MLB Free Agent Rumors: Where Will Cliff Lee and 10 Other Free Agents Play?

Carl D. CarlucciCorrespondent INovember 17, 2010

MLB Free Agent Rumors: Where Will Cliff Lee and 10 Other Free Agents Play?

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    Ahead of the 2010 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings (Dec. 6-9), rumors are swirling around Cliff Lee and other big-name free agents.

    Both the Yankees and Rangers have already visited with Lee, and Dan Uggla was traded from the Florida Marlins to the Atlanta Braves for Omar Infante and Mike Dunn.

    As we get closer to the Winter Meetings, baseball's Hot Stove will heat up greatly. So let's take a moment to try and guess destinations for Cliff Lee and 10 other big-name free agents.

Rafael Soriano

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    It's about that time.

    What time, you might ask?

    It's time for the "woe is me" expression coming from sports media regarding the Tampa Bay Rays as the team starts to let valuable players walk because of their inability to pay them.

    One of those guys is closer Rafael Soriano, who led the American League with 45 saves in 2010. He had a 1.73 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP in 62.1 innings.

    The latest rumors have the Chicago White Sox, who are undoubtedly going to part with Bobby Jenks, showing the most interest in Soriano.

    However, don't count out the Angels. Owner Art Moreno has made it his prerogative to spend money this offseason and the team has needed a closer since Francisco Rodriguez left.

Orlando Hudson

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    For some reason, many Mets fans are clamoring for Orlando Hudson, a 32-year-old second baseman.

    They seem to have forgotten the much-lamented acquisition of Luis Castillo, who is now a hobbled 34-year-old eating bench space for the team.

    However, the erstwhile Minnesota Twin is believed to be seeking a short-term deal, which he won't get in Minnesota.

    If that is the case, new Mets GM Sandy Alderson may make Hudson his one big free-agent acquisition, filling out the Mets lineup with a solid veteran second baseman that won't turn into Castillo version 2.0 because of the short-term deal.

Brandon Webb

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    The former NL Cy Young is unlikely to ever be the same pitcher he was before his career was derailed by shoulder problems.

    That being said, some team is going to take a waiver on him hoping he can regain some of that former success that made him the 2006 Cy Young winner and a 22-game winner in 2008.

    Rumors have it that both the Dodgers and Nationals are interested in Webb.

    Chances are the Nationals will do a little more to sign Webb because they have expressed a willingness to spend and the Dodgers franchise was rocked by Frank McCourt's divorce.

    Much as they did with Chien-Ming Wang, look for the Nationals to take a flier on Brandon Webb in hopes of forming a resurgent veteran core in the rotation around phenom Stephen Strasburg.

Manny Ramirez

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    Manny Ramirez's tenure as a White Sox did not go so well, as he hit just .261 in 24 games with one home run.

    So where does Ramirez go from here?

    Obviously he needs to be a designated hitter somewhere, which counts out any National League team.

    If he can catch on with a solid lineup in a hitter's park, Ramirez could see a resurgence similar to Jim Thome with the Twins this season. In 276 at-bats as a part-time DH, Thome hit 25 home runs and posted a .627 slugging percentage.

    Rumors have the Blue Jays interested in Ramirez and sentimental people pushing for a return of the mercurial slugger to Cleveland, where Ramirez started his career.

    The Blue Jays, with their hitter's ballpark and strong lineup, seem like a great fit for Ramirez. At the very least, it is a much better destination than Cleveland.

Vladimir Guerrero

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    Continuing our exploration of suitable homes for sluggers past their prime, we come to Vladimir Guerrero, who had 115 RBI in 2010.

    Guerrero's triple-slash stats were a mediocre (for a DH) .300/.345/.496, but his role in helping the Rangers reach the World Series should get him a one- or two-year deal somewhere.

    The aforementioned Blue Jays could sign Vlad over Manny, or he could find a home with several teams that are willing to spend a moderate amount hoping Guerrero can at least duplicate his performance from 2010.

    Beside the Jays, look for the A's, Mariners and Tigers to show interest, with Vlad most likely ending up in Detroit.

Victor Martinez

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    In a short time span the Florida Marlins have severely limited the options of the Boston Red Sox, first by trading Dan Uggla to the Braves and then by signing catcher John Buck.

    Both players were considered alternative options for the Red Sox, who need to decide on re-signing both Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre.

    The Sox will have competition for both. Supposedly the Tigers, Orioles, Rockies and Rangers join the Red Sox in pursuit of Martinez.

