Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Free Agent Primer

This offseason features the highest quality collection of free agents in nearly a decade. With perhaps the best southpaw in all of baseball, the most dynamic run producer of this generation, and the new single season saves record holder all poised to hit the open market, the hot stove league is simmering. And we didn’t even mention Mark Teixeira! The following is one writer’s predictions of where each of the top 50 free agents will go, for how long and for how much….

1) C.C. SabathiaAngels, 6 years/$145 million – The big lefty will forego the Yankees’ 7 year/$175 million offer to stay closer to home.

2) Mark TeixeiraYankees, 7 years/$140 million – Teixeira, a resident in Scott Boras’ stable, will go to the highest bidder. And after losing out on Sabathia, the Yanks will not be outbid.

3) Manny RamirezDodgers, 3 years/$81 million – The Dodgers won’t give Ramirez, another Boras client, the long-term deal he covets. However, they will acquiesce in his desire to trail only Alex Rodriguez in terms of annual value.

4) Francisco RodriguezMets, 4 years/$60 million – The Mets, on the heels of their second straight September swoon, are desperate to shore up a leaky bullpen. With most of the $10.5 million owed next year to the injured Billy Wagner covered by insurance, affording K-Rod won’t be a problem. The single season saves leader won’t get the five-year deal he desires, but he will match Mariano Rivera’s $15 million per season.

5) Ryan DempsterCubs, 4 years/$52 million – Dempster will stay with the Cubbies after his career year. If the Braves don’t lead Jake Peavy via trade, look for them to make a strong play for the right-hander.

6) Ben SheetsAstros, 2 years/$25 million – Sheets has immense talent but has missed significant time to injury three of the last four years. Look for Roy Oswalt’s good buddy and former Olympic teammate to get a lucrative, yet short-term, offer from Houston.

7) Derek LoweYankees, 4 years/$50 million – With Sabathia in Anaheim, the Yankees will do whatever it takes to land pitching. And that includes signing the 35-year-old Lowe to a long-term deal.

8) A.J. BurnettYankees, 5 years/$70 million – The Evil Empire strikes again!

9) Pat BurrellGiants, 4 years/$50 million – Burrell will pass up the Phillies’ two-year offer for a chance to go home to California. A big mistake for the Giants, who, in an attempt to bolster their anemic offense, would essentially be signing a full-time DH.

10) Adam DunnNationals, 4 years/$48 million – Nats’ GM Jim Bowden is well-acquainted with Dunn from their time together in Cincinnati. Dunn would bring much-needed power to Washington and would probably wind up at first base.

11) Bobby AbreuYankees, 1 year/$15 million – Abreu will take the Yankees up on their arbitration offer, and the two sides will settle on a lucrative one-year deal before the hearing.

12) Brian FuentesIndians, 3 years/$36 million – The bullpen was once again Cleveland’s Achilles heel in 2008, and GM Mark Shapiro won’t let that happen again.

13) Orlando HudsonCardinals, 4 years/$40 million – Expect the Cardinals to outbid the Blue Jays for the three-time Gold Glove winner. The Mets, stuck with Luis Castillo, will make a light-hearted bid, if any.

14) Oliver PerezMets, 4 years/$52 million – The Mets, after losing out to the Yankees in the Derek Lowe sweepstakes, will give Perez and his agent (yes, Boras again) whatever they want.

15) Milton BradleyRangers, 3 years/$27 million – The temperamental Bradley will take a below-market deal to stay in Texas after finally finding a comfort zone under manager Ron Washington.

16) Raul IbanezCubs, 3 years/$35 million – With Abreu staying in New York and Kosuke Fukodome in manager Lou Piniella’s doghouse (and likely peddled at some point this winter), look for GM Jim Hendry to make a big play for Ibanez.

17) Rafael FurcalDodgers, 3 years/$36 million – Furcal jumpstarted the Dodgers’ offense before he succumbed to a back injury in May. If he’s healthy, this deal’s a bargain. If not, it’s yet another poor signing on GM Ned Colletti’s ledger.

18) Kerry WoodCubs, 2 years/$18 million – Wood wants three years, but with Carlos Marmol ready to close he’ll be lucky to get two.

19) Mike MussinaYankees, 1 year/$8 million – Despite persistent retirement rumors, Mussina’s phenomenal 2008 and the allure of Cooperstown (he’s just 30 wins shy of 300), will keep the Stanford alum in the Bronx for at least one more year.

20) Jason GiambiA’s, 1 year/$7 million – Giambi will go back to Oakland, where the power-starved A’s will welcome him with open arms.

21) Andy PettitteYankees, 1 year/$10 million – It’s either the Yankees or retirement for this class act.

22) Orlando CabreraOrioles, 3 years/$25 million – The Orioles will have to settle with Cabrera as their main offseason pickup after losing out on Teixeira, Burnett and, quite possibly, Furcal.

