Top 20 Available MLB Free Agents
1. Matt Holliday LF: Holliday is one of the best hitters to reach the free agent market in the last few years. He is a legitimate 3 or 4 hole hitter on any team. He also offers solid defense out in left field for any team that wants him. Expect the Yankees and Red Sox to be interested, with the Giants, Braves and Mets as long shots.
2. Jason Bay LF: Bay brings everything to the table that Holliday does with the exception of defense. Bay’s lack of defense and being a year older will make him a bit cheaper on the market. I’d expect all the same teams to be in on Bay, (obviously with the exception of whoever lands Holliday) and I’d add the Mariners to the list.
3. John Lackey SP: Lackey is the top arm on the market this year, and a frontline starter on any team. He’s not an “ace” in the sense of CC Sabathia, but their isn’t a team in this league that wouldn’t like him in the top 3 of their rotation. Its interesting that the Angels seemed inclined to let Lackey walk. He has dealt with some injuries the last few years, bringing him down a notch or two. Dodger blue might make sense, the Mariners are another team that makes sense out West looking for top pitcher. If Lackey heads east the Yankees and Mets will be very interested, and the Red Sox will do their due diligence as well. Two extreme dark horses are the Nationals and Orioles. Both teams have plenty of money to spend and need a top pitcher, but probably won’t overpay if the Yankees and Red Sox are involved.
4. Chone Figgins 3B, UTL: Here we see a drop off in the market. While Figgins is a good player he’s hardly someone you build your team around. He doesn’t fit the typical 3B profile as his speed is his biggest asset. If the Angels can’t retain him, the Phillies will be the top team calling. Orioles, Giants, and Cardinals could all be interested as well.
5. Nick Johnson 1B: Johnson has an injury history that will keep him from getting a long term deal, but when he’s healthy he’s one of the most productive players in the game. His power numbers and defense fell off some last year hurting his value, but he was still an on base machine. I’d expect the power numbers to rebound this season and for him to post around a .900 OPS. The Giants, Braves, Orioles, and Mariners should all be in on Johnson. I think the Mets will be interested as well, and I’d never count out the Athletics on anyone who gets on base as often as Johnson does.
6. Johnny Damon LF: Damon isn’t a long term answer for anyone, but for the next 2 years there are few safer players out there on the FA market. Damon year in year out produces a solid OPS, whether its sometimes with a bit more power (20+ hrs) or a higher obp Damon is always a big cog in the offense. Damon also still has speed as a part of his game, and has always been a smart base runner. I think the Yankees will retain Damon, but if they go in another direction there will be a few teams interested. Giants and Cardinals make the most sense.
7. Randy Wolf SP: Wolf had a great year for the Dodgers last season and helped them reach the NLCS. Wolf isn’t a true “ace” and is a few steps below Lackey. I think the Dodgers will retain him (unless they sign Lackey). If he does leave, the Mets, Nationals, and Astros (if they decide to fore go rebuilding) make the most sense. Some AL teams could come calling, but the NL seems like a better fit for Wolf.
8. Rich Harden SP: In terms of stuff, Harden is the best pitcher on the market unfortunately he can’t find a way to stay healthy. As a result he can forget about any deal longer than two years and his price tag will be well below Lackey’s and Wolf’s. I think a number of teams will be in on Harden trying to catch lightening in a bottle. In addition to the usual suspects, I think the A’s, O’s, Nats, and Brewers will all be in on Harden.
9. Jose Valverde RP: Valverde is the top closer on the market this season, but faces a few road blocks. The first being the glut of closers on the market, and the second the lack of legitimate openings among teams. Valverde is a good closer but is far from the supreme status of Rivera and Papelbon. The Phillies will be interested, but I don’t think they will overpay. The Nats, Rays, and Rangers all could use some help at the back end of their bullpen, but probably will look at cheaper options. The Cubs could be an interesting team to watch.
10. Aroldis Chapman SP: Chapman is a 21-year old Cuban defector with a 100 MPH fastball, but also 100 questions that need answered as well. Is he truly major league ready? How are his command, control, and off speed pitches? These are just a few of those questions that teams will be asking. His age and fastball will get him a big time deal, but he is not without risk. The Yankees and Red Sox are the favorites in this race, everyone else has to be a long shot. The Orioles could get serious, especially if the Yankees sign Lackey (more or less taking them out of the race).
11. Joel Pineiro SP: Pineiro is a solid mid rotation arm. He’s been inconsistent throughout his career, but a great 2009 will give him a nice deal. The Cardinals will look to retain him, but expect a lot of teams to get interested in him. The Nats, O’s, Astros, and Brewers should all be at the top of the list.
12. Orlando Hudson 2B: Hudson has lost a step defensively (though he still won the Gold Glove), but is still a pretty productive player at 2B. Hudson would be a nice fit for the Nationals and a solid 2 hole hitter for them. If the Mets can dump Castillo’s contract they could get involved as well.
13. Adam LaRoche 1B: LaRoche struggled with the Pirates and Red Sox last season, but was on fire with Braves the last two months. Atlanta will look to keep LaRoche, but if they can’t the O’s, Mets, Giants and Mariners will be interested.
14. Mike Cameron CF: Cameron is still a solid center fielder and offers both defensive and offensive upside. Athletics and Yankees could make sense. Also the Padres could bring Cameron back to patrol their spacious center field.
15. Marco Scutaro: Scutaro is the top short stop on the market. He has always been solid defensively, and had a breakout offensive year. The Astros and Red Sox make the most sense.
16. Adrian Beltre 3B: Beltre is a great buy low candidate this offseason. He had a pretty bad and injury filled walk year, but prior to that was the model of consistency, 20+ home run power, around an .800 OPS, and excellent defense at third. His offensive numbers should be helped by getting out of Seattle as well. The Twins and Phillies will be the most interested. I’d imagine the O’s will get involved as well.
17. Marlon Byrd CF, OF: Byrd is very much under the radar, but one of the better outfielders on the market. Not too many teams need center fielders so I could see him landing in a spot like St. Louis or possibly with San Francisco.
18. Jon Garland SP: Garland is another mid rotation candidate, who offers little upside but can be a great addition to most teams rotations. I think he’s a perfect fit in Washington. If the Cards lose Pineiro, he makes sense there, or would be a solid addition for the Brewers.
19. Andy Pettitte SP: Part of the reason he is so low on this list is the fact that he is almost sure to resign with the Yankees. Also I don’t know how much you can trust him to put up another year like he had in 2009. He could easily have another 2008 down year. If he for some reason left the Yankees, the Dodgers or Astros make some sense.
20. Eric Bedard SP: Bedard is very similar to Harden, a pitcher with amazing stuff, but has been too injured to make a long term investment in. Plenty of teams should be interested in him. And it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see the Orioles bring back their former staff ace.