MLB Free Agency 2013: New Destination Predictions for Top 50 Available Players

Ely Sussman@@MrElyminatorCorrespondent ISeptember 17, 2012

MLB Free Agency 2013: New Destination Predictions for Top 50 Available Players

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    Free agency can unfold in countless different ways, but there's a method to the madness.

    After taking rumors, contract details and each team's needs into account, I've predicted the fates of Major League Baseball's top 50 available players.

    Factors that affected these rankings included the value of the player (obviously), age/expected decline, and depth of the free-agent market at each position.

    Trust that many of the following deals will be completed when the dust settles next spring.

Team Options That Will Definitely Be Exercised

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    I'm 99.99 percent confident that these desirable players will remain with their current teams via one-year options, though several may receive lengthy contract extensions instead.

    Either way, they won't be available in free agency (or featured in this slideshow):

    J.J. Putz (Arizona Diamondbacks), Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Brian McCann (Atlanta Braves), Luis Ayala (Baltimore Orioles), Octavio Dotel and Jhonny Peralta (Detroit Tigers), R.A. Dickey and David Wright (New York Mets), Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson (New York Yankees), Grant Balfour (Oakland Athletics), Carlos Ruiz (Philadelphia Phillies), Fernando Rodney and James Shields (Tampa Bay Rays).

50. DH/OF Jonny Gomes: Cleveland Indians

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    2012 team: Oakland Athletics.

    Offensively, Jonny Gomes' 2012 season is a mirror image of his 2009 performance, for which the Cincinnati Reds re-signed him as an everyday player.

    But the A's won't be interested in paying him for 550 plate appearances. That would mean using him against right-handers, and Gomes platoon splits have always been ugly.

    Nonetheless, he'll be coveted by the Tribe, a team desperate to fill their designated hitter slot.

49. DH/1B Carlos Lee: Houston Astros

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    2012 teams: Houston Astros/Miami Marlins.

    Carlos Lee should not have been surprised or offended when he was rented to the Miami Marlins at midseason. Anyone earning an eight-figure salary on a rebuilding team is going to be shopped.

    The Astros would love to bring him back—at a reasonable price—to serve as a mentor to their maturing players.

    A reunion makes sense for Lee, too. His cattle ranch is driving distance from Minute Maid Park.

48. LF Juan Pierre: Boston Red Sox

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    2012 team: Philadelphia Phillies.

    Major League Baseball's active stolen-base leader is no longer an everyday player. Reduced bat speed has rendered him helpless against left-handed pitching.

    However, Juan Pierre is still equipped with excellent speed and contact ability.

    The Boston Red Sox could platoon him with a powerful right-handed bat like Andruw Jones.

47. SP/RP Carlos Villanueva: San Diego Padres

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    2012 team: Toronto Blue Jays.

    One thing's for sure—Carlos Villanueva won't be re-signed by the Blue Jays. Not after GM Alex Anthopoulos publicly doubted his durability (via Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors).

    Expect him to be waiting around for a month or two while teams with rotation vacancies court more experienced starters.

    The San Diego Padres should be active this offseason under new ownership. Erratic Edinson Volquez is a non-tender candidate and I could see the Friars pursuing Villanueva as a cheap upgrade.

    My best guess is a two-year/$11 million contract.

46. 2B Kelly Johnson: Toronto Blue Jays

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    2012 team: Toronto Blue Jays.

    It's been an off year for Kelly Johnson, yet he'll draw considerable interest. Second base is among the weakest positions in this free-agent class, and Johnson plays strong defense while consistently slugging double-digit home runs.

    The Toronto Blue Jays don't have a capable successor. Rookie Adeiny Hechavarria is—at best—an MLB utility infielder.

    It might take a multi-year deal.

45. LF Melky Cabrera: Miami Marlins

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    2012 team: San Francisco Giants.

    How can you gauge the value of an admitted PED user? Is a clean Melky Cabrera the player we saw in Atlanta (.255/.317/.354 with 4 HR) or Kansas City (.305/.339/.470 with 18 HR)?

    There's no way of knowing.

    But a report coming from Andrew Baggarly of indicates that the Giants have zero interest in him.

    Besides Giancarlo Stanton, the Miami Marlins outfield is in disarray. The Melk Man could be their everyday left fielder if management is willing to look past his moral blunder.

44. RP Joakim Soria: Boston Red Sox

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    2012 team: Kansas City Royals.

