While baseball won't have a free agent summit quite like the NBA did this past offseason, there is still one hefty prize still on the market. Most teams won't have pockets deep enough to contend for the big fish in this year's free agent class, Cliff Lee.
Aside from Lee, the next best player (arguably) looking for a big payday is left fielder, Carl Crawford.
Where Will Crawford End Up?
Every team in baseball could use a guy like Carl Crawford. For his career he is batting .296 and just recorded his best slugging percentage in a season. His worth extends well beyond the plate, however, as he won the 2010 Gold Glove (and the Silver Slugger).
While everybody could use a guy like Crawford, very few teams can actually afford him. All the usual suspects, the Yankees and the Red Sox could look to acquire him. Additionally, the Angels, Tigers, Rangers and really the Nationals might also look to make noise to acquire him.
By all accounts, the Angels appear to be the front runner. They have signaled their willingness to spend money this offseason and need to re-tool to keep pace with division foes. The Tigers have a lot of money coming off their books and might look to make a play but the Angels have the added bonus of having Crawford's friend, Tori Hunter on the roster.
Where will Cliff Lee end up?
Ultimately, while the Red Sox may pursue Crawford, early reports indicate that Jayson Werth might be the favored option. I think Crawford will end up with the Angels.
The Cliff Lee Summit
Cliff Lee is easily the best pitcher on the market right now. As with Carl Crawford, very few teams have the cash available to sign a guy like Lee.
The Rangers, Yankees, Nationals, Phillies, Red Sox and Cubs have all indicated some level of interest, but the early front runners are the Rangers and Yankees.
The Rangers front office recently met with Lee in Arkansas but have not made an offer. Reportedly, this meeting focused less on compensation but on quality of life. The Rangers know they can't outbid the Yankees and are hoping to sell Arlington's proximity to Lee's Arkansas home.
The Yankees have stated that pitching is their top priority in the offseason. Lee would certainly solidify their rotation. CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee played together in Cleveland and are reportedly good friends. Whether that has any impact on Lee's decision remains to be seen.
Ultimately, however, Lee will demand a contract like Sabathia's seven-year, $161 million contract. I think in all likelihood, the Yankees will win the bidding war and end up with Lee on their roster next year.