After predicting the destinations for this baseball offseason’s top-five free-agents, it is time to finish out the top-ten. This year’s crop of talent is fairly deep, with plenty of players looking to cash in and make an impact. Where will they end up?
6. David Ortiz
Ortiz said after the Boston Red Sox season ended that he may not want to come back to the team. He mentioned the rival New York Yankees as a possible destination, which didn’t sit well in Red Sox Nation. Then he backed off his stance and said, “of course I’d want to come back.”
Boston reportedly didn’t make him an offer in the 10-day signing period before he became free to sign anywhere. Considering he hasn’t played first base very often, there is little reason to believe he would go to the National League, just as there is an equally slim chance an NL team would target him.
Boston needs him back. They don’t have a viable option in their farm system, and there isn’t a better option on the free-agent market at his price-tag. Even though he is coming off a season in which he hit .309 with 29 homers, 96 rbi’s, and a .398 on-base percentage, he is 35 years old and cannot expect to get more than a three-year contract. Adrian Gonzalez needs protection around him, and Ortiz would continue to suffice. It appeared he was on his last legs a couple of years ago, but Big Papi is still a force.
Team: Red Sox. Contract: three years, worth $33 million.
7. Jonathan Papelbon
Where the Red Sox closer goes hinges on whether the team is ready to hand the reins to Daniel Bard. Bard blew fives saves took nine losses on the year, and had a 10.64 ERA in 11 September innings. His statistics were marred by his role in Boston’s collapse, as he allowed just 13 earned runs in his first 62 innings. Over the past two seasons, opponents have a measly .259 on-base percentage against him. He throws in the upper 90s, has a lethal repertoire, was lights out in 2010, and had flashes of brilliance in 2011. Is he ready, though? I think he is, but his late-season struggles could weigh heavily in Boston’s decision.
Papelbon has been a sure thing, and, like Ortiz, is a player Boston needs to do all they can to retain. He is bound to cost a pretty penny, as the New York Daily News‘ Ken Davidoff predicts he will get $36 million from the Philadelphia Phillies, but the 30-year-old right-hander surpassed 30 saves for the sixth-straight season and in 64 1/3 innings he had a career-high 84 strikeouts.
To be most effective, having the hard-throwing one-two punch of Bard and Papelbon is a must. Papelbon would be worth the price, though he is sure to have plenty of suitors.
Team: Red Sox. Contract: three years, worth $35 million.
8. Jimmy Rollins
Rollins wants a five-year deal. There is no way that happens. He’s 32, has a career .329 on-base percentage, and has struggled the past three seasons. Nonetheless, he doesn’t strike out, he steals bases, scores runs, hits homers, plays excellent defense, and is a great clubhouse guy. Davidoff said he’s what Albert Pujols is to St. Louis and what Ortiz is to Boston. I don’t know about that, but despite his underwhelming statistics he is undoubtedly a piece to the winning puzzle.
If Freddy Galvis was ready, Philadelphia wouldn’t pursue Rollins as aggressively as they are expected, but the 22-year-old Venezuelan defensive wiz in their farm system needs a couple more years of seasoning on the farm. Scouts say his offense needs some work.
Team: Phillies. Contract: three years, worth $30 million, with a fourth-year team option worth $13 million.
9. Carlos Beltran
The Red Sox and Phillies need to retain their free-agents, and so do the San Francisco Giants. Though he didn’t lead them to the postseason, Beltran is the bat the Giants desperately needed. He had a bounce-back 2011 season after 2009 and 2010 were injury-riddled, clubbing 22 homers, driving in 84 rbi’s, and batting an even .300. He hit .323 in 44 games with San Francisco, doing everything he could to solidify the middle of the lineup.
Unless they want to throw the book at either Prince Fielder, Pujols, or Jose Reyes, Beltran is the best option. And he’s probably the only guy of the four who can be had for under $15 million annually. He missed 81 games in 2009, 98 games in 2010, and 20 games in 2011, but despite his struggle to stay healthy there is a lot left in Beltran’s bat.
The Giants will get Buster Posey back and healthy for 2012, and pairing his bat with Beltran’s would give San Francisco the one-two punch they need to help an excellent pitching staff. Beltran will be 35 in April, but he’s a lucrative risk worth taking.
Team: Giants. Contract: two years, worth $27 million.
10. Michael Cuddyer
San Francisco could decide to go after Cuddyer and not be worse off. The former Minnesota Twin has been underrated his entire career, overshadowed by Torri Hunter and then the tandem of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
The 32-year-old Cuddyer has never hit above .300, or .290, for that matter. He’s never had over 170 hits in a season, either. He has been a consistent offensive force, though, with the ability to hit 20 homers, drive in 80 runs, shoot balls into the gap, bat .280 with a respectable on-base percentage, and play a solid outfield. He isn’t going to wow whomever he plays for, but he will quietly be a dependable option.
He missed 25 games due to injury in 2011 but still managed to score 70 runs, hit 20 homers, drive in 70 rbi’s, and bat .284. In 2009 and 2010 he scored 93 runs, and if healthy there is no reason to believe he can’t be as productive.
Plenty of teams need a corner outfielder with pop. The Philadelphia Phillies are said to be aggressively pursuing him. The Boston Red Sox, with J.D. Drew gone and Josh Reddick potentially not ready for a full-time job, may be in the hunt as well. The Twins would like to have him back.
With any luck, Minnesota will have Mauer and Morneau healthy next season. They just watched division rival Detroit make it to the American League Championship Series. The American League Central will be very competitive next season, with the Tigers, White Sox, and Indians all expected to contend. The Twins, which lost 99 games to finish dead last in the division, need to be very aggressive this offseason. They can start off on the right foot by keeping Cuddyer.
Team: Twins. Contract: three years, worth $30 million.