    In this case, the Red Sox should probably emerge as the top suitor for Martinez and re-sign him. This way if Adrian Beltre leaves via free agency they can shift Kevin Youkilis to third base, move Martinez 90 feet down the base line to first and let Jarrod Saltalamacchia catch.

Aaron Harang

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    The Cincinnati Reds, fresh off a playoff appearance, have decided to stick with Bronson Arroyo and cut ties with Aaron Harang, exercising the former's option and not the latter's.

    The 32-year-old Harang is coming off the worst season of his career and has seen his ERA rise significantly since he turned 30.

    Where will Harang end up in 2011?

    Why, where all bottomed-out pitchers go to have a career resurgence: Petco Park.

    Jon Garland declined to exercise his option with the Padres and the team did not exercise Chris Young's option, so they will be looking for some pitching. Harang can be had for cheap after his abysmal 2010 and pitching in Petco can do wonders for the fly-ball pitcher.

Adrian Beltre

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    Who didn't see this performance from Beltre coming?

    When Adrian Beltre was up for free agency following the 2004 season, he cashed in by hitting 48 home runs and posting a line of .334/.388/.629.

    In 2010, leading up to free agency, Beltre hit an AL-best 49 doubles and posted a .321/.365/.553 line.

    Now he is one of the hottest free agents on the market, with reportedly 12 teams interested and Beltre set to make around $15 million per year.

    The Red Sox reportedly won't give Beltre more than four years and $52 million, which will probably lead the third baseman to sign elsewhere.

    Of all the teams interested, the Angels have the best chance to sign Beltre. After letting Chone Figgins go and watching Brandon Wood fail epically, Art Moreno will fix this situation by throwing more years and money at Beltre than any other team.

Adam Dunn

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    Adam Dunn, you want to give up this ridiculous desire to remain in the field. You want to sign with the Yankees and play DH. You want to routinely hit balls that would be pop-outs in any other stadium but home runs at Yankees Stadium's short right-field porch.

    OK, so that won't happen. But it would be a sight to see. The gargantuan first baseman has a three-year offer on the table from the Nationals, but he's drawing interest from all over the league.

    And for good reason. His natural power is rare in the post-steroid era.

    Teams like the Tigers, White Sox and Cubs are also interested in Dunn.

    In the end, Dunn is sincere about wanting to remain in the field, so he will sign with an NL team to ensure he does. Nationals or Cubs? If Dunn was smart he'd avoid the pressure of playing for the chronically tumultuous Cubs and try and be part of something good in Washington.

Carl Crawford

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    Probably the top positional player on the market this winter, Carl Crawford will leave the Tampa Bay Rays because teams like the Red Sox, Tigers and Angels will price them out of the bidding.

    A year ago, most were saying Crawford to the Yankees was a lock. However, now the Yankees have shifted their focus to Cliff Lee, and Carl Crawford will fall to one of the other three top spenders in the American League.

    The Angels will be happy with Soriano and Beltre, meaning the Tigers will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox for Crawford.

    In the end, the Red Sox will probably be the ones who sign the left fielder. They need an outfielder and will need to replace Adrian Beltre's offensive production. They'll do that with Crawford.

Cliff Lee

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    Lots of teams will be phonies in the bidding for Cliff Lee.

    In reality, only two real bidders have a shot: the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers.

    No other team will bid as high as these two, with the Yankees pricing everybody else out and the Rangers refusing to back down.

    It is very likely that the Rangers match whatever the Yankees offer Lee.

    But it might not matter. Cliff Lee seems to really enjoy pitching in the postseason. The Rangers cannot guarantee they'll perennially be in the playoffs. Neither can the Yankees, but they do offer a better chance of perennially making the playoffs.

    Cliff Lee is good friends with CC Sabathia. He'd love to pitch in the same rotation with him and do for the Yankees what they couldn't for the Cleveland Indians. Reportedly, his wife contacted Amber Sabathia about houses in the New York area before the Mariners pulled out of a deal with the Yankees at the last second.

    And that whole spitting incident?

    Don't worry Kristen Lee, that's just how we say hello in New York!

Bonus Slide: Jayson Werth

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    Surprise! You thought it would just be 11 free agents, and you were probably thinking, "Where the heck is Jayson Werth?"

    Well, here he is.

    Many teams are interested in Jayson Werth. The Red Sox are supposed to have a strong interest, but they won't sign both Werth and Crawford, will they?

    Once the Sox sign Crawford, Werth will fall to either the Tigers or White Sox.

    For sentimentality's sake, and not for anything that seems to indicate this will happen, let's say the Illinois native Werth signs with the White Sox.