Let’s be honest upfront about this: You don’t need any reason to be distracted from the baseball that’s currently being played in the postseason.
October has been wonderful for baseball fans, especially if you love great pitching.
With the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers set to meet in the ALCS, and the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants set to meet in the NLCS, we don’t need to give you any reasons to take your eyes off the field.
So, in that sense, this is not meant to take away from the games that still remain in the 2010 season.
This is for days like today: a weekday with no games.
And this is also for the fans whose favorite teams happen to be vacationing. For instance, if you’re a fan of the Washington Nationals, it’s never too early to think about next season. (Kidding, D.C.)
The World Series will come and go, and then the hot stove will once again be smoldering as seam-heads wait out the winter months in solitude.
To kick off the hot stove talk a little early, we are taking a look at 10 power hitters available this winter.
Now, this list doesn’t consist solely of potential trades. Frankly, legit power hitters aren’t packing rental trucks and caravanning across America to new homes on a daily basis.
Power is hard to find, so when a club lands a guy that has it, it’s not going to dish him away easily.
To make this list a little livelier we have assembled a mixture of free agents and guys currently under contract.
The marriage works quite well, actually, because the free-agent class this winter is, shall we say, less than marvelous.
As with any list or ranking, this isn’t a prediction of what will happen nor is it suggesting these are the only names that could be on the move. This list is simply for your enjoyment and discussion.
If you think another name needs to be mentioned beyond these 10, feel free to drop it in the comments section and everyone can discuss.
OK, now to the list.
We’ll start with the two names mentioned in the title.
Gonzalez is easily the best bat available on the trade market except that it’s unclear exactly when the Padres will trade the first baseman.
San Diego has a $5.5 million option on Gonzalez for 2011 which they will surely exercise, but Padres owner Jeff Moorad told FOXSports’ Ken Rosenthal last month that the club will not trade Gonzalez this winter.
Padres’ general manager Jed Hoyer will meet with Gonzalez’s agent, John Boggs, in the coming weeks to talk about a contract extension.
That extension most likely will not happen, as it’s hard to see how the Padres, with an expected 2011 payroll in the $40-50 million range, can afford a player like Gonzalez who could command upwards of $20 million on the open market.
This season, Gonzalez hit 31 homers and ranked seventh in the National League in OPS, despite playing his home games at the cavernous Petco Park.
So we’ll see what happens with Mr. Gonzalez.
In all likelihood he’s going to be on the move come next July, perhaps to a team like the Boston Red Sox.
If the Red Sox don’t land Gonzalez at the trade deadline, they will be the front-runners to land him next winter in free agency.
Teams covet Uggla because he offers a rare service: power at second base.
Uggla’s 33 homers ranked fifth in the N.L. in 2010, and they marked the fourth straight season he’s eclipsed 30 home runs and a .800 OPS.
Prior to the 2010 season, the Marlins reached an agreement with Uggla on a one-year, $7.8 million deal in order to avoid arbitration.
It appears that the two parties will either head to arbitration this winter or work out an extension.
Uggla wants to stay in Florida, and ownership wants to keep him around.
The problem is that the two sides are so far apart in dollars that an extension isn’t imminent.
The Miami Herald recently reported that Uggla is asking for a five-year deal worth $58 million, while Florida offered approximately three years and $24 million.
Uggla could surely eclipse the $10 million mark annually through arbitration, so any extension is going to have to start there.
The guess here is that Uggla will be back on the trade market next summer because if the Marlins really can’t come close to matching the dollars Uggla wants, then they have no other choice but to dangle him to the masses if they want a return greater than compensation picks on their investment.
It’s too early to say which team would make the best offer for Uggla, but it needs to be one that has enough money to sign Uggla long-term and also one with quality hitters already in place.
Uggla’s value is highest when he’s a nice complementary piece to an already solid lineup. If you’re asking Uggla to be the cog in the middle of your lineup, then your offense may be a little light.
Werth has done about as well as he could have possibly done for himself with the Phillies.
Werth established himself as a viable middle-of-the-order bat during Philadelphia’s 2008 World Series run, and then followed that up by posting a .373 OBP with 36 homers in 2009.
Werth’s homers are down from last year, but his on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS are all up.
When the Phillies had to tread water as Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino all spent time on the disabled list this summer, Werth was there to help them.
He manned various outfield positions for 156 games and has set himself up beautifully as a Scott Boras client entering the free-agent market.
Remember, this is a guy whom the Los Angeles Dodgers deemed they couldn’t use after the 2006 season and let walk into free agency. In four seasons, Werth has gone from replaceable to coveted, and now, at 31, he is ready to cash in on his big deal.
Werth fits the Phillies’ lineup so well by offsetting the left-handed power bats of Utley and Howard that it’s hard to envision general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. not doing everything possible to bring him back.
But there’s a breaking point in every negotiation, and if Boras insists Philadelphia stretch its wallet a little too far, there could be an opportunity for another club to land a quality slugger.
Buyers beware with Beltre.
Boston GM Theo Epstein made one of the shrewdest moves of the winter last year when he inked Beltre to a one-year deal with a player option for 2011.
Beltre had just finished up an injury-plagued season with Seattle in which he hit .265 with eight homers.
Knowing that multi-year deals weren’t going to be in abundance for Beltre, Boston offered him $9 million and the option to come back for $5 million in 2011 if he wished.
