What's Next: Free Agent Predictions

The free agency period is officially underway but as usual, players have been slow to sign. A large portion of the reason why is that we have yet to reach the deadline for offering your own player salary arbitration. For players ranked in the Elias System, offering arbitration is necessary to receive compensatory draft pick(s), should the player decline the offer and sign elsewhere.

Until the player’s total cost, including compensatory draft picks, is determined, the big names will have to wait. Until the big names sign, typically, the smaller names will wait while the market develops and determines their values accordingly. This year, teams have until November 23 to offer arbitration to their own free agents and players who are offered have until November 30 to decide as to whether or not they will accept.

Tim Dierkes of MLBTradeRumors recently rattled off his predictions for where each of the top-50 free agents will sign this year. Because re-ranking the players seems silly, I’ve decided to take his rankings and assign my own thoughts and prediction to each player (though I’m only doing 20 because I’m a slacker). Dierkes’ cohorts at MLBTR also gave their predictions this morning, which you can find here. You can see mine after the jump.

1- Cliff Lee- New York Yankees- I desperately want to be wrong about this one. I would love it if Lee were to sign with Texas, or Washington, or anywhere but the Yankees. Sadly, I expect they’ll offer $30 million more than anyone else, just as they did with CC Sabathia. You can’t blame Lee for not wanting to turn that down.

2- Carl Crawford- Boston Red Sox- Boston will have steep competition from the Angels and probably a few other clubs, but I think the Red Sox will land him. Things didn’t work out with Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury last year and Boston doesn’t like finishing third. By snagging Crawford, they gain on both the Yankees and Rays.

3- Adrian Beltre- Los Angeles Angels- I know the Angels don’t typically go after Scott Boras clients, but this may be a special case. L.A. saw a huge drop-off in third base production, both offensively and defensively in 2010 after the departure of Chone Figgins. Beltre will get a huge contract and he has a history of failing to live up to those type deals. A desperate Angels club hopes history doesn’t repeat itself.

4- Jayson Werth- Detroit Tigers- The Tigers are looking for middle-of-the-order thump and Werth gives them that plus a solid defender in the spacious Comerica outfield. Werth won’t come cheap, but the Tigers have plenty of cash to spend. Which is why they will get not one, but two big bats to surround Miguel Cabrera.

5- Adam Dunn- Chicago Cubs- Dunn will draw tons of attention from AL clubs, but the Cubs will give him a chance to play first base. That alone (plus a whole bunch of money) should be enough to snag Dunn’s services. After spending so many years with Derrek Lee at first base, expect the Cubs infield error totals to skyrocket if they get Dunn.

6- Victor Martinez- Detroit Tigers- Martinez appears to be top priority for the Tigers and one they would like to get wrapped up as soon as possible so they can then move on to another big fish. Martinez will draw offers from several clubs but the Tigers are expected to go to four or even five years for the 31-year-old.

7- Rafael Soriano- Los Angeles Angels- The Angels have tried to solve their closer problem twice, and failed twice, in the past two seasons. Brian Fuentes was far from automatic and eventually wound up traded away and last year’s prize, Fernando Rodney, struggled in his first year in Anaheim. Soriano’s the best available reliever and Arte Moreno isn’t used to losing. Expect a big contract, but the Angels will finally solve their back-end woes.

8- Mariano Rivera- New York Yankees- This is painfully obvious (as is at least one more on this list), Rivera isn’t going anywhere. I’ll let other guess about his contract figures.

9- Paul Konerko- Chicago White Sox- Konerko was nearly wooed away from the Southside the last time he hit the market, but he chose to stay then and he’ll do so again this year. The White Sox have no plans to rebuild and Konerko is still extremely productive. The D-backs figure to make a big offer, but Konerko stays in Chicago.

10- Derek Jeter- New York Yankees- See Rivera. The Yanks will vastly overpay for his services, but they’re the Yankees. That’s what they do.

