Predicting MLB Trade Rumors’ Top 50 Free Agents

We’re bumping this up top overnight because it quickly got buried by the Andrew Brackman news this afternoon. Enjoy.

Earlier today professional good guy Tim Dierkes, owner of MLB Trade Rumors, engaged in his annual practice of predicting where the top 50 free agents will land. He even setup up a contest, which could turn into loads of fun. I encourage everyone to give it a try. It’ll be at least as fun as ottoneu’s Pick Six.

Much as I enjoy Tim’s work, I found myself disagreeing with many of his free agent picks, particularly the ones towards the top of the list. Instead of entering his contest, I thought it would be worthwhile to print his list with my own predictions. There are a lot of tough choices here, and there’s no way I’ll get more than half of these right. But given team needs needs, resources, and inclinations, here how I think the free agent market shakes out.

1. Albert Pujols – Cardinals. They signed Matt Holliday for seven years and $120 million. It’s hard to do that and then, two winters later, let the best player in baseball walk.

2. Prince Fielder – Brewers. Tim has him going to the Mariners, which could be funny for Yankees fans. He’d probably DH at first — which is one reason I don’t think he’d sign there — but he could loom as Justin Smoak’s replacement. And then we could think back to the Cliff Lee trade and giggle a bit. But ultimately I think the Brewers will lay out and keep their killer three-four combo in tact.

3. Jose Reyes – Tigers. Tim picked the Brewers, but I can’t see them letting Fielder walk and signing Reyes, even if Reyes will probably get a little less money. There are a few other options here, but there are issues. The Dodgers could fit, but their financial situation is unknown. Ditto the Mets, who I’d put as the No. 2 suitor. The Giants had a record payroll in 2011, missed the playoffs, and have about $90 million committed to 2012 (counting Lincecum) with plenty of spots to fill. The Nationals could jump in, I suppose. The Red Sox would probably be the favorites had they not signed Carl Crawford last off-season. The Cardinals are going to be at a huge payroll level after Pujols. That leaves the Tigers. They cut payroll by almost $20 million from 2010 to 2011, and made the playoffs. They could make the outlay for Reyes and really shore up their offense.

4. C.J. Wilson – Cubs. Chances are Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer aren’t planning a big run in 2012, but they do need pitching in the long term. Their starters were in the bottom third of the league, and they do have a few openings. They surely plan to contend in 2013, and any contract Wilson signs will keep him around through at least 2015, and probably 2016.

5. Yu Darvish – Yankees. The Yankees have the resources, and he would probably represent a better deal for them than Wilson. I laid out the case for Darvish and stand by it.

6. Edwin Jackson – Nationals. If they miss out on Wilson, I fully expect them to beat other teams’ offers for Jackson.

7. Jimmy Rollins – Phillies. They don’t have the cash to sign Reyes, and they’re not starting the season with Wilson Valdez at shortstop if they can help it. The Giants might be interested if they don’t sign Reyes, but I really see the Giants going with a lower cost option.

8. Aramis Ramirez – Brewers. They claim poverty often, but after a deep playoff run I can see the Brewers again making a run in 2012, especially if they bring back Fielder. They definitely have an opening at third, and I don’t see Ramirez getting a ludicrous contract this winter. The wild card here is Tim’s pick, the Orioles. But will a new GM make the same kind of mistakes that old regimes made? No, I think the Orioles will try a different approach this winter and avoid a potential mistake in Ramirez. There’s another wild card here, too, but I view it as far less likely.

9. Carlos Beltran – Giants. Their offense was putrid in 2011, and they could use a full season of Beltran in right field. They’ll have an opening for him, too, so it’s a perfect fit.

10. Jonathan Papelbon – Red Sox. It’s hard to see him leaving, especially given other teams’ financial situations. I don’t see a team like the Reds laying out that much for a closer.

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Yankees shut out of Gold Glove awards

Via Chad Jennings, no Yankees will be taking home a Gold Glove award this year. Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia beat out Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano at first and second bases, respectively, while Alex Gordon edged Brett Gardner in left field. The first two are nothing to get worked up over, but I think we all know that Gardner deserved the award for his work in left this season. Hopefully he hits enough to win a Gold Glove one of these years.

In other news, Gardner did win the left field Fielding Bible Award for the second consecutive season, an award that does a much better job of reflecting defensive value than the Gold Gloves. There’s only one Fielding Bible Award per position too, not one per league.

