HardballTalk’s Top 150 Free Agents for 2015
Presented today is a look at this winter’s top 150 free agents. I’m excluding players whose options are certain to be picked up, though most of those were taken care of anyway on Thursday. Also unlisted are Japanese pitchers Kenta Maeda and Chiriro Kaneko, both of whom would have cracked the top 25 if there were assurances that they’d be posted. Right now, there’s no counting on either of them.
Players are ranked based on how I expect teams will view them, not on how I view them myself. Essentially, they’re ranked from predicted biggest contract to smallest, not accounting for options (A.J. Burnett can and should stay with the Phillies for $12.75 million, but he’s viewed as more of a $7 million pitcher for these purposes).
All ages are as of April 1, 2015.
1. Max Scherzer (RHP Tigers, 30): Scherzer won’t be winning a second consecutive Cy Young Award, but he was pretty much the same pitcher in 2014 that he was in 2013. In fact, he allowed 18 homers both seasons. His K/BB ratio went from 240/56 in 214 1/3 innings to 252/63 in 220 1/3 innings. Scherzer is practically assured of landing the biggest deal ever for a free agent pitcher, topping Zack Greinke’s six-year, $147 million contract with the Dodgers. A six-year, $168 million contract is the guess here.
2. Jon Lester (LHP Athletics, 31): Lester picked a great time to have a career year, finishing with a 2.46 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. His previous best ERA was a 3.21 mark in 2008, and his best WHIP was 1.20 in 2010. His strikeout rate also rebounded to past levels (7.3 K/9 IP in 2012, 7.5 in 2013, 9.0 in 2014). Though Lester isn’t as good of a bet as Scherzer for the short term, he seems like the more likely of the two to stay healthy and remain an asset through the end of his contract. Six years and $150 million isabout right for him. The Red Sox will try to get him back, but they’ll have to fight the Yankees and others for him. One bonus with Lester: he can’t get a qualifying offer after being traded at midseason and thus won’t cost his signing team a draft pick.
3. Yasmany Tomas (OF Cuba, 24): Signs point to Tomas becoming the richest Cuban defector yet, with a $100 million contract perhaps in the offing. He showed considerable offensively ability by hitting .298/.340/.581 as a 21-year-old and .289/.364/.538 as a 22-year-old in Cuba, though he faded to .286/.343/.444 in the offense-heavy league last season. There’s little doubt that Tomas will hit for power in the majors, though his on-base skills are in question, as is his defense in a corner outfield spot. From the sound of things, he could be the Phillies’ big addition this winter.
4. Hanley Ramirez (SS Dodgers, 31): Only two shortstops managed .800 OPSs last season: Troy Tulowitzki came in at 1.035 in 91 games before getting hurt and Ramirez finished at .817 in 128 games. Next on the list was Jhonny Peralta at .779. Of course, Ramirez isn’t much of a shortstop. He’s also had problems staying healthy the last two years. Ideally, Ramirez will sign as a third baseman this winter, though there aren’t many obvious fits for him there (Boston? The White Sox? San Francisco?). The Dodgers aren’t expected to make much of an effort to keep him. The Yankees could sign him as a shortstop with the idea of shifting him later. I could also see the Astros stepping up and making a big play for him if his market proves quieter than expected. His talent should earn him $120 million for six years, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he ended up having to settle for a five-year, $80 million contract because of the position/injury issues.
5. James Shields (RHP Royals, 33): Shields doesn’t just make 30 starts every year: he’s racked up 33 or 34 in seven straight seasons. He’s never been hurt as a major leaguer, and while his strikeout rate has dipped some the last two years, he’s throwing harder than he used to with the Rays. Besides, he hasn’t needed to go for strikeouts with that outfield behind him. Shields’ rough postseason has cast doubts over whether he’ll get a nine-figure contract, but I’m guessing some team goes $100 million for five years. The Red Sox are getting talked up as a popular suitor. I imagine the Angels would love to have him if they can pull it off and stay under the luxury tax. The Cubs and Yankees could also make bids if they get spurned by Scherzer and Lester.
6. Pablo Sandoval (3B Giants, 28): Sandoval lost some weight last winter and seemed to be a better defensive player this year because of it, but it didn’t do his bat any good, as his OPS declined for a third straight season, tumbling to .729. While Sandoval is one of this winter’s youngest free agents, he’s still a shaky bet for the long haul because of his weight issues. He’ll probably remain an above average hitter for the length of his next deal, but it’s health and his ability to stay at third base that will determine his value. He could get $90 million for five years on the open market, but he might take a little less and stay in San Francisco.
7. Russell Martin (C Pirates, 32): Martin’s last two free agent contracts were for $4 million over one year and $17 million over two. Needless to say, he’ll do a lot better this time after hitting .290/.302/.430 in 111 games for Pittsburgh last season. The Pirates are prepared to dig pretty deep to keep him, but the Rockies, Rangers and Dodgers should also come calling, and a four-year deal in the $60 million range might be necessary to sign him. One very obvious factor: the only other viable starting catchers on this list are Nick Hundley, Geovany Soto and A.J. Pierzynski.
8. Victor Martinez (1B-DH Tigers, 36): Most seem to think that Martinez will stay in Detroit, but he’s already letting it be known that he wants a four-year deal, sources told CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. That’d mean committing to him through age 39. One imagines that Martinez will remain a fine hitter for four more years, but he can’t be counted to keep hitting for power like he did last season. The Mariners figure to emerge as Detroit’s main competition here, and if they want him badly enough, he’ll get his $60 million-$64 million for four years after all.
