Free Agency Forecast
Published: Monday, November 14, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 01:11
We're two weeks into baseball's offseason, and although only a handful of players have shifted squads — most notably, former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies — the majority of baseball's most coveted free agents remained unsigned.
Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes are all potential franchise players in the primes of their careers and are on almost every team's radar. Where they and the other top free agents will end up is a mystery, but here's a preview of what I expect will happen this winter in baseball.
Albert Pujols — Old Team: Cardinals; Prediction: Cardinals
The newly named and relocated Miami Marlins have been hot after Pujols and other top free agents as they expect to increase payroll and improve their overall product for 2012. Other potential suitors include the Cubs, but Pujols is to the Cardinals what Derek Jeter is to the Yankees. Expect a deal for eight or nine years eclipsing $200 million.
Prince Fielder — Old Team: Brewers; Prediction: Blue Jays
Fielder has said himself that he doubts he will return to Milwaukee for economic reasons, believing the Brewers won't be able to offer him a salary comparable to what he can receive on the open market. And although Fielder seems like a fit for divisional rival Chicago, new Cubs President Theo Epstein likely won't pursue a huge contract, especially for a player many see as a future designated hitter. The Blue Jays, however, not only are a good fit but are an intriguing possible contender in the near future, thanks to moves by General Manager Alex Anthopolous.
Jose Reyes — Old Team: Mets; Prediction: Brewers
With Fielder leaving the fold and a gaping hole at shortstop, the Brewers will likely splurge and try to sign Reyes. Reyes offers star power at a premium position, but injury concerns will lower his asking price to fewer years and dollars than Fielder's. Other possibilities include the Nationals, Mets, Giants and Tigers.
C.J. Wilson — Old Team: Rangers; Prediction: Angels
It seems likely that the Rangers won't be willing to pony up the dough it would take to re-sign the best starting pitcher on the free agent market, especially with his post-season struggles and a surplus of quality pitchers on the roster. After watching their former catcher Mike Napoli succeed with their divisional rival, the Angels seem motivated to raid Texas's roster and return to the top of the AL West. The Nationals are another strong possibility; they will likely look to add a dynamic lefty to pair with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann at the top of Washington's rotation, and they appear just a piece or two away from being a realistic playoff contender.
Ryan Madson — Old Team: Phillies; Prediction: Red Sox
With Papelbon out of the picture, the Red Sox have no choice but to go after the market's second-best closer. Other potential options for Boston include Heath Bell and Francisco Rodriguez, with the Blue Jays, Rangers and others in the market for top relievers.
David Ortiz — Old Team: Red Sox; Prediction: Red Sox
If the Blue Jays fail to land Fielder, they could target "Big Papi" to provide pop from the designated hitter spot at a relatively cheap cost. But despite his comments regarding recent events with the Red Sox organization, it's hard to see Ortiz in a uniform other than Boston's. I expect new Sox General Manager Ben Cherington to reward Ortiz with a two-year deal worth $12-15 million a year.
Carlos Beltran — Old Team: Giants; Prediction: Giants
If the Giants fail to land a significant bat like Reyes, they have to retain Beltran. Other options include Grady Sizemore, Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham with other potential suitors for Beltran including the Phillies and Red Sox.
Yoennis Cespedes — Old Team: N/A; Prediction: Marlins
The wild card of this year's free agent class, 26-year-old Cuban sensation centerfielder Yoennis Cespedes is a potential five-tool player entering the prime of his career. Because of his lack of experience in the United States, he will only command a $30 million commitment. Although relatively cheap compared to the rest of the market's free agents, that would be a substantial investment in a player who has never even played Minor League ball before. The Marlins are an almost perfect fit with a need in center field, an increase in payroll and Miami's sizable Cuban population to offer Cespedes the perfect transition to the United States.
With so many quality free agents on this year's market, the balance of power could significantly shift in the next few months. Expect a lot of change and an exciting winter in the "Hot Stove League."
Preston Barclay is a sophomore in the McDonough School of Business. TURNING TWO IN THE 202 appears every Tuesday.