Free Agency Impacts
The history of free agency in Major League Baseball dates back to 1969 when St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood refused a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies. Flood, who has been traded along with Tim McCarver, Byron Browne and Joe Horner to the Phillies for Jerry Johnson, Dick Allen and Cookie Rojas, refused to report to Philadelphia and brough on MLB Players Association head Marvin Miller to challenege baseball's reserve clause. The rest, as they say, is history.
The 2012-13 free agent class featured several of the games premium hitters, Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton, Nick Swisher and Mike Napoli, a pair of ace starting pitchers in Zach Greinke and R.A. Dickey and one dominant closer in Rafeal Soriano. This free agency impacts article takes a look at the offseason's biggest offseason signings and how they will impact the fantasy landscape as we head into the 2013 fantasy baseball season.
Marquee Moves - The Offseason's Biggest Free Agent Acquisitions
Josh Hamilton - OF - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Signed five-year $125 million deal on 12/13/12
Josh Hamilton finally managed to stay healthy for a full season last year, eclipsing the 40-home run mark for the first time in his career, but saw his strikeout rate spike to over 25 percent as he swung at an MLB-leading 45 percent of pitches out of the strikezone in 2012. While Hamilton will not have to adjust to a new league after staying in the AL West, signing with the Los Angeles Angels, he is likely to see his power numbers regress, moving from one of the best hitters parks in baseball in Rangers Ballpark to Angel Stadium, one of the tougher parks for power hitters in baseball, especially at night. At age 31, the injury concerns are still there with Hamilton, but his consistent production when healthy enables him to remain a top-10 fantasy outfielder this season despite the move to Los Angeles.
Zach Greinke - SP - Los Angeles Dodgers
Signed six-year $147 million deal on 12/8/12
The Dodgers made a splash, acquiring the top starting pitcher on the free agent market this offseason in Zach Greinke, who has been one of the safest fantasy options despite pitching for three different organizations (Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) since 2010. Greinke has posted a sub 4.00 ERA and eclipsed 200 strikeouts in each of the past two seasons and should benefit from a move to the spacious confines of Dodger Stadium and the pitchers heaven that is the NL West division. Fantasy owners should invest in Greinke as a top-10 fantasy starting pitcher in 2013.
Michael Bourn - OF - Cleveland Indians
Signed four-year $48 million deal on 2/11/13
One of the biggest storylines leading up to spring training was the fact that Michael Bourn, one of the offseasons marquee free agents, remained un-signed. The Cleveland Indians scooped up Bourn, one of the games elite defensive outfielders, for a discount price. Bourn will leadoff for the revamped Indians lineup and remains one of the games elite stolen base threats. Bourn has stolen more bags (257) than any other player in baseball since 2008 and while there are some long-term concerns that his speed will decline, he remains a top-25 fantasy outfielder for 2013.
B.J. Upton - OF - Atlanta Braves
Signed five-year $75 million deal on 11/28/12
The reality is that B.J. Upton will be a batting average anchor, weighing your fantasy squad down with a sub .250 average, but he has clubbed 20 plus home runs in two of the past three years and stolen over 30 bases every year since 2008. It is always tough to predict how a player will fare changing leagues, but Upton is one of the better power/speed combinations in all of baseball and shouldn't have too much trouble adjusting to life in Atlanta especially since he will be playing alongside his younger brother Justin. Fantasy owners should consider Upton a top-20 fantasy outfielder in 2013.
R.A. Dickey - SP - Toronto Blue Jays
Signed two-year $25 million deal on 12/18/12
R.A. Dickey did not pitch at Rogers Center during his New York Mets tenure from 2010-12 and made just one start on turf in a dome, a one-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 12, 2012. One start is an extremely small sample size, but in theory, a controlled environment without any wind should allow Dickey to have greater control of his knuckleball. Coming off an NL Cy Young Award winning season, Dickey will have to adjust to a new league and tougher opponents in the AL East, which could potentially inflate his ERA and cause a slight dip in strikeouts after a career-high 230 in 2011. Despite these minor concerns, there is no reason to think that Dickey, the Blue Jays Opening Day starter, won't be a reliable fantasy ace in 2013.
