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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 986

post #29551 of 73147
Originally Posted by macbk View Post

Is there a replay of last night's 30for30 on El Duque airing anytime soon?

I missed it too but according to my DVR the next airing is Friday at 1:30AM ET on ESPN2.

post #29552 of 73147
wow Brad Halsey has passed away , only 33 ...

sad man, so young ... R.I.P ...
Yanks Knicks Jets
Yanks Knicks Jets
post #29553 of 73147
He was the pitcher who gave up 715 to Barry Bonds

RIP frown.gif
post #29554 of 73147
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

He was the pitcher who gave up 715 to Barry Bonds

RIP frown.gif
I thought Byung-yung Kim did?
post #29555 of 73147
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

He was the pitcher who gave up 715 to Barry Bonds

RIP frown.gif
I thought Byung-yung Kim did?

Oops typo. He gave up 714 and Kim gave up 715
post #29556 of 73147

Mets keep bring in the fences laugh.gif
post #29557 of 73147
Originally Posted by onewearz View Post

wow Brad Halsey has passed away , only 33 ...

sad man, so young ... R.I.P ...


post #29558 of 73147
The Mets fences are going to be 259ft away in a few years lol
post #29559 of 73147
Thread Starter 
Top 50 MLB free agents.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Major league teams have more money than ever to spend on players, so I'm expecting the recent trend of salary inflation to continue this offseason even without many superstars available as free agents. This year's crop features a few top-end starting pitchers but very little in the position player department, especially in the middle of the field. Beyond the top of the list, you see a lot of fringe regulars and back-end starters. There's also the occasional upside play on a guy who has been injured or is coming off a season below his career norms.

With these rankings, I try to give a rough idea of the offer I'd be comfortable making to each player, assuming I were the general manager of a contending team (or would-be contending team) and operating at or above the median payroll level.

Estimating the actual dollar value of a player to any specific team is nearly impossible, because we don't know what the marginal revenue product of a win is for each club, and that number can change for a team from season to season, or even within a season, if it's much better or worse than expected.

My numbers are not predictions, and they often will fall short of actual market values. That is due to the "winner's curse" phenomenon, in which the winner of an auction for a good of uncertain value is the bidder whose internal estimates of that value are the highest (and thus perhaps too optimistic), and because teams with large payrolls can and often do pay more for a win in the free-agent market.

I've also noted which players have received a $15.3 million qualifying offer. If a player receives one and signs elsewhere, the signing team will lose a draft pick, and having a qualifying offer "attached" can really hurt the value of non-elite free agents.

Now, on to the rankings.

1Max Scherzer
AGE: 30DOB: 7/27/1984HT: 6-3WT: 220POS: RHP
W-L 18-5ERA 3.15WHIP 1.18SO 252BB 63WAR 6.0
Scherzer turned down huge money from the Tigers last year, an enormous bet on himself that seems is about to pay off. He had another outstanding (and healthy) season heading into free agency and stands as the best player available in the free-agent class.

He has thrown at least 187 innings in each of the past five seasons and made 30 or more starts in all six seasons since becoming a full-time big leaguer, which is perhaps the most impressive part of his résumé given the shoulder problems he had in college and a once-violent delivery that made it impossible for him to command his fastball. Scherzer overpowers hitters thanks to a tremendous combination of velocity and movement; his fastball has as much life as any front-line starter in the game, and even with about a half-mile drop in average velocity in 2014, he still can dominate hitters with that pitch. Hitters swung and missed at 15.5 percent of the four-seamers he threw in the strike zone in 2014, and almost 73 percent of his four-seamers in the zone went for strikes (whiffs, called strikes or foul balls).

Scherzer's slider is his best secondary pitch, appearing to break very late so hitters take some awkward swings against it. He has begun using a curveball the past two years almost exclusively against left-handed hitters, who take some pretty good swings against it, as it's by far his slowest pitch and he hangs it more often than he does his slider. His next employer might encourage him to use his changeup more in those situations, although that pitch has been less effective over that same time period, as he leaves it up in the zone more than he should given its movement. He has more control than command, getting away with missed locations because of how lively all his pitches are, but that's also a reason to like his long-term future because he should have the movement to get by even as his velocity gradually declines.

Scherzer will be paid like an ace, a 210- to 220-inning guy worth 5 to 6 wins above replacement a year, and he probably will hold that value for two to three more seasons. Beyond that, I think he will settle in as a durable No. 2 starter who succeeds because he is incredibly intelligent and learns to work more by using his slider and changeup and relying less on pure power.

• Received qualifying offer


2Jon Lester
AGE: 30DOB: 1/7/1984HT: 6-4WT: 240POS: LHP
W-L 16-11ERA 2.46WHIP 1.10SO 220BB 48WAR 4.6
You could make a strong argument to have Lester ahead of Scherzer, as the lefty was better in 2014 and his skill set appears to be one that ages well. Lester's platform year was his best ever, with a career-low ERA and walk rate along with his best strikeout rate since 2010. He pitched more like he did in those great seasons he had in 2009 and '10, working much more with his cutter and curveball while relying less on his four-seamer and almost ditching his changeup. The cutter is his best weapon, and it makes him tougher against right-handed batters than lefties, although the curveball gives him a pitch that lefties find hard to put in play. He works primarily with those three pitches, along with much-improved fastball command.

Lester, like Scherzer, has been extremely durable, with seven straight seasons of 31 or more starts and 191 or more innings, suffering no injury more serious than a lat strain in July 2011. Because he doesn't rely as much on power as Scherzer does, I'm a little more optimistic about what the back end of a long-term deal for Lester might look like; on the other hand, the gradual decline in his ground ball rate over the past four years and rise in his line-drive rate might not age as well. As with Scherzer, I see Lester as a No. 1 starter today and probably a No. 2 by the end of a long-term deal, good for 4 to 6 WAR a year over a long-term deal.

3Hanley Ramirez
AGE: 30DOB: 12/23/1983HT: 6-3WT: 225POS: SS
AVG .283OBP .369SLG .448HR 13RBI 71WAR 3.5
Ramirez is the upside play among all these big-name position-player free agents, because I think everyone recognizes that he can be much more productive than he was in 2014. He was MVP-level good for the final four months of 2013 in L.A., and it seems to be about motivation as much as health with him. Even in a "disappointing" season, Ramirez still produced a 3.4 fWAR and a .362 wOBA, but that's a testament to his skill as a hitter; he still has above-average bat speed, great hand and wrist strength and outstanding hand-eye coordination at the plate.

That bat speed was a little slower in 2014, and he was less successful against high velocity than he had been in 2013, which is the only major cause for concern I see in his offense. His defense, however, is a real issue. He is a below-average shortstop, and if anything, it's getting worse. This is an era in which teams care more than ever about defense; for example, the Royals just sped to the World Series in large part because they catch everything in play. Ramirez's suitors are much more likely to ask him to move to third base.

If he's up for the shift, he will have a chance to be an above-average defender there and could become a 5-WAR player again, but he will probably be paid like a 3- to 4-WAR player because no one knows how he might respond.

• Received qualifying offer


4James Shields
AGE: 32DOB: 12/20/1981HT: 6-4WT: 215POS: RHP
W-L 14-8ERA 3.21WHIP 1.18SO 180BB 44WAR 3.3
Big Narrative James isn't quite the ace his nickname makes him out to be, and like most human beings, he's not capable of arbitrarily improving his performance on cue (good pitchers in "normal" games will be good pitchers in "big" games too). Shields is indeed a good pitcher, not to mention one of the most reliable machines in the business, with seven straight seasons of 33 or 34 starts and eight straight of more than 200 innings. His one blip year, 2010, came with a spike in his home runs and BABIP allowed, but it turned out to be just a fluke, followed by four years of more typical Shields-like performances.

Since joining the Royals in 2013, Shields has ramped up the use of his cutter and become a true four-pitch guy (average fastball and curveball and plus changeup), making him effective against hitters on both sides of the plate. The lack of a huge fastball means he has somewhat higher contact rates than you would want from an ace, but his durability and track record balance that out and he seems like a good bet to deliver $16-20 million per year of value as long as he remains healthy.

• Received qualifying offer


5Brandon McCarthy
AGE: 31DOB: 7/7/1983HT: 6-7WT: 200POS: RHP
W-L 10-15ERA 4.05WHIP 1.28SO 175BB 33WAR 1.1
After a disappointing year and a half in Arizona, McCarthy was paroled to the Bronx in a midseason trade, after which he turned in some of the best results of his career thanks to the return of his cutter, a pitch the Diamondbacks discouraged him from throwing. Reducing his overreliance on the sinker and mixing in the cut fastball -- roughly doubling its use -- allowed him to miss more bats and give up less hard contact. His home run rate dropped significantly after the deal, and he traded some ground balls for fly balls, which, when they're in the park, are more likely to become outs.

Also hidden by the high ERA from his time in the desert is the fact that he threw 200 innings total in 2014 and 335 over the two years of his deal, which is significant for a pitcher who had topped 111 innings in just one major league season before signing that contract. Because he's not relying on pure power, McCarthy's skill set should age well as long as his health allows. With 2014 as his healthiest season yet, I would be willing to bet the "over" on his ZiPS projections and pay him as a $14-15 million per year starter on a two- or three-year deal.

6Pablo Sandoval
AGE: 28DOB: 8/11/1986HT: 5-11WT: 245POS: 3B
AVG .279OBP .324SLG .415HR 16RBI 73WAR 3.4
Kung Fu Panda has probably made as much noise with his conditioning struggles as his performance over the past three years (since his huge 5.9-WAR season in 2011). He has been quietly more productive in the interim and enters free agency at age 28. While Sandoval is known as a swing-at-everything guy who seldom walks, his contact rate is strong -- never striking out 100 times in a major league season -- and the Royals' success this October may lead some front offices to value high-contact hitters a bit more highly. He's a switch hitter, but he is substantially better from the left side and may eventually need to give up hitting right-handed if his performance drops much further.

Despite his girth, Sandoval has worked to become an average to slightly above-average third baseman, with fringy range but good hands and a plus arm. I'll put it this way: If it's hit near Sandoval, you feel very good about him converting the play, even if he has to dive. I'm not sure if there's another gear of power here given Sandoval's approach, which includes going the other way if that's the way he's pitched, but I think there are a few 20-homer seasons in this bat, which would make him a good value on a four- or five-year deal at $15 million per year.

