* The final out of the 2014 World Series has barely nestled into the glove of the San Francisco Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval when planning and speculation for the 2015 season and to get to next October’s championship began. An early — young — look at where the best free agents may land when the dust clears.
Hot Stove Heat-Up: Free Agent Rankings and Team Predictions
By Zach Swanson
As the 2014 World Series season has wrapped up, I will be starting this Hot Stove Heat-Up series, and hopefully write a new insert to the series periodically during the offseason.
Hot Stove Heat-Up will follow the latest information on free agent signings and trades, with in-depth analysis on the free-agent movements and who is headed where.
I was going to do a funny intro here, but I couldn’t think of one, so I’m getting right into it. Go offseason.
1. Max Scherzer.
I may be reading too much into this (ya, probably), but it sure looked like Max Scherzer all but got the boot when Dave Dombrowski went out and got David Price from the Rays. Yes, they didn’t have to give up much in return (Austin Jackson to Seattle and Drew Smyly to Detroit) but as far as I know, Jackson never had issues with his team (yes, Percy Harvin, I’m talking to you …), and I don’t believe that Smyly committed any crimes… No offense, NFL. Seriously, though.
A 3.26 ERA and a 55-15 record in Scherzer’s last three years combined with his Cy Young in 2013 makes him the best free agent on the market. The only problem is the fact that he turned down a six-year, $144 million contract extension earlier in the year with the Motor City Cats, which will also make him one of the most expensive players out there. Scherzer is from the St. Louis area, but they have lots of grade A starters.
Also, the Red Sox, Cubs and other teams will be hungrier for Scherzer than the hometown Cards. A bonus for NL teams, he hit .226 for the Diamondbacks in 2009, so he’s not an automatic out.
Team Prediction: Cubs. They have budget room (and Joe Maddon).
2. Jon Lester.
A lefty with juice is money in the bank (shameless Million Dollar Arm rip-off), but the team that signs Lester will be paying more than needed. Here are the problems that I see in comparison to Scherzer. Lester hasn’t had a year with more than 225 Ks, Scherzer has had 230+ in his last three years. Lester’s GO/FO average last 3 years? 1.10. Scherzer’s? 0.68. Must I continue?
Lester is a very, very good pitcher, don’t get me wrong. The problem that I have is the fact that he will get paid for what he has been in 2012-2014, not what he will be. He’ll get locked into a multi-year deal, stay there, age and retire early. Lester will be 31 on January 7, and never getting younger. When there’s someone aging, in the free agency-hood, who ya gonna call? Yankee-busters! The Yanks can also profit by having a back-up when Mashiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia get hurt.
Team Prediction: Yankee-busters! (I need to trademark that.
3. Yasmani Tomas.
It’s the same thing every year, the 30-year-old free agents swamp the list, with one or two real good multi-year commitments. Here is that one, and I think that this kid could be the next Miguel Cabrera of 2012 and 2013. He is the best free-agent position player, with Nelson Cruz-type power (steroids not included) and the possibility to become one of the best players to come from
The Phillies seem like the front-runner to land Tomas because of their money situation, but I just don’t believe that the Phils will give up on Ryan Howard that quickly or take on any extra money to make room for Tomas.
My quick picks? Phillies, Marlins (I have a hard time seeing Garrett Jones as an opening day starter) and the Mariners (but Logan Morrison is soooo good…).
Team Prediction: Marlins, as they have some budget room.
4. James Shields – Boston Red Sox.
5. Pablo Sandoval – stays with the Giants
6. Billy Butler – same as Panda, hometown discount for the Royals
7. Hanley Ramirez – Yankees, starting the post-Jeter era.
9. Nelson Cruz (steroids or no steroids, still not a fan) – Brewers
10, Aramais Ramirez — Brewers.
11. Francisco Liriano – Blue Jays add a much-needed starter
12. Russell Martin- returns to the Pirates or maybe the Cubs.
13. Chase Headley (I still have hope) – Yankees
14. Kenta Maeda (if posted) – Rangers
15. Nick Markakis — Reds.
Dream Move: As the first attempt at this segment, if you will, I’ll be looking at a Reds team that is very good, but stuck in a tough division. The Reds, unless they get a LF from somewhere in free agency, will need to get one as they let Ryan Ludwick go. Today’s dream move: Reds acquire Starlin Marte from an outfield-bolstered Bucs team in return for Brayan Pena, Logan Ondrusek and Reds #6 prospect (as according to the MLB.com top prospects) Ben Lively. Marte has a large contract and it frees up the Pirates to sign someone in free agency.
The main event: The 2014 Winter Meetings in San Diego, December 7-10.