Weak free agency class for 2013 is potent at the top

Josh Hamilton leads the list of free agents. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The class of 2013 certainly is an interesting group of free agents with Josh Hamilton and his off the field issues, Zack Greinke and his reputed aversion to big markets and the enigma of B.J. Upton. While there is not a lot of top-end talent in this group, there is some depth, especially in the starting pitching department, which should create some bargains down the road. If a high-level player with a team or player option is not listed, the assumption is the option will be excercised. I have also not included David Ortiz and Mariano Rivera since I don’t think there’s any way they sign with another team if they play next year.

1. Josh Hamilton: By now we all know the deal — high risk and high reward. I think it’s either the Rangers or the Yankees. The Yankees haven’t made the big splash in a few years, and it’s tantalizing to think what he could do in that ballpark. The Rangers have the money to spend, but I don’t think they’d be too upset if they spent it elsewhere. The Yankees will survive if things go haywire with Hamilton. The ineptitude of the offense to end the season should be the final piece.

Prediction: Yankees, seven years, $185.5 million (with some behavior clauses)

2. Zack Greinke: Easily the best starting pitcher on the market, so there may be no shortage of suitors. The big-market issue with him is hard to gauge and the money might be too much to pass up. I would expect the Angels, Rangers, Yankees, Dodgers, Braves and a few mid-market teams to be in on him. With a bidding war on him he should do a little better than Cole Hamels did.

Prediction: Dodgers, seven years, $154 million

3. B.J. Upton: Upton has superior talent but has underachieved after a great start to his career. Teams may speculate that the best is yet to come, but even if not, he is a center fielder with the power/speed combination. The Giants could be on him but may choose to go with the cheaper in-house alternative, Angel Pagan. If they don’t re-sign Hamilton I could definitely see the Rangers being a player here. The Nationals would be a good fit if Adam Laroche doesn’t exercise his option and they can move Mike Morse to first base. He’s also young enough for the Cubs to think about an offer.

Prediction: Rangers, six years, $96 million

4. Mike Napoli: Napoli provides excellent power from the catcher position and could also play some first base. He’s better suited for the American League, where he has DH possibilities. The Yankees might think about it but will likely stick with Russell Martin. The Marlins could be a sleeper here.

Prediction: Rangers, three years, $36 million

5. A.J. Pierzynski: While no one can expect 27 home runs again, A.J. has been one of the more underrated players of the last decade. He’s been incredibly durable and consistent from behind the plate. While his age is a factor, he is the type of veteran who can put a contender over the hump. If he’s willing to take a one-year deal, I think it brings some smaller-market teams into play here, particularly Tampa Bay.

Prediction: White Sox, two years, $22 million

6. Michael Bourn: This should be the Braves all the way through. Other teams may show interest but likely won’t overpay for a 30-year-old who’s best asset is his legs. The Braves may flirt with some other ideas but ultimately come back to Bourn.

Prediction: Braves, four years, $46 million

7. Jake Peavy: After three disastrous injury-plagued seasons in Chicago, Peavy came through with an excellent season at the right time. Teams will likely be leery with the years here but not the money. At two years, I could see a bunch of teams in on this. The third year here could tip the scale.

Prediction: Brewers, three years, $43.5 million

8. Nick Swisher: Swisher’s a very good OBP guy and adds solid power to that mix. He’s been durable and consistent for the Yankees, but I think they’ll look at him as a Plan B option. His defense is a question mark, but he fits well into any lineup. Baltimore, Philly, San Francisco and Seattle seem like viable options here.

Prediction: Mariners, four years, $40 million

9. Edwin Jackson: Jackson has made the rounds signing a lot of one-year deals. After a disappointing start to his career, he has settled into a good middle-of-the-rotation guy who can eat innings. He’s had recent opportunities for multi-year deals for less money but has chosen to take it a year at a time. I don’t see the Nationals investing multiple years in him, but there should be a fair amount of suitors.

Prediction: Blue Jays, three years, $40.5 million

10. Anibal Sanchez: There are probably teams that like Sanchez more than Jackson. He’s been healthy and consistent the last four years, making 30 starts each year and having a sub 4.00 ERA each of those seasons. He may get better but even if not he’s proven himself to be a good number three starter.

Prediction: Tigers, three years, $39 million

11. Kyle Lohse: Lohse was excellent this year for the Cardinals, but I still look at him as a back-end guy. The Cardinals will likely not make an offer, but he is best suited to remain in the NL. The Diamondbacks make some sense here as they could use another veteran starter.

Prediction: Diamonbacks, three years, $27 million

12. Ryan Ludwick: The fact there is not a lot of power on the market should benefit Ludwick nicely. The Reds want Ludwick back but may have to go to a third year considering the market. The Phillies could definitely be involved, as well as some mid-markets.

Prediction: Reds, three years, $30 million

13. Ryan Dempster: I’m not a big Dempster fan, but at the very least, he’s proven himself durable with 200+ innings from 2008-2011 and 173 this year. He didn’t pitch well for the Rangers down the stretch and going back there may not be an option. The Orioles have rolled the dice with some NL pitchers and may go for another.

Prediction: Orioles, three years, $22.5 million

14. Shane Victorino: A few years ago we would have expected Victorino to be at the top of the list, but a few bad injury-riddled months can change a lot. He had a power component with the Phillies, which at least in the short term didn’t translate at all. Reuniting with the Phillies is a strong possibility. Cardinals would also be a good fit.

Prediction: Phillies, two years, $23 million

15. Hiroki Kuroda: Kuroda made a very nice transition to the AL this year, and the fact that he probably only wants a one-year deal makes him very attractive. Considering that Michael Pineda won’t be healthy to start the year, the Yankees will make sure to get this done.

Prediction: Yankees, one year, $16 million

16. Kevin Youkilis: Although he is on the downside of his career, he can still add something to the bottom of a lineup.

Prediction: Angels, one year, $8.5 million

17. Delmon Young: It’s hard to tell where his value is at. A head case who hasn’t lived up to expectations, he has proven to be a good offensive player. With Victor Martinez coming back, the Tigers may have no interest in bringing him back. Maybe he comes full circle here.

Prediction: Rays, one year, $6.5 million

18. Ervin Santana: Santana is coming off a bad season, but he’s had past success. He could fill out a lot of rotations around the league.

Prediction: Rangers, two years, $14 million

19. Russell Martin: The AVG declined but he can still hit for power. There’s no reason to think the Yankees don’t move forward with him.

Prediction: Yankees, two years, $15 million

20. Shaun Marcum: It could be argued that Marcum should be ahead of some of the other starters, but he carries the biggest injury risk.

Prediction: Nationals, one year, $7.5 million

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