Friday, November 11, 2005

Talkin' Baseball: A Free Agency & Off-Season Primer

With the free agency period beginning, let’s look at some of the big names out there, and try to predict where they end up. This is one of the weaker free agent classes in recent memory, but there are still some big names out there that could switch teams.

If you’re interested, has a list of every free agent. Look it over. If nothing else it will elicit at least a dozen “wow, I can’t believe he’s still playing!” reactions. It sure did for me.

4 Players Set To Cash In With New Teams

AJ Burnett Detroit Tigers, 5 years, $60 million
I have to recant my previous prediction about him signing with the Jays. Detroit’s a sleeper pick, but they need a starting pitcher, and as evidenced by the $75 million they gave to Magglio Ordonez last year when they were basically bidding against themselves, they’re not afraid to throw money around. And yes, I vomit in my mouth every time I see these figures next to AJ Burnett’s name. Who knew being injury-prone and .500 for your career would still net you tens of millions of dollars as long as you still have “stuff”? Darren Dreifort would be proud.
Rafael Furcal Chicago Cubs, 5 years, $55 million
The Cubs have money to spend, and are willing to go all out to bring Furcal to the Windy City. He adds defense and speed to the Cubbies, who perennially have the talent to contend for the NL crown.
Billy Wagner New York Mets, 3 years, $30 million
The Mets need a closer, and will pay Wagner – the best one available – what he wants.
BJ Ryan Philadelphia Phillies, 4 years, $34 million
After losing Wagner, Pat Gillick will respond by locking up the talented Ryan, who won’t have to move very far switching from an Orioles to a Phillies uniform.

4 Players Who Will Get Richer By Staying At Home

Johnny Damon Boston Red Sox, 4 years, $48 million
Sox fans love Johnny (especially women - I swear that 90% of the females I saw within half a mile of Fenway were wearing either a Damon t-shirt or jersey). They’ll feel compelled to pay him what he wants to stay in Boston, especially in light of the bad PR from Theo’s departure. With Manny soon to follow, they can’t afford to lose another local icon.
Paul Konerko Chicago White Sox, 6 years, $85 million
While he flirts with the open market, he wants to stay in Chicago. He’ll eventually accept the ChiSox offer (though not before teams like Boston and Los Angeles of Anaheim drive it up), and have a heartfelt press conference about how he wants to finish his career in the South Side.
Hideki Matsui New York Yankees, 4 years, $38 million
This one should be taken care of right away. Unless someone swoops in with a ridiculous offer, I can’t see him even contemplating a move.
Paul Byrd Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 3 years, $21 million
He’s been solid and steady, if not spectacular, over the past few years. The Angels will happily pony up to keep him in Southern California.

5 Moves That Won’t Dominate The Headlines, But Make Sense

Brian Giles St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $27 million
He can still hit, and would be an upgrade over the retired Larry Walker. The Cards should be the frontrunner in the National League, so this move gives Giles a chance to compete for a ring.
Jarrod Washburn Milwaukee Brewers, 3 years, $18 million
He gets to come home to Wisconsin, and they get another good, relatively young arm. This team could finish as high as 2nd in the NL Central if the Cubbies can’t stay healthy and put everything together.
Bengie Molina New York Mets, 4 years, $25 million
He’ll be the everyday Catcher they need, which is something they desperately need to enter the 2006 season with. He’s underrated as a player too, and will thrive in New York.
Jacque Jones San Diego Padres, $3 years, 17 million
A slightly younger, slightly cheaper, and coincidentally a slightly less productive version of Brian Giles. Giles isn’t coming back, so this is a good signing to fill his spot.
Matt Morris Kansas City Royals, 3 years, $16 million
Morris gets to anchor and mentor a young staff for the Royals. He’s not going to lead them to the promised land, but he’s the kind of player who helps young teams get better.

5 Sleeper Signings

Jeff Weaver Toronto Blue Jays, 3 years, $24 million
Tons of promise, but has never fully put it together, much like our (soon to be) $ 60 million man. This is less money, and less of a risk, which seems like the route JP Ricciardi will go.
Kyle Farnsworth Detroit Tigers, 4 years, $20 million
He closed for them this year before being shipped to Atlanta, looked good in the role, and is considerably less of a risk than aging stars like Trevor Hoffman.
Kevin Millwood Seattle Mariners, 3 years, $30 million
After losing out on Burnett, the M’s will throw whatever money they can at Millwood to lock him up. He proved in Cleveland he can still be effective, and will be a good anchor for a young staff features the likes of future superstar Felix Hernandez.
Juan Encarnacion St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $18 million
Someone will pry Reggie Sanders away from the Cards, but Encarnacion plays good defense and provides enough offense to be a good replacement.
Bobby Howry New York Yankees, 2 years, $15 million
They miss out on BJ Ryan, but this righty will be a great pickup for the Yanks bullpen. Even better, they take him away from AL rival Cleveland, everyone’s favorite pick as the favorite in 2006.

