The 2014 free agency class in Major League Baseball is mostly about quality pitchers, or at least the upper echelon is, with teams very interested in the services of aces like Max Scherzer and Jon Lester, while James Shields should pick up a lot of interest as well. When it comes to fielding and hitting, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez will be the biggest names out there.
Much better as a fielder these days than a batter, Headley spent last season with the Padres and Yankees, hitting a .243 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs. His numbers were better in the Bronx due to the ballpark and improving his walk-rate. His power from 2012 (31 home runs) isn’t coming back. He might do better in terms of consistent hitting, but these days most of his value is in his glove. He won’t get more than $13 million a season.
Lester didn’t turn out to be the player that gets the Athletics to the next level after being traded from the Red Sox last season. He still produces quality time after time and should be a number one pitcher for the next few years before getting demoted to a number two guy at the end of the contract, which should be above $15 million a season over the next five years.
Liriano recently turned 31, following a so-so season with the Pirates, going 7-10 with a 3.38 ERA, a declining compared to his first season with the team. He’s going to be a number two starter for his next team after turning out to be quite a bargain for the Pirates at $7 million for two years, but he does work on a reduced workload. An excellent slider, a very good changeup and a good fastball will earn him around $12 or $13 million.
Martin didn’t get any MVP votes in 2014, but his batting average rose by almost eight points to .290 and he hit 67 RBIs, his best since 2008. The catcher will be 32 when next season begins, and has played over 130 games in a season just once since 2010. His injury proneness might eventually cost him a bigger deal than his skills warrant.
After disappointing in the desert, McCarthy did very well with the New York Yankees, going 7-5 with a 2.89 ERA after arriving in New York. He disappointed on his $10.2 million season in 2014, but he isn’t a power pitcher and his skill set shouldn’t change with age, at least not much, as long as he stays healthy, making him eligible for another eight-figures per year salary in the coming seasons.
Ramirez is one of those talents that probably depends more on his mood than his ability. He dropped in almost every category this season for the Dodgers after finishing eighth in the MVP voting in 2013. The Shortstop’s defense is probably the real concern with him, but his hitting skills will mean that he’ll likely be moved to third base in order to not get exposed. He won’t be making $16 million a season again.
A 3-time World Series champion with the Giants, the 28-year old third baseman is looking to make people ignore his weight and take notice of his ability to make contact, averaging .279 at the plate as he tires to stop swinging at anything that comes his way. He’s never going to be a guy that hits more than 20-25 home runs a season, but high-contact guys are hot on the market right now, which means Sandoval should be able to get a $15 million per-year deal out of someone.
A mostly disappointing one-year stint for Santana with the Braves, going 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA won’t hurt his market too much. He has started 30 games or more for the past five seasons and durability is important. Right now, even in the National League, he’s probably a mid-rotation starter, not worth more than $14-15 million a year at best.
A 2013 Cy Young Winner and All-Star in 2014, Scherzer was very good once again, going 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA, averaging 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Being a power kind of guy might strike fear in the heart of general managers regarding his later years, but he’s been extremely durable over the last six seasons (at least 30 starts). He’s going to get the $20 million or more contract, but the big question if he’ll be able to keep going at this pace three years from now, and is he intelligent enough to change his pitching to survive and adapt.
Shields wraps up two very good seasons in Kansas City which should earn hims a contract better than $15 million a year on his next deal, even though he doesn’t have the power and speed you look for in your number one pitcher. He’s durable as they come, pitching for at least 215 innings in seven of the last eight seasons.