The MLB Free Agent Market is about to open, and the only thing you can truly predict is it will be unpredictable. However that wouldn’t make for a very fun article, so here are my best guesses at where the top 60 Free Agents will play next season…
1- Josh Hamilton OF: Chicago White Sox; 5yr- 130mil. The biggest question of this offseason is who signs Josh Hamilton, because he is the only true superstar. The Giants, Red Sox, and even Cubs all seem like perfect fits but in the end I think it’s the White Sox who shock the baseball world. Why the White Sox? Well they were so close to beating the Tigers for the AL Central crown and fell short, collapses like that do strange things to teams. They don’t know how many more years Paul Konerko can lead them and maybe more than anything no one is talking about them. They are the forgotten big market team that is going counter the Prince Fielder signing from a year ago.
2- Zack Greinke SP: Baltimore Orioles; 6yrs- 124mil. The O’s pull off the second surprise signing of free agency by grabbing the only real ace on the market. For years Baltimore has flirted with the big signing, but this year they finally pull it off. Greinke will get to play for a contender, but won’t be brought on as the savior because Baltimore made the playoffs a year ago. The O’s have a great blend of young talent and stable veterans that make them one of the most exciting and dangerous teams around. All they really need is an ace.
3- Michael Bourn OF: Washington Nationals; 5yrs-66mil. The Nats have been dying for a centerfielder for years and could also use a speed demon leadoff hitter. For Washington the offseason is a choice between first base and centerfielder and I think they choose center. They have a bitter taste in their mouths from how they were embarrassed by the Cardinals and adding Bourn would not only weaken Atlanta but make them more versatile in the way they attack you. The Nats will be back, signing Bourn announces this to the world.
4-Mike Napoli C/1B: Texas Rangers; 5yrs-60mil. Napoli being the fourth best free agent proves how shallow this class is on star power. He could easily be swapped out for the 19th best but he does something very rare; hit for power behind the plate. The Rangers save money on not bidding on Napoli after his monster 2011 season but the power hitting catcher still gets overpaid because Texas can’t afford to let him walk to the Yankees or Red Sox.
5-BJ Upton OF: Atlanta Braves; 4yrs- 48mil. The Braves end up replacing Bourn’s speed with Upton’s power. Adding Upton gives the Braves one of the most athletic and exciting teams as they enter the post Chipper era. Atlanta has been so close the past three seasons that it’s getting ridiculous but this really could be the season the Braves finally put it all together. The key is winning the East and Upton might be the guy to push them over the top with his combination of defense and power.
6-Adam LaRoche 1B: Texas Rangers; 3yrs-36mil. The Rangers are going to have a big spot in their lineup to fill and first base has been a weakness for them. I don’t think the Nats are able to retain LaRoche since centerfield is a bigger concern for Washington so Adam is going to take his big bat to Texas and with him in the middle of their lineup, the Rangers won’t miss a beat.
7-Nick Swisher OF/1B: Philadelphia Phillies; 6yrs-77mil. The Phillies were last seasons biggest disappointments. They still have an amazing starting rotation but right now they could bring in an entirely new outfield. Swisher would be the perfect fit since he could start at first when lefties are on the mound and move to right or left field when a righty is starting. His bat would complement the rest of the Phillies lineup and would open their window of contention again. He will be a late signing because he wants crazy money he wont find, but with the Phils he can still get what he’s worth.
8-Jake Peavy SP: San Diego Padres; 3yrs-38mil. The Padres want to make some noise and announce their new ownership. They can’t do it the same the Dodgers did by buying four All Stars but they can bring back one of the most popular players in team history. Right now San Diego has no one at the top of their rotation and I have to believe Jake would welcome the chance to go back to his first team.
9-Angel Pagan OF: San Francisco Giants; 3yrs-27mil. Was there a better offseason trade than the one that brought Pagan to the Giants? Angel struggled with the bat in the World Series but his defense was near perfect. He’s a smart lead off hitter that bats switch and knows how to play AT&T Park. Sabean will have to give him a year more than he wants but he also knows he has to keep Pagan with the World Champs.
10-Marco Scutaro 2B/SS: San Francisco Giants; 2yrs-18mil. The Giants will do everything in their power to make sure Scutaro never hits the open market. He was the perfect fit in the Giants lineup and a leader in the playoffs. With so few free agents at second and short the Giants will have to over pay to keep the NLCS MVP, but he seems to want to stay, so I think SF manages to keep him in black and orange.
11- Ryan Dempster SP: Los Angeles Dodgers; 2yrs-26mil. I expect Dempster to be one of the first free agents off the board. The Dodgers will want to forget about the Giants World Series Championship and day dream about their own. Dempster really seems to want to pitch in LA and no AL team will bid on him after how horrible he was for Texas.
