MLB free agency: Cano is name to know
Hot-stove league ready to get cooking
While more than 175 players became free agents Thursday, the day after the World Series ended, the hot-stove spotlight will shine squarely on one player -- Robinson Cano.
The New York Yankees second baseman is the lone superstar in an otherwise humdrum free agent class.
Cano is the complete package. The past five seasons, he batted a composite .314 with a .369 on-base percentage, a .530 slugging percentage and averages of 28.4 homers and 102.6 RBIs. He is also a two-time Gold Glove winner.
The question is, will another team get into a bidding war with the Yankees for Cano's services? Cano reportedly set his starting price at 10 years and at least $300 million, figures that Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said earlier this month were a non-starter.
"We'll see if he gets it, how much he wants to be in New York," Steinbrenner said in an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM in early October. "But, again, I can promise it is going to be a very, very solid offer that we do make because we are going to try. We are going to try the best we can to keep him."
The Yankees are never hurting for cash, but they will have a bit more to spend this winter after the retirement of closer Mariano Rivera, who made $10 million last season, and left-handed starter Andy Pettitte, who received $12 million in 2013.
Other teams that could speak with Cano, according to media reports, might include the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers.
After Cano, the fall-off in the free agent market is steep, with the outfield and catcher positions stacking up as the deepest.
Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz and Curtis Granderson are the top available outfield talents.
Choo, 31, thrived in his lone season with the Cincinnati Reds, hitting .285 with a .423 OBP (second in the National League), a .462 slugging percentage, 21 homers, 54 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. The leadoff hitter reportedly will receive interest from the Yankees, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners and Rangers.
Ellsbury, 30, is also a leadoff hitter. He doesn't get on base as often as Choo, but he is a three-time American League stolen-base champ.
Beltran, 36, showed in the postseason that he is far from over the hill.
Cruz, 33, carries the stigma of a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing-drug scandal, but past history suggests a team in need of a slugger will open the checkbook and give him a hefty deal.
Granderson, 32, played just 61 games this year due to injuries, but the previous two seasons he averaged 42 homers and 112.5 RBIs.
The free agent catching pool includes Brian McCann, Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
McCann, 29, is a seven-time All-Star. He hit at least 20 homers each of the past six years, excellent power production from a catcher. According to baseball analyst Peter Gammons, the Yankees figure to be the top bidder for McCann's services, with the Rangers also in the mix.
The top free agent pitcher could be a right-handed import from Japan.
Masahiro Tanaka, 24, produced otherworldly stats this year. In 28 games (27 starts) for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Tanaka went 24-0 with one save and a 1.27 ERA.
If the 2012 arrival of Yu Darvish from Japan serves as a guide, Tanaka and Rakuten will soon be in for large paydays. The Rangers paid Darvish's Japanese team $51.7 million to earn the right to negotiate with him, then gave the right-hander a six-year, $56 million contract.
The other top starting pitchers on the market include Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Hiroki Kuroda, Bartolo Colon, Dan Haren and Ubaldo Jimenez. The free agent relief corps features Joe Nathan, Fernando Rodney and Grant Balfour.
The leading available infield talent includes first basemen Mike Napoli, Paul Konerko, Kendrys Morales and Justin Morneau; second basemen Cano and Omar Infante; shortstops Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta; and third basemen Juan Uribe and Michael Young.
Below is a team-by-team look at free agents, with an analysis of which players are likely to be re-signed.
FREE AGENTS: INF/OF Willie Bloomquist, 3B Eric Chavez, C Wil Nieves
Bloomquist was very productive in his three seasons with the D-backs, as his .317 batting average demonstrated this season. However, he was hampered by injuries the past two years, and he had only 139 at-bats this season around two stints on the disabled list. The D-backs are deep at shortstop and may look to re-sign him only if they make another deal. Chavez was very productive, with 44 RBIs in 228 at-bats, and he could return in the right scenario. Nieves had one of his best seasons and is likely to be re-signed.
