MLB Free Agency: B/R Columnists Predict Where Top 20 Free Agents Will Land

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2011

MLB Free Agency: B/R Columnists Predict Where Top 20 Free Agents Will Land

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    The MLB offseason is here, which means it is time for the hot stove to become the talk of the league as everyone speculates where the top free agents will land before the start of next season.

    We here at Bleacher Report are no different, as free agency driven articles are our bread and butter during the offseason. That said, I've asked nine of the top MLB writers from the site to join me in predicting where the top 20 free agents will sign this offseason.

    So who will your favorite team be signing this year? Continue on and let the prognostication begin.

Francisco Rodriguez

1 of 20

    Voting Tally

    Blue Jays: 2
    Marlins: 2
    Mets: 1
    Reds: 1
    Rockies: 1
    Twins: 1
    Yankees: 1
    Too Close To Call: 1

    Eli Marger: Blue Jays

    K-Rod was unhappy as a set-up man in Milwaukee last year. He would be a huge upgrade for the Blue Jays, who are hoping to finally contend in 2012.

    Rick Weiner: Marlins

    In light of the chaos surrounding Leo Nun...I mean, Juan Oviedo, and the team opening a new ballpark, K-Rod would give the Marlins a maddening yet consistent option at the end of games. Plus, he and Ozzie Guillen could make for an entertaining combination.

    Greg Pinto: Mets

    Rodriguez is a challenging guy to place. He has made a name for himself as a disgruntled reliever, and not many teams are interested in those. The Mets are one of the only teams in need of a closer that haven't exactly denied bringing him back aboard, so they get my pick.

    Mark Miller: Rockies

    After sending their best pitcher packing at the trade deadline last season, K-Rod would certainly be a great addition to a pitching staff that finished near the bottom of the league in most areas.

Grady Sizemore

2 of 20

    Voting Tally

    Red Sox: 4
    Brewers: 1
    Giants: 1
    Marlins: 1
    Mets: 1
    Rockies: 1
    Yankees: 1 

    Dmitriy Ioselevich: Red Sox

    The Red Sox have something of a habit of signing reclamation projects, and nobody fits that designation better this offseason than Sizemore. If healthy, he's a five-tool player who can hit in the middle of the order. The Red Sox have enough alternative options for right field that they can take the risk on Sizemore and hope he works.

    Eli Marger: Brewers

    A team like the Brewers could take a gamble on Sizemore in hoping that he can flash some of the five-tool potential scouts once raved about. He can be signed relatively cheap, so the Brew Crew might not have much to lose with him.

    Doug Mead: Giants

    Sizemore will be a real risk for any team considering his services. With five operations in the past three seasons, Sizemore's knees and long-term health will be an ongoing concern. However, if the Giants offer an incentive-laden contract based on games played, they could reap a nice benefit.

    Zachary Ball: Marlins

    Sizemore is tough, and I'll bet he's one of the last to agree to a deal. The Marlins are acting like they're going to be big spenders this offseason, and I think Miami is the perfect landing place for Sizemore.

    Greg Pinto: Rockies

    The Rockies can take a chance by giving Sizemore an incentive laden deal, probably with a vesting option, because they have some depth in the outfield. For them, this type of deal would be relatively low-risk, high reward.

Ramon Hernandez

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    Voting Tally

    Pirates: 4
    Giants: 2
    Twins: 2
    Dodgers: 1
    Rays: 1

    Joel Reuter: Pirates

    The Pirates are among the youngest teams in the league, and the catching spot becomes a hole as Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit are both gone. Hernandez represents the best catching option on the market, but at 35 years old, he should still come fairly cheap.

    Greg Pinto: Pirates

    Hernandez still believes he is a starting catcher, but how many teams are willing to give him a starting job? The Pirates were noticeably thin at catcher last season, and having already declined options on Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder, could use a veteran back-stop to help lead a young pitching staff.

    Robert Knapel: Dodgers

    While the Los Angeles Dodgers do have a possible internal option at catcher, they may choose to look outside of the organization to find a starter. Ramon Hernandez would be a key contributor for the Dodgers next year.