• Received qualifying offer


7Francisco Liriano
AGE: 31DOB: 10/26/1983HT: 6-2WT: 215POS: LHP
W-L 7-10ERA 3.38WHIP 1.30SO 175BB 81WAR 1.5
Liriano's failed physical, which led the Pirates to rework his contract, turned the deal into one of the biggest bargains of the past two years, as he gave the Pirates 323 1/3 innings of a 3.20 ERA and 4.5 WAR for $7 million guaranteed. I doubt his next deal will work out that well for his new employer, as he should be paid as a No. 2 starter with a slight discount for his lower workload. Liriano's injury was to his right (nonthrowing) arm, and his left arm seems to be just fine, as he'll sit 91-93, bumping 95, with a plus-plus slider and plus changeup that are both capable of missing bats.

The slider is well-known, and he uses it heavily, about one of every three pitches. But he has great arm speed on his mid-80s changeup and a little late action, so hitters swung and missed at almost a quarter of the changeups he threw.

I wouldn't pay Liriano like an ace because he never has reached 200 innings and probably never will; his 2014 innings total of 162 1/3 was his highest since 2010. That might make a qualifying offer appealing to him, but a two- to three-year deal at $12-13 million probably balances the risk and reward nicely for a buyer.

• Received qualifying offer


8Russell Martin
AGE: 31DOB: 2/15/1983HT: 5-10WT: 215POS: C
AVG .290OBP .402SLG .430HR 11RBI 67WAR 5.5
Martin was a shell of his former self when his tenure with the Dodgers came to a close, and he looked like he would be too weak to handle a regular catching load and hit for any kind of pop. But he cleaned up his body and regained some power in New York, carrying that newfound strength over to his tenure in Pittsburgh. His 2014 stat line is a clear anomaly, especially given his career-high .336 BABIP, but maintaining his strong walk rate wouldn't be unusual for a hitter in his early 30s.

He is a solid defensive catcher, an above-average framer who gets high marks for his work with Pirates pitchers over the past two years. However, Martin is a catcher in his early 30s and already somewhat injury-prone, reaching 130 games just once since leaving L.A. The market is likely to treat him as a difference-maker, with the Pirates' qualifying offer likely to lose out to three- or four-year deals from bigger-payroll clubs. I think he is far more likely to be a solid regular, hitting .240/.330/.390 or so with above-average defense but playing only 110 to 120 games a season.

• Received qualifying offer


9Chase Headley
AGE: 30DOB: 5/9/1984HT: 6-2WT: 219POS: 3B
AVG .243OBP .328SLG .372HR 13RBI 49WAR 3.5
Headley was an MVP candidate in 2012, but he has slipped to the point where most of his value is now in his glove rather than his bat. Like Brandon McCarthy, Headley saw a surge in his production after moving to the Bronx, partly due to the ballpark but also due to an increased walk rate that was much more in line with his early-career numbers. Getting Headley out of Petco should boost his power output, but the 31-homer season he posted in 2012 screams outlier, and entering his age-31 season, he's not likely to gain power without a swing change that hurts his contact rate.

Headley's value is as a high-OBP third baseman who can save 10 to 15 runs above average on defense in the near term. That would make him a three- or four-year deal candidate in the $13-14 million range, allowing for some decline in his glove as he ages.


10Yasmani Tomas
AGE: 23DOB: 11/14/1990HT: 6-1WT: 229POS: OF
Tomas reportedly has been looking for a $100 million payday, which would surpass Rusney Castillo's record for the highest bonus paid to a Cuban free agent, but he has yet to find a team willing to pay that much. When Tomas last appeared in international competition, he was overweight and looked like a DH (while playing center field). Since then, he reportedly has improved his conditioning and seems likely to stick in an outfield corner. Even so, he remains a below-average runner with a stiff body.

What Tomas brings is plus power, and I don't think it's just BP power, as he is very short to the ball -- maybe even more so than fellow Cuban Jose Abreu -- with good hip rotation and a very quiet approach. He keeps his head steady through contact and his back leg pretty strong. His bat speed is questionable, however, and he might struggle with good velocity, especially since he didn't hit for high averages in Cuba's Serie Nacional. A reasonable/optimistic projection for Tomas would be an average to slightly above-average regular in left field, with 25 to 30 homers a season, a low OBP and below-average defense.

11Ervin Santana
AGE: 31DOB: 12/12/1982HT: 6-2WT: 185POS: RHP
W-L 14-10ERA 3.95WHIP 1.31SO 179BB 63WAR 1.2
The one-year deal Atlanta gave Santana in spring training when their staff was ravaged by Tommy John -- seriously, we need to talk about the violence that man has wrought on our industry -- looked like a stroke of genius when he looked more like Johan Santana for six starts to open the year. But his performance and his luck both ran out, and from then on he looked a lot more like, well, Ervin Santana.

His results never quite seem to match his stuff, but the guy makes 30 starts every year and fell four innings short of a fourth 200-inning season in five years, making him a good bet for two wins above replacement or so of value. Moving to the National League helped his strikeout rate some, as did increasing the use of his changeup, since his four-seamer is hard but true. Maybe his next pitching coach will be the one to unlock the ace within, but I'd be willing to pay him for what he has been, not for what he could be. A mid-rotation starter is a huge thing, and four years and $60 million is a great price for a small vice.

• Received qualifying offer


12Victor Martinez
AGE: 35DOB: 12/23/1978HT: 6-2WT: 210POS: DH
AVG .335OBP .409SLG .565HR 32RBI 103WAR 5.3
The best pure bat on the market this winter, Martinez, who always had a good understanding of the strike zone, became the modern-day Joe Sewell this season, walking more than 60 percent more often than he struck out, with a career-best 32 homers to go along with it. Martinez never has had this kind of power before, and considering he is entering his age-36 season, he is almost certainly not going to have it again. But patience is a skill that ages pretty well, and his swing has always been geared toward hard line-drive contact, which could make him a 40-double/15-homer guy for several more seasons.

Martinez is best used as a DH, as he is a mediocre first baseman and an injury risk any time he puts on a glove. I think he still has a couple .300/.380/.470 seasons left in the tank, but I can't see giving him a three- or four-year deal given his age and body type.

• Received qualifying offer


13Hiroki Kuroda
AGE: 39DOB: 2/10/1975HT: 6-1WT: 205POS: RHP
W-L 11-9ERA 3.71WHIP 1.14SO 146BB 35WAR 2.4
Kuroda has pitched in the major leagues for seven seasons, none of them under a 2.1 fWAR, none over 4.1, no serious arm injuries, and just one season (when he was hit in the head by a line drive) when he failed to reach 180 innings. Another year for $16 million or so seems perfectly fair, especially since the cracks in his armor that appeared late in 2013 seem to have been fixed, and you just have to hope it's not the year he loses his fastball to Father Time.

14Jose Fernandez
AGE: 26DOB: 4/27/1988HT: 5-10WT: 185POS: IF
Fernandez is the most recent high-profile Cuban position player to defect, coming over at a good time given the weakness of the middle-infield crop this offseason and the overheating of the market for Cuban players.

Fernandez's swing is ugly -- he has a severe leak and is almost always off-balance when he makes contact -- but he has hit everywhere he has played. He rarely strikes out. It's a lot of line-drive contact without power, but he has a great feel for squaring up the baseball. I'm not certain that formula will work when facing velocity that is consistently better than what he was used to facing in Cuba or in international tournaments, however. He's also a well below-average runner with great hands but heavy feet, with no chance of playing shortstop in the bigs but an outside shot at second base if a team can live with limited range there.

The best Cuban immigrants to the major leagues have been guys with outsized tools: crazy athletes such as Yasiel Puig and Jorge Soler, big-power guys such as Jose Abreu or elite defenders such as Jose Iglesias and Adeiny Hechavarria. Fernandez doesn't fit in any of those buckets, and signing him is a huge bet on his bat translating to MLB despite his poor mechanics and lack of power.

15Jeong-ho Kang
AGE: 27DOB: 4/5/1987HT: 6-0WT: 180POS: SS
AVG .360*OBP .463SLG .756HR 38RBI 107SB 3
*All stats from 2014 Korean Baseball Organization season

Kang seems to have split scouts into two disparate camps: Those who see a power-hitting middle infielder, and those who see an unathletic corner guy whose power won't translate outside of Korea.

I'm closer to the former camp, as I see a swing that will generate legit plus power even once he leaves his hitter-friendly home park in the Yangcheon District of Seoul. Kang has a huge leg kick and gets his lead foot down late, which could create timing issues, but the swing is rotational, and I don't think the power surge he has had the past three years is strictly a function of the rising level of offense in the KBO. It's a power swing more than a hitting-for-average swing, which makes it somewhat more important that he stay in the middle infield.

He's not as fleet afoot as you would want a shortstop to be, but he has good enough hands and gets good reads off the bat, making up for some deficiencies with a 60 arm. While MLB teams are probably looking for more pure range in their shortstops now, I'd give Kang every chance to show he can handle the position, especially given the scarcity in the middle infield in this free-agent crop.

He'll be posted under the old highest-bidder system, rather than the capped system now in place for NPB free agents. I'd guess at a winning bid of $15-20 million.

16Asdrubal Cabrera
AGE: 28DOB: 11/13/1985HT: 6-0WT: 205POS: 2B/SS
AVG .241OBP .307SLG .387HR 14RBI 61WAR 1.0
Cabrera will get interest as a potential shortstop this winter, but it's just adorable that anyone would think he can play there every day. He was below average at second base after the Nationals acquired him at the trade deadline to replace Danny Espinosa, but I do think Cabrera could become an average defender there if given more reps at the position. That said, I don't expect anything more than that, given the decline in his agility since he reached his mid-20s.

His performance at the plate over the past two seasons was roughly MLB average production for all shortstops last year in what should have been peak years for him. That's an ominous sign, and pitchers can blow him away with velocity even within the zone. I'd give him two years and $10 million per year because that's what an every-day second baseman costs in this market, but for more years, I'd want to mitigate the risk with a lower AAV.


17Melky Cabrera
AGE: 30DOB: 8/11/1984HT: 5-10WT: 208POS: LF
AVG .301OBP .351SLG .458HR 16RBI 73WAR 3.1
After his 2012 PED suspension and discounted two-year deal with the Blue Jays, Melky seems to have settled in as a guy who can help you by hitting for average with some doubles power if you can live with indifferent defense in an outfield corner. He did improve in one significant area in 2014; while it was once easy to get Melky to expand when behind in the count and chase pitches out of the zone, he was roughly at league-average (by pitch f/x data) in 2014 when it came to chasing. That could be a fluke, but plate discipline is one of the few skills a hitter can improve even in his 30s, and maybe Cabrera just needed 4,000 or so at-bats to figure it out. Or maybe he's still just a glorified fourth outfielder who helps you when he's hitting .300-plus but lacks the secondary skills to help you when he doesn't. I'd give him two years and $20 million or so to find out.

