Baseball Insider

Free-agent rankings: Market much stronger than some think

Robinson Cano is looking for a record deal north of $300 million.(USATSI)
Robinson Cano is looking for a record deal north of $300 million. (USATSI)

There's a lot of money in this market, and especially with at least a quartet of big-market teams (Yankees, Mets, White Sox and Astros) who mostly sat out free agency the past few winters but could be real players again, that should raise the free-agent stakes -- and, of course, the prices.

There will be more money spent than many figure, and not only because there's lots of cash out there. This free-agent class isn't nearly as bad as some have speculated.

There's one everyday superstar (Robinson Cano), at least one potential No. 1 starter (Masahiro Tanaka), two more players who figure to top nine figures (Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo), a power-hitting catcher (Brian McCann) and at least a rotation and a half full of potential front-line starters (Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco, Hiroki Kuroda, Bronson Arroyo, A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon, Josh Johnson).

Overall, the outfield (with also Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson) and bullpen (Joe Nathan, Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit, Brian Wilson, Grant Balfour -- and some more) groups are very strong and the remaining catching corps (Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski, Carlos Ruiz, etc.) isn't bad, either. So while there aren't a lot of megastars, many productive players will still enhance rosters.

The trick today is to predict all the hauls of the top free agents. As in past years, we've enlisted one unbiased agent and one unbiased GM to make their predictions. I've added mine, having the advantage of seeing their guesses.

Below are the predictions of the agent, the GM and me:

1. 2B Robinson Cano: Figuring one proven superstar is interesting because the incumbent Yankees need him, and you have to think Jay Z, his over-involved father Jose and Robinson himself want to stay with the Yankees. The team's figure is at $165 million or so and he's asking $310 million, so there's a lot of work to do. Agent: 8 years, $209M. GM: 7 years, $175. Me: 9 years, $210M.

2. OF Jacoby Ellsbury: Agent Scott Boras isn't going to want to settle for less than Carl Crawford, who unlike Ellsbury didn't play center field, didn't bat leadoff (at least at the time) and hadn't proved he could play in Boston. But the GM contends, "At the time, Crawford was better and more durable." No surprise, after that remark, the GM's prediction is the lowest here. Agent: 7 years, $146M. GM: 6 years, $100M. Me: 7 years, $147M.

3. SP Masahiro Tanaka: Word is he has even more poise and presence than Yu Darvish, though perhaps not quite the talent. Darvish's success has to help Tanaka, though. Agent: $125M ($60M posting; 6 years, $65M). GM: $150M ($75M posting; 6 years, $75M). Me: $140M ($70M posting, $7 years, $70M).

4. OF Shin-Soo Choo: His huge year made him millions ... make that, tens of millions. Jayson Werth-plus is the target figure. Agent: 6 years, $110M. GM: 6 years, $110M. Me: 6 yrs, $120M.

Shin-Soo Choo is looking to cash in from his huge 2013.(USATSI)
Shin-Soo Choo is looking to cash in from his huge 2013. (USATSI)

5. SP Matt Garza: He proved he's healthy, but didn't look like the same pitcher in Texas he was on Chicago's North Side. Yes, he still benefited from the trade, as he has no qualifying offer and thus no draft pick attached. Agent: 4 years, $66M. GM: 5 years, $85M, 5 yrs. Me: 5 years, $85M.

6. C Brian McCann: Great-hitting catcher should be benefit from the needs of multiple big-market AL teams, including the Rangers, Angels, Red Sox and Yankees. A surprise: even the Giants, well-stocked at catcher starting with Buster Posey, have interest. Agent: 5 years, $75M. GM: 5 years, $80M. Me: 5 years, $80M.

7. SP Ervin Santana: He has been a consistent double-digit winner in the AL; on his better days he's Anibal Sanchez. Agent: 5 years, $77M. GM: 5 years, $75M. Me: 5 years, $75M.

8. SP Ubaldo Jimenez: Big finish (4-0, 1.09 in September) has some wondering if he can get close to his 2010 Colorado season. Agent: 4 years, $60M. GM: 4 years, $65M. Me: 4 years, $68M.

