Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Best of the Rest...

Now that most of the biggest prizes are off of the board, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at the top five free agents (plus a bonus) remaining on the free agent market.

  1. Adrian Beltre – To say Beltre’s 2010 season was unbelievable is an understatement.  He provided a .390 wOBA (second best of his career), Fielding Bible Award quality defense (+11.8 UZR, +10 DRS), and 7.1 wins above the replacement (fifth best in baseball).  Without him, the Red Sox were likely a .500 team.  While he’s unlikely to give an encore performance in 2011, he should still perform at or near a 4.0 WAR level
In the wake of the Crawford and Gonzalez acquisitions, the Red Sox are out of the running for his services.  This leaves the Angels, Rangers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, and Athletics as his most obvious potential destinations.  The Blue Jays, Rockies, and Diamondbacks have shown only minimal interest. 

The Rangers look like a great fit, but only if they can unload incumbent third baseman Michael Young.  The Rangers could ask him to change positions, but that didn’t work too well the last time they did that.  Plus, his bat isn’t strong enough to play at 1B, LF, RF, or DH.  With Young’s high salary ($48M remaining on his contract), it’s going to be difficult for the Rangers to move him. 

The A’s were very interested, but they pulled their 5 year $64M offer after Beltre and Boras took too long to respond.  I expect them to sneak back into the running once negotiations heat up, especially if Beltre’s value drops to a point to where he becomes a free agent bargain. 

That leaves the Angels.  After losing out on Crawford, they desperately need to make a splash on the free agent market.  Plus, their third base situation was pitiful last season, so he would be the ideal solution. 

Prediction:  Angels

  1. Carl Pavano – Now that Cliff Lee has finally signed, Pavano becomes the premier free agent starting pitcher remaining.  It’s scary isn’t it?  Actually, it’s not.  Pavano seems to have recovered from the injury bug that plagued him during his time in New York, and has become   In 2010, Pavano went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA (4.02 FIP), 4.76 K/9, a 3.16 K/BB ratio, and 3.2 WAR.  While the strikeout rate is a low, it’s still acceptable due to his low walk and high ground ball rates. 
The problem with Pavano is his age.  He’s about to turn 35, and he’s looking for a three year deal.  There are a lot of teams that are apprehensive about signing him, especially considering his injury history.  Still, there are several teams reported to be interested in signing him including the Twins, Brewers, Nationals, and Rangers. 

A couple of weeks ago, the Brewers were thought to be the front runner.  Recently, reports have come out stating they’re not willing to go beyond two years to sign him.  The Nationals and Rangers have shown they’re willing to spend money.  After both teams lost out on Lee, it wouldn’t be surprising to see either team make a run at signing him.  Still, most baseball insiders have him returning to the Twins.  This is probably the best fit for Pavano, as his skill set is exactly what the Twins look for in a pitcher.

Prediction:  Twins

  1. Andy Pettitte – He’s either going to re-sign with the Yankees to a one year deal, or he’s going to retire.  Yes, there’s an outside chance he signs with the Rangers, but it’s highly unlikely.  Pettitte still has plenty in the tank, provided he can stay healthy.  Expect the Yankees to make a hard push to make sure he returns. 
Prediction:  Yankees

  1. Orlando Hudson – Every year Hudson hits the free agent market.  Every year, he’s stuck looking for a job deep into the offseason.  It’s too bad.  He’s still a solid player.  Yes, his offense has slipped a bit in recent years, but he still projects to hit at a league average level in 2011.  His defense, on the other hand, is pretty solid.  (While UZR hasn’t liked his as of late, DRS loves him.) 
Things have been very quiet on the Hudson front this offseason, but I expect them to heat up around the New Year.  The Twins, Cubs, and Rangers have all been rumored to be interested in the second baseman.   Expect him to sign another one year value deal in hopes of re-establishing his value. 

Prediction:  Cubs

  1. Rafael Soriano – Why hasn’t he signed yet?  Several teams that were thought to be interested in the hard throwing reliever (Rangers, Red Sox), took a step back when they saw the price tag.  The Angels were also very interested, but have since signed Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi to fill their bullpen needs. 
Now, it looks like the Yankees are interested in bringing in Soriano to set up for Mariano Rivera.  While it might be difficult convincing him to take a reduced role, it would be a fantastic move if the Yankees could pull it off.  Soriano has dominant stuff (in particular, his hard breaking slider), and excellent control.  This would give the Yankees a huge psychological edge.

Outside of the Yankees, I can’t think of any team willing to meet Soriano’s demands of 3 years $30M.  While that’s a lot of money to pay for an eighth inning guy, Soriano isn’t your typical eighth inning guy.  Like Daniel Bard in Boston, Soriano would be available to pitch a lot of high stress, high leverage innings in front of Rivera.