FREE AGENTS: RHP Manuel Corpas, 1B Todd Helton, LHP Jeff Francis, RHP Roy Oswalt, C Yorvit Torrealba, RHP Matt Belisle, RHP Rafael Betancourt (mutual option)
Helton retired after the season. Francis and Torrealba are not expected to return. And while Oswalt would like to, it's questionable what he has left at age 36 after compiling an 8.63 ERA in nine games, six starts and 32 1/3 innings, albeit despite missing two months with a left hamstring strain. Oswalt has talked to the Rockies about being invited to spring training, believing he can compete for a rotation spot with a full offseason. Corpas could be back in a middle-relief role, but he easily could be deemed expendable as the Rockies reconstruct their bullpen. Betancourt will miss all of next year after elbow surgery.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
FREE AGENTS: RHP Brian Wilson, LHP J.P. Howell, RHP Carlos Marmol, RHP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Edinson Volquez, 3B Juan Uribe, INF Michael Young, INF/OF Skip Schumaker, INF Nick Punto, INF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr.
It's a long list that could get longer if the Dodgers don't pick up the options on 2B Mark Ellis and LHP Chris Capuano. The bench will need to be rebuilt if Punto et al. are not re-signed. And the bullpen will take a hit if Howell and Wilson (who will likely sign to be a closer elsewhere) do not return.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
FREE AGENTS: SS Ronny Cedeno, RHP Jason Marquis, OF Mark Kotsay (retired)
The Padres aren't expected to offer Cedeno what his market value might be. Marquis is coming off elbow reconstruction surgery and might not pitch in 2014.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
FREE AGENTS: LHP Javier Lopez, LHP Barry Zito, RHP Chad Gaudin, OF Andres Torres, RHP Ryan Vogelsong (club option)
Lopez is the next guy in line for the Giants to go after. Don't expect Zito or Torres back unless they're willing to sign a minor league deal. Gaudin had some physical and legal issues that might or might not alter the Giants' interest.
FREE AGENTS: C Dioner Navarro, RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Scott Baker, RHP Matt Guerrier
You'd be hard-pressed to find a better backup catcher in baseball than Navarro. He was a valuable mentor to Welington Castillo, and he had a career year at the plate, batting .300 with 13 home runs, several of them big. It would behoove the Cubs to re-sign him, but they may not be able to afford him. Gregg is likely a goner, and Baker would have to give the Cubs some sort of "hometown discount" after he essentially used the entire season to rehab for $5.5 million. Guerrier missed the last seven weeks of the season due to an elbow injury.
FREE AGENTS: CF Shin-Soo Choo, RHP Bronson Arroyo, LHP Manny Parra, RHP Nick Masset, LHP Zach Duke, INF Cesar Izturis
Choo and Arroyo are likely to be too expensive. Parra, who revived his career under pitching coach Bryan Price, now the Reds' manager, probably could be signed to a reasonable deal.
FREE AGENTS: 1B Corey Hart, INF Yuniesky Betancourt, LHP Michael Gonzalez
Hart expressed a desire to stay in Milwaukee but after two knee surgeries in 2013, he presents a real gamble should the Brewers commit to him at first base. They will need to be confident in his medicals to do so, but have no other great option at this point. Betancourt and Gonzalez, who declined as the season progressed, likely will move on.
FREE AGENTS: SS Clint Barmes, C John Buck, RHP A.J. Burnett, RF Marlon Byrd, RHP Kyle Farnsworth, RHP Jeff Karstens, 1B Justin Morneau.
Burnett has hinted at retirement and says he will only pitch for the Pirates if he decides to keep playing, though that could change after he was bypassed in favor of rookie Gerrit Cole to start Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals. Byrd and Morneau, who were acquired in late-August trades, could be back if neither tries to break the bank. The Pirates have some interest in retaining Barmes, but he would need to take a significant pay cut from his $5.5 million salary of 2013 while also accepting a reduced role. It seems unlikely the Pirates will bring back Buck, Farnsworth or Karstens, who missed the entire season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
FREE AGENTS: OF Carlos Beltran, RHP Chris Carpenter, SS Rafael Furcal, RHP Edward Mujica, RHP Jake Westbrook (mutual option)
Beltran further solidified himself as a clutch postseason performer during the Cardinals run, but at his age he needs numerous days off to survive the grind of the regular season. He will generate plenty of interest should he get to the free agent market. Furcal missed the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. At age 36, his value figures to be diminished this winter, so it is possible the Cardinals could give him another look. Carpenter's career might be over due to a nerve problem in his right shoulder. Mujica lost the closer role in September and turned into a relative non-entity in the postseason. Westbrook's mutual option is for $9.5 million, and he would receive a $1 million buyout if the Cardinals decide to pass, which is the likely scenario. After a mediocre regular season, Westbrook was dropped from the postseason roster.
