Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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2013 Top 50 Free Agents

Friday, November 02, 2012


10. Hiroki Kuroda (RHP Yankees - Age 38 - Prev. #10): Kuroda is a unique free agent, in that he's only been interested in signing one-year deals as he contemplates his future each winter. His preference was to remain with the Dodgers last winter, but Frank McCourt's money problems caused them to pursue cheaper targets, resulting in Kuroda's jump to the Yankees. Now it seems likely that he'll re-sign with the Bombers. However, the flush-with-cash Dodgers could make a big offer to lure him back. For 2013 alone, Kuroda is as good of a bet as any starter here, and he'd have no problem getting more than $15 million if he decides to pursue the best deal.

 

9. David Ortiz (DH Red Sox - Age 37 - Prev. #9): Ortiz's Achilles' tendon problems limited him to one appearance after mid-July, but he hit .318/.415/.611 in his 324 at-bats last season. The resulting 1.026 OPS was better than Miguel Cabrera's .999 mark. Odds are that Ortiz would have fallen back a bit had he played the last 2 1/2 months, but based on what he's done the last two years, he's certainly deserving of being treated as one of the game's best hitters as he heads into free agency. Expectations are that the Red Sox will re-sign him, and a two-year, $30 million contract seems appropriate.

 

8. Edwin Jackson (RHP Nationals - Age 29 - Prev. #4): Jackson undoubtedly cost himself some money by giving up eight earned runs in 1 1/3 innings in his next-to-last regular season start, pushing his ERA over 4.00, and then by taking a loss in his lone postseason start. Still, relative youth and durability figure to serve him well as he heads into free agency for the second time. He turned down a three-year deal last winter in the hopes of a bigger contract this time around. Given the lack of alternatives, he still seems like a pretty good bet to get $48 million for four years, if not considerably more.

 

7. Nick Swisher (OF Yankees - Age 32 - Prev. #6): Swisher finished with OPSs between .820 and .870 each of his four years with the Yankees, averaging 26 homers. With his career .361 OBP, he's a fine choice hitting anywhere from second to sixth in the lineup, and he should be OK in right field for at least a couple of more years, though he'd likely have more defensive value at first base. Unfortunately, Swisher's October 0-fors have really started to pile up; he's a career .169/.283/.305 hitter in 154 at-bats. He's now played in 11 postseason series, and he hasn't driven in more than one run in any of them. That's a big reason the Yankees seem ready to move on. Still, he's probably in line for a four-year deal worth $48 million-$60 million anyway.

 

6. Kyle Lohse (RHP Cardinals - Age 34 - Prev. #16): At 2.86, Lohse established a new career-best ERA for the second straight season while going 16-3 for the Cardinals in 2012. It looks like he may go down as Dave Duncan's last great reclamation project, even if Duncan was no longer the Cards' pitching coach last season. Of course, the track record of Duncan's success stories once they leave St. Louis is pretty bleak, and given his age and middling strikeout rate, Lohse seems likely to disappoint his new team. It's possible he'll get $15 million per season for three years or maybe even four years.

 

5. Michael Bourn (OF Braves - Age 30 - Prev. #5): Bourn was a deserving All-Star in 2012, but he stopped hitting after the break, coming in at .225/.325/.311 in 267 at-bats. Overall, he hit .274/.348/.391 with his lowest steal total since 2008 and his worst ever success rate (42-for-55). Currently one of the game's top five defensive center fielders, he's a good bet to spend a few more years as a quality regular. Still, he's always struck out too much to be a particularly valuable offensive player. The team that gives him $60 million for four years or $70 million for five will probably come to regret it.

 

4. B.J. Upton (OF Rays - Age 28 - Prev. #3): Upton found his power stroke late in the year, hitting 19 of his career-high 28 homers in August and Sept. While he hasn't put it together for a full season, he does seem to thrive under pressure, like when he hit seven homers in the 2008 postseason and when he batted .333/.432/.606 in Sept. as the Rays overtook the Red Sox in 2011. At 28, he's still young enough to turn in a couple of All-Star seasons, and his all-around game makes him an asset as a regular even if he keeps hitting .240 on an annual basis. Since he's one of those rare free agents whose best days could be ahead of him, he might get a five-year, $75 million deal.

 

3. Anibal Sanchez (RHP Tigers - Age 29 - Prev. #8): Sanchez hit a bump in the road after first arriving in the AL, courtesy of a trade with the Marlins, but he excelled at the end of the year and in the postseason, when he went 1-2 with a 1.77 ERA. The Tigers were shut out in both of his losses. In the regular season, he had a 3.74 ERA for the Tigers and was 9-13 with a 3.86 ERA overall. Over the last three years, he has a better ERA than Zack Greinke (3.70 to 3.83) in just 17 fewer innings (587 to 604). Sanchez isn't as good of a bet as Greinke to stay healthy going forward and he's certainly never had a year like Greinke's 2009, but his youth and recent track record ensures that he'll get a big contract. $80 million for five years shouldn't surprise anyone.

 

2. Zack Greinke (RHP Angels - Age 29 - Prev. #2): Even though it means jettisoning Haren and Santana, the Angels seem bound and determined to retain Greinke after sending three prospects to Milwaukee for him at the deadline. He went 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA following the trade to finish up 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA. It was his best year since he won Cy Young honors for the Royals in 2009. Since Jered Weaver, Matt Cain and Cole Hamels all opted to sign long-term extensions, Greinke is the class of the free agent starters. He's likely to receive at least $20 million per season for six years.

 

1. Josh Hamilton (OF Rangers - Age 31 - Prev. #1): While the idea seemed ludicrous a couple of months ago, it's now possible that Greinke will get the bigger deal than Hamilton this winter. The Rangers don't appear to be all that eager to lock him up after his disappointing second half, and many teams are going to be wary of giving a long-term deal to a guy with a history of substance-abuse problems and injuries. That said, Prince Fielder didn't seem to have much of a market last winter until the Tigers shocked everyone by giving him $214 million. It only takes one willing owner to make a splash.




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 @matthewpouliot.
Email :Matthew Pouliot



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