We still have the postseason to go before we can drop the lid on 2011, but already, fans everywhere are getting nervous about next season. The obvious question on more and more lips is whose lineup will be hit the hardest by free agency this winter? There are some big names on the list and anything can happen during the offseason. But, as things stand for the moment, here are some teams who stand to lose the most.
Where will Jimmy Rollins wind up in 2012?
Can the Cards re-sign Albert?
The Cardinals are in a real quandary. Last winter, they sought offensive fire power. However, this season, the pitching hasn't been as strong as manager Tony LaRussa would've preferred. The team ERA has hovered around the 3.90 mark, two weeks into September.
Unsigned for 2012 are shortstops Ryan Theriot, Nick Punto, reserve outfielder Corey Patterson, starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, backup catcher Gerald Laird and the two biggies—first baseman Albert Pujols and outfielder-first baseman Lance Berkman.
According to MLB Trade Rumors.com, Berkman has said he hopes to re-sign once the season is over. Pujols, however, is another matter. The Cardinals brass will swallow hard and likely allow Albert to walk away. They simply don't have that much money. They need more pitching.
The A's will lose a big power and RBI bat if Josh Willingham is allowed to slip away.
The Athletics stand to lose their entire outfield of David DeJesus, Coco Crisp and Josh Willingham. They stand to also lose DH Hideki Matsui and starting pitcher Rich Harden. The Oakland brass has said they won't decide who to sign until after the current season is over.
Teams get five days following the World Series to re-sign their own players. After that, market demand takes over. Of all three outfielders, Willingham may garner the most interest due to his power (25 HRs) and his ability to knock in runs (87 RBI). Carlos Pena might fit nicely into the Athletics' plans.
Jonny Gomes is unlikely to be back in DC for 2012.
The Nationals may decide to cut ties with outfielders Rick Ankiel (.246, 9 HR, 33 RBI), Jonny Gomes (.211, 14 HR, 41 RBI) and Laynce Nix (.256, 15 HR, 44 RBI) because they've gotten one helluva year from Michael Morse (.307, 27 HR, 84 RBI), who should move back to left field next season when Adam LaRoche returns.
Should LaRoche falter and Morse be shifted back to first base, Bryce Harper is waiting in the wings. Starting pitcher Livan Hernandez will walk also, with Stephen Strasberg all healed up and ready to take over.
Derrek Lee has revived his career in a Pirate uniform.
The Pirates will likely wave good-bye to shortstop Ronny Cedeno (.257, 3 HR, 31 RBI), late-season platoon outfielder Ryan Ludwick (.244, 1 HR, 7 RBI in 26 games) and first baseman Derrek Lee (.333, 4 HR, 14 RBI in 12 games). Lee has shown he's still a viable slugger since coming over from Baltimore and might be worth holding on to.
The ball club holds an option on catcher Chris Snyder (out with a herniated back disc), but it's unlikely they'll invoke the option. Michael McKenry and Jason Jaramillo should be able to back Ryan Doumit (.300, 8 HR, 27 RBI in 65 games), if he's not traded.
Big Papi ponders his future.
The Red Sox may wind up losing some big names and fan favorites. J.D. Drew (.219, 4 HR, 21 RBI) has been a fixture in right field since coming over from the Dodgers following the 2006 season. Drew has had a poor year and will turn 36 in November. Expect the 'Sox to part company with him.
Catcher Jason Varitek (.230, 11 HR, 33 RBI), while a long time member of the BoSox, will turn 40 next April and it's unlikely he'll be back. DH David Ortiz (.313, 29 HR, 92 RBI) might be the biggest loss of all. Shortstop Marco Scutaro (.287, 6 HR, 46 RBI) has had a solid year and there doesn't seem to be a viable replacement on the horizon.
Tim Wakefield (6-6, 5.03 ERA), the ageless knuckleballer, may have to concede to Father Time. Having just turned 45 in early August, the former first baseman has surrendered 22 long balls and his 1.32 WHIP (Walks plus hit divided by innings pitched) is a little high. Losing closer Jonathan Papelbon (4-0, 2.65 ERA and 29 saves) would also be a big blow to the Red Sox.
The loss of Jason Kubel will be huge.
The Twins may lose two more pieces out of the heart of their order after dealing away DH Jim Thome and outfielder Delmon Young. Set to walk away are DH-outfielder Jason Kubel (.281, 12 HR, 57 RBI) and outfielder-first baseman Michael Cuddyer (.282, 18 HR, 64 RBI).
The Twins can ill afford to lose the pair and should make every effort to sign at least one of them. They might also lose ex-Pirate closer Matt Capps (4-6, 4.04 ERA, 15 saves in 23 chances and a 1.14 WHIP). With Joe Nathan past his prime, it might be a good idea to hold onto Capps as well.