9. Nelson Cruz (OF-DH Orioles, 34): After serving a 50-game steroid suspension in 2013 and settling for a one-year, $8 million contract as a free agent, Cruz came through with the best season of his career in 2014, hitting .271/.333/.525 with 40 HR and 108 RBI. Now the tough call is what to offer him through his mid-30s. He’ll get at least a three-year deal and possibly four years, though the Orioles won’t want to go that far. He’s most valuable to teams that can use him as a DH, so there might not be any serious NL bidders to expand his market. My guess is that he stays with the Orioles for $45 million over three years.
10. Chase Headley (3B Yankees, 30): The Padres did Headley a big favor by trading him to the Yankees at midseason, and he sort of capitalized, hitting .262/.371/.398 in 191 at-bats for his new team after coming in at .229/.296/.355 in 279 at-bats in San Diego. The trade also ruled out a qualifying offer for Headley, though it seemed pretty clear that the Padres weren’t going to make him one anyway. Headley’s 2012 campaign, when he hit .286/.376/.498 with 31 homers and an NL-leading 115 RBI, stands out as a pretty big fluke right now, but he’s an excellent defensive third baseman and still a solid hitter. A three-year deal worth in the $36 million-$42 million range would be fair, with a four-year deal becoming more likely if Sandoval stays put in San Francisco.
11. Ervin Santana (RHP Braves, 32): After having his market limited by a qualifying offer last year, Santana signed a one-year, $14.1 million deal with the Braves. Now the process might repeat itself. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien says the Braves are expected to make Santana the $15.3 million offer. Santana ended up going 14-10 with a disappointing 3.95 ERA last season, though his peripherals were strong. He had his best strikeout rate since 2008, even after factoring in the league switch, and his best ever home run rate, while making 30 starts for the fifth straight season. If not for the qualifying offer, he’d be in line for a four-year deal worth $52 million-$60 million.
12. Francisco Liriano (LHP Pirates, 32): Healthy and effective in consecutive seasons for the first time in his career, Liriano pitched 323 innings with a 3.20 ERA during his time with the Pirates. It should give him a chance to cash in with his first ever multiyear deal, but he’s one of the players whose stock would take a big hit if he gets made a qualifying offer. That’s not a lock, since these are the Pirates and not, say, the Yankees. However, Liriano would look pretty good on a one-year, $15.3 million contract if he accepts the qualifying offer. If the Pirates pass, then perhaps Liriano will get three years and $45 million elsewhere. I doubt he’ll do as well if he turns down a qualifying offer.
13. Melky Cabrera (OF Blue Jays, 30): Cabrera had his second best offensive season (.301/.351/.458 in 568 AB) in his second year back from a steroids suspension. He’s just 30, and the Blue Jays appear to love what he brings the lineup from the two hole in front of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. On the other hand, he’s already turned into a liability in left field and he only figures to get worse. Toronto is expected to make him a qualifying offer, and ideally he’d just accept that. However, a three-year deal seems more likely, probably one worth around $40 million.
14. Adam LaRoche (1B Nationals, 35): Under other circumstances, the Nationals would pick up their half of LaRoche’s $15 million mutual option. However, they really have no choice other than to move Ryan Zimmerman to first base next year, leaving LaRoche to seek work elsewhere. He finished seventh in the NL with 26 homers and fifth with 92 RBI last season, so he should have several takers on one- or two-year deals. With no qualifying offer holding him back, a two-year, $30 million contract makes sense.
15. David Robertson (RHP Yankees, 29): Giving Robertson a $15.3 million qualifying offer means making him the highest-paid reliever of all-time (no true reliever has ever topped Mariano Rivera’s $15 million salary). It means paying him $2.8 million more than the next most expensive active closer (Jonathan Papelbon). And since it’s the Yankees, what it really means is spending $23 million, since they’re taxed at 50 percent, and basically paying him twice what he’s worth. I think Robertson would be crazy not to accept the offer, given his youth and durability. If Robertson doesn’t get the offer, he’ll probably get something like $40 million for four years or $33 million for three on the open market.
16. Brandon McCarthy (RHP Yankees, 31): McCarthy’s career high for innings was 170 2/3 innings before he made 32 starts and threw 200 innings for the Diamondbacks and Yankees last year. His stock is way up after he went 7-5 with a 2.89 ERA for the Bombers, and the Yankees figure to make a substantial bid to keep him, though they’ll be looking at bigger targets as well. $26 million for two years might be his floor.
17. Jake Peavy (RHP Giants, 33): Peavy’s stock has been on quite the roller coaster ride of late. He was 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts with Boston, then 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 12 starts for the Giants. However, another very shaky postseason followed, with each of his starts getting progressively worse. In the end, he went 1-2 with a 6.19 ERA in four outings for the world champs. Of course, it’s not particularly fair to judge Peavy on October, but 1-5 with a 7.98 ERA in nine career postseason starts isn’t what contenders are looking for. The good news is that Peavy has now had three years in a row without any arm problems (he was limited to 23 starts in 2013, but that was due to a fracture in his rib cage). He’s a third or fourth starter these days, but that’s probably worth $26 million-$30 million for two years.
18. Andrew Miller (LHP Orioles, 29): This is ridiculously high for a left-handed reliever with one career save, but Miller is both the perfect final piece for any World Series contender and a legitimate closing option for anyone else. He finished last season with a 103/17 K/BB ratio in 62 1/3 innings, and right-handers hit even worse against him (.142/.245/.202) than left-handers did (.161/.206/.261). He won’t be limited by the traditional market for non-closing relievers. A four-year deal looks like a lock, and I’m guessing he gets $36 million.