Open Thread: Taiwan

(Ben Platt/MLB.com)

Hard to believe that’s it’s already November, but the good news is that we get some baseball back. The 2011 MLB All-Star Series in Taiwan started today, and the game will be broadcast tonight on MLB Network at 9pm ET. It’s not live, the game has already been played, so I won’t spoil it here. If you’re interesting in knowing who won and what happened though, just click here for the recap. All I will tell you is that both Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano (the headliners) did play in the game, and Jeremy Guthrie was the starter. Former Yankee Chien-Ming Wang is schedule to start the finale of the five-game series on Sunday. He’s pitching for the Chinese Taipei team, of course.

Anyway, here is your open thread for this wonderful yet chilly evening. None of the local hockey teams are in action, so it looks like the MLB-Chinese Taipei game is your only sports for the night. You can talk about that and pretty much anything else you want here. Have at it.

Discussion Topic: Do you think CC Sabathia left money on the table by taking the extension from the Yankees?

Yankees, Garcia have mutual interest in 2012 reunion

Via Mark Hale and George King, the Yankees have interest in bringing Freddy Garcia back in 2012. “There’s definitely interest on their part and there’s interest on Freddy’s part in coming back,” said Garcia’s agent Peter Greenberg. The NY Post duo also reports that the Yankees are likely to offer Garcia arbitration, a Type-B free agent.

It’s very unlikely that Sweaty Freddy will repeat his 3.62 ERA, but his 4.12 FIP was almost exactly league average this past summer. Starters that can give a team 150 league average innings have definite value at the back of the rotation (Garcia threw 146.2 IP in 2011), which I assume is where the Yankees hope to use him next season. Now, if they’re counting on him to be their number three starter…

Cashman Conference Call Notes: Burnett, Yu, Montero, Martin, Cervelli, Posada, More

(AP Photo/John Marshall Mantel)

Brian Cashman held a conference call with reporters this afternoon following the announcement of his new three-year contract, and he downplayed the significance of running a New York team. “It’s an easier situation for me because I haven’t really been anywhere else,” said the Yankees-lifer. “This is all I know.”

The biggest piece of news to come out of the conference call was Andrew Brackman’s release. You win some and you lose some a lot in the draft, and in Brackman’s case, the Yankees spent nearly $11M (according to Pete Caldera) to have him face 13 big league hitters. Ouch. Cashman also confirmed that the starting rotation will continue to be the team’s priority this offseason (duh), though they could still add a second left-handed reliever as well. Here’s a list of the free agent lefty relievers, in case you’re wondering who might fill Damaso Marte‘s DL spot next season. Here are the rest of the notes from the press conference…

Pitching

  • “We’re in a position now to take our time and explore and digest as well as pursue, but at our own pace, not in an emotional or reactive state,” said Cashman when asked about pursuing pitching. “It allows us to survey the landscape in a more conservative way. [Re-signing CC Sabathia] provides us a lot of security.” (Mark Feinsand, Chad Jennings & Marc Carig)
  • “He’s had to deal with adversity because of the inconsistent performance,”said Cashman when asked about A.J. Burnett. “He still was able to step up in October.” Cashman did laud Burnett’s ability to take the ball every five days and be accountable after his starts. Unless something unexpected happens, A.J will be in the rotation next season. (Kim Jones)
  • As for Yu Darvish, Cashman simply said: “I think like with anything else you learn over time. I think we’re more prepared today than we have been in the past.” I take that to mean the Yankees did more research on Darvish than they did with Kei Igawa, but that’s a quote open to (mis)interpretation. (Jon Lane)
  • Cashman confirmed that Rafael Soriano did not exercise his opt-out clause before last night’s deadline and will be with the team in 2012. (Anthony McCarron)

Offense

  • When asked about soon-to-be free agents like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, Cashman said: “I don’t anticipate a bat being a need at all. Offense is not a problem with this club despite what happened in the Detroit series.” (Bryan Hoch & Feinsand)
  • Picking up Nick Swisher‘s option was “an easy call,” and the GM isn’t concerned too much about his right fielder’s third straight poor postseason showing. (Feinsand)
  • As for Jesus Montero‘s role with the team next season, Cashman said: “He could be a catcher, he could be a DH, he could be a bat off the bench, depending on how the roster looks.” (Jones)

Miscellaneous

  • As for the trade market, Cashman said he’s open “to anybody’s ideas” and is willing to discuss a deal involving Burnett or pretty much anyone else on the roster. “If anybody wants to approach me on anybody on this roster, if they don’t have a full no-trade clause, worst I can tell em is no.” Burnett has a partial no-trade clause, but as yesterday’s Derek Lowe trade showed, A.J. has minimal trade value. (Jones, Hoch & Dan Barbarisi)
  • Cashman said that a long-term deal for Russell Martin is possible, but he likes the flexibility that their upper level catching depth provides. “He’s under our control [as an arbitration-eligible player]. He was fantastic, he didn’t disappoint … I’m a big fan.” (Kim Jones)
  • Cashman on Jorge Posada‘s future: “That’s something we’ll have to discuss here on the short term … it’s not something I’m prepared to talk about today.” (Barbarisi)
  • “[Frankie Cervelli] is fine,” said Cashman. “He’s full-bore, ready to go as a catcher.” That’s good news. Frankie suffered his third concussion in four years in early-September. (Jones)
  • Cashman also confirmed that no one big league roster needs any kind of offseason surgery. (Jennings)

