Finally, the Major League Baseball period has begun. Once the clock hit midnight this morning, all Major League Free agents can now speak to all 30 teams. This year’s class is headed by starting pitcher Cliff Lee, and outfielder Carl Crawford. Beyond them you have the likes of Adam Dunn, and Jayson Werth. By, now we have a good assumption what teams are interested in the big names, so let’s run down the list and give some predictions as we wait for the first free agent signing.
1: Starting Pitcher, Cliff Lee
The Skinny: At the beginning of the season, Cliff Lee was on a Mariners team that was expected to be World Series contenders. At the end of the season, Cliff Lee was walking off the mound for the Texas Rangers in Game 5 of the World Series after he just gave up a three run home run to Edgar Renteria. However, despite the poor finish to the season, teams have been salivating over Lee ever since he was a Mariner, and the M’s were looking to trade him. During the season, Lee had a 12-9 record with an ERA of 3.18 while striking out 185 and producing a WHIP of 1.00. However, teams love the fact that he pitched in 212.9 innings, which could have been more if the Rangers didn’t give him a few weeks off in September, that included 7 complete games.
Prediction: Before the Rangers announced that they have acquired Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners, the New York Yankees were on the verge of sending out their own press release saying that they have acquired Cliff Lee. However, as we all know the Mariners nixed the Yankees, and went with the Rangers deal that revolved around Justin Smoak. But, that has not stopped the widely speculated thought that the Yankees are going to sign Cliff Lee this winter. Despite this speculation, the Yankees are expected to be joined by the Rangers, and even Nationals in the pursuit of Cliff Lee. In the end, however, I still feel that Cliff Lee is going to be a New York Yankee when all is said and done.
2. Outfielder, Carl Crawford
The Skinny: Carl Crawford has been with the Rays during the good times, and the more frequent bad times during his 8 years in Tampa Bay. It appears though, that Crawford is finally moving on from the Rays organization. In a year in which the Rays are expected to go down in payroll size, they have already hinted that Crawford will not be back with them in 2011. This is sure the right time for Crawford to be a free agent, coming off of a career year in which he hit .307/.356/.495 while hitting a career high 19 home runs, and achieving another career high in batting in 90 runs.
Prediction: Name a team, and I’m sure they would be interested in the skill set that Carl Crawford has. But, with looking at a possible 7 year/ $160MM contract, teams are electing not to go after him. One team that is not expected to make a run for Crawford is surprisingly the New York Yankees. If the Yankees sign Cliff Lee, they probably are not going to be willing to spend on Carl Crawford. But, that does not leave out the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers, and Toronto Blue Jays teams that have interest in Crawford. In the end, I think that the Los Angeles Angels will be the team that signs Carl Crawford.
3. First Basemen/ Designated Hitter, Adam Dunn
The Skinny: Is it just me, or does it seem that almost every year Adam Dunn is available to teams by either trade or free agency. The thing that I do not understand is why is he almost always available? Adam Dunn is perennial 35 homer and 100 RBI hitter, who has prolific power to all sides of the field. This year was no different as Dunn hit 36 home runs and drove in 103 runners. The downside of Dunn is that he is notorious strikeout hitter, and he is liability defensively for a team no matter where he plays at,
Prediction: The early favorite to land Adam Dunn were the Chicago Cubs, as some believed they had a 3 year/ $40MM contract offer waiting for him. But, the Cubs have since removed themselves from teams interested in Dunn citing payroll restraints. The American League is the perfect destination for Dunn, and with teams like the White Sox, Tigers, Yankees, and Athletics all interested in him it is a safe bet that he winds up there. The team that makes the most sense for Adam Dunn would have to be the Chicago White Sox, which is why I think he will end up with them. Considering that the White Sox have missed Jim Thome throughout the 2010 season, and Paul Konerko is not expected back, I’m sure they will make a strong run and eventually get Adam Dunn.
4. Outfielder, Jayson Werth
The Skinny: The fact that Werth is represented by MLB super-agent Scott Boras, makes him destined to get a huge payday from whatever team that signs him. To be honest, though, I think whatever team that does sign Werth will be overpaying for his talents. While, he did have a good year with the Philadelphia Phillies hitting .296/.388/.532 with 27 home runs and 85 RBI’s, I don’t think that he will be able to keep up that line of production. In sorts, Werth reminds me a lot of Jason Bay, who was perhaps the biggest free agent bust this season.
Prediction: Despite my worries about Werth, there is expected to be a lot of interest in him. His market will depend on what team signs Carl Crawford, but at this point the Red Sox, Angels, Giants, as well as Werth’s current team the Phillies all have interest in him. Much like the Red Sox traded for Jason Bay, I think they are going to sign Jayson Werth. Werth could help them rebuild their lineup.
NOTE: Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera are also free agents, however it is probable that both are going to return to the Yankees next season.