After hitting .321 with 28 home runs in 154 games this season, it’s safe to assume that Beltre will not be exercising his option but instead opting for free agency.
This could be a trap for a desperate team.
Beltre is only 31, but he surpassed 25 homers only once in the five seasons prior to 2010 and has never been a model of consistency.
Whether or not Epstein makes another serious offer to Beltre could shed some light on Boston’s hopes of landing Gonzalez.
By shunning Beltre, the Red Sox would be free to move Kevin Youkilis to third base full time and then aggressively pursue Gonzalez via trade.
Either way, there will be teams lining up for Beltre’s services as one of the winter’s more high-risk, high-reward plays.
By all accounts the Red Sox plan to make Martinez a multi-year offer that will keep him playing at Fenway.
But Martinez’s name is worth mentioning because he will be a free agent and, well, how can you count the Yankees out of any big free-agent deal?
Every team in baseball needs an All-Star, switch-hitting catcher, and the ones with capital to spend will have a chance to grab that guy this winter.
Boston should be considered the easy favorite to bring Martinez back, but you never know what kind of grandfather offer is lurking from somebody else.
Dunn made $12 million this season with Washington and produced 38 homers and a .892 OPS in return.
Dunn said he likes Washington and would be open to working out a long-term deal with the club, but the consensus is that GM Mike Rizzo isn’t going to have the dollars to force Dunn to pass up a more lucrative offer in another city.
Not to mention that the Nationals play in the N.L., and if there ever was an American League player, Dunn is it.
Dunn’s bat may hold up in five years, but his glove doesn’t hold up now, which means that it’s almost a guarantee he needs to become a full-time designated hitter and just mash for the rest of his career.
Where could that be?
The Angels could definitely use a little thunder in their lineup.
Perhaps the Tampa Bay Rays will throw a few of the dollars at Dunn that we know won’t be going to Carl Crawford.
Maybe the Chicago White Sox, behind GM Kenny Williams’ propensity for making big-name deals, will get in the mix.
The Orioles made a serious pitch for Mark Teixeira two winters ago and didn’t get the bat they were hoping they’d get with him, so maybe Dunn is now that guy.
There are options here for Dunn because teams know what they are going to get with him. They are going to get a lot of power, a lot of walks and a lot of strikeouts.
They’ll deal with the latter in return for the first two.
Carlos Pena hits the free-agent market with one tool: power.
Besides his 28 homers, Pena didn’t do much to justify the $10.125 million he made in Tampa this past season.
For the third consecutive season, Pena hit below .250, and he saw his OBP drop to .325 in 2010.
Unlike Dunn, Pena isn’t a complete statue at first base.
While Fangraphs’ ultimate zone rating lists Pena at 2.8 runs below average defensively, that’s not terrible for a first baseman that’s paid to hit the ball out of the park.
Compare it to Dunn’s 22.8 runs below average, and Pena looks like a Gold Glove candidate.
Some team will pony up for Pena, but it probably won’t be the Rays.
Pena is too one-dimensional for the salary he is currently making, and Rays GM Andrew Friedman has too much savvy to lock a significant portion of the payroll into a player that is relatively replaceable to the club.
Fielder has been included in trade rumors for a couple seasons now.
The big first baseman made $10.5 million in 2010 and will become a free agent next year.
As a Scott Boras client with one of baseball’s elite power bats, there is little reason to believe that Milwaukee will be able to sign Fielder in the open market.
That means the Brewers must move him sometime before the trade deadline next year in order to get something in return.
Which club he goes to is another question.
The team not only has to have the prospects to make the trade work for the Brewers, but it also has to have the dollars to lock Fielder up long-term—otherwise shipping out a couple premier prospects would be hard to justify.
Fielder would be best served as a DH in the American League, and the Angels have the prospects to make that trade work.
But would Angels GM Tony Riggins want to deal with another power-hitting Boras client on the free-agent market after getting spurned by Mark Teixeira two years ago?
We’ll have to wait and see.
Many think Hart is the Brewer that will garner the most attention because he is more affordable and is under contract for the next three seasons.
Milwaukee isn’t exactly in a race to trade Hart, as the club signed him to a three-year extension in August. But they would have to listen to, say, the Giants if they came calling.
The Giants were in hot pursuit of Hart leading up to the trade deadline but didn’t get him.
Hart hit 31 homers this season but has never hit more than 24 in any prior season.
It could be that, at age 28, Hart has entered his prime and will continue to develop as a power-hitting right fielder.
But there’s also a possibility that 2010 was a bit of an aberration, and Hart is more of a 20-homer guy.
This is a feel-good story as the Twins took a flier on Thome last offseason and inked him to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million plus incentives.
That may have been the best $1.5 million spent in baseball all year.
In 276 at-bats, Thome hit 25 home runs and posted a 1.039 OPS.
Thome, at 39 years old, should cash in on a multi-year deal this winter and says he wants to continue to play as long as his body allows him to.
As is the case with any older player, there’s a risk that Thome may not duplicate this type of production next season and could get hurt.
Thome’s market is also limited because he is strictly a DH at this point in his career — he doesn’t even carry around a glove on most days.
The Twins could do well for themselves by bringing Thome back, as they know how he will fare in their new ballpark and how he will fit in with the club.
If it’s not Minnesota, there surely will be other clubs interested in Thome’s services.
Follow Teddy Mitrosilis on Twitter. You can reach him at email@example.com.