MLB Free Agent Rumors: Each Team’s Key Player Who Could Leave Following 2011
As the 2011 season begins, we can't help but look forward to the 2012 offseason. Teams will look to sign players that fit their system, while attempting to re-sign their own free agents.
There are some big-name free agents coming up this offseason, and every team has an important free agent they could lose. Here is a list of players each team could lose over the course of the next year.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Bobby Abreu
Abreu will be a free agent if he doesn’t reach 433 plate appearances in 2011, so he could be on the market if he is injured for an extended period.
Abreu is still a good offensive player that could be of some use to the Angels in 2012, so they should see to it that he does reach the at-bats.
Houston Astros: Clint Barnes
The Astros don’t have a lot of talent on their roster, but Barnes is one of their best players. He has some pop in his bat and plays decent defense. Still it would not be the end of the world if he signed with another team, because the Astros aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Oakland Athletics: Rich Harden
Yes, Rich Harden is back with the A’s. Yes, he is an injury risk. Yes, he is still a weapon when healthy.
Harden’s transition to the bullpen may help him stay healthy, as well as become one of the best relievers in the league. Look for him to have a bounce-back year in 2011, and take the big bucks next year from some other team.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista
Jose Bautista became one of the game’s premier power hitters last year. Bautista belted 54 home runs, and hit a below-average, but respectable .260.
If he can put up another 50-plus HR season, Bautista would find himself as one of the most coveted free agents around. He can play multiple positions decently, and can provide a middle-of-the-order bat to just about any team.
If he does, I don’t think the Jays will re-sign him because Bautista will be far too expensive to retain.
Atlanta Braves: Nate McLouth
McLouth has a $10.65 million club option for 2012, which the Braves could buy out for $1.25 million if they wish. If McLouth has another season like last year, he will most certainly be a free agent again.
While relegated to obscurity for at least a year, plenty of teams would still take a shot on him because he has a great blend of power and speed.
Milwaukee Brewers: Prince Fielder
Prince Fielder said over the course of the past few years he wants to test the waters of free agency. Fielder will be 27 in 2012, and entering his prime, meaning his value will be its highest in 2012.
The Brewers are really in control of their own destiny with Fielder right now. The Brewers loaded up the team for one massive run at a title, and if they managed to win the Pennant or World Series, could prove to Prince they are committed to winning, and therefore, would be likely to retain his services.
St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols
It is unlikely the Cardinals and Albert Pujols don’t reach an agreement on a long extension at some point during the 2011 season. However, if the Cards fail to lock up Pujols before he hits the open market, they will unwittingly create a bidding war the likes of which we’ve never seen in sports.
Pujols is the best player in the game, and all 30 teams would be interested in his services. Pujols will be 32 on Opening Day in 2012, and could get a deal of at least 10 years and possibly $325 million before all is said and done.
Chicago Cubs: Carlos Pena
While Pena had a down year in 2010, he is still one of the better first basemen in baseball. He hits for high power numbers, and is outstanding in the field.
He should have a better year and regain some of his All-Star status in Chicago, which in turn will put him on the top of the third tier of free-agent first basemen next winter.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Zach Duke
Duke has a mutual option for 2012 that will not be exercised unless he gives an exact amount of production. Too little production and the team will opt out—too much and Duke will opt out for more money.
Duke is talented, and can be a good pitcher if he can get the Pirates’ losing philosophy out of his head. A change of scenery could help his stock going forward.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Jonathan Broxton
Broxton was once unanimously considered one of the top three closers in baseball until his horrible 2010 campaign. Now he must regain his status as a stud closer so he can be of use to the Dodgers in 2012.
If Broxton bounces back, he could command more than $10 million per year, as he is young and not very injury prone. Broxton has always had elite talent, and one bad year should not compromise his stock going forward.
San Francisco Giants: Pat Burrell
Burrell raked during the second half of 2010 for San Francisco. He faded in the playoffs, but his second-half surge was a big reason the Giants held off the Padres to win the division.
Another good season from Burrell should make him one of the more sought-after outfielders of the free-agent class of 2012. On an open market, Burrell could command $6-8 million per year from the Giants or another mid-market team looking for a solid outfielder.
Cleveland Indians: Grady Sizemore
While the Indians will probably pick up Sizemore’s option for 2012, it’s far more likely the Indians trade him before 2012. Sizemore is under team control until 2013, and would be at the height of his value this season.
Sizemore is a five-tool player, and would command an organization’s top prospects. They aren’t going anywhere in 2011, so they might as well build for 2012.
Seattle Mariners: Erik Bedard
When healthy, Bedard is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Unfortunately, Bedard hasn’t been healthy in years. However, this is Bedard’s last shot at a big contract, and he will probably bounce back in his walk year.
If Bedard is back on top, he could position himself as one best free-agent starting pitchers. However, Bedard will always be an injury risk, so any team should peruse him with a grain of salt.
Florida Marlins: Omar Infante
Infante had a breakout season last year in Atlanta, where he raked to the tune of .321 last season, and was in contention to win the NL batting title most of the season.
Infante will probably hit ahead of Hanley Ramirez, so he’ll score a ton of runs and see good pitches. This will make him a hot commodity in the offseason. The Marlins probably will not pay what Infante will want, so he will likely remove his talents from South Beach, and go to the highest bidder.
New York Mets: Jose Reyes
No player in baseball has more to gain or lose this season than Jose Reyes. If Reyes can return to his prime numbers, he could become a hot commodity, as several teams will be in the hunt for a new shortstop.
Reyes is still young, and has a good blend of power and speed. He may be a bit of a clubhouse cancer, but his talent is undeniable. Reyes is Manny Ramirez 2.0.