    Doug Mead: Giants

    Hernandez would act as a great insurance policy for Buster Posey should Posey falter in his return from his devastating ankle injury that shortened his 2011 season.

    Rick Weiner: Rays

    Tampa has been searching for consistency behind the plate for quite some time, something Hernandez brings with both the bat and glove. He can also mentor either Jose Lobaton or Robinson Chirinos, assuming one is chosen to serve as the Rays backup catcher in 2012.

    Mark Miller: Twins

    The Twins can't rely on a catcher of the caliber of Drew Butera to be backup given the health issues that Mauer seems to continually face. Hernandez will present a far better option.

Ryan Madson

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    Voting Tally

    Phillies: 6
    Brewers: 1
    Red Sox: 1
    Reds: 1
    Twins: 1

    Greg Pinto: Phillies

    Madson has been one of baseball's best relievers over the last three seasons, and no team knows that better than the Phillies. They've been vocal about bringing him back, and though they'll have to deal with notorious agent Scott Boras, they should be able to hammer out a deal with relatively few expletives used.

    Doug Mead: Brewers

    With all of the closers on the open market, it will be difficult for Madson to get the job he might want. However, with K-Rod leaving town, the Brewers will be looking for a set up man for John Axford, and Madson could certainly fill that role quite nicely.

    Rick Weiner: Red Sox

    With the departure of Papelbon and Daniel Bard perhaps not quite ready to assume the role of closer, Madson fits as a cheaper alternative to Papelbon—a three-year deal for around $30 million is likely close to the top end of what offers he may receive.

    Robert Knapel: Reds

    After a poor season, the Cincinnati Reds believe that they can be a playoff team once again in 2012. Bringing in Ryan Madson to replace Francisco Cordero will be an upgrade for the team.

    Mark Miller: Twins

    After letting many key members of their bullpen go last offseason, the Twins bullpen struggled mightily in 2011. With Nathan and Capps both likely out the door, the Twins will need to add a solid arm.

Hiroki Kuroda

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    Voting Tally

    Dodgers: 7
    Angels: 1
    Marlins: 1
    Japan: 1

    Zachary Ball: Dodgers

    With the rumor swirling around Kuroda that he'll either re-sign with L.A. or head back to Japan, I'll say he stays put and re-inks with the Dodgers. Seattle also might be an interesting fit.

    Doug Mead: Dodgers

    He refused to leave LA at the trade deadline; there's no reason to believe he'll leave now.

    Robert Knapel: Angels

    The Los Angeles Angels will be looking to improve their rotation this winter. Hiroki Kuroda will not need to move far after the Angels sign him.

    Dmitriy Ioselevich: Marlins

    Kuroda had a chance to come to Boston during the trade deadline, but opted to stay on the West Coast. I'm guessing there's something about playing in big markets that makes Kuroda uncomfortable, which is why the pitching-starved Marlins would be a perfect fit.

    Daniel Tylicki: Japan

    Kuroda's shown he can play in MLB, and may find it's time to wrap up his career where it started, in Japan.

Josh Willingham

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    Voting Tally

    Rockies: 3
    Indians: 2
    Athletics: 1
    Braves: 1
    Red Sox: 1
    Reds: 1
    Twins: 1

    Mark Miller: Rockies

    The Rockies really seem to be interested in the services of Cuddyer, but with the Phillies in a better position to pry him away from Minnesota, Willingham could be the next best option.

    Joel Reuter: Indians

    With Grady Sizemore and Kosuke Fukudome hitting the free agent market, the Indians only solid outfielder is Shin-Soo Choo. The team needs an outfielder who can hit in the middle of the order and drive in runs, and Willingham did just that for an even worse offense in Oakland last season.

    Greg Pinto: Braves

    Willingham is another tough read because of the sheer interest in his services. He is an Atlanta-area native, and the Braves have been looking for a right handed power-bat for quite some time. The fit is there; the interest is a different story.