• Received qualifying offer


18Jake Peavy
AGE: 33DOB: 5/31/1981HT: 6-1WT: 195POS: RHP
W-L 7-13ERA 3.73WHIP 1.28SO 158BB 63WAR 2.0
The Giants' acquisition of Peavy at the trade deadline was my favorite deal for any contender, as they gave up two fringe prospects for a pitcher who seemed ideally suited for their league and division. That said, I didn't foresee the huge improvement in his superficial numbers, halving his ERA thanks to big drops in his BABIP and home run rates. Peavy did change his approach with San Francisco: He switched from using his two-seamer as his main fastball to a four-seamer, which didn't produce much of a change in his overall ground ball and fly ball rates but was helped by him playing in a bigger ballpark and with a better defense on the left side of the infield.

The four-seamer makes him fly ball- and line drive-prone, which should make him homer-prone over a longer period of time. That has to make suitors with weak defensive outfields wary of picking him up. He also threw more strikes as a Giant, walking fewer guys and perhaps trusting his defense and home park more. I don't think he's as bad as he looked in the first four months of 2014, and he's definitely not as good as he was for the Giants. Instead, he looks like a roughly league-average starter who carries a small chance of being a little better, worth, say, two years and $20-24 million.

19Colby Rasmus
AGE: 28DOB: 8/11/1986HT: 6-2WT: 195POS: CF
AVG .225OBP .287SLG .448HR 18RBI 40WAR 0.9
You'd be hard-pressed to find an established major leaguer who has done less with more talent than Rasmus has. The promise he showed as a prospect and in a .276/.361/.498 performance at age 25 has been wasted, which led the Cardinals to deal him away (a deal I hated at the time for St. Louis) and has him heading into free agency coming off a year in which he produced less than a win above replacement.

Rasmus' main issue over the years has been the conflict between his own approach at the plate, honed with his father in the offseasons, and the Cards' and Blue Jays' attempts to clean up his mechanics, such as quieting down his lower half. He also has become far less selective at the plate, and often seems like he's guessing, which is dangerous for a hitter who starts with his hands so far from his body it's like he's afraid the bat is covered in measles. He's just 28 heading into 2015, however, and has at least shown the capacity to play above-average defense with 20-25 homer power if he plays a full season. That makes him an every-day option for a lot of clubs, with the tantalizing prospect of 4-WAR seasons if some coaching staff can finally connect with him and calm down his approach.


20Jed Lowrie
AGE: 30DOB: 4/17/1984HT: 6-0WT: 180POS: SS
AVG .249OBP .321SLG .355HR 6RBI 50WAR 0.8
At this point in his career, entering his age-31 season, Lowrie probably needs to move off shortstop. It's a position he could adequately handle at his peak, but he no longer has the sufficient range. His bat should still allow him to play every day at second base, especially if his body permits it; a neck injury in May marked the beginning of the end for his offense in 2014, and it was later followed by a hairline fracture in one of his fingers that put him on the DL in mid-August.

Scarcity in the middle infield should drive up his price, and if you knew he could give you 150 games at shortstop, you'd have to be willing to pay more than $10 million per year. An appropriate discount for injuries, however, should put him more in the range of two years, $16 million, or maybe three years for $22 million, with much of that reflecting the lack of options in the middle of the field.

21Nelson Cruz
AGE: 34DOB: 7/1/1980HT: 6-2WT: 230POS: DH/OF
AVG .271OBP .333SLG .525HR 40RBI 108WAR 4.7
Cruz turned out to be a huge bargain for the Orioles in 2014. Baltimore signed him to a one-year, $8 million deal and gave up a draft pick, and got one of the best seasons of his career in return, including a 4.7 WAR, a career-best 40 homers and just the second time he ever has played a truly full season in the majors.

That's a cool story, bro, but the hard truth is that Cruz turns 35 midway through 2015, and the uptick we just saw from him is extremely unlikely to last. In fact, he didn't even maintain his performance throughout the year, playing much more like his 2011-13 self in the second half. Cruz is a dead fastball hitter -- he was .230/.277/.443 against anything else in 2014 -- who likes to pull the ball. If you work him soft away, he's vulnerable, and this approach will last only as long as he doesn't lose any bat speed. He's a mediocre fielder -- he's about average in left field by advanced metrics -- although he looks ugly doing it, and his fielding will only decline as he ages. I think he's about to get paid like an impact, middle-of-the-order bat, although his performance going forward will be much more in that one-year, $8 million range.

• Received qualifying offer


22David Robertson
AGE: 29DOB: 4/9/1985HT: 5-11WT: 195POS: RHP
SV 39ERA 3.08WHIP 1.06SO 96BB 23WAR 1.2
Robertson did just fine as the Yankees' first closer in the post- Mariano Rivera era. He was a bit homer-prone, but his numbers otherwise lined up with his best seasons. That's saying something, considering he has had three straight seasons in which he has struck out well more than a batter per inning -- never less than 29.4 percent of batters faced -- and walked fewer than a batter every three innings (his 8.1 percent rate in 2014 was actually his worst walk rate since 2011).

Robertson pairs an above-average cut fastball in the low 90s with a knockout curveball, and takes a huge stride toward the plate that gives hitters even less time to pick up the ball. He's an elite reliever regardless of inning, and it would be well worth it for the Yankees to make him the $15 million qualifying offer and allow Dellin Betances to continue to mow guys down in a multiple-inning setup role … kind of like Rivera did for John Wetteland back in 1996.

• Received qualifying offer


23Andrew Miller
AGE: 29DOB: 5/21/1985HT: 6-7WT: 210POS: LHP
W-L 5-5ERA 2.02WHIP 0.80SO 103BB 17WAR 1.8
Miller was the sixth pick in the 2006 draft, probably its top talent coming in, but never had command of his big wipeout slider or a strong enough third pitch to pan out as a starter. The Red Sox gave him one last chance to start, but converted him into a full-time reliever in 2012, at which point his strikeout rate spiked to more than 30 percent the first year and 42.6 percent in 2013, to go with a colossal drop in his walk rate (the first time he ever came in below 10 percent). He threw both pitches for strikes more often in 2014, and with the slider no longer finishing so far out of the zone, hitters who pick it up can't lay off it with impunity.

There is a clear risk that this newfound control is just a one-year fluke -- we're talking about three or four dozen extra strikes over the course of a full season of 1,000 pitches -- but his youth and ability to miss both left- and right-handers' bats should put him in line for a deal of three or four years, longer than I'd ever want to give a reliever.

24Billy Butler
AGE: 28DOB: 4/18/1986HT: 6-1WT: 240POS: DH/1B
AVG .271OBP .323SLG .379HR 9RBI 66WAR -0.3
Butler's 2012 power surge was probably a mirage, but his 2014 power outage seems equally fluky, although the latter does emphasize how hard it is for a DH to provide value when he doesn't hit home runs.

ZiPS actually projects Butler to hit under his career triple-slash line, which would still make him a worthwhile regular, just not a great one. In his favor is his age; he turns 29 early in the 2015 season, which makes him among the youngest position-player free agents in the class, so a four-year deal would still probably grab some of his peak. On the other hand, his body type and skill set probably ages worse than any other possible combination; he's big, slow, unathletic, provides no defensive value, and is Jim Rice-ian when it comes to grounding into double plays. When older players lose bat speed, they often survive with walks and power, but Butler doesn't do a lot of either of those things.

He'd be a great one-year flier for someone at $6-7 million if he's willing to head back into free agency next winter coming off a better season. But I expect he'll get a few offers at closer to $9-10 million a year over 2-3 years. To make those deals work, that career-worst HR/fly ball rate he just posted has to be a fluke, not a harbinger of an early fade.


25Kenta Maeda
AGE: 26DOB: 4/11/1988HT: 6-0WT: 154POS: RHP
W-L 11-8*ERA 2.56WHIP 1.08IP 179SO 154BB 40
*All stats from 2014 Japan Central League season

Maeda has some hype coming on the heels of the successful MLB debuts of Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka, but he's not close to their caliber of starter and projects more as a back-of-the-rotation guy.

He was topping out at 91 at times in 2014, although he has been up to 95 in the past. But with a smaller frame and history of arm issues, it's more likely that he'll pitch with an average fastball when he moves to pitching every fifth day in the States. He tends to work up with the fastball, and other than a little riding life, it lacks movement. His upper-70s splitter likely will be his best pitch, as MLB hitters shouldn't have too much trouble with his big 69- to 70-mph curveball.

Listed at 6-foot and a scant 154 pounds, Maeda would be one of the smallest starters in the majors, and after some heavy workloads in his early 20s, he hasn't reached 180 innings in either of the past two seasons. He throws strikes and should miss enough bats to be above replacement-level, but I'd bet on below-average performance and a back-end starter's workload if he's posted and signs with a team here.

26Adam LaRoche
AGE: 34DOB: 11/6/1979HT: 6-3WT: 215POS: 1B
AVG .259OBP .362SLG .455HR 26RBI 92WAR 2.2
LaRoche's huge 2012 season was a bit of an outlier, but he did serve as a productive everyday first baseman for the Nats over the past two years as long as the opposing pitcher threw with his right arm. Now entering his age-35 season, LaRoche is probably best suited for platoon duty. He has hit .201/.269/.325 against lefties the past two seasons, and his defensive value at first is negligible. But 450-500 plate appearances from him against right-handers would be worth $7-8 million per year.

27Norichika Aoki
AGE: 32DOB: 1/05/1982HT: 5-9WT: 180POS: RF
AVG .285OBP .349SLG .360HR 1RBI 43WAR 1.0
The Royals have made great use of Aoki, taking advantage of his slap-and-run, high-contact approach. His approach plays well against lefties as well as righties, while living with his adventurous defense in right. Entering his age-33 season, Aoki is getting his one shot at a bigger payday, and I might take the over on that forecast, going up to $14 million for two years with the thinking that there are more doubles/triples in his bat than we saw in 2014.


28Nick Markakis
AGE: 30DOB: 11/17/1983HT: 6-2WT: 200POS: RF
AVG .276OBP .342SLG .386HR 14RBI 50WAR 2.1
The big leap into stardom never came for Markakis, who peaked at age 24 and has devolved into a high-contact singles hitter since. I'd heard years ago that the cure for Markakis would be a trade out of a bad situation in Baltimore, where the team's poor performances were wearing him down. But they've boomed in the past three years while Markakis was having the two worst seasons of his career.

