Once the World Series is over, the suspected bidding war for C.C. Sabathia's services will begin to take shape, with at least nine solid teams that could be in the mix.
Without going into detail over Sabathia's contract situation (we'll get to that in a moment), the Yankees will have a lot full of suitors that could be just kicking the tires on Sabathia, or seriously offering up the checkbook, which set the stage for interesting offseason discussion to follow.
Let's quickly jump to the topic at hand, and see what I have lined up for you today.
Let's get the little stuff out of the way before we begin, shall we?
In my opinion, there are 15 teams that are more than likely NOT going to be in the mix for Sabathia, should the opportunity arise for various reasons.
Texas has already stated that they will not be offering the farm for Sabathia, while Philadelphia, Milwaukee and New York (Mets) will be dealing with their own free agency dilemmas, which could prevent them from forking over a boat load of money for Sabathia.
St. Louis already dished out a hefty coin for Pujols and probably won't interest themselves in offering a contract that is speculated to be near what Cliff Lee received from Philadelphia (5 years, $120 million), and the same could be said for San Francisco, who should also wind up exploring other free agent options to help fill some other pressing needs.
The White Sox, Royals, Indians, Twins, Orioles, Mariners, A's, Padres and Diamondbacks are also the remaining balance that will probably not be in the mix for financial reasons alone, not withstanding other team specific situations.
This is not to say my speculation is set in stone, obviously, but from a percentage standpoint, they just aren't teams that are even speculated as showing interest as it stands right now, so for ease of reading, we will exclude them.
Next up is a category that I am tentatively listing as the "one-percenters'.
While these teams are also not really considered "in the mix", they are a collection of teams that have shown serious interest in the past for a quality rotation arm.
They are Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Houston, Colorado and Kansas City.
The Reds are the most intriguing team in the sense that they could seriously think about throwing their hat into the mix, but as it stands right now, I believe they, just like the other teams mentioned here, have a one-percent chance of landing Sabathia.
Five teams sharing a percent a piece. Now onto how the remaining 95% pans out.
Adding Ozzie Guillen as the new Marlins manager should have a lasting effect on this team, and should provide the jolt that the Marlins were without all last year.
But the chances of the Marlins throwing their hat into the mix for Sabathia isn't very likely, as the Marlins are expected to focus on serious needs at third base and center field.
The possibility is certainly there, but the probability is very low.
The Rays are a team that has been thrown into possible consideration for Sabathia here and there, but everything points to the Rays being a traditional bidder from afar more than anything else.
The Rays could entertain Sabathia, but whether they are willing to go toe-to-toe with the more financially aggressive teams this year is another situation.
My guess is they simply kick a lot of tires, but nothing more.
With Epstein running the show, anything is possible.
The Cubs need a lot of things, but a solid rotation veteran would really help this team make a leap forward in 2012.
The issue that stands in the way of a higher percentage is the fact that the Cubs' checkbook is missing a few digits on the balance sheet.
Whenever there is talk about a bidding war, the other team that is usually in the mix with New York is Boston.
While the Red Sox could initially throw their hat into the mix, the team also will be dealing with the repercussions of the $300 million plus they spent last season, which may ultimately leave them out of the mix if a serious bidding war ensues.
But you can still expect the Red Sox to play ball, so to speak, if for nothing more, to stir up the waters for New York.
The Angels have been a very popular team when it comes to mention of Sabathia, despite most of the talk coming form the underground.
While the Angels already have a nice rotation in Dan Haren, Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana, the Angels also know that another solid veteran added, such as Sabathia, could be their cure-all for missing the playoffs the last two consecutive years.
They have the money, but whether or not they make an attempt at another big free agency splash is left to be seen.
Tigers owner Mike Llitch has shown some interest in spending aggressively this offseason in an attempt to really make the Tigers an every year contender for the postseason.
If the Tigers were to reach for Sabathia, they would have Justin Verlander and Sabathia, while already having Ricky Porcello, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister in the mix.
While I admit the Tigers percentage could conceivably be higher here, they are also going to have to deal with $23 million dollars in lingering contracts which might...might, put a hamper on things.
The Toronto Blue Jays are probably the one name most would not expect to be this high, but the reality is, the Blue Jays' chances of being in the mix for landing Sabathia is pretty high.
The Blue Jays are getting close to being a contender, and they also have the money to spend on a player that could—in their eyes—make them just as dangerous as anyone else in the division.
The Missing piece of the puzzle if you will.
The issue here is whether or not Sabathia would even leave New York, only to have to face them AND the Red Sox 8 times a piece each year for the next four or five.
Money is always a factor, but the player's choice on a new home (if the is one) also has to be taken into consideration.
Make no mistake, the Nationals are planning on aggressively spending on certain players that they think can help them rise above a very disappointing 2011 season.
The issue, however, is whether or not they will be gun-shy after spending so much on Jayson Werth, while receiving a not-so-pretty return on the money spent.
The idea, though, is the Nationals could seriously help themselves out by acquiring a top-notch veteran pitcher.
In the end, this is one team that could be in the mix for the long-haul, but the expected contract that Sabathia could demand may hurt the nationals chances of landing him.
They still currently have the best chance out of the aforementioned.
OK, here's how this all breaks down:
Sabathia can opt out of his remaining four-year $90-plus million dollar contract in search of a better deal, which is what is fueling this story.
Each team that could be potentially involved share some common ground.
Sabathia showed himself to be a nice return investment for the Yankees, but the fear is that he reached the peak of the mountain, and could be primed to begin a slow decline.
For teams that could be interested, this poses a threat.
The idea is that Sabathia may opt out of his current deal for something similar to Cliff Lee's deal that was worth 5 years, $120 million dollars, but just how many teams are going to willfully entertain such a long-term contract for a 31-year-old pitcher?
Sabathia has the talent, no doubt, but he is only human, so the notion of a possible pending decline is certainly within the realm of possibility.
But taking a financial chance on Sabathia and getting a solid return is also very feasible.
And here we are.
The Yankees want Sabathia to stay, and Sabathia wants to stay as well. Also, let's not forget that he may not opt out of his contract at all.
The Yankees, as everyone knows, have the biggest checkbook of them all, and even in the face of stiff competition, would have little to worry about aside from their own future outlook.
The organization may think that they have reached the summit of the return investment, and allow the war to ensue, but they also may decide that the best is yet to come.
In the end, I believe the Yankees know there are no other free agent options on the market that can save them cash while also providing them with a comparable arm to Sabathia's, leaving them the most likely team to land (or in this sense, keep) Sabathia.
Just imagine what steam this topic is going to gain in the coming months!