    Robert Knapel: Twins

    With two of their starting outfielders on the free agent market, the Minnesota Twins are going to need to pick someone up to fill in the holes. Josh Willingham is a good fit in the Twin Cities.

    Rick Weiner: Reds

    Willingham is an upgrade over Jonny Gomes and gives the Reds time to try and re-tool über-prospect Yonder Alonzo as an LF in the minors, allowing them to keep both Alonzo and perennial MVP candidate Joey Votto.

    Zachary Ball: Red Sox

    Willingham would represent a decent addition for Boston, who I'm betting won't overreact in the wake of their late-season collapse and the loss of Epstein.

    Doug Mead: Athletics

    Willingham seemed to have found a home in Oakland, and Billy Beane needs all the power he can get.

Jonathan Papelbon

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    Voting Tally

    Red Sox: 7
    Phillies: 1
    Cubs: 1
    Mets: 1

    Dmitriy Ioselevich: Red Sox

    Papelbon rebounded nicely this season (8.7 SO/BB) and is still one of the best in the game. He's been waiting for his big payday, and he'll get it, but it'll still be in Boston.  The Red Sox will have enough problems without having to replace their closer.

    Eli Marger: Red Sox

    No matter how strong the rumblings are about Daniel Bard taking over as closer, the Red Sox know what Papelbon is capable of. This is more of a defensive signing than anything. 

    Robert Knapel: Cubs

    The Chicago Cubs need someone who can close out games, and there is no better option than Jonathan Papelbon. While Papelbon will be expensive, he will be worth the price.

    Rick Weiner: Phillies

    There is no reason to expect Papelbon to take a pay cut from the $12 million he earned in 2011, and a three-year, $40 million contract may prove to be too rich for Boston. The departures of Brad Lidge and Raul Ibanez frees up over $20 million alone, giving the Phillies ample resources to bring Papelbon into the fold and solidify their bullpen.

Mark Buehrle

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    Voting Tally

    White Sox: 6
    Yankees: 2
    Cardinals: 1
    Red Sox: 1

    Eli Marger: White Sox

    The Yankees will try and bid him away, but Buehrle is as rock-solid as they come, and the White Sox would love to have his consistent production back.

    Joel Reuter: White Sox

    Buehrle is a fan-favorite in Chicago, a terrific guy to have in the clubhouse and as durable as any pitcher in baseball. The White Sox will do what it takes to make sure he's back.

    Robert Knapel: Yankees

    There is always a question of if free agents can handle the bright lights and media pressure that goes along with playing in New York City. Mark Buehrle’s agent has answered that question, and he seems to be an option for the Yankees.

    Doug Mead: Cardinals

    Buehrle grew up in the St. Louis area, and with Edwin Jackson probably leaving, Buehrle is a perfect fit in the Cardinals rotation.

    Daniel Tylicki: Red Sox

    Mark Buehrle and the Red Sox seem to fit too perfectly, given what each side needs going forward.

Michael Cuddyer

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    Voting Tally

    Phillies: 5
    Twins: 3
    Orioles: 1
    Red Sox: 1 

    Dmitriy Ioselevich: Phillies

    A tandem of Hunter Pence and Cuddyer gives the future of the Phillies offense a strong foundation as Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Co. continue to decline. Cuddyer fits the profile of a right-handed bat with positional flexibility. He could play third in Philadelphia.

    Mark Miller: Phillies

    The Twins would love to keep Cuddyer around, as he's a fan favorite and has been the most reliable player on the field, but the situation in Philadelphia will seem far more attractive given their talent.

    Doug Mead: Twins

    With the uncertainty surrounding the status of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, Cuddyer represents a tremendous amount of offense that the Twins desperately need.

    Zachary Ball: Orioles

    Cuddyer is the second-tier kind of guy who always ends up in Baltimore, gets paid too much and then regresses from his 2011 form.

    Rick Weiner: Red Sox

    Cuddyer's ability to play corner spots in both the outfield and infield would prove invaluable to an aging Red Sox team who battled injury after injury in 2011.

