Reviewing my free agent predictions

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It’s time to review my free agent predictions from back in November.
For the second year in a row, the free agents who signed early did much better than those who waited to hold out for a better deal. Once again, the market dried up quickly, as a lot of teams have started to realize that it doesn’t make sense to pay $4 million for a player who isn’t much better than someone who will make $1 million or less. While the average salary will likely continue to rise throughout baseball, the median salary may start to go in the other direction. The stars may be worth every penny they get, but the players who sign for $5 million-$10 million per year tend to provide poor returns.
What we’ve seen this offseason is a bunch of guys who expect to get solid two- or three-year deals have to settle for one-year contracts. Unfortunately for the free agents, Astros GM Ed Wade only had so much cash to burn.
Catchers
Bengie Molina
Guess: Mets – two years, $11 million
Result: Giants – one year, $4.5 million
Miguel Olivo
Guess: Astros – one year, $5 million
Result: Rockies – one year, $2.5 million + option
Ramon Hernandez
Guess: Reds – one year, $4 million
Result: Reds – one year, $3 million + vesting option
Yorvit Torrealba
Guess: Giants – one year, $3 million
Result: Padres – one year, $1.25 million + mutual option
Rod Barajas
Guess: Royals – one year, $2.5 million
Result: Unsigned
Ivan Rodriguez
Guess: Rangers – one year, $1.5 million
Result: Nationals – two years, $6 million