    Joakim Soria had spent his entire MLB career as the Kansas City Royals closer before suffering an elbow injury during spring training. Mending it required Tommy John surgery, which he underwent earlier in his career.

    He'll become a free agent if the Royals decide not to exercise an $8 million team option.

    Talented players recovering from a major procedure typically sign one-year, incentive-laden contracts, especially if they are likely to begin the season on the disabled list. Soria has the potential to be a great bargain for the Boston Red Sox.

43. RP Francisco Rodriguez: St. Louis Cardinals

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    2012 team: Milwaukee Brewers.

    It's been an inconsistent season for Francisco Rodriguez.

    Fortunately, the former $37 million closer is restoring his free-agent value with a solid September (7 IP, 1 ER, 6/1 SO/BB).

    K-Rod's velocity has remained pretty steady since 2009, but his strikeout rate is lower than ever. As a result, he'll have to take a sizable pay cut after earning $8 million this season.

42. 3B/1B Eric Chavez: Retirement

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    2012 team: New York Yankees.

    Last October, Eric Chavez was "leaning heavily" toward retirement before re-signing with the Yankees. The subject was also on his mind during the 2010-11 offseason.

    He'll have some major league offers to sift through after a bounce-back campaign that has seen him dominate right-handers.

    But success hasn't come easily to the 35-year-old. He constantly plays through minor aches and pains.

    With nothing left to prove, I say he calls it a career.

41. RP Ryan Madson: Cleveland Indians

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    2012 team: Cincinnati Reds.

    This acquisition presumes that the Cleveland Indians will move Chris Perez. He has spoken ill of fans and members of the front office, which has landed him on the trading block, according to

    Just like Joakim Soria, Ryan Madson is an experienced, late-inning reliever who underwent Tommy John surgery during spring training.

40. SP Gavin Floyd: Baltimore Orioles

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    2012 team: Chicago White Sox.

    The White Sox have numerous financial decisions to make this winter. Their payroll is undoubtedly headed north.

    Gavin Floyd's regression may deter the team from exercising its $9.5 million option. Then again, I expect another suitor to recognize that his earned run average is bloated from an unlucky home run rate.

    The Baltimore Orioles need more stability in their starting rotation, and Floyd would probably consent to a two-year agreement.

39. SP Ervin Santana: Washington Nationals

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    2012 team: Los Angeles Angels.

    Ervin Santana has slimmed down his earned run average by three-quarters of run over the past five weeks.

    Evidently, it will take more than that to regain the trust of Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who does not want the potential free agent facing the Texas Rangers (via

    Without signing anybody, the Washington Nationals have 80 percent of a great starting rotation for 2013. Santana is a low-risk candidate to fill that vacancy.

38. SP Shaun Marcum: Kansas City Royals

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    2012 team: Milwaukee Brewers.

    Missouri native Shaun Marcum is coming home.

    A team executive told's Danny Knobler in July that the Kansas City Royals would pursue "a real starting pitcher" through free agency.

    Elbow tightness has derailed Marcum's 2012 campaign (5.70 ERA and .935 OPS against since activation from disabled list), but he was terrific in each of the two previous seasons.

    He'll turn 31 in December.

37. RP Jose Valverde: Seattle Mariners

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    2012 team: Detroit Tigers.

    A sharp decline in strikeout rate will scare several teams away from Jose Valverde.

    That sort of statistical trend ends poorly for hard-throwing relievers. Francisco Cordero's career, for example, went down the tubes when he lost the ability to miss bats.

    Papa Grande is unlikely to get a closing gig.

36. RP Jeremy Affeldt: San Francisco Giants

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    2012 team: San Francisco Giants.

    Jeremy Affeldt has been effective against left-handed batters in 2012, though not nearly unhittable like we observed the season before.

    Overall, he's pitching just as well, which is why the Giants could retain him on a similar salary. They must love the idea of keeping Affeldt and Javier Lopez in the bullpen.

35. C Russell Martin: New York Yankees

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    2012 team: New York Yankees.

    Russell Martin is due for a slight raise, and the Yankees would be happy to oblige.

    Catching prospect Austin Romine isn't ready to accept starting responsibility out of spring training after struggling to find the field in 2012.

34. SP/RP Brett Myers: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2012 teams: Houston Astros/Chicago White Sox.

    With Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly in poor health and several developing starters recently traded, the Los Angeles Dodgers are sure to pursue pitching.

    Brett Myers proved to be a capable innings eater for the Houston Astros in 2010 and 2011 before voluntarily joining the relief corps.