Edwin Jackson

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    Votes Tally

    Angels: 1
    Blue Jays: 1
    Cardinals: 1
    Marlins: 1
    Red Sox: 1
    Reds: 1
    Rockies: 1
    Royals: 1
    Twins: 1
    Yankees: 1

    Apparently, Edwin Jackson is the mystery of the offseason, as 10 of Bleacher Report's top baseball writers managed to come up with 10 different predicted destinations for the 27-year-old right-hander.

    After C.J. Wilson, Jackson could be considered the top starter on the market when you take into account Roy Oswalt's back problems and Yu Darvish's uncertainty.

    With Scott Boras as his agent, Jackson will likely go where the money is, and he should get plenty of it. Whether he wants to be a staff ace or simply wants to be in a situation where he could win now will play heavily into his decision.

    This will be an interesting one to watch, as he could very easily be pursued by all 10 of the above mentioned teams. The difference maker could be whether the bigger market teams consider him a top priority or more of a fall back option.

Jimmy Rollins:

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    Voting Tally

    Phillies: 9
    Giants: 1

    Mark Miller: Phillies

    He's not going anywhere. Doubt that too many other teams will make a serious play on Rollins, meaning the Phillies could present a fair offer for both sides.

    Greg Pinto: Phillies

    Rollins has been the Phillies shortstop for 12 seasons, and both camps have been vocal about the willingness to reach a new deal. As long as the Phillies make him a fair offer, Rollins will be the shortstop on Opening Day 2012.

    Zachary Ball: Phillies

    I'd expect nothing less than arson and full-on riots if the Phillies bring back Rollins and his 0-fer play. I'd put the odds he leaves at about 4-to-1, with that one being the Yankees who pick him up as Jeter insurance.

    Joel Reuter: Phillies

    While Rollins is no longer the player that won the NL MVP in 2007, he is still among the more productive shortstops in the league. After 12 years with the Phillies, Rollins isn't going anywhere.


Heath Bell

12 of 20

    Voting Tally

    Padres: 6
    Blue Jays: 1
    Phillies: 1
    Rangers: 1
    White Sox: 1

    Doug Mead: Padres

    Bell has clearly stated on several occasions his desire to stay in San Diego—I think that new GM Josh Byrnes and Bell will hammer out a deal to keep him there.

    Robert Knapel: Padres

    When the San Diego Padres did not trade Heath Bell at the trade deadline, there was talk that they were hoping to bring him back in 2012. This is exactly what will happen.

    Mark Miller: Phillies

    Heath Bell in Philadelphia would be just one more piece in the devastating pitching staff the Phillies have.

    Zachary Ball: Rangers

    My guess is that with Wilson departing and Sabathia staying, the Rangers finally shift Neftali Feliz back into the rotation and bring in Bell to do the late-inning lifting.

Yu Darvish

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    Voting Tally

    Rangers: 3
    Yankees: 3
    Blue Jays: 2
    Japan: 2

    Greg Pinto: Rangers

    The Blue Jays will make a serious run at Darvish, but when the Rangers lose out on Wilson and Oswalt, they'll feel the need to throw serious money at Darvish to solidify the rotation, even if they move Neftali Feliz into the rotation. As Alexei Ogando proved last season, that isn't always effective for an entire season.

    Dmitriy Ioselevich: Yankees

    The Yankees already grabbed the best starter on the market by retaining C.C. Sabathia, and it shouldn't be a surprise if they land arguably the second best starter as well. Darvish, like any Japanese player, comes as a big risk. The upside is hard to ignore for a club with Ivan Nova as their No. 2 starter.

    Eli Marger: Blue Jays

    Alex Anthopoulos made a splash at the trade deadline. He can make the biggest splash of free agency by signing the Japanese phenom.

    Joel Reuter: Stays in Japan

    Despite the money that the Nippon-Ham Fighters stand to make by posting Darvish, and the money that Darvish himself stands to make once he is posted and signs, everyone involved still remains unsure as to whether or not he will be stateside this year. That uncertainty leads me to believe that he will spend another year in Japan before being posted next offseason.

