The Hot Stove season of 2015 is one of the more exciting ones in recent memory, as this years class is headlined by a couple of big name free agents.
Let’s start with the names already off the books:
Hanley Ramirez, SS.
Former team: Los Angeles Dodgers.
New Team: Boston Red Sox.
Contract: Four years, $88 million dollars ($22 million fifth-year vesting option)
Projection: Hanley is projected to slot in at the 4th spot in the Red Sox lineup, and man left field. This would seem to signal the end of the Yoenis Cespedes experiment in Boston. The Red Sox had said that Cespedes was available, and this projection for Hanley in left seems to signal that Cespedes will be donning another team’s colors come opening day. Moving Cespedes would free up some space in the logjam that is the Boston outfield, with highly-touted Rusney Castillo in center and veteran Shane Victorino in right, as well as prominent youngsters Mookie Betts and Brock Holt ready to step in should injury occur.
Analysis: This is a good move for the Red Sox, and putting Hanley in left will allow exciting, young, Xander Bogaerts to man short stop. The assumption is that the Red Sox would be trying to bring back some pitching in a deal involving Cespedes, as the only sure things in their rotation right now are Clay Buccholz and Joe Kelly as number one and number two, respectively. Of course the Sox are trying to bring Jon Lester back but that wouldn’t eliminate their pitching needs. The thing that would worry me as an executive would be Hanley’s recent struggles to stay on the field, but if he can overcome the injury bug, this deal looks even better.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B.
Former team: San Francisco Giants.
New team: Boston Red Sox.
Contract: 5 years, $95 million dollars. (sixth-year team option)
Projection: Panda is projected to slot right in to the 5th spot in the lineup behind David Ortiz and Ramirez, putting him in a prime RBI position. Panda will not be facing a position change like Hanley, and will stay put at third base. Panda will be a fixture at third base every day, possibly being spelled by Brock Holt for days of rest. Other than that the Red Sox have signed an impact player, and everyone knows that Sandoval can put on a show in the postseason.
Analysis: The Red Sox have an extremely potent lineup now; the Panda is a career .294 hitter, career .346 OBP, and .811 OPS and averages 20 homers per 162 games in the regular season. Over ten postseason series Panda has hit .344, had a .386 OBP, slugged .545 and put out an OPS of .935. If the Red Sox can add some pitching, they’ll be a frightening team.
Yasmany Tomas, OF.
Defected from Cuba.
New Team: Arizona Diamondbacks.
Contract: 6 years, 68.5 million dollars. (fourth-year opt-out clause)
Projection: Not much is known about Tomas, except that he is a big source of power. He’s a question mark on defense, and there are conflicting reports on his speed as well as his swing. The Diamondbacks need a big bat and Tomas represents just that, he should slide in nicely right after Paul Goldschmidt.
Adam LaRoche, 1B.
Former team: Washington Nationals.
New Team: Chicago White Sox.
Contract: 2 years, 25 million dollars.
Projection: LaRoche should slide in nicely in the number 4 spot behind Jose Abreu and provide solid RBIs and decent power, with Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko not doing well in that spot the last few years LaRoche gives a solid option for the Southsiders.
Analysis: This is a good move for the Sox, not too expensive nor too long, like Dunn’s contract, so if LaRoche doesn’t live up to expectations, the Sox aren’t stuck with him.
Remaining Big names.
James Shields, SP.
Former team: Kansas City Royals.
Expected contract: Shields will likely be commanding somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 years and 100 million, and it seems that the Royals won’t be putting up that kind of money for Big Game James, as they have a nice cluster of younger starting pitching talent.
Suitors: Everyone knows that the Cubs are the big buyers this offseason, but so far the Cubs have only inquired about Jon Lester, the market for pitching otherwise has been relatively quiet. Now that the bigger name position players are off the market the pitching market may heat up. Besides the Cubs, other teams reportedly interested in Shields are: Red Sox, White Sox, Marlins, Diamondbacks, and Rangers and Yankees.
Prediction: I believe it is between the Red Sox and Yankees, as both need the pitching- tThe White Sox could be a dark horse buyer as they’re in need of a right handed anchor. It’s too soon to call, the market has been too quiet for any kind of clarity.