First Basemen/Designated Hitters
Adam LaRoche
Guess: Orioles – three years, $21 million
Result: Diamondbacks – one year, $6 million + mutual option
Nick Johnson
Guess: Mariners – two years, $12 million
Result: Yankees – one year, $5.75 million + mutual option
Carlos Delgado
Guess: Giants – one year, $7 million
Result: Unsigned
Russell Branyan
Guess: Mets – one year, $5 million
Result: Unsigned
Hank Blalock
Guess: Diamondbacks – one year, $4.5 million
Result: Unsigned
Jim Thome
Guess: White Sox – one year, $4 million
Result: Twins – one year, $1.5 million
Aubrey Huff
Guess: Braves – one year, $3.5 million
Result: Giants – one year, $3 million
Second Basemen
Orlando Hudson
Guess: Mets – two years, $14 million
Result: Twins – one year, $5 million
Placido Polanco
Guess: Dodgers – two years, $12 million
Result: Phillies – three years, $18 million + mutual option
Felipe Lopez
Guess: Cubs – two years, $11 million
Result: Unsigned
Adam Kennedy
Guess: Diamondbacks – one year, $2 million
Result: Nationals – one year, $1.75 million + option
Third Basemen
Chone Figgins
Guess: Cubs – four years, $48 million
Result: Mariners – four years, $36 million + vesting option
Adrian Beltre
Guess: Phillies – three years, $27 million
Result: Red Sox – one year, $10 million + mutual option
Mark DeRosa
Guess: Cardinals – three years, $18 million
Result: Giants – two years, $12 million
Troy Glaus
Guess: Athletics – one year, $4 million
Result: Braves – one year, $1.75 million + $2.25 million in incentives
Joe Crede
Guess: Twins – one year, $2.5 million
Result: Unsigned
Pedro Feliz
Guess: Astros – one year, $2.5 million
Result: Astros – one year, $4.5 million
Melvin Mora
Guess: Mets – one year, $1 million
Result: Rockies – one year, $1.3 million
Shortstops
Marco Scutaro
Guess: Red Sox – three years, $18 million
Result: Red Sox – two years, $12.5 million + club/player option
Miguel Tejada
Guess: Mariners – one year, $4 million
Result: Orioles – one year, $6 million
Orlando Cabrera
Guess: Reds – one year, $4 million
Result: Reds – one year, $3.02 million + mutual option
Alex Gonzalez
Guess: Blue Jays – one year, $2.5 million
Result: Blue Jays – one year, $2.75 million + option
Khalil Greene
Guess: Pirates – one year, $2 million
Result: Rangers – one year, $500,000 + $1.05 million in incentives
Outfielders
Matt Holliday
Guess: Red Sox – six years, $120 million
Result: Cardinals – seven years, $120 million + option
Jason Bay
Guess: Angels – five years, $75 million
Result: Mets – four years, $66 million + vesting option
Johnny Damon
Guess: Yankees – two years, $22 million
Result: Unsigned
Hideki Matsui
Guess: Yankees – two years, $18 million
Result: Angels – one year, $6 million
Vladimir Guerrero
Guess: Rangers – two years, $18 million
Result: Rangers – one year, $6.5 million + mutual option
Mike Cameron
Guess: Braves – one year, $8 million
Result: Red Sox – two years, $15.5 million
Jermaine Dye
Guess: Giants – one year, $8 million
Result: Unsigned
Marlon Byrd
Guess: White Sox – three years, $20 million
Result: Cubs – three years, $15 million
Rick Ankiel
Guess: Marlins – one year, $4 million
Result: Royals – one year, $3.25 million + mutual option
Coco Crisp
Guess: Padres – one year, $4 million
Result: Athletics – one year, $5.25 million + option
Xavier Nady
Guess: Cardinals – one year, $3 million
Result: Cubs – one year, $3.3 million
Randy Winn
Guess: Mariners – one year, $2.5 million
Result: Yankees – one year, $1.1 million
Starting Pitchers
John Lackey
Guess: Yankees – six years, $102 million
Result: Red Sox – five years, $82.5 million
Aroldis Chapman
Guess: Yankees – six years, $48 million
Result: Reds – six years, $30.25 million
Randy Wolf
Guess: Mariners – three years, $36 million
Result: Brewers – three years, $29.75 million + option
Ben Sheets
Guess: Rangers – two years, $20 million
Result: Athletics – one year, $10 million
Rich Harden
Guess: Orioles – two years, $18 million
Result: Rangers – one year, $7.5 million + mutual option
Jarrod Washburn
Guess: Twins – two years, $17 million
Result: Unsigned
Joel Pineiro
Guess: Brewers – three years, $22.5 million
Result: Angels – two years, $16 million
Andy Pettitte
Guess: Yankees – one year, $10 million
Result: Yankees – one year, $11.75 million
Brad Penny
Guess: Brewers – two years, $16 million
Result: Cardinals – one year, $7.5 million + $1.5 million in incentives
Vicente Padilla
Guess: Dodgers – two years, $15 million
Result: Dodgers – one year, $5.025 million + $1 million in incentives
Jon Garland
Guess: Athletics – one year, $7.5 million
Result: Padres – one year, $5.35 million + mutual option
Doug Davis
Guess: Nationals – two years, $12 million
Result: Brewers – one year, $5.25 million + mutual option
Carl Pavano
Guess: Diamondbacks – one year, $7 million
Result: Accepted arbitration from Twins (one year, $7 million)
Jason Marquis
Guess: Mets – two years, $10 million
Result: Nationals – two years, $15 million
Pedro Martinez
Guess: Marlins – one year, $5 million
Result: Unsigned
Brett Myers
Guess: Rangers – one year, $4 million
Result: Astros – one year, $5.1 million + mutual option
John Smoltz
Guess: Cardinals – one year, $4 million
Result: Unsigned
Erik Bedard
Guess: Red Sox – one year, $4 million
Result: Mariners – one year, $1.5 million + mutual option
Randy Johnson
Guess: Retirement
Result: Retirement
Braden Looper
Guess: Padres – one year, $3.5 million
Result: Unsigned
Justin Duchscherer
Guess: Angels – one year, $2 million
Result: Athletics – one year, $2 million +$3.5 million in incentives
Relief Pitchers
Jose Valverde
Guess: Braves – three years, $30 million
Result: Tigers – two years, $14 million + option
Rafael Soriano
Guess: Rays – two years, $14 million
Result: Accepted arbitration from Braves, traded to Rays (one year, $7.25 million)
Mike Gonzalez
Guess: Astros – three years, $18 million
Result: Orioles – two years, $12 million
Billy Wagner
Guess: Orioles – one year, $7.5 million
Result: Braves – one year, $7 million + vesting option
Fernando Rodney
Guess: Tigers – three years, $15 million
Result: Angels – two years, $11 million
Octavio Dotel
Guess: Mets – two years, $10 million
Result: Pirates – one year, $3.5 million + option
LaTroy Hawkins
Guess: Astros – two years, $9 million
Result: Brewers – two years, $7.5 million
Brandon Lyon
Guess: Phillies – two years, $8 million
Result: Astros – three years, $15 million
Takashi Saito
Guess: Diamondbacks – one year, $4 million
Result: Braves – one year, $3.2 million + $2.3 million in incentives
Chan Ho Park
Guess: Phillies – one year, $4 million
Result: Unsigned
J.J. Putz
Guess: Nationals – one year, $2.5 million
Result: White Sox – one year, $3 million + $3.25 million in incentives
Rafael Betancourt
Guess: Rockies – one year, $4 million
Result: Accepted arbitration from Rockies (two years, $7.55 million)
Ryota Igarashi
Guess: Cubs – two years, $6 million
Result: Mets – two years, $3 million
Kevin Gregg
Guess: Nationals – one year, $3.5 million
Result: Blue Jays – one year, $2.75 million + club options
Kiko Calero
Guess: Red Sox – one year, $3 million
Result: Unsigned