Aramis Ramirez

14 of 20

    Voting Tally

    Angels: 5
    Tigers: 3
    Cubs: 1
    Marlins: 1

    Doug Mead: Angels

    The Angels have been desperate for power at the hot corner ever since Troy Glaus left town, and GM Jerry DiPoto will pull the strings on this deal.

    Dmitriy Ioselevich: Angels

    The Angels needed Ramirez for their playoff push, but they'll have to settle for getting him for the 2012 season instead. The veteran slugger fills a need both at the hot corner and in the lineup, where a young Mike Trout now profiles as the big name.

    Rick Weiner: Tigers

    Brandon Inge is declining, Wilson Betemit is a free agent and prospect Nick Castellanos is far from ready. The Tigers satisfy Ramirez's desire to play for a contender, and Ramirez adds another capable bat to the lineup and some protection for Miguel Cabrera.

    Eli Marger: Marlins

    The Marlins will hope to make a splash in their first year in a new stadium. Signing a power bat like Ramirez could revitalize his career and drastically improve Miami's offense.

    Zachary Ball: Cubs

    Epstein was more than willing to let Adrian Beltre walk last offseason. He had a career year and led the Rangers to the World Series. Ramirez, one of the most underrated players of our era, isn't going anywhere.

Carlos Beltran

15 of 20

    Voting Tally

    Giants: 7
    Red Sox: 2
    Yankees: 1

    Joel Reuter: Giants

    The Giants gave up one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball in Zack Wheeler when the acquired Beltran at the deadline, and after not making the postseason, their return on that investment if Beltran walks in free agency is unacceptable. Not to mention their offense could certainly use him.

    Eli Marger: Giants

    San Francisco needs all the offense they can get, and Beltran is a great fit in the outfield. They would be wise to retain him.

    Zachary Ball: Giants

    With a new agent, Beltran's salary demands won't be quite so outrageous, and the Giants will bring him back into the fold.

    Doug Mead: Red Sox

    I think that GM Ben Cherington will eventually realize that Beltran offers a great opportunity to upgrade the right field position.

    Rick Weiner: Yankees

    The Yankees will trade Nick Swisher, opening up a spot for Beltran, who makes an already explosive lineup even more powerful.


Roy Oswalt

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    Voting Tally

    Yankees: 3
    Phillies: 2
    Rangers: 2
    Cubs: 1
    Nationals: 1
    Red Sox: 1

    Eli Marger: Yankees

    Questions about his health have come up, but the team would love another veteran righty at the top of their rotation. Anything beats A.J. Burnett.

    Mark Miller: Phillies

    They've got a great deal of talented pitching already in the rotation, but Oswalt still adds a great pop to the back end of the order.

    Dmitriy Ioselevich: Rangers

    Oswalt may only have a season or two left, but if he's healthy, he's more than capable of being the ace of a staff. The Rangers are obviously a championship-caliber team, and they would welcome the longtime Astro back to Texas with open arms.

    Robert Knapel: Cubs

    Theo Epstein will be looking to make a big move to help improve the Chicago Cubs, but he will not sign either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. Instead, the Cubs big signing of the winter will be Roy Oswalt.

    Rick Weiner: Red Sox

    New Boston GM Ben Cherington knows that he needs to address his pitching rotation; Oswalt not only gives them a capable arm to replace the injured John Lackey, but provides veteran leadership to a rotation that sorely lacks any.

C.J. Wilson

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    Voting Tally

    Nationals: 3
    Rangers: 3
    Yankees: 2
    Blue Jays: 1
    Red Sox: 1 

    Joel Reuter: Rangers

    After watching Cliff Lee walk in free agency last season, the Rangers won't let their ace get away again this time around. After kicking the tires on Roy Oswalt and looking into Yu Darvish, the Rangers will realize keeping Wilson is their best option

    Rick Weiner: Nationals

    Nationals GM Mike Rizzo overpays for Wilson as he did for Jayson Werth in 2010, but gives the Nationals a formidable rotation with Stephen Strasburg, Wilson, Jordan Zimmerman, John Lannan and Chien-Ming Wang.

