MLB’s Most Prized Free Agents

Where these players go nobody knows. Well actually...
Where these players go nobody knows. Well actually…

By Rodney Fisher

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the December issue of Blitz which was published before Thanksgiving therefore some of the players on this list have already signed with new teams.

Now that the World Series champion has been decided on the field, the front office battle between teams starts. Baseball’s winter meetings will be conducted Dec. 9-12 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. This will be every team’s chance to add veteran pieces to their rosters in hopes that the player is the one piece needed to win it all.

In Nashville in 2012, teams like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made it rain for big hitters like Josh Hamilton to the tune of $125 million yet the club still could not compete for the American League West title. Other teams like the Boston Red Sox added free agent Mike Napoli for a one-year, $5 million deal were rewarded with a championship. The Los Angeles Dodgers added Zack Greinke and made a nice postseason run, while the St. Louis Cardinals won the National League by sitting on their wallets. Nevertheless, the money fountain will be flowing. Let’s take a look at the top free agents available this winter:

1) Robinson Cano – 2B
2013 MLB Stats: BA .314, OPS .899, HR 27, RBI 107, SB 7
2014 Team: New York Yankees
Once Cano threw up the Roc, meaning joining Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports, he might as well have thrown up the $ sign instead. The Yankees have no choice but to pay Cano $300 million for 10 years as he has requested or pretty close to it. With no rising superstars in their club system and Alex Rodriguez fighting Major League Baseball, Cano is a must resign. Get ready to pop bottles at the 40/40 club.

2) Masahiro Tanaka – SP
2013 JPPL Stats: 24-0, ERA 1.27, WHIP .943
2014 Team: Seattle Mariners
Yu Darvish was second in Cy Young voting in the American League this past season adding to the hype for the next Nippon pitcher available. The current bidding system allows American clubs to blind bid against each other to have 30 days to negotiate a contract with the player. This cost the Texas Rangers an extra $51.7 million to talk with Darvish. A team will need some deep pockets and a high concentration of Japanese fans to make this work.

3) Shin-Soo Choo – OF
2013 MLB Stats: BA .285, OPS .885, HR 21, RBI 54, SB 20
2014 Team: Houston Astros
Having a lead-off hitter of Choo’s caliber does not happen very often. His agent Scott Boras will be looking to get him an above-average deal in the market, something similar to a Hunter Pence’s $90 million, five-year deal. The Astros hold the No. 1 pick in the draft and can use it to do many things this year. They have committed to spending money this offseason and this could be a good starting piece if they miss on Tanaka.

4) Brian McCann – C
2013 MLB Stats: BA .256, OPS .796, HR 20, RBI 57
2014 Team: New York Yankees
At age 29, McCann has made the All-Star team seven of the nine years he has played. The Yankees have been conservative by their standards in recent memory, but with possibly A-Rod and definitely Mariano Rivera coming off the books, they can spend this year. He would be a good young superstar to rally the pinstripe faithful.

5) Carlos Beltran – OF/DH
2013 MLB Stats: BA .296, OPS .830, HR 24, RBI 84, SB 2
2014 Team: Texas Rangers
Beltran provides power hitting on the cheap, because he is not looking for a long-term deal after ending his 16th major league season. He played DH during the World Series and will be looking to join an American League team. Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels has stated this offseason will be about adding power and Beltran can fit the bill. Beltran averages 28 home runs a season.

6) Jacoby Ellsbury – CF
2013 MLB Stats: BA .298, OPS .781, HR 9, RBI 53, SB 52
2014 Team: Seattle Mariners
Ellsbury may not be the same player from 2011 who smacked 32 homers and finished second in MVP voting, but his performance for the Red Sox in the American League Division Series made his stock rise. He batted .500 and had an OPS of 1.137. The price tag for any team will be north of $100 million and with Scott Boras negotiating anything is possible. The Boston Globe has reported the Red Sox front office considers re-signing Ellsbury will be a “long shot.” Many believe the Mariners have specifically targeted both Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo.

7) Nelson Cruz – OF
2013 MLB Stats: BA .266, OPS .833, HR 27, RBI 76, H 110
2014 Team: Houston Astros
Before you consider Cruz too high on the list just hear me out. Sure Melky Cabrera did not do Biogenesis players any favors, but Cruz will be different. He not only has a lot to prove, but as always been a consistent hitter and good lockerroom guy. Some team will get him on the cheap with a short incentive-laden contract. This will be the bargain steal of the winter meetings. He will add power to the lineup in Houston and hits well in the Ballpark in Arlington.

8) Hiroki Kuroda – SP
2013 MLB Stats: 11-13, ERA 3.31, WHIP 1.162
2014 Team: New York Yankees
The Yankees will need to re-sign Kuroda even though he declined their qualifying offer. He arguably was their most consistent pitcher this past season. If he does get away, teams will be looking to scoop up the ground ball pitcher like a slow roller.

9) Curtis Granderson – OF
2013 MLB Stats: BA .229, OPS .723, HR 7, RBI 15
(Only played in 61 games)
2014 Team: Chicago White Sox
After missing a third of the season to injury, Granderson never got to follow up his two consecutive 40 home run seasons in 2011 and 2012. The Illinois native always plays well in colder climates like New York and Detroit. Look for him to return to the Chicago area for around $45 million for three years. This will be his third destination in 10 years.

10) Joe Nathan – RP
2013 MLB Stats: 6-2, ERA 1.39, WHIP .0897, SV 43
2014 Team: Texas Rangers
Although the right-handed pitcher will be 39 on opening day he still is the best reliever on the free agent market. He had his highest saves total (43) and highest innings pitched total (64.2) since 2009. He is showing no real signs of slowing down. In his two years with the Rangers he made the All-Star team each season and remember it is not easy to pitch in the Ballpark at Arlington. The Houston Astros also have expressed interest to lure the closer back to his hometown, but I think Nathan gives the Rangers another ride.

Other Players To Watch
Mike Napoli, Ervin Santana, Bartolo Colon, Matt Garza, Omar Infante, A.J. Burnett, Jhonny Peralta