    He's a very safe signing due to his strike-throwing ability.

33. RP Jonathan Broxton: Milwaukee Brewers

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    2012 teams: Kansas City Royals/Cincinnati Reds.

    His stock could continue to rise with a strong performance in the postseason.

    Jonathan Broxton is unusual in that he frequently induces ground balls with his exceptional velocity. He has minimal risk of allowing home runs from using that strategy.

32. SP Jeremy Guthrie: Kansas City Royals

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    2012 teams: Colorado Rockies/Kansas City Royals.

    GM Dayton Moore was candid with Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star about his offseason plans. Re-signing Jeremy Guthrie is among the club's top priorities.

    There's no shame in buying a proven starting rotation that will excite a suffering fanbase.

31. SP Andy Pettitte: New York Yankees

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    2012 team: New York Yankees.

    A broken ankle caused Andy Pettitte to miss out on a huge chunk of the 2012 season.

    "It definitely gives me the option to consider coming back again next year," he told Matt Ehalt of

    When he re-signed with the Bombers in March, the accomplished southpaw spoke about having an itch to play and confidence that he could win games again.

    There's no doubt about the latter. The one-year, $3-5 million question is whether Pettitte will still be motivated to pitch in 2013.

30. RF/LF Ichiro Suzuki: New York Yankees

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    2012 teams: Seattle Mariners/New York Yankees.

    Those who hoped Ichiro Suzuki would return to being an All-Star-caliber hitter have been sorely disappointed. Instead of rebounding from his weak 2011 campaign, he has essentially replicated it.

    But his outfield defense is still superb and playing at Yankee Stadium will work wonders on his fielding percentage.

    New York has a semi-regular role for Suzuki to fill.

29. RF/LF Cody Ross: Atlanta Braves

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    2012 team: Boston Red Sox.

    Martin Prado will presumably shift to third base this offseason when Chipper Jones retires. That would leave the Atlanta Braves without a left fielder.

    Besides Dan Uggla, the lineup is completely devoid of right-handed power. And with the second baseman coming off a lackluster year, the Braves need to guarantee more extra-base hits.

28. RP J.P. Howell: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2012 team: Tampa Bay Rays.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers have an opportunity to get younger with 37-year-old LOOGY Randy Choate hitting the open market.

    J.P. Howell is comparable, a middle reliever who relies more on deception than velocity.

27. IF Marco Scutaro: San Francisco Giants

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    2012 teams: Colorado Rockies/San Francisco Giants.

    This year's free-agent class is embarrassingly thin at the middle infield positions, which means Scutaro should be compensated with a generous deal.'s Andrew Baggarly reports that he "would love to come back" to San Francisco.

26. CF/LF Shane Victorino: Philadelphia Phillies

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    2012 teams: Philadelphia Phillies/Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Shane Victorino is publicly seeking a starting outfield job, so rule out the possibility of him re-signing with L.A. Carl Crawford will be taking over in left beginning in 2013.

    The Flyin' Hawaiian was a fan favorite with the Philadelphia Phillies. Though they don't have much payroll flexibility, Victorino's mediocre production this season could drop him into their price range.

25. 1B Lance Berkman: Retirement

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    2012 team: St. Louis Cardinals.

    One of baseball's most underrated players will probably step away from the game.

    Lance Berkman has had both his knees carved up in an effort to return to the field. But after undergoing season-ending surgery, he said he's seriously thinking about retirement (via D.J. Short,

    At least we know he won't be spending his remaining years on the couch. Berkman is committed to enrolling at Rice University and earning his degree.

    His potent bat has a legitimate shot at getting him to Cooperstown.

24. 3B/1B Kevin Youkilis: Chicago White Sox

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    2012 teams: Boston Red Sox/Chicago White Sox.

    I'm of the opinion that the White Sox should exercise Kevin Youkilis' team option for $13 million.

    The corner infielder sets a great example for younger players with his work ethic and attitude. Re-signing him beyond 2013—even if it lowers the contract's average annual value—is risky because of his injury history.

23. SP Brandon McCarthy: Texas Rangers

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    2012 team: Oakland Athletics.

    Emergency brain surgery left Brandon McCarthy with an impressive scar (via New York Daily News), but it fortunately won't threaten his baseball career.

    The composition of the Texas Rangers Opening Day rotation is fluid outside of Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish. That paves the way for this control pitcher to return to his former big-league team.

