Earlier this winter, Grant Brisbee went through a list of then-free agents, looking at their credentials and trying to predict where they would ultimately land. Free-agent matchmaking, Brisbee called it.
Well, there are only two premier free agents left. So let's take a moment to list the free agents who have signed, then do a bit of mini-matchmaking for the other two, since various situations have changed since Grant did his work.
Here are the 13 who have signed; first Grant's prediction, then the player's actual destination ...
Delmon Young - /
Adam LaRoche - /
A.J. Pierzynski - Rangers / Rangers
Edwin Jackson - /
Nick Swisher - Rangers /
Shane Victorino - Phillies /
Scott Hairston - Yankees / Cubs
Anibal Sanchez - / Tigers
B.J. Upton - Rangers /
Dan Haren - / Nationals
Melky Cabrera - / Blue Jays
Josh Hamilton - Tigers /
Zack Greinke - Angels /
Grant predicted that Lohse would rejoin the Cardinals, but that hasn't happened and doesn't seem likely; just a couple of weeks ago, St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said that bringing Lohse back "doesn't make much sense for us." Probably because the Cardinals, even without Lohse, have seven viable starting pitchers on their 40-man roster. Sure, that group of seven includes the injured Jaime Garcia and the unproven Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly. But sometimes you gotta roll the dice with your prospects. The Cardinals haven't been terribly shy about doing that in recent years, and it's paid off.
So where might Lohse land? Apparently there's a great deal of reluctance to sign Lohse because he's tied to draft-pick compensation; if you've got one of the top 10 picks in the 2013 amateur draft, you lose your second-round pick if you sign a free agent who was (like Lohse) offered arbitration by his old club. But if you're drafting in slots 11-30, signing Lohse actually costs you that first-round pick. And the higher the pick, the more difficult to justify giving up that pick for Kyle Lohse.
But lately it doesn't seem that anyone is particularly interested in Lohse. Or rather, no team seems particularly interested in meeting the price that's been set by Scott Boras, Lohse's agent. The Rangers have been linked to Lohse for a while, but MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan says they don't expect to sign him.
Well, okay. But the list of contending (or semi-contending) teams that would benefit from Lohse's presence is mighty long. Sure, almost every contending club does have five legitimate starting pitchers in place. But in nearly every case, Lohse is significantly better than those clubs' No. 5 starter. It's just a question of degree. But you could certainly argue that Lohse is a lot better than the Jays' Ricky Romero, the Phillies' John Lannan, the Royals' Bruce Chen, and the Brewers' Mark Rogers. Among others. But the Jays and Royals seem to have shot their payroll bolts, if the Phillies wanted Lohse, they probably wouldn't have picked up Lannan, and the Brewers don't seem to have any money to spend at all.
You know what, though? I'm not ready to count out the Rangers. Maybe he winds up signing for one year, if only to prove to everyone that he can thrive away from St. Louis, and even in the American League. Considering they really hadn't done anything this winter except replace Mike Napoli with A.J. Pierzynski and they lost Josh Hamilton and last season ended so badly and the Angels are a formidable foe, I number the Rangers among the clubs that might still make a big move, whatever they're saying publicly. You heard it here first: one year and $14 million.
Almost everything that I just wrote about Lohse and the Rangers might be written about Bourn and the Rangers. Well, except where the Rangers have a young starting pitcher who Lohse would supplant, they've got a young center fielder (Leonys Martín) who Bourn would supplant.
Grant actually predicted the Rangers, but according to Bob Nightengale the Rangers are "not involved at all in Bourn talks." Of course that doesn't mean they won't get involved. Maybe this is the Rangers' big off-season move. Still, Nightengale reports that the Mets and the Mariners are Bourn's leading suitors. But the Mets would be among the clubs most affected by the new compensation rules; as Amazing Avenue points out, the Mets have the 11th pick in this June's draft, which technically they would lose -- along with a few million dollars to spend on draft picks -- if they signed Bourn ... but they're hoping to escape that fate, based on the intent of the rule (which is to protect the teams with the 10 worst winning percentages; the Mets were 10th worst last season).
Let's assume the Mets don't get special dispensation, because a) that seems most likely, and b) even if they get dispensation, I'm not convinced they're really so interested in signing a 30-year-old outfielder who doesn't hit much. The Mariners, though? Remember, they made a serious bid to acquire Josh Hamilton, and another for Justin Upton. Bourn's not in the same ballpark with those guys, but he is better than anyone the M's actually have, right now. And the Mariners seem to think they've actually got a chance to compete with the big boys this season.
I'm not saying the Mariners should sign Bourn. But I won't be at all surprised if they do.