Free Agent Flea Market Opens Saturday–Part 1: Who Fits Sox Needs for Starter and Closer?
Bud’s MLB Free Agent Flea Market opens 12:01 a.m. ET on Saturday, so let’s amble around the folding tables and eager agents to see if there are any bargains for the Red Sox.
But first, let’s identify the Sox needs: Starting pitcher[s]; closer, SS, OF, 1b.
This post, Part One, will deal with FA starters and closers. Part Two will cover FA shortstops; Part Three FA 1bs; Part Four FA OFs.
To begin the list, here are the Red Sox FAs:
Current thinking on the street says the Sox will sign Ortiz and Ross. This would fill the DH slot and make a FA OF from another team less of a priority.
But, first this stupid interruption from Bud Selig:
New free agent compensation rules:
The price of the qualifying offer is the average salary of the top 125 free agents from the previous winter by average annual value, which this year works out to $13.3 million. The deadline for teams to make an offer is five days following the World Series at 5 p.m., which is Friday at 5 p.m. Players given a qualifying offer have until seven days after the World Series (Sunday) at 5 p.m. to accept or decline. If a player rejects a qualifying offer, he can still sign back with his same team.
It’s another Bud Blunder; this Catch-22 agreement with the MLBPA says that a team must offer a player a contract that averages a minimum of $13.3 million per year. David Pinto at Baseball Musings proves the point:
“Would any player, in this system, accept a qualifying offer? To make the offer in the first place, a team would need to calculate that a player was going to be worth about three WAR to make it worthwhile. A three WAR player, however, is a pretty good player, and should be able to get a long term deal. I suppose there are two WAR players that fit in really well with a team, and they might get and accept such an offer, but that’s paying a lot for intangibles.”
[You can assess the “possibles” for the Red Sox by referring to the Basic list from the Major League Baseball Players Association, which appears after this article.]
First trip around the tables list:
Braves: Michael Bourn [OF] and Ben Sheets [SP]
Angels: Zack Greinke [SP]
Indians: Grady Sizemore [OF]
Reds: Jonathan Broxton [CL]
Brewers: Francisco Rodriguez [CL]
Twins: Matt Capps [CL]
A’s: Brandon McCarthy [SP]
Cards: Kyle Lohse [SP]
Rangers: Ryan Dempster [SP]
Nats: Edwin Jackson [SP]
Now, let’s look at the PITCHERS
At age 34, Sheets is relatively healthy again and would not command a large contract. If he can stay off the DL, he projects for 13 Ws and 13 Ls, according to Baseball Reference. He would be a #4/5 starter and the Red Sox have plenty in stock.
DON’T BUY: Old, DL risk, #4 starter and .500 record.
The best and most expensive starter at the FA Flea Market. His stats for the last two years suggest he is entering his prime years:
2011, 16-6, 4.0 WAR; 2012 15-5, 5.1 WAR
His Career stats: 91-78, 3.97 WAR
With the Brewers in 2011 , he finished 16-6 in 28 GS, 171.2 innings, 3.83 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 201 Ks.
For the Brewers/Angels in 2012, he went 15-5, 34 GS, 212.1 innings, 3.48 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 200 Ks.
After initially struggling with the Dodgers in the NL., he finished the season with a torrid streak; In September, 3-0 in 42.2 innings with a 2.11 ERA, 38 Ks, .209 BAA in September.
Greinke could be the staff ace for 4 years for the Sox, but would want more than his last contract: 4 yrs./$38M (09-12); the good news: his agent it not Scott Boras.
BUY: Signing Greinke to a 7-year deal for, say, $150 million, about $21.5 million per year [or a 5-years deal for $106.25 million] would solve the Sox #1 problem: their gaping Ace-hole. The Sox have money to spend and this is the key position that requires the most attention and the largest outlay.
He could become a #1/2 starter in the Sox rotation. Besides the famous head injury, which is now resolved with this return for the ALCS, he presents an injury risk and has been averaging just 80.1 Innings during his 4 yr. MLB career. The trend is positive; recently he has increased his inning total: 111  and 170.2 .
The upside is that, the more time he goes to the mound, the better he looks:
|Year||Innings Pitched||Games Started||fWAR||Team|
[Source for chart: http://jaysjournal.com/2012/10/30/brandon-mccarthy-is-he-worth-the-injury-risk/]
He received $4.275 million from Oakland for 2012 and would likely be seeking a 4-5 year deal for $25-$30 million; Fangraphs says two years at $10 per season. Scott Boras is not his agent.
