On Wednesday night, the 2011 World Series began with the Cardinals and the Rangers in Game 1 and the Cardinals prevailing 3-2 to take the early lead.
For the other 28 teams in the league, their main focus has turned to free agency and trades.
Five days after the World Series ends, teams will lose their exclusive rights for free agents and they hit the open market.
The prediction story before the 2011 season may have been my most successful story on this website, and I have all of you the readers to thank for it.
I thought about doing just 20 again, but because there are a lot of top names out there this winter, I decided to make the increase back to 25 again.
So now, for the third year in a row, it's time to predict where the top 25 free agents in baseball are heading for the 2012 season.
Who will be heading where this winter?
Possible Destinations: Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Angels, Rangers, Yankees, Nationals, Giants
The best player in the game will hit free agency.
But the question becomes.
Do the Cardinals really let him go?
They're in the World Series, and if they do beat the Rangers, it can only help the Cardinals chances to retain him.
But if St. Louis isn't willing to give what Pujols wants, it's open season, and teams will open up the check-books for him.
He's going to be 32, so you have to wonder if he'll ever start to break down as he gets up in age.
But, in all honesty, can anyone really see Pujols leaving, especially if the Cardinals won the World Series?
Possible Destinations: Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Rangers, Nationals, Giants, Yankees, Angels
There is a good chance that the son of Cecil Fielder has played his last game with the Brewers.
Milwaukee will do everything they can to keep Prince, but there's a good chance that he's not coming back.
The teams that don't get Albert Pujols will fall back on Fielder as their Plan B.
Fielder as a Plan B isn't a bad backup option at all.
His weight will eventually be a cause of concern as he will get older, as will his durability.
But as long as he is mashing home runs out of whatever ballpark, nobody will really care about that.
You have to wonder who will sign first—Pujols or Fielder? One decision will certainly have an impact on the other one.
Possible Destinations: Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Red Sox, Rangers
Sabathia is likely to opt out of his contract with the Yankees and be a free agent again.
Sabathia wants to stay in New York, and his agent has gone on record saying he hopes the Yankees and CC hammer out a deal.
We've also heard the rumors of the Rangers being interested in Sabathia if he does opt out.
But most people around baseball expect the Yankees to retain Sabathia.
They have the most money, and he's the glue to the Yankees rotation.
Possible Destinations: Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox, Nationals, Blue Jays, Marlins
Aside from CC Sabathia, Wilson is the top pitcher on the market this winter.
Which says one thing. The market for good starting pitching is very thin.
Wilson has been very good in the regular season but has been an awful postseason pitcher.
And you have to wonder if his awful playoff pitching will cost him any money this winter.
But teams will still pay for a left-hander who will throw 95 and over 200 innings.
My gut says Nolan Ryan will overpay to keep him in Texas
Possible Destinations: Mets, Phillies, Red Sox, Giants, Brewers
The Mets have a really major decision to make.
Are they prepared to offer the most money for their star shortstop?
My guess is, they won't because of their financial issues from the Bernie Madoff ponzi scam.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson will try to do what he can to keep Reyes, but in the end, I think he'll drop out of the bidding.
Reyes will look for Carl Crawford-type money, and chances are, he will get it.
Possible Destinations: Phillies, Mets, Brewers, Giants, Red Sox
Rollins has been the vocal leader and voice of the Phillies for a long time now.
He's loved in the city of Brotherly Love and fans would be disappointed to see him leave.
He's been on a decline over the last few years, but he still has a lot of value left as a shortstop and leadoff hitter.
Rollins and Jose Reyes are the two top shortstops on the market, and it'll be interesting to see which one signs first.
Most of the teams that need a shortstop are interested in both, and whoever misses out on Reyes will definitely be looking at Rollins.
Possible Destinations: Orioles, Tigers, Angels, Dodgers, Rockies, Cubs
There's a good chance Ramirez won't be coming back to the Cubs in 2012.
Chicago has a $16 million option on him, and I think there is a really good chance they decline it.
He's gotten older, but he still has a lot of pop left with the bat, averaging around 25 home runs and 90 RBI.
At age 34, you have to wonder how many years left he will have at third base before he could get transitioned to DH.
I don't expect teams to go longer than three years for Ramirez. Even two might be the most for some.
Either way, Ramirez is still the top third basemen on the market right now.
Possible Destinations: Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Tigers
Another former Mets player who got traded midseason to a contender after New York was out of the race.
Beltran is no longer a center fielder but has a lot of value as a right fielder now.
He still can play the outfield, but his value is what he can do with a bat in the lineup.
At age 35, Beltran has value at both the right-field spot and potentially as a DH.
The Giants could bring him back because of their lack of offense in the lineup.