11- Hiroki Kuroda- Pittsburgh Pirates- Kuroda has been one of the better pitchers in the NL since he came to MLB, so he won’t come cheaply, even for a 35-year-old. The Pirates have been aggressive early in free agency and I figure they’ll get someone to take their money. Kuroda provides a stable performer that Pittsburgh has been lacking in the rotation for quite some time.

12- Jorge de la Rosa- Milwaukee Brewers- After throwing money at the likes of Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf over the past few years, the Brewers may be a bit gun shy this time around. If not, they’ll get a left hander who is probably longer on talent than results. De la Rosa may not ever put it all together. Anyone who signs this guy will take a chance that they may be getting a left handed Ubaldo Jimenez, or they may be getting Oliver Perez.

13- Carl Pavano- Texas Rangers- Most figure Minnesota will bring him back, but I wonder how long the Twins will be willing to sport their highest ever payroll. Corners must be cut somewhere and the Rangers will have money to spend on a veteran starter after losing out on Lee.

14- Jake Westbrook- St. Louis Cardinals- Westbrook isn’t anything more than a quality number four starter, but the Cardinals gave up a big bat to get him last season. Perhaps another season with Dave Duncan can bring Westbrook back to the dominating groundballer he was before Tommy John surgery.

15- Aubrey Huff- San Francisco Giants- The Giants didn’t let their World Series love-fest drift into business plans when they declined Edgar Renteria‘s option, but Huff was the leader of the team all year. He provided enough offense to garner another run with them as well.

16- Juan Uribe- San Francisco Giants- With Renteria departing, the shortstop job would belong to Uribe. He’ll draw plenty of attention from other clubs thanks to his versatility, but he’ll stay put with a new everyday role.

17- Carlos Pena- Washington Nationals- After living through the struggles of Dunn at first base, the Nats defense will be vastly improved by adding the slick-fielding Pena to the mix. He possesses plenty of power, so there shouldn’t be a drastic offensive drop-off, either. By swapping Dunn for Pena, the Nats will not only save themselves some money, but I think they’ll be a much better club.

18- Jim Thome- Minnesota Twins- Even with no guarantee of at bats, Thome stays with the Twins and will eventually work his way into the everyday lineup. There will be other offers for him, however, and if someone gives him a chance to start, he will likely sign elsewhere.

19- Vladimir Guerrero- Texas Rangers- Vlad had a great season in 2010 and helped to hold down the fort when Josh Hamilton missed time. The Rangers declined his option but expect that he’ll stay on in Texas on a new deal.

20- Manny Ramirez- Oakland Athletics- The A’s have a history of signing stars on the downside of their careers, but with mixed results. The risk is worth the reward with Manny and the A’s feel one big bat could put them right in the mix for a playoff spot in 2011.

Two bonus picks since I included Rivera and Jeter

21- Magglio Ordonez- Toronto Blue Jays- Maggs and the Tigers still have mutual interest, but Ordonez is clearly their plan B or C. If Detroit doesn’t land a bigger name for right field, Ordonez could return there, but the Jays figure to be players for him as well. By moving Jose Bautista to third, they could create room for Ordonez in the outfield.

22- Orlando Hudson- Colorado Rockies- After bouncing around recently looking for a big contract, the O-dog will once again have to settle. The Rockies have a need and his speed game will play well back in the NL West. Expect another one year deal here.

Obviously, I don’t expect to get a ton of these right. If I miss one or two, that means I’ll probably miss many, many more as different clubs enter different circumstances. This is an exercise for fun, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you think might happen.

Tags: Adam Dunn Adrian Beltre Aubrey Huff Carl Crawford Carl Pavano Carlos Pena Cliff Lee Derek Jeter Hiroki Kuroda Jake Westbrook Jayson Werth Jim Thome Jorge De La Rosa Juan Uribe Magglio Ordonez Manny Ramirez Mariano Rivera Orlando Hudson Paul Konerko Rafael Soriano Victor Martinez Vladimir Guerrero

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