It’s time to stoke the fires of the Hot Stove season, sometimes called silly season because of all the crazy trade speculation and free agent rumors. Thus far, things have been pretty quiet but now that the annual General Manager meetings are over, the ball generally gets rolling on trade talks. Often the groundwork for trades is laid during the GM meetings but deals are rarely finalized before the Winter Meetings, which will take place next month beginning December 9.
One important event of note has already happened; all 13 of the players who received qualifying offers from their teams rejected them, opting to test the free agent waters instead. Now the real free agency games can begin in earnest. Most pundits agree that this is a relatively thin year for free agent talent so the players that rejected those offers probably made the right call. There is one major difference that sets this free agent market apart from recent past years in that MLB teams are flush with cash to spend from the new TV deal that kicks in for 2014. The feeling is that teams will feel compelled to spend whatever is necessary to lock in the talent they need to be competitive, even if it means overpaying for less-than-elite talent.
Throughout the winter, RotoExperts will keep you informed about player movement via trades and free agency, and let you know how it will affect their Fantasy value for 2014. In the meantime, let’s take a peek at the early Overall Top 25 Fantasy rankings for 2014. In future posts here we’ll take a look at the Top 20 by position.
- Mike Trout – Two years of solid performance is enough to convince me that he belongs on top.
- Miguel Cabrera – Injuries really ruined his post season, but nothing can take away from his dominant hitting performance during the regular season.
- Andrew McCutchen – Three straight 20/20 seasons and he’s just entering his peak production years. The power will return in 2014 with 30/30 a strong possibility.
- Paul Goldschmidt – He entered the elite realm in 2013 and should be a power hitting force for years to come. Remember, he just turned 26!
- Robinson Cano – Cano is past he peak now but there is no reason to think he doesn’t have at least a few more years of solid production in him. Still the top 2B in Fantasy no matter where he ends up.
- Hanley Ramirez – A healthy Ramirez would be among the Top 3 here. He was an absolute beast when he was in the lineup. The Dodgers were lost without him.
- Adam Jones – He’s a consistent performer but his refusal to take a walk means we’ve probably seen his ceiling unless he changes his approach.
- Adrian Beltre – His power numbers were down a bit but he walked more often and still drove in and scored plenty of runs in a lousy lineup.
- Clayton Kershaw – Kershaw was dominant and will remain so in 2014.
- Chris Davis – Davis would be ranked higher if I believed he could maintain a 29.6 percent HR/FB rate. He should still hit close to 40 HRs but I’d be shocked if he hit 50 again. He strikes out way too often for lightning to strike twice.
- Troy Tulowitzki – Tulo did more in 126 games than any other SS did with 150 or more. If he could stay healthy he’d be in the Top 5. He turns 30 in 2014, so there are still a few good years left in him.
- Yu Darvish – Tremendous K rate (11.89 K/9) offset the occasional problem with the long ball (1.12 HR/9). He was arguably more dominant in 2013 than his rookie season despite only winning 13 games. Better run support would have made him a 20-game winner.
- Ryan Braun – It will be interesting to see just how much the lack of PEDs affects his numbers. For now he still gets this high a ranking based on history. Make no mistake, though, Braun will be a risky pick in 2014.
- Felix Hernandez – It seems like King Felix has been around forever but he turns 28 years old in 2014 and still has plenty of good seasons left in the tank. If the Mariners ever get him some run support he’ll win 20 games. I doubt 2014 will be the year.
- Jacoby Ellsbury – Arguably the top free agent of the 2013 class. He will get paid somewhere, very likely in the American League. Don’t ever expect his 2011 power numbers again and you won’t be disappointed.
- Max Scherzer – Scherzer flirted with greatness for couple of years before finally putting it all together in 2013. Look for more of the same in 2014.
- Adam Wainwright – He came back from Tommy John surgery with all of his skills intact and improved control. Wainwright still has a year or two of ace status ahead.
- Joey Votto – Some are disappointed by his lower HR totals but how can you complain about an on-base machine like Votto? He’s one of the best hitters in the game and will remain so for years to come. Who cares if he only hits 25 HRs?
- David Wright – Between injuries and the terrible cast around him, 2013 ended up being a down year for Wright. He’s still one of the top third basemen in MLB, though, and 2014 should see him return to elite production provided he stays healthy.
- Bryce Harper – Still put up decent numbers despite a bum knee. Hopefully, this won’t be a continuing issue for him because his best is yet to come. Remember, he turns just 22 in 2014.
- Evan Longoria – He finally put in his first full season since 2010. His counting stats were disappointing, but that was a function of the anemic lineup around him more than anything he did or didn’t do. If the Rays would only get another solid bat in the lineup, Longoria would do wonders with the help.
- David Price – Price has the stuff and the makeup to be baseball’s best pitcher. Too bad he will likely achieve that status for another team. Trade rumors involving Price are an annual part of silly season.
- Edwin Encarnacion – E-5 loses his third base eligibility in Fantasy next season, but who cares? He’s become a perennial 35 HR, 100-plus RBI, 90-plus Run producer.
- Carlos Gomez – Gomez could flirt with 30/30 next season, but his lack of patience at the plate might prevent him from actually doing it. He’s right smack in the middle of his productive peak, so it could happen.
- Stephen Strasburg – Strasburg gets more “human” with every season, and it’s a little disturbing to see that he needed yet another elbow surgery at seasons end. However, he can still strike out batters in bunches and has Cy Young potential. Perhaps 2014 will be the year he achieves all we’ve expected of him.