Keeping in mind that trades could well alter what happens with free agents, here are some predictions for some of the top players on the market:
CC Sabathia: It has been nearly five days since the Yankees made him a record-setting offer and not one other team has stepped forward with a rebuttal. The only other offer on the table is the paltry (ha!) $100 million from Milwaukee. The question now is whether agent Greg Genske can scare up a second team to compete with the Yankees. He may be able to, but this is a fight nobody else can win. Prediction: Yankees for six years and $145 million.
A.J. Burnett: Nine DL trips since 2000 aren’t a fluke. Neither is the fact that he only throws 200 innings in a contract year. But he has lockdown stuff and the Yankees seem to have a huge crush on him. If you’re going to make a mistake, you might as well make it with a player with a high ceiling. Maybe Burnett has turned the corner, but I’d be wary. Prediction: Yankees for four years and $60 million.
Mark Teixeira: It has been about 30 seconds since receiving my last e-mail from a fan saying how Teixeira could solve every problem the Yankees have. I agree, he would be great. However the Yankees aren’t dropping $210 million again this season. In these troubling times, we all have to make sacrifices. This is theirs. Prediction: Angels for eight years and $145 million.
Manny Ramirez: From a selfish standpoint, I want him to sign with the Yankees just to see the look on Joe Girardi’s face when his new left fielder walks into the clubhouse at Steinbrenner Field with those Lenny Kravitz dreads. But it’s not happening. Manny can still mash but he’ll be 37 and baseball people can’t forgive or forget what he did to weasel out of his Red Sox deal. The Dodgers risk losing the town to the Angels if they don’t make this happen. Prediction: Dodgers for three years and $72 million with a vesting option for a fourth season.
Frankie Rodriguez: The Mets caught a break when so many closers flooded the market just as they needed one. Rodriguez has designs on breaking the bank. But in the end, he’ll get the best deal from the Mets and have to take it. Prediction: Mets for four years and $52 million.
Andy Pettitte: The Yankees got blindsided by the Mitchell Report last season but gamely hung in with Pettitte and threw their support his way without equivocation. It’s hard to say he owes them one. But he can’t expect his $16 million again, not to be a No. 4 starter. Prediction: Yankees for one year and $12 million.
Derek Lowe: The Red Sox chased him out of town in 2004 like he had stolen something. But Lowe pitched well for the Dodgers and cleaned up his act. Now he’s one of the most attractive free agents on the market thanks to his durability and postseason success. Prediction: Red Sox for three years and $45 million.
Jason Varitek: Scott Boras has been doing some of his best spinning with this guy. At the GM Meetings, somebody asked Scott whether Varitek would want to go to a new team because he would have to learn a new pitching staff. “Jason Varitek doesn’t learn pitching staffs,” Boras said without a pause. “He teaches them.” Priceless. That said, Varitek needs the Sox and they need him. Prediction: Red Sox for two years and $23 million.
Brian Fuentes: His funky delivery and strikeout rate makes him an attractive pickup. He’ll end up in the midwest someplace, with the Tigers, Indians and Brewers all needing a closer. Prediction: Brewers for three years and $33 million.
Adam Dunn: There is a distinct lack of buzz around Dunn for some reason. The statheads love him because he’s a sure thing every year. You live with the strikeouts but he gets on base and hits home runs. The baseball guy hate him because he has no position and doesn’t seem overly interested. Washington, a dying franchise already, needs a spark. Prediction: Nationals for three years and $36 million.
Bobby Abreu: It would be nice for the Yankees if he accepted arbitration and came back for a year. But he makes too much sense for the Cubs. They need a lefty hitter and a right fielder. Prediction: Cubs for three years and $44 million.
Ben Sheets: Here’s the ultimate risk/reward guy. He could be great, he could clutch his elbow at any time. Prediction: Cardinals for two years and $24 million with an option.
Ryan Dempster: Lots of folks e-mailing asking why the Yankees aren’t in the mix. Two reasons: 2008 was his first good season as a starter since 2001 and the belief is he will stay with the Cubs. Prediction: Cubs, three years and $36 million. (Update, Dan Graziano of the Star-Ledger is reporting that Dempster has agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal. So I was close on the AAV, missed by a year).
Jason Giambi: Brian Cashman, among others, believes that Giambi will have a productive 2009 season if he’s in the right situation. That means an AL team that can spot him in the field and give him some DH days. I thought he would go to the A’s before they got Matt Holliday. Maybe he still will. But I see him staying in the AL East. Prediction: Toronto for two years and $24 million.