He's so short to the ball now that he rarely drives the ball, and his swing is just flat enough that he hits the ball on the ground more than he should. Maybe a new employer can get him to make a few tweaks and find that missing 40-50 points of isolated power, and if all else fails, he could probably still have a second act as a left-handed reliever.

29Brett Anderson
AGE: 26DOB: 2/1/1988HT: 6-4WT: 235POS: LHP
W-L 1-3ERA 2.91WHIP 1.32SO 29BB 13WAR 0.9
Anderson has put together a solid season -- 206 1/3 innings, a 3.97 ERA (102 ERA+), 3.52 FIP, 161 K's, 60 unintentional walks, 15 homers allowed -- over the past four calendar years around a litany of injuries, most of them flukes. It's hard to believe he will be just 27 entering the 2015 season given how long ago he appeared in the top quarter of my prospect rankings, but his arm is (paradoxically) quite fresh, and when he pitches, he's generally effective.

He will show four pitches, with a two-seamer in the 88-90 mph range that generates a lot of ground balls and a great feel on the changeup, with weapons to get hitters on both sides of the plate out. I'm being Captain Obvious, but I would try to push as much of any offer as I could into easily makeable incentives. This is clearly a $10 million guy if he can make 20 to 25 starts, and I don't think that's as unattainable a goal as it might appear to be.

30A.J. Burnett
AGE: 37DOB: 1/3/1977HT: 6-4WT: 227POS: RHP
W-L 8-18ERA 4.59WHIP 1.41SO 190BB 96WAR 0.1
Burnett will get a number of one-year offers -- if he even wants to pitch -- although in the past few years, he has been willing to consider only offers from teams in the mid-Atlantic region. Burnett slipped when he left Pittsburgh and was a back-end starter for the Phillies whose value was more tied to his ability to provide bulk innings than to his ability to prevent runs. His walk rate was the second worst he had posted in his past 10 seasons -- perhaps he figured it was better to walk a batter than trust a ball in play to that Phillies defense -- and the tremendous skill he had in generating ground balls as a Pirate dropped from nearly 57 percent to 51 percent. The fact that he was getting fewer ground balls (and giving up more line drives and home runs) while also losing velocity is terrifying. He's working just as hard as ever, but he's not throwing as hard, and the ball is straightening out on him when he does it.

He might just have reached the cliff; of the eight pitchers to throw 2,500 innings or more from 2000 through 2014, four are out of baseball, one (CC Sabathia) missed most of 2014, and the other two (Mark Buehrle and Tim Hudson) follow a very different formula than Burnett. (The next 10 names, by the way, include Derek Lowe, Bronson Arroyo, Andy Pettitte, Kevin Millwood, Roy Oswalt and Ryan Dempster, as well as the ageless Bartolo Colon.) If Burnett is willing to sign for half his 2014 salary as a guarantee and the rest in incentives, I'd take a chance, but certainly not for full price.

31Jason Hammel
AGE: 32DOB: 9/2/1982HT: 6-6WT: 225POS: RHP
W-L 10-11ERA 3.47WHIP 1.12SO 158BB 44WAR 3.2
He's not as good as he was with the Cubs, and not as bad as he was with the A's. Hammel became much more homer-prone after the deal this summer, almost exclusively due to his fastball, which he was leaving up (in or above the middle of the strike zone), eschewing the low-inside corner to right-handed batters after pounding it when he was with Chicago. It looked like he wasn't finishing as far out in front as he had before the deal, so it's worth asking if that was due to discomfort or just an unfortunate breakdown in his mechanics. He took $6 million on a one-year deal last winter, and would be a fair gamble at something slightly higher this winter.

32Edinson Volquez
AGE: 31DOB: 7/3/1983HT: 6-0WT: 222POS: RHP
W-L 13-7ERA 3.04WHIP 1.23SO 140BB 71WAR 2.5
One's assessment of the quality of Volquez's 2014 campaign depends largely on how one looks at pitching performance in general. Volquez benefited tremendously from Pittsburgh's outstanding defense in 2014; only Doug Fister and Chris Young had a greater negative difference between their ERAs and FIPs, per Fangraphs, which indicates their ERAs weren't reflective of their strikeout, walk and home run rates. How much credit do we give Volquez for that? Given his history, I'm inclined to say very little, and ZiPS agrees, forecasting a defense-neutral 4.50 ERA for him and just over 1 WAR in 2015.

Once a fastball-changeup guy, Volquez has had more success with a knuckle-curve recently than with his changeup, which makes him more appealing as a back-end starter because he can get right-handed hitters out. He did post the best walk rate of his career in 2014, and if teams believe this is sustainable, he might be worth another $4-5 million deal to find out … although the market will almost certainly pay him more.

33Brandon Morrow
AGE: 30DOB: 7/26/1984HT: 6-3WT: 210POS: RHP
W-L 1-3ERA 5.67WHIP 1.65SO 30BB 18WAR -0.3
It's possible Morrow can find the health to be a full-time starter again -- perhaps he just left it in the glove compartment … we've all done that at some point -- but it makes much more sense to consider him as some variety of reliever. He has qualified for the ERA title just once, in 2011, with 179 1/3 innings pitched that season, and has racked up just 212 1/3 innings total in the three years since.

Morrow first emerged as a top-tier prospect when he worked as a closer in the Cape Cod League in 2005 and was sitting between 97 and 99 mph in one-inning looks. But given his lack of an obvious platoon split and ability to turn a lineup over twice, I'd consider him as a swingman, a long reliever at first but maybe someone who can make 10 to 12 spot starts over the course of a season. Perhaps Yusmeiro Petit's success for San Francisco in October will give other general managers ideas about finding a guy to fill that kind of role, and Morrow is the best-suited to do that among this year's free agents. It's probably the way to extract the most value from him.

34Stephen Drew
AGE: 31DOB: 3/16/1983HT: 6-0WT: 190POS: SS
AVG .162OBP .237SLG .299HR 7RBI 26WAR -0.3
He might be finished. It's not as if ZiPS has much confidence in his bat, and I certainly don't, not after his second cipher season at the plate in the past three years. But I do believe he can play average defense at shortstop for 120 games or so if you can stomach his bat, and there is some non-zero chance he gets back toward his 2013 level of production, even though we saw no signs of it last year. He really hasn't hit left-handed pitching in years, and last year he couldn't catch up to a decent fastball; if he did, there was a good chance he'd pop it up or hit a weak fly out.

Shortstop scarcity will likely drive up Drew's market toward $8-10 million on a one-year deal, but there's no way I'd go multiple years given his recent performance and the forecasts.


35Justin Masterson
AGE: 29DOB: 3/22/1985HT: 6-6WT: 250POS: RHP
W-L 7-9ERA 5.88WHIP 1.63SO 116BB 69WAR -1.6
Masterson may be signed to be some team's starter, a role he has succeeded at in the past. But his history and skill set both point to a superior future in the bullpen. Lefties get such a good look at the ball with his near-sidearm slot, from which it's very difficult to turn over a changeup, that they've posted a .287/.367/.427 slash line against him in his career, including a .320/.408/.502 in his dismal 2014 campaign. Against righties, however, he'll be devastating, giving up so little power -- right-handed batters have slugged .301 against him in his career -- that he can be allowed to face the occasional lefty and try to overpower him. He also provides long-relief potential, something the Giants and manager Bruce Bochy used to their advantage in the postseason.

If he'll take $5 million a year and agree to work in relief, he's good value, but if he wants starter money and a rotation job, I'm out.

36Kim Gwang-hyun
AGE: 26DOB: 7/22/1988HT: 6-2WT: 176POS: LHP
W-L 12-9*ERA 3.39WHIP 1.45IP 156.2SO 131BB 71
*All stats from 2014 Korean Baseball Organization season

Kim already has been posted by SK Wyverns following two rather uninspiring years in their rotation, although bear in mind that offense in the KBO has been very strong of late. He probably fits as a back-end starter, though he could be a dominant reliever due to his big-breaking slider at 78-81 mph; the pitch is hard on left-handed hitters and could work once through the order against righties. As a starter, Kim's fastball touches 93 mph, and he has a splitter as a third pitch that sits more 88-90. His delivery is hard to repeat, with a long, late arm swing and off-balance landing, which probably explains the chronically high walk rates. That's not going to fly over here, another reason I think he might provide more value in relief to MLB teams enticed by that slider.

37Sergio Romo
AGE: 31DOB: 3/4/1983HT: 5-10WT: 183POS: RHP
W-L 6-4ERA 3.72WHIP 0.95SO 59BB 12WAR 0.4
Maybe I'm just an optimist, but I don't think the sun has set on Romo's career quite yet, despite his dropping to right around replacement level in 2014. He still misses bats thanks to an above-average to plus slider, and he shows plus control; he's especially effective versus righty hitters. He has tried to incorporate a changeup more frequently to help get left-handed hitters out, with limited success, although that may improve with repetition.

Romo has become a bit homer-prone over the past three years. You might expect that given his upper-80s fastball, but seven of the nine bombs he surrendered in 2014 came on sliders, which seems fluky given how effective the pitch was otherwise at generating called and swinging strikes. I wouldn't pay him proven-closer money, but I'd treat him like a reliever who should be worth 10 runs saved or so with 60 innings. That will probably get him $4-5 million per year when accounting for reliever risk.

38Francisco Rodriguez
AGE: 32DOB: 1/7/1982HT: 6-0WT: 195POS: RHP
SV 44ERA 3.04WHIP 0.99SO 73BB 18WAR 1.5
Kind of funny that K-Rod made the All-Star team in what was really one of his worst seasons, but that just shows how far we have to go in understanding that the save total says nothing of the man behind it. The real issue with his 2014 line is the 14 homers allowed, all on fastballs or changeups (none on his curveball, his worst pitch), mostly ones in which he missed his location within the zone. He still throws strikes, and the fastball/changeup combination allows him to miss enough bats to serve as a capable middle guy. ZiPS seems to agree, projecting a few more walks than I'd expect but also a better home run rate.

A one-year contract at $2-3 million would be a good deal for the signing team, although I think he will get $5 million or more because he has the "proven closer" tag.

39 Rafael Soriano
AGE: 34DOB: 11/19/1979HT: 6-1WT: 230POS: RHP
SV 32ERA 3.19WHIP 1.13SO 59BB 19WAR 0.8
In just 4⅔ fewer innings pitched, Soriano struck out eight more batters than he did in 2013, walked just four more, gave up three fewer homers and even gave up 14 fewer hits … yet lost the closer's job anyway. It's all sequencing, baby. He has had six good-to-very-good short-relief seasons in a row, and by cutting the fastball, he has made up for the gradual loss of velocity he has suffered in his mid-30s. A one-year deal for $3-4 million would make sense, especially for a team that values that whole "experience in the ninth inning" tommyrot.