12- Kyle Lohse SP: Boston Red Sox; 3yrs-47mil. Boston will not sit on their fortune and just rebuild with it. Red Sox fans expect the team to reload and the pressure of knowing your job is on the line will make GM’s do crazy things. Lohse isn’t worth a fraction of the contract I expect him to sign but it’s likely the Red Sox will get in a bidding war with the Dodgers and have to over spend.
13-David Ortiz DH: Boston Red Sox; 2yrs-30mil. It’s very simple no other team wants to pay him what he’s asking and the Red Sox can’t afford the PR hit of watching another star leave town. He will be back in Boston but its debatable with his attitude, and lack of position outside of DH, if this is best for the team in the long run.
14-Torii Hunter OF: Texas Rangers; 2yrs-20mil. There is a strange back and forth between the Angles and Rangers where each offseason one team steals a valuable member off the other. I see no reason for this offseason tradition to end with the Rangers having a need in the outfield and the Angels being lukewarm on their desire to bring Hunter back.
15-Mike Adams RP: New York Yankees; 3yrs-27mil. The Yankees are praying that Mariano Rivera returns to them next season. However there is a good chance that in 2013 David Robertson is handling the ninth in the Bronx, and if so the Yanks are going to need a great set up man. Adams might be the best in the game at that and my guess is New York takes every other team out of the bidding.
16-Rafael Soriano CL: Detroit Tigers; 4yrs-40mil. The Tigers biggest problem in the playoffs was closer. Phil Coke was great once he was put in the ninth but his season ERA was 4. Detroit will spend big again as they hunt down a World Series Championship. The chance to hurt the Yankees at the same time makes Soriano the perfect move for the Motor City Kitty’s.
17-Hiroki Kuroda SP: Los Angeles Dodgers; 1yr-15mil. The Dodgers are willing to spend big money and Kuroda never wanted to leave LA in the first place. It will be a bidding war between the Yankees and Dodgers but the chance to return to the NL and be closer to home tips the scales in the Dodgers favor.
18-AJ Pierzynski C: Chicago White Sox; 2yrs-20mil. If the White Sox let their starting catcher walk away the backlash will be fierce. AJ had a career year and will be expect to get paid for stats he won’t put up again but he still offers significant value to Chicago and wouldn’t be easy to replace even if his power returns to normal levels.
19-Melky Cabrera OF: Cleveland Indians; 1yr-6.5mil. Who is he? Melky would have been the number three free agent in this class without the PED suspension but now any team that signs him will be hit with a PR nightmare. Still the Indians want to give Terry Francona some talent to work with in his first season and Melky would love the chance to just get to play baseball without a media circus around him. Perfect fit for both sides.
20-Shaun Marcum SP: Los Angeles Angels; 3yrs-39mil. The Angels will surprisingly find pitching hard to acquire and will turn to a man who has number two stuff and a questionable arm. Marcum would love the chance to play on a World Series contender and his pitching style fits well with the defense behind him.
21-Dan Haren SP: Kansas City Royals; 3yrs-36mil. The Royals have said they would spend on pitching and if they don’t they might destroy any good will left in their small fan base. Haren is no longer an ace but he has a big name and would be a huge get for Kansas City.
22-Anibal Sanchez SP: Boston Red Sox; 4yrs-60mil. Only Marco Scutaro helped his free agent cause more than Sanchez in this postseason. The Red Sox will be desperate to show their fans they can start competing again fast and will over pay for their former farm hand.
23-Ichiro Suzuki OF: San Francisco Giants; 1yr-7.5mil. The Giants will flirt with the idea of adding Josh Hamilton but in the end that’s not the way Brian Sabean works. Ichiro would be an upgrade in left over Gregor Blanco and fit in great with the Giants cast of team first players. San Francisco made a trade deadline bid for the future hall of famer, and now they will get their man.
24-Brandon League CL: Colorado Rockies; 4yrs-28mil. The Rockies never want to be a joke again. They are a desperate team and that will lead them to do foolish things. No player will benefit more from the Rox need for pitching than League.
25-Shane Victorino OF: Philadelphia Philles; 3yrs-27mil. Victorino will look around for a long term deal that doesn’t exist. Some desperate team like the Mariners or Padres will place a good size bid but in the end Shane will windup back in Philly on a deal that won’t make either side happy.
26-Cody Ross OF: Boston Red Sox; 2yrs-20mil. The Red Sox felll in love with Ross as he was one of the few players to play better than expected. With money to burn Boston will take every small and middle market team out of the bidding for Cody.