9. OF Nelson Cruz: Interestingly, our agent thinks he grabs the qualifying offer and starts over. The GM and I see some teams looking past his PED suspension to see a consistent power producer. Agent: 1 year, $14.1M (takes qualifying offer). GM: 4 years, $60M. Me: 4 years, $64M.

Nelson Cruz comes with baggage, but he's a consistent performer.(USATSI)
Nelson Cruz comes with baggage, but he's a consistent performer. (USATSI)

10. OF Curtis Granderson: Rough finish to 2012 combined with freak injuries year last season gave the Yankees pause on the qualifying offer. Yankees appear to want to move on, but he need not worry. Everyone's guess is he winds up playing at home for one of the Chicago teams. Agent: 3 years, $45M. GM: 5 years, $70M. Me: 4 years, $60M.

11. SP Ricky Nolasco: He pitched well in the regular season for the Dodgers, and with no draft pick attached and a consistent record, he should do well. Agent: 3 years, $38M. GM: 4 years, $52M. Me: 4 years, $50M.

12. OF Carlos Beltran: The agent sees a repeat two-year, $26 million deal, but I think he benefits from his big play in St. Louis to become a $20 million-a-year player. Agent: 2 years, $26M. GM: 2 years, $37.5M. Me: 2 years, $40M.

13. 1B-DH Mike Napoli: All three of us see him at least repeating the three-year, $39 million deal he almost got last time (before a medical exam reduced the money). That would only be justice for him. Agent: $39M, 3 yrs. GM: 3 yrs, $40M. Me: 3 yrs, $39M.

14. 1B-DH Kendrys Morales: The GM sees Morales taking the qualifying offer. But Morales wants to play more first base and may prefer a better hitter's park, so I see him getting three years elsewhere (or possibly convincing the Mariners to do better). Agent: 3 years, $36M. GM: 1 year, $14.1M (takes qualifying offer). Me: 3 years, $39M.

15. SS Stephen Drew: His postseason brought good and bad, as he fielded brilliantly and failed at the plate -- until the final game, after he got contact lenses. The Dodgers and Yankees (he could be a hedge for shortstop and/or third base) could provide competition for Boston, which wants him back. Weak overall middle-infield market also helps. Agent: 3 years, $37M. GM: 2 years, $25M. Me: 3 years, $38M.

Stephen Drew could be staying put in Boston.(USATSI)
Stephen Drew could be staying put in Boston. (USATSI)

16. RP Joe Nathan : He should turn his latest big season into a major pay day. The GM even envisions three years, and if he wants it, I could see it, too. Agent: 2 years, $22M. GM: 3 years, $35M. Me: 3 years, $36M.

17. SP Bronson Arroyo: All three of us see the consistent starter getting three years, though the GM said Arroyo will have to take a cut because his stuff is down. Agent: 3 years, $36M. GM: 3 years, $30M. Me: 3 years, $35M.

18. SP Jason Vargas: Solid, unexciting starter still will be popular. Agent: 3 years, $32M. GM: 2 years, $20M. Me: 3 years, $30M.

19. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia: Until the postseason, he had a very nice year, especially on offense. Agent: 3 years, $29M. GM: 3 years, $27.5M. Me: 3 years, $30M.

20. 2B Omar Infante: He's a better offensive player than you think. Landing $10 million a year isn't out of the question. Agent: 3 years, $30M. GM: 3 years, $25M. Me: 3 years, $30M.

21. RP Grant Balfour: He had a long save streak in Oakland and should turn that into a bonanza. Agent: 3 years, $24M. GM: 2 years, $18M. Me: 3 years, $24M.

22. RP Joaquin Benoit: Just because he can't get David Ortiz out doesn't mean he didn't have an exceptional regular season. Possible closer, but very high-end set-up man at the least. Agent: 2 years, $15M. GM: 3 years, $25M. Me: 3 years, $24M.

23. SP Scott Feldman: Very solid starter is wanted back in Baltimore. Agent: 2 years, $14M. GM: 2 years, $18M. Me: 2 years, $20M.

24. 1B James Loney: He put together his best season in years, and not a moment too soon. Also a very good playoff performer. Agent: 2 years, $14M. GM: 2 years, $15M. Me: 2 years, $20M.

