Blog Entry

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

Posted on: November 2, 2011 10:05 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 5:00 pm
Free agents

By Evan Brunell

This winter's free agent crop bolstered by some elite players hitting the market, led by Albert Pujols, who will hold the mantle of being the best player of the 21st century for quite some time. Where he ends up has been one of baseball's burning questions for two years, and the answer is finally here... and if my psychic chops are up to par, I have him returning to St. Louis.

As many as four contracts totaling $100 million could be handed out with Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson all vying for the honor. (Five if you include CC Sabathia extending with New York for $122 million). For comparison, last winter saw three players score at least $100 million in their new deals -- Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee and Jayson Werth.

Jonathan Papelbon, Carlos Beltran, Heath Bell, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson and Mark Buehrle round out the list of 10 predictions. Hang onto your hats, because there are a couple interesting destinations I have players ending up in. If you can't get enough free-agent news, check out the predictions by all experts. Or how about the free-agent tracker?

Let's get to it.

Free Agency Predictions
Player Prediction
1B Albert Pujols Cardinals
It's just too difficult to see Pujols leaving the Cardinals, and it doesn't work in his favor that many teams that could have paid for his services are all set at first base. Given the increasing likelihood that Pujols won't match Alex Rodriguez's record contract of 10 years and $275 million, it will put him squarely in St. Louis' price range, but the club has to be ready to boost its offer. If the Cards dig in and aren't willing to compromise, he will leave town. Skipper Tony La Russa retiring does throw a wrench into things, but in the end, why would Pujols leave a place he is beloved and knows he will win?
Three other possibles: Cubs, Nationals, Rangers
1B Prince Fielder Mariners
The Mariners have money -- they just haven't had an impetus to spend it just yet. But with a rapidly improving rotation, the M's are not far off from contention and can build around Fielder and second baseman Dustin Ackley, as well as Justin Smoak (they hope). Seattle's offense has been so horribly bad the last two years they really can't afford not to go after a big thumper that can change the complexion of the lineup. Having the DH works in Seattle's favor too, as they have a place to play him in the future, if and when he becomes even more of a liability on D. Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik was the one to draft and develop Fielder in Milwaukee, but has yet to really play in the free agent market since taking over the team.
Three other possibles: Orioles, Brewers, Nationals
SS Jose Reyes Giants
The Giants need a hitter and can withstand the loss of Carlos Beltran in the outfield, so expect the team to focus on a position of dire need by signing Reyes. The club has pretty much zero shortstop depth, which was exposed last year with a decrepit Miguel Tejada falling out of favor and the club cycling through shortstops the rest of the way. Reyes would be a dynamo for the Giants and would give the club the perfect leadoff man. The club has never been one to worry about losing a draft pick as compensation, and could actually work in their favor by giving them more money to allocate to Reyes.
Three other possibles: Mets, Giants, Nationals
SP C.J. Wilson Royals
Wilson is a solid pitcher, but he's a bit overrated. Teams trying to get over the hump and contend again will overlook his deficiencies to make a statement, and Kansas City is motivated to find a major-league starting pitcher that can top the rotation and bring the youngsters along. The Royals will have money to spend and can also entice Wilson by showing him how the team is on the rise, and how his signing will allow them to trade some minor-league pitchers for major-league help. He should land an A.J. Burnett/John Lackey-type deal of five years and north of $80 million.
Three other possibles: Nationals, Angels, Yankees
CL Jonathan Papelbon Papelbon
The Red Sox can't afford to let Papelbon go, not after having one of his best seasons to date. There are reports that Papelbon started emerging as a leader in 2011, which Boston obviously needs following the wake of clubhouse issues last season. In addition, retaining Papelbon allows Boston to keep Daniel Bard in his setup role where he is more valuable than he would be as a closer. Papelbon will be looking for lots of money, but will be well within Boston's price range. The club has enough issues to deal with without worrying about having to fill the closer's spot, which is one of heavy responsibility -- something Papelbon craves.
Three other possibles: Rangers, Phillies, Blue Jays
RF Carlos Beltran
The Marlins have money to spend and will be looking to make a splash heading into their new stadium. Beltran would be a popular name, especially given he is a native Puerto Rican, which the Marlins have tried to cultivate as a fan base (and have held regular-season games in Puerto Rico). There isn't any space currently in the Marlins outfield, but nothing that can't change to accommodate Beltran. Despite Beltran's advanced age, he would fit nicely in the order on a team expected to contend.
Three other possibles: Giants, Red Sox, Pirates
CL Heath Bell
I was tempted and go rogue here, tabbing the Phillies. I do believe that Philadelphia would love Bell to be its next closer, especially if Ryan Madson doesn't return. But I can't ignore the fact that Bell would be willing to accept arbitration to stay with the Padres, which would lock him to San Diego for just one season. The small-market Pads would love having that flexibility of an elite closer under contract for just one year. Despite Bell wanting a three-year deal, the mere fact he would accept arbitration -- and said so publicly -- means that a deal will happen between both sides.
Three other possibles: Phillies, Dodgers, Twins
SS Jimmy Rollins
Rollins probably won't get the five-year deal he thinks he deserves, but Philadelphia can't afford to mess around here. Rollins is very popular in town and while his MVP days are behind him, he is still a very good shortstop. The Phillies could be in serious trouble if Reyes and Rollins sign elsewhere, as the club has very poor infield depth. Not getting Rollins back (or Reyes as a fallback) would force the team into making a trade for a shortstop, and this is a club that needs to start hanging onto its minor-league talent. With an entire infield in flux, it makes no sense for Philadelphia to compromise what depth they have in prospect Freddy Galvis, who is 21 and looks to need at least another full year in the minors.
Three other possibles: Giants, Brewers, Mariners
Buerhle SP Mark Buehrle Yankees
The White Sox are "letting the kids play" in 2012, but that doesn't necessarily signal a rebuilding. There is enough talent on the squad that, if things break right, could leave Chicago in contention. Any deal would likely be predicated on what Chicago does with Carlos Quentin and John Danks, the two prime pieces that could be traded. Buerhle's loyalty factors in here too -- he wants to either be a White Sox or pitch for his hometown Cards. But if St. Louis resigns Pujols and closes its checkbook and the White Sox raze the team, he'll have to seek employment elsewhere. The guess here is Buerhle comes back, even if a ring isn't likely.
Three other possibles: Yankees, Cardinals, Marlins
CL Ryan Madson Blue Jays
The Blue Jays need a closer and are an up-and-coming team. Their market is large, and that club can eventually support a payroll north of $100 million. While Toronto is better off keeping much of its finances in its back pocket until a better free-agent class, Madson makes too much sense for the Jays to pass up. His market will be depressed thanks to the amount of closers available in free agency, plus the fact he doesn't have a history of closing beyond 2011. The Jays will want a young closer, and Madson will fit the bill as one of the youngest available -- he's the same age as Papelbon, but will come at a lesser price.
Three other possibles: Phillies, Red Sox, Rangers