Prediction:  Yankees

  1. Manny Ramirez – The big question on everyone’s mind is how much does Manny have left?  Well, if last season is any indication, quite a bit—at least if you look at his rate stats.  Last year, he hit .298/.409/.460 (.382 wOBA) in limited action between the Dodgers and White Sox.  While those numbers aren’t on par with the numbers of his prime, it’s still pretty good.  This is especially true if he’s relegated the DH role.   
Since Ramirez will likely be a DH in 2011, this limits him to American League teams only.  At the start of the offseason, he looked to be a decent bet to return to the White Sox, but the Dunn and Konerko signings put an end to that.  The A’s would’ve been another logical place for Manny, but that option’s out now that Hideki Matsui just signed with them.  The Rangers have an opening, but they have their eyes set on bringing Vlad Guerrero back.  The Angels could be interesting, but its doubtful Mike Scoiscia would be willing to take on a player with Manny’s reputation.

The team that looks to be the best fit for Manny is the Tampa Bay Rays.  After losing Crawford and Pena via free agency, the Rays could use a little extra power in their lineup.  Ramirez will likely be looking for a one year deal in the $2.5-5M range, so he would fit in pretty well with the Rays’ budget.  Also, Manny knows the AL East pretty well, after thriving in Boston for seven-and-a-half seasons. 

Prediction:  Rays


  1. Bold predicting Manny to the Rays. I had the same thought but talked myself out of it. It fits in the obvious way. It doesn't fit in a few other ways...
    1. Money. If Manny wants to play it will be at a fraction of the $20M/yr that he has grown accustomed to... But $2.5M? That would strike me as odd. The Rays have been transparent regarding their goal to trim their budget by $30M and I think even if it went up to $5M the Rays would balk at it. Especially given-
    2. Managerial fit. I think Maddon is one of the better managers in the league and would love to see him with a B on his hat when Tito calls it quits. That being said, he has been so successful because he has convinced his team that overachieving is the norm. While Manny is, by all accounts, a hard worker, he is not an over achiever. I am pretty sure that his well documented lack of effort and focus will mesh with neither Maddon, a Scoiscia disciple, nor the Rays players.
    3. Eliminating the National League makes sense but there are some teams in that league that a) don't believe in making sense (Mets, Nationals) and others that play in ballparks that are not that difficult to navigate (Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Cubs.) I could see some of those free spending teams giving him $7M or so. Especially the idiotic Mets and Cubs. They'd probably give im $10M just to pinch hit once a game.
    4. I think this spot fits another ex-Red Sox better. Johnny Damon. While he will not leave a dollar on the table either he offers the Rays a player more in their mold: hits for average, hustles, gregarious.

    Candidates: Mets, Phillies, Rays
    Wild Card: Mariners
    Prediction: Mets-- They need something to get people to the ballpark other than interleague play against the Yankees. The rest of the NL East is making noise.

  2. Khalid -

    Scott Boras has been on record as saying that Manny would be willing to sign for a contract between $2.5-5M. Damon appears to be looking for a contract closer to $5-7M at this point, although that will probably come down. Damon would be a great fit in Tampa, but I'm not sure his price will come down far enough for Tampa to take anything more than a passing look.

    As for NL teams, I don't see him signing with the Phillies. They already have an old corner outfielder in Ibanez, and Domonic Brown is poised to take over in right. As for the Mets, there's a new sheriff in town. Gone are the freewheeling days of Omar Minaya where he made confusing move after confusing move. With Alderson at the helm, I doubt we'll see Manny signed to a deal that would allow him to play the field 130-140 times a season.

  3. Thanks Chip,
    I hadn't heard that Boras said that. That certainly affects points 1 and 4. Still, I'd see Manny and Maddon discuss wines together before I could see them share a locker room.
    That very information makes more of a case for the Mets as well. They need to score runs, have the money to do something with ($5-10M reportedly, Dec. 13 bullet point 1) and would like to maintain flexibility that could include one year contracts

    Imagine the poetic justice of Manny playing alongside Bay in the town he grew up in.

    As for why the Phillies makes sense: It is prcisely the presence of Ibanez that could give him plenty of AB's along with pinch hitting. How about a Giant killer? The Phillies lost four games to the Giants by 6 runs. Manny hits the Giants at a .413/.539/ 1.277 clip. The Phillies ballpark is small enough for Manny. He can play left and right field as insurance for Dominic Brown. It's not completely outlandish.

  4. Good points Khalid--especially regarding the Phillies.