MLB Free Agents 2012: The Top 10 Free Agents and Where They Will Go

Steven ConklinCorrespondent IIOctober 30, 2011

MLB Free Agents 2012: The Top 10 Free Agents and Where They Will Go

0 of 10

    The baseball season is over.The St. Louis Cardinals have won their National League-leading 11th World Series and the league's players can go home for the winter. However, it's now crunch time for front offices everywhere.

    Teams are in the five-day period of exclusive negotiating rights with their players and will do their best to retain the talent they had in 2011.

    Headlined by the likes of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, this free-agent class will be an exciting one to watch. Some big players will probably return to their teams with franchise player-type contracts and some will start fresh with another club, looking for the first World Series ring or just a new opportunity.

    Here is a look at the top 10 MLB free agents and what uniforms they'll be wearing.

10. Mark Buehrle, SP

1 of 10

    Mark Buehrle could very well be in a different jersey next spring. The White Sox need to cut payroll and Buehrle wants to play for a winner. If Buehrle doesn't re-sign in the next four days, the White Sox have likely lost out on their ace.

    He will be one of the most sought-after pitchers this offseason and would help many staffs in need of a left-hander. After posting his lowest ERA (3.59) since 2005, Buehrle could get a deal similar to the $14 million he made in 2011.

    Don't be surprised if the Marlins and Cubs make a run at the lefty to snub the Sox.

    Where he goes: Chicago Cubs

9. Aramis Ramirez, 3B

2 of 10

    Unlike in September, Aramis Ramirez seems excited about the new Cubs regime and is optimistic about a future in Chicago.

    In 2011, Ramirez was statistically the most productive everyday NL third baseman. His .306 average and 26 home runs proved he was essential to Cubs' success.The Cubs would be silly to not re-sign Ramirez.

    The third-baseman market is weak after Ramirez and it'd be a large hole in the Cubs lineup if he leaves. Expect the Marlins to go after him, giving Ramirez a tough decision to make.

    Where he goes: Miami Marlins

8. David Ortiz, DH/1B

3 of 10

    David Ortiz has said he'd like to stay in Boston and that the Red Sox wouldn't be making a mistake by re-signing him.

    The best scenario for Big Papi is to remain a DH. It's safe to say he will stay in the American League, where he's always been, and we could assume it will be somewhere in the AL East.

    Don't be surprised if Ortiz gathers offers from every team in the division. The teams either want to spend the money or aren't afraid to.

    Where he goes: Toronto Blue Jays

7. Roy Oswalt, SP

4 of 10

    The future is quite unclear for Roy Oswalt. The Phillies declined the $16 million option on him for 2012 and it's uncertain whether he will sign with Philly for less money or join the third team of his career.

    At 34, Oswalt isn't done yet, but 2011 wasn't a great year for him and he only pitched 139 innings in 23 starts.

    Philadelphia may want to spend its money on one of the aces in this year's free-agent class, but most likely, I think the Phillies will keep the rotation everyone drooled at last year intact.

    Where he goes: Philadelphia Phillies

6. Jonathan Papelbon, RP

5 of 10

    It makes some sense for Boston to cut ties with the 30-year-old hurler. Papelbon succeeded on 31 save opportunities and had an ERA of 2.94.

    However, he has expressed his frustrations with the September collapse and will most likely demand much more money than what he made in 2011.

    The Red Sox have a viable closer option if he goes elsewhere. Daniel Bard has been expected to take over the role since 2009. His high 90s fastball is devastating at the end of games.

    Teams that could be looking to Papelbon to fill a bullpen role include the Mets, Yankees and possibly the Phillies if they lose Ryan Madson.

    Where he goes: New York Mets

5. C.J. Wilson, SP

6 of 10

    C.J. Wilson would like to forget about this postseason and surely the teams who were waiting for the southpaw to hit the open market feel the same.

    After a strong year in which he won 16 games and had an ERA of 2.94 for Texas, Wilson looked horrid for most of the playoffs. He went winless in five starts and never lasted more than six innings.

    Outside of Texas, the Nationals and Yankees should make a run at him. If they decide to spend the money, the Cubs could also be in the mix.

    Where he goes: Texas Rangers

4. Jose Reyes, SS

7 of 10

    In 2011, Reyes hit over .300 for the first time since 2006. He led the league in batting with a .337 average and made the case that his struggles are over.

    Surely, performing like this in his contract year guarantees him a bigger salary than he's ever seen.

    The Mets have recently said they will not intend to re-sign him during their period of exclusive rights. Unfortunately, once Reyes hits the open market, he might not look back at New York.

    The Giants were rumored to be interested in Reyes at the deadline. Expect them to pursue Reyes this winter. Reyes will most likely also get attention from Detroit, a Fielder-less Milwaukee club and the Nationals.

    Where he goes: Detroit Tigers

3. CC Sabathia, SP

8 of 10

    Though CC Sabathia could pick up his player option for 2012 and beyond, it seems likely he'll opt out of his contract in hopes of getting a new deal and make more money with the Yankees.

    After going 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA in the AL East, Sabathia tops the class of pitchers available this winter. Many teams are looking for a tough southpaw and he will certainly improve any staff he joins.

    After declining options on Oswalt and Brad Lidge, the Phillies have the cash to court the lefty. We could also see the Rangers pursue him while New York tries to retain the ace.

    Where he goes: New York Yankees

2. Prince Fielder, 1B

9 of 10

    Of the free agents this year, Prince Fielder seems like the best option to leave his team. In September, he raised eyebrows by admitting he would probably leave Milwaukee.

    Now, after a disappointing end to the season and his poor playoff performance in which he batted just .238, it seems he is definitely done playing in Milwaukee. Being 27, Prince is surely going to gain attention from teams looking to fill a hole at first base. 

    Though Prince will cost quite a bit of money with a long-term deal, plenty of teams will be interested. Expect the Cubs, Seattle Mariners and Yankees to be strong contenders.

    Where he goes: Chicago Cubs

1. Albert Pujols, 1B

10 of 10

    Albert Pujols will be 32 when next season starts and though he hit under .300 for the first time in his prolific career, there's no doubt the three-time MVP has plenty in the tank.

    The question this offseason for the Machine is "What's next?"

    He has to make the choice between staying a Cardinal and bringing a 12th title to the franchise or starting fresh elsewhere and proving that he can take another team to the promised land.

    While there may be more money for Pujols somewhere else, it is hard to imagine he'd leave St. Louis. However, the Marlins and Angels could compete with the champs to get him this winter.

    Where he goes: St. Louis Cardinals