fb-pixel Skip to main content
Sunday Baseball Notes

Needy MLB teams already lining up for free agents

Jacoby Ellsbury may be the best hitter in free agency.Elsa/Getty Images

One hundred and forty-seven players declared for free agency right after the World Series, and general managers soon were calling agents to express interest. As agent Scott Boras told us, within hours of the Red Sox winning the Series, his phone was ringing off the hook regarding Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew.

Teams are now eager to copy the Red Sox’ model.

The Yankees pretty much have to follow the lead, losing as many players as they have through retirement or free agency. Yet they know it will be difficult to copy the Red Sox, who took $261 million off the books with the 2012 trade with the Dodgers, then replenished strategically with seven free agents. The chances of another general manager being able to pull off what Ben Cherington did are slim.


The Yankees will be the most intriguing team this offseason. One problem is the delay in the Alex Rodriguez appeal, and then the lawsuit Rodriguez has filed against Major League Baseball. The Yankees may not know whether they will receive salary relief of some $34 million if A-Rod’s 211-game suspension holds up. The likelihood is that it will perhaps be knocked down a tad, but the Yankees need to know so they can plan.

They need to replenish their starting pitchers (maybe two if they know Hiroki Kuroda won’t be back and with Andy Pettitte retired). They must come up with a shortstop who can platoon with Derek Jeter, who may need more DH time than ever (and they’ve already contacted Boras on Drew). They will likely need another outfielder (Curtis Granderson is a free agent) and they also need a catcher (Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia) to handle the pitching staff and provide some offense.

Possible free agent targets for the Yankees include McCann, Shin-Soo Choo, Ellsbury, and Corey Hart. They are also in the Masahiro Tanaka hunt, prepared to offer a posting fee of more than $50 million, which doesn’t count against the luxury tax. Tanaka, a righthander, went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles this season.


The Yankees’ biggest priority, however, is re-signing Robinson Cano. They won’t come close to his $300 million asking price, but they still have the best chance of signing him, mainly because of his desire to stay in New York.

The Phillies are also going to be active. They need a righthanded-hitting corner outfielder to complement Domonic Brown, as well as a starting pitcher, reliever, and possibly a third baseman if they don’t think youngster Cody Asche can fill the position. Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran, Michael Morse, and Hart make sense here.

Watch for the Tigers to add pieces. While there is speculation they need to hold the line on payroll, consider that owner Mike Ilitch wants a World Series winner in his lifetime. Holding the line would be counter to that, which is why Ellsbury makes perfect sense. The Tigers desperately need to add to their bullpen, which is why someone like Grant Balfour could be a huge addition.

The Giants are looking for a pitcher and a power bat. Granderson’s name has come up, as has Beltran’s. Scott Kazmir or Ricky Nolasco could be in play there. Granderson could also return to the Tigers and play left field.

The Orioles need a designated hitter, and it’s been said all along in this space that Beltran seems to be perfect. Jhonny Peralta and Kendrys Morales also could be good fits. The Orioles are also looking for another starting pitcher, and Nolasco, Matt Garza, and Ervin Santana always seem to come up in conversation.


The Blue Jays, who last season were favored to win the American League East, will be aggressive in acquiring starting pitching and another bat. Bartolo Colon, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bronson Arroyo, Garza, Kazmir, and Nolasco will all be in play. They would love to upgrade at second base, and we’ll see if they’re one of the teams that make a play for Cano. If not, Omar Infante could be a player to watch. They could also be in the market for a first baseman such as Mike Napoli.

The Rangers are also going to try to upgrade their offense. They have let Lance Berkman go. David Murphy is a free agent, and Cruz is also out there, though the Rangers may want to re-sign him. The Rangers are thinking about moving Ian Kinsler to first base, but would it be far-fetched for Napoli to return to Texas?