Rafeal Soriano - RP - Washington Nationals
Signed two-year $28 million deal on 1/15/13
A clear win-now move by the Washington Nationals, they inked Rafeal Soriano to a monster deal on the free agent market to lock down the ninth inning for the next two seasons. The move bumps Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard into set up roles and sets the stage for Soriano to emerge as one of the top closing options in all of fantasy baseball. Soriano has saved over 40 games in two of the past three seasons, including 42 games for the New York Yankees last season after Mariano Rivera went down with a freak knee injury during batting practice. One of the safest options at the closer position, fantasy owners should invest in Soriano as a top-five closer heading into 2013.
Nick Swisher - OF - Cleveland Indians
Signed four-year $56 million deal on 12/23/12
It remains to be seen what the New York Yankees plan to do after letting veteran starters Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez walk during the offseason, but the Cleveland Indians are the beneficiary, scooping up Swisher's powerful bat. Swisher swatted at least 23 home runs in each of his four years in New York and while some may chalk up his power numbers to the bandbox that is Yankee Stadium, Swisher hit 59 of his 105 home runs in a Yankee uniform came on the road. At age 32, Swisher, who played his college ball at Ohio State, returns to the Buckeye state and should be considered a top-50 outfielder heading into 2013.
Mike Napoli - C/1B - Boston Red Sox
Signed one-year $5 million deal on 1/17/13
The two sides had originally agreed on a three-year deal worth $39 million, but the deal fell through after an MRI during the physical revealed the beginning stages of a degenerative hip condition called avascular necrosis (AVN). Now playing on a one-year deal, Mike Napoli is one of the better comeback candidates in fantasy baseball this season. Napoli was one of the top catchers in fantasy baseball in 2011 when he hit a career-high .320 with 30 home runs and 75 RBI. Many fantasy analysts predicted a regression in 2012, but nobody could have predicted a disastrous .227 average which obliterated Napoli's fantasy value. The power is still there and a change in scenery could be just what Napoli needs to rebound in Boston, where he has posted a career .306 average, .710 slugging percentage, and 1.107 OPS in a small sample size of 62 at bats over 19 games.
Dan Haren - SP - Washington Nationals
Signed one-year $13 million deal on 12/4/12
One of the safest (3.66 career ERA), durable starting pitchers in baseball (eclipsing 200 innings in seven straight seasons), Dan Haren finally broke down in 2012, missing time with a nagging back injury. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim declined his 15.5 million option and it wasn't long before Haren landed with the Washington Nationals where he will join a loaded rotation. If Haren is over the back woes that plagued him last season, a return to form is very likely, making Haren at least a top-50 starting pitcher in fantasy this season.
Minor Signings Fantasy Owners Need To Know For 2013
Melky Cabrera - OF - Toronto Blue Jays
Signed two-year $16 million deal on 11/16/12
The big question with Melky Cabrera from a fantasy standpoint is how much of his breakout was legitimate and how much of it can we chalk up to performance enhancing drugs? Nobody knows the answer, but prior to being suspended last season, Cabrera was a legitimate MVP-level player for the San Francisco Giants posting a .346 average with 11 home runs and 60 RBI in 459 at bats. Cabrera could be worth taking a shot on in the mid-rounds of fantasy drafts, but there is major risk associated with Cabrera heading into 2013.
Edwin Jackson - SP - Chicago Cubs
Signed four-year $52 million deal on 12/20/12
Edwin Jackson has developed into a safe, reliable member of a fantasy rotation over the last three seasons, posting a sub 4.00 ERA with three different organizations (Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals) over the past three seasons. Jackson's fantasy prospects take a slight hit with the move to the Chicago Cubs who boast one of the better hitters parks in the game and a rebuilding core group which may impact his win total, but at the end of the day the surface stats and component skills tell the story of a reliable fantasy option worthy of being on of the top-50 starting pitchers off the board on draft day.