Jose Fernandez was remarkable on and off the field

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Pitcher Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins poses for photos on media day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 24, 2016 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
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Jose Fernandez’s love for baseball was born in Santa Clara, Cuba. It was there, alongside childhood friend and St. Louis Cardinal Aledmys Diaz, that he devoted hours to makeshift games of baseball. Often alone, often without a teammate, a playing field, or even a baseball, Fernandez would spend hours lobbing baseball-sized rocks in the air, hitting them with sticks, and circling imaginary bases.

The dream was to play in the Cuban National Series, a 16-team league that formed when the original Cuban League disbanded in 1961. When Fernandez became a teenager, however, his stepfather, Ramon Jimenez, defected to the United States. It took Jimenez 13 attempts before he made a successful escape, and soon he sent for his wife and children. Whatever baseball aspirations Fernandez had took a backseat to his own treacherous journey from Cuba to Florida.

After two unsuccessful attempts and two months in a Cuban prison, 15-year-old Fernandez, his mother, and his stepsister tried again. The voyage was tumultuous; at one point, Fernandez’s mother fell overboard. Fernandez dove in after her and helped her swim 30 yards back to the boat. It took another month and change before Fernandez was settled in Florida with his family, and from there, his baseball career appeared to flourish overnight. He enrolled in Braulio Alonso High School and pitched during two championship runs with the Florida Class 6A state champions, working a 13-1 record and 2.85 ERA in his senior year with two no-hitters.

By 2011, several weeks before his 19th birthday, Fernandez was selected by the Miami Marlins in the first round of the MLB draft. His ascension through the minor leagues was even more remarkable. In his first season with Single-A Greensboro, Fernandez contributed six innings of a combined no-hitter, pitched to a combined 1.75 ERA and 158 strikeouts between Greensboro and Advanced-A Jupiter, and was distinguished as the preeminent Marlins minor league pitcher of the year.

If the transition from Miami’s minor league circuit to the big league stage was a rocky one, Fernandez hid it well. He debuted with the Marlins on April 17, 2013, holding the Mets to five innings of one-run ball and striking out eight of 19 batters. Only six major league pitchers under 21 years old had struck out at least eight batters during their major league debut; at 20 years old, Fernandez was the seventh.

The rest of his rookie season was no less groundbreaking. Fernandez worked a 2.19 ERA, second only to Clayton Kershaw’s 1.83 mark among qualified starting pitchers, appeared in his first All-Star Game, was named Rookie of the Month in two consecutive months, and capped his year with a staggering 4.1 fWAR. The Marlins didn’t just find their next ace in Fernandez; they found one of the best starting pitchers of the decade.

This isn’t to say that Fernandez was perfect — no player is. Reports surfaced in November 2015 that the 23-year-old hurler was working under a strained relationship with the Marlins’ brass, refusing to adhere to dugout protocol and asking president of baseball operations Michael Hill when he would be traded. Per Andy Slater of slaterscoops.com, the higher-ups in the Marlins’ organization weren’t the only ones frustrated with their star pitcher. Casey McGehee reprimanded Fernandez for showing up late to the clubhouse, and unnamed players also expressed their hope that Fernandez would struggle on the mound in future starts as a consequence for his arrogant behavior.

