MLB: Predicting Where the Top Free Agents Will Sign

Clay DefayetteCorrespondent IIINovember 2, 2011

MLB: Predicting Where the Top Free Agents Will Sign

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    The Winter Meetings are sure to be entertaining despite not having a great starting pitcher like last year's Cliff Lee. The sluggers in this class are overwhelming and there are other non-elite players that could bomb 30 home runs anyway. 

    It's somewhat predictable in figuring out where the following players will land because it's well-known which organizations do and don't have money to blow.

    In some cases, division rivals will be bidding against each other for the same player's services. It's sure to be interesting come the Winter Meetings.

    Here's how it'll all go down for these 14 elite players. The predicted landing spots are in bold.

Prince Fielder

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    Prince Fielder has basically already said farewell to Milwaukee. It'll be hard to imagine the Brewers keeping the first baseman in the lineup protecting Ryan Braun, a slugger general manager already invested in.

    The Red Sox and Yankees already have their first basemen in place and both organizations will not use money to have Fielder be a designated hitter. Another team in the AL East, Baltimore, could use pop in its lineup while having the resources to acquire the massive hitter.

    Washington may want to add another star to sell season ticket holders on in addition to pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper.

    The Giants need another first basemen because the lineup in San Francisco is terrible enough. Bruce Bochy cannot go another season having no major hitter, even if the Giants reside in the pitching division that is the NL West.

    The issue with Fielder to San Francisco is that the team needs to upgrade at many positions and organization may opt to spread the money instead of dishing it all to Fielder. However, Aubrey Huff's $10 million comes off the books after the 2012 season.

    Expect Fielder to cash in for slightly less than what Adrian Gonzalez received in Boston last year, seven years, $154 million from generous Theo Epstein.

    Speaking of Epstein, the new Cubs president of baseball, Chicago will steal Fielder from its in-divisional rivals.

Albert Pujols

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    St. Louis shouldn't let Albert Pujols leave after the phenomenal Fall Classic the Cardinals just won. Sure, Pujols will be overpaid. But isn't nearly every elite hitter in baseball?

    The Cubs have been rumored to have interest throughout all of 2011 and Theo Epstein could use Pujols as his big splash. With that said, does Chicago really want to lock another player up for five-plus years when it has served the organization with players like Alfonso Soriano?

    Switching over to the American League, the Angels could use an upgrade at first base and manager Mike Sciosa would value Pujols' defense over Prince Fielder's. The monkey wrench in this idea is that rookie Mark Trumbo played well last season and he will be given more time to progress through his career.

    It could be a sign that Trumbo sustained a stress fracture late last season and Kendry Morales had issues coming back to the team.

    Washington should be thrown in the mix but the Nationals are young. Management would likely take the 27 year old Fielder over the 30 plus Pujols.

    In the end, the St. Louis Cardinals will keep Pujols where he belongs for upwards of $215 million.

Jose Reyes

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    It's going to be more than difficult for Mets general manager Sandy Alderson to retain the NL batting champ with the lack of fiscal resources at his finger tips after the Bernie Madoff scandal.

    Sports Illustrated's John Heyman stated Monday on Mike Francesa's radio program that Milwaukee could be in contention for Reyes. The Brewers need to upgrade from Yuniesky Betancourt and, per Heyman, general manager Doug Melvin would use the money offered to Prince Fielder for Reyes.

    San Francisco needs a replacement at shortstop and Reyes provides Gold Glove defense at the position, a good fact seeing that the Giants are in the National League.

    The scariest thought for Mets fans is the Phillies taking Reyes and placing him in Jimmy Rollins' former spot. Philadelphia shouldn't, seeing how the organization knows all about injury-riddled short stops, but the franchise has the money and values pitching and defense. Imagine the speed in Charlie Manuel's lineup with center fielder and Chase Utley.

    Alex Rodriguez signed for $250 million when he hit the market in 2003. Expect Reyes to cash in for over half of that with the Los Angeles Angels. The AL West team wanted Carl Crawford's speed last offseason and the Angels will not see Crawford's poor production in Boston as a warning.

Jimmy Rollins

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    Another NL East short stop, Jimmy Rollins will ink a short-term, incentive based contract with the next team he plays for.

    Rollins' performance has been altered greatly by injuries since his MVP season in 2007. He still provides above average defense and many contenders besides the Phillies could use him at short. 

    The only way Philadelphia isn't able to retain Rollins is if a team in contention, or at least that believes it's in contention, gives the 32-year-old somewhere around a five-year deal.

    Possible teams that could make this happen are Boston, San Francisco, Arizona or even the Los Angeles Dodgers. The ownership situation for the Dodgers leaves spending money in question but Rollins isn't going to warrant top free-agent money.

    When it's all said and done, Rollins will stick with a top echelon team and it'll be the Philadelphia Phillies.  

CJ Wilson

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    CJ Wilson had a very disappointing postseason, but that will not affect which team signs the former reliever, only for how much money Wilson signs for on the dotted line. 

    The Yankees need a second starter behind CC Sabathia, but Brian Cashman may opt for a right hander. Boston has likely learned its lesson on doling out big-time deals for the best pitcher on the market for that given year (See Lackey, John).

    Texas still doesn't have an ace even if Wilson comes back, but it'd be a huge blow to not have him in the blue and red. With that said, the organization's view on pitching is to breed the youngsters without overspending on the older vets. 

