We’re bumping this up top overnight because it quickly got buried by the Andrew Brackman news this afternoon. Enjoy.
Earlier today professional good guy Tim Dierkes, owner of MLB Trade Rumors, engaged in his annual practice of predicting where the top 50 free agents will land. He even setup up a contest, which could turn into loads of fun. I encourage everyone to give it a try. It’ll be at least as fun as ottoneu’s Pick Six.
Much as I enjoy Tim’s work, I found myself disagreeing with many of his free agent picks, particularly the ones towards the top of the list. Instead of entering his contest, I thought it would be worthwhile to print his list with my own predictions. There are a lot of tough choices here, and there’s no way I’ll get more than half of these right. But given team needs needs, resources, and inclinations, here how I think the free agent market shakes out.
1. Albert Pujols – Cardinals. They signed Matt Holliday for seven years and $120 million. It’s hard to do that and then, two winters later, let the best player in baseball walk.
2. Prince Fielder – Brewers. Tim has him going to the Mariners, which could be funny for Yankees fans. He’d probably DH at first — which is one reason I don’t think he’d sign there — but he could loom as Justin Smoak’s replacement. And then we could think back to the Cliff Lee trade and giggle a bit. But ultimately I think the Brewers will lay out and keep their killer three-four combo in tact.
3. Jose Reyes – Tigers. Tim picked the Brewers, but I can’t see them letting Fielder walk and signing Reyes, even if Reyes will probably get a little less money. There are a few other options here, but there are issues. The Dodgers could fit, but their financial situation is unknown. Ditto the Mets, who I’d put as the No. 2 suitor. The Giants had a record payroll in 2011, missed the playoffs, and have about $90 million committed to 2012 (counting Lincecum) with plenty of spots to fill. The Nationals could jump in, I suppose. The Red Sox would probably be the favorites had they not signed Carl Crawford last off-season. The Cardinals are going to be at a huge payroll level after Pujols. That leaves the Tigers. They cut payroll by almost $20 million from 2010 to 2011, and made the playoffs. They could make the outlay for Reyes and really shore up their offense.
4. C.J. Wilson – Cubs. Chances are Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer aren’t planning a big run in 2012, but they do need pitching in the long term. Their starters were in the bottom third of the league, and they do have a few openings. They surely plan to contend in 2013, and any contract Wilson signs will keep him around through at least 2015, and probably 2016.
5. Yu Darvish – Yankees. The Yankees have the resources, and he would probably represent a better deal for them than Wilson. I laid out the case for Darvish and stand by it.
6. Edwin Jackson – Nationals. If they miss out on Wilson, I fully expect them to beat other teams’ offers for Jackson.
7. Jimmy Rollins – Phillies. They don’t have the cash to sign Reyes, and they’re not starting the season with Wilson Valdez at shortstop if they can help it. The Giants might be interested if they don’t sign Reyes, but I really see the Giants going with a lower cost option.
8. Aramis Ramirez – Brewers. They claim poverty often, but after a deep playoff run I can see the Brewers again making a run in 2012, especially if they bring back Fielder. They definitely have an opening at third, and I don’t see Ramirez getting a ludicrous contract this winter. The wild card here is Tim’s pick, the Orioles. But will a new GM make the same kind of mistakes that old regimes made? No, I think the Orioles will try a different approach this winter and avoid a potential mistake in Ramirez. There’s another wild card here, too, but I view it as far less likely.
9. Carlos Beltran – Giants. Their offense was putrid in 2011, and they could use a full season of Beltran in right field. They’ll have an opening for him, too, so it’s a perfect fit.
10. Jonathan Papelbon – Red Sox. It’s hard to see him leaving, especially given other teams’ financial situations. I don’t see a team like the Reds laying out that much for a closer.