Hot Stove Sizzler: Top 5 MLB Free Agents

Harry Raymond

As Yankees fans continue to celebrate their 27th championship, the snow will soon begin to fall, the holiday spirit will fill the air, and most importantly, the MLB hot stove will start to sizzle. Baseball’s offseason is a time when disappointing seasons can be turned into hope and promise with every free agent signing.  This year’s free agent class is razor thin but there are still plenty of impact players who can shift the balance of power in any division.  Here are the five best free agents on the market along with their potential suitors:

1. Matt Holliday

Holliday’s super-agent Scott Boras recently said “I’ve been around baseball for a long time, and the reality is that Matt Holiday is a complete player… a franchise player.”  Boras has sung the “franchise player” tune before and it usually results in a $100+ million payday for his client.  I am not sold Holiday is a franchise player but his 2009 (.313 AVG, 24 home runs, 109 RBIs) proves that he can hit in the middle of the order away from Coors Field.  Despite his horrific error against the Dodgers this postseason, expect the 29-year old outfielder to receive the most attention and dollars this Hot Stove Season.  Potential suitors: Mets, Red Sox, Cardinals. Prediction: Mets.

2. John Lackey

There is no better free agent starting pitcher on the market.  Top of the rotation starters are not available through free agency very often but Lackey has been an underrated ace for the Angels.  In an injury plagued 2009, Lackey went 11-8 with a 3.83 ERA but the 31-year old enters a thin starting pitching market with a 102-71 career mark. A steady innings eater, Lackey has monopolized most of the early attention this offseason.  Expect the native Texan to receive an AJ Burnett type contract, in the range of five years $85 million.   Potential suitors: Yankees, Mets, Angels, Dodgers, Giants. Prediction: Dodgers.

3. Jason Bay

The 31-year old Bay is a very similar player to Holiday but he may be a much more affordable option. Bay has hit 30 or more home runs in four of the past five seasons including a career high 36 home runs and 119 RBIs last season.  His weak defensive skills and slightly lower average may be the only reasons he is garnering less attention than Holiday.  But if you want a consistent slugging outfielder at a more affordable price than Bay is your man.  Potential suitors: Giants, Cardinals, Red Sox, Mariners. Prediction: Cardinals.

4. Chone Figgins

Don’t let the lack of power make you look away because you will be missing out on a very valuable player.  An appealing antidote to a power-hungry era, Figgins has speed (280 career stolen bases), versatility (can play 6 positions) and defense.  Despite his 3 for 35 postseason, Figgins had one of his best seasons at the plate, hitting .295 with an impressive .395 OBP.  In 2009, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder were the only other hitters with 30-plus doubles and 100-plus walks.  Put him on any team and Figgins will make it better.  Potential suitors: Giants, White Sox, Angels, Athletics, Cubs. Prediction: Cubs

5. Aroldis Chapman

The 21-year old Cuban defector is the wild card of this free agent class.  Listed at 6’4″ and 180 pounds, the lefty’s fastball has been clocked at 102 MPH. Yet, proceed with caution. In recent years, we continue to see foreign pitching phenomenons fail to live up to high expectations including Daiskue Matsuzaka, Kei Igawa (still painful to say), Jose Contreras and Hideki “fat toad” Irabu. What separates Chapman though is his impressive resume at such a young age, already pitching well for Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.  The Yankees are definitely interested as they hosted Chapman and his agent at the Game 6 of the ALCS.  The Red Sox have also expressed interest so we may enjoy another Yankees-Red Sox bidding war but that’s what makes the Hot Stove so fun to watch sizzle.  Potential suitors: Tigers, Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox, Mets, Athletics, Cardinals. Prediction: Yankees.

Best of the Rest: Johnny Damon, Orlando Hudson, Adam Laroche, Hideki Matsui, Miguel Tejada, Jose Valverde, Randy Wolf, Rich Harden,

Vladamir Guerrero.