MLB Free Agents 2012: The Dream Destination of the Top 8 Remaining Free Agents
It couldn't have been a great feeling to be Prince Fielder the last few weeks.
The perennial MVP candidate with a baseball pedigree played the role of bridesmaid after Jose Reyes was quickly scooped up by the Marlins and the Albert Pujols destination drama unfolded in Los Angeles over the last week.
But now center stage is all Fielder's and he's about to get his own nine figure payday so don't feel too bad for him. As the only remaining member of the triumvirate of top free agents, Fielder leads the class of the remaining unsigned.
What you're seeing is after the first wave of top players went to contenders (or in the Marlins case massive spenders) the next tier of free agents are starting are starting to flirt with the free spending, non-contenders.
While the majority of these guys won't end up in the best opportunity, they'll certainly end up with he heaviest paycheck.
In a perfect world, here's where these top eight remaining free agents would end up over the next couple of weeks.
1. Prince Fielder: Miami Marlins
While now it's looking like Fielder might be heading to the Pacific Northwest, he was a name linked to the Marlins at one point.
The Marlins went all in with Albert Pujols and lost out, they might as well continue the trend and go after the next best thing.
While Fielder would give the Mariners a franchise position player to build around, he'd be another tremendous piece to a Marlins' lineup that already features perennial All-Stars Jose Reyes, Mike Stanton and Hanley Ramirez.
Fielder in Miami likely makes the Marlins a favorite to represent the NL in the World Series.
BACKUP PLAN: Seattle Mariners
2. Jimmy Rollins: Philadelphia Phillies
Jimmy Rollins' negotiations with the Phillies aren't exactly proceeding fast right now.
Well, that's an understatement. They're moving about as quickly as that LeBron James Heat jersey for sale at the Cleveland Foot Locker.
Rollins' agent has leaked news of a "mystery team" they're talking to, likely to try to drive up the price to a fraction of what Jose Reyes got from the Marlins.
He won't come close to that. Unless the team is another playoff contender where the need matches, like potentially the Detroit Tigers or Atlanta Braves, there's no reason to leave the Phillies who will again be one of the NL's best teams.
He won't make as much as if he defected to Washington or another also ran, but he'll be able to do something that Pujols couldn't. Finish where he started.
BACKUP PLAN: Atlanta Braves
3. Josh Willingham: Cleveland Indians
The Twins are desperate to get some right-handed power in their lineup, seeing as how Target field has devastated the power of lefties Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. Morneau and Mauer combined to hit exactly as many home runs in Minnesota last year as I did.
But are the Twin cities really the best place for Willingham?
With the Willingham signing apparently imminent, the Twins will likely lose the nearly as productive Michael Cuddyer, making the move almost a wash.
With the starting rotation in shambles, and the on-going health concerns of Morneau and Mauer, the Twins don't figure to be serious contenders next year.
The better choice for Willingham would have been the Cleveland Indians. The Indians appeared to be serious bidders, just recently falling out of the Willingham Sweepstakes (sounds like a lottery in the UK, doesn't it?).
The Indians have a very strong rotation and an even better bullpen, now all they need to do is to add a couple of extra bats to support the pitching staff.
For a city that's supported gritty players in the past like Jim Thome and Grady Sizemore, Willingham would have been a good fit.
BACKUP PLAN: Colorado Rockies, in a now suddenly winnable NL West
4. Yu Darvish: New York Yankees
The Yankees have had more highly publicized failures in the international market than the NFL, but it shouldn't stop them from pursuing the Japanese cult hero, Yu Darvish.
Darvish comes with a lot of hype, and hasn't proved anything against the best hitters in the world, but he's worth a risk for an organization desperately in need of a top of the rotation pitcher.
He'd complement CC Sabathia, and with youngster Ivan Nova, the Yankees would be a favorite in the AL if Darvish lives up to his billing.
With news pending which team received the rights to Darvish, this slide might be moot. The Yankees apparently bid on Darvish, but it appears the bid may have been luke warm and negotiating rights may go to another team.
If that's the case, the Yankees will still have a rotation hole that again might lead to a first round playoff loss.
BACKUP PLAN: Toronto Blue Jays
5. Yoennis Cespedes: Detroit Tigers
While the Tigers have an adequate hitting left fielder under their control in Delmon Young, he's arbitration eligible, they would like to get some much needed speed and an improved glove in their everyday lineup.
Right now, it appears that the Tigers and Miami Marlins are the most likely to heavily pursue the five-tool Yoennis Cespedes when he's available.
Cespedes isn't officially a free agent, but the Tigers have already had numerous scouting trips to evaluate him in Cuba and he appears to be ready to make a move when he becomes a Dominican citizen.
If Cespedes lives up to his potential, he would slot in nicely at the top of the Tigers' batting order and he could have immense success with Brennan Boesch, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila hitting behind him.
The trick for the Tigers would be to convince Cespedes to play in Midwest as opposed to Miami, but with the Tigers recent winning ways it shouldn't be nearly as difficult as it would have a few years ago.
BACKUP PLAN: Miami Marlins
6. Hiroki Kuroda: Texas Rangers
After being linked to the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline, Hiroki Kuroda eventually stayed put in Los Angeles.
The loss of CJ Wilson left an immense hole in the Rangers' rotation. There plan is to move closer Neftali Feliz to the rotation after acquiring former Twins closer Joe Nathan.
Nathan wasn't exactly lights out last year playing a game of hot potato with Matt Capps for the Twins closer spot, so the Rangers might be making a mistake with the move.
Keeping Feliz and Nathan in the bullpen, along with Mike Adams, could give the Rangers the best bullpen in baseball and a move for Kuroda could fix the rotation.
As it stands, the Rangers will have a tough time making it back to the World Series as the American League contenders continue to get stronger.
BACKUP PLAN: Arizona Diamondbacks, the most likely landing spot for Kuroda at this point
7. Ryan Madson: Boston Red Sox
The closer market is getting woefully thin right now and the best team with a closer need is the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox do have future closer Daniel Bard and acquired Mark Melancon from the Houston Astros, but their inexperience shouldn't keep the Red Sox from trying to at least trying to find another reliever to throw in the mix.
Madson's 32 saves and 2.37 ERA would help to replace the loss of Jonathan Papelbon and help keep the Red Sox within striking distance of the Yankees in the AL East.
BACKUP PLAN: Philadelphia Phillies, although they appear unlikely to meet Madson's salary demands
8. Carlos Beltran: St. Louis Cardinals
The loss of Albert Pujols has devastated the St. Louis community, but with a fine pitching staff and plenty of offensive weapons it doesn't need to devastate the Cardinals organization's hopes at a repeat of a World Series Championship.
Carlos Beltran could help mitigate the Pujols loss and would come at a fraction of the cost.
A Beltran signing would allow Lance Berkman to move to first and should keep the Cardinals as the favorites to win the NL Central again next year.
While Pujols was a special player to the Cardinals, his insane contract makes the Cardinals wise to avoid his price tag.
They could still be almost as good without him if they added a bat like Beltran's.
BACKUP PLAN: San Francisco Giants