19. Jose Fernandez (2B Cuba, 26): Perhaps the most polished hitter ever to defect from Cuba, Fernandez batted .326/.482/.456 for Matanzas last year and .393/.495/.593 the year before. He probably won’t hit for much power in the majors, but he should be a legitimate top-of-the-order guy and at least serviceable at second base. First, though, he needs to be made a free agent, something that might not happen until late in the offseason or in the spring. Once he’s cleared to sign, he should step in as an immediate regular somewhere.
20. Aramis Ramirez (3B Brewers, 36): From the sound of things, Ramirez and the Brewers both want to continue their relationship, though probably not under the terms of his $14 million mutual option. With injuries taking a toll, Ramirez’s OPS has gone from .901 in his first year in Milwaukee in 2012 to .831 in 2013 and .757 in 2014. His defense, though, hasn’t slipped as much as it once seemed it might, and he’s going to remain a third baseman for at least one more seasons. Maybe the two sides can agree at $25 million or so for two years.
21. Alex Rios (OF Rangers, 34): The Rangers are going to decline Rios’s $13.5 million option after he hit just four homers last season, but that still seems like a pretty reasonable amount for him, at least on a one-year deal. He was a fine regular in both 2012 and ’13, amassing 43 homers and 65 steals between the two seasons. If he signs for less than $25 million over two years this winter, he could be a nice little bargain.
22. Jung-Ho Kang (SS Korea, 27): Kang busted out in a huge way this year, hitting .356 with 40 homers for the Nexen Heroes in Korea. His 1.198 OPS was tops in the league by 80 points (former big leaguers Eric Thames (1.110) and Yamaico Navarro (.969) were third and ninth, respectively). Of course, the KBO to MLB is a huge jump, and Kang was never this dominant previously. Also, his range at shortstop is rather limited, though he does figure to stay at the position in the majors. It’ll be interesting to see if Nexen tries for the maximum $20 million posting fee in putting him on the market this winter. I’m not sure any team will want to pay that and give Kang a respectable three- or four-year deal afterwards. If Nexen aims for $5 million-$10 million instead, his market could be more interesting.
23. Hiroki Kuroda (RHP Yankees, 40): It was all doom and gloom for Kuroda after his poor April, but he posted a 3.29 ERA over the final four months and ended up with the same peripherals he always has. In seven major leaguer seasons, his ERAs have ranged from 3.07 to 3.76 and his FIPs have ranged from 3.26 to 3.86 (3.60 last season). Kuroda has never been one to really test the market; he’ll almost surely either remain with the Yankees on a one-year deal or head home to Japan. For that reason, the Yankees would seem to have little to gain by making him a qualifying offer. Still, they might anyway, since he’s worth right around the $15.3 million.
24. Colby Rasmus (OF Blue Jays, 28): Here’s one of the toughest calls of the winter. A year ago, coming off a .276/.338/.501 season for the Blue Jays, Rasmus appeared well on his way to getting something like $75 million over five years. Now, after hitting .225/.287/.448 and getting benched for the entire month of September, he’ll have to decide whether to sign a one-year deal or accept a modest two- or three-year pact from a team looking to gamble. Rasmus is just 28, and he’s easily the most intriguing center field option available this winter. The guess here is that he signs for something like $12 million and goes back on the market next winter, but maybe the Tigers, Diamondbacks or A’s will try to lock him up for $36 million for three years.
25. Jason Hammel (RHP Athletics, 32): Hammel struggled following a trade to the A’s, going 2-6 with a 4.26 ERA in 67 2/3 innings, but he excelled for a Cubs team that could well try to bring him back this winter, going 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 108 2/3 innings. Durability is something of an issue here; Hammel hasn’t dealt with any catastrophic injuries, but he’s also never topped 180 innings. He’s made 20, 23 and 29 starts the last three years. Still, he’ll probably get at least $20 million for two years this winter.
26. Nick Markakis (OF Orioles, 31): Markakis rebounded some last season after delivering just 34 extra-base hits in 2013, finishing at .276/.342/.386. He also ended up with better defensive numbers than usual, if you want to buy into that. He’s been with the Orioles his entire career, and there’s a good chance he’ll stick around, just not under the terms of his $17.5 million club option. I don’t see how he’s worth more than $20 million over two years or $27 million for three, though that would be a steep pay cut to offer him after he made $15 million each of the last two years.
27. Michael Cuddyer (OF-1B Rockies, 36): Cuddyer is fragile and pretty dreadful in the outfield, but he hit a whopping .331/.385/.543 in 179 games for the Rockies the last two years. He also gets pretty high marks for veteran leadership, which can’t hurt as he goes back on the market. He’d be more valuable to his next team as a first baseman, but the Rockies would like to bring him back as a right fielder and the Mets appear to be considering him in left. He’s probably due $18 million-$20 million for two years.
28. Jed Lowrie (SS Athletics, 30): Lowrie might be more valuable at second base than shortstop going forward, but it hardly seems likely that he’ll make the transition in this weak of a shortstop market. With J.J. Hardy off limits, he’s clearly the safest two- or three-year option at shortstop in the bunch. Lowrie was a disappointment offensively last season, hitting .249/.321/.355, but at 30, he still should have at least a couple of more quality years with the bat left in him. A three-year, $24 million contract would suit him.