40Chris Young
AGE: 31DOB: 9/5/1983HT: 6-2WT: 200POS: LF/CF
AVG .222OBP .299SLG .385HR 11RBI 38WAR 0.9
The Mets gave Young a $7.2 million, one-year deal and got replacement-level production for their money. When they let him go and the Yankees picked him up for nothing, he generated a win of value in just 23 games thanks to an extra 100 points of BABIP and a homer every 24 at bats. That's probably not going to last, but as a longtime defender of Young, I was at least pleased to see his bat isn't completely dead.

As a three-true-outcomes bat -- he'll walk, he'll poke 15-20 homers, and he'll strike out a lot -- who can provide above-average to plus defense in left or adequate defense in center, he's a good candidate for another one-year deal, but probably more in the $4-5 million range.


41Geovany Soto
AGE: 31DOB: 1/20/1983HT: 6-1WT: 220POS: C
AVG .250OBP .302SLG .363HR 1RBI 11WAR 0.2
Soto is a slight value play, at least compared to a lot of what else is out there this winter. Injuries have limited him to 78 games over the past two years, but his .247/.320/.432 in that span is in line with his career norms and would put him well above the typical major league catcher offensively. If he could actually play 150 games, I suppose he would have a shot at 2 to 3 WAR, but a team with the flexibility and willingness to employ an 80-game catcher (like, say, Oakland or Tampa Bay) could easily get their $4-5 million worth out of him next year.


42 Casey Janssen
AGE: 32DOB: 1/7/1981HT: 6-4WT: 205POS: RHP
SV 25ERA 3.94WHIP 1.18SO 28BB 7WAR 0.1
Janssen struck out a lot of hitters during his peak years as Toronto's closer despite lacking a plus pitch, and that seemed to all come back to bite him in a 2014 season that saw his strikeout rate drop by nearly two-thirds. Never a huge swing-and-miss guy, Janssen missed bats with only his cutter last season, as the fastball seemed to drop just below the velocity threshold where hitters found it too easy to put in play: He threw 315 fastballs in 2014, but hitters swung and missed at just 13 while putting 79 in play, a tough ratio to survive in any role.

I'd love to see if Janssen can reinvent himself as a cutter-first guy, with the four-seamer becoming his second or third pitch and the slow curveball left on the scrap heap. He throws enough strikes, and the cutter's movement helps offset the lack of big velocity. That looks like his best path to providing more than replacement-level value in a one-inning relief role.


43Emilio Bonifacio
AGE: 29DOB: 4/23/1985HT: 5-11WT: 205POS: OF/IF
AVG .259OBP .305SLG .345HR 3RBI 24WAR 1.0
I've never quite understood the fascination that some front offices and some fellow media members seem to have with Bonifacio. He plays a bunch of positions and can't hit at any of them. There's value in that kind of versatility, though, during an era when teams are terrified to carry fewer than seven relievers, which generally limits the bench to a backup catcher and three or four actual backups. That's worth $2 million or so, which will be a small bargain if Bonifacio hits the way he did in 2013 but otherwise seems to be fair value for someone who fills one roster spot with the ability to play so many spots on the field.


44Kendrys Morales
AGE: 31DOB: 6/20/1983HT: 6-1WT: 225POS: DH/1B
AVG .218OBP .274SLG .338HR 8RBI 42WAR -1.0
Morales is a DH, first and foremost, so let's just get that out of the way. If he gets a full spring training this year, he might be a .240/.320/.420 guy, maybe even better if he has a caddie to face left-handed starters on his behalf. I don't think 2014 was his swan song, and he started to look like his old self around mid-August, which was too late to boost his season line much and too small a sample to buy into completely. If he will take a one-year, make-good contract for $3-4 million with incentives built in, he's a solid part-time/bench guy. But I can't imagine his preinjury form is ever coming back.


45Alex Rios
AGE: 33DOB: 2/18/1981HT: 6-5WT: 210POS: RF
AVG .280OBP .311SLG .398HR 4RBI 54WAR 0.6
Rios has had several very good years in his career -- five seasons of 3.0 WAR or better by Baseball-Reference, six by Fangraphs -- and three in which he was near or below replacement level, including 2014, when he was one of the only Rangers regulars to stay mostly healthy, but wouldn't have been missed if he had gotten hurt. He was the 12th-worst qualifying hitter in the AL in terms of wRC+ (a park-adjusted metric built off weighted on-base average), and seven of the guys worse than him were middle infielders or catchers. After some early-season struggles, Rios appeared to abandon any semblance of an approach at the plate, becoming more aggressive than ever before, with just 20 unintentional walks in 521 plate appearances, hitting for no power to make up for that deficiency.

Rios has looked "done" before, such as in 2011 when he hit even worse than he did in 2014, but at age 34 next season, he's going to get fewer opportunities to show he has anything left. Would you pay $2 million for a year to see if he bounces back?

46Michael Cuddyer
AGE: 35DOB: 3/27/1979HT: 6-2WT: 221POS: RF/1B
AVG .332OBP .376SLG .579HR 10RBI 31WAR 1.2
Cuddyer is a soon-to-be 36-year-old, injury-prone, part-time player who should be only at first base or DH, but I'm guessing his name and superficial stats in Denver will boost him to a regular's salary and even a multi-year deal. His 2013 season looks like a clear outlier, a function of his home park, a weird reverse platoon split and just a lot of good fortune. That's great for him and the Rockies, but not something likely to be repeated in his late 30s.

ZiPS has him barely over replacement-level over the next three years, and a release candidate by 2017 if someone gives him a deal that long. If he's a platoon bat for you at first base and regular bench option, great, but there's no way I give him multiple years or more than $3 million for a year.

• Received qualifying offer


47Rickie Weeks
AGE: 32DOB: 9/13/1982HT: 5-10WT: 219POS: 2B
AVG .274OBP .357SLG .452HR 8RBI 29WAR 0.2
Weeks used to murder fastballs -- he had some of the best wrist acceleration I've ever scouted -- going back to his time as a prospect and a young big leaguer. That has disappeared due to age, injuries or both. He can still kill an average fastball, but beating him with velocity is easier than ever and I don't know the way back from that. I'd sign him for a year and $1-2 million to serve as a bench bat and platoon player, since he still has enough success against lefties to mitigate his defensive shortcomings at second base. Maybe another offseason of rest for his wrists gets him back a bit of his old mojo against righties.


48 Kyle Kendrick
AGE: 30DOB: 8/26/1984HT: 6-3WT: 210POS: RHP
W-L 10-13ERA 4.61WHIP 1.36SO 121BB 57WAR 0.4
Entirely generic fifth starter, but he is durable (he has had just one DL stint, shoulder tendinitis in late 2013) and predictable. You can sign him to a one-year deal, pencil him in for 180 innings and a mid-4s ERA (figure between a 0.5 and 1.0 WAR), and call it a day. If you're a GM, you know your farm system should already have produced a guy to fill this role, but if you don't have one lying around, you'll have to overpay to get those innings from the market, and Kendrick is probably the most cost-effective fifth starter among free agents this winter.


49 Jason Grilli
AGE: 37DOB: 11/11/1976HT: 6-4WT: 233POS: RHP
SV 12ERA 4.00WHIP 1.33SO 57BB 21WAR -0.3
A little more erratic than you want your closer to be, Grilli still misses a lot of bats with his slider. Even in a down year for him, he fanned nearly a quarter of the batters he faced. Used judiciously to protect his arm, he's capable of producing a half-win or more of WAR value in 50 or so innings. He's worth a $2-3 million investment for a team that has other, more reliable right-handed relief options.


50Nick Hundley
AGE: 31DOB: 9/8/1983HT: 6-1WT: 196POS: C
AVG .243OBP .273SLG .358HR 6RBI 22WAR 0.1
You have to have a catcher; without one, you'd have a lot of passed balls. That means continued employment for players who would have a hard time getting guaranteed contracts if they played any other position, such as Hundley, a below-average (grade 45) defensive catcher with some pop.

He's an ideal backup, because he's not a zero with the bat who'll kill you if your starting catcher gets hurt. Given a full season of at-bats in a neutral park, Hundley might hit 15 or so homers with an OBP near .300, which is kind of OK for a catcher, as ugly as it looks. I'd give him $2 million on a one-year deal, which is less than the $5 million option the Orioles declined to exercise at the end of October.

Buyer's Guide: Starting Pitchers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Again this year, I'm picking possible best values, worst values and trade targets across every position group as we enter free agency. Today, a look at the starting pitcher market.

For the top 50 free agents across every position, go here.

Best values
Brandon McCarthy, RHP
McCarthy became a different pitcher in New York after his escape from Phoenix,. He began using his whole repertoire again, missing more bats and cutting down dramatically on the long balls. He was healthy all season -- enough that I feel good about him exceeding his ZiPS forecast just by throwing more innings than the system anticipates -- and his style of pitching is one that tends to age well and doesn't rely on his having peak velocity. The Yankees also couldn't give him a qualifying offer, so he doesn't have a draft pick attached.

Brett Anderson, LHP
When healthy, Anderson has been very effective, and he's healthy once again and seems primed for his first sort-of full season in four years -- not that it'll take even that much to make him a worthwhile signing. Even 100 innings from Anderson (which would be a lot for him, given his recent history) would make him worth more than 2 WAR (based on both his track record and the ZiPS projections), and his fastball/slider combo looked as good as ever when he was able to pitch in 2014. The Rockies made a good gamble that didn't quite work out; if I were a GM this winter, I'd be willing to make a similar bet on him.

Max Scherzer, RHP
Yes, he'll be overpaid in terms of the length of whatever contract the market gives him, but Scherzer is the best free agent available this winter, and his impact in 2015 will exceed the $20 million-plus he'll be paid that season. He generated more than 12 WAR combined over the past two seasons; ZiPS has him projected to generate 17 more over the next three. You add a 6-WAR starter to a team that was already a contender or close to it, and you're probably going to get your money's worth. In Scherzer's case, he's as "safe" a starter as there is on the market this winter.

Worst values
James Shields, RHP
Shields is a bad value if you think he's an ace and pay him like one -- if you buy into the "Big Game James" gambit and figure that's worth something extra in the paycheck. If you pay him to be a durable, effective, midrotation starter, you'll probably make out OK, but the way this market seems to be shaking out, once the two aces -- Scherzer and Jon Lester -- are off the market, teams that lost out on those guys might pursue Shields as a replacement and pay him more than he's worth because he's the next best option. He's good, but not elite.