There aren’t many elite players on the market. Ellsbury may be the best hitter, while Choo is the premier on-base guy. Nate McLouth is a secondary leadoff-type hitter. Peralta, Justin Morneau, Raul Ibanez, Morales, James Loney, Morse, Granderson, and Marlon Byrd are certainly good plug-ins to any lineup.

As for pitchers, Colon is the most successful, but the oldest at 40. Arroyo is the most durable and consistent. Nolasco had a good season for the Dodgers, and Jason Vargas might be a better fit in the National League, though he may prefer to stay with the Angels. Garza is talented but inconsistent. And can anyone straighten out Phil Hughes?


Overall, this is not a great group. But are there some hidden gems?


Ortiz may yet need to sway some voters

His teammates call him “Cooperstown,” but will David Ortiz ever see it?

We asked a few Hall of Fame voters. It was split about 50-50, which means some opinions need to change for Ortiz to be considered a Hall of Famer. This is years down the road, of course, but the debate has begun after Ortiz was named MVP of the World Series.

For some reason, baseball’s postseasons aren’t valued as much as those in football, basketball, or hockey.

But how do you deny great performances during the most crucial time of the season?

Ortiz has hit .455 in three World Series with three home runs, 14 RBIs, and a 1.372 OPS. Overall in postseason (295 at-bats), Ortiz has hit .295 with 17 homers and 60 RBIs.

Ortiz’s 162-game averages for his career are .287 with 35 homers and 118 RBIs, a .930 OPS, and .381 on-base percentage. He’ll enter next season with 431 homers and 1,429 RBIs. But according to Baseball-Reference.com, his offensive comparable players includes only one Hall of Famer — Willie Stargell. The others are Carlos Delgado, Jason Giambi, Paul Konerko, Jeff Bagwell, Jim Edmonds, Andres Galarraga, Juan Gonzalez, and Jose Canseco. Excellent players, but those on the fringes of the Hall.


Ortiz probably needs to play at least two more years to cement his candidacy. The fact he’s purely a designated hitter will always hurt his chances, despite the fact he is the best DH ever (though Edgar Martinez fans will dispute this).

The other factor is Ortiz’s name being among those who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. If only Ortiz would come out with what he tested positive for, that would make a difference. If it’s steroids or testosterone, voters wouldn’t be as forgiving as some other banned substance.

By the time voters are officially asked to weigh Ortiz’s credentials, his numbers may be impossible to deny.

Apropos of nothing

1. The biggest thing Clay Buchholz accomplished in the World Series? He finally realized that he doesn’t have be 100 percent to be effective. Valuable lesson, and it should bode well for the Red Sox.

2. Some would say there’s no better time to deal John Lackey than right now.

3. Chris Carpenter’s career is over, but he’ll be a valuable special assistant for the Cardinals. His impact on young pitchers such as Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha was tremendous.

4. Still haven’t heard Buck Martinez’s name mentioned for a managing job, but teams may be missing the boat.

5. Carlton Fisk on comparing Nolan Ryan and Wacha: “I couldn’t hit Nolan Ryan, so I don’t know how you compare. I probably couldn’t hit Wacha, either. I don’t see that Wacha has the same persona that Nolan Ryan has. I don’t know how to describe it other than Nolan Ryan was conveniently intimidating, where Wacha is not. He throws hard, but he doesn’t have the reputation that, ‘Oh no, he throws 100, but one might get away,’ you know? And that was all perfectly planned by Ryan.”

6. Nice to see Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick and clubhouse manager Tommy McLaughlin taken care of with full World Series shares.

7. Grady Little is looking to return to the majors in an advisory/scouting capacity. Good man with a wealth of baseball knowledge. His crime is he let the best pitcher on the planet at the time, Pedro Martinez, stay in the game.

8. Is this the offseason the Orioles spend money?

9. Fielding Bible founder John Dewan: “The Red Sox were a good defensive team in 2013. Their defense saved them 24 runs on the season compared to an average team defensively. An average team would have zero Defensive Runs Saved. That ranked Boston tied for 11th in MLB. The Cardinals were very poor defensively. Their defense cost them 39 runs (minus-39 DRS). They came in 23d overall in baseball out of 30 teams and 14th out of 15 teams in the NL.”

