MLB Top 50 Free Agents And Destinations – #31-35

MLB Trade Rumors have released their list of baseball’s top 50 free agents, and the prognosticators here at The Waiver Wire are ready to analyze it.

Greg Kaplan, Pete Rynkowski and Vinny Ginardi will countdown the top 50, giving their predictions for where each will land along the way.

Previous Predictions: 36-40 / 41-45 / 46-50

jason-vargas-dl-bound35 – SP Jason Vargas

GK: This off-season may be a bit of a perfect storm when talking about the free agent market of Jason Vargas. He’s an innings eating machine, and would’ve eclipsed 200+ innings for a third straight season had he not missed two months last year to a blood clot. Vargas is never going to dominate with raw stuff (he sports a career K/9 of 5.9) and he’s always going to deal with runners on base. Nonetheless, he’s going to give you 6+ innings every fifth day and give you a chance to win, which is exactly what a contender is going to want from a middle-of-the-rotation lefty.

Vinny mentioned this in the last block of free agents, but the Kansas City Royals fancy themselves contenders. They’re likely to lose Ervin Santana to free agency and need to make up for his innings somewhere. Giving Vargas, who will turn 31 before Opening Day, a multi-year contract in the neighborhood of three years not only eats those innings, but does so without giving up too much in terms of value.

Prediction: Kansas City Royals

VG: As Greg pointed out, Vargas is an innings eater. While he’s not going to strike out a ton of guys (career K/9 of 5.8), he can provide a rotation with a stable and consistent starter (ERA between 3.78 and 4.25 and FIP between 3.95 and 4.69 each year since 2010). He’s far from an ace, which is why I like a team that already has a solid rotation to add the lefty. I can see him going to San Francisco.

Prediction: San Francisco Giants

PR: The Angels traded for Vargas last year but he unfortunately was injured for a lot of it.  He is a pretty good pitcher who the Angels have said that they want to hang on to and offer a multi-year deal.  That is good enough for me.  A 30-year-old pitcher coming off a serious injury and getting a good offer with a few years of job security.  I don’t think Vargas is going anywhere.

Prediction: Los Angeles Angels 

Washington Nationals v Cincinnati Reds34 – SP Dan Haren

GK: Many were willing to give Dan Haren a pass for a subpar 2012 campaign, at least by his standards. While the excuses were there in 2012, nobody was willing to give Haren the same benefit of the doubt after a flat-out bad 2013 season. There is still some belief that Haren can bounce back to his All-Star form we’ve seen previously, but he’ll have to do so on a one-year contract.

And if it’s going to be a one-year contract, few teams make as much sense as the Oakland Athletics. There’s no saying Bartolo Colon will return, and Haren is exactly the short-term reclamation project that has made Billy Beane and company famous. There’s history with Haren in Oakland as well, so the familiarity plus the chance to re-establish his value makes way too much sense to me.

Prediction: Oakland Athletics

VG: It’s tough to see Haren getting anything but a one-year deal, given his recent struggles. But then again, his struggles haven’t been that bad.  His FIP the last two seasons are a 4.24 and 4.09 respectively. At 34 years old, Haren’s not likely to return to the ace that he was, but he’ll probably want to sign a one-year deal to outdo his recent performances and cash in next free agency. I see him signing with the Cubs, who will hope he bounces back and then look to flip at the deadline.

Prediction: Chicago Cubs

PR: Haren actually had a pretty decent second half of the season after starting off pretty badly.  He is getting a little older but showed some flashes of his old self later in the season.  He won’t be any more than a middle-end of the rotation guy though.  I am going to agree with Kaplan on this one.  The A’s make a lot of sense for him and I think he will be heading back to Oakland.

Prediction: Oakland Athletics

0419-aj-pierzynski-rangers33 – C A.J. Pierzynski

GK: It might be a long winter for A.J. Pierzynski, who’s going to have to wait for the likes of Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to sign before he knows where he’s going to end up. At 37-years old, there are going to be few teams that want to invest multi-years into Pierzynski, who is exclusively a catcher. However, to his credit, Pierzynski could be coming off the best two-year stretch of his career and has caught 134 or more games each of the last two seasons when you would normally expect him to be in decline.

