This offseason has featured plenty of movement via trades and free agent signings, but as we approach the New Year, there are a few players still floating around that could certainly fill in many teams’ needs.
Earlier this offseason, I predicted the potential locations of the top-15 free agents as ranked by MLBTradeRumors. Of the eight that have signed, I was correct on three: Mike Napoli to the Red Sox, Brian McCann to the Yankees and Curtis Granderson to the Mets.
That may not seem like a favorable ratio, but if this were baseball, my average would be .375 -- a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. But rather than stop there, I still have seven more predictions that need to be counted. Here’s a look at the other players who have yet to sign.
Shin Soo-Choo is still on the table. I originally thought he would sign with the Yankees, and frankly, I should have been right. The Yankees reportedly offered Choo a seven-year, $140 million contract -- even after signing Jacoby Ellsbury for seven years and $153 million -- and he turned it down. How does someone turn down that contract given Choo’s body of work? The Yankees wound up signing Carlos Beltran instead.
Anyway, instead Choo could still be in play for the Texas Rangers if his price tag comes down a bit. But at this point, even a surprise team that lost out on one of the other big-time outfielders could make a play for Choo.
Next up is Masahiro Tanaka. Now that the Japanese posting system seems to be sorted out, the rumblings about Tanaka should start heating up. I originally thought both Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda would sign with the Toronto Blue Jays to bolster that starting staff. But Kuroda returned to the Yankees, and even with all the money they’ve spent this offseason, the Bronx Bombers could be future destination of Tanaka.
The Blue Jays certainly still need help in their rotation, so maybe they’ll make a push for Tanaka. But given the reports of his talent, likely all 30 teams will inquire, so it’s tough to say where he eventually winds up.
Right now, I have Ervin Santana predicted as signing with the Washington Nationals. The Nats traded for Doug Fister, so unless they are really going all-in right now, signing Santana seems like a long shot. Sure, a rotation featuring Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Fister and Santana would be dominant, but the Nats could save the money and get by with youngster Tanner Roark or lefty Ross Detwiler. Santana could still be a possibility, but it’s a long shot.
I had a hunch that the Los Angeles Dodgers would look to make a trade of one or two of their starters and then go out and sign Matt Garza. But the team has been mum on the trade front and instead brought in Dan Haren. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu are locks, with Josh Beckett, Haren and Chad Billingsley (returning from Tommy John surgery) in the mix for the final two spots. That likely puts them out of the running for Garza, again unless a trade occurs.
As for A.J. Burnett, it’s not even certain if he’ll play this season, as he is contemplating retirement. He still has enough left in the tank where he could help a team at the back of the rotation and eat up some innings. I originally chose the Pirates as a likely destination to re-sign Burnett given that the team has a bunch of good young arms on the horizon and could use his veteran leadership. Instead though, the Pirates locked up Charlie Morton to an extension and brought in Edinson Volquez. Starting pitching is likely not a priority now.
For the Phillies, losing Roy Halladay to retirement is a huge blow to the starting rotation. Granted, Halladay slowly declined the past few seasons, but he was still a weapon. The Phillies brought in Roberto Hernandez (aka Fausto Carmona), but adding another reliable starter could be on the table. That’s where Ubaldo Jimenez comes in.
I predicted that Jimenez would sign with the Phillies, and that could still be in order. Of course, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee will lead the rotation, but having a guy like Jimenez in the middle could form the bridge to Hernandez and Kyle Kendrick or rookie Miguel Gonzalez.
Finally, Stephen Drew is still available, and interestingly, the New York Mets -- my original prediction for Drew -- are still looking for an upgrade at shortstop. However, Drew and his agent Scott Boras seem to be holding out for a three- or four-year deal, and the Mets likely only want to go two.
Drew’s former team, the Red Sox, could also make a play, unless the team feels comfortable keeping Will Middlebrooks at third base and then Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. If Boston signed Drew, Bogaerts would then shift to third.
So of the remaining seven, maybe I get lucky and have two -- Jimenez and Drew -- sign in my predicted location. That would put me at 5-of-15, a .333 average. Again, that’s good enough for the Hall of Fame in baseball but maybe not so in predictions.
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