free agents for the upcoming offseason. Click here to find the complete list, along with an excellent foreword (featuring an interview with lefty Andrew Miller) that was penned by MLBTR’s own Tim Dierkes.
121 players will hit the open market, according to the MLBPA. Former teams will enjoy a five-day exclusive negotiating window before the newly-minted free agents will be eligible to sign with any club.
Of course, MLBTR will be all over the free agent news and rumors as they unfold over the coming months. Be sure to keep an eye on our list of current free agents, which will be updated as the market moves. And, of course, MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker will keep you up to date on the deals that have been completed. Tim will unroll his top fifty free agent list in the coming days as well, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.
Our 2014-15 MLB Free Agent Tracker is here! The tracker lists all free agents who had at least 20 Major League innings or 50 plate appearances in 2014. You can currently filter by position and handedness. Once the information is available, you can filter by qualifying offer status, signing team, and contract terms.
The tracker can always be found under the Tools menu up top, or under MLBTR Features on the sidebar. We also have all the players in list form, which can be found here.
As I did last year, I’ve taken the liberty to compile Fangraphs leaderboards for the most notable players that will be eligible for free agency following the season. Those who enjoy playing GM — and if you read this site with any regularity, you presumably do — can filter each leaderboard to their liking to see which potential free agents are the best fits with a club’s specific needs.
Fangraphs leaderboards will allow you to sort hitters both by position and by statistics. Everything from basic stats like average and homers, advanced metrics like wRC+ and wOBA, or batted-ball metrics like line-drive rate and HR/FB is available. If you click the “Fielding” tab near the top of the page, you can check out sortable defensive metrics as well. On the pitching side of things, everything from ERA to FIP to swinging-strike rate to fastball velocity can be found. You can also set each leaderboard to include data from previous seasons to increase the sample size.
For the purposes of this post, I’ve created four leaderboards (Note: These are not MLBTR’s rankings of free agents. They are sorted by Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement but can be sorted by any stat under any tab on the leaderboard simply by clicking that stat. MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agent rankings will be published after the season, and the latest version of our Free Agent Power Rankings was published earlier in the month):
- Free agent position player leaderboard
- Free agent starting pitcher leaderboard
- Free agent right-handed relief pitcher leaderboard
- Free agent left-handed relief pitcher leaderboard
It’s also worth noting that I included any player who is eligible to become a free agent following the season. Though club options for players such as Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist, Hisashi Iwakuma and others are locks to be exercised, I thought it best to simply include all players rather than make judgement calls on more borderline cases. If you’d like any such players removed, you can simply highlight their name under the “Custom Players” section near the bottom of the page and click the X to the right of the column, then generate a new, updated list.
If you see any notable omissions, please, of course, let us know. The cutoff used for these leaderboards is the same that we typically use for our Free Agent list here at MLBTR: 50 plate appearances for hitters or 20 innings pitched for pitchers. These lists also include significant players that did not take the field in 2014 such as Josh Johnson and Luke Hochevar. Their stats will be available if you expand the leaderboards to include seasons prior to 2014.
Thanks to Fangraphs.com for the ease of use that led to creating these leaderboards!
The qualifying offer system turned Kyle Lohse's name into a verb following the 2012-13 offseason. Lohse didn't sign a free agent contract until late March, a long wait that was attributed to Lohse turning down the Cardinals' one-year, $13.3MM qualifying offer the previous November, and thus attaching the price of a first-round draft pick to any team that wanted to sign him.
Lohse, at least, ended up with some solid long-term security in the form of his three-year contract from the Brewers. This offseason's four free agents who "got Kyle Lohse'd" haven't been nearly so lucky in finding a multiyear commitment. Ervin Santana, coming off a 3.0 fWAR/2.9 rWAR season in 2013, could only find a one-year, $14.1MM contract and had to wait until almost the middle of March to find it. Nelson Cruz, who posted an .833 OPS with 27 homers in 2013, could only find a one-year deal worth $8MM from the Orioles. As for Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew, it's almost mid-April and both players remain unsigned.
While such factors as defensive limitations, injury worries and (in Cruz's case) PED histories limited the quartet's market, the qualifying offer stands out as the biggest reason why Santana and Cruz were limited to one-year deals, and why Morales and Drew are still available. Teams simply weren't willing to give up first- or second-round draft picks in order to make major commitments to these players, while other similar free agents (i.e. Jhonny Peralta or Matt Garza) who didn't require draft pick compensation were able to find four-year contracts.
No free agent has accepted a qualifying offer in the two years that the system has been in place, yet as ESPN's Jayson Stark noted today, "clubs are already getting the vibe from some agents that player/agent strategy is about to change — and players will be far more open to taking qualifying offers next winter." Next year's qualifying offer will be in the range of $15MM for a one-year deal, so while players will be giving up long-term security, they'll still make significant money for accepting a contract. A National League executive tells Stark that teams could employ a tactic of offering a multiyear deal to players who accept a qualifying offer in order to both spread the money out and to give the player more security.
