OK, so the Series is over, and all we really have to comfort us till spring training is football (I can deal), but with the Winter Meetings and Rule 5 draft looming, not to mention reviewing the Arizona Fall League and my Top 250 Prospect List, I thought we could take a couple of Saturdays and look at some of the free agent class of 2015, and their possibilities.
Obviously, barring something goofy, free agents are going to be a bit older, with five years of Major League time under their belts, but I was surprised that the bulk of hitters are past the theoretical prime age (as opposed to pitchers, whom we will review next week), and surprisingly, though age might be an issue in signing most of the FA hitters, health is more of a common denominator.
Hanley Ramirez (SS, 30): I remember back when Hanley was a rookie, and I traded five pretty good guys at the time (including J.J. Hardy and Chris Capuano off his big year) in Strat-O-Matic to get the rights to Hanley, and for two years (along with Ryan Zimmerman) he drove my team. I began an inside out rebuild, swapping both. I have never trusted Hanley since, and I suspect he is asking more than a team will gamble (though I hope not). I do think Hanley can improve on his .283-14-71 line of last year, but I suspect the numbers of 2006-09 might jump out once, but that is now his level. Mind you, that is still pretty good, but it interestingly puts Hanley on par with J.J. Hardy. I would like Hanley to stay with the Dodgers, as it seems like a good fit for him, but I suspect the Yankees will offer him a gob of money to play into the next decade.
Pablo Sandoval (3B, 28): I cannot imagine Pablo in a uniform that doesn't say "Giants" on it. Pablo is actually a pretty good third baseman. True, he is big and does not have huge range, but the Panda has pretty good reflexes and a solid arm. And, he would have to move to first eventually, I wouild think, where the Giants are fat. I do think Sandoval is the cream of this crop of free agent hitters, that he is comparatively healthy, and that he will hit a solid .280-15-85 for the next five years. I am guessing the Yankees offer him a gob of money too, but I hope he stays put.
Nelson Cruz (OF, 34): Cruz hit for a jackpot this year, logging 159 games while belting 40 homers. Cruz also played in 159 contests in 2012, but in those other pesky Saberhagenmetric years, the playing time was way down. Still, Cruz is good for homers in the right-handed Raul Ibanez sense, I believe. I do think Cruz will become the richest of this group by virtue of his 2014 power (will the Yankees offer him a gob of money as well?) and if he signs for five years, he will be worth it. As for where he will actually wind up, there is always Baltimore, but Arizona could surely use some outfield help.
Michael Cuddyer (OF, 35): Cuddyer turns 36 just before Opening Day, and though he surely can hit in Colorado (.331 AVG at Coors over the last two seasons), he's been injured for the most part since 2011, which suggests to buy with caution. I see Cuddy in the AL, DH-ing somewhere like Kansas City, and doing a decent job for a couple of years.
Billy Butler (1B, 28): The Royals did not pick up the option on Butler, whom I think is the slowest Major League runner I have seen (even Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Bengie Molina seem faster), but who could indeed nail doubles and be a pesky hitter. Butler's on-base numbers took a serious hit last year, but he has been more of a free swinger the last couple of years--strikeouts up relative to walks--with drops in power all around. He is still more of a hitter than a 150 at-bat bench player, but Butler is not really an everyday first baseman, which makes for a tough sell.
Alex Rios (OF, 33): Rios fell off the consistency map last year, getting hurt and experiencing a sad four homers, his worst since his 2004 rookie season. Rios will be 34 when the season starts, but he can still be productive I think, and aside from 2014, he has not played in less than 145 games since 2006, and the second fewest of his career. Still, Rios had a pretty well-rounded game with speed and some pop and even some defense. I'm thinking National League here, in fact visualizing him in St. Louis for some reason.
Mike Morse (1B, 32): Morse, who will be 33 by Opening Day, probably found his real niche as a right-handed power threat, mostly outfielder. Morse was useful with the Giants, but he is not much of a solution to much of anything for them in the coming year, and rumor is the Mets and the Reds have an interest. Which is fine. I just hope neither team is expecting more than 120 games.
Rickie Weeks (2B, 32): Weeks hits 20 homers, and his average drops, so he raises his average and his power drops. Still, all things considered, Weeks did not have a bad 2014, with a .274-8-29 line over 252 at-bats. The question is can he hope to do this over 500 at-bats? Obviously if so, it will not be with the Brewers.
Mark Reynolds (3B, 31): A .229 career average--only twice has he hit over .239--although there are those 224 homers, which sort of makes it tough, as he has never hit less than 17 in a season. But not that tough. Reynolds was a late add to the Brewers last year, so he will probably be a late add somewhere else this season. But, he won't be as good as Raul Ibanez, and it probably won't be with the Yankees, even for a small pile of cash.