We here at Off The Bench have grand ambitions. We think we know more than just about everyone else in the baseball community, but even we were overwhelmed by our latest, self-imposed challenge. We set out to predict where each and every free agent would wind up come next spring. Sounds easy enough, right? There’s only 30 MLB teams, and each team loses about 3 players every year to the free agent merry-go-round. So, we pulled the list from MLBtraderumors.com and set to predicting. Child’s play.
Max was the first to realize our mistake: the second name on the list is Carlos Corporan. Carlos is a known big league catcher in some circles. He’s accrued over 3 full years of service time, and he’s started over a season’s worth of games behind the plate. He’s a right handed hitting catcher, who has played in Texas. That’s about all we can say about Carlos Corporan. Now we have to predict where he plays next season? He’s an average 3rd string catcher. Literally every MLB team has a need for a 3rd string catcher. It’s why Carlos has made $2 million. (If you’re interested, Corporan’s consensus fate is a minor league deal with the Cubs or Rangers.) On to the next one! Chris Ianetta. Better player than Carlos Corporan, but a guy again, perhaps a tad more of a crap shoot than we anticipated… Also, maybe not that interesting.
Rules! There have to be rules!
Since there were two of us predicting, we needed some way to validate a “successful” prediction. For each free agent, we get 1 point for correct team, 1 point for correct number of years, and 1 point for correct total value of the contract within 10%. If we successfully predict someone will retire or go play overseas, that’s also 1 point. There also will be no tampering once the predictions are made. (Editors note: Surrrre)
Let us know what you think of our predictions in the comments or on Twitter. Our full predictions are here (Cool, huh? Sort through Sean’s and Max’s picks, actual contract details, and the OTBB scoring system under the ‘Column Visibility’ menu.)
Pick that I am Most Confident In
Sean: David Price to Boston for 7/217. The truth is that I’m not all that confident in any of the picks, but this one seems to make the most sense. Sure, the Dodgers are looming as a potential destination and need a second fiddle to Clayton Kershaw. The thought of Price pairing with Kershaw (and possibly learning a bit about how to throw a breaking ball) is tantalizing, but Boston needs a pitcher. They’re going to get one, and Price is the best one available. Combine all that with the fact that the guy calling the shots, Dave Dombrowski, has committed huge money to starting pitchers in the past (Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez) and I think that Price heads to Boston.
Max: Ian Desmond to the Mariners for 5/100. Ian Desmond is going to the Mariners, lock it down. Done deal. Seattle perennially aims to compete and always fails thanks to an unshakable lack of offense. At the same time, the Mariners have a new GM who will want to make a splash and the allure of the best hitting shortstop on the market to pair with Robinson Cano will simply be too great. Seattle will have to overpay a little bit for Desmond but look for Ian to be batting second everyday in the Northwest next April.
Wow, That Guy Is Going to Get A Lot of Money
Sean: Jason Heyward to St. Louis for 8/186.5. Heyward is still somehow just 26. He hit .293 with an OPS near .800 this season, while stealing 20+ bags for the third time in four years. He plays the best right field in the Majors, and he’s been worth more than 6 WAR in each of the last two seasons. He still has room to grow at the plate, even after one of the best offensive years of his career. Carlos Beltran posted -2 dWAR in 2015 and his defensive inefficiency could lead the Yankees to get involved. Oh yeah, and he’s just 26.
Max: Zack Greinke to LA Dodgers for 7/150. The Dodgers are not going to let Zack Greinke walk. He’s too good of a player, too good for the clubhouse, and too well liked by the team and the community. He’s staying, and that puts him in an awesome position. Greinke can go out and collect all the offers he wants and take them back to LA for the Dodgers to at least match, which they will. In the end, I think the Red Sox will try to make him a very rich man but he’ll end up staying put on a longterm deal for about $150 mil.
Wow, That’s A Lot of Money for THAT guy
Sean: Scott Kazmir to Detroit for 3/46.5. Kazmir is a fascinating free agent. He’s 32 and has a very serious injury history. He’s also coming off of a season in which he posted a 3.10 ERA. He wasn’t everything that the Astros had hoped he would be down the stretch, but he held the second lowest ERA in baseball when they traded for him. Kazmir will surely get a short term contract and maybe my $15 Million per year rate is a bit high, but he seems like an ideal candidate for the John Lackey clause that provides an additional year of his services, should he suffer a major injury. Max had him at 2/$14 to the Yankees. We shall see.