- 2011: 9-9 in 25 starts and 170.2 innings with a 3.32 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 123 strikeouts
- 2012: 8-6 in 18 starts and 111.0 innings with a 3.24 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 73 strikeouts
The downside would be his injury history:
|Date On||Date Off||Transaction||Days||Games||Side||Body Part||Injury|
|7/29/10||11/1/10||60-DL||95||61||Right||Shoulder||Recovery From Stress Fracture|
http://network.yardbarker.com/author/article_external/12143140?headline=cubs_interested_in_brandon_mccarthy&linksrc=mb_right_col&mailing_id=1966&sport_name=mlbSF Chronicle A’s beat writer, Susan Slusser, sees McCarthy staying in Oakland:
“Another likely free-agent re-signing: starter Brandon McCarthy. He already had wanted to come back to Oakland before his emergency brain surgery, but that experience – and the response from the A’s management, players and fans – has only increased his desire to return. There’s something of a special bond there now, with McCarthy and his wife, Amanda, and the organization, and McCarthy is expected to be fully ready to pitch by spring training, barring difficulties with post-concussion syndrome.”
While A’s fans would love to keep him in the Oakland rotation, Billy Beane’s wont is to move players when they demand real money. If Beane is an A’s believer, he might try to sign McCarthy and Stephen Drew, but, with young arms lined up from MLB to the low minors, and the team’s very survival in the inept hands of Bud Selig, he will more likely stick to his future franchise-building mode.
If the Sox are unable/unwilling to sign the more projectable Greinke, they may go after McCarthy for less money and hope he will grow into the staff ace.
16-3 with a miniscule 2.86 ERA.
He recently said he’d like to play for a winner, according to B.J. Rains of FOXSportsMidwest “The right-hander hasn’t been in contact with the Cardinals about a new deal and is expected to sign elsewhere.“There are certain places I’d like to go and certain places I probably wouldn’t,” he said.”
Read more at http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/kyle_lohse/#pIcJ5bCmtXyHzQpm.99
Presumably that would exclude the Cardinals, but include: the Giants, Tigers, Reds, Orioles, and Yankees and others with better W-L records in 2012 than the Red Sox. If the Dodgers still have their wallet open, but want a less expensive alternative to Greinke, Lohse would be a major upgrade over Joe Blanton.
At 33, Lohse has been in MLB for 12 years and his 2002-2003 over .500 years with the Twins were followed by mediocre seasons, until he rebounded with the Cards in 2008 [15-6]; he went below .500 in 2009 and 2010 and bounced back again in 2011 [14-8] and 2012 [16-30]. It is possible that he is about to have another W run, but, at 34, he may more likely run out his next contract as a below .500 starter. He would rank #2/3 in a rotation and would not be the solid veteran [Greinke] or the younger pitcher with ace potential [McCarthy.]
He would be looking for a significant increase in salary from his 4 yrs./$41M (09-12) and his agent, Scott Boras, may be thinking $50-$60 million for 4 years, which would narrow the field to the Dodgers and Yankees.
DON’T BUY: Old, expensive, and streaky.
The Rangers will be looking at other starters like Josh Johnson, David Price, Tim Lincecum and King Felix Hernandez, according to FANSIDED Rangers’ Website Nolan Writin [http://nolanwritin.com/2012/10/30/rangers-offseason-moves-part-two-trade-targets/]
“Free agent starters Ryan Dempster and Edwin Jackson are targets for Toronto, Jeff Blair reports. Either right-hander would provide the Blue Jays with some certainty in the middle of a rotation that struggled mightily in 2012 due to injuries and poor performances.”
Read more at http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2012/10/blue-jays-notes-williams-dempster-jackson.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+MlbTradeRumors+%28MLB+Trade+Rumors%29#vLO4mUVcRbDzqxKr.99
At age 35, this career .500 RHP will likely ask for at least 2 years at $13 million annually; last contract: 4 yrs./$52M (09-12). He is not an up and coming ace, but more of a down and going #4/5 and a 10-10 record would be a waste of money.
Last July, Texas acquired Dempster, who took a pasting in the AL: 5.09 ERA and 1.435 WHIP in 12 starts. The Sox can hope that the Jays are foolish enough to sign him.
DON”T BUY: Old and on the downside; .500 RHP; not the 1 or 2 rotation starter the Sox require.
FANSIDED’s Robbie Knopf says:
“A player who has always had tremendous potential but has never put it all together heads to free agency tempting teams with his upside but also worrying them with his risk. That sentence described Edwin Jackson perfectly last year…
In 2012 for the Nationals, Jackson showed himself to be right around an average pitcher again as he went 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA, an 8.0 K/9, a 2.8 BB/9, and a 1.1 HR/9, 3.85 FIP, in 31 starts and 189.2 IP, possibly only harming his free agent value as he’s now a year older and still just average. And while Jackson fails to mix bats despite a mid-90′s fastball and a sharp slider…”
After the Dodgers gave up on his potential, Jackson pitched for the DevilRays/Nationals/Tigers/Rays/WhiteSox/ from 2003-2012. He took a 1-year deal with the Rays to improve his FA prospects, but only managed a 10-11 record and he is projected for 10-10 by Baseball Reference in 2013. He may be an innings eater, but not a winner and at a minimum of $13.3 million per year for 4 years, he would be expecting at least $53 million and change to rack up more Ls than Ws; his agent is…wait for it…Scott Boras.
