Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder will be the most sought after free agents once the frenzy begins at the end of this season, but it is anyone's guess as to where they will end up and—more importantly—how much they will actually sign for.
Jeff Passan over at Yahoo! Sports recently had a player-agent project the contracts of some of hottest free agent names hitting the market in 2011.
While it is difficult to predict where a player will sign and nearly impossible to predict the actual contract amount, needless to say I was a bit surprised by some of the projections—and I think most of you will be, too.
Here are nine of MLB's top upcoming free agents, what their next contract is projected at, and why I think those projection's are wrong.
2011 Salary: $12.5 million
Projected Contract: One year, $14 million (from the Boston Red Sox)
It's not often that a player going into what would be his age 36 season receives a raise. Yet with the way David Ortiz is raking the ball so far in 2011, the Red Sox may be hard-pressed not to give him a little extra cash to stick around for one more year.
I'm not yet ready to buy into Ortiz' rejuvenation. His current OPS-plus of 173 would break his career-high mark set back in 2007—which was also the last time he hit above .270 in a season. We can be sure that his .321 BA and 1.009 OPS will fall back to earth before seasons' end.
Ortiz is easily on pace to hit his 400th home run next season, which I'm sure Red Sox Nation would prefer he did in Bean Town.
All things considered, I think Big Papi will land a two-year deal for $10-12 million per season. However, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein will have some serious thinking to do shall Papi stay on this tear for the entire season.
2011 Salary: $12 million
Projected Contract: Two years, $25 million
After the 2009 season, you would have been laughed out of a room if you believed Jonathan Papelbon would only get a two-year, $25 million deal when he hit free agency.
From 2006-09, Papelbon was arguably the best closer in the game—making four straight All-Star appearances and never having an ERA above 2.34.
Things have changed for Papelbon—who since the start of the 2010 season has an ERA of around 4.00— and it's all but a guarantee that he won't be back in Boston for the 2012 season.
Pappy should still be able to garner a deal in the three-year, $36 million range from a team willing to overpay in hopes that the 30-year-old will regain form.
2011 Salary: $7.5 million
Projected Contract: Three years, $35 million
Heath Bell is looking to break the bank during free agency. He will be 34 years old next season in what will likely be his only chance to strike a big deal.
Although Bell has been stellar in his two full seasons since taking over for Trevor Hoffman in San Diego, I still find it hard to believe that a team will shell out $35 million to a 34-year-old who played his home games at a pitcher-friendly ballpark.
The key will be on whether Bell gets moved at the deadline. If he is able to get onto a contender to finish the 2011 season, Bell may be able to parlay a strong performance down the stretch into a three year deal.
At this point, I would stick to a two-year, $27 million deal for Bell's services.
2011 Salary: $23 million
Projected Contract: Eight years, $185 million
C.C. Sabathia has four-years and $92 million remaining on the original contract he signed with the New York Yankees after the 2008 season. The question is, will he use his opt out clause in order to get a new seven or eight-year deal?
Baseball is a business, and if C.C. can turn another stellar year into a massive new contract then by all means he should do it.
However, I can't see Brian Cashman & Co. going that high on Sabathia due to a mix of potential age and weight concerns at the back end of his next deal.
Sabathia—who is 48-19 with a 3.27 ERA in his time with the Yanks'—should realistically sign a deal closer to the seven-year, $150 million range. Anything more is overpaying.
2011 Salary: $8.5 million
Projected Contract: Three years, $39 million
The only thing we know at this point is that there is almost no chance of Jimmy Rollins returning to the Philadelphia Phillies.
I've always been a fan of J-Roll, and personally I'd love to see him in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform next season. The fact is, whoever signs Rollins will be buying his name and not the results they are seeking on the field.
Rollins was one of the best offensive and defensive shortstops in all of baseball a handful of years ago—even winning the NL MVP award during the 2007 season.
Ever since, he has struggled with injuries and his bat has gone all but stagnant. Rollins still makes plenty of spectacular plays on defense, but he has lost a step and—by dWAR standards—is now a below-average defender.
Rollins should have no problem getting a team to bite on a three-year deal, but anything over $10 million per season would be overpaying.
2011 Salary: $18.5 million
Projected Contract: Three years, $36 million
Whoever signs Carlos Beltran this off-season is taking a huge risk—but the potential reward could be great.
Beltran—who will be 35 years old next season—has failed to play in more than half of the Mets' games during each of the last two seasons. While finally being healthy, Beltran is on a tear so far in 2011.
Beltran will be best suited for an AL ball-club that can allow him to play 75 percent of his games as a corner-outfielder while playing the remaining games at DH.
The only way Beltran gets $36 million over three-years is if he signs with the Yankees. No other team can afford to take such a gamble. Realistically, Beltran is looking at deals more in the range of two-years, $20 million or three-years, $27 million.
2011 Salary: $11 million
Projected Contract: Seven years, $145 million
The most frequent player we hear Jose Reyes compared to—in terms of his possible contract—is Carl Crawford, who signed a seven-year, $142 million deal with the Red Sox last off-season.
The only way Reyes will get a $145 million deal is if it's from the Yankees or the Red Sox. The New York Mets are not players for a deal of that magnitude, and the Red Sox likely won't be either due to escalating salaries.
When healthy, Reyes is undoubtedly the best shortstop in the game not named Hanley Ramirez. The problem is that Reyes hasn't been able to stay healthy the last two seasons.
As great as Reyes would look in pinstripes, I just don't see it happening—especially if the Yanks' are going to renegotiate Sabathia's contract.
Most likely, Reyes will get a deal closer to six-years, $110 million. I think his most likely destinations are St. Louis—if Albert Pujols leaves—and San Francisco.
2011 Salary: $16 million
Projected Contract: Seven years, $193.2 million
After a dreadfully slow start to the 2011 season, it appears that Albert Pujols has finally realized he is playing for a massive new contract.
Although I have many doubts that Pujols will leave the Cards', you can't help but wonder if a down 2011 season will help or hurt his chances of returning to St. Louis.
Pujols will turn 32 years old next season, so whomever signs him will be essentially locking him up for the rest of his career.
The only possible destination I see for Pujols outside of St. Louis is in Chicago—playing out the remainder of his years inside the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.
Regardless, I don't see it happening.
Pujols will eventually accept an offer from the Cardinals for around seven-years, $180-185 million. He is not a Scott Boras client, so the Cards' will not be manipulated into handing over every last penny.
2011 Salary: $15.5 million
Projected Contract: Eight years, $200 million
Prince Fielder will most likely sign the second largest contract in MLB history—behind only Alex Rodriguez.
If you compare his 2011 season to Pujols' and consider the fact he is four years younger, it makes complete sense that Fielder would rake in more as a free agent.
The only possible suitor for Prince in the AL would be the Los Angeles Angels, although I don't think Arte Moreno would open the checkbook to that extent for a 1B/DH type player.
Prince has a few potential suitors in the NL—most notably the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals.
Although I believe Prince will end up earning a larger contract than Pujols, I would be surprised to see his salary reach $200 million. I think it will top out at around $190 million, but I've been wrong before.