The GM meetings kick off in Phoenix next week, and while that gathering is generally more a time to lay groundwork than to get deals done, don’t be surprised if we see the first few free agents go off the board while everyone is gathered in one place. So, before things start happening, let’s have a little fun, and see how good I am at prognosticating both where the primary free agents will sign, and how much they’ll get on the open market.
For the purpose of this exercise, I’m going to project the same 55 players that you guys crowdsourced. This means that I’m skipping all the international free agents, but realistically, I don’t think I know enough about those guys to make educated guesses anyway. So, domestic free agents only. We’ll go team by team, and then I’ll list the whole table of my picks at the bottom. And yes, they’re probably going to be hilariously wrong. Predicting what other people are going to choose to do is not easy! Off we go, and we’ll do it by division.
The Angels can talk about how they’re not going to spend money this winter all they want, but I’ll believe Arte Moreno is going to pass up on a premium pitcher when it happens. It seems like every year, these guys are the “mystery team” bidding up a player who might not have an obvious home elsewhere, and this year, I’m expecting them to play that role for Jon Lester, signing him for 6/$145M. They need the pitching, they’re in win-now mode, and if the Cubs and Red Sox go another direction as I’m projecting, then he won’t have another obvious landing spot.
They need a shortstop. They’re good at buying low on players coming off poor seasons. They’ve previously acquired Stephen Drew, and seem to like the skillset. Let’s call it a match, and give him 2/$16M.
The Mariners want right-handed hitters for their line-up. I’m guessing they’ll try and fail to sign Victor Martinez, so Michael Cuddyer (3/$27M) and Billy Butler (2/$18M) represent something of a plan B. I think they’ll also bring the tall Chris Young back on a 1/$6M deal.
I’m guessing they’ll be more active in trades this winter, and their big move will be to deal for one of the rent-a-starters that hits the market, but they need depth too, and Jason Hammel (3/$30M) and Francisco Rodriguez (2/$10M) can provide an upgrade at the back of their pitching staff.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Astros try and spend some real money, but I think free agents with a choice will still be hesitant to go there, leaving them to just throw money at guys who don’t have many other options. Enter Brandon Morrow (2/$12M) and Aaron Harang (1/$8M), the latter of whom is trade bait as soon as he puts together a good month and another team realizes they could use a veteran starter.
The Tigers have too much invested in the short-term to let Victor Martinez leave. It’s no time for them to penny wise and pound foolish, so they’ll do what they need to do to keep him in Detroit, which means a deal at 4/$64M. That’s going to make upgrades elsewhere tricky, though, leaving them going after reclamation projects like Rafael Soriano (1/$6M) and Ichiro Suzuki (1/$3M).
Kansas City Royals
The Royals probably aren’t going to be able to keep their gang together, but their World Series run should give them enough cash to find some suitable replacements. Ervin Santana (3/$39M) comes back to Kansas City for a second tour, Michael Morse (2/$20M) takes over as the new right-handed DH, and Torii Hunter (2/$18M) becomes the veteran who keeps Jarrod Dyson in a fourth outfielder role.
I don’t see the Indians being particularly active at the top of the free agent class. They’ll make trades instead.
Chicago White Sox
Rick Hahn is still in asset collection mode, so I’d expect him to target a number of players that might be a bit undervalued coming off poor seasons, or at least have some rebound potential. Primary need is in the outfield, so I’m giving them Colby Rasmus (3/$36M), Emilio Bonifacio (2/$12M), and shorter Chris Young (1/$5M), plus Kendrys Morales (1/$9M) to take over at DH.
Phil Hughes aside, their recent forays into the free agent market haven’t gone so well, so I’m expecting a change of plans this winter, with no big free agent signings.
It’s mostly keeping the band together, re-signing Nelson Cruz (3/$45M) and Nick Markakis (4/$40M) to deals that probably won’t turn out very well. A.J Burnett (1/$10M) finally signs with the team after years of speculation, and Mark Reynolds (1/$4M) returns to replace Chris Davis, who I think gets traded over the winter.
New York Yankees
While I don’t have the Yankees signing any of the most expensive free agents, I do have them signing the most players in the group of 55 that you guys crowdsourced. I think they keep Chase Headley (4/$60M), David Robertson (3/$40M), Hiroki Kuroda (1/$12M), and Chris Capuano (1/$2M), plus add Asdrubal Cabrera (2/$22M) to replace The Captain. Cabrera wants to play shortstop, so he’ll go to the only city in the country that will see him as a defensive upgrade.
Boston Red Sox
They want a left-handed hitting third baseman and starting pitching; this market provides both. I think they’ll stretch on the years for Pablo Sandoval (6/$110M) because of his relative youth, but stick to shorter deals on the pitching side, going after both Brandon McCarthy (3/$42M) and Francisco Liriano (3/$39M). Their front-of-the-rotation upgrade will come via trade.
