* UPDATED POST
Here’s a early look at some of MLB’s Top Free Agents entering the off-season…
1. Albert Pujols 1B – Cardinals – He was never leaving St. Louis in my opinion. They were never going to let him walk away. He’s arguably the greatest player in franchise history and will be paid as so.
2. C.C. Sabathia SP – Yankees – Almost guaranteed to opt out of his contract at this point. Reports are surfacing the Rangers expect to make a big bid for his services as well. However in the end I see no way he leaves the Bronx. He’s claimed he is comfortable there and has no plans to leave.
3. Prince Fielder 1B – Cubs – Theo Epstein is already being enshrined as a demigod in the Windy City. The new Cubs ownership is expected to allow Epstein a nice pocket of cash this offseason to pursue free agents. With Carlos Pena out the door after a one year deal, Fielder makes a ton of sense in a new look Cubs lineup that may very well not feature Aramis Ramirez either.
4. Jose Reyes SS – Mets – I’ve been saying I expect Jose Reyes to remain with the New York Mets for almost 2 years now. He is comfortable in New York, the Mets have plenty of money to spend, and the front office knows they are not that far from competing. I expect the two sides to come to terms on a 5 year year deal worth over 100 million dollars in the end. Option years are possible too based off of games played, performance, etc. I expect the Giants to show a lot of interest with the Phillies, Brewers, Marlins, Nationals, Tigers, and possibly Red Sox also in the mix.
5. C.J. Wilson SP – Rangers – If the Rangers are interested in making a qualifying offer for CC Sabathia then they must be willing to spend some money this offseason. While C.J. Wilson is not the elite ace that Sabathia is, he is a pretty good pitcher. I expect Nolan Ryan to pay as so too.
6. Mark Buehrle SP – Cubs – Buehrle is coming off yet another stellar year where he posted his best ERA (3.59) since 2005 (3.12). A move across town to the Cubs could be just what the doctor ordered for Buehrle. It just really depends whether he is looking to get that last big contract of his career, or stay with the White Sox for less.
7. Yu Darvish SP – Yankees – If Yu Darvish is posted I expect the Yankees and Red Sox to be right up front in the posting process. While I expect big bids from teams like the Rangers, Red Sox – in the end I see the Yankees outbidding everyone. They are going to bring back CC Sabathia at all costs and then look toward more pitching next. Darvish is the arguably the biggest rock star in Japan right now so what better for him then to come to the world biggest baseball stage in the Bronx.
8. Carlos Beltran RF – Giants – Carlos Beltran has seemed comfortable in his time in San Francisco. He has even reportedly contacted Jose Reyes about playing there next season. Also I have my doubts that Brian Sabean is going to want see his Zack Wheeler investment go to waste so quickly. There is no free agent compensation for Beltran so he would not bring the Giants anything back for signing elsewhere. I expect the 2 sides to eventually work out a deal. Posey and Beltran could be a nice combination for the Giants in 2012.
9. Aramis Ramirez 3B – Brewers – How about that? The Cubs sign Prince Fielder and the Brewers respond by signing Aramis Ramirez and move Casey McGehee to 1B. The Brewers will need to replace Fielder’s production somehow if they want to stay relevant in the Central mix. What better then with a guy who hit 26 HR/.306 AVG/.361 OBP/93 RBI in 2011.
10. David Ortiz DH – Red Sox – I don’t expect the Red Sox to break the bank for David Ortiz being that he will soon be 36. However I do expect them to bring Ortiz back to Boston on at least a 2 year contract. Ortiz had arguably one of the best seasons of his career in 2011 with a 29 HR/.309 AVG/.398 OBP/96 RBI batting line.
Here are my updated 11-20 additions to this post…
11. Jimmy Rollins SS – Giants – Rollins is originally from California. The Giants have a glaring hole at the SS position and he may be the perfect guy for the job. His bat will also provide a nice addition to a lineup that may also see Carlos Beltran back, not to mention a healthy Buster Posey.
12. Grady Sizemore CF – Brewers – If the Indians decline Sizemore’s 8.5 million dollar option for 2012 he will hit the open market. Before his bout with injuries, Sizemore was an All-Star CF who played stellar both offensively and defensively. I’m guessing he will want to take a 1 year deal to reestablish his value with an eye on a big contract. I expect the Indians, Brewers, Marlins, Mets, Giants, and A’s to show interest.
13. Edwin Jackson SP – Tigers – Some team is going to give Jackson a 3 year deal this off-season. I just don’t know if it will be a contender or a pretender just yet. I’m sure the Nationals, Tigers, Cardinals, Rangers, Yankees, Rockies, Cubs and Diamondbacks to all show varying levels of interest. Dave Dombrowski liked him enough to trade one time prospect Matt Joyce for him following the 2008 season. He may still hold the admiration, especially after the Tigers defeat in the ALCS.
14. Hiroki Kuroda SP – Japan – Many people have already speculated that Kuroda will end up back in Japan this offseason. Kuroda had another successful year in 2011 going 13-16 with a 3.06 ERA. He will turn 37 in time for opening day 2012 and wouldn’t likely get more then a 2 year deal on the open market. In the end it will probably be whether he gets the money he wants to consider staying in the U.S.
15. Paul Maholm SP – Nationals – Maholm is not an ace. He is a borderline #3 starter for most MLB teams outside of Pittsburgh. He does not blow it by you and relies on his ability to pitch to contact for outs. I like the A’s, Nationals, Tigers, Rangers and Mets as interested suitors for Maholm. May be able to secure a 2-3 year deal with a team like Washington.
16. Michael Cuddyer RF – Mariners – Cuddyer will be 33 on opening day 2012. I expect him to get a 2 year deal with options on the open market. He put up good numbers in 2011 posting a (.284 AVG/20 HR/.346 OBP/70 RBI) batting line. Team’s that may have interest include the Red Sox, Tigers, Mariners and Giants. The Mariners could certainly use a bat in their impotent lineup. Cuddyer could fit the bill at his reasonable price.
17. Heath Bell CL – Cardinals – Heath Bell has said he likes living on the West Coast and would like to live there permanently. Only problem is he is going to seek at least a 3 year deal and I don’t see any West Coast team’s ready to empty their pockets for him. The Phillies may show interest as well.
18. Francisco Rodriguez CL – White Sox – Will seek a 3-year deal on the open market. Showed he still has Closer stuff during the postseason with the Brewers. Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Reds and Marlins all may show interest. In the end I expect it to come down to dollars and the opportunity to close games.
19. Erik Bedard SP – White Sox – If the White Sox lose Mark Buerhle they may be in the hunt for a new LHP for their Starting Rotation. Bedard made 24 starts in 2011 going 5-9 with a 3.62 ERA. He showed that he is healthy and probably can command a 2 year deal with options. The Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers, Orioles, Tigers, A’s, Cubs, Reds, Diamondbacks and Rockies all could show interest in the former Orioles ace.
20. Jonathan Papelbon CL – Phillies – The Phillies make a ton of sense of Papelbon. He converted 31 of 34 saves in 2011 and will have no trouble finding work this offseason. Pitching in Philly is full of pressure and unruly fans, something Papelbon is all too used to. He can probably step in and help stabilize a Phillies bullpen which was a major weakness in 2011. Also Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge are both free agents which makes signing a new Closer all the more important. Other teams who may show interest include the Mets, White Sox, Reds, Marlins, and Cardinals.
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