As we look forward to the Hot Stove League, here’s a list of the Top 10 (or 11) free agents who could push a team from contender to World Series winner.
1) Josh Hamilton – Probably in the Top 5 for talent in MLB, the only question is his health and his tendency for going into deep slumps when his team needs him most.
Where he fits best: Cincinnati Reds, first team to give him a second chance, they’re in need of corner outfielders and have a number of other young pieces to compete now.
Where he’ll probably sign: Seems to me the Red Sox and Cubs are likely candidates to spend freely. Dodgers also a possibility, the new ownership seems insistent upon winning now.
2) Zack Greinke – The prize pitcher of the class, he’s a #1 or #2 in just about any rotation.
Where he fits best: Texas Rangers, they’ve slowly established themselves as a pitching team, he’s not a big market guy so Texas he can toil behind Yu Darvish and win a lot of games with that offense
Where he’ll probably sign: I wouldn’t rule out the Brewers; Tigers and White Sox seem to make sense as well.
3) B.J. Upton – Everyone keeps waiting for him to put it all together and cut down on the strikeouts, good chance for someone to catch lightning in a bottle.
Where he fits best: Boston Red Sox, they’re more reloading than rebuilding, if he’s in a place where he can not be the cornerstone but fill in around other talent.
Where he’ll probably sign: I like a big market here, Yankees or Red Sox, maybe Dodgers. Cubs in play, too.
4) Dan Haren – Almost Cubs property until the deal collapsed at the 11th hour, he’s a guy who has 30 or more starts every year of his career, good control, in his prime.
Where he fits best: Texas Rangers, if they don’t get Greinke he’s a nice consolation. Or get both, the window is closing.
Where he’ll probably sign: I could see a big market, the Yankees aren’t going to sit back, the Cubs are obviously in play, as well.
5) Hiroki Kuroda – Quietly a low ERA in a hitter friendly park, he’s the kind of pitcher who can take the ball every 5th day and improve your team by 5-10 games over what you got.
Where he fits best: Los Angeles Dodgers, they’re reloading, huge ballpark, he’s played there before, and it’s my opinion that Japanese players like comfort and familiarity and thrive when they have it.
Where he’ll probably sign: He’s 37, he’ll go to the highest bidder, period. Might be Texas, could resign with the Yankees, or even the Red Sox. Show him the money.
6) Kyle Lohse – ERA below 3.00 and 16 wins to 3 losses, very underrated. There are worries that pitchers over-perform in St. Louis and he might not be able to match elsewhere.
Where he fits best: St. Louis Cardinals, he’s comfortable there, they’ll contend, they should have enough free cash to secure him, but we’ll see.
Where he’ll probably sign: Another guy entering his mid-to-late 30′s, he’s probably going to take as much money as possible. The Cubs seem to be a favorite here, the Red Sox could enter the fray if they miss on other targets.
7) Melky Cabrera – Nearly the batting champ, if you assume his PED suspension was a temporary lapse in judgment and he can get it done “straight”, then he could be a steal. He’ll have to go bargain given the baggage, and he’s always had the tools.
Where he fits best: New York Yankees, played there before, the fans will accept him, they could use his bat and defense.
Where he’ll probably sign: Seems like another Cubs/Red Sox/Mets type signing, short term, he’s going to have to sign a year deal and show he can do it without juice. He could be a piece that puts a team in the elite category.
8) A.J. Pierzynski – Where can you find a catcher who hit 27 home runs, played 135 games, scoring and knocking in over 68 runs not at the top or middle of the lineup with post-season experience? Meet A.J.
Where he fits best: Washington Nationals, young, talented staff and in need of a catcher, already a great team, he could literally secure a World Series for them.
Where he’ll probably sign: Rangers having let Napoli go seem primed to fork over free agent money and this isn’t a bad place to spend. They can outspend Washington, for sure.
9) Adam LaRoche – 33 bombs plus 100 RBI, not bad. The NL is really weak in 1B (to think Ryan LaHair made the All Star team this year) a lot of teams could use his talents. He’s still only 32 despite seemingly being around for like 15 years.
Where he fits best: Texas Rangers, for a team loaded with bats, it’s been a position of instability, his bat will fill about 75% of Josh Hamilton and plus on defense.
Where he’ll probably sign: Washington Nationals, I think they’d be foolish to let him go, he’s comfortable there, they have a good clubhouse vibe. Mets and aforementioned Rangers in the hunt.
10) Ryan Ludwick – you know what you’re goin to get, decent power, average average, so-so defense. But he can still fit in a corner OF position and upgrade your squad. He hit 3 HR in the postseason.
Where he fits best: Detroit Tigers, could use a little plus in the corner OF positions for a team that was so close to winning it all this year. He really could fit a lot of places.
Where he’ll probably sign: Could be anywhere. Has bat, will travel, somebody will sign him when they miss out on another key Free Agent target. He’s going to be looking for the most money given his advanced age.
11) Shane Victorino – a gamer, when the Phillies went south, he seemed uninspired but he’s proved he can play well, a good clubhouse guy, and has a lot of tools.
Where he fits best: Tampa Bay Rays, they’ll need to backfill Upton assuming he leaves, a lot of OF ground to cover, Shane is up to the task.
Where he’ll probably sign: I’m sensing Boston depending on some other moves. Could be the Mets or even the Yankees. Or Cubs. He fits in a lot of places and top money will buy his services.
I didn’t include relief pitchers (Rivera, Soriano, Madson) or guys in advancing age (Ichiro, Hunter, Berkman) as they will likely have single season impact and will fill in where other players don’t sign.
- Dave (@lhd_on_sports)
The post Top 11 MLB free agent analysis appeared first on Reading Between The Seams.