DON’T BUY: A mediocre innings eater, under .500, on the way down. Also, “big multi-year deal” and “Scott Boras.” Sox fans can hope that the Jays sign Jackson and Dempster to assure the Toronto team finishes dead last.
If Cherington wants to buy some DL insurance for Bailey, he might go with Jonathan Broxton, or Joakim Soria, where the Royals have team option and buyout clauses in his contract:
|2013||29||Kansas City Royals||*$8,000,000||$8M Team Option, $750k Buyout|
|2014||30||Kansas City Royals||*$8,750,000||$8.75M Team Option, $750k Buyout|
The fate of Brox The Ox is linked to Aroldis Chapman; if Chapman goes into the rotation, the Reds will likely keep Broxton, since the Ryan Madsen DL Disaster will see him headed to the FA pool for 2013.
If the Reds fail to make an offer [a contract that averages a minimum of $13.3 million per year.[ by midnight Saturday EST, the Ox goes into the FA pool and the Sox will need to compare his value to Joakim Soria; though Brox the Sox Ox had merchandising possibilities for Lucchino.
With the FA closer list in 2013 is not thrilling with names like: Matt Capps, Brandon League, Jose Valverde and Fernando Rodney, the Sox may need to outbid the Yankees, if Riviera retires.
COST: The Sox could sign Broxton to a 3-year deal for $4 million per; the first year would be guaranteed; the next two would be the team’s option.
BUY: At age 28, Broxton made a comeback in 2012 with 27 SVs [5 Ls], 2.48 ERA, 1.259 WHIP, WAR 1.0 [KC], 0.6 [Reds]. He may not be a top tier closer, but he does represent a proven commodity to replace Bailey, if needed.
Soria and Broxton are both 28 years old; Broxton has 8 years in the majors, Soria 5.
Joakim Soria missed the entire 2012 season to undergo Tommy John surgery, is now a free agent; KC settled for a $750K buyout instead of an $8MM salary for 2013.
Soria established himself as a top tier reliever from 2007-2011; perhaps due to his injury, he struggled in 2011, but his career numbers are excellent — a 3.40 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 298 total appearances.
He had a 0.2 WAR in 2011 and a career WAR of 0.246.
The Sox would need to apply due diligence with medical exams and Farrell would want to see him throw a bullpen session. The upside is a proven closer, who might come back better after the arm repair; the downside is he could be worse; stats suggest that of all pitchers who experience a Tommy John operation about 10% are better.
COST: The Sox could sign Soria to a 4-year deal for $8 million per; the first year would be guaranteed, the next three would be the team’s option; they might build in performance goal bonuses.
BUY: If he can show he is fully recovered and at least as good as he was before the TJ procedure, Soria could be a sleeper closer for a reasonable salary.
With about $250 million more to spend on the roster than last year, the Sox may need to choose between a #1 slot starter and a power OF, or a SS, or 1b from the FA market. Imagine signing Greinke and Bourne, or Hamilton and McCarthy, or could they afford Greinke AND Hamilton?
Greinke will likely want a 7-year deal for, say, $150 million, about $21.5 million per year, but that would solve the Sox #1 problem: their gaping Ace-hole. The Sox have money to spend and this is the key position that requires the most attention and the largest outlay.
Hamilton will likely sign at least a 5-year deal for $140-150 million, or about $30 million per year.
To sign BOTH Greinke and Hamilton, the Sox would need to lay out about $51.5 million per year for five years, then the same amount for two more years for Greinke.
The Sox got $275 million total in salary relief and luxury tax savings for 2012 and the future from the Dodger Dump and their 2013 budget commitments are $45.6 million and $34.4MM in 2014, $12.75MM in 2015, and $2.45MM in 2016.
It appears, using back of the envelope math, Sox could afford BOTH Greinke and Hamilton, if we add the current 2013 commitments [45.6 million] and the Greinke/Hamilton yearly salaries [51.5 million] we deduce a total budget of $97.1 million for 2013.
The Sox budget for 2012 was $173.2 million. Unless we are way off with our math, it appears that the Sox would still be left with $76.1 million for lunch money, or another FA or two.
In order of preference, here are the FA starters and closers the Sox should consider:
"Greinke, McCarthyBroxton, Soria"
Tomorrow we will look at the shortstops at the FA Flea Market and add a surprise candidate.
LIST OF DEFINITE* FREE AGENTS, BY TEAM:
- Some players may be added, if contract options are not exercised.
Boston Red Sox
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Mets
New York Yankees
San Francisco Giants
St. Louis Cardinals
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays