The 2033 Free Agent class, while not the strongest class ever, still has its share of top free agents. With the announcement of a error that initially caused the top pitching free agent, David Ybarra, to be in the pool before being sent back to the Outlaws, the class became dominated by hitters – who will all be signed.
The only questions are to whom and for how much.
The biggest question here is Wichita and Iowa – how much are they going to spend in free agency this year. Is it going to be more focused on professionals or amateurs? Given that both teams seem suited to start a rebuild, will they try to extend their time in the current leagues before tearing it down? Both teams have oodles of money to spend, but we don’t know for sure what direction they will head. Knowing that Iowa sent Orlando Burgueno back to DC and Wichita let Tyler Shinkle walk tells us enough information to write them out.
With that being said, let’s look at the potential landing spots for the top soon to be multi-millionares.
C Sal Valdez
The need for a catcher is not common for PL teams to run across, especially teams that finish first in runs scored, but Cincinnati needs a catcher. In a park that held a BABIP north of .360 for most of the season, Alejandro Pena managed just a .230 batting average. Backup Trevor Hamberlin is 42 years old, not good anymore, and the top catcher in their system (Bill Larson) would still wind up as a bottom tier catcher. Valdez would fix all this, giving them another big bat in the lineup.
Only problem is their current $103 million payroll – meaning that, if they do sign Valdez, they would have to let either Steve Salazar or Eduardo Molnes walk.
Austin recently lost Sam Greene to the Hawks after the loan time ran out, meaning there’s now a hole that needs to be filled. Ever since trading Jason Surface away, catcher has been a position of constant need for the Outlaws. Now is the time to buy up, as the core group of Austin will start getting extensions starting next season.
3B Alvaro Mejia
LA has reportedly been looking for an elite shortstop or third baseman, presumably as a hold while Greg Raymundo makes his way to the majors next season. Already having Roger Cole (baybay) at shortstop makes Mejia the choice for a one year rental at third base. He is going to be cheaper than Austin Owens, can hit better, and comes with nearly the same defensive value. It would be hard to not see him putting up an additional 4 WAR season, having already done so the past four years.
2B Tony Morales
Arizona has the smallest payroll in the league and could be looking to make a splash in free agency after winning 71 games last season. Morales is the top prize by most accounts, and Zona could propel themselves to the top spot in the BL while fighting with Indy for the championship.
1B Luis Botero
New York has a wad of cash and a newly promoted team to compete in the SL. Their current first baseman, Karl Platzer, is really a second baseman put at first by need. Botero provides the best bat in the class while also giving DDD defense at first base. Botero will likely come cheap, still giving New York the payroll flexibility to add in the following offseasons.
3B Josh Verburg
Denver is weak at both the DH and third base spots, meaning Verburg would have a spot both on and off the field. When Bruce Adams comes up from the minors, he likely pushes Dave Kruger back to third base – although Verburg would slot in at DH, being a better hitter than the other two currently occupying the 3B and DH spots. It’s hard to pass on a guy who hit .405 last season, especially in the thin Denver air. Rejoining the Wolves would be the best for both organizations.
SS Austin Owens
DC has acquired enough prospects to call up this season to become a force in the SL. The one spot they are missing: Shortstop. The outfield is set and taken care of (even for the bench spots), Bobby McCullough takes catching duty, and the infield is either set or has the prospects to fill in the holes. Owens is the final piece needed for another championship run – and it helps that he’s a key member to the core of the original champion team.
CL Bobby Santamaria
Santamaria, coming off a PL Relief Cup win, hits the market and looks for a new team. The Roar, with no current relief ace, seem like the perfect fit for Santamaria. Even when adding Botero for an estimated $20 million a season, their payroll stays at $45 million – meaning they can easily slide in Santamaria. With a duo of aces coming up from the minors, a PL award winning closer, and a top first baseman joining the squad, New York should look to cruise to a SL championship this season.
SP Victor Gonzalez
Carolina could have easily filled in Morales’ box, only the fact that their starting rotation – consisting of washed up starters from years past – desparately needs work if they hope to build on their fourth place finish last year. Gonzalez is a proven starter in the PL who can come into a much better defense in Carolina and put in quality innings.
SS Nick Pankow
After carrying one of the worst fielding shortstops in the league last year in Alexis Carrera, Chicago hopes to make an addition to move Carrera to second base. Pankow is the cheaper of the two options at short, which makes sense considering the three soon-to-be free agents in Ryan Brisbin, David Castro, and Wesley Rollings. Pankow can provide defense in a spot that was missing a glove last season, hopefully to the enjoyment of Brisbin and Chad Armbruster.
SP Tyler Shinkle
Almost felt like we had to throw this one in here.
Likely? Definitely not. But it feels right. Both sides have discussed a return as something they’d like to see happen, and Shinkle’s injury and asking price will leave him on the market. The Pandas have money to spend when that asking price goes down, leading us to believe that a return to the Bay isn’t too far fetched as one might think.