Tampa Bay Rays
They’ll spend two months hiring a manager instead.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays seem to like Melky Cabrera quite a bit and I couldn’t find any obvious teams that will outbid them, so he goes back here for 3/$39M. Jed Lowrie (2/$22M) fills the second base hole, while Delmon Young (1/$3M) comes in to serve as the right-handed DH, allowing Edwin Encarnacion to shift to first base so Justin Smoak never has to start against a lefty again.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Yeah, I know, they’re the new Dodgers, so they’re not just going to outspend everyone else. But they’re still the Dodgers, and Andrew Friedman does have some history with James Shields, so I wouldn’t expect them to pass if his market doesn’t evolve. It might not be their original plan, but I think they’ll scoop up Shields once his price falls to 4/$80M. They’ll also re-sign Chad Billingsley (1/$6M) and make a bunch of trades.
San Francisco Giants
Nothing too fancy for the World Champs. Jake Peavy (2/$20M) and Sergio Romo return (2/$12M), and Alex Rios (2/$18M) serves as the new right-handed hitting outfield depth piece. They’ll find a new third baseman via trade.
San Diego Padres
I’d expect them to be the most aggressive team signing international players this winter, so the bats all come from overseas. The arms, though, come from MLB, as I’m giving them Edinson Volquez (3/$27M), Gavin Floyd (1/$6M), and Josh Johnson (1/$3M), as I think they’ll need to replenish their rotation after trading a few of their current starters away for more bats.
How do you convince your fan base that you’re not punting 2015 after trading away Troy Tulowitzki? You sign Hanley Ramirez (7/$140M) to replace him, giving him all of the money you saved by trading your franchise shortstop and then a little more on top of that. Ramirez wants to play SS and the Rockies are used to injury prone slugging middle infielders, so this could be the way for Colorado to land a significant haul in talent without completely cashing in the next few years.
Dave Stewart is going to make more trades than anyone else this winter, I think.
St. Louis Cardinals
This is a good roster without too many holes, but they could use a shutdown relief ace, and one just happens to be available. Andrew Miller at 4/$36M might seem steep for a team that generally develops its own relievers, but their window is starting to close, and they need to make their 2015 team as strong as they can.
They like reclamation starters who get a lot of groundballs. Justin Masterson, embrace your future in Pittsburgh. 1/$9M might be less than what he could get elsewhere, but it’s the perfect spot for him to get back on track and land a bigger deal next winter.
They want an on-base guy who can play left field. Nori Aoki fits the bill perfectly, and should fit in their budget as well. I think they’ll win the bidding by going up an extra year instead of a higher salary, so I slotted him at 3/$24M.
Everyone expects them to sign Jon Lester because of the Boston connection, but my guess is that they actually prefer Max Scherzer, a higher strikeout starter with a slightly stronger track record of consistency. Scherzer is the best pitcher on the market, and the Cubs are certainly signaling that they’re going to make some big moves this winter, so I’m putting him in Chicago for 7/$175M. That won’t stop them from also signing Russell Martin for 5/$75M, and then gambling on an upside play in Brett Anderson for 1/$7M. We’ve seen the Cubs be smart and frugal; now I think we’re going to see them throw some money around.
As it stands, they’re probably the best team in baseball, and all they really need is a left-handed hitting second baseman. They’ll find that in trade.
New York Mets
The Mets keep telling everyone they’re not going to spend big money, and I don’t see a lot of good fits for them in the middle tier. They’ll probably sign someone, but I’m not sure who it would be.
They like strike-throwing veteran starters, and will need an innings-eater to replace the departures of Santana and Harang. Ryan Vogelsong needs a home. 1/$7M seems about right.
It’s an everything-must-go sale in Philadelphia, so you probably won’t have too many veterans interested in going there. They may be active on the international side, though.
And now for the full table. It’s even sortable.
|Name||Position||2014 Team||Age||Dave Years||Dave Dollars||Crowd Years||Crowd Dollars||Signing Team|
|Pablo Sandoval||3B||Giants||28||6||$110||5||$80||Red Sox|
|Brandon McCarthy||P||Yankees||31||3||$42||3||$36||Red Sox|
|Melky Cabrera||OF||Blue Jays||30||3||$39||4||$52||Blue Jays|
|Francisco Liriano||P||Pirates||31||3||$39||3||$36||Red Sox|
|Colby Rasmus||OF||Blue Jays||28||3||$36||3||$30||White Sox|
|Jed Lowrie||SS||Athletics||30||2||$22||3||$30||Blue Jays|
|Brandon Morrow||P||Blue Jays||30||2||$12||1||$6||Astros|
|Emilio Bonifacio||2B/OF||Braves||29||2||$12||2||$10||White Sox|
|Kendrys Morales||DH||Mariners||31||1||$9||1||$6||White Sox|
|Delmon Young||DH/OF||Orioles||29||1||$5||1||$3||Blue Jays|
|Chris Young||OF||Yankees||31||1||$4||1||$5||White Sox|
Overall, I have teams spending a few hundred million more than the crowd does, mostly because I think the crowd was too low on the top-end guys. But if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that most of these guesses are going to end up being very, very wrong.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.