But I think they get beat out for him by a team that could use his services a little more.
Possible Destinations: Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Mets, Giants, Braves
Once upon a time, Grady Sizemore was the future franchise face of the Indians.
But injuries have robbed Sizemore of the last two seasons, and now, Cleveland has a choice to make.
They have an $8.5 million option on him, which I have a feeling they could decline.
Cleveland could bring Sizemore back at a cheaper rate, but I don't know if I see Sizemore in Cleveland anymore.
Seems to me that Sizemore could benefit from a change of scenery and a fresh start elsewhere.
He could still be a very good center fielder, or he could also be a good right fielder too.
At 29, if Cleveland declines the option, someone will be interested for Sizemore's services.
Possible Destinations: Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays, A's, Mariners, Twins
Big Papi could want out of Boston.
His comments earlier this month in a story done by ESPN made it sound like he was fed up with all of the drama in Beantown.
As a DH, he still has a lot of value left to add to a team.
He'll be 36 next season, so teams will use caution as to whether they should give Ortiz anything over two years.
One year would be the safe bet with an option for two.
He'll land somewhere in 2012. Just not in Boston.
Prediction: Blue Jays
Possible Destinations: Red Sox, Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Dodgers, Padres, Marlins
With Boston grooming Daniel Bard to be their next closer, it looks like Jonathan Papelbon's days in Boston are likely over.
Most Red Sox fans will remember Papelbon giving up the winning hit on the final day of the season against the Orioles that ended their season and eliminated them from playoff contention.
Despite that, it won't stop teams from pursuing the closer.
Papelbon is still one of the top closers in the game and isn't afraid to pitch in the big games.
Plus, he has a World Series ring to go along with his resume.
A move to the National league might actually benefit him and make him even more dominant.
Possible Destinations: Phillies, Dodgers, Cardinals, Padres, Mets, Orioles
K-Rod is a free agent again after three disappointing years with the Mets.
He never got to finish the contract with them because he was traded in July to the Brewers to be their setup man for John Axford.
K-Rod still wants to be a closer, and there's a good chance he'll get a job somewhere in 2012.
He won't be making the $17.5 million he was hoping for. And who knows if teams will be willing to give him a three-year deal like the Mets did before 2009.
But he'll get a shot again to close.
Possible Destinations: Padres, Dodgers, Mets, Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals
Bell was on the trading block this past July, and everyone thought he would be shipped out of town.
Yet somehow, he still stayed in San Diego.
Bell loves playing in San Diego and wants to stay there.
Many expect him to remain there, but with other teams vying for his services, will he be able to turn down more money to stay with the Padres?
As long as San Diego doesn't low-ball him an offer, I expect him back.
Possible Destinations: Mets, Padres, Twins, Dodgers, Cardinals
Lidge fell out of favor with the Phillies for Ryan Madson in 2011.
Philadelphia has a $12.5 million option on Lidge, which will certainly get declined.
At age 35, Lidge is looking for one more chance to be a closer on a team.
He's not the same pitcher with dominating stuff like he once was but has enough experience to still be effective,
He might not get more than a one-year deal because of how injury-prone he became, and if he does get hurt, he may get bumped to being a setup man.
Teams will be cautious about giving Lidge a deal for 2012.
Possible Destinations: Mets, Phillies, Twins, Dodgers, Red Sox, Rays
There's a really good chance Joe Nathan may not be back in Minnesota.
He lost his closer's job to Matt Capps while he was still recovering from Tommy John surgery.
And at age 37, he's definitely at the end of his career.
At this point, he could certainly be better off as a setup man but could get some looks for a closer role.
It all depends on his health. And because of his health and age, I don't expect anything more than a one-year deal for Nathan.
Possible Destinations: Dodgers, Cardinals, Phillies, Marlins, Orioles, Mets, Red Sox, Blue Jays
Broxton at one time was a very good closer but was lost in the 2011 season after an elbow injury.
He only pitched in 12 innings last season but also had a really high ERA during that time.
Yet, he's only 28, and if he ever develops back into his old form, he could be a bargain for a team.
He'll only get a one-year deal with incentives because of the question marks he has with last season's injury.
It's another buyer beware with Broxton with a high risk and possible high reward attached to it.
Prediction: Blue Jays
Possible Destinations: Phillies, Mets, Dodgers, Red Sox, Rays, Cardinals, Twins, Orioles
Madson went from the Phillies setup man to closer this year, taking over for Brad Lidge.
Madson did the job for the Phillies, and now, could get a decent contract as a closer
Up until this postseason, I really thought the Cardinals would be interested in going for Madson, but with the emergence of Jason Motte, I think they will pass.
