Predicting the Free Agent Frenzy
So here's the deal.
There's this fantasy game we just launched. It's called Free Agent Frenzy.
What you have to do with Free Agent Frenzy is predict where 12 of the biggest free agents will land this offseason.
Of course, there's a twist. In addition to picking which team you think Benny Baseball is going to sign with, you have to assign confidence points, ranging from 1-12, along with it. You can only use a number once.
For example, if you just know that Benny Baseball is 100percent.com/LockItUp going to sign with the Georgia Peaches, you give Benny Baseball 12 confidence points. If you think Benny Baseball's destination is about as predictable as a Jonathan Sanchez 3-1 offspeed pitch, you give him one confidence point.
The more confident you are with your pick, the higher the confidence number you give. It's really that simple.
And since I'm not eligible to win this thing, I might as well scribble out a cheat sheet for you all.
Player: Carl Crawford, OF
Legit possibilities: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Giants, Tigers, Angels, Blue Jays.
Favorites: With all due respect to Cliff Lee, Crawford holds the conch in this free-agent class. He's in a league of his own defensively, his power seems to be improving by the year, he's a quintessential "great clubhouse guy" and has the type of speed that gives pitchers and catchers the heebie-jeebies. If Jason Bay can get a deal from the Mets worth $16.5 million per season, what's Crawford worth? $17 million? $18 million? $30 million? Regardless, this price tag automatically takes the Rays out of the equation, and if the Red Sox and Yanks are going to be taking a sledgehammer to their piggy banks, I can't see Crawford going to Detroit. It's likely going to be the battle of the big boys here.
Darkhorse: Do the Giants make too much sense for this to happen? They can't really think they can get away with a patchwork outfield again, can they? They don't actually expect Cody Ross to slug .700 all next season, do they? Add in the fact that they play in a major market, have some cash to burn with some World Series winnings and have that California weather/appeal, and I actually think this could work.
Prediction: When the dust settles, I think the Yanks will be too preoccupied giving Lee the Grey Poupon treatment and will have their hands tied in overpaying Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera (we'll get to them later) to reel in Crawford. The Red Sox know they need a makeover atop their lineup, and Jacoby Ellsbury looks to be headed on his way out. I think it's Boston (seven years, $125 million), and I feel pretty good about it.
Confidence points: 7
Player: Cliff Lee, SP
Legit possibilities: Yankees, Rangers, Mets.
Favorites: At this point, it seems like the Yanks would pay $20 million per season to just not face Lee in the postseason. We saw New York's rotation fall apart down the stretch last season, we don't know Andy Pettitte's deal for next year, we most definitely know that Javier Vazquez won't be back and we know the Yanks want nothing to do with relying on A.J. Burnett again. It's safe to say they'll be putting the full-court press on Lee like a Rick Pitino college hoops squad. It's really just a matter of whether Lee wants to pitch in New York. If he does, he will. If he doesn't, he'll take less coin to pitch for the Rangers.
Darkhorse: I've seen the reports that the Nationals might go hard after Lee. Uhhh, yeah, good luck with that. The Mets might make some sense and the idea of pitching in the National League has to be enticing, but can the Mets really afford to get even older?
Prediction: The Yankees get what the Yankees want, and if that means giving a soon-to-be 33-year-old a five-year, $125 million contract, then so be it.
Confidence points: 9
Player: Jayson Werth, OF
Legit possibilities: Phillies, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox, Giants.
Favorites: Rumors have already swirled that the Phillies have the resources to bring Werth back at a reasonable price, but considering Scott Boras is involved, I can't imagine the price will be sniffing the reasonable scale. Also, I have to think Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is just giddy at the idea of trotting blue-chip prospect Domonic Brown out to right field every day next season. Amaro has to pretend to really want Werth back to please the kids at home.
Anyway, if the Red Sox nab Crawford, they won't be throwing their money Werth's way, and I don't think that at the price Werth will likely fetch ($15 million per season?), he's that much of an upgrade over what the Yankees currently have (Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson). I guess this leaves the Angels and Giants.
Darkhorse: I could see a team like the Tigers making some noise here, as they just cleared about $80 million worth of salary and have a gaping hole in their outfield. They've also established quite the bro-mance with Boras, overpaying Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Johnny Damon and Kenny Rogers over the last few years.
Prediction: How about the Angels? Here's a team that had a mini dynasty atop the American League West crumble after a freak Kendry Morales injury, and they've proven they will spend some bank on free agents after signing Torii Hunter, Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu and Joel Pineiro over the last couple offseasons. Signing Werth long term (five years, $75 million) and letting Abreu walk next season in order to make room for top prospect Mike Trout passes the smell test to me. But, alas, this one could play out a number of ways and is directly tied to Crawford.
