The Top Remaining Free Agents Left In The MLB 2014 Season + The Rest

Hunter Stokes (Chief Writer): 

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With the latest signings (by Baltimore) of Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez, there is now just 3 Free Agents who come with the price tag of your 1st RD pick (or 1st available pick if you have been busy already this winter).

SS Stephen Drew is still on the open market despite several rumors about the Big Apple,  DH/1B Kendrys Morales is on the board, with teams dwindling in interest, and SP Ervin Santana rounds out the list.

Agents of these gentlemen are now threatening to hold out their players until after the MLB Amateur Draft (when the Draft Pick is no longer forfeited), in order to turn the leverage back to their guys.

I am not sure that is such a great idea, particularly in the cases of the hitters, who are not likely to warrant more than 3 year deals apiece.

The Mariners made Morales a Qualifying Offer of 1 YR/$14.1 MIL in Nov.2013.  If he signs elsewhere, the club will receive a compensatory pick.  The Seattle club could also still negotiate a long term deal with the DH, or even a short term deal.  As primarily a DH last year, and even before that with the Angels, it hurts his ability to be signed in the National League.  Perhaps if the compensation is removed after the 2014 MLB Amatuer Draft, Morales would be able to receive a bigger deal.

The Mariners made Morales (30) a Qualifying Offer of 1 YR/$14.1 MIL in Nov.2013. If he signs elsewhere, the club will receive a compensatory pick. The Seattle club could also still negotiate a long term deal with the DH, or even a short term deal. As primarily a DH last year, and even before that with the Angels, it hurts his ability to be signed in the National League. Perhaps if the compensation is removed after the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft, Morales would then be able to receive a bigger deal.

Even if Drew and Morales do sign for more money in the long run by holding out, they will miss out on about 45% of their 2014 salaries.

Morales hit .277/.336/.449 – with 23 HRs and 80 RBI during 2013, which falls right in line with what his career numbers are every year.

I actually think Ervin Santana may benefit from such that move.  As a Pitcher, it is easier to bring back your timing after an extended absence.

In the competitive balance in 2014, there would be several desperate teams that are looking for a viable option at Starter midway through the year.

Ervin Santana (32), was 9 – 10 in 2013, but his ERA of 3.24 was nearly a run less than his career mark of 4.19.  The 9 Year Veteran, is also 105 – 90 (.538) thus far in his lifetime. 

If it is a 1 year deal only, a team like the Yankees might even pay a king’s ransom, as they look to add depth to without having the prospects to do so via trade.

New York will probably go over the Salary Tax Threshold in 2014, therefore they can also dole out as many bucks as they wish to, with a contract that expires after this year.

The problem right now, is that they are close enough to the limit, that should they have a brutal start, they could simply trade a player or 2 from the current roster with an expiring contract (like Ichiro Suzuki/David Robertson) – in order to reset their Luxury Tax in 2015 – by falling under the $189 MIL mark.

The Yankees are also one Starting Pitcher injury away from calling up on the availability of doing a deal with former Angel and Royal.

Many other teams could still throw down some money at Santana before June. Toronto and Texas should be in the running, but may not want to spend the money and lose the Draft Pick.

Hurting Santana in Texas, is the Rangers received decent news on the prognosis of Matt Harrison over the weekend.

The Blue Jays have said to be content with their current payroll as constructed.  I think a slow start from the Canadian franchise would put the organization on full blast to do something.  Santana would help them.

Of course, I think the Rangers could also be players on Kendrys Morales.  His insertion into their lineup makes more practical sense than having Mitch Moreland at 1B.

What is more, Texas could trade Moreland right after signing him, as he is in the 1st year of Arbitraion before he  the final 2 years for the years of 2015 and 2016.

With Moreland being team controllable until 2017, this might fester up some interest from other teams looking to upgrade their 1B position in terms of a trade.

A team like the Pirates could move a 5th or 6th starter for his services (Something that may interest Texas, with injuries sidelining Derek Holland and Harrison, and former relievers like Alexi Ogando not being a sure thing to resurface in the Rangers Rotation.)

As for Stephen Drew.  His best bet to be signed quickly may be a return to the Boston Red Sox for this upcoming year, but that thought process is flawed. 

It will be significantly less than the $14.1 MIL Qualifying Offer, and Boston should not offer more than just a one year deal – because they don’t completely need the guy with Bogaerts taking over at SS, and having Middlebrooks at 3B already.

Drew put forth a .777 OPS in 2013 – with 13 HRs and 67 RBI, and is an exceptional defender.

The Mets do make sense for the SS, yet they would be wise to sign the man to a long term contract, as that would justify the $ spent, as 2014 may not be a competitive year.