Chris Young, RHP
It was a great comeback season for Young, but much of the story was about Seattle's ballpark and defense, not about Young's pitching. He's an extreme deception guy -- it helps when you're 6-foot-10 and release the ball right in front of the hitter's nose -- but he pitches up with below-average velocity. He's going to give up a lot of contact, including the home run variety, with that approach.

Edinson Volquez, RHP
The Pirates probably got their $5 million worth out of Volquez, but as with Young, Volquez benefited greatly from his environment, with a difference of more than a run between his ERA and his FIP. ZiPS isn't fooled, and neither should anyone else be, by the obvious fluke in his BABIP and the likelihood his career-low walk rate won't be repeated. He is durable, however, and there's value in that; I'm listing him here on the chance someone is fooled by the superficial 2014 line and offers him a larger multiyear deal.

Trade targets
Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Oakland Athletics
The A's went all-in for 2014, and it didn't work. Losing Jon Lester now and facing a larger arbitration payday with Samardzija might push them to deal the Shark to a club in win-now mode for 2015 or one that believes it can sign him to a long-term contract. Scott Kazmir is also headed for free agency but is signed to a reasonable dollar figure and probably isn't as appealing to other clubs, due to his history prior to 2013.

Johnny Cueto, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
This is a tough call for the Reds, who will be hard-pressed to contend in a very tough division next year, even with their ace, but are almost certain to lose him to free agency if they don't cash him in now. Cueto will probably win the Non-Kershaw NL Cy Young Award this year and would be an immediate difference-maker for any team that acquires him. He is comfortably worth 4 to 5 wins above replacement, which should lead GM Walt Jocketty to demand a couple top prospects or young big leaguers in return (if he chooses to put Cueto out there). The same logic could push the Reds to shop Mat Latos, who isn't quite as valuable as Cueto but is also headed for free agency after next season.

Ian Kennedy, RHP, San Diego Padres
The Padres' move to acquire Kennedy for some lesser prospects worked out beautifully, as he had a bounce-back year in a pitcher-friendly ballpark where he could pitch up in the zone with his fastball with impunity. He's a bit of a luxury for the low-payroll Pads, however; he's likely to get close to $10 million this winter in arbitration and will head for free agency after next season. Dealing him for some position-player prospects would help speed up the rebuilding process GM A.J. Preller was brought in to kick-start.

Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets (or someone else from the team)
Wheeler's name seems to come up most often in speculation about the Mets dealing a starter, but really, they should be open to almost anything. They have a surplus of starting pitching candidates, with Matt Harvey coming back next year and Noah Syndergaard ready to contribute. They also have a need for bats. An outfielder with some sock would be nice. So would a shortstop of any stripe.

The starters the Mets could shop are mostly young, talented and cost-controlled for a long time -- things other GMs tend to value quite highly in trade. I've always been a Wheeler fan, dating back to when he was in high school, and though he's evolved as a pitcher -- that slider has become a real weapon for him, one he didn't have as an amateur or in the minors -- he still has growth potential and the upside of a No. 2 starter. That should be enough to net the Mets an impact hitter at any of their positions of need.

Buyer's Guide: Relief pitchers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Best values
Sergio Romo, RHP
Failed closers can be good values in free agency, where "proven" closers get overpaid. Romo, like Rafael Soriano and Francisco Rodriguez, isn't the same pitcher he used to be, but I believe Romo's slider and his ability to throw strikes make him a good setup option for a team that wants to have a backup closer on the roster.

Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP
I'd like to see what a healthy Fujikawa looks like. He threw just 25 innings over two years for the Cubs, bracketing more than a year lost to Tommy John surgery, but still struck out over a quarter of the guys he faced when healthy. His stuff wasn't all the way back when he pitched at the end of 2014, especially the splitter, which he needs to be effective since his fastball was only 90 to 94 mph before surgery and didn't have a lot of life. The Cubs turned down his $5.5 million option for 2015. But if he wants to pitch somewhere in MLB this year for $1 million or so, I'd absolutely roll the dice on getting something closer to his stellar Nippon Professional Baseball form.

Brandon Morrow, RHP
I mentioned this in the Morrow capsule last week, but I like him as a potential swingman rather than a pure reliever (which wastes some of his arm strength) or a starter (where he hasn't stayed healthy). The Giants just made the World Series with two long men in their bullpen; maybe other teams will try to emulate that, and Morrow is the best such pitcher on the market.

Scott Elbert, LHP
I'm just throwing Elbert in here as someone I'd target as a potential reclamation project, a guy with a chance to be a second lefty in someone's pen thanks to a sweepy slider and tough delivery to pick up. The Dodgers outrighted him off their 40-man roster the other day, justifiably so as he's been hurt more than he's been healthy and his stuff was down in September. But this is how relievers are made, or sometimes found: a failed starter and a guy with injury issues who had to toil in Albuquerque when he actually was healthy enough to pitch.

Worst values
Long-term contracts for relievers don't tend to work out well; even when the player performs, like Jonathan Papelbon has, the size of the deal can make it hard to trade him. There are relievers on this market who project very well in the near term -- including David Robertson and Andrew Miller, in particular -- but to whom I still wouldn't give a three- or four-year deal.

Pat Neshek, RHP
One of the most questionable All-Star selections this past summer, Neshek was a great story but took the place of easily a dozen more deserving pitchers. He had a fluky first half that didn't last, and after the All-Star Game he was his old self. He's a good right-handed specialist, who is nice to have in the era of seven-man bullpens. But he's too susceptible to left-handed batters to be a true setup man.

Casey Janssen, RHP
I have a soft spot for Janssen, as I was with the Blue Jays when we drafted him. But the low strikeout rate and poor projection (ZiPS has him at just 0.5 WAR for 2015, 1.2 for the next three years) don't scream "future closer" to me. There's a good argument to be made that I even rated him too high, above other right-handed options like Luke Gregerson. The market should view Janssen as a solid middle reliever who throws a ton of strikes, not as a reliever who should be given high-leverage innings.

Joba Chamberlain, RHP
I admit that I thought Joba would get a boost once he left New York, an environment where he had been jerked back and forth from the rotation to the pen, faced media criticism, lost the faith of his coaches and pitched in a tough ballpark. I guessed wrong. His stuff didn't get better, his command, if anything, seemed to get worse, and ZiPS has him barely above replacement level for next year. His fame and his beard probably exceed his value at this point.

Trade targets
Addison Reed, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
What do the Diamondbacks, likely to be among the majors' worst teams this year, need with a proven closer heading into his first year of arbitration with 116 saves to his credit? Reed used to reach the upper 90s but more often pitches 92 to 96 now. And he has to locate better to avoid the long ball, something he did in the second half after giving up nine bombs in the season's first three months, mostly on fastballs. He's probably a good setup guy, but he's about to be paid like he's more than that, making him a luxury for the Snakes.

Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have wanted to trade Papelbon for a while, but the size of his contract is the obstacle. His stuff is gradually slipping, and he's mixing in more sliders to make up for the loss of fastball velocity to keep hitters from teeing off on the fastball. There is just no way he's going to be worth $13 million to anyone this year -- and his 2016 option for the same amount vests if he finishes 48 games next season. Good luck, Ruben Amaro.

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
This is my own speculation here, but Chapman heads into arbitration with 113 career saves, a career strikeout rate at 43 percent, an ERA in 2014 of 2.00 (and an even lower FIP) and he just posted the best single-season strikeout rate in MLB history. How would you like to argue against him in that hearing? And if you're the Reds, are you willing to commit that much money to one pitcher who might throw 60 innings for you when you already have $80 million committed to 11 other players and have Todd Frazier, Mat Latos and Devin Mesoraco heading to arbitration? Trading Chapman would be shocking but would free up some money for GM Walt Jocketty to address some other critical needs without giving up any of his starting pitching depth. I doubt it happens, but it makes some sense for a team with this low of a payroll.

Grant Balfour, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Remember how much demand there was for Balfour last winter? I believe you could get him for a song right now, assuming you'll take on the $7 million he's owed. I'm not saying you should, mind you, just that you could if you felt like it.

Nine free-agent bargains to consider.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Plenty of free agents available now, but here are nine free-agent bargains worth exploring:

1. Edinson Volquez, starting pitcher

He is way down the pecking order of available starting pitchers in the market, far behind the likes of Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields, Francisco Liriano and Cole Hamels, a standing which will likely knock down his price tag. And his history of erratic performance will scare away teams from making a long-term commitment to him.

But Volquez did excellent work for the Pirates in 2014. From June 23 on, he had a 1.85 ERA, allowing just six homers in 111 2/3 innings. Is some of that due to PNC Park? Absolutely. The great defensive outfield behind him? Unquestionably. The pitcher whisperer, Pirates coach Ray Searage? Of course. But Volquez demonstrated last season that a short-term investment in him can pay off. He could merit a decent two-year deal for a team such as the Mariners or White Sox.

2. Rickie Weeks, second baseman

When he was with the Brewers, he was always measured against the perception of his potential, and he sometimes did not live up to that due to injuries or too many missed swings.

But if you forget all that and consider only what he is right now at age 32, he is an interesting player as a reduced-role option: He had a .357 on-base percentage last year, with some pop (28 extra-base hits in 286 plate appearances), and he had an .865 OPS against left-handers. Weeks has never played a game in the field other than at second base, but at this stage of his career, maybe he could play some corner outfield or first base.

3. Burke Badenhop, relief pitcher

He allowed one homer in 70 innings with just 19 walks, getting a lot of ground balls. Is he a closer candidate? No. But he can take the ball often, throws strikes and keeps the ball in the park; the last homer he allowed to a right-handed hitter occurred on Aug. 22, 2013, to Marlon Byrd.

4. Chris Young, outfielder

He struggled so much with the Mets that they cut him, and then had a burst of offense with the Yankees at the end of the season, reminding us of what he could be, posting an .876 OPS in his final 23 games. Young talked about how much he liked working with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, who has since been fired. Unfortunately for Young, Long went to the Mets, and Young cannot follow him there.

But given his defensive ability, Young could be a fit for a team needing outfield depth, such as the Detroit Tigers.

5. Brett Anderson, starting pitcher

He is the latest version of Rich Harden: When he actually takes the mound, he is almost uniformly effective. But he has struggled to stay healthy, working in 62 games over the past five seasons, a track record that makes him a candidate for a one-year deal.

Anderson is still just 27 years old, and in the eight-game sample he had last year, he demonstrated that he still throws 90 mph with a great breaking ball, generating a 3.55 xFIP. The Cubs have had a great recent history of rebuilding pitchers, and as mentioned the other day, Anderson would make sense as the next project for Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio.

