2015 MLB Free Agent Predictions: You may remember last year when I tried to predict where the top free agents would sign ahead of the offseason feeding frenzy. I think I correctly guessed 3 of 40. Not too shabby. I also pre-made fun of the Mets for signing Shin-Soo Choo. Whoops. Oh well. Let's try it again this year, shall we?
I'm basing this list of the top 40 MLB free agents on Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan's ultimate free-agent tracker rankings (A note: I'm removing a few international players like Jose Fernandez, Chihiro Kaneko, and Jung-Ho Kang whose availability looks dubious this winter. Don't blame me. I voted for Kodos).
Passan actually lists 165 free agents but I'm going to assume that no one really cares where Hiroyuki Nakajima ends up. Why top 40? Because it's less work than a top 50. I pass the savings on to you.
Here is where the top free agents will play next season:
1. Max Scherzer, SP - New York Yankees
Pretty sure, every year, whomever is listed as the top available free agent just goes to the Yankees no questions asked. The Yankees spent significant stretches of the 2014 season with Vidal Nuno and Shane Greene in their starting rotation. Nothing like a $175-$200 million dollar contract for the top arm on the market to cure what ails ya.
2. Jon Lester, SP - Anaheim Angels
Passan predicted on the radio the other day (I'd link you to the Halos Heaven article where they talk about this, but, you know, Halos Heaven...) that the Angels were going to go where no Arte Moreno has gone before. Namely, they're going to blow through the payroll luxury tax threshold and sign a top pitcher to avoid another season where Cory Rasmus is their No. 3 starter down the stretch.
3. Victor Martinez, DH - Detroit Tigers
It's hard to see the Tigers letting V-Mart go from the middle of their lineup as they continue to push all in on getting 137-year-old pizza maven owner Mike Ilitch a World Series Championship before his succumbs to grim death.
4. James Shields, SP - Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are going to land one of the big three starters this offseason, presumably. So why not go with the guy with the Big Game moniker? Actually, it was Joe Maddon who gave Shields that nickname so it only makes sense for Maddon to be stuck with him. Shields will also cost a bit less than Scherzer or Lester which should allow the Cubs to sign a few more pieces for their rebuild effort.
5. Yasmany Tomas, OF - San Diego Padres
An international free agent of renown? A.J. Preller's going to make his mark.
6. Hanley Ramirez, SS - Seattle Mariners
The Mariners seem like a team that will be itching to throw money at dudes in an effort to get those last few wins they needed to reach the playoffs for next season. So Hanley joins Cano as the keystone combo in Seattle. Brad Miller does not become the best shortstop in the AL West.
7. Russell Martin, C - Chicago Cubs
Much to Jeff Banister's chagrin, Martin goes to Chicago to add a top-tier catcher to their rebuild. The Rangers beat the Cubs in the 2018 World Series anyway.
8. Pablo Sandoval, 3B - Boston Red Sox
The Panda comes to the American League which his body was always meant for. The Red Sox did the worst to first thing once already so they're ready to spend a little to try to make it happen again.
9. Nelson Cruz, OF - Baltimore Orioles
I can't really figure out where Cruz would end up if he doesn't return to Baltimore. And since he wants to return to Baltimore, and the Orioles have said that they want to bring him back, I figure he'll play in Charm City again next year.
10. Brandon McCarthy, SP - Boston Red Sox
After the Red Sox fumble on their Jon Lester gambit of trading him last season and failing to bring him back this offseason, I see them signing McCarthy away from the Yankees to become the latest in a long line of Yankees/Red Sox turncoats.
11. Ervin Santana, SP - Kansas City Royals
The Royals almost certainly won't be able to bring Shields back so they'll need a starter to help keep the momentum from their World Series appearance going. Enter Ervin Santana for round two in Kansas City after a solid season in Atlanta last year.
12. David Robertson, RP - St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals' middle-to-late innings bullpen was exposed a little by the Giants in October so they bring in a guy who could either bump Trevor Rosenthal to a fireman role or do the job himself. The Cardinals are also begrudgingly one of those teams that is so solid all the way around that they can afford to spend money on relievers as final pieces.