23) Randy JohnsonDodgers, 1 year/$5 million (plus heavy incentives) – The Diamondbacks will want to turn the page, so the former USC Trojan will return to El Lay in his quest for 300 wins.

24) Casey BlakeIndians, 2 years/$14 million – With the Andy Marte experiment a complete bust, the Tribe invites Blake back into the fold.

25) Ivan RodriguezReds, 1 year/$5 million – After wearing out his welcome in Detroit and New York, the Reds will get the future Hall of Famer at a bargain price.

26) Rocco BaldelliPhillies, 1 year/$3 million (plus heavy incentives) – If this former phenom regains his health, this could be the steal of the offseason.

27) Randy WolfAstros, 2 years/$13 million – With health issues surrounding John Maine, don’t be surprised if the Mets make a play for Wolf. The left-hander was excellent down the stretch last season.

28) John SmoltzBraves, 1 year/$5 million (with heavy incentives) – Probably the last hurrah for this warrior.

29) Trevor HoffmanPadres, 1 year/$4 million – He just keeps on ticking.

30) Jon GarlandBraves, 1 year/$6.5 million – Even if the Braves do end up landing Jake Peavy, they still will be woefully short on the pitching front. If nothing else, Garland could provide innings in bulk as he looks to enhance his value for the following offseason.

31) Freddy GarciaIndians, 1 year/$4 million (with heavy incentives) – Garcia is yet another hurler who will hope to use 2009 as a springboard to future riches.

32) Brad PennyTigers, 1 year/$5 million (with heavy incentives) – A low risk/high reward move for GM Dave Dombrowski, who knows Penny from their days with the Marlins.

33) Juan CruzTigers, 2 years/$6.5 million – The flame-throwing Cruz has just the power arm Dombrowski covets. He could wind up closing in 2009, especially if Joel Zumaya is still inconsistent or injured.

34) Jim EdmondsBraves, 1 year/$4.5 million – With CF prospect Jordan Schafer likely gone if the Braves land Peavy from the Padres, Edmonds will be needed to hold down the fort until 21-year-old Gorkys Hernandez ready.

35) Garrett AndersonAngels, 2 years/$10 million – Can you imagine him in another uniform?

36) Eric HinskeRays, 1 year/$2.5 million – Based on Hinske’s 2008 season, this could be yet another bargain for GM Andrew Friedman.

37) Jason VaritekRed Sox, 2 years/$10 million – With a dearth of catching in their system, Boston will grossly overpay for their rapidly aging captain. However, if GM Theo Epstein swings a deal for some of Texas’ catching surplus, Varitek is likely long gone.

38) Jamie MoyerPhillies, 1 year/$5 million – The ageless Moyer likely won’t get the two year deal he covets.

39) Mark KotsayRed Sox, 1 year/$3.5 million – Kotsay will stay in Beantown, where he ingratiated himself to fans and the front office with his inspired play, albeit at a much lower price.

40) Jerry Hairston Jr.Reds, 2 years/$4 million – When healthy, Hairston was the best player on the field for the Reds in 2008. He’ll play CF until prospect Drew Stubbs shows he can hit.

41) Ray DurhamMets, 1 year/$3 million – With Luis Castillo still on the books, the Mets won’t splurge for Orlando Hudson (see above), but Durham would give them a more cost effective option. Plus, he’d be a key bat off the bench.

42) Jeremy AffeldtIndians, 3 years/$10.5 million – The durable Affeldt would be a godsend for manager Eric Wedge.

43) Braden LooperRockies, 2 years/$8 million – Looper and his sinker should fair well in Coors Light and would enable the Rockies to bring their young pitching prospects, namely Jhoulys Chacin, along slowly.

44) Damaso MarteCardinals, 3 years/$10 million – Marte could conceivably close if Chris Perez experiences growing pains.

45) Mark GrudzielanekBrewers, 1 year/$3 million – A tough one to call. The Indians, if they don’t sign Blake, are a possibility, as are the Blue Jays, Cardinals, Astros and even the Mets. The bet here is that he goes to Milwaukee to light a fire under the perennially underachieving Ricke Weeks

46) David WeathersMariners, 1 year/$2.5 million – Weathers would be a safety net for a young Seattle bullpen. He could even close if J.J. Putz is traded and Brandon Morrow moves into the starting rotation, as expected.

47) Joe BeimelMets, 2 years/$5 million – Hopefully Beimel has more success in Flushing than Scott Schoeneweis.

48) Doug BrocailAstros, 1 year/$1.75 million – Brocail has no desire to pitch anywhere else.

49) Ken Griffey Jr.Mariners, 1 year/$5 million – The farewell tour begins.

50) Odalis PerezPadres, 1 year/$1.5 million – Perez could be a useful #5 starter for many teams, including the penny-pinching Padres.

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