FREE AGENTS: C Brian McCann, RHP Tim Hudson, LHP Eric O'Flaherty, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Freddy Garcia, LHP Scott Downs, RHP Luis Ayala, RHP Kameron Loe
McCann has made seven All-Star Games and is a local product, but the Braves are unlikely to match the five-year offer at about $75 million that he could get from an American League team. Maholm and Downs are not expected to return, but the Braves could retain Hudson and O'Flaherty, who are both coming off injuries.
FREE AGENTS: OF Matt Diaz, OF Austin Kearns, OF Juan Pierre, 3B Placido Polanco, RHP Chad Qualls
Pierre loves Miami but he'd have to accept a bench role. Qualls could get an offer from Miami, but the others are less likely to return because they don't fit into Miami's plans.
NEW YORK METS
FREE AGENTS: RHP David Aardsma, LHP Tim Byrdak, LHP Pedro Feliciano, RHP Frank Francisco, RHP Aaron Harang, RHP LaTroy Hawkins, RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, LHP Johan Santana (club option)
As they work to rebuild their bullpen again, the Mets could re-sign one or more of their free agent relievers, though none are a priority. Harang and Matsuzaka are unlikely to be back as well. Santana is still rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder, making him unlikely to pitch anywhere next season.
FREE AGENTS: RHP Roy Halladay, C Carlos Ruiz, RHP Zach Miner, LHP John Lannan
The biggest name on the list is Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, including one with Philadelphia in 2010. Halladay is coming off shoulder surgery and has looked bad over the past two seasons, but Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has expressed an interest in bringing Halladay back. Ruiz will be a free agent for the first time, but it is expected that Philadelphia will make a strong attempt to bring him back on a shorter term deal.
FREE AGENTS: RHP Dan Haren, 1B/OF Chad Tracy, C Carlos Maldonado, LHP Fernando Abad, RHP Ross Ohlendorf
Haren had a great second half of the season but is too costly and would have to come back in a different salary slot with an incentive-laden deal. Tracy did not have a productive season and will not return. Maldonado was purely catching depth and the Nationals are happy with Jhonatan Solano and Sandy Leon behind Wilson Ramos. Abad has a shot because left-handed relief was a weakness but will have competition from Xavier Cedeno, Ian Krol and a likely veteran free agent. There could be a place in the bullpen for Ohlendorf as a long reliever and spot starter.
FREE AGENTS: LHP Erik Bedard
The Astros will talk to Bedard about returning, but it's unclear if they'll be serious about retain him. He was extremely respected by his teammates.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
FREE AGENTS: LHP Jason Vargas
The Angels will try to re-sign Vargas, but they need to get him on friendly financial terms. Don't expect them to make him the $14 million qualifying offer, because if Vargas accepted it, that salary would force the Angels to move someone else to stay under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold.
FREE AGENTS: RHP Grant Balfour, RHP Bartolo Colon
The A's do not spend much money on the bullpen, and there are two or three candidates to close on the current roster, so Balfour is expected to depart. Colon told the San Francisco Chronicle he'd like to return to Oakland, and general manager Billy Beane said the team would be foolish not to have real interest in doing that, so there's a decent chance the 40-year-old will be back.
FREE AGENTS: C Henry Blanco, OF Endy Chavez, OF Raul Ibanez, DH Kendrys Morales, LHP Oliver Perez, C Humberto Quintero, OF Franklin Gutierrez (club option), LHP Joe Saunders (mutual option)
Morales is the marquee name on this list, and the Scott Boras client could see plenty of money thrown his way. He was a key factor in Seattle's lineup this season, but the Mariners won't overpay to bring him back. Age is the big concern with Ibanez, Blanco and Perez, while the Saunders decision will be an interesting one because the only other healthy left-handed starter on the roster is rookie James Paxton.