6. Torii Hunter, outfielder

The metrics indicate that Hunter's defense has fallen off markedly, but the man still does damage against left-handed pitching. In 2014, he batted .308 against lefties, with a .459 slugging percentage, and he hit a respectable .278 against right-handers. He also had a .791 OPS in the second half of 2014, probably a reflection of the fact Hunter has kept himself in excellent condition. He will turn 40 next summer, and could be an interesting fit for a team such as the Orioles (splitting at-bats as the left fielder or DH) or maybe the Cubs (if he's OK with playing a lot of day games).

7. Jason Frasor, relief pitcher

If your bullpen has some depth and you have room for a right-hander who isn't going to go two innings at a time, Frasor has shown he can be of help.

The 37-year-old worked in 23 games for the Royals after being traded by Texas, and pitched in 17 2/3 innings, allowing three runs. His strong numbers suggest he is best suited working under a manager who will keep him rested, rather than in a situation in which he is being used daily.

8. Delmon Young, designated hitter

He has seen a lot of baseball in his lifetime, so maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that his teammates in Baltimore found him to be a great resource of information about what opposing pitchers planned to pitch to them, and when he played, Young was pretty good, hitting .302 with a .779 OPS.

He played just 28 games in the outfield last season, and given the glut of DH types on the market, Young is a specialty item. But for a team such as the Royals, who have a lot of left-handed hitting and are probably losing Billy Butler, Young could be an interesting player on a low-cost deal.

9. Jonny Gomes, left fielder

He turns 34 later this month, and after having his home run production drop to six in 321 plate appearances last season, he's probably not going to see much more than one-year offers. But he showed again in 2014 that he can hit left-handers (.276 average, .373 on-base percentage), and he carries a reputation as a good teammate and a good clubhouse presence, some of that established while in Tampa Bay playing under … wait for it … manager Joe Maddon.

The Cubs are looking for experienced players to help their young position players along, to help show them how to not give away at-bats and how to treat each plate appearance like it's a season in itself. Gomes is viewed in some corners as a better teammate among veterans than as a mentor, but he could do that, and also play against lefties and serve as a pinch-hitter on other days.

Around the league

• I wrote last week about the incredible position Russell Martin inhabits in the free-agent market, and how the Cubs are a great fit. Here's the great thing about Chicago's stack of young position players: All of their infield spots are accounted for, for years to come, mostly by cheap, up-and-coming players. Two of their three outfield spots are accounted for. Catcher is a position of need for them, and everything that Martin brings to the table -- the high on-base percentage, the patient at-bats, the pitch-framing, the leadership -- is an area of need for the Cubs. No free agent is a more perfect match for a team than Martin is for the Chicago Cubs at this stage of their development.

• Indians manager Terry Francona loves to work in Cleveland, and the Cleveland front office loves him; he is now signed through 2018.

Within three years, Francona likely will be ranked in the Top 25 all-time in wins as a manager.

• The Dodgers and Angels are not expected to pursue the high-end free agents. If that's how it plays out, it will hurt this year's class of available talent.

• Speaking of the Dodgers, Jimmy Rollins would be an excellent fit for them as a one-year stopgap, as the organization waits for the ascension of Corey Seager.

• The Reds will be shopping for free-agent bargains, writes John Fay.

• Paul Molitor talked about his decision to become manager of the Twins. Molitor knows that now is the time to compete. Now Molitor must put together a coaching staff.

Molitor should end the coddling of Twins players, writes Jim Souhan. From Jim's piece:
"There were times last year when we'd get on the team bus after a loss and Paul would look over at me and just shake his head," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "He had that look in his eye, like he was ready to explode. And I know that look, because I was sitting on that bus thinking, 'That was a game we should have won.'

"We won 70 games last year. I think we should have won 78. To go from 78 to 88, or something close, I don't think that's unreasonable. I think we should be competitive this year."

At his first news conference as manager, Molitor said: "I'm coming here to win."

His first order of business should be introducing a new mentality to the clubhouse.

During their four consecutive losing seasons, the Twins tried to exercise caution with injured or bruised players. Anyone complaining of an ache was given an extra day or two off. There is logic in that approach. There is also danger. The Twins clubhouse became a place where you could collect a check without actually taking the field.

One of the early tests of Molitor's tenure will be his handling of his best player, Joe Mauer.

Both grew up in St. Paul. Both played baseball at Cretin High. Both had the early years of their careers defined by constant injuries. The difference between them is important. Molitor's desire to play was obvious. Mauer's is not.

When the guy making $23 million a year begs out of the lineup because of a bruise, it's difficult for the manager to push others to play through pain.

Molitor's predecessor, Ron Gardenhire, believed in maintaining cordial relations with key players. That approach worked for most of a decade. It appeared to fail in recent years with Mauer.

Can Molitor play the bad guy?

"Yes," he said. "It is a necessary part of the job. But for me, it's kind of like surgery. It's kind of the last option. I want to reach people in different ways before that needs to be done. We all know that different players have different buttons that need to be pushed.

"We can all talk nice and fluffy about, 'Well, you can all get along, and then they'll play for you.' In reality, not everyone is going to fit into that mode. They're going to challenge you along the way, and see where you stand. I will choose other things first, but yes, there will be times when you need to be tough."

• Dave Martinez is a natural fit to be the Rays' manager, writes Marc Topkin.

• The Dodgers have named a new general manager, Farhan Zaidi, with former GM Josh Byrnes likely to be the scouting director. Farhan Zaidi and Andrew Friedman have been friends for years, writes Susan Slusser.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Ruben Amaro is beginning the task of rebuilding, writes Ryan Lawrence.

2. The Pirates are beginning work on free agency. GM Neal Huntington has a heavy workload this winter.

3. Tim Bogar landed with the Angels.

AL East

• Derek Jeter's replacement just "needs to be himself," says Don Mattingly.

• Questions abound for the Red Sox.

• The Blue Jays are going to play some preseason games in Montreal.

AL West

• Stop blaming injuries for the Rangers' lost season.

• Another Rangers tidbit: They're moving on the radio dial.

NL Central

• Joe Maddon is merely the latest savior for the Cubs, writes Joe Strauss. Prepare for the Cubs Way, writes Bernie Miklasz.

• Jake Arrieta sees big things on the horizon for the Cubs.


• Andrew McCutchen is an MVP finalist. So is Victor Martinez.

• The fact DJ LeMahieu won a Gold Glove among NL second basemen is a significant sign of continuing change in how the fielding awards are being selected. In the past, when coaches voted, the Reds' Brandon Phillips probably would've won again because he is the most established among the group, and he has won before. But LeMahieu fared very well in defensive metrics and was rewarded for it. Here are some examples of his work, here's another one and here is one more.

• Center fielder Juan Lagares was awarded a Gold Glove. Kyle Seager's Gold Glove reflects the growth of the Mariners.

• The Orioles had three winners, as did the Royals.

• Alex Rodriguez could be called in to testify in his cousin's case. A-Rod is making a deal.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Is Ryan Howard tradable?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Ryan Howard has had his last at-bat as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.

That’s what the Phillies hope, anyway. That’s their goal, according to rival executives.

The Chicago Cubs want to add high-end pitching and contend. The Los Angeles Dodgers are thinking World Series or bust, again. And the Phillies want to trade Howard (and others).

If you imagine general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. doing his offseason work like this guy, you might not be that far off. The mantra on Howard appears to be: He is priced to move.

But it will cost the Phillies, undoubtedly, because Howard -- who turns 35 later this month -- is still owed $60 million, with $25 million salaries for each of the next two seasons, plus a $10 million buyout of a 2017 team option of $23 million. And Howard is not regarded by rival evaluators as anything close to a high-end player anymore, or even an average player.

“His lower half has quit on him,” a longtime evaluator said Monday. “He just can’t move. I think of him as a .240, .250 hitter. He’s not a legitimate 40-homer guy anymore; he’s a legitimate 20-homer guy.”

“He used to be a very good left-center field hitter,” the evaluator continued, “because he could wait on the fastball and drive the ball the other way and get results with that. But now, his legs have quit on him so much that he tries to pull the ball to generate power; his swing is all upper body.

“He’s a DH. He really has to be peddled to the American League, to be a DH and an occasional first baseman. He’s Adam Dunn, although Adam Dunn is probably a better defender at this point than he is.”

If other NL teams share the evaluators’ view of Howard and the type of player he might be the next couple of seasons, it means that the field of prospective buyers will effectively be cut in half.

Some of the AL teams have already filled their DH spots, or prefer to use it to rest regulars or those with minor injuries. The Red Sox have David Ortiz, and in all likelihood, Victor Martinez is going to land with the Tigers or White Sox. The Yankees have a lot of DH candidates, from Carlos Beltran to Mark Teixeira to Alex Rodriguez.

There is another factor working against the Phillies in their effort to move Howard: The market is currently saturated with DH types. Victor Martinez is the best available, followed by the likes of Nelson Cruz, Billy Butler, Mike Morse, Delmon Young, Kendrys Morales, Corey Hart and others. The Braves are said to be open to moving Evan Gattis, an excellent (and cheap) DH candidate with far less mileage than someone like Howard.

So if Amaro is going to trade Howard, he must price to move. He may have to either find a team looking to move a player with a similarly bad contract, or eat a huge portion of the Howard deal.

Ubaldo Jimenez
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Baltimore starter Ubaldo Jimenez is a potential trade target for Philadelphia.
Here’s one idea (and this is only speculation, nothing more): The Phillies could call the Orioles, who have flexibility with their DH position and could use Matt Wieters against lefties next season as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. Amaro could float the idea of swapping Howard for Ubaldo Jimenez, who is owed $37.5 million over the next three seasons, while eating Howard’s $10 million buyout.

With this arrangement, the Orioles would effectively owe Howard a total of $12.75 million for the next two seasons -- and given the enormous range of DH options, they could probably insist the Phillies eat even more dollars than that, to turn Howard into a $2 million or $3 million a year player. Howard could work with Jim Presley, Baltimore’s well-respected hitting coach, and be the O’s DH against right-handed pitching and take advantage of the Camden Yards dimensions (with the 364-foot distance to left-center field).

With Jimenez, the Phillies could at least feel like they have a chance to recoup some value with their sunken cost, and they’d clear first-base at-bats for Darin Ruf, as they rebuild.

Look, no matter how the Phillies do it, they’re going to have to be very creative to move Howard. But rival officials are convinced that Amaro will do whatever it takes to move the slugger this winter -- especially because Howard’s 10-and-5 rights to reject deals will kick in next summer. To borrow an industry phrase, Amaro is a very motivated seller.

Priced to move.

If you don’t think any team would take Howard, think about this story that one longtime Yankees employee tells from the early ‘90s.