As Lohse himself tells Stark, however, settling for a one-year qualifying offer may be profitable but it goes against the spirit of free agent. "I know we're fortunate to be making the money we're making. But when you get that option where you only have a one-year deal, you don't have any security," Lohse said. "To penalize guys who, in my case last time, have put in 10 or 11 years, and to lock me into a situation where I only have the opportunity to get a one-year deal…it puts guys in a totally different situation that have worked so hard to get to where they want to be." Another issue, as Lohse notes, is that a player who accepts a one-year qualifying offer deal could find himself stuck in the same position the next offseason.
I'd argue that player/agent relations could be another factor in the decision about accepting a qualifying offer process. If an agent advises his client that a one-year qualifying offer is the best option, a player who has waited years for free agency (as Lohse described) and is coming off a strong enough season to merit a qualifying offer in the first place might not accept this advice and seek out a new agent instead. Granted, unrealistic contract expectations may have played a part in why Cruz (reportedly looking for a $75MM deal) and Santana (looking for a nine-figure contract) drew such limited interest on the open market, but agents pride themselves on finding the best possible deals for their clients and don't want to be seen as "settling" on a one-year deal for a client coming off a good season.
Being open to accepting a qualifying offer could, conversely, become a tactic unto itself for players, Stark notes. If players are more open to accepting these offers, teams could be more wary of extending them in the first place to so-called "borderline" free agents. The Red Sox might not have risked Drew accepting their offer, for instance, as the team seemed eager to give Xander Bogaerts an everyday role at shortstop. (Boston did explore re-signing Drew for a one-year deal, but likely not at a $14.1MM price.)
There's still a ton of baseball to be played before we reach the 2014-15 offseason, of course, and still to early to speculate about which of the 2015 free agents stand out as possible candidates to be "Kyle Lohse'd" — or, maybe this term is now "Kendrys Morales'd" or "Stephen Drew'd." Still, given how this most recent offseason has played out for Morales, Drew, Cruz and Santana, do you think we'll see at least one free agent bite the bullet and accept a qualifying offer in November?
We're always looking ahead here at MLBTR, sometimes way ahead, hence our recent publication of the 2014-15 free agent class. These players project for free agency after the 2014 season, two seasons from now. We know plenty of them will sign extensions between now and then, but it's still fun to discuss.
Joining This Group Later
After the 2013 season, several players have club options that seem likely to be exercised, such as James Shields and Jon Lester. That means they'll play out the 2014 season and then become free agents.
The Under-30 Group
Clayton Kershaw, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Colby Rasmus, Homer Bailey, and Chris Perez are among those who will play the 2015 season at an age below 30. Kershaw and Andrus, in particular, are primed for monster contracts barring major hiccups in the next two seasons. Kershaw will turn 27 in March of 2015, and the Dodgers' ace seems the best candidate to soar past the $200MM mark whether through an extension or free agency. Andrus, meanwhile, will enter the 2015 season as a 26-year-old. It takes a special kind of player to put in six years of Major League service time by that age.
The 2014-15 free agent class is deep at shortstop at the moment, with Andrus, Cabrera, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, and perhaps Hanley Ramirez. Sandoval, Chase Headley, and Nick Markakis are potential middle-of-the-order bats in a market that appears light on them. Perhaps someone like Melky Cabrera can post a couple of strong seasons to solidify his status. Otherwise you're looking at a 39-year-old David Ortiz or 35/36/37-year-olds Josh Willingham, Adam LaRoche, Victor Martinez, Aramis Ramirez, and Michael Cuddyer.
Kershaw and Justin Verlander represent a pair of true aces who will seek record-setting contracts, should they reach free agency. Verlander will turn 32 prior to the 2015 season. I realize he's not like most pitchers, but the list of seven-year megacontracts given to 32-year-olds is a short one for good reason. At any rate, it'll be fun times at MLBTR if both pitchers reach free agency, but there's a pretty good chance the Dodgers lock up Kershaw. Beyond those two, Max Scherzer, Shields, and Lester comprise a strong second tier. Homer Bailey, Justin Masterson, and Brandon McCarthy can join them with a pair of strong seasons. And who knows what the mid-30s will bring for Josh Beckett and Jake Peavy.
How accurate can we be, analyzing a free agent class two years early? Aside from all the guys who will be plucked off the market early due to extensions, some players will just see their stock plummet. For every Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton, there's a Stephen Drew, a guy who I considered a $100MM contract candidate two years ago.