13. Andrew Miller, RP - Detroit Tigers
No matter what they tried, the Tigers' bullpen was a dumpster fire all season. In a tier below Wade Davis, Andrew Miller was excellent out of the pen last season for Boston and Baltimore. The Tigers look for Miller to finally solve their bullpen woes and he probably ends up the closer by May. There's also the flavorful subtext of Miller returning to Detroit to save the Tigers after being the headlining prospect in the trade for Miguel Cabrera.
14. Kenta Maeda, SP - San Francisco Giants
The Giants won the World Series with Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong comprising half of their October rotation. In addition to those two being not terribly good, they're also free agents. Even though the Giants will probably have Matt Cain back from injury next year, they still have question marks in the rotation, especially with Tim Lincecum looking either done or destined for the bullpen full time. Also, isn't it about time for San Francisco to get their own heralded Japanese star? Maeda isn't considered a Darvish or even a Tanaka level talent, but he should be better than Ryan Vogelsong.
15. Hiroki Kuroda, SP - New York Yankees
For seemingly the hundredth offseason in a row, it's either the Dodgers, Yankees or retirement. I think Kuroda gives it one more go in New York.
16. Melky Cabrera, OF - Chicago White Sox
The Melk Man escapes the Great White North for Chicago's south side and joins Jose Abreu in an improving White Sox lineup.
17. Francisco Liriano, SP - Houston Astros
Jeff Luhnow has a perception problem in Houston. Losing has become a way of life for that organization. With the rebuild entering a critical phase where the product at the Major League level has to start turning around as the prospects begin to reach the Majors, Luhnow has to spend some on improving the quality of the big league team so they know he's not just hanging them out to dry for 162 games each summer. The Astros bring in Liriano at the cost of a few tiers below the top starters on the market with the reward of having a high upside.
18. Chase Headley, 3B - San Francisco Giants
Hopefully Chase Headley is up for a panda-related nickname so the Giants don't have to stop selling those ridiculous Kung Fu Panda hats at AT&T Park.
19. Alex Rios, OF - Kansas City Royals
With 2014 starting right fielder Nori Aoki on the free agent market, the Royals bring in the enigmatic Rios to try to siphon a solid season out of him and keep Jarrod Dyson in the fourth outfielder role.
20. Adam LaRoche, 1B - Seattle Mariners
With Justin Smoak mercifully let go, and Kendrys Morales back on the market, the Mariners will be on the lookout for a first baseman with pop. They were playing Logan Morrison there some in the second half but with Corey Hart a free agent, and Michael Saunders on the trade market, Morrison might be back in the outfield next year. After failing to pry Victor Martinez from Detroit, the Mariners settle on LaRoche.
21. Michael Cuddyer, OF - New York Mets
I don't know, I just have a hunch about this one. Call me crazy but I think Cuddyer to the Mets is totally going to happen.
22. Jed Lowrie, 2B/SS - New York Mets
Lowrie followed up a solid 2013 season with the A's with a disappointing 2014 campaign. His reward is a deal with the Mets to fill their desolate shortstop position.
23. Colby Rasmus, CF - Detroit Tigers
The Tigers can't get Ilitch that World Series Championship with Rajai Davis and Steven Moya as starting outfielders. Colby Rasmus was solid in 2013, but regressed a little last season. A change of scenery might do him well.
24. Nick Markakis, OF - Baltimore Orioles
Peter Angelos isn't going to let a fellow Greek get away. The Orioles seem interested in bringing back whole the team that won the American League East last season with just a little tinkering. If it ain't broke and all that.
25. Jason Hammel, SP - Texas Rangers
A...a former Cubs starter. We're doomed. DOOMED! I think JD targets Hammel because, unlike a lot of the starters a tier or two below the big names, Hammel has been a little more consistent and a little healthier over the past few seasons. I think that's going to be a big theme of the offseason, for the Rangers, after last year's health disaster. Having Hammel will also be fun when the Rangers trade for Cole Hamels.
26. Brett Anderson, SP - Minnesota Twins
Well hello there, Phil Hughes 2.0.