Following the report, several players stepped forward in Fernandez’s defense. According to a report by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the worst criticism levied at Fernandez was that he occasionally acted his age. (Brian McCann, who confronted Fernandez in a benches-clearing brawl after the rookie’s first career home run, might have agreed.) Others, like right-handers Dan Haren and Tom Koehler, vocalized their support for the pitcher despite any underlying tension surrounding his potential departure.

Whether or not the rumors had merit, Fernandez was spared the chopping block during his lengthy recovery process in 2014 and 2015 after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. In 2016, he again proved his dominance on the mound. Through 186 ⅔ innings, the 24-year-old posted 16 wins, a staggering 12.49 K/9 rate, a 2.86 ERA and career-high 6.2 fWAR. It should have been just the second outstanding season of a lengthy career; instead, it was his last.

In the wake of today’s tragedy, it is difficult to dwell on Fernandez’s professional accomplishments. We know that he was more than the sum of his innings pitched in Miami, more than a feel-good story or a testament to the resilience of other players who defected from their home countries in pursuit of a better life. By all reports, he was a man of incredible courage, a cherished son and grandson, and a remarkable talent on the field. His life, as with any other, should be valued not for what he did or did not do, but simply because he existed.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Sunday’s action

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Starting pitcher Taijuan Walker #44 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays in the fourth inning at Safeco Field on September 19, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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The last time the Mariners qualified for a postseason berth, I was eleven years old. My lone memory of the Mariners’ historic 116-win season has been reduced to a brief conversation with my father over nachos at our local Mexican restaurant. The details of our conversation are lost to me now; with an upbringing specifically tailored to Seattle Seahawks football, even the best and brightest of the Mariners’ glory days appeared as little more than a blip on my radar.

The Mariners enter Sunday with a 14% chance of securing a ticket to the playoffs. They’ll kick off the series finale at 2:10 PM EDT, during which Seattle’s Taijuan Walker will take on Minnesota lefty Hector Santiago. Neither pitcher looked dominant on the mound last week, with both Walker and Santiago lasting just 5  innings in their previous starts and giving up three runs and six runs in their respective outings.

What should have been an easy sweep for Seattle turned ugly on Saturday night as the Mariners battled their way to a 3-2 loss in Minnesota. Nelson Cruz‘s mammoth two-run homer was the only saving grace for an offense that has produced at a .263/.334/.437 clip in September. With a three-game set against the Astros on Monday and a final homestand against the A’s next weekend, it’ll take a significant push to propel the Mariners into October baseball.

Should they beat the odds and snap a 15-year playoff drought, however, I’ll be following every step of the way this time — whether the postseason goes the way of the Double or a Geronimo Berroa home run. (Just don’t make me give up my nachos.)

You can find more from Sunday’s action below.

New York Yankees (Michael Pineda) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marco Estrada), 1:07 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Eduardo Rodriguez) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Jake Odorizzi), 1:10 PM EDT

Chicago White Sox (Carlos Rodon) @ Cleveland Indians (Josh Tomlin), 1:10 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez) @ Detroit Tigers (Matt Boyd), 1:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Jake Thompson) @ New York Mets (Robert Gsellman), 1:10 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Braden Shipley) @ Baltimore Orioles (Dylan Bundy), 1:35 PM EDT

Washington Nationals (A.J. Cole) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Tyler Glasnow), 1:35 PM EDT

Cincinnati Reds (Brandon Finnegan) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta), 2:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels (Daniel Wright) @ Houston Astros (Joe Musgrove), 2:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Taijuan Walker) @ Minnesota Twins (Hector Santiago), 2:10 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis) @ Oakland Athletics (Jharel Cotton), 4:05 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Tyler Anderson) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Brandon McCarthy), 4:10 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Ty Blach) @ San Diego Padres (Clayton Richard), 4:40 PM EDT

St. Louis Cardinals (Carlos Martinez) @ Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester), 8:08 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins: POSTPONED