Shane Victorino - OF - Boston Red Sox
Signed three-year $39 million deal on 12/4/12
Shane Victorino stole a career-high 39 bases splitting the 2011 season between the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers. A solid outfielder, Victorino is expected to start in right field for the Boston Red Sox in 2013. His stolen base total will likely depend on where he ends up in the batting order and he should be considered a solid rebound candidate coming off his worst season since 2009 ibatting average (.255) and home runs (11) last season.
Torii Hunter - OF - Detroit Tigers
Signed two-year $26 million deal on 11/14/12
The 37-year old owns a career .277 batting average with 297 home runs and nine Gold Gloves in 14 seasons split between the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Torii Hunter hit .313 with 16 homers and nine steals in 140 games last season and while that production may be hard to duplicate at his age, Hunter fills a major void in right field for the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers. A solid fantasy contributor on the back nine of his career, its worth noting that Hunter has hit at least 20 home runs in 10 of the last 12 seasons.
Ryan Dempster - SP - Boston Red Sox
Signed two-year $26.5 million deal on 12/13/12
One of the hottest commodities available at the trade deadline last season, Ryan Dempster caught fire (in a bad way) after his move from the Chicago Cubs (2.25 ERA in 104 innings) to the Texas Rangers (5.09 ERA in 69 innings). A move to the AL East is not ideal, but Dempster is guaranteed a rotation spot with the Boston Red Sox and could provide value as a mid-round selection in fantasy drafts at age 35.
A.J. Pierzynski - C - Texas Rangers
Signed one-year $7.5 million deal on 12/20/12
A.J. Pierzynski blasted a career-high 27 home runs seemingly out of nowhere last season and fantasy owners should not pay for a repeat in 2013 at age 36. The power is likely to still be there for Pierzynski, especially with the move to the Texas Rangers, but 15-20 home runs seems more realistic. Fantasy owners should consider Pierzynski a low-end number one catcher heading into 2013 drafts.
Brandon McCarthy - SP - Arizona Diamonbacks
Signed two-year $15.5 million deal on 12/7/12
Brandon McCarthy on his way to replicating his breakout 2011 with the Oakland A's last year, until he was struck in the head by a line drive, which ended his season in early September. One of the better mid-tier starting pitching options, McCarthy is worth grabbing if he slips to the mid-late rounds of fantasy drafts in 2013.
Shawn Marcum - SP - New York Mets
Signed one-year $4 million deal on 1/24/13
The potential is still there for Shawn Marcum to develop into a top-tier fantasy starting pitcher, but with his persistent durability concerns and his advanced age (31) that dream is fading fast. The New York Mets will roll the dice on Marcum with a low-risk/high-reward one-year deal and if the price is right (late in all fantasy drafts) he is a worthy lottery ticket candidate.
Kevin Youkilis - 3B - New York Yankees
Signed one-year $12 million deal on 12/11/12
A long-time Boston Red Sox fixture, Kevin Youkilis is expected to man the hot corner for the New York Yankees this season. While he is unlikely to break the 20 home run plateau, his on base skills make him worthy of a late-round selection in all fantasy leagues.
Jeff Keppinger - 3B - Chicago White Sox
Signed three-year $12 million deal on 12/5/12
One of the most underrated signings of the offseason by the Chicago White Sox, Jeff Keppinger has a chance to be an outstanding sleeper for fantasy owners this season after batting .325 as a super utility player with the Tampa Bay Rays last season. With an average draft position of 226, Keppinger represents a major value and a batting average shot in the arm for fantasy owners as the 22nd third baseman off the board.
Jonny Gomes - OF - Boston Red Sox
Signed two-year $10 million deal on 11/21/12
A powerful lefty-masher, who owns a career .284 average against left-handed pitching, Jonny Gomes profiles as strictly a platoon player with the Boston Red Sox due to his struggles against right-handers, but all indications are that Gomes will be the everyday starter in left field. Gomes has hit at least 14 home runs in seven of the last eight seasons and could provide excellent late round value as a late-round pick for fantasy owners.
Lance Berkman - 1B - Texas Rangers
Signed one-year $10 million deal on 1/5/13
At age 37, the only question with Lance Berkman is health and lets be honest, its a major one after playing in just 32 games last season. If he's on the field, he is worthy of a roster spot in all fantasy leagues until he gets hurt again.