25. RP Fernando Rodney: He couldn't repeat the magic of a season ago, but still has very good stuff. Agent: 2 years, $18M GM: 2 years, $20M. Me: 2 years, $20M.

26. RP Javier Lopez: Dynamic lefty will be highly sought after. Agent: 2 years, $9M. GM: 3 years, $15M. Me: 3 years, $18M.

27. OF Marlon Byrd: There's reason to be skeptical, but it's hard to miss those glitzy 2013 numbers. Agent: 2 years, $17M. GM: 2 years, $15M. Me: 2 years, $18M.

Is Marlon Byrd's 2013 an anomoly? (USATSI)
Is Marlon Byrd's 2013 an anomoly? (USATSI)

28. SP Phil Hughes: He almost couldn't have been worse in his walk year. Folks are figuring the West Coast makes the most sense, but he has an admirer in Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland, the ex-Yankees coach. Agent: 1 year, $7.5M. GM: 3 years, $30M. Me: 2 years, $18M.

29. SS Jhonny Peralta: Despite the 50-game ban, he picked up his hot hitting in the playoffs. Middle infield bats always play. Agent: 2 years, $21M. GM: 2 years, $16M. Me: 2 years, $18M.

30. SP Hiroki Kuroda: Some figure he'll go back to Japan; if he stays, he's a Yankee for $14.1 million or a little bit more. Agent: 1 year, $16M. GM: 1 year, $15M. Me: 1 year, $16M.

31. RP Brian Wilson: Wacky reliever was brilliant in limited, late-season duty for the Dodgers. Agent: 2 years, $12M. GM: 2 years, $16M. Me: 2 years, $16M.

32. C Carlos Ruiz: He has been underpaid his whole career, so here's hoping he's finally rewarded for his hard work and gritty play. Agent: 1 year, $6.75M, GM: 1 year, $8M. Me: 2 years, $16M.

33. 1B Justin Morneau: He showed no power in Pittsburgh, but did enough with the Twins to get a two-year deal, I think. Agent: 1 year, $6.5M. GM: 1 year, $8M. Me: 2 years, $15M.

34. SP Scott Kazmir: He has resurrected his career. Still has the stuff. Agent: 2 years, $17.5M. GM: 1 year, $10M. Me: 2 years, $15M.

35. SP Bruce Chen: He's gotten better with age. Also, a big plus for a young staff as an example of how to get by with an 84 mph fastball. Agent: 2 years, $9M. GM: 2 years, $15M. Me: 2 years, $14M.

Plenty of teams could use a crafty, seasoned vet like Bruce Chen. (USATSI)
Plenty of teams could use a crafty, seasoned vet like Bruce Chen. (USATSI)

36. SP Edward Mujica: Was brilliant the first five months of the season before hitting a wall. Agent: 2 years, $10M. GM: 2 years, $12M. Me: 2 years, $14M.

37. 1B Corey Hart: Has talent and tools; could be good for a multiyear deal, even off a knee injury (though the agent and GM don't think so). Agent: 1 year, $6M. GM: 1 year, $8M. Me: 2 years, $14M.

38. SP A.J. Burnett: Seems to want to return to Pittsburgh. Had a nice season, until October started. Agent: 1 year, $13M. GM: 1 year, $12M. Me: 1 year, $12M.

39. SP Bartolo Colon: Age and skepticism means he doesn't get a contract to match his stats. Agent: 1 year, $13M. GM: 1 year, $8M. Me: 1 year, $12M.

40. SP Josh Johnson: All agree: his talent alone will get him a big one-year deal. Agent: 1 year, $11M. GM: 1 year, $10M Me: 1 year, $12M.

41. 3B Juan Uribe: Almost earned that last three-year, $20 million contract with terrific third-base play all season and big homer in the NLDS. Agent: 2 years, $10M. GM: 1 year, $6M. Me: 2 years, $12M.

42. OF Nate McLouth: Seems to have found a home in Baltimore after an up-and-down career. Agent: 2 yrs, $9M. GM: 1 yr, $5M. Me: 2 yrs, $12M.

