Monday, November 25, 2013

Tru School Sports Hot Stove Special: Top MLB Free Agents (Ranks 21-25)

As the MLB Hot Stove continues to slowly heat up, GM's and front offices around the league are beginning to become more transparent in terms of their offseason goals and targets. Brian McCann (Yankees) and Jhonny Peralta (Cardinals) are the two most recent big names to find new homes, but there is still a great deal of work left to do in free agency for just about every team. Scott Eastment and Tru School Sports continue their MLB Hot Stove special by cracking the top-25 free agents, along with their potential suitors, and what each of them will bring to the table. While checking to see if your team is in the running to land any of these guys, check back on our previous articles highlighting those ranked 36-40, 31-35, and 26-30. Enjoy!

25.) James Loney, 1B/DH (2013 stats: .299 BA/.348 OBP/.778 OPS, 164 H, 13 HR, 75 RBI):

After resurrecting his career in Tampa Bay, James Loney may have guaranteed himself a relatively lucrative one or two-year deal from his future employer. While not your typical first basemen power-wise, Loney brings a unique skillset to the plate, as well as slick fielding skills at first base which will ultimately save his team runs. As a left-handed hitter, Loney is one of the few players who hit lefties virtually as well as he hits righties (he hit .299 against both). What makes Loney even more intriguing is that at age 30 he is relatively inexpensive when compared with his production (made $2 million in 2012). He should have a decently list of suitors and will not cause any team to really break the bank for him; expect something for either 1 or 2 years at around $4 million per.

                                                 Possible Suitors: Brewers, Twins, Pirates, White Sox

24.) Fernando Rodney, RP (2013 stats: 5-4, 37 SV, 3.38 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 82/39 K/BB in 66.2 IP):

After an absolutely dominant 2012 season, Rays closer Fernando Rodney fell back to Earth this last year, posting far more human-like numbers. When you really look at his statistics, there are certainly red flags out there to go along with the fact that Rodney is 37 years old and likely will only be worth a 2 year deal tops. His 2012 season was an anomaly in the sense that his ‘effectively wild’ approach worked night in and night out. In 2013, his BB/9 IP spiked up to 5.0, which was reflected in a horrific 1.34 WHIP. Having said that, closers certainly do not grown on trees and Rodney will undoubtedly get a considerably lucrative deal (likely around $8 million per) considering the teams that are pursuing him.

Possible Suitors: Tigers, Indians, Cubs, Yankees, Rangers, Astros, Rockies

23.) Stephen Drew, SS (2013 stats: .253 BA/.333 OBP/.777 OPS, 112 H, 13 HR, 67 RBI): 

After a disappointing postseason at the plate, Stephen Drew’s stock may have dropped somewhat in the eyes of his possible suitors. Having said that, he made good on his one-year deal with the Red Sox by showing that he is all the way back from his hamstring injury and is ready to sign a multi-year deal (likely 4 years at $10 million per). The postseason slump was a bit of an eyesore, however with Jhonny Peralta having signed with the Cardinals, Drew is really the only viable shortstop left on the market. Teams know he still provides an above-average bat for his position to go along with solid fielding, so expect him to have several qualifying offers in the coming weeks. 

                        Possible Suitors: Mets, Pirates, Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, White Sox

22.) Joe Nathan, RP (2013 stats: 6-2, 43 SV, 1.39 ERA, 0.897 WHIP, 73/25 K/BB in 64.2 IP): 

With the Rangers having declined the 2014 option on him, 39 year-old Joe Nathan is going to be looking for a new home this offseason and it will likely be with an instant contender who is willing to give him a 2-year deal and overpay for his services. Lucky for him, after his extremely impressive 2013 campaign that proved his arm was structurally sound and playing at a position of constant need around the league, Nathan should have no trouble finding what he is looking for. While his age has led to a decrease in his fastball velocity, Nathan is brushing that aside and becoming a more complete pitcher with impeccable control. His 2013 numbers were superior to his career averages and his workmanlike attitude and way of going about his business would be welcome in any clubhouse. Now it is time for the big dogs to start bidding, but expect him to sign in Detroit. 

                            Possible Suitors: Tigers, Yankees, Angels

21.) Joaquin Benoit, RP (2013 stats: 4-1, 24 SV, 2.01 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 73/24 K/BB in 67 IP): 

Getting up there in age, Joaquin Benoit is not the big-name acquisition you can expect fans to get excited about, however he will be a key signing for sure. While he will play second-fiddle to former Athletics closer Grant Balfour on the open market, Benoit will be a quality back-end of the bullpen option for whoever signs him, and he will be relatively cheap (3 years at $5.5 million per most likely). His fastball is starting to lose some of its velocity, but his changeup is a remarkable pitch that keeps hitters off-balance at all times. Combine this with his postseason experience and the fact that he continues to keep his WHIP hovering around an impressive 1.00 and you have a reliable bullpen guy for the next few years. 

Possible Suitors: Cubs, Orioles, Yankees, Indians, Mariners, Phillies, Brewers

Scott Eastment is a MLB/NFL/Sport Business writer for Tru School Sports and MLB contributor for Baseball Hot Corner, as well as a digital sports marketing associate with Beyond Sports Network. He is a former college baseball player at Frostburg State University and has his Masters of Business Administration in both sport business and marketing. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn

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