22. SP Anibal Sanchez: Minnesota Twins

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    2012 teams: Miami Marlins/Detroit Tigers.

    Homegrown talent, for the most part, will be involved in the revamping of the Minnesota Twins pitching staff.

    The team can expedite the process by locking up Anibal Sanchez, who has quickly made adjustments in the American League. He's just entering his prime years (turning 29 in February).

21. RP Mike Adams: Philadelphia Phillies

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    2012 team: Texas Rangers.

    Philadelphia Phillies middle relief has been awful enough to limit star left-hander Cliff Lee to five wins on the season. So many blown leads.

    They would not regret bringing Mike Adams back to the senior circuit, where he posted a 2.11 ERA in 270 appearances with the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres.

20. SP Edwin Jackson: Miami Marlins

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    2012 team: Washington Nationals.

    The specific length of Edwin Jackson's next contract will hinge on how he fares in the 2012 playoffs. Already, though, it's safe to assume that he can settle in one spot through the middle of the decade.

    Finding a suitor for Josh Johnson—like the Miami Marlins nearly did at July's non-waiver trade deadline—would open up a spot atop their starting rotation.

19. LF Ryan Ludwick: San Francisco Giants

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    2012 team: Cincinnati Reds.

    Ryan Ludwick has exceeded expectations in Cincinnati. It would be foolish of him to consent to a $5 million mutual option.

    The San Francisco Giants set aside big money to sign their left fielder of the future. Of course, it was originally intended for Melky Cabrera.

18. CF B.J. Upton: Washington Nationals

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    2012 team: Tampa Bay Rays.

    The Washington Nationals can slot B.J. Upton in between Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth to solidify an outstanding outfield. Power and speed from foul pole to foul pole.

    Mike Morse becomes trade bait as a result of this signing.

17. SP Dan Haren: Los Angeles Angels

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    2012 team: Los Angeles Angels.

    Dan Haren would definitely be worth a $15.5 million salary if we knew he'd be in 2011 form (238.1 IP, 3.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP). The reality is that we can't be certain he'll bounce back, and that's why the Angels are in a tough position.

    His pitching has dramatically improved since Aug. 25. If Haren sustains excellence through season's end, the front office can be expected to exercise his option.

    It is, after all, just a one-year commitment.

16. RP Rafael Soriano: Toronto Blue Jays

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    2012 team: New York Yankees.

    A handful of free-agent relievers are likely to sign multi-year contracts, but none has a stronger case than Rafael Soriano.

    He seamlessly replaced all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera, who suffered a freak injury a few weeks into the season. According to, his WAR is above 2.0 for the first time ever.

    A year ago, the Toronto Blue Jays acquired closer Sergio Santos. Shoulder problems unfortunately sidelined him for most of 2012, so he ought to be eased back into action as a setup man.

15. C/1B Mike Napoli: Miami Marlins

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    2012 team: Texas Rangers.

    Due to a major regression, Mike Napoli isn't going to receive lengthy offers.

    Still, he could haul in an eight-figure salary as a stopgap for Miami Marlins catcher Rob Brantly.

14. SP Ryan Dempster: Toronto Blue Jays

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    2012 teams: Chicago Cubs/Texas Rangers.

    Ryan Dempster was born north of the border and during his current stint with the Texas Rangers, the right-hander has proven he's capable of pitching in the American League.

    The Toronto Blue Jays could certainly use reinforcements to their rotation after losing Kyle Drabek to Tommy John surgery and Ricky Romero to enigmatic location issues.

13. RP Mariano Rivera: New York Yankees

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    2012 team: New York Yankees.

    Immediately after being informed of the severity of his injury (torn ACL), the shutdown closer assured everybody that he would return for another year.

    There was no reason to specify the destination—Mo is a Yankee for life.

12. C A.J. Pierzynski: Texas Rangers

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    2012 team: Chicago White Sox.

    A.J. Pierzynski could find himself earning nearly $10 million annually over the length of his next contract.

    However, that won't be the case if he re-signs with the White Sox. They won't be pressured to match top offers because 26-year-old, pre-arbitration eligible catcher Tyler Flowers is quietly developing into a great all-around player.

    Besides, the veteran's numbers are coming down to Earth (.529 OPS since Aug. 22).

    Pierzynski winds up being cheaper than Mike Napoli, so the Texas Rangers can't complain.

11. SP Hiroki Kuroda: New York Yankees

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    2012 team: New York Yankees.