While an American League team may be ideal in order to keep Pierzynski’s bat in the line-up on off days a designated hitter, I think Pierzynski is going wherever the money is. The Philadelphia Phillies have never been afraid to spend, are clearly not afraid of a player’s age and will want an upgrade over Carlos Ruiz, who isn’t likely to return as a free agent in his own right. Pierzynski’s personality will either work perfectly in Philadelphia, or he’ll become one of the team’s most unpopular players in recent history.

Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies

VG: It still perplexes me that the Yankees let Russell Martin go last offseason, to replace him with…nobody. As a White Sox fan, I can tell you first hand that Pierzynski is a frustrating delight to root for. He almost always swings at the first pitch, but he provides a decent batting average and solid power numbers for a position where any type of offense is often seen as a luxury. The Yankees need an upgrade, badly, and Pierzynksi shouldn’t cost all that much.

Prediction: New York Yankees

PR: I am inclined to agree with Vinny on this one.  Pierzynski has Yankees written all over him.  A good power hitting catcher who is on the tail end of his career but can still contribute.  He is the type of guy that could come in next year and give the Yankees 25+ home runs with how he hits the ball and how small of a park Yankee Stadium is.

Prediction: New York Yankees

Fernando-Rodney32 – RP Fernando Rodney

GK: I already know Vinny is going to guess that Rodney is signing with the Tigers. I’m 110% sure of it. Rodney wasn’t nearly his 2012, Cy Young contention level last year, but was still able to get 37 saves for the Rays. It’s easy to forget that despite Rodney’s recent two-year spike, he’s a 37-year old reliever without a home, making it hard to imagine teams lining up to give him a multi-year contract.

The Colorado Rockies are looking to turn things around quickly and aren’t in the mindset to strip down and rebuild. They need more options at the end of games, and Rodney on a two-year contract will help fill that hole. There’s no telling that Rodney will be able to be the closer in Coors Field or even continue his recent string of success, but the Rockies need to take the chance and find out in order to compete in the National League West.

Prediction: Colorado Rockies

VG: Reliever?! Let’s send him to Detroit!

Prediction: Detroit Tigers

PR: I love Vinny’s reliever predictions.  I agree that he will go to Detroit.  They need a bullpen, they have a hole to fill at closer, Rodney had a great year this year.  The Tigers and Fernando Rodney reunite!

Prediction: Detroit Tigers

Tim Hudson31 – SP Tim Hudson

GK: When the off-season began, I would’ve bet anything and said Hudson would take a shorter contract to remain with the Atlanta Braves, especially after his season was cut short due to a gruesome ankle injury. However, more and more reports indicate two things: Hudson really wants a World Series ring, and he has a lot of friends in the Boston Red Sox organization. It’s not like the Red Sox are in need of starting pitching, but by signing Hudson to a two-year deal, it would free them up to trade from a position of strength and help address other areas of need, like in the event either Jacoby Ellsbury or Mike Napoli leave as free agents.

Prediction: Boston Red Sox

VG: I think Hudson stays with the Braves. He’s a ground ball pitcher, and having the best defensive shortstop in the league behind him certainly doesn’t hurt. Greg mentioned that Hudson wants a World Series ring, and Atlanta will be in the postseason mix again next season.

Prediction: Atlanta Braves

PR: Hudson has played more than half of his very long career in a Braves uniform.  He is coming off of an injury but still would have been one of the Braves best pitchers this year.  They love him in Atlanta, he loves Atlanta, and he can still pitch.  His injury was a fractured ankle which is a freak injury that he will heal from and it won’t affect his pitching.  He wants a multi-year deal and I think he will take a discount to stay with the Braves.

Prediction: Atlanta Braves