I was hoping that this article would still be topical by the time I started writing it yesterday night, and lo and behold the only free agent of consequence to sign on November 3rd was Juan Rivera. I have literally no idea who he is. I watch at least a hundred Mariners games each year (MLB.tv FTW), plus a good number of Phillies games and even as much of a Tigers game as I can stomach now and then. Between that and fantasy baseball, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on who’s who in the MLB and I had literally no idea who this guy was.* So basically he wasn’t going to be on this list anyway.
Here is a list of ten of the top free agents and where I think they will sign:
2011 team: Cardinals
2012 team: Cardinals
Why: Everyone has been jawing all season long about Pujols testing the market, but I think a lot of that was ESPN puffing the subject up so they had something else to talk about during Sports Center besides whether Tom Brady having longer hair than Aaron Rodgers makes him a better QB. When all is said and done, I think this is going to turn out like the Matt Holliday-STL deal where there weren’t a ton of other serious suitors for the money and the player didn’t want to leave St. Louis anyway. Add in that two of the big free agent spenders, the Yankees and Red Sox already have top tier 1Bs and you don’t have anyone to seriously compete with the Cardinals at the price Pujols wants. So in the end St. Louis will end up overpaying a bit, talking heads who said that Pujols would sign for 300 million will complain about how St. Louis overpaid, St. Louis fans will complain about how they overpaid, but inside everyone will be happy.
Outside shot: Real Madrid? At that price, I don’t know.
2011 team: Brewers
2012 team: Orioles
Why: This one was a little hard for me. Prince clearly wants and deserves a big payday, and the Brewers definitely can’t give it to him. Enter the Baltimore Orioles, who always want to sign big free agents but never actually sign them, because somewhere in between receiving a big contract offer from the Orioles and actually accepting said offer they realize that the Baltimore Orioles are a massive black hole of suck and that signing on the dotted line means they will never so much as sniff the 75 win barrier for the duration of the contract. However, I think Prince wants the big bucks and doesn’t care where he gets them, so he might be willing to sacrifice ever making the playoffs again.
Outside shot: Marlins . . . people are always talking about their new stadium and how they will get more money because they have a new stadium, so I could see them making a splash and signing Fielder to the huge deal that he’s looking for.
Who I want to have a shot: Mariners.
2011 team: Rangers
2012 team: Rangers
Why: In the end I think that CJ is going to be like Pujols and realize how good he has it in Texas. That, combined with the fact that Texas has and is likely willing to pony up some cash to keep him, will ensure that CJ is sweating it out in Arlington for seasons to come. I mean, why would you want to leave a team that is pretty much stacked on offense and can likely pay you what you want?
Outside shot: Yankees. Oh yeah, you might want to leave because there is another team out there that is also stacked on offense and has more money to pay you. Don’t rule out the Yankees making some desperation move to get someone with a pulse (apologies to Ivan Nova) to be No. 2 behind CC.
2011 team: Mets
2012 team: Phillies
Why: I can’t put my finger on why I think this, but I just feel like the Phillies are going to pull off another crazy free agent signing that no one expects and I think it’s going to be Jose Reyes. Rollins seems like he wants too many years and too much money for them to commit to him, so they are going to be in the market for a SS. Reyes will command more money than Rollins, but he’s worth that extra money. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro isn’t afraid to make bold moves, and I think he is going to sneak in and snatch Reyes like he did last winter with Cliff Lee.
Outside shot: Cubs. Step 1. Move Starlin Castro to 3B. Step 2. Sign Jose Reyes. Step 3. ??? Step 4. Profit. Look for the Giants to holler at him too.
Not outside shot: Stop it Tigers fans on the radio. Just stop. You aren’t getting Jose Reyes. The Marlins are also not going to accept Porcello and chump change in exchange for Hanley Ramirez. Stop it. All of you people calling in to 97.1 are people I do not like.
2011 team: Phillies
2012 team: Giants
Why: Have you seen the Giants’ shortstop situation the last few years? Eww. The Giants need to upgrade at the SS position and have the money to do so. The combination of desperation and money to spare will lead to them signing Rollins to the five year deal that he is looking for.
Outside shot: Tigers. Are you happy 97.1 callers? You better be. Now start calling about the Red Wings more. Actually don’t, because they are really depressing me these days.
2011 team: Cubs
2012 team: Tigers
Why: The Tigers are the 3B version of the Giants. As much as the lady Tigers fans love themselves some Brandon Inge, he is not the answer at 3B for the Tigers. He isn’t even the answer at 3B for the Yakult Swallows. Tigers’ owner Mike Illitch is always willing to spend money when the team needs him to and the team definitely needs him to spend some money to upgrade at 3B.
Outside shot: Cubs. I could see him resigning there. He has had some productive years there, and who knows, maybe he wants to stay if the Cubs offer him a competitive price.
2011 team: Red Sox
2012 team: Red Sox
Why: He is going to command a lot of money, more than I would ever pay for a closer. I’ll write up a rant on closers later. For now, let’s just say I don’t see anyone else ponying up the money it takes to get Paplebon, so he will probably settle for whatever the Red Sox can pull out of their well-lined pockets.
Outside shot: No idea. Let’s just say the Yankees, because as we all learned from Rafael Soriano, they love to give out stupid contracts to relievers.
2011 team: Mets/Giants
2012 team: Giants
Why: I think he goes back to San Fran at a discount. He’s not as good as he once was, but he is a solid everyday player and I think the Giants will find some money to resign him, especially if they whiff on some higher priced free agents.
Outside shot: Marlins. They have that aforementioned stadium money, and if I were them I might want to trade Logan Morrison for some starting pitching help.
2011 team: Phillies
2012 team: Phillies
Why: Roy Oswalt seems like has had a good time in Philly and at this point they can still give him a good shot to win his first World Series title. He’s not going to get a contract anywhere near as big as he had last year due to his back issues, but I think the combination of familiarity, potential for success and money keeps him in the City of Brotherly Love for two to three years.
Outside shot: Yankees. They are going to be trolling for starting pitching, and if they don’t get Wilson I think they will probably throw some money at Oswalt.
2011 team: Red Sox
2012 team: Yankees
Why: Johnny Damon Part II. Declining player, sort of bitter at his current situation with Boston, signs with the Yankees partly out of spite but mostly because they can give him more money than the Red Sox. If I’m not mistaken, Jorge Posada’s contract comes off the books this year so they have an opening at DH. I just feel like the Yankees are going to want to stick it to the Sox enough to give Papi a little more than he’s worth.
Outside shot: Red Sox. Maybe he isn’t as bitter as I think he is and goes back to the Sox.
Special bonus pick: Yu Darvish
2011 team: That one Japanese team.
2012 team: Some dumb MLB team.
Why: Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, or whatever that old saying is. Remember Dice-K? Remember Kei Igawa? All of these Japese pitchers get hyped up, but come over here with about three or four years more wear and tear on their arms then they should have because their teams throw them for like 250 innings every year. Maybe Yu Darvish is different. He certainly is younger. But if he gets posted, I would stay as far away from him as possible if I was a MLB GM.
*Wikipedia tells me that Juan Rivera is a guy I used to hate when he was on the Angels, because despite his obvious suckiness, he would always hit the Mariners well.