The MLB Hot Stove is Cookin’

Well, it’s everyone’s favorite time of year again and no, I’m not referring to my time spent hearing “Alvin and the Chipmunks” every 30 minutes on the radio despite the fact that Christmas is four weeks away. Yes, it’s time to get the Major League Baseball hot stove a-cookin’, where already-rich players get richer and already-stacked big market teams get even more stacked.

To recap what’s already gone down, here’s what you need to know.

Jonathon Papelbon to the Phillies: four years, $50 million. $12.5 million a year is a lot for a closer, given that closers can seem to lose their stuff and their swagger in the blink of an eye. Though his last two years have been the shakiest of his career and he’s now 31, it was promising to see him post a career best K/BB ratio this year and if he continues to throw strikes, he should be able to do the job in Philadelphia. It’s a strong move for the Phillies that should only further cement their position as the team to beat in the NL.

Matt Kemp resigns with the Dodgers: eight years, $160 million. If you think Eric Dampier goes hard in his contract years, Matt Kemp may have just one-upped him with the MVP-caliber season he put together. That said, though the flashes of superstar potential have been there from the start, this is the first year Mr. Kemp fully capitalized on his potential. With all the dough they’re throwing at him, the Dodgers are certainly taking a, as Billy Fucillo would put it, “HUGE” risk that the 2011 version of Matt Kemp is what they will be getting for the next eight years. Surely it was a risk they had to take, but they best hope Kemp keeps his level of play up. Otherwise, things could get gloomier in L.A. than they already are.

And now for the big names still on the market:

C.J. Wilson – Wilson is this year’s annual recipient of the John Lackey Award for, “a player who is an above average pitcher who has a relatively suspect resume but fulfills the role of an ace on a team that lacks a clear one. He will presumably be paid twice of what he deserves and will almost undoubtedly not live up to his contract.” C.J. Wilson is no ace, as he’s shown with his playoff performances with Texas the last two years, but for your second starter, you could do a heck of a lot worse. However, C.J. is not going to command second-starter money; he is going to be paid a hefty sum of $80-90 million over about five years, a lot for a guy who is 31 and has only been a starter for two years. Still, what team is just crazy, rich, dumb and lacking pitching enough to fall into this trap? Well, who other than the New York Yankees? Enjoy your extremely poor man’s Cliff Lee, you bums!

Jose Reyes – Jose is a guy that makes GMs lose sleep at night because we all saw what he’s capable of when he was healthy this year. However, a lot of the time you’re paying him to chew Double Bubble while he spends weeks on the disabled list dealing with persistent hamstring issues. If you want a stat that’ll make you cringe, he’s played in 295 out of a potential 486 games in the last three years. Ouch. If there’s one positive side to that, that’ll chop down his pricetag, but he’s still likely to fetch $90-$100 million over about six years. The Marlins, Brewers, Nationals and Mets have all shown interest, but Miami is the most likely destination. With a new stadium, the Marlins would love to make a big signing to get some hype and buzz going into the season and potentially make a push for a wild-card spot.

Prince Fielder – The team other than the Brewers that has been thrown around most with Fielder is the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs certainly have a reputation to make it rain more freely than Pacman Jones in a strip club, but this has resulted in them being more weighed down with some seriously bad contracts. It’s clear the Cubs are a lot farther away from the playoffs than just Prince and I think Theo has learned from his recent free agent blunders (see Carl Crawford and John Lackey) to know not throw a boatload of cash at Prince. Don’t forget that the Brewers showed they’re not afraid to spend big and lock down their stars when they gave Ryan Braun a five year, $105 million extension last spring. Most likely scenario is that Prince stays in Milwaukee for something along the lines of six years, $120 Million.

Albert Pujols – When the Cardinals won the World Series, the reward was double in that it all but ensured Albert would be coming back. Sure, he’s saying he wants to test the market, but consider this:

1. The market for first basemen isn’t that big as a lot of the big spenders like the Yanks and Sox are already set at first base. Fielder is out there at a considerably smaller price tag.

2. Albert is asking for an absurd amount of money along the lines of 10 years, $300 million.

3. Albert will be 32 in January (we think).

4. His production has quietly declined (from MVP to almost MVP levels) the last three years.

5. The Cardinals, though not really a big market team, could probably comfortably give Albert eight years and $200-220 million, which is still a lot of freaking money.

6. The Cardinals just won a World Series and are a stable, well-run, winning franchise and, by all reports, Albert likes it there. He is invested in the community, so any team that would potentially try to pry Albert away would have to offer a great deal more than the Cardinals. Something like 10 years and $300 million!

It is most certainly not going to happen.

Contact Pete Koehler at [email protected].