27-Russell Martin C: New York Yankees; 1yr-10mil. The only way Martin isn’t back with the Yanks is if they sign Napoli or trade for Brian McCann. I don’t think either of those two windup in pinstripes so Martin and the Yanks are stuck with each other for at least one more year.
28-Jeremy Affeldt RP: San Francisco Giants; 2yrs-14mil. Affeldt has been one of the bigger unsung heroes in both Giants World Series runs. He can get both lefties and righties out; he also really seems to enjoy pitching by the bay. I can’t imagine Sabean would let him walk.
29-Edwin Jackson: New York Yankees; 3yrs-33mil. Jackson gets the multi-year contract he’s always wanted, just not at his price. The Yanks are going to want to add a durable strikeout arm to their rotation since right now everyone of their pitchers has major question marks.
30-Mark Reynolds 3B/1B: Atlanta Braves; 2yrs-16mil. The Braves have money and options after Chipper Jones retirement. Everyone expects them to move Martin Prado to third but what if they kept him in left and added a third baseman? Reynolds can still hit homers and would be a scary bat in Atlanta’s lineup.
31-Kevin Youkilis 3B/1B/ DH: Tampa Bay Rays; 1yr-8mil. The Rays were one of the worst hitting teams in baseball last year and need to grind out more at bats. Youkilis might someday forgive the Red Sox, now that Bobby V is gone, but the way I see it he if wants to get pay back on the “Nation” playing for the Rays is his best shot.
32-Lance Berkman OF/1B/DH: Houston Astros; 1yr-8.5mil. Berkman can either ride the pine on a contender or start for the ‘Stros. It’s 50/50 but my gut tells me he rides off into the sunset in Houston.
33-Ryan Ludwick OF: Cincinnati Reds; 2yrs-16mil. Ludwick wants to stay, and the Reds have a real need for him. Money is tight in Cincinnati and it will probably come down to Ludwick or Melky Cabrera but I think after Ryan’s NLDS the Reds won’t let him go anywhere.
34-Jeff Keppinger INF: St.Louis Cardinals; 2yr-12mil. It’s amazing to me that Jeff Keppinger has never been a Cardinal. He is the perfect scrappy, light hitting player St. Louis always has on their roster. He will offer an on-base machine in front of the Cards big boppers.
35-Delmon Young OF/ DH: Seattle Mariners; 2yrs-14mil. Young’s postseason with overshadow the fact that he wasn’t really good in the regular season. One thing that will follow him and scare off big market teams was his racist remarks in New York. The Mariners need hitting however and will roll the dice on Milton Bradley 2.0.
36-Jonathan Broxton CL: New York Mets; 2yrs-18mil. The Mets keep trying to rebuild their bullpen without a closer and it keeps burning them. Enough is enough for NYM and they break open their piggy bank for Broxton.
37-Brandon McCarthy SP: Minnesota Twins; 2yrs-18mil. This might seem really low for McCarthy but the fact is that he can’t stay healthily and a player on the DL is no use to anyone. The Twins are just pitching starved enough to take a chance on him. Hang on this will become a theme for the team from the Twin Cities.
38-Jose Valverde CL: Minnesota Twins; 1yr-5mil. The playoffs can either make or break you if your a free agent, and after losing his job to Phil Coke consider Valverde broken. Lucky for him the Twins will be in on everyone and will give him his last chance.
39-Scott Hairston UTL: Baltimore Orioles; 2yrs-10mil. Every contending team could use a guy like Hairston. The O’s will make a lot of minor tweaks to their roster after finally making the playoffs and Scott seems like the perfect fit for Buck’s Boys.
40-Ryan Madson CL: Cleveland Indians; 1yr-5mil. The Indians are going to trade Chris Perez this offseason but Terry Francona will want an experienced closer. Madson can step right in even after missing the entire year last year.
41-Eric Chavez 3B: New York Yankees; 1yr-5mil. Chavez has found a home in New York. The ball park fits his swing and he isn’t expected to start everyday. The Yankees don’t know what they can get from A-Rod so they will bring back his lefthanded hitting caddy.
42-Francisco Liriano SP: Colorado Rockies; 2yr-18mil. Only the brave, stupid, or overpaid would dare willing pitch for the Rockies. Lucky for them, Liriano fits all three categories. Colorado will be one of the few places that will want Francisco and they will pay the most so he slides into the abysmal Rockie rotation.
43-Stephen Drew SS: Seattle Mariners; 2yrs-12mil. Drew isn’t worth this type of money but he’s a name and a fit with the Mariners. Brendon Ryan is unlikely so be starting next year for Seattle and weakening the A’s while strengthening themselves makes sense.