Madson's value also helps that he can be a setup guy to go along with being a closer for a team.
Will Philly try to retain one of the best arms over the last few years?
If they bring in Jonathan Papelbon like I predicted them to, I don't see Madson back with the Phillies.
Madson could head to Papelbon's old team to either be a setup man for Daniel Bard, or if Bard doesn't work out as the closer, switch roles and Madson takes that spot.
Prediction: Red Sox
Possible Destinations: White Sox, Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers, Cardinals, Cubs, Marlins
Buehrle has known no other team in his career other than the White Sox.
But in 2012, there's a really good chance he won't be playing for Chicago.
As a left-handed starter, Buehrle has a lot of value he can bring to a team.
He's got the perfect game under his belt to go along with a World Series ring.
I've always felt that if Buehrle were not on the White Sox, there would be one perfect destination for him, and in 2012, I think that's where he heads.
Possible Destinations: Phillies, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Orioles, Nationals, Tigers
Oswalt has a $16 million option for 2012, and the Phillies have to decide if they want to pick up the option or decline it and let him walk.
In my other stories, I could see the Phillies picking up the option, then trading him to the Yankees for Nick Swisher.
Oswalt has become the No. 4, maybe even the No. 5 pitcher on the Phillies, and they could feel the need not to bring him back.
He still has some value left and could be a big addition to a pitching staff looking for a veteran starter.
Prediction: Phillies, then traded to Yankees
Possible Destinations: Twins, Rockies, Mariners, Blue Jays, Phillies, Rays, Red Sox, Phillies
Cuddyer has a lot of value because of the different positions he can play.
He normally plays right field but has also been used as a first and third baseman and could also be a part-time DH too if in the American League.
At age 33, he's good for at least 20 home runs and 70 RBI, which was right around the numbers he had last year with the Twins.
The Rockies have been rumored to have been wanting Cuddyer for a while now, especially around the trade deadline.
Now with him a free agent, all it could cost would be money.
Possible Destinations: Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers. Rays, Rangers, Yankees, Phillies
Pena was claimed off waivers by the Yankees this past summer, but the Cubs pulled him back, and the deal never went through.
Now a free agent again, Pena could find himself in a very interesting situation.
The Cardinals, Cubs and Brewers are all interested in the services of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
Whatever team misses out on Pujols and Fielder, I think looks at Pena as Plan C.
Pena isn't a bad Plan C, hitting almost 30 home runs and about 80-90 RBI.
I predicted Pujols back to St. Louis and Fielder to Chicago, so that leaves Pena with the other job.
Possible Destinations: Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers, Blue Jays, Orioles, Nationals
Darvish will likely be posted soon by his Japanese team and will be available as a free agent for 2012.
The hype surrounding Darvish has been incredible for almost two years now.
But you have to wonder if he will turn out anything like Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Red Sox or Kei Igawa of the Yankeesboth players who were terrible busts.
People are expecting big things for the young Japanese starter.
And teams will likely have to spend anywhere from $40-50 million just to negotiate with Darvish, then likely another $50-60 million to sign him.
Can he live up to the hype? Only time will tell in 2012.
Possible Destinations: Cardinals, Orioles, Nationals, Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Blue Jays
At age 28 next year, Jackson will be trying to find another new home.
He's been bounced around so many times in his career.
He's been on the Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox and Cardinals.
All of this before turning 28 too.
He's also thrown a no-hitter and is attempting to win a World Series to go on his resume.
He could easily get a four-year deal from a team and could be a nice No. 3 starter in a rotation.
Possible Destinations: Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees, Orioles, Royals, Rangers, A's
Johnny Damon is getting towards the end of his career. But he still has a lot of value left.
He's a good clubhouse leader, as we saw with Tampa this year and helped them get to the playoffs in 2011.
He's not much of a fielder anymore and is best suited to be a DH for an American League team.
He's also 277 hits away from the 3,000 hit club, which would almost guarantee him a spot in Cooperstown and in the Hall of Fame.
At 38, he could definitely get there within the next two season if he averages anywhere from 150-170 hits.
Possible Destinations: Yankees, Phillies
The Yankees have a $10.25 million option on Swisher for next year that they have to decide if they want to pick up or not.
While Swisher is a very popular player in the Bronx, his lack of production in October has many fans wondering if he has worn out his welcome with the team and the fans.
I think the option gets picked up but only to trade him.
In an earlier slide, I had predicted that the Yankees and Phillies make a deal to trade Roy Oswalt for Swisher because the Phillies need a first basemen to play while Ryan Howard recovers from surgery of a torn Achilles.
When Howard returns, he could then move to the outfield, where he could take over the spot of Raul Ibanez.
Prediction: Yankees, then traded to Phillies