    Hiroki Kuroda has been the ace of a pitching staff that also includes Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia. And at the tolerable price of $10 million.

    As a fringe AL Cy Young candidate, the Japanese right-hander will sign for a minimum of two years.

10. CF Angel Pagan: San Francisco Giants

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    2012 team: San Francisco Giants.

    In one of last winter's unbalanced exchanges, the Giants gave up nothing of substance to acquire Angel Pagan.

    Perhaps a speedier player would be more qualified to patrol center field at AT&T Park, but he's a difference-maker in the lineup, either from the first or fifth spot in the batting order.

9. RF Torii Hunter: Los Angeles Angels

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    2012 team: Los Angeles Angels.

    Torii Hunter could earn much more on a team juggling fewer bloated deals. That's obvious.

    However, he feels "indebted" to Angels owner Arte Moreno, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

    By staying in L.A., the right fielder—who's batting a career-high .308 in 2012—is missing out on a great financial opportunity.

8. RF Nick Swisher: Boston Red Sox

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    2012 team: New York Yankees.

    The Boston Red Sox will take a fairly conservative approach to free agency after getting such poor returns from their previous mega-contracts (e.g. Carl Crawford, John Lackey).

    Regardless of what the rumors insist, netting Nick Swisher won't require "Jayson Werth money" (via Jon Heyman of Five years and $70 million is a more realistic estimate.

    GM Ben Cherington shouldn't mind allocating that for a good clubhouse guy with steady offensive production.

7. 1B Adam LaRoche: Washington Nationals

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    2012 team: Washington Nationals.

    Adam LaRoche has expressed a desire to "stick around" with the Nats. At the same time, he wouldn't be willing to "turn down what could be two or three more extra years somewhere else" (h/t Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post).

    This winter's best potentially available first baseman should not settle for the $10 million guaranteed in his 2013 mutual option.

    LaRoche deserves long-term security. Following some drawn-out negotiations, I believe he'll get it.

6. SP Kyle Lohse: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    2012 team: St. Louis Cardinals.

    Kyle Lohse wants to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks if for no other reason than to play golf year-round in the desert climate. He owns a home in Scottsdale and contended in January's West Valley Championship.

    The Cardinals have a surplus of affordable starting candidates. They may extend a one-year qualifying offer for draft compensation purposes, but a competitive bid won't be forthcoming.

    Lohse has made incredible progress over the past two seasons from punching bag to rotation leader.

5. DH David Ortiz: Boston Red Sox

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    2012 team: Boston Red Sox.

    It's been difficult to gauge how Big Papi really feels about playing in Beantown. At times, his comments have reflected both discontent and satisfaction.

    But since August's payroll-clearing blockbuster, the Boston Red Sox can—and should—let the designated hitter fill out a blank check.

4. SP Jake Peavy: Chicago White Sox

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    2012 team: Chicago White Sox.

    Jake Peavy's $22 million option will be bought out. In it's place, he and the White Sox can iron out a five-year agreement in the $80-$90 million range.

    It's great to see him healthy again.

3. CF Michael Bourn: Atlanta Braves

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    2012 team: Atlanta Braves.

    The Braves barely touched the 2011-12 free-agent class, but their time to splurge has come. GM Frank Wren will lock up Michael Bourn with the largest contract that the franchise has ever presented to a position player (possibly $100 million guaranteed).

    It's impossible to replace a center fielder with his defensive prowess and on-base ability.

2. SP Zack Greinke: Atlanta Braves

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    2012 teams: Milwaukee Brewers/Los Angeles Angels.

    Starting pitcher Zack Greinke has enjoyed his stint in Los Angeles, but Atlanta is an ideal fit.

    Most importantly, they are poised to contend for the foreseeable future. Plus, the team is not subject to the criticism of nosy media or a die-hard fanbase.

    Even after inking Cody Ross and Michael Bourn, the Braves can fairly compensate Greinke with a back-loaded contract.

1. CF/LF Josh Hamilton: Texas Rangers

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    2012 team: Texas Rangers.

    Extraordinary offensive production coupled with good health has done wonders for Josh Hamilton's free-agent value.

    Most teams that aren't deterred by his price tag worry about the baggage he carries as a recovering alcoholic.

    Not the Rangers. They've had Hamilton on the roster for five years and learned to protect him from himself. With the departure of Mike Napoli and a possible trade involving Elvis Andrus, affordability would not be an issue.

    My prediction: seven years, $190 million.