Confidence points: 3
Player: Adam Dunn, OF, 1B, DH
Legit possibilities: Nationals, Dodgers, Orioles, Tigers, Cubs, White Sox.
Favorites: Lots of potential suitors here. That's what happens when a guy who's averaged more than 40 homers per year for the last seven years hits the open market. Let's break this one down team by team.
Nationals: After Ryan Zimmerman, they have next to nothing in their batting order in the power department. But if Dunn really wanted to return, wouldn't he have re-signed during last season? I say yes.
Dodgers: The Dodgers definitely need a big bat in their lineup after finishing second to last in the National League with 120 homers last season. And while there is room for Dunn in the outfield with Scott Podsednik on his way out, Dunn's future is at first base or designated hitter. And unless James Loney gets dealt, Dunn likely isn't coming to Tinseltown.
Orioles: The Orioles make some sense, as they have a gaping hole at first base, desperately need a consistent bat in their lineup and play in the AL. But does Dunn really want to go to another team destined for 90-plus losses?
Tigers: The Tigers perhaps make the most sense of any team. If they choose not to re-sign Ordonez, they can slot Dunn safely into right field and keep him there until he reaches full-time DH status. If they do re-sign Maggs, they could put Dunn in left field, and though it'd make Austin Jackson cover about 4,750 feet of outfield grass, it'd give Detroit a potent offensive outfield. Add in the fact that a Tigers 3-4-5 of Ordonez-Cabrera-Dunn would instantly make Detroit contenders in the AL Central again, and I think we're cooking some serious chili here.
Darkhorse: I think both Chicago squads are possibilities, but the White Sox would probably prefer to re-sign Paul Konerko at a cheaper rate and use their budget elsewhere. And while the Cubs do have an opening at first base, I have to think Dunn would prefer to hit the AL if given the chance. And he will most definitely be given the chance.
Prediction: Given the amount of open payroll, the flexibility of playing either corner-outfield position or becoming a full-time DH and the prospect of hitting right behind Miguel Cabrera makes the Tigers the favorites in the Dunn sweepstakes. Four years, $65 million should do the trick.
Confidence points: 6
Player: Paul Konerko, 1B
Legit possibilities: White Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, D-backs.
Favorites: Let's take a moment and just reflect at how incredible and simultaneously under the radar Konerko's 2010 season was. At the age of 34, he hit .312 with 39 homers and 111 RBIs, marking (arguably) the best all-around season of his career. I know that the D-backs have already flirted with his services, and just like with Dunn, the Cubs and Dodgers make some sense here, but let's keep in mind that Konerko has been with the White Sox since 1999, and they'd have a gaping hole at first base if he doesn't come back.
Darkhorse: We know how this one's turning out, don't we?
Prediction: Yeah, we do. Five years, $55 million should let Konerko retire with the White Sox.
Confidence points: 10
Player: Adrian Beltre, 3B
Legit possibilities: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Angels, Orioles, Mariners, Indians.
Favorites: A total vacuum at the hot corner, Beltre shouldn't have trouble finding suitors after posting a .321-28-102 line in his lone season in Beantown. Each of the teams listed above either has a gaping hole at third (Angels, Indians, Mariners), needs time to let a prospect develop (Orioles) or just needs a serious upgrade (Blue Jays). Considering Kevin Youkilis' flexibility in the field, it seems like Beltre would be more of a luxury for Boston, not a necessity. Re-signing Victor Martinez to play first and shifting Youkilis to third makes sense to me.
Darkhorse: Seattle just declined Jose Lopez's option, so in theory, a Beltre return to the Emerald City would make some sense. And while in our minds it seems like Beltre drastically underperformed his contract while with the Mariners from 2005-09, he averaged about a .270-20-80 line per season while providing top-notch defense. In retrospect, his five-year, $64 million deal doesn't seem so insanely crazy, right?
Prediction: Of course, it makes way more sense for the Angels to get seriously involved here. Last season, Angels third basemen hit a combined .233 with eight homers and a .266 on-base percentage. The Brandon Wood/Alberto Callaspo experiment is over, folks. I'm seeing a repeat of his previous contract, as a five-year deal in the $60 million range should get the deal done.
Confidence points: 5
Player: Victor Martinez, C, 1B, DH
Legit possibilities: Red Sox, Tigers, Blue Jays, Brewers, Mariners, Rangers, Orioles.
Favorites: This is where things get seriously dicey. Gauging the market for a soon-to-be 32-year-old offensive-minded catcher who has maybe one slightly below-average year behind the plate left is not as easy as you'd think. The good news is that V-Mart's destined for a 1B/DH role for most of his next contract, realistically eliminating NL teams from the equation here.
Darkhorse: There's no real favorite here, so it's hard to give a darkhorse. Let's break this one down team by team, shall we?