Max: Chris Davis to Baltimore for 6/110. I had Davis getting less from the O’s than Sean did but its still too much. Davis is a solid slugger and that kind of one tool power might age well but really soon he’s going to be a $20 million DH-only with no speed and 25 homers a year, and falling. That’s the kind of inflexible roster piece that gets GMs fired.
Most Obscure Free Agent of 2016
Sean: Rich Hill to Philadelphia on a minor league deal. Rich Hill is listed as a starting pitcher, and I guess that’s right. He managed a 1.55 ERA in 4 starts for the Red Sox this year. He also had more starts for the AAA Red Sox. In 2012, Rich managed a start in Red Sox Rookie Ball, A-Ball, High-A, made a relief appearance in AA, before making 8 relief appearances in AAA and then pitched 19.2 innings for the Major League team. He’s pitched well whenever he’s been given the chance, which is probably why the Nationals signed him in late February, or why the Angels wanted him in 2014. He’s just not a guy I could pick out of a lineup of people suspected of being Rich Hill.
Max: Brian Duensing to Minnesota on a minor league deal. I had no choice but to send Duensing back to Minnesota. That’s the only place he’s played, right? I honestly don’t know but I can literally only think of him in a Twins uniform. In fact, in my head he’s just a Twins uniform without a face because I have no idea what he looks like. He’s going back to the Twins because he has to.
Pick that I am Least Confident About
Sean: Ian Desmond to the Mets for 5/77.5. Heading into this season Ian Desmond looked like a guaranteed $100 Million man. He was going to be a 30 year old shortstop with four straight 20 HR/20SB/3 WAR seasons . Then, in 2015, he managed just a .290 OBP, 2 WAR, and 19 homers with 13 steals. He combined those fretful offensive stats with his usual error prone defense and cost himself significant cash and leverage this offseason. He’s still the same player that he was last February with the talent to make 5/77.5 look like a steal, but I think it might be more likely that he takes the Nelson Cruz route by reestablishing his value on a short term deal, possibly even with the Nationals. Max has him at 5/$100Million, so it’s obvious that the market valuations could be all over the place on this guy.
Max: Yoenis Cespedes to Arizona for 5/80. I had no clue on this one. It seem clear he’s not going back to the Mets but that doesn’t leave us anywhere. The Dbacks made sense here because they like power, the have an opening in the outfield, and they might want to pair him with fellow Cuban Yasmani Tomas. Of course, there’s like 10 teams that all essentially fit that description and Sean’s pick of Philadelphia doesn’t sound so crazy. In the end, I think Cespedes’ landing place will depend on how flexible he is with his demands. If he’s willing to go down to 5 years from his preferred 6 that will open up a lot of options for him and I think he can sucker one of the more poorly run teams into overpaying him for his stellar second half.
The Other Guy Definitely Got This Pick Wrong
Sean: Johnny Cueto to the Cubs for 6/$100. Cueto is definitely going to get paid handsomely. He pitched well for the Royals and has established himself as someone who can be counted upon. I just don’t see him landing this type of contract with the Cubs. The Cubs have their top 2 starters in Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. They also have a slew of young position players who will be getting more expensive. I think the Cubs do upgrade their pitching staff, just with a short term contract on a guy like Jeff Samardzija. A shorter term contract will come off the books by the time Addison Russel, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber start to get expensive. Oh yeah, and no shot that Chase Utley signs with the Mets for $100 Million.
Max: Daniel Murphy to the Nationals for 3/38. The Nats already tried the offense first crappy second basemen thing with Dan Uggla last season and that didn’t work out so hot. Moreover, as they’re in the same division as the Mets, they are less likely to be blinded by a couple spectacular weeks in October and more likely to know the type of player Murphy is on a day in, day out basis. Plus, I think Washington is much more likely to go with speed over pop in the middle infield with Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Bryce Harper swinging the big bats. Also, I don’t expect Washington to invest too heavily at second as they have Anthony Rendon who will spend quite a lot of time there while Yunel Escobar mans third.