Typical MLB winter meetings. Big market teams spending hundreds of millions of dollars. Stealing superstar players from the small market teams who developed them but can no longer pay. The Yankees and the Red Sox really need to be asha- What? Who’s Miami?
Yes, the Miami Marlins. The new bully on the block. The Heath Bell-swindling, Jose Reyes-signing, Albert Pujols-courting, Ozzie Guillen-managing Miami Marlins have been the heaviest of hitters thus far in the off-season. It’s as if they saw the empty seats the Miami Heat were boasting in the Eastern Conference Finals and thought, “Hey, that could be us!” And they’ve spent unlike any Marlins team in history, with little regard for the players they already have. Hanley Ramirez has recently chimed in saying he does not want to move to third base to make way for Jose Reyes. Uh-oh. Trouble in paradise already. Let’s see if he keeps singing that song if Pujols comes along for a decade long ride.
But there are surprisingly other teams, with other needs, and plenty of free agents to go around.
Off The Market
Jose Reyes (Shortstop) – Reyes becomes the first big catch of the off-season as he joins Miami signing a six year $106 million deal. Reyes is 28 and is the reigning NL batting champ. He gives the Marlins an exciting player entering his prime who will entice fans for at least the start of the season. The team’s overall success will decide whether or not the fans keep occupying the stands. Reyes has flourished in the NL East and Mets fans will certainly bring out the Boo Birds for his first visit to Citi Field in 2012.
Jonathan Papelbon (Reliever) – Pap leaves Boston for red pinstripes and will replace Ryan Madson at the back end on the Phillies bullpen. Papelbon inked the largest deal for a closer in MLB history with a four year deal worth $50 million, with an option year worth an additional $13 million. The rich get richer as the Phillies sure up their back end for at least the next four years.
Heath Bell (Reliever) – The second best closer on the market will be taking his talents to South Beach replacing
Leo Nunez Juan Carlos Oviedo as the Marlins primary closer. Bell strengthens an already strong bullpen with a three year deal worth $27 million.
Jonathan Broxton (Reliever) – This was an underrated move by the Kansas City Royals for a couple of reasons. For one, it puts pressure on closer Joakim Soria who was shaky at points last season. It also gives the Royals flexibility in their bullpen – something they have not had in recent years. Broxton is coming off of surgery, but with a one year deal ($4 million) Broxton is pitching to get back to the closer role he previous held as a Dodger. If he pitches well enough this season, the Royals could move Soria in order to garner some prospects and make Broxton their primary closer.
Matt Capps, Joe Nathan, Frank Francisco, & Jon Rauch (Relievers) – All of the middle of the road reliever have found homes in a deep, deep off-season littered with potential closers/set up guys. Rauch and Francisco move to the Mets while Capps returns to Minnesota. Nathan, the Twins long time closer, moves to Arlington and replaces Neftali Feliz as their primary closer as Feliz moves to the starting rotation. As an aging arm still recovering from Tommy John surgery, Nathan received a surprising large deal for two years at $15 million. It’s been that kind of year for relievers.
David Ortiz (Designated Hitter) – This one isn’t 100% finalized, but reports have come out that Ortiz is going to accept arbitration with the Red Sox today and attempt to work it out into a two year deal. The best DH in the league will be paid accordingly no matter how many years he receives. If he were to only accept arbitration, he would get a one year deal worth $15 million. A killing for a DH. Ortiz has expressed that he wants around $24 mil over two years, so a $9 million extension is something the Sox would likely consider.
C.J. Wilson (Starting Pitcher) - As I’ve stated several times this off-season, Wilson is this years John Lackey. He is the de facto best pitcher on the market and will be overpaid accordingly. Per Wilson’s agent, the Rangers have yet to make him an offer while he’s entertaining offers from the Nationals and the Marlins. I’d be surprised if the Yankees did not make him a substantial offer when all is said and done. Nolan Ryan has publicly expressed that he wants to retain Wilson, but if a team comes forward and puts a six year deal on the table, Wilson will likely jump.
Yoenis Cespedes (Outfielder) - My personal favorite free agent this year, the Cuban 26(?) year old has drawn the attention of just about every MLB team for a couple of reasons. One: his talent level. Cespedes seems like a five tool player in every way, shape, and form from his own personal highlights as well as his work in the Cuban League as well as the World Baseball Classic. Two: for a player of his potential, his price tag will not reflect his potential output. He is looking for a deal similar to the one the Reds shelled out for Aroldis Chapman, which is pennies when comparing an outfielder to a reliever. The Marlins make sense but the Red Sox have traveled to the Dominican Republic for a personal workout with Cespedes. Any team is possible.
Prince Fielder (First Base) - Fielder’s camp has been relatively quiet since Pujols has garnered all of the attention thus far from the Marlins, Angels, Cubs, and Cardinals. Fielder does have a market though. Not only is he younger than Pujols, he is just as much of a threat at the dish as Pujols is going forward. Whoever misses out on Pujols will likely make a big push for Fielder as possibly a better consolation prize. While his defense is not gold glove worthy, his bat is certainly worth every last cent. A six-eight year deal would be ideal, bringing him into his early 30′s. I expect his deal to be less than Pujols mega-contract, yet more than Reyes’ $106 million package.
