Fire up the hot stove. Arguably the best time of the baseball season has arrived, and it certainly does not involve any games played on dirt and grass. With the lack of a salary cap, huge market franchises and limitless spending potential, the MLB offseason just may be better than the regular season. We'll leave the postseason out of this, as it is an entity unto itself. You know the Yankees and Red Sox will be involved, but will a sleeper team step in and make a splash? We'll find out in a matter of weeks.
Here are the top 10 free agents in MLB this offseason, and where I believe they will end up.
1. Cliff Lee, Rangers
Like his best friend, CC Sabathia, two years prior, Lee will be one of the most sought-after free agent pitchers in the history of free agency. A proven postseason performer, Lee carries a Cy Young award and a stabilizing, calming factor to any rotation he has set foot upon the last two seasons. He has catapulted two franchises in two years to World Series berths, and single-handedly carried the Texas Rangers into the ALCS with two brilliant performances against the Rays. And go figure, which team needs him the most? Not Texas, but the team he beat in the ALCS, the Yankees. And you don't think the pinstipers are prepared to wheel in at least five armored cars worth of money to his Arkansas home? When the Yankees want something, they get it, and Lee is their man.
Prediction: Yankees, 5 years, $125M
2. Carl Crawford, Rays
Here's another situation in which the Yankees can throw oodles of cash at a young, athletic, but experienced outfielder. But with Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson set in center and right, and the emergence of Brett Gardner as a cheaper alternative a year prior, and Derek Jeter possibly switching to the outfield in the next two years, will the Yankees really need him? Probably not. But if their archrivals, the Red Sox, covet him just as much, maybe the Yankees drive up the price to keep him away. That being said, should the Yankees break the bank for Lee, it will leave Boston and possibly the Phillies or Angels left to pay him. The Red Sox emphasize defense now, and who knows if Jacoby Ellsbury or Mike Cameron can stay healthy next year?
Red Sox, 6 years, $115M.
3. Mariano Rivera, Yankees.
Umm, you're kidding, right?
Yankees, 2 years with a mutual option for a third, $34M.
4. Derek Jeter, Yankees.
Yankees, 4 years with a player option for a fifth, $90M.
5. Jayson Werth, Phillies.
With top prospect Domonic Brown being called up mid-season to the Phils, and oodles of cash tied up in their aces and homegrown core, Werth becomes expendable. The team that really needs him, the Rays, may not be able to afford him. A team like the Angels can swoop in and add his bat, especially as a DH, but his defensive liabilities may turn them off to him. You know who could use him to bolster their offense a little more? The World Series champion Giants. Pat Burrell had a nice run by the bay, but his World Series performance shows he is not the player he used to be. Werth just may be a perfect fit.
Giants, 4 years, $70M.
6. Victor Martinez, Red Sox
As mentioned before, the Red Sox want to emphasize defense, and Martinez is arguably the worst defensive catcher in the sport. It is concievable that with Adrian Beltre gone and Mike Lowell retiring, the Sox could move Youkilis to third and bring back Martinez at 1st. But will the Sox attempt again to trade for Adrian Gonzalez? If so, the only use Martinez could have is at DH, and the Sox have excersized their option on Big Papi. A team in need of a big bat would covet him, and Colorado has shown interest in the past. Here is their opportunity.
Rockies, 3 years, $44M.
7. Adam Dunn, Nationals.
If you want to talk about perfect fits, imagine a power hitter like Dunn in Yankee Stadium as a full time DH. 50, maybe 60 homers? A team that missed Hideki Matsui's big bat in the 2010 postseason, Dunn provides that ultimate fear factor in an already stacked lineup. Dunn is the perfect fit for Yankee Stadium, especially with the short porch in right field. If Cashman wants to make up for the failures of last offseason, Lee and Dunn will go a long way.
Yankees, 1 year, $13.5M.
8. Paul Konerko, White Sox
Konerko is getting up there in age, and despite a career year in 2010, it is difficult to imagine a team throwing more than 3 years and $50 million at Paulie K. He is a beloved player among White Sox fans, and if he is allowed to walk, not only will Chicago's offense suffer, but there would be a strong PR backlash, similar to what the Yankees would face if they let Jeter or Mo walk.
White Sox, 3 years, $48.5M.
9. Derrek Lee, Braves.
Similar situation in Atlanta, where Lee's big bat would provide a major boost to an already thin lineup. He'll draw interest from several National League teams, but ultimately, the Braves need him the most.
Braves, 3 years, $44M.
10. Carlos Pena, Rays.
Despite an enormous amount of power and a very good glove, Pena's stock took a major hit this past season as his batting average hovered around .200 throughout the entire season, reminding everyone why multiple organizations gave up on him in the past. The Rays, already facing free agent questions with Crawford and closer Rafael Soriano, his price just may have decreased enough for the Rays to bring him back for a shot at redemption.
Rays, 1 year with a player option for a second, $11.5M.
Javier Vazquez, Yankees: Nationals, 1 year, $10.5M.
Rafael Soriano, Rays: Phillies, 2 years, $19.5M.
Manny Ramirez, White Sox: Angels, 1 year, $17.5M, with a mutual option for a second.
John Buck, Blue Jays: Red Sox, 2 years, $15M.
Bronson Arroyo, Reds: Dodgers, 3 years, $43M.
Kerry Wood, Yankees: Brewers, 1 year, $14M.
Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks: D'Backs: 1 year, $12.5M with a team option for a second.
Johnny Damon, Tigers: White Sox, 1 year, $9M.
Vlad Guererro, Rangers: Rays, 1 year, $12M.
Adrian Beltre, Red Sox: Angels, 1 year, $10.5M with player option for a second.
NFL Picks for Week 9 (2-2 last week, 4-4 overall)
BUF +3 over Chi
MIN -8 over Ari
GB -9 over Dal
HOU +3 over Sd