FREE AGENTS: INF Jeff Baker, DH Lance Berkman, OF Nelson Cruz, RHP Jason Frasor, RHP Matt Garza, RHP Colby Lewis, OF David Murphy, C A.J. Pierzynski, C Geovany Soto, RHP Joe Nathan (mutual option)
The Rangers will make a strong pitch to re-sign Garza but won't go overboard because they have a good deal of pitching depth. They also would like to bring Cruz back despite his 50-game suspension late in the season. Pierzynski's status depends on whether the Rangers are able to sign free agent Brian McCann to be their starting catcher. Soto could return as the No. 2 catcher again if he isn't looking to break the bank. The same goes for Baker and Frasor. Murphy's time with the Rangers appears to be up following a disappointing season. The Rangers would only bring the injury-plagued Lewis back on a minor league contract that is primarily incentive-based.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
FREE AGENTS: 1B/DH Paul Konerko, RHP Gavin Floyd, RHP Matt Lindstrom (club option)
The Sox will have two decisions in free agency, starting with picking up the $4 million club option for Lindstrom. But all eyes will be on Konerko and the decision coming from the team captain. Konerko could retire or may play one more year. The big decision for the Sox will be if he does play one more year will it be on the South Side? With 1B Jose Abreu signing with Chicago, Konerko almost certainly is headed elsewhere unless the White Sox can unload DH Adam Dunn and the $15 million he is owed for next year.
FREE AGENTS: RHP Matt Albers, DH Jason Giambi, LHP Rich Hill, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (mutual option), LHP Scott Kazmir, OF Jason Kubel (club option), C Kelly Shoppach, RHP Joe Smith
Jimenez has an $8 million mutual option for 2014 with a $1 million buyout. The Indians clearly will have to offer him a multiyear deal to keep him in Cleveland. Kubel has a $7.5 million club option for 2014 with a $1 million buyout. His status could depend on whether the Indians re-sign Giambi, which is not out of the question. Kazmir, like Jimenez, is a valued piece of the rotation whom the Indians would have to offer a multiyear deal in order to keep. Smith was the club's best reliever the past five years, and he could be a closer candidate next year. It could be a challenge for the Indians to re-sign him, because he might get some attractive offers in the market place. The Indians will attempt to bring back Albers, who had a quietly effective year as a bullpen workhorse, which endears him to manager Terry Francona. Hill is a fringe reliever who did not pitch well this year. The Indians may feel they can do better.
FREE AGENTS: LHP Jose Alvarez, RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Jeremy Bonderman, RHP Octavio Dotel, 2B Omar Infante, C Brayan Pena, SS/LF Jhonny Peralta, INF Ramon Santiago, LF Matt Tuiasosopo
Detroit would like to retain Benoit and Infante but both may get better offers elsewhere. Dotel won't return and is expected to retire. Pena might be back and Alvarez will probably be offered a minor league deal. Peralta doesn't fit and would be too expensive to be a backup. Santiago and Tuiasosopo are likely to be allowed to leave.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
FREE AGENTS: RHP Ervin Santana, LHP Bruce Chen, INF Jamey Carroll, INF Miguel Tejada, 1B Carlos Pena, RHP James Shields (club option)
There is no doubt the Royals want Santana back, but whether they will be able to come close to matching other high-dollar offers he is certain to receive remains a key question. They certainly will make a qualifying one-year offer, so to receive a high draft pick in return if he signs with another club. Chen would like to remain in Kansas City and the Royals would like to have him back, but at what price? Carroll, who turns 40 on Feb. 18, won't be back. The Royals have no interest in bringing back Pena on a big-league contract. Tejada, who finished the 2013 season on a PED suspension, is unlikely to be back in the majors.
FREE AGENTS: RHP Nick Blackburn, RHP Mike Pelfrey
Pelfrey should be a priority signing for the Twins since he will be a season removed from Tommy John surgery, he got stronger as the season went on and he wants to return to Minnesota. He may want a multi-year deal, which might be tough to swallow for the rebuilding Twins, but they will need his veteran leadership. Blackburn spent the entire season in minor leagues recovering from a couple injuries. If he comes back it will have to be at a significantly reduced price from his previous deal ($3.5 million per season). Blackburn's time as a Twin may be done.
