It’s time for the third annual MLB Trade Rumors Top 50 Free Agents list! The entire list of available free agents can be found here.
A note before we begin – this is a complicated puzzle, and I’ll be satisfied if I’m correct on a quarter of these guesses. If your favorite team seems under-represented, keep in mind that the list doesn’t account for trades or every single free agent.
1. C.C. Sabathia – Yankees. The guess here is that the Yankees will make C.C. an offer he can’t refuse, and he’ll sign a seven-year deal. Sabathia is the key to the Yankees’ offseason.
2. Mark Teixeira – Angels. The Angels can probably afford one of Sabathia, Teixeira, and K-Rod. They need Tex the most.
3. Manny Ramirez – Dodgers. I think Manny will ultimately sign a deal in the four-year, $100MM range.
4. Francisco Rodriguez – Mets. The buzz at the time of this writing is that the Mets will pass on K-Rod and look to sign Fuentes. However, there aren’t many big-money teams with closer vacancies, and I can see Rodriguez’s price dipping down to the four-year, $56MM range.
5. A.J. Burnett – Orioles. I am uneasy about this prediction. We know Burnett would like to play there, but will the O’s even enter the bidding? They do need starting pitching badly, and theoretically Burnett will still be effective when they are ready to contend.
6. Derek Lowe – Yankees. This would set up a rotation of Sabathia/Wang/Lowe/Pettitte/Chamberlain. Very solid on paper.
7. Orlando Hudson – Cardinals. Hudson, the top free agent second baseman, would be a large upgrade over Adam Kennedy.
8. Adam Dunn – Nationals. The Nats attempted to make a free agent splash last year with Torii Hunter. They’re known to be looking for a cleanup hitter.
9. Ryan Dempster – Cubs. Seems to be Jim Hendry’s top offseason priority. The two have a strong relationship, but Dempster may still score a competitive four-year contract. It should be noted that Hendry has a strong record of keeping his own free agents when he wants to, despite much hand-wringing leading up to each signing.
10. Ben Sheets – Braves. Under this scenario, the Braves are unable to land Jake Peavy via trade. Sheets is one of many possible free agent pitchers the Braves may consider. The Red Sox or Dodgers could be other suitors.
11. Mike Mussina – Retirement. I will go with the media sentiment that Moose is set to retire despite such a strong 2008.
12. Raul Ibanez – Braves. Even after bringing in two starters, they’ll have money left over for left field.
13. Pat Burrell – Rays. Burrell belongs in the AL, and the Rays have an open DH spot and the need for a righthanded hitter.
14. Bobby Abreu – Cubs. His defense isn’t a perfect fit at Wrigley, but they do crave a left-handed middle of the order bat. Fitting his salary in could be tricky.
15. Brian Fuentes – Brewers. If C.C. signs elsewhere, the Brewers will be able to spread their cash to fill various needs.
16. Andy Pettitte – Yankees. Once again, it’s Yankees or retirement for Pettitte.
17. Rafael Furcal – Dodgers. The interest is mutual. Furcal is the top free agent shortstop.
18. Casey Blake – Twins. If the Twins don’t like the asking prices for Garrett Atkins and Adrian Beltre, Blake may be the best third baseman on the free agent market.
19. Milton Bradley – Blue Jays. The buzz is that the Jays will take a look at Giambi, but Bradley is a nice fit as well at DH.
20. Jason Giambi – Athletics. The A’s are looking for a power hitter on a short-term deal, so a reunion makes sense.
21. Orlando Cabrera – Twins. Completing the Twins’ new-look infield. Blake and Cabrera should be capable of league-average production.
22. Jamie Moyer – Phillies. The seventh-best free agent starter, based on 2008 numbers. The Phils may look to add an additional starter for depth.
23. Kerry Wood – Cubs. A longtime Cub with a strong relationship with Hendry. Moving Marmol to the closer role would weaken the Cubs’ pen overall, so they’ll try to hammer something out.