29. Edinson Volquez (RHP Pirates, 31): Unfortunately, the Pirates didn’t get a modest option attached to Volquez’s contract last winter like they did Liriano’s the year before; they’d certainly like to have him back at $6 million-$7 million, but probably not at what he’s going to command on the open market coming off a 13-7 season with a 3.04 ERA. He’s a high flameout risk elsewhere, but he’ll get a two- or three-year contract anyway.
30. Torii Hunter (OF Tigers, 39): The numbers agree with the eyes in this case: Hunter lost about six steps on defense last season. Incredibly, though, he’s managed to avoid any real offensive decline with age. He’s actually raised his career average from .274 to .279 by hitting .301 the last three years. Who does that from ages 36-38? Hunter is weighing retirement, but he’ll have his pick of one-year deals in the $10 million-$12 million range if he comes back.
31. Asdrubal Cabrera (2B-SS Nationals, 29): Cabrera’s lack of range at shortstop was a big reason the Indians had one of baseball’s weakest defenses the last couple of years, but he looked far more capable at second base after getting dealt to the Nationals in July. Offensively, he seems rather overrated now after hitting .242/.299/.402 and .241/.307/.387 the last two years. The Nationals and Cabrera have mutual interest in continuing their relationship, though that could change if someone makes him a big offer to play shortstop. Better if he stays in D.C. for $16 million over two years.
32. Kwang-Hyun Kim (RHP Korea, 26): Kim will be posted by the SK Wyverns this winter and could serve nicely as a bottom-of-the-rotation guy for an MLB team. The right-hander was a phenom early in his career, amassing a 2.50 ERA in a three-year span from 2008-10. He was then often injured and ineffective the next three years before going 13-9 with a 3.42 ERA in what was a surprisingly high-scoring 2014 season in Korea. Kim has a history of walking too many batters, but he throws in the low-90s and has a good slider. He’s not Hyun-Jin Ryu, but he’s still a decent bet. Just a shot in the dark, but I’m guessing he commands a $7 million posting fee and $18 million for three years.
33. Norichika Aoki (OF Royals, 33): Aoki’s defensive reputation has taken quite a hit in recent weeks, what with some odd routes to balls and Ned Yost constantly pulling him out of games. His numbers in right field are fine, though, and he’s a nnice top-of-the-order hitter with a .287/.353/.387 line in three major league seasons. There are enough teams looking for leadoff men and No. 2 hitters to get him a two-year, $15 million contract.
34. Mike Morse (OF Giants, 33): Right-handed power isn’t easy to find these days, but Morse doesn’t have a lot else going for him. His defense in left field is horrible, and while it’s a small sample, he’s struggled mightily as a DH in his career, hitting .220 with no homers in 36 games. He did bounce back nicely from an awful 2013, hitting .279/.336/.475 with 16 homers in 438 at-bats for San Francisco. As a first baseman on a one-year, $8 million contract, he’d look just fine. If he gets a two-year deal to play left field, he’d be a much worse investment.
35. Luke Gregerson (RHP Athletics, 30): Gregerson’s year ended badly in the wild card game against the Royals, but before that, he had a 2.12 ERA over 72 1/3 innings in his first year in the American League. Even though he seems like he should have long since met his expiration date as a one-trick pony, he’s lowered his career ERA every year he’s been in the league. $18 million for three years?
36. Francisco Rodriguez (RHP Brewers, 33): A surprise Opening Day closer for the Brewers, K-Rod racked up 44 saves last season to push his career total to 348. And he’s just turning 33 in February. He was surprisingly homer-prone last season, but his strikeout rate remains excellent and his walk rates have tumbled as he’s thrown more changeups and fewer breaking balls. He’s in line for his first multiyear contract since he finished up a three-year, $37 million contract in 2011.
37. Sergio Romo (RHP Giants, 32): Romo was always more of a prototypical setup man than a closer, since he’s significantly better against righties than lefties, and he pulled off a nice turnaround after getting removed from the closer’s role last season, amassing a 2.10 ERA and a 32/5 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. Despite his reputation of having something of a trick elbow, he’s made 64 appearances each of the last five seasons. He also has 2.11 ERA in 25 career postseason appearances. The Giants should keep him around for $15 million-$18 million for three years.
38. Hector Olivera (2B Cuba, 29): Olivera would have been highly sought after had he defected five years ago. Now, he’s a question mark, having missed a full season two years ago and spending most of last season as a DH. He was an excellent power hitter for a second baseman earlier in his career, but he came in at .316/.412/.474 last year, which just isn’t all that impressive given the offensive levels in Cuba. It’d still be worth taking a chance on him; he’s not old and the improved medical care/training/nutrition available in the U.S. could really make a difference here. Even if he’s no longer a second baseman, there could still be room for his bat. In 2011-12, he hit .341/.468/.626 and only Jose Abreu was a clearly better hitter in the Cuban Serie Nacional.
39. Adam Lind (1B-DH Blue Jays, 31): The Jays’ pickup of Justin Smoak would seem to suggest that something is about to happen with Lind, perhaps a trade before his $7.5 million club option becomes due next week. Alternatively, they could exercise the option and keep shopping him afterwards. Or maybe they could just exercise the option and keep him, since he has hit .301/.366/.490 in 755 at-bats the last two years. Lind is a weak first baseman and he shouldn’t ever play against lefties, but he’s been a really strong bat against righties lately and the price tag is pretty modest.