The Yankees had a player with a contract significant enough that it didn’t seem there was any way he could be traded. But general manager Gene Michael corrected his colleague. “You can trade anybody,” Michael said.

Not long after that conversation, the player in question was swapped to another team.

“What’d you get for him?” the colleague asked Michael, reflexively.

“No, no, no, no, that’s not what we’re talking about here,” Michael answered, through a chuckle. “I told you anybody could be traded. I didn’t tell you we’d get something good in return.”

This is about where the Phillies stand with Howard.

Around the league

• Twenty-two free agents have been given qualifying offers the last two winters, and all 22 rejected it. For the likes of Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, that made complete sense.

But for others -- Nelson Cruz, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew -- rejecting the qualifying offer turned out to be a mistake. There appear to be three players who could be candidates to be the first to accept a qualifying offer:

1. Michael Cuddyer

The 35-year-old outfielder has never made more than $10.5 million in any season until now, and was limited by injury to 49 games in 2014 -- and the Rockies’ qualifying offer to him was the talk of the industry Monday evening, a shocker, particularly for a mid-market team with limited resources. It’s hard to imagine a team giving up a high draft pick to sign him.

It was a surprising move, as Patrick Saunders writes.

2. David Robertson

If the Yankees closer accepts the qualifying offer, he would become the highest-paid player at his position, surpassing Jonathan Papelbon, who makes $13 million annually. If Robertson rejects the offer, he would wade into what would likely be a limited market because many teams would shy away from giving up a draft pick for a reliever, and aren’t paying relievers more than $8 million to $10 million because of their limited production.

Robertson could theoretically look for a multiyear offer, but rival club executives, as well as some agents, believe he probably wouldn’t get more than something in the range of $30 million over three years. “He’s got to take that qualifying offer,” said one representative. “If he takes it and has a good year, he could go into free agency again and get another qualifying offer, and could get 30 [million dollars] over two years.”

The Yankees have a clear alternative at closer, as Tim Rohan writes.

3. Francisco Liriano

He would seem to fit the same mold as Kyle Lohse and Ervin Santana from the last two winters -- a really good pitcher who fields only limited interest from the market. But there’s another factor working against Liriano, as written about here the other day: He’ll be looking for a deal within a market flush with starting pitching, and undoubtedly, some teams that might’ve been interested will turn to alternatives that won’t cost them a draft pick.

If Liriano hadn’t been attached to a draft pick, he might’ve been in line to get something in the range of Edwin Jackson’s four-year, $50 million deal with the Cubs. But the draft pick changes the equation, and among the teams who have protected first-round picks, the Astros might be the only club that would seriously consider Liriano. (And Houston’s level of interest might depend on where the Astros stand in the matter of Brady Aiken and Jacob Nix, which is playing out behind the scenes; the Astros could be at risk of losing draft picks.)

• Nelson Cruz was one of 12 players who got a qualifying offer, as he did last winter. He’s coming off the best season of his career, at age 34, and it’ll be interesting if some team feels comfortable giving up big money for him while giving up a draft pick, within the context of his past PED suspension. Robinson Cano lobbied on behalf of Cruz in the past, and Seattle could certainly use a big-time power hitter.

• The Blue Jays will be willing to wait on Melky Cabrera, as he heads into free agency.

• The Royals extended an offer to James Shields, as expected, and picked up the $7 million option on Wade Davis.

• The Pirates gave a qualifying offer to two players.

• The Braves extended a qualifying offer to Ervin Santana, as David O’Brien writes.

• The Giants will get a draft pick if another team signs Pablo Sandoval.

• Hanley Ramirez got a qualifying offer, although his days with the Dodgers are probably over.

• Sources say the Tigers aren’t planning a big splash in the free-agent market, beyond attempting to re-sign Victor Martinez. GM David Dombrowski is not a fan of the free-agent market, writes George Sipple.

• The negotiations for Russell Martin figure to be accelerated, with his choices becoming clear right away. The Pirates want him back, for sure -- but what about the Cubs? The Dodgers? I’d be surprised if Martin isn’t signed by the winter meetings, which start Dec. 7.

• Chase Headley is in an excellent position to weigh his options as the offseason begins, as the clear No. 2 third baseman in the market behind Pablo Sandoval. Headley could consider taking a one-year deal with a team like the Yankees, in a ballpark that plays to his swing (like Cruz and Camden Yards next season), or Headley could weigh one of the multiyear offers he is likely to receive in an offseason thin in available position players.

Joe Maddon
Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports
Manager Joe Maddon agreed to a 5-year deal with the Chicago Cubs this week.
• It was classic Joe Maddon at his news conference: arrived in ripped jeans, no tie and no jacket, and when the Cubs jersey was draped over his shoulders for the first time, he didn’t bother buttoning it. When he took off his Cubs hat, his hair was askew -- and at the end of the presser, after he broached the idea of the playoffs and World Series for the Cubs in 2015 on his own, he offered to buy a shot and beer for everybody in the house.

Maddon is getting $5 million a year for each of the next five years, and he has incentive clauses tied to the postseason; there is no opt-out clause in his contract.

Folks on Twitter inspired this question: If the Cubs win the World Series under Maddon’s watch, how else could he benefit, given that he’d never have to spend another nickel in the city of Chicago for the rest of his life?

• Todd Radom, a graphic designer of team uniforms and logos, tweeted out these possibilities: 1. a Maddon-inspired logo and 2. a new Wrigley marquee.

• Maddon promises cheers aplenty, writes Jon Greenberg.

• Paul Sullivan wonders: Will the Cubs win? Maddon’s departure from the Rays to the Cubs feels shady, writes Tom Jones.

• Paul Molitor will be introduced today as Minnesota’s new manager. The Twins hope that Molitor lives up to his nickname. Molitor has a gift of awareness, writes Patrick Reusse.

• The Twins’ ongoing challenge is to find pitchers who miss bats, after another season of finishing dead last in strikeouts.

• A.J. Burnett turned down his $12.75 million player option; he wants to play for a contender next year, his agent told Jayson Stark.

The likely response within the Phillies’ offices.

• Max Scherzer tops Keith Law’s top 50 list of free agents.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Red Sox freed up a couple of roster spots.

2. The Red Sox have tons of money to spend, writes Michael Silverman. It might be time for the Red Sox to break the bank, writes Brian MacPherson. Boston must determine how much it will spend, writes Gordon Edes.

3. Aramis Ramirez is returning to the Brewers.

4. Alan Trammell is rejoining the Tigers.

5. The Cardinals’ promotion of David Bell was predictable, writes Bernie Miklasz.

6. The Indians claimed J.B. Shuck.

7. The Rays picked up their option on Joel Peralta.

8. The Rangers basically reinstated their whole team.

9. The Diamondbacks are open to moving catcher Miguel Montero.

NL East

• The Nationals have some second-base options, writes Adam Kilgore.

NL Central

• The Cardinals could be in the market for a lefty reliever, writes Rick Hummel.

• C. Trent Rosecrans assesses the defense of Brandon Phillips.

NL West

• Everth Cabrera faces an uncertain future with the Padres, writes Dennis Lin.

• The Diamondbacks’ top scout has moved on.

AL East

• The Orioles have some Gold Glove candidates.

AL Central

• Paul Hoynes writes about the roster stability of the Cleveland Indians.

AL West

• Garrett Richards is on track in his recovery from knee surgery.


• There is sad news about Tom Magliozzi, who had a life of making people laugh.

• Madison Bumgarner was on Jimmy Fallon’s show.

• A new but important phrase of distinction: brand reporters.

• Alex Rodriguez paid his cousin almost $1 million, according to court documents.

And today will be better than yesterday.
post #29560 of 73147
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

Mets keep bring in the fences laugh.gif

post #29561 of 73147
Originally Posted by Jewbacca2 View Post

The Mets fences are going to be 259ft away in a few years lol

And they'll still be farther than Fenway's.
post #29562 of 73147
RIP Brad Halsey tired.gif.
SF Giants, SF 49ers, SA Spurs...
SF Giants, SF 49ers, SA Spurs...
post #29563 of 73147
Mets could bring in the fences all the want, the team will still suck.
post #29564 of 73147
I really hope A-Rod doesn't pass Mays.
post #29565 of 73147

3 years to get 6 HRs.


He's gonna pass Mays. Unless MLB finds a way to kick him out, his leg or arm completely falls off, Yankees release him, or he passes away, ARod isn't going anywhere. He's not walking away from $60M+.

post #29566 of 73147
post #29567 of 73147
I wish they come to an agreement and buy him out.

Also wouldn't have to hear Mike Francesa slurping him every 5 minutes.
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
post #29568 of 73147
This should happen to everyone who bunts. [IMG][/IMG]

This damn gif won't post lol
Edited by Jewbacca2 - 11/5/14 at 8:09pm
post #29569 of 73147
Houston Rockets | Houston Texans | Houston Astros | Texas Aggies
Houston Rockets | Houston Texans | Houston Astros | Texas Aggies
post #29570 of 73147
mean.gif Only 33. Climbing is no joke, I did an intro class the other day and man... don't look down. RIP
post #29571 of 73147
More on the Twins updates:
The Minnesota Twins are expected to debut a new home uniform for the 2015 season which will be void of any pinstripes for the first time in nearly thirty years.

The Twins also plan to add a golden color as a shadow to their current wordmark. The script of the wordmark is believed to be the same however the colors will be changed.

In addition it’s believed the Minnesota Twins will be adding a gold trimmed hat though it’s not known if it will be a home/road cap or if it will just be an alternate look at this time. Given the home jersey will use some form of gold however it seems as if the new cap would match with the home jersey.


And yet they're keeping this laugh.gif

post #29572 of 73147
Hank Conger got traded to the Astros yesterday. I wanted Rizzo to trade for him last off-season to be our backup catcher. Guy raked in the minors, hasn't figured it out at the plate yet in the show, though.
post #29573 of 73147


post #29574 of 73147
Padres bringing in the fence as well
post #29575 of 73147
Astros possibly getting rid of Tal's Hill next offseason> any fence moved in.
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
post #29576 of 73147
Originally Posted by RetroBaller View Post

Astros possibly getting rid of Tal's Hill next offseason> any fence moved in.

They're going to make some renovations to the park to keep things fresh. There's been articles citing possibly moving the visitors bullpen to CF and old bullpen accessable to fans for seating.
post #29577 of 73147
post #29578 of 73147
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

Padres bringing in the fence as well
Didn't they already do that?
post #29579 of 73147
Has Starlin Castro always been behind Javier Baez on the Cubs depth chart?

post #29580 of 73147
why would you bench Castro?
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