3 Players Who Would Have Commanded $15 Million Contracts 4 Years Ago, But Are Now Big Gambles

Nomar Garciaparra Atlanta Braves, 2 years, $12 million
He can still hit, but injuries and suspect defense have brought his value down. Atlanta will roll the dice and hope he fills a hole at Short, Third, or in Leftfield.
Mike Piazza Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 2 years, $10 million
He’ll DH and split the catching duties with prospect Jeff Mathes, which is the perfect situation for him at this point in his career. Actually, he should never go behind the plate, because he’s much worse defensively now (and he was never any good), but he’s going to demand some games at Catcher, and the Angels can oblige.
Bernie Williams New York Yankees, 1 year, $5 million
This is more a feel-good move than anything else. He’ll be a part-time CF, part-time DH, part-time bench player in what might be his farewell season.

3 Players That No One Will Touch

Rafael Palmeiro, late of the Baltimore Orioles
Matt Lawton, late of the New York Yankees
Ugueth Urbina, late of the Philadelphia Phillies

Steroids and attempted murder charges aren’t exactly feel-good stories.

2 Related Trades That Will Reshape The AL & NL East Divisions

•BOSTON trades Manny Ramirez and a player to be named later to NY METS for OF Lastings Milledge, RHP Aaron Heilman, OF Mike Cameron
•BOSTON trades Aaron Heilman and a C-level prospect to FLORIDA for Carlos Delgado and his massive salary.

Boston gets a prized prospect (Milledge) as well as a promising young pitcher and a player to solidify their outfield. With Cameron on board, they can move Damon to left, easing some of the wear on tear on him. Milledge will platoon with Trot Nixon in right.

Meanwhile, the Sox flip Heilman and another prospect to Florida for Carlos Delgado. The Marlins need to dump salary, and Boston has the ability to take on Delgado’s full contract, and needs to replace ManRam’s production, so this makes sense for both teams.

3 Other Moves That Will Put The Mets Closer To Being The Odds On Favorite To Win The National League (after St. Louis)

Julio Franco, 1 year, $2 million
Octavio Dotel, 2 years, $7 million
Ricardo Rincon, 2 years, $9 million

Franco adds depth, and can platoon with Mike Jacobs, while Dotel and Rincon help shore up the bullpen.

1 New General Manager Who Will Make Waves

•Jim Bowden, Boston Red Sox.

I just have a gut feeling he’s ending up here. Proven baseball guy, Massachusetts native, I’ll be shocked if this isn’t finalized within about a week.

1 New General Manager Who Won’t

•Whoever the Los Angeles Dodgers Hire.

They seem to be willing to interview anyone, but nobody seems to want the job. Regardless, they don’t seem to be in the mix for any of the big name players, and I don’t think that will change when the new General Manager finally comes on board.

And for the record, I think they should hire Kim Ng. As soon as I heard about the time she beat Mariano Rivera in an arbitration case, I was sold.

1 Team That Will Finally Be Sold, But Not Until The New Year

•Washington Nationals. They'll finally sort this out right around the time that Pitchers and Catchers begin reporting.

And finally…

Ridiculously Early Predictions For Next Year’s Playoffs

American League
Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chicago White Sox

National League
New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves

Let the games begin…


At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Tara said...

No mention of Lyle Overbay. He's going to get unloaded by the Brewers and land somewhere with a decent contract...

At 8:47 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Hey Tara,

I thought about including Overbay, but couldn't think of a destination - maybe Boston if they don't land someone else, or the White Sox if they lose Konerko, or the Mets if they don't want to start Jacobs, but I don't see any of those happening. According to ESPN Insider, Doug Melvin isn't overanxious to trade Overbay, but that might be a smokescreen.

My guess is that he gets moved during the season next year, unless they can sign someone like a Kevin Millar as a backup in case they feel Prince Fielder isn't ready in April. Holding on to Overbay might work out better for the Brewers if there's still a demand for first basemen in the middle of the 2006 season, and he's one of the few, if not the only, quality one on the market.


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