With the playoffs winding down, this winter will be full of a free-agent frenzy.
Though only several big name players could be on the move, there will be a ton of role players available.
When deciding on a team, a player must take into account several factors related to his new team.
What are the team’s chances of winning right now? How is the team’s financial situation looking? Will there be an opportunity to play everyday?
Here are the most desirable free agent destinations this offseason, from worst to first.
The Houston Astros are coming off a terrible season.
They are firmly entrenched in a rebuilding phase, and likely won’t be bringing in too many free agents.
It’s going to be another long year at Minute Maid Park.
Many of the Los Angeles Dodgers free agents want to find themselves far away from L.A. this offseason.
The Dodgers are mired in financial turmoil, and likely won’t be making too many moves.
That is unless, of course, the team makes All-Star center fielder Matt Kemp available via trade.
Probably all other 29 teams would have some level of interest.
While the “Moneyball” theory worked well in the early 2000s, Billy Beane’s Oakland Athletics haven’t had as much success of late.
He will continue drafting players that no one else considers, but the odds of luring any big time free agents are quite slim.
The A’s will hope to rely on their young pitching staff and small payroll to return to the Moneyball ways.
The Seattle Mariners have two stud pitchers right now—Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda—and that’s about it.
Ichiro had an off year, and the team as a whole appears in a state of flux.
Many expected them to contend this season, but they were a complete flop.
The San Diego Padres brought up the rear in the NL West this season.
While the Adrian Gonzalez trade strengthened the farm system, it decimated that team’s offense.
One thing is true, however: You can’t beat the San Diego climate.
The Toronto Blue Jays finished .500 this season.
But the problem is, they play in a division with three of the better teams in baseball.
Earning a playoff berth may be tough to come by in 2012, but at least the Blue Jays appear to be on the rise.
The right pieces in free agency could be helpful.
I’ll preface this slide by saying I’m a New York Mets fan.
General manager Sandy Alderson is expected to reduce the payroll even further this offseason.
The likelihood that Jose Reyes returns lessens every day.
The past few seasons, the Mets have handed out big contracts (Johan Santana, Jason Bay), which normally would appeal to free agents.
But the team will be in no position to do so this winter.
The Baltimore Orioles will have some new front office personnel heading into 2012.
They splurged on free agents last season to no avail.
Usually, the Orioles have the financial means to make a big splash, but fall short to the large market teams.
They might be able to land a big name if the fork up the cash.
The Chicago White Sox just named Robin Ventura as their manager.
He has no professional managerial experience, which may turn off some free agents.
Then again, many players were likely turned off from Chicago with Ozzie Guillen as manager.
The White Sox have some talented pieces, and could be primed for a return to glory.
The Colorado Rockies were the sexy preseason pick to win the NL West.
Well, that didn’t happen, which resulted in a lost year.
There’s no doubt that the current Rockies can hit, but it’s the pitching that has been the problem.
Good luck in trying to lure free-agent starting pitchers to the hitter-friendly Coors Field.
As late as the July trade deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates were actually contenders for the first time in 19 seasons.
They even acquired Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick to bolster their offense for a playoff run.
However, the wheels fell off for the Pirates en route to their 19th consecutive losing season.
The team has some good young talent, and if it can attract a free agent role player or two, we may see a fully competitive season from the Pirates.
You would have had to have a crystal ball to predict that the Minnesota Twins would finish dead last in the AL Central this season.
The Twins were decimated by injuries and could not muster a consistent attack.
With the right personnel additions however, this team, under Ron Gardenhire, could be right back in the thick of things next year.
The Chicago Cubs were a mess this season.
But Theo Epstein will seek to change that.
The Cubs will have money to work with, so they may be one of the favorites to land Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder.
Other free agents could possibly follow if one of these two big boppers calls Wrigley Field home.
Speaking of Theo Epstein, the Boston Red Sox will be without their general manager and manager (Terry Francona) that brought the two World Series titles after an 86-year hiatus.
The Red Sox are coming off one of the worst collapses in baseball history, which may turn off some free agents.
If you win a World Series anywhere else, you’re remembered as a hero, but if you win a World Series in Boston, you’re a god.
This mentality—and a hefty paycheck—may continue to attract free agents to Boston.
The Miami Marlins?
That’s right, a new era in Marlins baseball will kick off in 2012, and in a new ballpark with a retractable roof.
Though the Marlins rarely draw crowds, the team has high hopes, and even brought in the afore-mentioned Ozzie Guillen as manager.
It may attempt to lure some big name free agents with lucrative, short-term contracts with the purpose of christening the new ballpark.
Let’s see if this works out, however, Most players these days would rather have more years on the contract, especially with the risk of injury.
The Cincinnati Reds were expected to be in the mix for the NL Central crown after capturing the title in 2010.
However, they had a very inconsistent season en route to a third place finish.