MLBTR’s up-to-date list of 2014-15 MLB free agents is below. These players are currently free agents. Linked names will take you to that player’s Free Agent Profile.
J.P. Arencibia (29)
John Buck (34)
Ryan Doumit (34)
Brett Hayes (31)
Nick Hundley (31)
Gerald Laird (35)
Wil Nieves (36)
A.J. Pierzynski (38)
David Ross (38)
Geovany Soto (32)
Daric Barton (29)
Mike Carp (29)
Corey Hart (33)
Mike Morse (33)
Lyle Overbay (38)
Carlos Pena (37)
Mark Reynolds (32)
Emilio Bonifacio (30)
Mark Ellis (38)
Rafael Furcal (37)
Jonathan Herrera (30)
Brandon Hicks (29)
Kelly Johnson (33)
Ed Lucas (33)
Ramon Santiago (35)
Chris Valaika (29)
Rickie Weeks (32)
Josh Wilson (34)
Alberto Callaspo (32)
Jack Hannahan (35)
Chase Headley (31)
Kelly Johnson (33)
Ed Lucas (33)
Donnie Murphy (32)
Mark Reynolds (32)
Melky Cabrera (30)
Mike Carp (29)
Endy Chavez (37)
Tyler Colvin (29)
Nelson Cruz (34)
Chris Denorfia (34)
Cole Gillespie (30)
Jonny Gomes (34)
Tony Gwynn Jr. (32)
Scott Hairston (35)
Reed Johnson (38)
Jason Kubel (33)
Ryan Ludwick (36)
Nyjer Morgan (34)
Mike Morse (33)
Delmon Young (29)
Emilio Bonifacio (30)
Tony Campana (29)
Endy Chavez (37)
Nyjer Morgan (34)
Colby Rasmus (28)
Nori Aoki (33)
Endy Chavez (37)
Tyler Colvin (29)
Nelson Cruz (34)
Chris Denorfia (34)
Scott Hairston (35)
Torii Hunter (39)
Nick Markakis (31)
Alex Rios (34)
Nate Schierholtz (31)
Ichiro Suzuki (41)
Yasmany Tomas (24)
Ryan Doumit (34)
Adam Dunn (35)
Jason Giambi (44)
Jonny Gomes (34)
Corey Hart (33)
Raul Ibanez (42)
Jason Kubel (33)
Kendrys Morales (31)
Delmon Young (29)
Brett Anderson (27)
Scott Baker (33)
Chad Billingsley (30)
Chris Capuano (36)
Bruce Chen (38)
Kevin Correia (34)
Gavin Floyd (32)
Jason Hammel (32)
Aaron Harang (37)
Roberto Hernandez (34)
Josh Johnson (31)
Kyle Kendrick (30)
Hiroki Kuroda (40)
Jon Lester (31)
Colby Lewis (35)
Francisco Liriano (31)
Paul Maholm (33)
Justin Masterson (30)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (34)
Brandon McCarthy (31)
Brad Mills (29)
Franklin Morales (29)
Brandon Morrow (30)
Felipe Paulino (31)
Jake Peavy (34)
Yohan Pino (31)
Wandy Rodriguez (36)
Ervin Santana (32)
Joe Saunders (34)
Max Scherzer (30)
James Shields (33)
Kevin Slowey (31)
Eric Stults (35)
Carlos Villanueva (31)
Ryan Vogelsong (37)
Edinson Volquez (30)
Randy Wolf (38)
Chris Young (36)
Mike Adams (36)
Matt Albers (32)
John Axford (32)
Burke Badenhop (32)
Matt Belisle (34)
Heath Bell (37)
Jared Burton (34)
Buddy Carlyle (37)
Joba Chamberlain (29)
Paul Clemens (27)
Jesse Crain (34)
Kyle Farnsworth (39)
Jason Frasor (38)
Kyuji Fujikawa (34)
Jeanmar Gomez (27)
Luke Gregerson (31)
Matt Guerrier (36)
Luke Hochevar (31)
Jim Johnson (32)
Matt Lindstrom (35)
Jeff Manship (30)
Nick Masset (33)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (34)
Dustin McGowan (32)
Evan Meek (32)
Jason Motte (33)
Pat Neshek (34)
Juan Carlos Oviedo (33)
Chris Perez (29)
Sergio Santos (31)
Kevin Slowey (31)
Tim Stauffer (32)
Jose Veras (34)
Jamey Wright (40)
Joe Beimel (38)
Craig Breslow (34)
Sean Burnett (32)
Phil Coke (32)
Neal Cotts (35)
Scott Downs (39)
Tom Gorzelanny (32)
Andrew Miller (30)
Franklin Morales (29)
Josh Outman (30)
Joe Thatcher (33)
Cot’s Baseball Contracts was used in the creation of this list.