    Zachary Ball: Yankees

    New York gets who they want more often than not, and I think they'll be out to prove that they still set the market. They'll bring Wilson in and he'll blossom as a No. 2, a role he's more fitted for, behind Sabathia.

    Robert Knapel: Blue Jays

    The Toronto Blue Jays have come to the realization that they will need to spend money to be able to compete with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Signing C.J. Wilson will make them a surprise threat in the AL East.

    Mark Miller: Red Sox

    With rotation issues in Boston and a disastrous end to the 2011 season still hanging over the team, they'll look to pull in the best starting pitcher available on the market in Wilson.

Jose Reyes

18 of 20

    Voting Tally

    Giants: 4
    Nationals: 2
    Brewers: 1
    Cardinals: 1
    Marlins: 1
    Mets: 1

    Doug Mead: Giants

    GM Brian Sabean desperately wants someone at the top of the lineup to produce, and Reyes can clearly be that guy.

    Dmitriy Ioselevich: Nationals

    Every year, the Nationals try to make a big splash on the free agent market, and stealing a superstar from a divisional rival sounds like a once-a-decade opportunity. Washington could move current shortstop Ian Desmond in a trade for a center fielder (B.J. Upton?) and then bring in Reyes to help jump-start a developing offense.

    Zachary Ball: Mets

    I think the Mets are serious about trying to retain Reyes' services. He'll do some flirting, specifically with the other New York squad, but in the end, he'll end up back in a Mets uni.

    Rick Weiner: Brewers

    Brewers owner Mark Attanasio isn't afraid of spending money; Reyes could take the sting out of losing Prince Fielder and is a huge upgrade from free agent Yuniesky Betancourt.

    Greg Pinto: Marlins

    Reyes is a difficult free agent to read, but if Jeffrey Loria is serious about expanding payroll for a move into the team's new ballpark, having Reyes and Hanley Ramirez on the left side of the infield would be a great start. If the pitching market, which is rumored to be the team's top target, dries up quickly, they could target Reyes to draw fans.

Prince Fielder

19 of 20

    Voting Tally

    Cubs: 7
    Nationals: 2
    Dodgers: 1

    Rick Weiner: Cubs

    Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer need to make a big splash, and Prince does just that; he also handles the media far better then Pujols does.

    Eli Marger: Cubs

    Although the Nationals and Mariners will bid heavily on the slugger, he will ultimately land in Chicago as Theo Epstein's first major step towards reversing the curse.

    Robert Knapel: Nationals

    Last season, the Washington Nationals made one of the more surprising signings of the offseason when they signed Jayson Werth. The Nationals will make a big splash again this winter by signing Prince Fielder. This move will make them NL East contenders. 

    Greg Pinto: Nationals

    From pretender to contender, if the Nationals are able to add Fielder to a lineup that is already stacked, they'd be a threat in the National League East. Their ownership group has money to spend, and Fielder would offer a bit more veteran leadership to a relatively inexperienced club. The ability to play first base also weighs in Fielder's decision.

Albert Pujols

20 of 20

    Voting Tally

    Cardinals: 10

    Robert Knapel: Cardinals

    There is no player in baseball right now that means more than Albert Pujols does to St. Louis. The Cardinals will come up with a big enough offer to keep him in town.

    Greg Pinto: Cardinals

    With few suitors available to offer Pujols a mega-deal and even fewer contenders, St. Louis almost stands alone in preferred destinations for him. As long as they make a fair offer, Pujols will be a Cardinal again in 2012 and beyond.

    Mark Miller: Cardinals

    Since it's likely that the typical suitors of big-name talent won't be in the market for a player like Pujols, he should be able to work out a deal to keep him in St. Louis for life.

    Zachary Ball: Cardinals

    No way the Cardinals let him go. They'll top any offer to keep him in red and white. They just built an 11-foot, 1,100-pound statue for Pete's sake!

    Eli Marger: Cardinals

    The price will be extremely steep, but don't expect the DeWitt family to let their crown jewel go walking away.