44-Maicer Izturis SS/2B: Baltimore Orioles; 1yr-4.5mil. Izturis would have been a great fit with the Blue Jays but after they made the trade to get Mike Aviles the need vanished. Baltimore can offer Izturis a starting job at second, this alone tilts the scales in their favor.
45-Francisco Rodriguez CL: Houston Astros; 1yr-8.5mil. K-Rod might have to give up his nickname to the Yankees third baseman but the bigger blow to him might be that no contender wants him within a mile of their roster. The Angels would be a great fit if he was willing to check his ego but in the end he decides money and closing games are more important and signs with Houston.
46-James Loney 1B: Tampa Bay Rays; 1yr-3.5mil. This might be the most perfect fit in baseball. It’s a chance for Loney to get a fresh start in a place with no fan pressure and after getting burned by Carlos Pena last year the Rays can actually see their first baseman put the ball in play.
47-Carlos Lee 1B/OF: Miami Marlins; 1yr-6mil. Carlos Lee wants to return, the Marlins have no better options. He’s still got a bigger name so even though Miami won’t be happy about it, Lee gets retained.
48-Kelly Johnson 2B: Philadelphia Phillies; 1yr-2.5mil. The Phillies have been toying with the idea of making Chase Utley a third baseman, while this is a horrible idea they seem serious. If Utley scoots over the Phils will need a middle infielder and Johnson could be salivating at the thought of the short walls at Citizens Bank Park.
49-David Ross C: Pittsburgh Pirates; 2yrs-7mil. Ross has been one of the better backup catchers the last couple of years, but with the Pirates he would have the chance to start and I have to think that means the most to him at this point in his career.
50-Kelly Shoppach C: New York Mets; 2yrs-7mil. The Mets really seemed to trust Shoppach once they acquired him and he won’t have any offers to start, so there is no reason to think they can’t work out a deal to keep him in Queens.
51-Jim Thome DH: Baltimore Orioles; 1yr-4mil. Thome was never really healthy with the O’s and there is a good chance he retires but I think he gives the World Series ring at least one more shot. The wild card is big Jim could sign with a contender to come off the bench if he thinks they have a better shot at the ultimate than the O’s.
52-Grady Sizemore OF: Detroit Tigers; 1yr-2mil. There isn’t a bigger wild card in this class because when heathy Sizemore is an all star but his health has been so bad lately, he could just be fools gold. Still the Tigers need depth in their outfield and I’m betting Sizemore wants a shot at a ring.
53-Ryan Theroit 2B: San Francisco Giants; 1yr-1.5mil. Theroit was an ok starting second baseman for the Giants but he was a great guy in the clubhouse. The middle infield is really weak this year in free agents but I don’t think anyone will offer Theroit a starting job, so a return to the World Champs makes the most sense for both parties.
54-Alex Gonzalez SS: New York Mets; 1yr-2mil. The Mets are going to want to put one toe in contention and one toe in rebuild…like they always do. Gonzales wants a shot to start after missing all of last year, he’s a reasonable signing for NYM.
55-Jeremy Guthrie SP: Minnesota Twins; 2yr-10mil. Personally I’ve never liked Guthrie much, he bombed out in Colorado (who doesn’t) but he really wasn’t that great in Baltimore. The Twins will be in on tons of pitchers in a last ditch attempt to contend and will get saddled with a terrible contract for their efforts.
56-Aubrey Huff 1B/OF: Oakland Athletics; 1yr-2mil. Huff will sadly not be back with the Giants, but I don’t think he’s ready to retire. He’s at best a bench power bat but Billy Beane will take a chance on the aged slugger.
57-Brandon Inge 3B: Chicago White Sox; 1yr-2mil. The White Sox will have to fill a void at third. Inge isn’t very good anymore but he’d love to be on a team that could beat the Tigers, a great fit.
58-Freddy Sanchez 2B/DH: Tampa Bay Rays; 1yr-1.5mil. Freddy might still be able to hit but there is no chance he can play a full season in the field. I think for him it comes down to a lot of offers from bad teams to DH, before Tampa throws him a lifeline to play one more season with a contender.
59-Placido Polanco: Miami Marlins; 1yr-2mil. Polanco is going to get a ton of calls from teams wanting him to come off the bench. He’d be a great fit with either the World Champs or AL Champs but I see him seeking out a chance to start and only the Marlins offer that for him at this point in his career.
60-Roberto Hernandez SP: Miami Marlins; 1yr-3mil. Hernandez might get into a little bit of a bidding war from terrible teams who want to dump him by July. He winds up with the Marlins after they trade ace Josh Johnson…