Every year, MLB.com puts together a game called Free Agent Frenzy. The rules are simple: predict where players will sign. The winner will get Opening Day tickets. I’ve always enjoyed this game, as I have interest in trying to figure out the plans of certain teams. You may have guessed by now, but we’ll be going through my Free Agent Frenzy picks and why. For those that want to play, the link is above. This is one of the more difficult years for my participation in the game, as there doesn’t really seem to be an obvious lock in the bunch.
Michael Bourn - I’m going to go with the Giants here in a bit of a surprise. Yes, Angel Pagan did well for San Francisco, but Bourn is a cut above. The Giants are dropping significant money this season and will drop even more after 2013 when Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum expire. They have plenty of money and need to make sure their offense continues to win games for pitching. Adding a dynamic speed threat at the top of the lineup makes a lot of sense for the Giants.
Zack Greinke – The Angels make the most sense to me here. The club gave up a young, cost-controllable hitter in Jean Segura for Greinke’s services at the trade deadline. L.A. is moving to cut ties with Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, which will open up a gaping hole in the rotation. But given those two pitchers coming off the books, they also have an ability to bring Greinke back for significant dollars. All indications show that Greinke — a creature of habit — enjoyed California, and there’s no other contender that can offer the same amount of money, location and a hands-off media.
Josh Hamilton – The Marlins. Look, to sign Hamilton to a long-term deal, the right team has to come along. It has to be a team that’s concerned about its publicity, has money to burn, an obvious need in the outfield and a history of somewhat irrational decisions. The Marlins fulfill all three more than any other team. After the disappointment of their inaugural season in Miami, the club will want to recapture some momentum. The only stumbling block to Hamilton in Miami is just how miserly owner Jeffrey Loria is with the pursestrings. After last year, will he quickly abandon his attempts to make baseball relevant in Miami, or will he not be deterred?
Kyle Lohse – Dan Duquette strikes here for the Orioles. Baltimore needs pitching depth and preferably a veteran that can help anchor the top of the rotation as the youngsters come along. After a fantasy season, Baltimore is relevant in the free-agent circles, but they won’t be able to sign the premier pitcher on the market in Greinke. Lohse is their next best bet, and given Duquette’s history as well as his necessity in keeping the momentum moving in Baltimore, they won’t be as gunshy about Lohse’s age and post-St. Louis Cardinals career and will pay what it takes.
Mike Napoli – I just don’t see how the Rangers can let Napoli get away. They have zero catching depth without Napoli, and Geovany Soto does not count. Money isn’t an issue in Texas, and they already have to figure out their new outfield after Hamilton walks. Napoli is well within their price range and they already know him well. There’s a lack of available catching both in free agency and on the trade market. The Rangers need to pony up here for Napoli — he would be a bigger loss than Hamilton to the club, believe it or not.
Angel Pagan – In a thin free agent market, Pagan looks like he could get a decent haul — somewhere in the neighborhood of three years and $30 million. I think he’s a good fit for the Rays, but he’s probably priced himself out of Tampa’s market if he’ll land an offer in that range. Washington makes sense for center field, but only if Adam LaRoche doesn’t resign with the Nats to man first base, and that looks likely. The guess here is he heads to Philadelphia, who needs to fill multiple spots of need and needs to spread money around in their signings.
Nick Swisher – Swisher looks like he’s a goner in New York, so he’ll have to land elsewhere. But where? Swisher was actually the last person I assigned a team in the Frenzy, because I wasn’t sure what team would be in the market for him. There are several possible landing places I could see, including the Marlins, but with Hamilton in the fold, Swisher wouldn’t be an option. Instead, I’m tabbing the Mariners. It’s time for Seattle to start taking a step forward to contending, and reports that the team is up for sale only work in Swisher’s favor as the M’s will try to assemble a contender and make them attractive to buyers. Justin Smoak just may be finished in Seattle as a first baseman, while the outfield is a bit of a mess and could really use Swisher’s sock.
BJ Upton – Don’t sleep on the Brewers this season. They have some money to burn and a desire to stay contenders. While they also need to address their pitching depth, the biggest change they can make on offense is in center field. Upton is still a young player, so still has some upside and would provide Milwaukee with an additional power bat.
Delmon Young – The Phillies have a scattershot outfield, with no obvious starter at any position, anywhere. Given the Phillies’ proud resistance to statistics, Young’s OBP won’t scare them off. If anything, his postseason heroics will make GM Ruben Amaro’s ears perk up. Young could slot easily into the left field spot for the Phillies at reasonable dollars, ensuring money spent at other positions. I can also see Nick Swisher here, but the Phillies have multiple holes to fill, and Swisher would assume a big chunk of Philly’s available dollars.
What do you guys think of my picks?