24. Kenshin Kawakami – Red Sox. Signing Kawakami for the rotation would allow the Sox to keep Masterson in the pen and let Bowden and Buchholz come along at their own pace.
25. Randy Johnson – Angels. An improvement on Garland, and they get the bonus of his 300th win.
26. Oliver Perez – Dodgers. One possible fit for Perez, who is just 27 years old. There is a strong San Diego connection, but you have to figure money will get in the way (Perez is represented by Scott Boras).
27. Randy Wolf – Astros. Ed Wade has long been a fan of Wolf, and hopes to re-sign him. There won’t be much money left over after that.
28. Mark Grudzielanek – Indians. Grudz only makes sense here if the Indians miss out on bigger infield targets and shift Jhonny Peralta and Asdrubal Cabrera.
29. Ray Durham – Diamondbacks. The D’Backs figure to add one of the veteran second basemen on a short-term deal.
30. John Smoltz – Braves. I see no reason Smoltz would leave after all these years.
31. Ivan Rodriguez – Mets. Omar Minaya seems to be a fan, and Pudge may provide an upgrade behind the plate on a one-year deal.
32. Freddy Garcia – Indians. Not sure if he’ll sign for one year, but Garcia could stabilize a shaky rotation.
33. Trevor Hoffman – Padres. Can you picture him playing anywhere else?
34. Brad Penny – Blue Jays. Not that the Jays need more injury risk, but they’ve been connected to Penny in trade talks before.
35. Jeremy Affeldt – Indians. Affeldt could be a creative closer candidate for the Tribe. He may jump at the opportunity to pitch the ninth inning.
36. Jon Garland – Brewers. If Sabathia and Sheets leave, Garland can step in to eat some innings.
37. Paul Byrd – Pirates. The Pirates are said to want to add a veteran starter to the rotation. Neal Huntington knows Byrd from his Cleveland days.
38. Braden Looper – Giants. If Jonathan Sanchez is traded for a power hitter, the Giants might want a veteran to soak up innings.
39. Edgar Renteria – Cardinals. The American League hasn’t worked out for Renteria. If he’ll take a one-year deal, the Cardinals could bring him back. Pairing him with a (hopefully) strong defender like Hudson could work.
40. Joe Crede – Dodgers. If Crede can get past back problems, he might be a bargain on a one-year deal.
41. Koji Uehara – Royals. The Royals were interested in Hiroki Kuroda last year. Maybe they’ll add some rotation depth with Uehara.
42. Nick Punto – Rays. Cork Gaines suggested this idea to me. Seems feasible, unless Punto craves a starting job.
43. Damaso Marte – Cardinals. I thought the Yanks would exercise his $6MM option, but a recent report indicated otherwise. The Cardinals appear willing to spend some coin on a lefty reliever.
44. Juan Cruz – Tigers. A dark horse closing candidate, if he can improve his control. The Tigers don’t have much money to work with this winter.
45. Mark Kotsay – Reds. Kotsay can step in at center field for a year to allow younger players to come along.
46. Jason Varitek – Red Sox. Tek may find that no team is willing to give him an acceptable multiyear deal.
47. Garret Anderson – Angels. The Halos will decline his $14MM option, but may look to bring him back at a lower salary.
48. Odalis Perez – Nationals. They need a veteran to eat innings, and Perez is as good as any. If he demands multiple years, the Nats may choose to move on.
49. Felipe Lopez – Orioles. Lopez mashed with the Cards, though it was a short stint. If Scott Boras doesn’t get crazy over those 169 plate appearances, the Orioles could give him a shot on a one-year deal.
50. Jim Edmonds – Mariners. On a one-year deal, Edmonds could play center or DH against righthanders.
Honorable mentions: Rocco Baldelli, Joe Beimel, Doug Brocail, David Eckstein, Tom Glavine, Jerry Hairston Jr., Eric Hinske, Chan Ho Park, Jason Isringhausen, Cesar Izturis, Greg Maddux, Kevin Millar, Tomohiro Nioka, Darren Oliver, Miguel Olivo, Juan Rivera, David Weathers