27. A.J. Burnett, SP - Baltimore Orioles
It seems like A.J. Burnett and the Orioles have been courting each other without sealing the deal for years now. After surprising the Phillies by opting out of his contract, because he said he wants to play for a contender, I think he finally ends up in Baltimore.
28. Justin Masterson, SP - Boston Red Sox
Seems so long ago now, but Masterson began his big league career as a much-hyped Red Sox prospect. It would make sense then for Masterson to return to Boston on a one-year deal as they try to rebuild their rotation and he tries to rebuild his value.
29. Torii Hunter, OF - Texas Rangers
He's coming. We all know it. Then JD trades Adrian Beltre for Josh Donaldson and signs Bret Boone out of retirement. For Hunter's sake, at least his kids won't have a leg to stand on when claiming embarrassment seeing their pop sign with the Rangers seeing as one of the younger Hunters now plays football for Notre Dame and they just lost to Arizona State. Arizona State.
30. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS/2B - New York Yankees
Someone has to replace Derek Jeter (and no, it's not going to be Elvis Andrus). It might as well be a guy who shouldn't be playing shortstop anymore. He'll be right at home.
31. Edinson Volquez, SP - Pittsburgh Pirates
If these predictions are correct, the Pirates will have already lost Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano from their team that has made back-to-back Wild Card appearances. The Pirates then can't afford to lose the guy who started the Wild Card game for them, can they?
32. Jake Peavy, SP - Chicago Cubs
Here's another veteran piece to put in the rotation for the Cubs as they begin to ramp up their efforts from full rebuild to competitive big league ballclub.
33. Michael Morse, DH/1B/OF - Oakland A's
A platoon-hitting dreamboat. Be still Bob Melvin's heart.
34. Luke Gregerson, RP - New York Yankees
Gregerson has been one of the under-the-radar top late-innings relievers in baseball over the past few years. That's going to warrant him a pretty nice contract. Teams that can pay nice contracts to non-closers are few and far between, however. In steps the Yankees to sign Gregerson to replace the departing David Robertson.
35. Luke Hochevar, RP - Oakland A's
Former No. 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar was Wade Davis before Wade Davis was Wade Davis for the Royals in 2013. He got hurt and missed all of 2014, however. He seems like a guy the A's will take a gamble on as they try to refortify a bullpen that is going to lose Gregerson.
36. Zach Duke, RP - Boston Red Sox
Lefty bullpen ace Andrew Miller was outstanding for the Red Sox last year but they traded him to Baltimore as he neared free agency. Lefty Zach Duke revived his career out of the Milwaukee bullpen last season and was superb in his new role. I can see the Red Sox bringing Duke over as Miller's replacement.
37. Brandon Morrow, SP/RP - San Diego Padres
An excellent low risk/high reward candidate for a team that needs all the rewards they can get. Of course, Petco is also the place you want to be if you're a pitcher trying to reestablish yourself. If Morrow continues to stumble in the rotation, he looks like a decent bet to become the next Andrew Miller/Wade Davis/Luke Hochevar out of the bullpen, at the very least.
38. Kendrys Morales, DH/1B - Cleveland Indians
It's difficult to figure out where Morales is going to play because no one really wanted him last season and he wasn't very good. Cleveland makes a good bet because that's kind of where you go when no one else really wants you and you aren't very good.
39. Billy Butler, DH - Seattle Mariners
Gosh, the Mariners sure love their lumpy DH-types, don't they?
40. Rafael Soriano, RP - Toronto Blue Jays
With last year's closer Casey Janssen also on the free agent market, the Blue Jays take a gamble that Soriano bounces back to his pre-All Star Break level of dominance to fill their need at the back end of the bullpen.
The Rangers bring back Geovany Soto, Colby Lewis, and Neal Cotts, sign Rickie Weeks, Kevin Correia, and Burke Badenhop to various one-year or NRI deals.
The Astros sign Ichiro Suzuki.
There you go. That's where all of these baseball players will be playing baseball in 2015. You're welcome, Major League General Mangers.
Be sure to make your own picks in the comments so we can see which of us is most wizard-like.