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Since: Nov 14, 2011
Posted on: November 14, 2011 3:03 pm

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

Some of these predictions are pretty safe, others are just falt out idiotic.  Not to mention you got one wrong already in Papelbon, so your batting .000 If you don't t hink the Marlins will get Reyes I can understand that, but to not even put them in the "other possible desitinations" is rediculous.  I know the Marlins have been frugal in the past but reports are indicating that the offer they have made to Reyes is solid, and with there glaring need at 3rd there is no reason why they wouldn't move Hanley to 3rd and pick up Reyes. 

Since: Nov 14, 2011
Posted on: November 14, 2011 2:04 am

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

Albert stays in St Louis. MN picks up the closer. No one cares about the rest. Now that Steinbrenner is dead when is baseball going to get a salary cap. I am tired of the big markets buying all star teams.

Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: November 12, 2011 10:56 am

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

made 12.5 mil,  14 mil and  12 mil. That is 38.5 mil plus surgery saves Red Sox another 16 mil a total of 54.5 mil to spend on a RF, DH, CL and SP. They have a lot of flex here as they could use or as closer, as RF and as a SP. Let's say they sign for 20 mil a year and  for say 13 mil, that still leaves 21.5 mil for a closer and SP. Again they still have the options noted above if they need flex other places. 

Since: Apr 12, 2010
Posted on: November 9, 2011 7:52 pm

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

Reyes is going to the Yankees! Jorge out, Jeter to DH spot and a fresh new face at SS. Mark Buehrle possibly going to the Yankees? I laughed at that one. CJ Wilson will be in pinstripes and if he's not, I guarantee Buehrle isn't next on Cashman's list.

Since: Apr 12, 2010
Posted on: November 9, 2011 7:47 pm

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

^^ this

Since: Oct 19, 2007
Posted on: November 9, 2011 10:04 am

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

I do not see the Royals getting C.J. Wilson, I see him going to the Yankees or remain with the Rangers  Pujols stays in St. Louis 

Since: Jul 22, 2008
Posted on: November 9, 2011 1:22 am

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

Wouldn't surprise me if Pujols ended up with the Angels.Trumbo moves positions or to DH...or becomes trade bait.

Since: Feb 20, 2007
Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:51 pm

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

This article doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me Evan.  Why wouldn't your predictions for Fielder and Pujols be the same?  Why would the Cubs be a possibility for Albert but not Fielder?  Why would Seattle go after a big thumper like Prince but not Pujols?  In my mind if the needs are the same, the same players would follow.

Also, if the Rangers have the money to pursue Pujols, why would they not be in the running for CJ Wilson?  Why would Wilson pick KC who might win, over the Angels or Yankees, which are teams that DO win? 

and you are saying the Jays will outspend the Phillies, Red Sox and Rangers for Madson?  How is that possible?

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: November 8, 2011 11:15 am

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

I think that takes the Royals out of play for their prediction of CJ Wilson; Texas will resign him...he is one of those guys to me, that needs lots of run support and I am not sure he gets it with the Royals.

Since: Aug 20, 2008
Posted on: November 7, 2011 3:58 pm

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

What does the Giants trade of Sanchez for Melky Cabrerra do to these predictions?

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