Jon Lester, SP.
Former team: Oakland Athelics (traded from Red Sox at deadline)
Expected contract: Lester could easily exceed what Shields will make as his negotiations will probably start around where Shields is set to max out. Lester will probably be seeking somewhere in the range of six years, 120-145 million, and it’s not hard to see he would be worth that kind of money.
Suitors: The Cubs were among the first to contact Lester, as were the Red Sox of course, who are seeking a reunion. The A’s would like to keep Lester, as they gave up Cespedes for him. It seems unlikely as the A’s haven’t been connected to any Lester rumors. The Cubs seem to be the most likely, they have the most payroll flexibility, and a pitching need. The Red Sox have the sentimental pull though, and the Cardinals could be a sneaky pick, Lester is meeting with them next week. The loss of Sandoval could make the Giants a possible location.
Prediction: I think the Cubs win the Lester sweepstakes, they have the most money, and a veteran like Lester could help guide an extremely young team like the Cubs.
Max Scherzer, SP.
Former team: Detroit Tigers.
Expected contract: Mad Max turned down a six-year, $144-million dollar contract, and came out to have an even better year than 2013, so I assume that six years, $140 million is where the talks will start, and could end up above $200 million, and one could hardly argue that Scherzer isn’t worth that money, as he’s an unquestionable ace now.
Suitors: Apparently the Tigers have yet to contact Scherzer, so it would appear that the organization has decided to move forward with David Price as the ace of the club, however, Rick Porcello and Price are entering free agent years, Price said he struggled with his transition to Detroit, but appeared happier later. But the Tigers may not think he’s happy enough to stay in Detroit. Porcello is also a question mark, so do not rule out the Tigers bringing Scherzer back just yet. The Cardinals again could be a sneaky pick here, Scherzer is a native of St. Louis after all and after trading away Shelby Miller, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia‘s health, along with Lackey being 36 in a contract year, it isn’t really a surprise the Birds are looking into Scherzer and Lester. The Dodgers are always players on the FA market, as are the Yankees, and with the rumors surrounding Jordan Zimmerman the Nationals may be players. The Cubs are obviously major players, as with all major free agents. Across the way the White Sox could be dark horses, because as with Shields, the Southsiders need someone else to anchor their rotation, and a one-two punch of Chris Sale and Max Scherzer would make the White Sox immediate favorites to win the AL Central. With the loss of Sandoval, the Giants could be priming for a big move as well.
Prediction: Believe it or not I think the White Sox come on and steal Scherzer away, they have the payroll flexibility and a relatively strong rotation behind him, along with a now-potent offense.
Francisco Liriano, SP.
Former team: Pittsburgh Pirates.
Expected contract: Liriano will be looking for somewhere in the range of 3 years and $40 million. Although if that market isn’t available someone will be sure to offer him a one-year deal.
Suitors: Liriano has been connected to the Marlins, Royals and Pirates, but his market has been relatively quiet otherwise.
Prediction: I think the Royals will bring Liriano in, especially if Shields walks, they could use a good veteran presence to lead their young pitching core. Liriano is easily worth more than one year, he was excellent in his two years in Pittsburgh. I think the only problem is his injuries, which were not even very serious, he broke his non-throwing arm after falling in his apartment in winter 2012, and an oblique injury kept Liriano out the first month of this last season.
Chase Headley, 3B.
Former team: New York Yankees (traded from Padres during season.)
Expected contract: Some teams may be hesitant with Headley after he had a couple of down seasons the last few years. However, he hasn’t been terrible, and could easily be worth the three years, $60-million the Yankees are rumored to be thinking of giving him.
Suitors: Yankees, Giants, Blue Jays. After being traded Headley performed admirably and started hitting again, and now the Yankees are seriously considering bringing him back to help their offense out. The Giants have an obvious void to fill with the departure of Panda and could make a push for Headley. Everyone knows the Jays have been in the market for a third baseman, but the emergence of Munenori Kawasaki may spell that need.
Prediction: The Yankees retain Headley.
These are just predictions. Please stay tuned for information on the status of each of these players throughout the off-season.