Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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2013 Top 50 Free Agents

Friday, November 02, 2012


30. Shohei Otani (RHP Japan - Age 18 - Prev. NR): The hard-throwing Otani has his heart set on playing ball in the U.S., even after being selected in the first round of Japan's amateur draft. The new rules created in the last CBA figure to curtail his bonus amount, since the signing team will face a large tax payment and a diminished ability to sign international players next year, but for a talent like this, it'd be worth the sacrifice. The Dodgers, Rangers and Red Sox are thought to be very interested, and while it was once believed he couldn't sign until April, it now appears that a deal could come earlier.

 

29. Marco Scutaro (2B Giants - Age 37 - Prev. #64): The legend of Scutaro almost failed to materialize; he went just 3-for-20 in the NLDS against the Reds. Of course, he reeled off 16 hits in the eight games afterwards, capturing NLCS MVP honors along the way. It's hard to imagine the Giants letting him go after the boost he provided in the second half and in the postseason, even if it might mean giving a three-year contract to a 37-year-old. Scutaro probably isn't a realistic option as a shortstop any longer, but as a second baseman, he's looking at a couple of more years as a solid regular.

 

28. Cody Ross (OF Red Sox - Age 32 - Prev. #32): Ross settled for $3 million last winter, but he found himself in the perfect situation with the Red Sox and now he seems likely to land a nice three-year deal as a result. Still, Ross remains a glorified platoon player, with most of his production coming against lefties: he's a career .253/.312/.415 hitter against righties. Last year, 12 of his 22 homers came in his 132 at-bats versus southpaws. He also hit .298/.356/.565 in Fenway, compared to .232/.294/.390 on the road. It'd be a bad idea to give him the $18 million-$21 million he may command.

 

27. Jeremy Guthrie (RHP Royals - Age 34 - Prev. #35): Flummoxed by Coors Field, Guthrie was mercifully returned to the American League in July, and he regained his old form immediately, going 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 14 starts for the Royals. Kansas City is hoping to re-sign him to a two-year deal, but after he refused some early overtures, the team acquired Ervin Santana from the Angels. There should still be room for Guthrie both in the rotation and in the budget, but it's become more likely that he'll join his fourth team in two years.

 

26. A.J. Pierzynski (C White Sox - Age 36 - Prev. #27): Always a remarkably durable catcher, one would think Pierzynski would be wearing down after averaging 120 starts for 10 straight years. Instead, he set a new career high with 27 homers in 2012. That's 10 more than he had in 2010 and '11 combined. Now he's likely in store for a career-best salary at age 36, one that would top the $6.25 million he made in 2009 and '10. Ideally, he and the White Sox could compromise at around $15 million for two years.

 

25. Hisashi Iwakuma (RHP Mariners - Age 31 - Prev. #22): A non-factor early on after signing with the Mariners, Iwakuma got his chance to start in July and was one of the AL's top pitchers the rest of the way, going 9-4 with a 2.65 ERA and a 78/28 K/BB ratio in 95 innings. The one-year contract he signed after coming over from Japan included a clause that made him a free agent at season's end, so he's in position to command $6 million-$8 million per year for two or three years.

 

24. Ryan Ludwick (OF Reds - Age 34 - Prev. #41): Ludwick was a liability for a year and a half before hitting .275/.346/.531 with 26 homers in 422 at-bats in a big season for the Reds. He also went deep three times in the NLDS loss to the Giants. It seems doubtful that Ludwick will hit for that kind of average again, but he's one of the few free agents with a realistic shot at delivering 30 homers next season. A two-year, $16 million deal seems fair and still within the Reds' price range.

 

23. Angel Pagan (OF Giants - Age 31 - Prev. #38): The Mets were considering non-tendering Pagan a year ago before trading him to the Giants. Now he may well be in line for a three-year deal after hitting .288/.338/.440 with 29 steals in 605 at-bats as the center fielder and leadoff hitter for the world champions. The Giants figure to have the big edge in re-signing him, though given the depth in center field available this winter, they could always move on if he asks for too much. $21 million-$24 million for three years might work.

 

22. Shaun Marcum (RHP Brewers - Age 31 - Prev. #19): The only starter here with a lower ERA than Marcum's 3.62 mark the last three years is Hiroki Kuroda. Unfortunately, Marcum has a trick elbow that resulted in a poor finish in 2011 and limited him to 21 starts last season. That makes him a big risk on a long-term deal. Still, as little pitching as there is available, he may get one anyway. Besides, a team may well be better off getting 75 starts from Marcum the next three years than 90 from Kyle Lohse or Ryan Dempster.

 

21. Stephen Drew (SS Athletics - Age 30 - Prev. #25): The Diamondbacks soured on Drew when he was slow in returning from a broken ankle, and it certainly didn't help matters that he hit .193 in his first 40 games after coming off the DL. Traded to the A's, he hit .250/.326/.382 and played a solid defensive shortstop in 39 games. The ball is now in Drew's court after the A's declined their half of a $10 million option; he can take a relatively modest two- or three-year deal now or go for one year instead and aim for a bigger contract next winter. The Red Sox and Brewers could compete with the A's for his services.

 


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Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter at matthewpouliot.
Email :Matthew Pouliot



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