Nate McClouth and the Orioles are a good fit. (USATSI)
Nate McClouth and the Orioles are a good fit. (USATSI)

43. SP Jason Hammel: Rough season wasn't well-timed. Agent: 1 year, $6M. GM: 1 year, $8M. Me: 2 years, $12M.

44. SP Paul Maholm: Light tosser should get two-year deal. Agent: 2 years, $15M, GM: 2 years, $15M. Me: 2 years, $12M.

45. RP Boone Logan: Situational lefties have value. Agent: 2 years, $8M. RP. GM: 2 years, $8M. Me: 2 years, $10M.

46. C Dioner Navarro: Had big season on North Side of Chicago, so should get big raise. Agent: 2 years, $6.2M. GM: 1 year, $5M. Me: 2 years, $10M.

47. C A.J. Pierzynski: Still one of the better hitting catchers. Interesting catching market. Agent: 1 year, $6.5M. GM: 1 year, $7.5M. Me: 1 year, $9M.

48. SP Tim Hudson: Still dependable, but age and injury could keep it to one year. Agent: 1 year, $10M. GM: 1 year, $7M. Me: 1 year, $9M.

49. RP Chris Perez: Rough finish won't scare away suitors. Agent: 1 year, $4.5M. GM: 1 year, $5M. Me: 2 years, $9M.

50. SP Roy Halladay: It's a flier for this great pitcher, considering his recent injuries. Lots of incentives. Agent: 1 year, $5M. GM: 1 year, $8M. Me: 1 year, $8M.

How much does Roy Halliday have left in the tank? (USATSI)
How much does Roy Halladay have left in the tank? (USATSI)

51. SP Dan Haren: Better finish than start helps. Agent: 1 year, $6.5M. GM: 1 year, $8M. Me: 1 year, $8M.

52. OF Raul Ibanez: Rough second half after huge first half, at 42, makes this one interesting. Big disparity in predictions. Agent: 1 year, $4.5M. GM: 1 year, $10M. Me: 1 year, $7M.

53. RP Scott Downs: Biggest disparity of all. Very good in LA/Anaheim, not so good in Atlanta. Agent: 2 years, $10M. GM: 1 year, $2M. Me: 2 years, $7M.

54. OF David Murphy: Poor walk year hurts him. Agent: 2 years, $10M. GM: 1 year, $5M. Me: 1 year, $6M.

55. 1B Paul Konerko: Real question for White Sox great: Will he keep playing? Agent: 1 year, $6M. GM: Konerko retires. Me: 1 year, $6M.

56. SP Mike Pelfrey: Second year back from Tommy John may be a plus. Agent: 2 years, $11.5M, GM: 1 year, $5M. Me: 1 year, $6M.

57. OF Mike Morse: Not his best season in walk year, but power plays. Agent: 1 year, $5M. GM: 1 year, $5M. Me: 1 year, $6M.

58. SP Scott Baker: Useful starter will draw interest. Agent: 1 year, $4M. GM: 1 year, $8M. Me: 1 year, $6M.

59. SP Gavin Floyd: The GM had much more faith after Tommy John surgery. Agent: 1 year, $4M. GM: 2 years, $18M. Me: 1 year, $6M.

60. RP LaTroy Hawkins: Great year at 40 (and heroic on a flight). Agent: 1 year, $5.25M, GM: 1 year, $4M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

Ageless LaTroy Hawkins will wind up on a one-year deal somewhere. (USATSI)
Ageless LaTroy Hawkins will wind up on a one-year deal somewhere. (USATSI)

61. OF Chris Young: Didn't work out in Oakland. Agent: 1 year, $3.75M. GM: 1 year, $5M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

62. 3B Eric Chavez: Very nice season in home base; could get more if he left Arizona. Agent: 1 year, $3M. GM: 1 year, $3M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

63. 1B-3B Mark Reynolds: Has power, versatility. Agent: 1 year, $2.9M. GM: 1 year, $4M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

64. RP Oliver Perez: Big first half but should have been traded. Agent: 2 years, $7.5M. GM: 1 year, $3M. Me: 1 year, $4M.

65. RP Kevin Gregg: Better guts than stuff, but he racked up the saves. Agent: 1 year, $3.75M. GM: 1 year, $2M. Me: 1 year, $4M.

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