Washington Nationals: Chien-Ming Wang
Wang was once one of the best pitchers in baseball, but a foot injury a few years ago derailed his career. Still, if Wang rebounds in 2011, he will be one of the top free-agent starters on the market.
Wang’s amazing sinker translates well to any ball park. Everyone from the Yankees, to the Padres, to the Cubs will want him, so the Nationals will have to think long and pay a lot to retain one of the favorites to win Comeback Player of the Year in 2011.
Baltimore Orioles: Justin Duchsherer
If healthy, the Duke is the best pitcher on the Orioles, and a bona fide ace. He should bounce back in 2011, and could come into high demand in a weak pitching market.
Lots of teams were interested in Duchsherer this season, so a comeback campaign in 2011 will drastically increase his stock going into 2012.
San Diego Padres: Heath Bell
Heath Bell will undoubtedly be the best free-agent closer of 2012. He remains one of the best closers in baseball, and will command the largest contract in baseball history for a reliever.
Because of the huge contract Bell will sign, the Padres and their meager payroll will most likely lose him to another team in 2012. Expect the Red Sox, Orioles and any big-market team to go after Bell with a vengeance.
Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins will be 33 in 2012, and the aging shortstop could find himself on a new team in 2011. Rollins’ production is down over the last few years, and he has been unable to stay healthy over the course of a season.
There will be a decent market for Rollins, but it is unknown how many years, or how much money he will get.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Garrett Atkins
Garrett Atkins may not even make the team, but he is still the best possible free agent the Pirates will have in 2012. Atkins was once an elite player, and could rebound in a low-pressure environment like Pittsburgh.
If he can manage to produce like his best years in Colorado, Atkins will have a decent amount of demand, because of past performance and his ability to play both corner infield positions.
Texas Rangers: Brandon Webb
If Brandon Webb is healthy, he will have a bounce-back year. Webb could be one of the best free-agent pitchers if he regains his pre-injury form that compromised Webb’s previous two seasons.
Webb’s sinker still works and many teams will want one of baseball’s best pitchers in 2012. If Webb bounces back, expect the Yankees to steal him away from Texas as part of the ongoing feud between the Yankees and Rangers.
Tampa Bay Rays: Manny Ramirez
Love him or hate him, Manny Ramirez can still rake. He will hit about .280 with 20 home runs without breaking much of a sweat, and in Tampa, he can DH.
By DHing, Manny can focus on his hitting, which is his greatest asset. Putting him in a walk year with something to prove should motivate Ramirez enough to have a stellar season to increase his free-agent stock for 2012.
Boston Red Sox: Jonathan Papelbon
One of sports' most overrated players, Jonathan Papelbon has been incredibly shaky over the last three seasons. Pappy was the source of trade rumors over the last year, and may walk from Boston after this year.
If Papelbon doesn’t pull it together in 2011, he will have to go to a lower-market club in order to close, or another big-market club like the Yankees as a setup man. Heath Bell seems to be the Red Sox’s target for closer in 2012.
Cincinnati Reds: Francisco Cordero
With Aroldis Chapman’s breakout late last season, Francisco Cordero finds himself a marked man in 2011. While still the closer, Cordero will have to deal with Chapman nipping at his heels for the entire season.
Cordero is a quality closer, but Chapman’s arm is once in a lifetime. Cordero has a $12 million option in 2012, and Chapman’s dominance will almost certainly make Cordero expendable.
Cordero will have a good amount of demand on the open market, so the Reds will not re-sign him at a lower salary. Expect him to catch on somewhere else as a closer or elite setup man.
Colorado Rockies: Jose Lopez
Jose Lopez is one of the more underrated players in baseball. He is a solid, but unspectacular role-player that every team can use.
Lopez is one of the few Rockies that can change teams next year. While Lopez may be back with the Rockies next year, there is a chance he goes somewhere else to fill a similar role.
Kansas City Royals: Jeff Francoeur
A lot of people love Francoeur for irrational reasoning. I am one f those people. Yes, he had about a half of a great season his rookie year, but something about him makes a lot of people believe he can be a great player.
In a low-pressure environment like Kansas City, Francoeur will rebound, and will either be traded at the deadline, or decline the player-half of his mutual option for 2012.
Detroit Tigers: Carlos Guillen
Carlos Guillen is a total team player. Guillen played all over the diamond over the last few years to help make the best lineup for the Tigers as possible.
Guillen’s defense may not be what it once was, but he can still hit, and could find himself in high demand as a super utility man in 2012 when he hits free agency at age 36.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Nathan
The Twins may decline Joe Nathan’s $12.5 million option to save a few bucks. If the Twins are that foolish, Joe Nathan will become the best closer on the free-agent market, and will never be a Twin again.
Every other team in baseball would want Nathan on their squad, and the Twins will not be able to outbid the Red Sox for Nathan’s services. The Twins would be wise to exercise Nathan’s 2012 option.
Chicago White Sox: Mark Buehrle
Mark Buehrle will probably not pitch for any other team but the White Sox in 2012. However, there is a distinct possibility Buerhle doesn’t pitch at all in 2012, as he has been mulling retirement for the last couple of seasons.
Buehrle is a free agent in 2012, and as a result, he is now this year’s Andy Pettitte: a huge question mark mulling retirement all of 2011, and into early 2012.
New York Yankees: CC Sabathia
Believe it or not, CC Sabathia may walk away from four more years and $92 million to become a free agent again. Sabathia claims he lost 30 pounds over the offseason, and another career year would assure him a higher payday in a weak free-agent class for pitchers in 2012.
The Yankees would have little choice but to re-sign him, because they are already hurting for pitching. Look for Sabathia to get another seven-year deal worth close to $200 million from the Yankees, Angels or Red Sox, who could really pour salt on the Yankees’ wounds by stealing Sabathia from their grasp.