The Mets have already signed Granderson, so their 1st RD pick is history anyways.

Drew’s agent must also be wary that next year’s Free Agent class may include Asdrubal Cabrera, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie and Hanley Ramirez.  A long term deal right now may be the better move.

Again, Santana sitting at home licking his chops could create a frenzy for teams to pick up his services in June or July.  Without the compensation, the highest bidder may be lucrative.

Right now, the RHP doesn’t have much pull for demanding big $.  Most of the teams have committed the majority of their payroll dollars.

Things can definitely change in a few months, when a team can plunk down cash for desperate measures.

Morales may be better served to sign with the Mariners for the upcoming year.  His value is hurt by his inability to field.  Half of the teams are cut out with him being a Designated Hitter as his best position.

Most of the NL Teams have better 1B already than what he could bring to the table.

You can point at Pittsburgh and Milwaukee as the only real places he could end up, that may have playoff aspirations for Morales’s services.

Texas and Seattle are fits too in the American League.  You could say the Tampa Bay Rays could use him, yet that team hates relinquishing picks, and have a keen eye on payroll at all times.

New York, Boston and now Baltimore already have their DH’s set.  Toronto’s tandem of Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion fill the bill for Toronto.

The Twins may be a place, but they also covet their Draft picks, and are a few years from contending, KC has Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer at the DH/1B – although the Royals could trade Butler right after.

The White Sox have Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn and Jose Abreu for their DH/1B slots.

Detroit has Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, Cleveland needs a place for Carlos Santana to take AB, or to offset with Nick Swisher.

The Athletics have John Jaso slotted as their #1 guy at DH. and he is an ultimate Moneyball player, that is way cheaper than what Morales would ask.

Beane may be a player after that Draft pick compensation is removed though.  The A’s GM is never one to part with assets for guys, but at a short term deal, Morales may be a great steal for the 2nd half.

Morales doesn’t fit the Astros at all.  A return to the Angels may have been a good idea before the team signed 41 Year Old Raul Ibanez.

Los Angeles also has payroll concerns going forward, especially with potentially forking out the Mike Trout extension (rumored to be 6 YRs’$150 MIL).  This would put the Angels near the Luxury Tax in future years.

So I would say Morales would be great for Seattle, Pittsburgh (the longest shot) or Texas only right now.

Here is a list of the other remaining Free Agents (These guys don’t have draft compensation attached to their signings.)

RP: Joel Hanrahan, BOS, C: Kelly Shoppach, CLE, DH: Travis Hafner, SP: Joe Saunders, SEA, RP: Oliver Perez SEA, RP: Kevin Gregg, CHC, OF: Austin Kearns, MIA, OF: Juan Pierre, MIA 3B: Placido Polanco, MIA, RP: Mike Gonzalez, MIL, RP: Tim Byrdak, NYM, SP: Johan Santana, NYM, RP: Frank Francisco, NYM, RP: Pedro Feliciano, NYM, SP/RP: Jeff Karstens, PIT, OF: Mark Kotsay, SD, SP: Jason Marquis, SD, SP: Barry Zito, SF and OF: Andres Torres, SF.

Stephen Drew has definitely been hindered by the Draft Pick compensation.  The Red Sox were smart to offer that dollar total for just the one year, as they have internal replacements already lined up to replace him.  I am sure Boston wouldn't have minded paying Drew either.  He could still return to Boston.  His agent also must take stock in the SS Free Agency crop of 2015, that has Hanley Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie and J.J Hardy on the board for it.  It would behoove Drew to secure a long-term deal before seeing action in 2015. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Stephen Drew’s Free Agency interest has definitely been hindered by the Draft Pick compensation. The Red Sox were smart to offer that dollar total for just the one year, as they have internal replacements (Bogerts at SS, and Middlebrooks at 3B) already lined up to replace him. I am sure Boston wouldn’t have minded paying Drew either. He could still return to Boston. His agent also must take stock in the SS Free Agency crop of 2015, that has Hanley Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie and J.J Hardy on the board for it. It would behoove Drew to secure a long-term deal before seeing action in 2015. He turns 31 on March.16/2014.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com ***

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A big thank-you goes out to Our ‘Chief WriterHunter Stokes for preparing today’s featured article.  Hunter is a Baseball Writer for MLB reports.

Hunter grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia and played baseball with Sheldon Bream (Sid Bream‘s son) at Liberty University in the NCAA.

His favorite player is Brian Wilson (how could you guess?), and he hates when people can’t think outside the box!

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Posted on February 24, 2014, in Free Agency, MLB Payroll and Contracts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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