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: Mar 22, 2008
Posted on: November 3, 2011 4:17 pm

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

seanavery4 you mean the phillies then, because they are the best team in baseball.

Since: Mar 22, 2008
Posted on: November 3, 2011 4:08 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: November 3, 2011 1:56 pm

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign


I'm not sure I buy Reyes to the Marlins. He's a big injury risk, and I think the Marlins will want to play it safer. (Beltran is also an injury risk, but doesn't have the chronic re-occurences Reyes does and would likely come on a shorter deal -- and play a position less demanding.)

If they did, Hanley has to move to third, right? That blocks Matt Dominguez. I would love to see Ramirez move to center -- in that case I would support signing Reyes -- but I grow more and more pessimistic that happens.

You won't see Nolasco traded, but Volstad is a possibility. Buehrle -- who knows how close he is to Ozzie.

Leo Nunez probably won't be traded. Once he comes back to America as Juan Carlos Oviedo, I think the Marlins will keep him. He may be in danger of being non-tendered if he can't sort out his visa problems later this month.


Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: November 3, 2011 1:53 pm

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign


The days of overpaid closers are past. B.J. Ryan was one of many cautionary tales that have caused the market for closers to shift. Madson would come on a reasonable deal. Also, Toronto desperately needs to shore up its bullpen. First base may or may not be an issue -- I would like to see another year of Adam Lind.

Toronto prefers to use free agency to supplement, not add. They could definitely get Pujols or Fielder, but I am guessing they pass and go one more year on Lind/Encarnacion at first and Snider/Encarnacion at DH. That might end up providing very good value.

Also, the 2013 free agent class is very rich. It owuldn't surprise me if Toronto is gearing up for a big-ticket acquisition after 2012. Lastly, I wouldn't count the Jays out of any Yu Darvish pursuit.


Since: Sep 4, 2006
Posted on: November 3, 2011 1:25 pm

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

Fielder will more than likely sign with the Cubs.  I give the Brewers abuot a 10% chance in re-signing him.

Buehrle could sign with the White Sox, but it's also very possible he goes home to St. Louis.  Maybe the Cubs for a long shot pick, but fairly doubtful. 

C.J. Wilson is another I suspect the Cubs will eye, but not for that amount of money for 5 years. Closer to $55 million.

Since: May 18, 2009
Posted on: November 3, 2011 1:03 pm

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

Ya...that's what Toronto needs. Go out and spend Big on a Closer. How's that been working out for us in the past 5-10 years? Brutally!!! B.J Ryan anyone? No, didn't think so. How about instead of the Jays finding a closer for one of those 81 win games, find us a bat that can play first base so we can get some runner's home so that we may have a lead to protect into the ninth. I wonder if there any Good Available first baseman out there? Huh, let me see.

Since: Nov 3, 2011
Posted on: November 3, 2011 12:36 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Oct 16, 2006
Posted on: November 3, 2011 12:27 pm

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

If a team is going to pay the type of money it will require to buy the services of the likes of Pujols or Fielder it has to be a large market well established team (ex. Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Red Sox).  That type of salary will handcuff any other franchise and the risk will outweigh the reward.  You have to have great players around him that are already signed.  Can you imagine Pujols batting 3rd or 4th for the Pirates?  He would set the MLB walk and intentional walk record by 100 each. 

Since: Oct 24, 2009
Posted on: November 3, 2011 11:41 am

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

Twins should go after Buehrle.  Best FA pitcher available and would kill two birds with one stone.
I actually like this idea.  The really need help in their rotation.  Would like them to pick up a bat, too.

Since: May 17, 2008
Posted on: November 3, 2011 11:39 am

Predicting where baseball free agents will sign

I say Fielder 1-5 years because he'll be a very powerful 1st basemen. 6-9 years cause he'll be a great DH, especially If he goes to a hitter firendly park. I see him getting a 10 year $130 million contract.

You think you can sign Fielder for $13million per year on a 10 year deal?  You are dreaming my frined, that would be a steal.  I think he made more than that this year, he's not going to take a pay cut. At that price even the Brewers could afford to resign him.  For Fielder, my guess is that you're looking at something more like 8 yrs and $160 to $170million... Maybe 10 yrs and $200million or a little more.

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