Keith Law released his top 50 free agents last night, giving another look at how the players stack up this off-season. MLBTR released their ranking Sunday night, along with predictions. Law didn’t have predictions on where the players would go, but did have a few predictions on what players could land on the open market. Below are some thoughts on Law’s rankings.
10. A.J. Burnett – Law says that his recent track record says he’s worth three guaranteed years and $15 M or more per year. The Pirates didn’t make Burnett a qualifying offer, which would have been for $14.1 M on a one year deal. Burnett has said that he will either play for the Pirates or retire.
The lack of a qualifying offer has already lead to worries about a doomsday scenario where some team offers Burnett a bunch of money, and he decides to sign elsewhere, with the Pirates getting no compensation. I find that scenario unlikely. If Burnett is considering retiring, then I don’t see him signing a three-year deal. I see him going one year at a time until he decides to retire. He’s also a guy who has made $120 M in his career. I don’t think a few extra million will send him to another team, especially since he should get a large amount from the Pirates (likely eight figures). I think he’ll opt for being the leader in Pittsburgh over going to a different team for a few million more and being just another player. In short, I’m taking Burnett at his word that it’s Pirates or retire.
16. Jhonny Peralta – This will be an interesting case to watch this off-season. He’s coming off a PED suspension, but has provided strong value the last few years. If you trust that his performance wasn’t PED related, then he’s the only guy I’d sign to replace Jordy Mercer at shortstop. One big advantage to Peralta is that he could replace Pedro Alvarez if Alvarez goes down with an injury, moving Mercer back to the starting shortstop role. With Peralta starting at short, Mercer could platoon at second base with Neil Walker, with Mercer facing lefties.
17. Carlos Beltran – He received a qualifying offer, so he’d cost a draft pick. Law thinks he will get two years, but says he would rather go with a one year, $12 M deal. I’d rather go with Marlon Byrd, considering the lack of draft pick compensation, and the lower cost.
21. Tim Hudson – MLBTR listed him as a guy the Pirates could pursue. I could only see that if they don’t sign Burnett. He’s a popular bounce back candidate, but still a risk. Law says that he wouldn’t bank on more than 180 innings from Hudson in 2014, although he says those will be good ones.
25. Kendrys Morales – He received a qualifying offer, and Law says that could crush his value. He also points out that Morales is a DH, and not good defensively. He says he wouldn’t go past two years and $12 M, which I assume means $12 M per year.
27. Josh Johnson – He’s my favorite bounce back candidate. Law says he has “enormous risk due to his injury history”, but says he would be worth a one year deal with a generous option. I wouldn’t be against the Pirates signing him, even if they did bring back Burnett.
29. Marlon Byrd – Law says he wouldn’t go beyond one year and $6-7 M guaranteed. That would be a great deal for the Pirates if that was the cost, since it wouldn’t block Polanco. Law points out that Byrd posted the highest strikeout rate of his career, and second highest BABIP, all at 35, which could lead to a 30-40 point drop in average next year. That would drop him down to a .250 to .260 hitter with a sub-.300 OBP if correct.
33. James Loney – He’s my favorite for the starting first base job. Law says he’d be worth a year and $4-5 M. Combined with Gaby Sanchez in a platoon, that would be about $6-7 M total. I think that combo would provide more value than Morales, and at almost half the cost. Law mentions that people want first basemen to mash, and don’t value the skills Loney has (high-contact, low-power, good glove). Loney should be worth more than $4-5 M per year, but because of the desire for one stat (home runs), he becomes under-valued.
48. Corey Hart – He’s another option at first base. His numbers in previous years have been great, but he missed the 2013 season after having surgery on both knees. Law points out that there’s a risk he won’t be able to handle a full season’s workload, and might lose some or much of his power because he can’t fully utilize his lower half. He also leaves open the possibility that Hart could slug .475, even in limited duty. He puts the price at one year, $3-4 M, which wouldn’t be bad if you believe there’s a strong chance he could come back healthy and productive.