40. Joakim Soria (RHP Tigers, 30): Expected to solidify the Tigers pen after being acquired in July, Soria instead suffered a strained oblique right off and stumbled to a 4.91 ERA in Detroit. As a Ranger, he had a 42/4 K/BB ratio and no homers allowed in 33 1/3 innings. As a Tiger, he had a 6/2 K/BB ratio and two homers allowed in 11 innings. Despite all of that, the Tigers are likely to pick up his $7 million option and start him off as their eighth-inning guy next year.
41. Justin Masterson (RHP Cardinals, 30): Masterson was a fine starter in 2011 (12-10, 3.21 ERA), and 2013 (14-10, 3.45 ERA) and a dreadful one in 2012 (11-15, 4.93 ERA) and 2014 (7-9, 5.88 ERA). So, no team has any real idea what it’s getting from him at this point. Perhaps because of knee problems that lingered throughout the year, his average fastball dipped all of the way to 90.3 mph last season from 93.1 mph in 2013. Masterson is now probably looking at a one-year deal in an attempt to rebuild his value. I’m sure some teams would be interested in signing him as a reliever instead of as a starter, but I don’t see him going that route just yet. Perhaps he’ll be Pittsburgh’s big project next year.
42. A.J. Burnett (RHP Phillies, 38): From a financial standpoint, Burnett picking up his $12.75 million player option to return to the Phillies is a no-brainer. He won’t get anything close to that on the open market after going 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA last season. Burnett, though, is again considering retirement this winter, and Philadelphia isn’t exactly the most uplifting place for a scuffling 38-year-old to finish his career. That said, it’s $12.75 million. One imagines he’ll take it.
43. Rafael Soriano (RHP Nationals, 35): Soriano seemed like an obvious candidate to decline last season, but there he was with 22 saves and a 0.97 ERA at the All-Star break. It suddenly unraveled for him at the end of July, and he was pulled from the closer’s role in early September after his third blown save in five chances. He finished up with a 7.29 ERA in his final 23 appearances. On the plus side, his peripherals were better than in 2013, particularly his strikeout rate (8.6 K/9 IP after 6.9 in 2013). Even while he was struggling at the end, his K rate stayed up. He wouldn’t be a terrible one-year closing option now than the Nationals have declined his option. Fortunately, he’s in no position to command a multiyear deal.
44. Zach Duke (LHP Brewers, 31): Duke struck out 87 batters in 185 innings as a starter for the Pirates in 2008. Last season, he struck out 74 in 58 2/3 innings as a reliever for Milwaukee. Lefties hit .198/.267/.302 against him, and righties weren’t any good, either, batting .242/.288/.298. I’m as surprised as anyone to be writing this, but he looks like a really valuable lefty reliever going forward. A three-year, $15 million deal might be possible.
45. Jason Grilli (RHP Angels, 38): After getting hurt and losing his closer gig to Mark Melancon in Pittsburgh, Grilli got sent to the Angels for Ernesto Frieri in a challenge trade. The Angels proved the big winners in that one, as Grilli had a 3.48 ERA and a 36/10 K/BB ratio in 33 2/3 innings the rest of the way. Grilli has fanned 227 batters total in 162 2/3 innings over the last three seasons. That he’s 38 might scare off some, but his stuff remains plenty good. He should have opportunities to set up for a contender or close for a lesser team.
46. Casey Janssen (RHP Blue Jays, 33): After opening the spring with a sore shoulder and suffering a lingering muscle strain early on, Janssen just never seemed quite right last season. Even so, he wasn’t horrible in finishing with a 3.94 ERA in 45 2/3 innings. His worst mark the previous three seasons was 2.56. It’s possible he’s losing it at 33, but the more likely scenario is that he spends the next two or three seasons as a fine setup man for a contender.
47. J.A. Happ (LHP Blue Jays, 32): The Jays are probably going to pick up Happ’s $6.7 million option after he posted a 3.56 ERA and a 69/18 K/BB ratio in 81 innings during the second half of last season. He’s 19-20 with a 4.39 ERA overall in 2 1/2 seasons with Toronto. That’s obviously nothing special, but from the fifth spot in the rotation, it isn’t bad.
48. Aaron Harang (RHP Braves, 36): Some of that old Braves magic rubbed off on Harang, who pitching 200 innings for the first time since 2007 and finished with the best ERA of his career (3.57) at age 35. A big part of it was a fluky home run rate; he gave up just 15 homers despite remaining a big flyball pitcher. There’s no way he’s repeating the campaign in 2015, but his potential suitors probably know that, too. He should get a one-year deal worth somewhere between $5 million and $7.5 million.
49. Billy Butler (DH-1B Royals, 28): Butler just runs like he’s 38. His offense has dropped off sharply the last two years, with his OPS dipping from .883 to .786 to .702, and players like him have tended to drop off quickly throughout history. Still, it’s not like he can be written off entirely. Let’s see what happens if a team puts him in a smaller ballpark and gets him back to pulling the ball more frequently. He shouldn’t cost much more than $6 million-$7 million after the Royals declined his $12.5 million option.
50. Stephen Drew (SS Yankees, 32): Drew didn’t sign until late May after getting a qualifying offer last winter ruined his market. He then ruined his market again all by himself by hitting .162/.237/.299 in 271 at-bats for the Red Sox and Yankees. Still, he has a clear defensive edge on the other potential regular shortstops available in free agency, he’s just turning 32 and he was a useful hitter as recently as 2013 (.253/.333/.443 for Boston). He makes more sense as a one-year option for a shortstop-needy club than Ramirez, Lowrie or Cabrera would on longer deals.