Yu Darvish (Starting Pitcher) - It is possible that the Japanese prospect isn’t even available this off-season, plus I’m still scorned from how unexciting Diasuke Matsuzaka was in Boston, so this is all I’m going to write about Darvish.
Jimmy Rollins (Shortstop) - Now that Reyes is off the table, the attention suddenly shifts towards Rollins. The Brewers have displayed interest towards Rollins in an attempt to replace some of Fielder’s run production with the long time Phillies shortstop. While Rollins best baseball is behind him, he can still help out any team for a couple of years with his bat and his glove. I do not believe he’s going to leave Philadelphia because of how competitive they will be going forward along with his ties to the organization over the past decade.
Mark Buehrle (Starting Pitcher) - One of the most consistent pitchers in baseball has been getting loads of attention this off-season causing him to narrow his list of suitors to five teams as of yesterday. Those teams are believed to be the: Yankees, Marlins, Nationals, Rangers, & Twins. He seems to be done in Chicago, but I never rule out Kenny Williams. The Marlins need another pitcher to compliment Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez. The Rangers seem to always want another starter. The Twins seem like a long shot to me but Buehrle could pitch well in Minnesota. The Nationals absolutely need another pitcher behind Stephen Strasburg, but I wonder if Buehrle would join their staff to face the Phillies, Marlins, and Braves week after week.
Andrew Bailey to Boston - The Red Sox need a closer. The Athletics need many, many pieces. The Sox have some middle of the line pieces. After rebounding from injury, Bailey looks like a middle of the line closer. Instead of going out and overspending for a Ryan Madson or a Francisco Rodriguez, Bailey makes sense while 2011 first round draft pick Matt Barnes continues to develop in their farm system as their next potential closer. Bailey has proven to be successful in the past and this seems like a good move for both teams if they can agree on a package. Bailey is no Papelbon, but he seems like the Sox best option moving forward.
Gio Gonzalez to… - Detroit? Boston? Texas? Who knows. Billy Beane has been dangling one of his better pitchers on the open market to see what kind of return he can get. The 26 year old has gone 31-21 over the past two seasons, never finishing with an ERA higher than 3.23 and never allowing more than 72 earned runs. Plus, Gonzalez has hit the 200 inning pitched mark both seasons he has been a full time starter. He will be under financial control for the next three seasons and could certainly be a contender’s number three pitcher in their rotation.
Chicago White Sox - The White Sox seem to be in sell mode as they moved their closer Sergio Santos to Toronto and seem to be letting Mark Buehrle walk to greener pastures. Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios, Gavin Floyd, and John Danks all could be moved for the right price and I would assume the one time dominant Jake Peavy could be made available for the right price. It seems as though the ChiSox have been bitten in the ass by the Daniel Hudson-Edwin Jackson trade and now must recollect and replenish their farm system. I’m sure if someone asked, the White Sox would let go of Adam Dunn. I don’t expect that to happen, though.
Jair Jurrjens - This one has cooled down a little bit, at least on a national level, but it is still interesting. Jurrjens, when healthy, has proven to be an ace or a number two starter in this league. Twice in his career he’s held an ERA under three. Never has he finished a season sub-.500. Last season, Jurrjens pitched 152 innings and finished with a 13-6 record. The last time he pitched over 200 innings was 2009 when he went 14-10 with a 2.60 ERA. I’m not sure what the Braves would want as compensation other than another MLB ready starter who, perhaps, has a better health track record, but if a team is in need of a starter they should pick up the phone and do whatever it takes to land Jurrjens. (Editors note: he would do wonders in Cincinnati)
Martin Prado - Again with the Braves. I know the Sox went all crazy and traded everyone when they got eliminated from the playoffs, but the Braves haven’t really done much. As if their collapse just didn’t happen because it was overshadowed by the Red Sox. It’s bullshit is what it is. But that’s not the point. The point is, Prado is one of the best utility players in all of the game. Sound unimpressive, but that’s because most utility guys are not every day players. Prado can play second, third, and left field daily. I’m sure he could play first, catcher, pitcher, and wherever he wanted but that’s not the point. If your team has a whole it needs to be filled by Prado. The guy just goes out and plays with an above average bat. (Editors note: he would also do wonders in Cincinnati)
Matt Holliday - This is completely and utterly mired in my own speculation. I have heard nothing on this and I am pulling this directly out of my ass. But think about it. If for some reason Albert Pujols skips town, what does this offense posses? Holliday and…? Allen Craig? Yadier Molina? David Freese? Lance Berkman? Not exactly a team I’d peg to go back to the World Series any time soon. Holliday signed a big deal but he is still a talented player who could be worth some prospects from a team like the Yankees. Maybe, and again this is just me, the Marlins realize Hanley is going to be a problem at third and they flip Ramirez and Logan Morrison for Matt Holliday. (Especially since the Marlins have some sort of unlimited payroll this year). Again, this is all of my own thinking, but it would make sense for the Cardinals to try and shed a big contract while also rebuilding for the future IF they cannot bring back Pujols. IF Albert continues to don his customary red number five, then forget this paragraph even exists. IF he does jump ship however, do not be surprised to see Holliday gone.