Predictions: The Pirates and the free agent market

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

I just entered MLBTR's Free Agent Prediction contest, and it's fun, if somewhat headache-inducing, to play. You've got to pick a team (or "retirement," or "Japan") for each of MLBTR's top 50 free agents. It's an interesting exercise, even if you'll inevitably get most of the answers wrong, because it helps you see your team's approach in free agency not as an abstraction, but as one interlocking piece among many.

I picked "retirement" for A.J. Burnett. I hope to be wrong about that, and I think there's still a very significant chance I will be wrong. If he does retire, though, that means the Pirates could be looking for a starter on a short-term deal. I had them signing Bartolo Colon instead. He's older than dirt, but he was great last year, and the Pirates could almost certainly sign him for one year. With a Cole/Taillon rotation on the horizon, there's no reason for the Bucs to go crazy with long-term deals for pitchers, especially the sorts of free-agent pitchers they'd be able to afford.

MLBTR predicts Colon will get $10 million. I'd much rather have Burnett at $14.1 million, and I can't believe the Pirates wouldn't greatly prefer Burnett's groundball and strikeout tendencies to Colon's walk-limiting ways, but that $4.1 million difference might well be a meaningful one for the Pirates, judging from Neal Huntington's recent comments. Colon is also a name player coming off a very good season, so he might be seen as a splashy free agent despite the fact that he won't cost that much.

The Pirates will also obviously be in the market for a first baseman. I predicted they would sign Corey Hart, who has upside and shouldn't cost a ton. I went back and forth, though, about where to put Hart, James Loney and Justin Morneau. I predicted Marlon Byrd would sign with the Astros, who will be looking for outfielders and have a lot of money to spend but probably won't be able to attract a top-shelf free agent, since they lost 452 games last year. Obviously, this wouldn't be a great offseason for the Pirates, and I'm hoping for better.

Anyway, I found it really hard to do this so that all my picks made perfect sense, because you have to not only pick destinations for all 50 players, but make sure you make sense of the stories you're telling about each team's offseason. The contest closes here in less than an hour, so get your picks in quickly, and let me know what you think.

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