51. Kendrys Morales (1B-DH Mariners, 31): Morales should have taken the $14.1 million qualifying offer last year, but he thought he was worth at least $36 million for three. Now he’ll be lucky to do better than $5 million-$6 million for 2015 after hitting just .218/.274/.338 in 367 at-bats for the Twins and Mariners. Morales is a poor option at first base, so he probably won’t be pursued by any NL clubs. He should have a couple of more years in him as a decent DH, but decent DHs don’t get paid these days.
52. Carlos Villanueva (RHP Cubs, 31): Villanueva never ends up with very good numbers, but he’ll take the ball in any situation he’s asked and he’s proven very durable (he’s served one DL stint since arriving in the majors in 2006, missing a month with a forearm strain in 2011). Plus, he had some of the best peripherals of his career last season, finishing with a 3.13 FIP to go along with his 4.64 ERA. He could get a second consecutive two-year, $10 million contract.
53. Pat Neshek (RHP Cardinals, 34): Neshek’s stuff has fluctuated so much through the years that he’s a risky option on a multiyear deal. Still, he seems awfully deserving after posting a 1.87 ERA and striking out 10 batters for every one he unintentionally walked as a member of the Cardinals. If he keeps throwing like he did last year, he’ll be a bargain at $8 million-$10 million for two years.
54. Rickie Weeks (2B Brewers, 32): Mostly limited to starting against lefties in a platoon role with Scooter Gennett, Weeks came through with a nice year, hitting 274/.357/.452 in 252 at-bats. Unfortunately, he resisted the Brewers’ overtures to start working out in left field, something that could have led to more playing time last season and more suitors this winter. Weeks is a bad second baseman, and he’s not getting any better at 32. He’s probably still good enough to start there for some team anyway, but he might have been more valuable as a serviceable left fielder.
55. Ryan Vogelsong (RHP Giants, 37): Vogelsong showed better stuff last season after a rough, injury-plagued 2013 season, and while it still didn’t make him an above average starter, his 151/58 K/BB ratio in 184 2/3 innings was perfectly solid. The Giants will have to decide whether to toss him another $5 million to come back in 2015 or if it’s time to move on.
56. Brett Anderson (LHP Rockies, 27): Here’s the winter’s youngest traditional free agent. Or, at least, he will be once the Rockies decline his $12 million option. Anderson has six years of service time, but just 81 career major league starts, 62 of which came from 2009-11. He had Tommy John surgery in 2012, and he was limited to eight starts last season by finger and back injuries. At least he did have a 2.91 ERA in his eight starts. He can still pitch if he could ever stay healthy, and he’d be the perfect flier for a large-market team with quality minor league depth.
57. Burke Badenhop (RHP Red Sox, 32): The sinkerballing Badenhop was pretty much always the reliever called in to extricate the Red Sox from jams last season, and he did the job with aplomb, inducing 14 double-play balls on his way to a 2.29 ERA in 70 2/3 innings. Now he finally controls his own destiny after getting traded three straight offseasons, and there should be a great deal of interest in him on a two-year deal.
58. Chris Young (RHP Mariners, 35): Young hadn’t made more than 20 starts or pitched more than 115 innings since 2007 before going 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA in 165 innings for the Mariners last season. His velocity, never a strength, is largely gone now, and his peripherals are awful (5.02 FIP), but as much as any pitcher in baseball, he knows his strengths and knows how to play to them. There’s no way he’s getting more than a one-year deal with his injury history, and it’d certainly help his cause if he remained in a big ballpark. Hopefully, he just stays with the Mariners, though they have younger options for his spot.
59. Kyle Kendrick (RHP Phillies, 30): Kendrick is a reliable fifth starter, but there wouldn’t seem to be any upside here. Even in his better ERA years, he’s never had a FIP under 4.00. In 2014, he had a 4.61 ERA and a 4.57 FIP in his 32 starts.
60. Joba Chamberlain (RHP Tigers, 29): Chamberlain followed up a stellar first half (2.63 ERA, 40/12 K/BB in 37 2/3 IP) with a lousy second half (4.97 ERA, 19/12 K/BB in 25 1/3 IP) and a worse postseason (108.00 ERA in two appearances). Still, when all was said and done, he had a 3.57 ERA, a strong groundball rate with just three homers allowed and a solid strikeout rate. He might double his 2014 salary of $2.5 million on a one- or two-year deal.
61. Chris Denorfia (OF Mariners, 34): One of baseball’s best fourth outfielders the previous four years, Denorfia fell off to .230/.284/.318 in 330 at-bats for the Padres and Mariners last season. At 34, he probably won’t bounce all of the way back. Still, a team could do a lot worse than signing him to a two-year, $6 million-$8 million deal to play against lefties.
62. Nick Hundley (C Orioles, 31): It’s a steep drop off after Martin, but Hundley is probably the best bet of the remaining free agent catchers if you’re looking for a regular. He hit .233/.290/.389 with 13 homers in 373 at-bats for the Padres while Yasmani Grandal was down in 2013. Last season, he was traded to the Orioles to help cover for Matt Wieters and came in at .243/.273/.358. He’s also above average defensively.
63. Brandon Morrow (RHP Blue Jays, 30): There’s no way the Jays can pick up Morrow’s $10 million option, but he is awfully intriguing after showing a 96-99 mph fastball as a reliever in September. Morrow previously struggled as a starter in April and then missed four months with a torn tendon sheath in his right hand. In 2013, he had a 5.63 ERA in 10 starts, missing the rest of the season with a trapped radial nerve in his forearm. Morrow is probably a long shot as a starter at this point, but even so, there would be teams willing to take a chance on him there. He’d be a better bet as a reliever and maybe a closer. Throw a few million plus incentives at him and hope for the best.
64. Gavin Floyd (RHP Braves, 32): 2.65 ERA in 9 starts before breaking elbow.
65. Geovany Soto (C Athletics, 32): 78 games in 2 years, but still a legitimate starting option.
66. Luke Hochevar (RHP Royals, 31): 1.92 ERA in 70 IP in 2013. Coming off Tommy John.
67. Chris Young (OF Yankees, 31): .205/.283/.346 in 254 AB for Mets. .282/.354/.521 in 71 AB for Yankees.
68. Tim Stauffer (RHP Padres, 32): 3.50 ERA, 67 K in 64 IP. Should be popular middle-relief option.
69. Misael Siverio (LHP Cuba, 25): Early reports underwhelming. 2.92 ERA in 10 starts in 2012-13.
70. Ichiro Suzuki (OF Yankees, 41): .284/.324/.340 in 359 AB. 156 hits away from 3,000.
71. Jonny Gomes (OF Athletics, 34): .234/.327/.330 in 273 AB. Likely a 1-year deal as a platoon bat.
72. Josh Johnson (RHP Padres, 31): Had second TJ surgery in April. Padres declined $4 million option.
73. Mike Aviles (INF Indians, 33): .247/.273/.343 in 344 AB. Indians likely to exercise $3.5 million option.
74. Tsuyoshi Wada (LHP Cubs, 34): Cubs must pick up $5 million option or release him. 3.25 ERA in 13 starts.
75. Chad Billingsley (RHP Dodgers, 30): TJ surgery in 2013. Flexor tendon surgery in 2014.
76. Neal Cotts (LHP Rangers, 35): 1.11 ERA in 2013, 4.32 in 2014. Truth somewhere in between.
77. Jason Motte (RHP Cardinals, 32): 4.68 ERA in 25 IP post-Tommy John surgery.
78. Emilio Bonifacio (2B-OF Braves, 29): Speed, versatility, low OBP. .259/.305/.345 in 394 AB.
79. Tom Gorzelanny (LHP Brewers, 32): Shoulder surgery limited to 21 IP, but 0.86 ERA, 23 K.
80. Josh Willingham (OF-DH Royals, 36): .743 OPS in 297 AB. Weighting retirement.
81. Joe Beimel (LHP Mariners, 37): 2.20 ERA in 45 IP. Lefties hit .183/.217/.288.
82. A.J. Pierzynski (C Cardinals, 38): Lost it all at once. .251/.288/.337 in 338 AB.
83. Joel Peralta (RHP Rays, 39): ERA jumped to 4.41, but Rays should exercise $2.5 million option.
84. Kelly Johnson (2B-3B Orioles, 33): Down to .215/.296/.362 for three teams. Now likely a backup.
85. Alberto Callaspo (2B-3B Athletics, 31): Contact hitter slipped to .223/.290/.290 in 404 AB.
86. Joel Hanrahan (RHP Tigers, 33): Couldn’t make it back from Tommy John in 2014. Will try again.
87. Clint Barmes (INF Pirates, 36): Fine backup shortstop. .245/.328/.294 in 102 AB.
88. Mark Reynolds (1B-3B Brewers, 31): .196/.287/.394, 22 HR in 378 AB.
89. Colby Lewis (RHP Rangers, 35): 5.18 ERA in 29 starts. Likely to re-sign with Texas.
90. David Ross (C Red Sox, 38): .184/.260/.368 in 152 AB, but likely to have suitors.
91. Jared Burton (RHP Twins, 33): $4 million option declined after 4.36 ERA in 64 IP.
92. Delmon Young (OF-DH Orioles, 29): Finally a success as role player. .302/.337/.442 in 242 AB.
93. LaTroy Hawkins (RHP Rockies, 42): 3.31 ERA, 23 Sv. Rockies likely to pick up $2.25 million option.
94. Alfonso Soriano (OF FA, 39): Released by Yankees after hitting .221/.244/.367 in 226 AB.
95. Jose Veras (RHP Astros, 34): 8.10 ERA in 13 IP with Cubs, 3.03 ERA in 33 IP with Astros.
96. Corey Hart (1B-DH Mariners, 33): .203/.271/.319 in 232 AB. Leg issues are ruining career.
97. John Axford (RHP Pirates, 32): 3.95 ERA, 63/36 K/BB in 55 IP.
98. Chris Capuano (LHP Yankees, 36): 4.55 ERA as RP for Boston. 4.25 ERA in 12 starts for New York.
99. Jim Johnson (RHP Tigers, 31): 101 saves, 2.72 ERA in 2012-13. 7.09 ERA in 2014.
100. Jason Frasor (RHP Royals, 37): 2.57 ERA in 2013, 2.66 ERA in 2014.
101. Matt Belisle (RHP Rockies, 34): Workhorse on the decline. 4.87 ERA in 65 IP.
