Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Top 150 Free Agents

Sunday, November 03, 2013

31. Josh Johnson (RHP Blue Jays - Age 30): A healthy Johnson would have been the top pitcher on the board this winter, but he had a disastrous season while dealing with elbow woes. What gives some hope going forward is that his velocity was fine and his strikeout rate was actually outstanding in his 16 starts. Still, in eight big-league seasons, he's made 20 starts four times, 30 starts twice and pitched 200 innings just once. On something like a one-year, $10 million deal with incentives that could add $8 million, he'd be worth a try.


2013 stats: 2-8, 6.20 ERA, 83/30 K/BB in 81 1/3 IP


32. Paul Maholm (LHP Braves - Age 31): Maholm had a 3.54 ERA in his 11 starts with the Braves in 2012 and a 3.69 ERA through three months last season, but he started struggling in July, went down with a sprained wrist and then had a bit of an elbow problem at the end of the year. That's all bad news for his stock. Fortunately, nothing major turned up with the elbow. Maholm is still relatively young at 31, and he's made at least 26 starts in eight straight seasons. His signing won't be met with a lot of excitement, but he should land a substantial two- or three-year deal.


2013 stats: 10-11, 4.41 ERA, 105/47 K/BB in 153 IP


33. James Loney (1B Rays - Age 29): Loney provided tremendous value for the Rays after signing a $2 million contract as a free agent last winter, but he wasn't really standout after the first two months, settling in at .283/.328/.382 over the final four. He did play his usual fine defense around the bag, and if he can keep that OPS in the .750-.800 range, he's an asset. Unfortunately, it will probably cost $8 million-$10 million per year to sign him this time around. The Pirates could aim for him.


2013 stats: .299/.348/.430, 13 HR, 54 R, 75 RBI, 3 SB in 549 AB


34. Omar Infante (2B Tigers - Age 32): Underrated no longer, Infante is in line for the biggest contract of his career after batting .318 for the Tigers. While Infante is a 12-year veteran, he's just turning 32 in December, so he should be good for at least a couple of more years of regular play, followed by additional years as a utilityman. Besides Robinson Cano, Infante is the only second baseman available worthy of a multiyear deal. Someone will go to three years, possibly for $21 million or so.


2013 stats: .318/.345/.450, 10 HR, 54 R, 51 RBI, 5 SB in 453 AB


35. Joaquin Benoit (RHP Tigers - Age 36): Thrust into the closer's role, Benoit converted his first 22 save chances last season before blowing two during the final week of the season. He also took one huge blown save in the postseason when he gave up David Ortiz's grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS. It was just the sixth homer he allowed in 2013 after he gave up 15 between the regular season and postseason in 2012. Benoit will probably be viewed more as an elite setup man than as a closer this winter. Still, after four strong years in a row, he shouldn't have any trouble landing at least a two-year deal.


2013 stats: 4-1, 24 Sv, 2.01 ERA, 73/22 K/BB in 67 IP


36. Fernando Rodney (RHP Rays - Age 37): Obviously, Rodney's 2013 stats don't compare to the 2012 season that saw him set a major league ERA record (0.60 in 74 2/3 IP) and go 48-for-50 saving games. However, his stuff was as good as ever at age 36; he often hit 98-99 mph on the gun and he finished with a career-best strikeout rate. He'll almost surely move on from the Rays and take over as a different team's closer next year. Given his inconsistency, he might have a tougher time getting a multiyear deal than Nathan and Balfour.


2013 stats: 5-4, 37 Sv, 3.38 ERA, 82/36 K/BB in 66 2/3 IP


37. Marlon Byrd (OF Mets - Age 36): Byrd's numbers may have been dismissed a bit had he finished the season with the Mets, but after a strong showing down the stretch with the Pirates and then some postseason heroics (.364 in six games, big homer in the wild card victory), he's in much better position to get a two-year contract. Right-handed power just isn't easy to come by. In fact, among right-handed hitters, Byrd led all free agents-to-be with his 24 homers.


2013 stats: .291/.336/.511, 24 HR, 75 R, 88 RBI, 2 SB in 532 AB


38. Carlos Ruiz (C Phillies - Age 35): Ruiz sat out the start of the season serving a 25-game amphetamines suspension and then missed a month with a strained hamstring. He never found his stroke offensively until August, when he hit four of his five homers for the season. At age 35, there's little reason to expect him to have more seasons like his 2010 and 2012 campaigns. He also shouldn't be penciled in to catch much more than 100 games. Still, he'll probably be a bit above average when he's in there. Since the Phillies' catching prospects have failed to develop, they'll look to bring Ruiz back.


2013 stats: .268/.320/.368, 5 HR, 30 R, 37 RBI, 1 SB in 310 AB


39. Chris Young (OF Athletics - Age 30): After six years as an everyday center fielder, Young didn't take to the limited role he had in Oakland, hitting just .200. He's always been rather unappreciated anyway, because of his modest averages (career high of .257) and underrated defense. It didn't help that his 32-homer season as a rookie led to high expectations. Freed of those now, Young should be a solid enough regular for whichever team that snares him. He's probably looking at a one-year deal and a chance to go back out on the market.


2013 stats: .200/.280/.379, 12 HR, 46 R, 40 RBI, 10 SB in 335 AB


40. Suk-Min Yoon (RHP Korea - Age 27): Yoon hopes to capitalize on fellow Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu's success in jumping to MLB, but after a down season, he's not likely to be valued quite so highly. On the plus side, Yoon is a free agent, so there's no posting required. Yoon had his best years in 2008 and 2011, when he was the KBO MVP after going 17-5 with a 2.45 ERA and a 178/44 K/BB ratio in 172 1/3 IP. He should be able to contribute as a reliever if he doesn't cut it as a starter. The guess here is that he signs for about $18 million for three years, but it only takes one team to go overboard.


2013 stats: 3-6, 4.00 ERA, 76/28 K/BB in 87 2/3 IP


*. Yoshio Itoi (OF Japan - Age 32): There's been less of it lately, but speculation was that Itoi would be posted this winter. That he wanted to jump to MLB is one of the reasons the Nippon Ham Fighters traded him to the Orix Blue Wave last winter. Itoi, a left-handed bat, has been very consistent hitting between .300-.320 and posting OPSs between .813 and .901 in his all five of his full seasons in Japan. He has the skills to be a leadoff hitter in the majors, though there's some question about whether he'll be able to stay in center field.


2013 stats: .300/.384/.468, 17 HR, 75 R, 61 RBI, 33 SB in 524 AB

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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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