Where a free agent signs can impact his fantasy value. For example, a pitcher going from the American League to the National League will increase his stock, and a hitter going from Yankee Stadium to Seattle will decrease his value.
I've decided to take a look at the top players who have already signed and rank their fantasy value.
Melky Cabrera, OF—Signed with the Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays are making a huge splash in the offseason. They traded for Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, and just recently signed Melky Cabrera. In a division loaded with talent, the Jays have just become relevant.
But what about Cabrera's value? I wouldn't expect his average to be near .346 again, because his BABIP was abnormally high at .379. A regression to his 2011 season is plausible, though. That year, he hit .305 with 18 HR and 20 SB.
Even after the PED suspension, his home runs could still increase. He's 28 years old, and the Jays have developed power hitters the last few years, i.e. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
Torii Hunter, OF—Signed with the Detroit Tigers
When Hunter signed with Detroit, he arguably gave the Tigers the best offense in baseball. According to MLB Depth Charts, the Tigers will bat Austin Jackson, Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and VIctor Martinez in that order. That's a ton of protection, and Hunter excelled in the two-hole last season, hitting .343 with nine HR and an .854 OPS in 356 at-bats.
Hunter is getting older (he's 37), but he proved he can still hit. The average most likely won't be above .300 again, but he's certainly capable of hitting .270 with 20 HR. Hunter will be a solid third outfield option for 2013.
David Ortiz 1B/DH—Signed with the Boston Red Sox
Ortiz was having a great season last year before getting hurt. In 90 games, Big Papi hit .318 with 23 HR and 60 RBI. Throughout all the turmoil that happened in Fenway a year ago, Ortiz was one of the few bright spots.
The Red Sox will have a weaker lineup, but Ortiz will still have room to produce. He has a good swing for Fenway, and he'll still have Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia hitting in front of him. As long as Ortiz can stay healthy, he'll be a threat to hit .285 with 30 home runs.
James Shields, SP—Signed with the Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays picked up Shields' option for the 2013 season. This is a good fit for Shields, who has had a pretty good career in St. Petersburg. He was roughed up in 2010, but other than that, Shields is solid, posting a career 3.89 ERA and 3.84 FIP to back it up.
Will he remain with the Rays, though? Blaine Blontz of SB Nation writes that the Rays are listening to offers for Shields and Jeremy Hellickson. Where Shields ends up can drastically change his value. If he ends up in the NL, his stock could go way up.
Scott Baker, SP—Signed with the Chicago Cubs
Baker missed the entire 2012 season with Tommy John surgery. He'll try to recapture the form he had In 2011, when he went 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA and an 8.22 K/9 for the Twins. Baker is very injury-prone, but he's a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy.
The move to the Windy City is pretty good. According to ESPN's MLB Park Factors, Wrigley Field was 13th in runs and 19th in home runs. The NL Central is a tough division, but at least it's the NL, where Baker will be able to face weaker lineups.
Hisashi Iwakuma, SP—Signed with the Seattle Mariners
Iwakuma ended up being a pretty good pitcher by the end of the 2012 season. He finished 9-5 with a 3.16 ERA. Seattle was wise enough to sign him to a two-year extension.
There's two sides of pitching for the Mariners. The good is the fact that you play your home games at Safeco Field, which yielded the fewest runs and second-fewest home runs, according to ESPN's MLB Park Factors. The negative is the M's aren't very good offensively—they had the worst batting average and fourth-fewest runs scored.
All in all, Iwakuma is a decent option. The Mariners might spend some money on a big bat, and you can count on pitchers in Safeco.
Jorge De La Rosa, SP—Signed with the Colorado Rockies
De La Rosa exercised his 2013 option with the Rockies. De La Rosa only pitched 10.2 innings last season, and he got lit up, giving up 11 earned runs. I'm not putting much value into his performance last year coming back from a torn UCL, but returning to Coors Field as a pitcher is always a negative.
It's very hard to find a trustworthy pitcher who calls their home Colorado. De La Rosa was looking pretty solid in 2011. He was 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA before he got injured. Expect De La Rosa to win around eight games with a 4.20-4.50 ERA in 2013.
Jake Peavy, SP—Signed with the Chicago White Sox
Peavy signed a two-year extension with the Chicago White Sox at the end of October. Peavy had a good season in 2012, but can that be sustained? He had a 3.37 ERA, but his FIP was 3.73 and his xFIP was 4.00.
U.S. Cellular Field isn't pitcher-friendly, either. According to ESPN's MLB Park Factors, U.S. Cellular Field was second in runs and fourth in home runs.
Durability is also a concern. For the first time in five years, Peavy threw more than 175 innings. He ran out of gas down the stretch, posting a 4.00 ERA in the second half, compared to a 2.85 ERA in the first half.
Juan Pierre, OF—Signed with the Miami Marlins
Pierre was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Phillies in 2012, but can the 35-year-old keep it up? He's going back to the Marlins, who are currently in another fire sale. They just traded Reyes, Buehrle and Johnson, and Alex Speier of WEEI.com writes that Miami is also shopping Logan Morrison and Ricky Nolasco. That leaves one player: Giancarlo Stanton.
On one side, Pierre could have some value, hitting atop the Marlins lineup and getting everyday at-bats. The reason you consider owning Pierre is obviously his stolen bases. He was remarkable last season, stealing 37 bases and getting caught just seven times. But, from 2010-11, Pierre was caught a combined 35 times. I don't know if I can trust Pierre just yet.
Ervin Santana, SP—Signed with the Los Angeles Angles...Traded to the Kansas City Royals
Santana was traded to Kansas City after a dismal 2012 campaign. Santana went 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA and saw his fastball go from 93.3 mph in April to 91.6 mph in September. Santana had a good 2011 season, when he went 11-12 with a 3.38 ERA, and many owners will wonder if he can regain that form with the Royals. I don't think he will.
The home runs in each stadium are just about even, but the Angels defense had a plus-44 UZR and the Royals defense had a minus-10. Santana might be worth a late-round pick, but I wouldn't expect Santana to improve with Kansas City this season.
*Fastball mph and UZR stats are courtesy of Fangraphs.
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