Yankees release Andrew Brackman

On a conference call with reporters, Brian Cashman confirmed that the team did not exercise Andrew Brackman‘s option for 2012 and the right-hander is now a free agent. Had the Yankees picked up the option, they would have paid him a $1M salary in the big leagues and a $500k salary in the minors according to Keith Law.

Brackman should still be under team control as a pre-arbitration-eligible player since he has less than three years of service time, but a clause in his contract stipulated that the team must release him if they declined the option. Presumably, the Yankees could still re-sign their 2007 first round pick to a minor league deal or something. The 40-man roster now sits at 34, but Colin Curtis must still be activated off the 60-day DL.

Scouting The Free Agent Market: Paul Maholm

The offseason is officially underway, so the Yankees search for starting pitching can begin in earnest. Getting CC Sabathia back under contract was just the very first order of business; we know the search doesn’t end there. Everyone knows about C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish, but they aren’t the only names out there this winter.

The Pirates officially declined Paul Maholm’s 2012 option yesterday, paying him a $750k buyout rather than keep him at $9.75M salary next season. The 29-year-old left-hander hits the market (as an unranked free agent) after posting career bests in ERA (3.66) and FIP (3.78) this past season, but the NL Central is a much different animal than the AL East. Let’s take a deeper look to see if he has anything to offer the Yankees, starting with the cons…

The Cons

  • Maholm simply doesn’t miss bats, never has and probably never will. His best strikeout season came back in 2008, when he whiffed 6.02 per nine while getting a swing-and-miss 8.4% of the time. His whiff rate has declined every year since then, bottoming out at 5.7% in 2011. Over the last three seasons his strikeout rate is an underwhelming 5.28 K/9 (5.38 in 2011).
  • Although he’s thrown 175+ IP in five of the last six years, his innings total has gone down every year since peaking at 206.1 IP in 2008. Maholm has only been on the DL once in his career, this past season when a shoulder strain ended his season in late-August. Dr. James Andrews found no structural damage, and the southpaw recently announced on Twitter that he’s been cleared for workouts.
  • It didn’t show up too much this year, but Maholm has always had a rather prominent platoon split. Over the last three years, he’s held lefties to a .268 wOBA with a 3.2 K/BB ratio and 53.1% grounders while righties have tagged him for a .345 wOBA with a 1.6 K/BB and 50.7% grounders.
  • Maholm’s performance away from the basically neutral PNC Park has been pretty bad through his career, and he’s gotten smacked around by AL lineups during interleague play.

The Pros

  • He lacks the whiffs, but Maholm does make up for it with control and ground balls. His unintentional walk rate has held at a steady 2.82 uIBB/9 throughout his career (2.66 last three years, 2.44 in 2011), and his 52.3% ground ball rate has been consistent as well (51.1% last three years, 49.9% in 2011). Because he allows so many balls in play, Maholm will always be at the mercy of his defense.
  • The ground ball rate has helped Maholm keep the ball in the park (0.66 HR/9 and 7.5% HR/FB over the last three years), but it’s interesting that his HR/FB rate went from 12%+ in 2006-2008 to 7.5% from 2009-2011. The improvement coincides with the increased use of his low-80’s slider (from ~4% to ~13%) and high-80’s two-seamer (~4% to ~35%). I suspect that’s more than just a coincidence.
  • Maholm also throws a high-80’s four-seamer, a low-80’s changeup, and a low-70’s curveball. He’s a true five-pitch guy, using each offering at least 10% of the time in recent years. He also has a solid pickoff move, allowing just 30 steals against nine pickoffs in the last three seasons.

Pittsburgh’s decision to decline the option tells you that even a pitching starved team doesn’t value Maholm’s expected 2012 performance at a net price of $9M (they were paying him $750k one way or the other). The Yankees shouldn’t expect him to be anything more than a depth starter, the number five guy or maybe even a pen arm. There’s no reason for Maholm to accept a reduced role like that, someone in this league will guarantee him a rotation spot and that’s where he should go. He’s interesting because he’s reasonably young and left-handed, but it’s hard to envision Maholm having much of an impact on a contending AL team.