102. Andrew Bailey (RHP Yankees, 30): Missed 2014 after surgery to repair torn shoulder capsule.
103. Jeanmar Gomez (RHP Pirates, 27): Swingman had 3.28 ERA in 143 IP last two years.
104. Kevin Correia (RHP Dodgers, 34): Rotation filler on a bad team. 5.44 ERA in 154 IP.
105. Mike Adams (RHP Phillies, 36): 2.89 ERA in 19 IP in between shoulder injuries.
106. Phil Coke (LHP Tigers, 32): 3.88 ERA in 59 IP. Lefties hit .255/.310/.381.
107. Dustin McGowan (RHP Blue Jays, 33): 4.17 ERA in 82 IP. Jays hold $4 million option.
108. Ernesto Frieri (RHP FA, 29): 363 K in 273 career IP means he’ll get more chances.
109. Nate Schierholtz (OF Nationals, 31): .251/.301/.470 in 2013, .195/.243/.309 in 2014.
110. Ramon Santiago (INF Reds, 35): Utilityman hit .246/.343/.324 in 179 AB.
111. Craig Breslow (LHP Red Sox, 34): 5.96 ERA means Red Sox to decline $4 million option.
112. Matt Lindstrom (RHP White Sox, 35): 3.12 ERA in 61 IP in 2013, 5.03 ERA in 34 IP in 2014.
113. Kyuji Fujikawa (RHP Cubs, 34): 4.85 ERA in 13 IP after returning from Tommy John.
114. Wily Mo Pena (OF Japan, 33): .255/.344/.486, 32 HR. Looking for guaranteed deal.
115. Mark Ellis (2B Cardinals, 37): Still strong defensively, but .180/.253/.213 in 178 AB.
116. Bruce Chen (LHP FA, 37): 3.27 ERA in 121 IP in 2013. 7.45 ERA in 48 IP in 2014.
117. Jesse Crain (RHP Astros, 33): 1 1/2 years off because of shoulder, biceps injuries.
118. Daisuke Matsuzaka (RHP Mets, 34): 3.89 ERA in 9 starts, 25 relief appearances.
119. Endy Chavez (OF Mariners, 37): .276/.317/.371 in 232 AB.
120. Rafael Betancourt (RHP Rockies, 39): Tommy John rehab complete. Could help as setup man.
121. Ryan Ludwick (OF Reds, 36): .244/.308/.375 in 357 AB. Poor defensive left fielder.
122. Paul Maholm (LHP Dodgers, 32): 4.84 ERA in 71 IP before tearing ACL.
123. Scott Hairston (OF Nationals, 34): Unproductive in tiny role. .208/.253/.299 in 77 AB.
124. Chris Perez (RHP Dodgers, 29): Ex-closer was a mop-up man in L.A. 4.27 ERA in 46 IP.
125. Matt Albers (RHP Astros, 32): Just 8 appearances because of shoulder trouble.
126. Munenori Kawasaki (INF Blue Jays, 33): .258/.327/.296 in 240 AB.
127. Yozzen Cuesta (1B Cuba, 26?): Peaked at .259/.397/.431 in Cuba in 2011-12.
128. Sergio Santos (RHP Blue Jays, 31): Toronto will cut ties after 8.57 ERA in 21 IP.
129. Franklin Morales (LHP Rockies, 29): 5.37 ERA in 22 starts, 16 relief appearances.
130. Mike Carp (1B FA, 28): Slipped from .296/.362/.523 in216 AB in 2013 to .175/.289/.230 in 126 AB.
131. Juan Carlos Oviedo (RHP FA, 33): 3.69 ERA in 31 2/3 IP before being released by Rays.
132. Ryan Doumit (C-DH Braves, 33): .197/.235/.318 in 157 AB as 3rd catcher/PH.
133. J.J. Putz (RHP FA, 38): Released by Arizona after 6.59 ERA in 13 2/3 IP. Could retire.
134. Joe Thatcher (LHP Angels, 33): Can’t face righties, and lefties hit .279 off him last season.
135. Gerald Laird (C Braves, 35): .204/.275/.257 in 152 AB
136. Felipe Paulino (RHP White Sox, 31): Limited to 4 starts by shoulder problem.
137. Jamey Wright (RHP Dodgers, 40): Durable middleman saw ERA jump from 3.09 to 4.35.
138. Reed Johnson (OF Marlins, 38): Longtime 4th outfielder has slipped below replacement.
139. Wandy Rodriguez (LHP FA, 36): Arthritic elbow makes him a long shot to contribute.
140. Franklin Gutierrez (OF FA, 32): Took 2014 off following diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis.
141. Jason Marquis (RHP FA, 36): 4.05 ERA in 20 starts for Padres in 2013 pre-Tommy John surgery.
142. Dan Uggla (2B FA, 35): Should be done as a 2nd baseman. .149/.229/.213 in 141 AB.
143. Kevin Kouzmanoff (1B-3B Rangers, 33): .362/.412/.617 in 47 AB pre-back surgery.
144. Nolan Reimold (OF Diamondbacks, 31): Too injury-prone for regular duty, .251/.324/.439 lifetime.
145. Sean Burnett (LHP Angels, 32): Shooting for June/July return after Tommy John.
146. Rafael Furcal (2B-SS Marlins, 37): 9 major league games the last two seasons.
147. Josh Outman (LHP FA, 30): 4.17 ERA, 112/48 K/BB in 110 career innings as RP.
148. Scott Baker (RHP Rangers, 33): 5.47 ERA in 8 starts, 17 relief appearances.
149. Scott Downs (LHP Royals, 39): 2.49 ERA in 2013, 4.97 ERA in 2014.
150. J.P. Arencibia (C Rangers, 29): Last for a reason. .177/.239/.369 in 203 AB.