Red Sox: The Red Sox are certainly in the equation, but they're too smart to give Martinez a four- or five-year deal, which is what it will likely take to sign him. Only way I see him returning to the Sox is if they lose out on Beltre and possibly Crawford, shifting Youkilis to third and making Martinez the full-time first baseman.
Tigers: The Tigers have a promising youngster with Alex Avila behind the plate and would probably prefer to send their shekels Dunn's or Werth's way. But if they get spurned by both, Martinez looks like a classic panic alternative.
Blue Jays: Can the Jays really bank on John Buck turning in another .281-20-66 season?
Brewers: Jonathan Lucroy doesn't seem ready for full-time duty behind the plate. If this were 1988 and Milwaukee was still in the AL, this would make sense.
Mariners: Again, Seattle seems to have money to burn, desperately needs some offense and can't be that excited for the Adam Moore (205 AB, .195 AVG) era to really get going.
Rangers: Makes some sense, but going from a Molina brother behind the plate to Martinez would be like turning in your Ruth's Chris Steak House membership badge for a Taco Bell gift card. And hey, I love Taco Bell as much as the next guy.
Orioles: This is totally a gut call, but something about the Orioles and Martinez works for me. Obviously, with Matt Wieters behind the dish for the next decade, they'd sign Martinez to be a full-time first baseman. That's probably a good thing.
Prediction: Let's talk this one out. The Orioles desperately need to make some sort of splash in free agency, could really use some veteran leadership and all-world handshake skills in the clubhouse and could probably rationalize doling out a five-year, $55 million deal to bring some excitement back to the Charm City.
Confidence points: 2
Player: Rafael Soriano, RP
Legit possibilities: Braves, Nationals, Angels, Blue Jays, Yankees.
Favorites: It's always hard to predict when a team is willing to totally break the bank for a closer, so I pretty much just identified the squads who clearly have a hole in the fireman department.
Darkhorse: You're telling me that you'd be shocked if the Yankees gave Soriano $25 million for three years just to be Mariano Rivera's setup man?
Prediction: The Braves have had a front-row seat to the Soriano experience before, and considering they dealt him for next to nothing last season, I find it hard to believe they'd put on their gold-plated diapers for him here. After that, it will likely become a bidding war between the Nationals, Angels and Blue Jays. The prospect of putting a season in the hands of Fernando Rodney should scare the Angels enough to give Soriano a three-year, $25 million deal.
Confidence points: 4
Player: Jorge De La Rosa, SP
Legit possibilities: The Rockies and every other team in the Majors that could use a left-handed starter but don't want to spend $20 million per season on Lee.
Favorites: I'm almost positive that predicting which team is going to overspend on a second-tier, unproven but certainly attractive southpaw starter is harder than one of those oversized Rubik's Cubes with 12 rows. From the Rockies to the A's to the Twins to the Tigers to the Angels, the possibilities are endless. I'm going to be brutally honest here. I have absolutely no clue, no inkling and no feeling as to where De La Rosa ends up.
Prediction: Let's just randomly give him the Angels, lay the one confidence point down and move on to the next one.
Confidence points: 1
Player: Carl Pavano, SP
Legit possibilities: Twins, Yankees (relax! Just kidding!), random NL team in need of starter.
Favorites: Pavano should come much cheaper than De La Rosa, and considering that he seems to have found a safe environment for himself and his mustache in the Twin Cities, I think it will be hard for him to leave.
Darkhorse: Of course, there's always the chance that the Twins decide they don't want to spend $10 million per season on a free agent. If that's the case, expect an NL club in a good pitcher's park (Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals) to throw its money Pavano's way.
Prediction: Pavano just seems made for the Twins. They need a proven starter to pitch behind Francisco Liriano, they accepted Pavano's stellar facial hair like one of their own and, ya know, the guy won 17 games while posting a 3.75 ERA last season. I figure an expensive, but reasonable three-year, $30 million deal should do the trick.
Confidence points: 8
Player: Mariano Rivera, RP
Legit possibilities: Yankees.
Prediction: Yankees, three years, $45 million.
Confidence points: 12
Player: Derek Jeter, SS
Legit possibilities: Yankees.
Darkhorse: Let's just say, for fun, that Jeter wants a six-year deal worth about $20 million a year. And for whatever reason, the Yankees just can't justify spending that kind of money on a 36-year-old who batted .270 with 10 homers and 67 RBIs last season.
You're telling me a heartbroken, spurned and betrayed Jeter wouldn't at least consider going crosstown to play second base with the Mets or sign a one-year deal with divisional foe Tampa Bay? I mean, it's possible, right?
Prediction: Eh, I guess not. Yankees, five years, $100 million.
Confidence points: 11
Dave Feldman is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.