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.
GK: Ricky Nolasco went a long way to establish his market value last year, splitting the season between the Miami Marlins and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He won a combined 13 games, though pitched much better than that total would suggest. His 7.4 K/9 was the highest it’s been since 2010, and he’s always been a strong control pitcher, posting a 3.59 K/BB ratio.
At this point in his career, we know exactly what Nolasco is. He’s a solid three or four starter on a winning team, and that has significant value this time of year. As much as they’ve been stressing building their pitching staff from within, the Colorado Rockies still need to find pitchers that can fill out their rotation and eat up meaningful innings. Nolasco is not going to be the miracle fix for what ails the Rockies, but adding him goes a long way towards building a winning team.
Prediction: Colorado Rockies
PR: Nolasco is a solid pitcher who had a pretty good season this year. Nolasco wants a lot of money but I doubt anyone is willing to give him what he wants so he will end up going to whichever team offers him more. I think that team will be the Phillies. Not too much reason behind that but that is what my gut tells me.
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies
GK: When Joe Nathan arrived in Texas coming off a serious injury in Minnesota that seemed to put his career on the rapid decline, expectations were rightfully low. All Nathan did once he got to Texas was rediscover his All-Star form and emerge as one of the more reliable closing options the game had to offer. He made back-to-back All-Star teams for Texas, compiled 80 saves between his two years there and struck out 10+ batters per nine innings. Last year, Nathan even posted his career-best WHIP at 0.90.
I’ve been saying that I was going to identify which reliever would have the unfair task of replacing Mariano Rivera in the Yankees bullpen, and we’ve finally arrived at who I have pinpointed. Nathan is a New York guy (he went to Pine Bush High School in Circleville and college at Stony Brook), and this won’t be the first time he’s been connected to New York as a free agent (the Mets had significant interest in him back in 2011). Is Nathan Mariano Rivera? Absolutely not, but he’s a veteran who has pitched on the biggest of stages and can handle the pressure better than just about anyone else.
Prediction: New York Yankees
PR: Well I am going to have to agree with Kaplan here even though I had Brian Wilson going to the Yankees. But apparently that won’t happen because there is no way Wilson is shaving his beard. So Nathan is the next best option for a closer role on a contender. I don’t think the Yankees are very good but because they are the Yankees they are a contender every year. Nobody can replace Mariano, but tough luck, he’s retired so welcome back to reality where it is tough to find a good closer. Fortunately for the Yanks, Nathan is a pretty good closer.
Prediction: New York Yankees
GK: Omar Infante is more valuable than many people probably realize. There’s little doubt that he’s one of the 10 all-around second baseman in baseball, and is coming off a season in which he hit .318/.345/.450 with a 113 OPS+ and 2.4 WAR. He’s not going to be the headline signing for any particular team, and he isn’t ever going to be the cornerstone of a starting line-up. What he is, though, is a necessary piece any contending team needs to have at one of their non-premium positions. He keeps the line-up moving and doesn’t give up anything offensively or defensively. In other words, he’s the kind of players the Boston Red Sox would’ve signed before their World Series campaign in 2013, and everyone is trying to model that success.
As far as where he’ll land, there are few teams with established second baseman better than Infante, and even fewer that fancy themselves World Series contenders. To me, Infante would fit perfectly with what the Baltimore Orioles are trying to accomplish. The Brian Roberts Era unfortunately has been over for some time thanks to injuries, and Infante would slot nicely into a line-up that will rely more on Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters.
Prediction: Baltimore Orioles
PR: Omar Infante is a very good baseball player. He is overlooked because second base isn’t a very flashy position, but he is one of the best in the game. I can’t imagine the Tigers want to let him walk with how well he played last year. Good second basemen are hard to come by and the Tigers should pay him to stay in Detroit which I think they will do.
Prediction: Detroit Tigers
GK: Nelson Cruz can do one thing really well, and that’s hit for power. He’s clubbed at least 22 home runs every year since 2009 and has had a slugging percentage of .500 or better five of the last six years. However, there’s very little else Nelson Cruz does extremely well. His injury history is vast, he does not run particularly well and he’s going to have to be a full-time designated hitter before his new contract expires, depending on the length (he’s asking for five years, he’ll probably get four). However, even with all those limitations and the fact that he’s coming off a lengthy PED suspension, Cruz is going to get paid.
The question now is, well, who’s paying him? The Philadelphia Phillies were a logical choice, but they’re out of the market now after locking up Marlon Byrd for the next two years. There’s the possibility Cruz could re-up with the Texas Rangers, but they don’t seem all too enthused about giving him the contract he’s seeking. The Royals are looking for power, especially from the outfield, but if they were thinking long-term, they’d understand that they can’t have both Billy Butler and Cruz be their DH at the same time. The New York Mets are an option, but they’re really not interested in that contract, either. The Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t have the money to bring back Marlon Byrd, so thinking they’ll open the wallets for Nelson Cruz is unrealistic. That leaves the Arizona Diamondbacks. I don’t think it’ll be a smart or tactical signing, but they need some help in the outfield and power. They’ll regret the contract eventually, but may like it for 2014.
Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks
PR: Nelson Cruz was suspended because of Biogenesis but he will surely get a decent deal because of how well he swings the bat. He missed 50 games this year and he still managed 27 home runs. There are a lot of teams out there that could use that type of power. I would say the Mets could use it because any power could help them, but surely if Cruz comes to NY he wouldn’t crack the 20 HR mark. I really think that even though he turned down the qualifying offer, he will end up back in Texas with the Rangers. He has been there for a long time and they want to hang on to him.
Prediction: Texas Rangers
GK: Few players did more for their stock than Scott Kazmir in 2013. He still wasn’t the Scott Kazmir of old that had Mets fans banging their heads against the fridge while watching him dominate in Tampa Bay. But, he did have a K/9 of 9.2, his highest mark since 2008, a 1.32 WHIP, his lowest since 2008 and a 4.04 ERA, again his lowest since 2008. You get the picture. Scott Kazmir had been pretty bad for the last 4+ years, but turned it around in 2013 and is now in line for a multi-year contract. And he’s going to get that multi-year deal off one good year because Scott Boras is his agent and everyone needs starting pitching.
With everyone going to be in on Kazmir (except the New York Mets, apparently), it’s hard to tell where he’ll land. If my predictions ring true, we can probably rule out the likes of the Royals, A’s, Rockies, Twins and Mets, but that still leaves, you know, the majority of the league. Kazmir will go where the money is best, and that could possibly be Toronto, who needs to add to a thin rotation and still has dreams of being competitive in the American League East.
Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays
PR: I was glad to see Scott Kazmir back last year. I always enjoyed watching him pitch even as a Mets fan banging my head against the wall. He really could end up anywhere because he isn’t very old and he eats up innings. I have no idea where he is going to go, I know it won’t be the Mets but that is really it. I’ll take a wild guess at this one then and say the Angels. They spent a lot of big money on their offense but their pitching has been awful. Come to think of it, their offense has been awful too. But they need some pitchers and I think Kazmir will end up there and get thrown into the middle of that rotation.
Prediction: Los Angeles Angels