FREE AGENTS: 2B Brian Roberts, LF Nate McLouth, OF/1B Michael Morse, RHP Francisco Rodriguez, C Chris Snyder, RHP Scott Feldman, RHP Jason Hammel, 2B Alexi Casilla (club option)
Roberts and McLouth could return if the Orioles can get them at the right price. Morse is unlikely to return after going 3-for-29 with no extra base hits. Rodriguez and Snyder could return, though the club may look to upgrade both the bullpen and the backup catcher spot. Snyder could be a candidate for a minor league contract.
BOSTON RED SOX
FREE AGENTS: SS Stephen Drew, CF Jacoby Ellsbury, RHP Joel Hanrahan, LHP Jon Lester (club option), INF John McDonald, 1B Mike Napoli, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, LHP Matt Thornton.
Boston undoubtedly will pick up Lester's $13 million option. Drew and Napoli both signed make-good deals with the Red Sox, and both made good. Drew provided solid defense and a better-than-expected bat in the regular season, though he slumped in the postseason. Napoli provided a powerful lineup presence and played above-average defense, a pleasant surprise from the converted catcher. If the Red Sox decide Ryan Lavarnway isn't ready to be the everyday catcher, they could attempt to re-sign Saltalamacchia. Hanrahan underwent Tommy John surgery in May. With the way RHP Koji Uehara pitched as the closer, Hanrahan is unlikely to return to Boston. McDonald and Thornton were both left off the playoff roster.
NEW YORK YANKEES
FREE AGENTS: 2B Robinson Cano, RHP Joba Chamberlain, OF Curtis Granderson, DH Travis Hafner, RHP Phil Hughes, RHP Hiroki Kuroda, LHP Boone Logan, 1B Lyle Overbay, LHP Andy Pettitte (retired), 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, RHP Mariano Rivera (retired), SS Brendan Ryan, C Chris Stewart, 3B/1B Kevin Youkilis
Cano figures to get huge offers on the free agent market. Of course, no team can outbid the Yankees if they open the checkbook, which they almost certainly will do for Cano. Hughes likely pitched his way out of town with a miserable season. Youkilis was signed to a one-year deal to fill in for 3B Alex Rodriguez and 1B Mark Teixeira, but he wound up missing most of the season due to injury. He or Reynolds could be re-signed again as a third base fill-in should Rodriguez's suspension be upheld.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
FREE AGENTS: RHP Jesse Crain, OF David DeJesus (club option), SS Yunel Escobar (club option), RHP Roberto Hernandez, INF Kelly Johnson, 1B James Loney, C Jose Molina, RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (club option), RHP Fernando Rodney, DH Luke Scott, RHP Jamey Wright, DH Delmon Young, 2B/Ben Zobrist (club option).
Among the players with options, Escobar and Zobrist definitely will be back, with DeJesus a question pending potential leftfield upgrades and Oviedo, who didn't make it back from Tommy John surgery during the season, less likely. Among the others, the Rays will have interest in Loney and Rodney, but their pursuit will be limited financially so interest from other teams will drive the process. Molina, Wright and Young are also possibilities to return.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
FREE AGENTS: RHP Josh Johnson, OF Rajai Davis, LHP Darren Oliver, RHP Ramon Ortiz, DH Adam Lind (club option), INF Mark DeRosa (club option), RHP Casey Janssen (club option), INF Munenori Kawasaki (club option)
Johnson poses a big problem. He's coming off a two-win season and the Blue Jays must offer him $14 million for one year to gain compensation if someone signs him. But he might take that and hope to re-enter free agency next year off a better season. And what if he doesn't rebound? Lind has a $7 million club option that likely will be exercised. Davis is best used off the bench or as a fourth outfielder. He can steal bases (45 this season) and this makes him valuable in this role, but he is prone to mistakes on the bases and in the field. DeRosa is considering retirement at 38, and Oliver said he is retiring. Johnson's option will be picked up.