NOVEMBER 11, 2003
Forecasting The Free Agent Frenzy
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com
Bidding started yesterday on the 200+ baseball players in the current Free Agent class for this major league off-season. What follows below is one guess at where thirty of the "bigger" names will land once the dust settles:
Vladimir Guerrero - It is close between Boston and Baltimore. Since the Red Sox would have to move Manny Ramirez to free the salary for Vlad, the Orioles have a leg up on the chase and this is where we expect Guerrero to sign.
Gary Sheffield - He will sign with the New York Mets and will wear his uncle's old number there - 16. This will happen right after the Yankees sign their first free agent this shopping season.
Andy Pettitte - The Red Sox and Orioles will make a run at him. But, in the end, the Yankees will match or better the numbers and he will re-sign with New York.
Kevin Millwood - The Mets, Braves, and Red Sox are all rumored to be interested. The feeling here is that he liked it in Atlanta; and, now that Maddux is gone, they have the money to get him. Millwood returns to the Braves in 2004.
Miguel Tejada and Kazuo Matsui - That cloud you see over southern California is not smog. It is smoke piping up from the bidding war over Miggy - between the new owners in L.A. and Anaheim. The Dodgers win this one - partly because the Angels decide in the end to sign Kazuo Matsui.
Bartolo Colon - He will "hang out" to the very end. Boston and the Yankees will make a run. However, and this is just a hunch, in the end, he signs with the San Francisco Giants (who use whatever money they freed up this off-season to sign him).
Greg Maddux - He will pitch himself to the Diamondbacks as much as possible; but, they will fall short on the money. The Padres swoop in and sign him for three years plus an option.
Shannon Stewart - He is the hardest Free Agent to predict. Who does not need a good leadoff hitter? Who needs a LF with a weak arm? Who has the money he seeks? The Red Sox lose on Vlad; but, if they can move Manny (or make him a FT DH by letting Ortiz go), they will go for Stewart to lead off and play LF. In Fenway, Stewart's arm is not that much of a concern.
Ivan Rodriguez - The Marlins, from a public relations standpoint, must make a good faith effort to try and re-sign Pudge. Who else will go after him? Perhaps the Orioles, Cubs, Dodgers and Mets. If the Dodgers do not get Tejada, they will throw a lot of money Ivan's way. That should do it. If the Dodgers do get Miggy, then it is a race between the Marlins, Orioles and Mets (as the Cubs will not spend that much for Rodriguez) - - with the Marlins winning.
Keith Foulke - Not that many will be willing to spend much on closers. Foulke will not have many suitors. Maybe Boston has an interest? The Braves reportedly do have an interest. The Mets should have an interest. Going out on a wild limb, completely out of leftfield, the call here is that he signs with Seattle.
LaTroy Hawkins - The Yankees outbid everyone for LaTroy and live to regret it. He becomes the most unwise Yankee RP FA signing since Rawly Eastwick.
Luis Castillo - Many desire Castillo this off-season. Six or seven teams bid heavily on him. In the end, he signs with the Chicago White Sox - replacing Roberto Alomar.
Roberto Alomar - Many seem to think he is going to the St. Louis Cardinals. That is a guess as good as one that can be made here. We are going with that one as well.
Sidney Ponson - The Orioles, Red Sox, and Mets are the heavy (no pun intended) Ponson suitors. At the last minute, he decides on New York over Baltimore.
Eddie Guardado - The Mets could use him. The Red Sox could use him too. After the Mets get Ponson, Everyday Eddie signs with Boston.
Kelvim Escobar – The White Sox need a replacement for Colon in their rotation. Kelvim could be an ample substitution.
Miguel Batista – Many predict the Cardinals for him. We know that St. Louis needs pitching. Like Robby Alomar, we will go with the general consensus here and say he is a Cardinal next year.
Juan Gonzalez – Amazing, or is it sad (?), that a once “On the path to Cooperstown” player has to make the rounds with his hat in his hand, asking for a job. The Orioles can use some punch at LF and DH. Look for Juan Gone in Camden in 2004 – signed to a one-year deal.
Todd Walker – Many want his bat. Few will want his glove. We see him signing for the Marlins for one year, to sub for Castillo, like Pudge signed for one year in 2003.
Shigetoshi Hasegawa – It may be boring; but, the call here is that he stays with Seattle.
Ugueth Urbina – Like last year, he feels the squeeze and signs a one year deal – this time, with Giants and gets reunited (cause it feels so good) with Felipe Alou.
Rafael Palmeiro – He would not take a short stay trade last year because of his home and family in Texas. Why would he want to move for longer now? He stays with the Rangers, to DH, at a bargain “stay at home” rate.
Javy Lopez – Like Todd Walker, he signs with the Marlins, to sub for Pudge, on a one year contract. The pinching this year will get to many players – he should not take it personal. If the Marlins keep Pudge, then Javy gets the deal in Los Angeles.
Wilson Alvarez – The Yankees will overpay for him, like Chris Hammond the year before, in an attempt to build up their pen.
David Wells – The Big Stein is a sucker for Wells. Basically, it is down to San Diego and New York – from Boomer’s perspective. George will buckle under again and give Wells one more year, at less than he was paid last year.
Carl Everett – Did you think the pairing of Carl and John Rocker in Texas was fun? Wait till 2004! The prediction here is that he signs with the Giants, for one year, to play RF. He and Barry will make for a fun corner of the clubhouse.
Jose Guillen – The A's will end up re-signing him and will lament it as much as the Terrance Long contract. Guillen was big for them last year. But, many scouts say “Put him in the first year of a multi-year pact and you get the old Jose Guillen in a heartbeat.” We think they are correct.
Mike Cameron – He will sell himself to the Mets and they will take the bait. The thought here is that Cameron is just like Dwayne Murphy. If he plays the same after age 30, the Mets will regret this signing quickly.
Rich Aurilia – He will sign with Yankees........ready for this - to play 2B. Soraino is either traded or moved to the OF for the 2004 season.
In total, look for the Yankees to sign the most Free Agents this winter, closely followed by the Mets and Giants - the latter despite their call to reduce payroll. (You cannot pay Barry Bonds that much money and not try to win a championship at the same time. Why have one player so expensive if you are not trying for a ring? And, if you are trying to win, you have to get more than one player. Of course, most of the Giants signings will be one year deals and make-good incentive laden contracts.) The Orioles, Dodgers, Red Sox, Mariners, White Sox, Cardinals and Marlins will each sign more than one Free Agent this winter. The Marlins will do it because they have so many players themselves who have filed.
Now, if just eleven of these end up actually happening, that would give this author an impressive On Base Average. But, remember, there is On Base Average and then there is Slugging Percentage. If some of the more "far out predictions" come true (like Stewart, Colon, and Everett) then an award for extra bases is warranted. Let the games begin. Fear not, we will be tallying the results among the various "Scrawling On The Scorecard."
Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com. Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season. Steve can be contacted at email@example.com
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