    The Chicago White Sox are a team to watch for, seeing how south paw Mark Buehrle is a free agent. 

    The back-to-back World Series appearances for Nolan Ryan's franchise will have Wilson back with the Texas Rangers.

Edwin Jackson

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    Despite being just 28, Edwin Jackson has been with six teams. He pitched well on his way to a championship with the Cardinals, but he was likely just being rented by St. Louis because Chris Carpenter is coming back and Adam Wainwright will be ready to go.

    Scott Boras is Jackson's agent, which means he'll head wherever the money is. Plenty of teams will want an inning eater like Jackson, especially places that are in need of more innings from its starters.

    This doesn't mean that Jackson will be limited to non-elite teams, but it's a good bet that he'll end up with a non-playoff team from 2011.

    The Marlins, Orioles and Nationals will be in the running for Jackson, with the Baltimore Orioles ultimately signing the big arm to compete against the great hitting AL East. 

Aramis Ramirez

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    Aramis Ramirez wasn't worth what the Cubs gave him in a five-year, $73 million deal in 2006, but he served the team well at third base last year while knocking in 93 RBI with 23 home runs. Ramirez isn't going to be back with Chicago.

    The defense at the hot corner provided by Ramirez isn't ideal and his flaw in the field will sit better with an American League squad. 

    The Baltimore Orioles have shown that they aren't afraid to sign veterans, but Ramirez is just 33 so he'll want a longer deal than just two or three seasons.

    Speaking of supposed contenders, the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox need to get something done at the position, but the organizations may not view Ramirez as a long-term answer.

    The multiple years will scare off the Orioles while the White Sox will sign Ramirez into an underachieving lineup in 2011.  

David Ortiz

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    The market will be limited for an old designated hitter, even though David Ortiz put up great numbers last season.

    Boston could very well be making change just for changes' sake, blowing the 10-game Wild Card lead in September. Many love to speculate Boston to New York swaps and vice-versa, but the Yankees like using the DH spot as a floating position and the young will see a good amount of time.

    The Blue Jays could take Ortiz. Toronto is a power lineup that wouldn't be afraid of getting another big hitter seeing how the Blue Jays have to slug its way to compete with its division competition. 

    Ortiz will end up finishing his last contract in Boston.

Carlos Pena

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    Carlos Pena showed his power on the one-year deal with the Cubs and he'll be looking at receiving another short contract as a fill-in somewhere.

    Losers of the Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder sweepstakes could easily sign Pena to provide pop in their lineup. While Pena can knock the ball out of the park, his defense is still above average as his Gold Glove award in 2008 will show.

    Pena's skill set suits him better for the National League because of his homer run power and good defense. Despite always batting for a low average, Pena got on base at a .357 rate with the Cubs in 2011.

    Pena will stay in the National League, signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. But don't expect the Arizona Diamondbacks to let him go to a divisional rival easily.

Carlos Beltran

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    Wherever Carlos Beltran lands, no team will make the same mistake as the Mets did in 2006.

    National League teams will likely downgrade Beltran because of his defense and the fact there's no DH, but it's not unthinkable that Beltran will remain in the league. 

    The best bet is Beltran landing with an NL East team not named the Mets. There should be bidding between the Braves and Phillies with Philadelphia winning the battle.

Grady Sizemore

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    Another outfielder with creaky knees, Grady Sizemore is the biggest wild card in free agency this offseason. He'll sign for more money than many expect and the team he inks with will be surprising. Expect the Indians and Sizemore to start anew.

    The Red Sox have been rumored, but expect a smaller market team that views Sizemore's upside as too high to not sign the veteran.

    The Kansas City Royals will ultimately get a hold of Sizemore with Oakland and Seattle also in pursuit. Smaller markets will be more involved because the money Sizemore will wind up receiving is too much for Boston to use on a utility player but the small ball teams will be happy to pay a bit more because of his potential if he stays healthy. 

Ryan Madson

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    The rock in Philadelphia bullpen last season was Ryan Madson. He'll get a multi-year deal because of his young age and good consistency. 

    Philadelphia needs a rock-solid reliever to follow up its big three and for that Madson should be back. There will be competition from teams looking to upgrade its bullpen like the Angels, but Madson's worth to the Phillies is too great to see him off to another city.

    Philadelphia keeps the reliever at any price.

Heath Bell

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    San Diego's closer wants to stay with the Padres and he's willing to do so at a lesser cost, seeing how he's just built a new house in the area. Options will be open as the closer is a highly valued position and the big market teams are in need of one. 

    The Red Sox could flatter themselves if Jonathan Papelbon is allowed free but it's not likely. The world champion Cardinals could solidify the back end of the bullpen because it'll be much more difficult without Tony La Russa to make genius moves with the current unit.

    Bell will slide on back to the Padres for a decent deal, but not as much dough as he could have received.

Jonathan Papelbon

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    Jonathan Papelbon wasn't in the Red Sox clubhouse drinking beer and eating fried chicken so don't direct your anger at the closer.

    His ERA is said to be deceiving by many experts, as his stuff looked as good as ever. Just to throw out some possible competition to Boston in resigning the closer, Philadelphia could give Papelbon a look if the team loses Ryan Madson.

    Boston will be looking to make slight changes with the roster but it won't involve Papelbon. The closer will continue to make Yankees-Red Sox battles even longer and more dramatic.