Dusty Baker is a player’s manager, and the team plays in a bandbox at the Great American Ballpark.
The latter reason may attract power hitters, but turn away pitchers.
The Cleveland Indians were the surprise team of the first half of the season, but faded as quickly as they rose.
Still, the overall season was a great improvement.
They could make a play for some free agents, which may help them take the next step.
Expect further improvements from Cleveland in 2012.
The 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants were hit with the injury bug at the wrong time this season.
However, the team is poised for a return to grace next season.
They have the pitching, but offense has been a lingering problem.
They could be in the market for Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder.
The Kansas City Royals are an up-and-coming team.
They have a flurry of young talent on the roster and in the minor leagues.
Maybe the bright future will lure some free agents to K.C. They may not have much money to spend, but if they can spend it wisely, the team can keep improving.
The Royals should be exciting to watch in 2012.
Just like the Red Sox, the Atlanta Braves are coming off an epic collapse.
But the team is actually in better shape than it seems.
The Braves have a solid combination of offense and pitching that should have carried them into the postseason.
The Braves have had a winning tradition since the mid-1990s, and thoroughly expect to be heading back in that direction by adding some free agents this winter.
Even with one of the league’s smallest payrolls, the Tampa Bay Rays have fielded a competitive team the past few years.
They shocked the baseball world by capturing the wild card after being written off throughout August and early September.
Though the team may not be looking to spend much more money, bringing in a few pieces will ensure the team stays competitive.
The Washington Nationals were a surprise team this past season, finishing near the .500 mark.
World Series champion Davey Johnson had his team playing good baseball down the stretch, and things are only looking up.
A full season of Stephen Strasburg (if he stays healthy) and the impending debut of Bryce Harper loom large.
The team also has money to spend, as evidenced by the Jayson Werth deal.
After being picked last in the preseason standings, the Arizona Diamondbacks came out of nowhere to capture the NL West crown.
The best part is that the team succeeded with mostly young, talented players who should be around for a while.
It could almost be the makings of a dynasty, especially if the team feels it can add a free agent or two.
The New York Yankees are always a sought-after free-agent destination because they have the means to sign players to lucrative contracts.
This will always be the selling point of the Bronx.
However, there appears to be a little trouble in paradise, especially following an early playoff exit.
C.C. Sabathia is likely to opt out of his contract and ask for more money and years, crippling the Yankees with what else they can do.
But still, the Yankees are expected to make some sort of splash, whether in the form of C.J. Wilson or Carlos Beltran.
The Detroit Tigers, despite losing in the ALCS, have a nice mix on young and veteran talent.
Many players have openly said they love playing for Jim Leyland, which could attract other stars to the “Motor City.”
They have the pieces in place to be competitive again next season, which could be a selling point.
Comerica Park is also a good pitcher’s park.
While the Milwaukee Brewers may lose slugging first baseman Prince Fielder to free agency, the team still offers a chance to make the playoffs every season.
The Brew Crew has a talented core of starting pitchers that should remain in tact.
It seems like every time Brewers make the postseason, they advance one step further. They made the playoffs in 2008, won a division series this year and could be primed to win an NL pennant in the near future.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—what an annoying name—made a nice late season run to make things interesting.
While they ultimately fell short of a playoff berth, the Angels were able to determine how they will utilize some of their talented young players moving forward.
The Angels also should have some money to spend this offseason.
The team will likely be connected to Prince Fielder in free agency, and he would be a good fit in Anaheim.
Expect the Angels to compete once more for the AL West crown.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been around forever, thus making St. Louis a baseball town, plain and simple.
The fans are overly passionate about their team, and the Cards always find a way to somehow win.
They managed to make it all the way to the World Series after not even being considered for the playoffs with over a month to go in the regular season.
Not to go too much out on a limb, but Albert Pujols returning to St. Louis seems likely.
With other key pieces already locked up for next year, St. Louis could be an attractive destination for veterans looking for an instant chance to win.
If any team is built to win right now, it’s the Philadelphia Phillies.
The “Big Four” should all be back, assuming the team re-signs Roy Oswalt.
The team doesn’t have many, if any, holes, except if they choose to move on from Jimmy Rollins at shortstop.
Even so, the Phillies could be players for Jose Reyes, which would be a complete slap in the face to the Mets.
A sixth-straight NL East crown in 2012 seems likely.
Who would have thought at the beginning of 2011 that the Texas Rangers would make back-to-back World Series?
What’s even more miraculous about this year’s run is that they don’t have Cliff Lee to anchor the staff.
The starting pitching has held up well, while the bullpen has been dominant.
And the offense has mashed all season and continued in the playoffs.
Texas has a great thing going, and many free agents may want a piece of the action.
You can’t argue with back-to-back World Series appearances, and possibly taking home the franchise’s first ever Fall Classic crown.