Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors have posted their seventh annual Top 50 Free Agents List with predictions. It’s one of my favorite features that I always look forward to and signals the start of the hot Stove Season.
They have the Mets pegged for one player among the top fifty; 37-year old reliever Joel Peralta who was a fixture in the Rays’ bullpen in 2012. The righthander has pitched for five teams in his eight year career and is coming off a solid season in which he posted a 3.64 ERA in 76 appearances spanning 67 innings. He had a career high 11.3 K/9 rate last season.
Here are their top ten predictions, go here for the rest.
1. Zack Greinke – Angels. Greinke is clearly the best available free agent pitcher this winter. He’s got it all — the 29-year-old former Cy Young winner misses bats, limits free passes, and has been battle-tested in the American League. He’s also avoided any major arm injuries to date. I find him a better bet than Hamilton, hence the first overall ranking. The Angels badly need Greinke back in their rotation, and they’d be well-served to keep him away from the division rival Rangers. Huge money will be required, especially if the Dodgers also join the bidding.
2. Josh Hamilton – Rangers. Hamilton is a fascinating free agent, combining superstar talent with a lengthy injury history and early-career drug problems. It’s going to take a special kind of recklessness to guarantee this man $150MM, and the Dodgers’ outfield is already full. This early in the offseason, people toss around speculation on the Tigers, Giants, Phillies, Mariners, Orioles, and Brewers, matches that don’t work for me. Though the Rangers won’t make Hamilton an offer right out of the gate, he’s expected to circle back with them after surveying the market. If Texas has not allocated big money to Greinke at that point, they could go back to the table with Hamilton.
3. Michael Bourn – Nationals. The speedy Bourn plays strong center field defense and gets on base just enough. The free agent market generally rewards power, but these days Bourn’s skillset is appreciated as well. Bourn has long been speculated as the heir apparent to the Nationals’ center field job, and the team’s comfort with agent Scott Boras doesn’t hurt. Still, this match is far from a lock if we’re talking Torii Hunter 2007 money. I don’t expect the Braves to re-sign Bourn, but the Phillies are another potential match.
4. Anibal Sanchez – Tigers. Sanchez, 29 in February, has been a dependable number two or three starter over the past three years. He capped off his 2012 resume with a successful American League stint and 20 strong playoff innings. A C.J. Wilson-type contract seems fair. The Tigers have interest in bringing Sanchez back, though the Blue Jays, Yankees, Twins, Angels, Rangers, Dodgers, and Padres are among the teams that may make bids if he hits the open market. Unlike Kyle Lohse, Sanchez will not cost a draft pick to sign.
5. B.J. Upton – Phillies. Upton’s best offensive season was 2007, when the Rays employed Steve Henderson as their hitting coach. Henderson now fills that role for the Phillies, which has to be a plus for the center fielder. Playing on the East Coast might also appeal to Upton, who hails from Norfolk. From the Phillies’ point of view, Upton could add some balance and power to their lineup as well as strong center field defense. At 28 there’s room for growth with Upton, but the status quo would probably give a team their money’s worth. The Nationals and Rangers could be other contenders for his services.
6. Nick Swisher – Orioles. Swisher hasn’t played left field regularly in many years, but if he’s willing to do so for the Orioles they could be a match. The 31-year-old also plays some first base, another question mark for the O’s. Swisher would be a fine addition to any lineup, though he doesn’t pass the gut test as a potential $100MM player. Perhaps we just have to account for salary inflation — $100MM doesn’t buy what it used to. The Giants and Mariners are other reasonable fits here.
7. Edwin Jackson – Blue Jays. Perhaps under the advice of former agent Scott Boras, Jackson turned down at least one three-year offer last offseason in favor of a one-year deal with the Nationals. He’s since joined Legacy Sports Group and figures to snag the first multiyear deal of his career. The 29-year-old throws hard, misses bats, and takes the ball every fifth day. The Jays are one of many teams that’d take a look unless, perhaps, Jackson insists on four guaranteed years or a $15MM annual salary.
8. Dan Haren – Padres. Haren is an interesting case. As recently as last year, he was a 235 inning a year horse, a good number two on most staffs. He had some home run problems in 2012 and missed a few starts with back issues, and to hear multiple MLB executives tell it, we’ve got him ranked way too high. The Angels don’t appear to want him at a club option that amounts to one year and $12MM. However, he seems like a solid play in that price range if his back checks out, hence the current trade talks. The Royals were willing to pay Ervin Santana $12MM, so the Angels may also find a taker for Haren before his option decision comes due Friday.
9. Hiroki Kuroda – Yankees. Sure, Kuroda turns 38 in February, but he had a great year for the Yankees on a one-year deal. If he’s open to another one-year contract, the Yankees will probably be happy to get it done. There should also be opportunities on the West Coast should Kuroda choose to return, but he may come with a draft pick cost if he turns down a qualifying offer from the Yankees.
10. Kyle Lohse – Dodgers. Though I pushed him up to the #10 spot on this list, I’m not a huge believer in Lohse having sustained success over a four or five-year contract. It might take a healthy payroll and a win-now attitude to meet Boras’ demands on Lohse, so I went with the Dodgers. If the Royals make a free agent starter splash, I think they’d prefer Sanchez to Lohse.
I can certainly see B.J. Upton or Michael Bourn landing with the Phillies this Winter. I expect the Nationals and Braves to make some bold moves this offseason after getting a taste of the post season in 2012. The Phillies’ Ruben Amaro Jr. vowed to his fans that Philadelphia will return to October baseball in 2013. It’s going to be interesting to see how all three teams navigate through this offseason as they seek to gain the upper hand in the NL East.
As for the Mets, I don’t see us doing anything significant in the way of free agency or trades. Peralta is exactly the kind of signing the Mets will look to accomplish as well as one or two minimal cost backup role players to fill out the rest of the outfield, bench and bullpen.