Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Top 150 Free Agents

Sunday, November 03, 2013

11. A.J. Burnett (RHP Pirates - Age 37): With a 3.41 ERA and 389 strikeouts the last two seasons, there's no doubt that Burnett has earned himself a healthy two-year contract this winter. The question is whether he wants one. He's openly discussed retirement, and it doesn't seem to be any sort of negotiating ploy. If he does come back, it'll probably be on a one-year deal with the Pirates. But if he were to play the market, he certainly shouldn't have to settle for anything less than the $35 million for two years that Tim Lincecum just got from the Giants.


2013 stats: 10-11, 3.30 ERA, 209/67 K/BB in 191 IP


12. Nelson Cruz (OF Rangers - Age 33): The 50-game steroids suspension may take a year or two off Cruz's next contract, but it probably won't stop him from getting at least $15 million per year. He was in the midst of a very good season when the ban took effect, and he's managed to stay completely healthy two straight years after battling leg troubles earlier in his career. He's still not much of a right fielder, but a team can live with him out there. Something like three years and $45 million might fit.


2013 stats: .266/.327/.506, 27 HR, 49 R, 76 RBI, 5 SB in 413 AB


13. Mike Napoli (1B Red Sox - Age 32): Napoli's chronic hip condition cost him a three-year, $39 million deal last winter, but he ended up making $13 million under the terms of his incentive-laden one-year deal anyway. Now, he'll head back into free agency, and after making such a smooth transition to first -- metrics had him as the American League's best at the position this year -- he shouldn't have much trouble getting at least $39 million for three years again. If the Red Sox don't want to pay the price, a return to Texas would make a lot of sense. Seattle would be a fit if Kendrys Morales leaves, and the Pirates and Rockies might also want to consider opening their wallets.


2013 stats: .259/.360/.482, 23 HR, 79 R, 92 RBI, 1 SB in 498 AB


14. Tim Hudson (RHP Braves - Age 38): Hudson had a rough May last season, but he was pitching quite well in the two months up until he suffered a fractured ankle on a play at first base, ending his season. His strikeout rate (6.5 per 9 IP) rivaled his best mark in a decade. Hudson has taken less money to stay with the Braves before, and it sounds like there's mutual interest in a new deal, even though the Braves have an enticing starting five without him. If he were to test the open market, he'd probably get $15 million per season for one or two years.


2013 stats: 8-7, 3.97 ERA, 95/36 K/BB in 131 1/3 IP


15. Stephen Drew (SS Red Sox - Age 31): Drew took a one-year deal from the Red Sox last winter in the hopes of rebuilding his value, and it worked out well, despite an ugly playoff slump that has seen him go 6-for-54. His defensive reputation seems better than ever now, and he'll enter the winter as far and away the top shortstop on the market, which will drive his price tag up. Even though the Red Sox should be ready to turn shortstop over to Xander Bogaerts, they'll likely make Drew a qualifying offer, with the idea that they can play Bogaerts at third if he accepts. He probably won't. Since the Yankees, Cardinals and Mets all need shortstops and the Pirates, Mariners, Twins and Angels (if they trade Erick Aybar) could consider additions as well, a three- or four-year deal appears likely.


2013 stats: .253/.333/.443, 13 HR, 57 R, 67 RBI, 6 SB in 442 AB


16. Bronson Arroyo (RHP Reds - Age 37): Arroyo just keeps on spinning breaking ball after breaking ball up there with remarkable success. In four of the last five seasons, he's finished with ERAs between 3.74 and 3.88 and with a strikeout total in the 120s. He's also never been hurt; 2013 was his ninth straight season of at least 32 starts. The Reds will move on rather than pay the price to keep him, but he'll get at least $26 million for two years from some team needing a steady hand. The Angels are one of the more obvious fits.


2013 stats: 14-12, 3.79 ERA, 124/34 K/BB in 202 IP


17. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C Red Sox - Age 28): A lousy throw and a bunch of strikeouts got Saltalamacchia benched in the World Series, but they shouldn't overshadow what was a very good season in which he collected 40 doubles and ranked sixth in OPS among catchers. The Red Sox have a tough call coming up on whether to make him a qualifying offer that could result in him earning $14.1 million next season. He should be able to get a three-year deal somewhere, perhaps even from Boston, but not quite at that kind of salary.


2013 stats: .273/.338/.466, 14 HR, 68 R, 65 RBI, 4 SB in 425 AB


18. Joe Nathan (RHP Rangers - Age 39): Even though his velocity isn't quite what it used to be, Nathan was as effective as ever last season, allowing just two homers in 64 2/3 innings and converting 43 of his 46 save chances. He's expected to decline his $9.5 million option for 2014 and seek another multiyear deal. Even at 39, he figures to get one. The Rangers will likely make an attempt to re-sign him, even though they have alternatives in the closer's role. It'll probably take about $24 million for two years.


2013 stats: 6-2, 43 Sv, 1.39 ERA, 73/22 K/BB in 64 2/3 IP


19. Bartolo Colon (RHP Athletics - Age 40): This one will be fascinating. Colon finished second in the AL in ERA last season, not to mention second in wins. He was also quite good in 2012 before he got slapped with a 50-game steroids ban. However, Colon is 40, he has a modest strikeout rate and he's benefitted from pitching in Oakland with a strong outfield defense behind him (though his home-road splits are essentially even the last two years). Tim Lincecum just got $17.5 million per year after being half of the pitcher Colon was the last two seasons (statistically and physically). In this market, wouldn't Colon be worth $20 million or more on a one-year deal? I'm not sure he'll end up getting more than half of that, though.


2013 stats: 18-6, 2.65 ERA, 117/29 K/BB in 190 1/3 IP


20. Ricky Nolasco (RHP Dodgers - Age 31): With his strikeout rate on the way back up, Nolasco had the second best season of his career in 2013. Even with the ugly fade at the end, he was particularly good for the Dodgers, going 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA and a 75/21 K/BB ratio in 87 innings after coming over from the Marlins. Since missing most of 2007, Nolasco has been very durable, averaging 31 starts per year. He's not really the kind of guy a contender would want for one of the top three spots in the rotation, but since the large-market teams could look at him as a No. 4 and the small-market teams could view him as an innings-eater for the top of the rotation, he should be quite popular.


2013 stats: 13-11, 3.70 ERA, 165/46 K/BB in 199 1/3 IP

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