There are a lack of impact players available on the market this winter. That means the top free agents will be able to demand massive contracts and the chances are good that at least one team will be desperate enough to take a chance.
The most coveted players figure to be Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke and Michael Bourn. Let's examine what the outlook is for all three stars and make predictions for where they will end up when the dust finally settles before next season.
Hamilton is one of the best pure hitters in baseball. His 43 home runs last season and career .913 OPS illustrate that. But his injury history and well-documented off-field issues also bring some serious risk into the equation.
Those two factors make him one of the most intriguing free-agent cases in a long time. The Texas Rangers have some other voids to fill during the offseason, which leads me to believe he will be wearing a new uniform next spring.
While there will be no shortage of contenders, one team that stands out is the Milwaukee Brewers. They could use a slugger to replace the power lost when Prince Fielder left for the Detroit Tigers, and Hamilton fits the bill to create a terrific duo with Ryan Braun.
The most important thing working in Greinke's favor is the fact he's the only true ace on the market. All the other pitchers available are better suited for the middle of a rotation, which means every team looking for a front-line starter (and there's several) will be in on him.
He's been pitching at an elite level ever since winning the Cy Young Award in 2009, going 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA last season. The Angels got a glimpse of what he could do in the second half of last season after bringing him in from the Brewers.
Look for their crosstown rival, the Dodgers, to get heavily involved along with a handful of other teams, causing quite the bidding war. Ultimately, I expect the Angels to step up to make sure he doesn't get away, especially to a team like the Dodgers.
Bourn has been a good fit for the Atlanta Braves. He's provided the team with speed from the leadoff spot, something the Braves had lacked in previous years, and solid defense in center field. The bidding might get too rich for Atlanta's blood, though.
One reason the Braves aren't likely to go overboard to bring him back is the second half he endured. After tearing the cover off the ball before the All-Star break, Bourn hit just .225 after the break with a .636 OPS. Subpar numbers to say the least.
That won't stop other teams from going all out to sign him, however. The Braves' division rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals, both make sense. After a disappointing season, I expect the Phillies to make the big move.
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