Updates on nine

1. Lloyd McClendon, hitting coach, Tigers — McClendon has interviewed for the Tigers’ and Mariners’ managerial jobs. He managed the Pirates and seems to have the better chance in Seattle, where he and GM Jack Zduriencik have hit it off for years. McClendon compiled a 336-446 record with some obviously bad Pirates teams, but seems to be back on the radar.

2. Ozzie Guillen, former manager — Guillen did some work for ESPN Deportes during the postseason. When asked whether he’d like to get back into managing, he said, “Sometimes it’s good to step away for a couple of years and try to clear your head a little bit, and that’s what I’ve done.” Of course, Guillen is still being paid by the Marlins, so he hasn’t minded being away.

3. Franklin Gutierrez, CF, free agent — Intriguing guy. The Mariners declined a $7.55 million option on Gutierrez, who has been considered one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. Gutierrez never lived up to a four-year, $20.55 million deal with the Mariners because of six stints on the disabled list, but when healthy, the 30-year-old righthanded hitter can still play at a high level.

4. Johan Santana, LHP, free agent — The Mets declined Santana’s $25 million option and bought him out for $5.5 million (nice resignation bonus, eh?). He is expected to resume his playing career after missing all of last season because of shoulder surgery. Santana is only 34, has won two Cy Youngs, and was once the best pitcher on the planet. Now, he could be a pretty good low-cost gamble. Santana lives in Fort Myers, Fla., and wouldn’t mind staying there for spring training with the Twins or Red Sox.

5. Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins — The Marlins are still inclined to keep him and ignore any offers. But there are teams such as the Red Sox that could put together a package of players that would at least give them pause. Stanton is a young, power-hitting outfielder who would look marvelous in a Red Sox uniform.

6. Justin Morneau, 1B, free agent — Could he return to the Twins? Anything is possible. The Twins want Joe Mauer to play first base more in 2014. Whether Mauer agrees or not remains to be seen, but suffice it to say, they want to reduce his games behind the plate to preserve his body while trying to accentuate his bat. So Morneau, if his price isn’t that high — and there’s no reason it should be based on his season — could enter the picture again. The Twins could also opt for acquiring a catcher (such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia) and making Mauer primarily a first baseman and part-time catcher.

7. Joe Nathan, RHP, free agent — Nathan is 38 years old but has something left. He voided a $9 million option on his Texas contract to become a free agent. He’s got to be of interest to the Tigers, who need a steady hand at the end of the game. The Yankees could also be interested, though they seem to have settled on David Robertson as Mariano Rivera’s replacement.

8. David Price, LHP, Rays — He remains the biggest legitimate trade piece on the market. So, who has the best chance of obtaining him? Both Los Angeles teams seem to be interested, though the Dodgers appear to have a full house with Clayton Kershaw (who could sign a $300 million deal this offseason), Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, Stephen Fife, and comebacking Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley. The Angels could package Mark Trumbo, power the Rays desperately need, and others for Price. The Angels are also willing to part with Howie Kendrick to make a deal for pitching.

9. Joel Hanrahan, RHP, free agent — The person the Red Sox pegged as their closer after he was acquired from the Pirates could be someone they would consider re-signing after he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Hanrahan wouldn’t be ready in April anyway, but the Red Sox liked him enough to trade for him, and may like him again as protection for Koji Uehara.

Extra innings

From the Bill Chuck files — “James Shields led the majors with a 2.07 ERA in the road. Jon Lester led the Red Sox with a 4.21 ERA away from Fenway.” And, “Just released Indians reliever Chris Perez had a 1.71 ERA in 2010, 3.32 in 2011, 3.59 in 2012, and 4.33 in 2013.” Happy birthday Alex Wilson (27), Paul Quantrill (45), Dwight Evans (62), and Rick Kreuger (65).

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.