Winter is my favorite time of year. Snow begins to fall, the holiday spirit fills the air, and most importantly, the MLB hot stove heats up. Baseball’s offseason is a time when broken October dreams are turned into hope and promise for next season with every big free agent signing. And there are plenty of big free agents to choose from this offseason with one of the deepest free agent pools in recent years. Early signings indicate the economic crisis will not affect spending by MLB club executives. The Cubs gave Ryan Dempster a four-year $52 million dollar deal and he is arguably only the fifth best starter in this year’s market. The Yankees are rumored to have offered CC Sabathia the largest contract for a pitcher in baseball history (somewhere around $140 million). The following are the ten most coveted free agents on the market with potential suitors.
1. CC Sabathia
There is no better free agent starter out there, and whomever pays top dollar will get a dominating 28-year old ace. Sabathia certainly helped his stock by putting the Brewers on his back and carrying them to the postseason with his 11-2 record and 1.65 ERA. The power lefty will command a contract close to $25 million a year for five or six years. CC might be worth the price as he makes almost any team an immediate pennant contender. Potential suitors: Brewers, Yankees, Mets, Angels, Dodgers, Giants. Prediction: Yankees
2. Mark Teixeira
Teixeira is the best all-around position player on the market. The 28-year old first baseman is entering the prime of his career. He offers a rare combination of deadly offense and strong defense (cough, cough Manny). He has hit at least 30 home runs in each of the last five seasons and has become a lock for at least 100 RBIs, .390 OBP and .290 batting average. A client of super-agent Scott Boras, Teixeira does not care about anything besides who pays him the most. Expect a huge deal.Potential suitors: Angels, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Nationals. Prediction: Angels.
3. Frankie Rodriguez
A record 62 saves should make you the cream of the free agent crop but not in this market. K-Rod wants a five-year $75 million deal, but right now the only team that might give it to him is the Mets. A guaranteed victory with a lead going into the ninth is a valuable commodity. Just ask Brad Lidge and the World Series Champions Philadelphia Phillies.Potential suitors: Angels, Mets.
4. Manny Ramirez
Manny being Manny means a lot. It means a lot of media attention and a lot of baggage for the team that signs him. It also means you are signing one of the greatest hitters of this generation. That kind of opportunity does not present itself everyday. Defensively, he is atrocious at best but you can tolerate that with his power and run production in the middle of your lineup. But buyers beware: Manny will turn 37 in May and he is seeking a four or five-year deal which will put him way past 40 by the end of the contract. With a two-year deal he is a must sign, but the Dodgers are feeling pressure from fans to give him whatever he wants. Potential suitors: Dodgers, Angels, Blue Jays, Orioles, Giants, Yankees, Mets, Phillies. Prediction: Dodgers.
5. A.J. Burnett
Burnett is an interesting case. He has arguably the best raw stuff of any pitcher in baseball. The problem is he can’t stay healthy. He has managed to make 30 or more starts in a season only twice in his career. Ouch. However, last season was one of those years as he made a career-high 34 starts with the Blue Jays. He has huge upside and could be a bargain for the signing team. On the other hand, he could be a huge bust. Expect a contract similar to the $52 million deal Dempster signed with Cubs. Potential suitors: Blue Jays, Dodgers, Braves, Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers, Cubs, Mets, Angels. Prediction: Rangers.
6. Derek Lowe
Lowe could be the best bang for your buck in this market. He posted an impressive 3.24 ERA last season and propelled the Dodgers to the playoffs with an impressive last two months. He hasn’t had an ERA over 4.00 since 2004 and he has thrown 200 innings in five of the past six seasons. There are some bigger and younger names out there but he would be a solid #3 starter for most teams. Potential suitors: Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Braves, Mets, Cardinals, Blue Jays, White Sox, Angels. Prediction: Yankees.
7. Adam Dunn
If you want power then this is your guy. He strikes out a lot and does not hit for average but he’ll give you 40 home runs and a high OBP. Power is in high demand and he can supply it. Potential suitors: Cubs, Nationals. Prediction: Nationals.
8. Bobby Abreu
He wants to play in New York but the Yankees have too many corner outfielders (Matsui, Nady and Damon). Abreu is the best offensive player of that bunch. He always draws a lot of walks and hits around .300. He could be a real steal for any team. Potential suitors: Cubs, Mets, Yankees, Rays. Prediction: Cubs.
9. Rafael Furcal
Back surgery limited Furcal to only 36 games last season. However, Furcal might be drawing more interest than any position player in the market, because he is the best option at a position in high demand. He will get some serious money to bat lead off somewhere. Potential suitors: Dodgers, A’s, Blue Jays, Giants, Braves, Orioles, Indians, Royals, Cubs. Prediction: Giants.
10. Pat Burrell
Burrell is becoming the guy who bats .250 but hits 30 homers. Plenty of team will take that kind of production at a discounted price. Potential suitors: Rockies, Blue Jays, Cubs, Rays Prediction: Rockies.
Others Available: Raul Ibanez, Orlando Hudson, Brian Fuentes, Trevor Hoffman, Jason Giambi, Milton Bradley, Oliver Perez.