Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hurry up and wait (part 1)

As Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum face off tonight, I started wondering something. No, I wasn't debating who's the better pitcher or even who will win the 2010 World Series. Like any true Hot Stove addict, I'm wondering what faces are trading places in this year's offseason. This winter should see a fair amount of deals go down because this is a relatively deep free agent class. Add to this the fact that there are also a number of marquee names who are under contract but will definitely be discussed as trade pieces and we should get an offseason full of rumors and, hopefully, personnel movement. Going off of Yahoo! Sports' Tim Brown article, here are ten names to keep an eye on and where exactly I think they will end up.

Matt Kemp (OF), Los Angeles Dodgers
The embattled centerfielder may have just worn out his welcome in the City of Angles. He's clearly a talented individual, wether with the bat, on the basepaths or in the outfield. The problem is consistent effort. Kemp did not get along well with Joe Torre and it is yet to be seen whether he will work well with new manager Don Mattingly who is a younger manager but also someone who is cut from the traditional baseball cloth. Despite his playing and limited coaching background, the perception is that Mattingly is more of a "players manager" than was Torre. Prediction: I don't think that the Dodgers are willing to give up on Kemp yet, despite his attitude. Mattingly will at least get a chance to get through to the young talent. Since Kemp is under contract, he would have to be traded and would likely net the Dodgers quite a haul of prospects but I just don't think the Dodgers will be willing to let him go this early in his career.

Adam Dunn (OF/1B), Free Agent
Dunn is undoubtably the biggest power bat available in this offseason, at least via free agency. Despite not having a true defensive position, Adam Dunn is always a threat to put 40+ baseballs over the fence each season, which is becoming more and more valuable in the post-steroid era. There will likely be many suitors for Dunn this winter and he will definitely command a large price on the open market. Early possibilities could include the Nationals, the Cubs, the Angels and the Mariners. Dunn will have to end up in a place where offense is emphasized more than defense, especially if he stays in the NL. Otherwise, he's best suited as a DH in the American League but could survive in left field (but just barely so). Prediction: I see Dunn signing with either the Cubs or the Angels. Chicago would take him with open arms and has money to spend as they always seem to. The Angles would take him as well, but probably only if they lose out on Carl Crawford and Jason Werth, both of whom will likely be their key targets. The Mariners need the pop but probably won't shell out the cash or take the defensive risk and the Nationals will likely wait in the wings and see how things play out before making an offer. My gut says he ends up on the Northside.

Adrian Gonzalez (1B), San Diego Padres
Unfortunately for Padre fans, the winter of 2010 may be the time that all of the trade talk surrounding Adrian Gonzalez comes to fruition. The only position player with any sort of clout in the Padre lineup, Gonzalez is a huge fish swimming in a muddle puddle in his current situation. He has power to all fields, plays a solid first base defensively and is a good teammate, making him essential total package. His deal is up at the end of 2011 so the Padres only have him for one more season. By trading him this offseason, as opposed to dealing him at the trade deadline, San Diego could get a healthy haul of prospects and probably one MLB-ready player in return for Gonzalez. Prediction: Boston has been long enamored with Gonzalez and would to snag the power firstbasmen but they appear to be somewhat unwilling to part with the pieces to complete the deal. The Cubs have an opening at first and could also be serious contenders. Despite the fact that the Red Sox and Cubs would love nothing more than to lure Gonzalez away from San Diego, I don't think the Padres will ultimately pull the trigger on dealing the man. Why? Because they're the Padres and they are sometimes willing let the ultimate opportunity pass them by. That will be the case here as well.

Rafael Soriano (RP), Free Agent
The Tampa Bay Rays employed one of the best closers in the game in 2010 but don't appear to be willing to bring him back. Soriano will likely be looking at a big time deal this offseason and the Rays are expected to be reducing payroll in a major way in 2011. As always, closers are debatable when it comes to big contracts. In his favor are the facts that Soriano has a good track record and is relatively young. He can be flat-out dominant at times and will probably get at least a 3-year deal worth $7-$9 million dollars per season. There aren't too any teams that have the capital to commit to a deal like that and most of the teams that do already have a closer who they've invested in. There are several potential suitors but nobody really jumps out at this stage of the game. Depending on Francisco Rodriguez' situation, the Mets could be involved as could the Red Sox if they decide to let Jonathan Papelbon go. The White Sox appear to be fed up with the declining Bobby Jenks and the Nationals could use back-end help that is dependable with a solid, young pitching staff expected to mature over the next few seasons. Don't count out the Angles in this sweepstakes, either. Prediction: I see the White Sox as the team most likely to sign Soriano with the Angels also getting in the mix. Ozzie Guillen likes to have a solid closer to turn to in the ninth and I think Soriano will be pitching for the Chi Sox in 2011.

Adrian Beltre (3B), Free Agent
After a breakout performance in 2010, Beltre will be looking to cash in for the long haul in 2011. After leaving Seattle, the third baseman put up MVP caliber numbers in 2010 for the Red Sox. He's a free agent once again this winter and the bidding could be intense. The Red Sox are likely the early favorites but that depends on what happens with catcher Victor Martinez and a possible trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Several other teams could use help at the hot corner, especially teams that value a good defensive third baseman like Beltre, but few will likely have the resources to bid on an aging slugger who could be resurrecting his career or just coming off a good season only to disappear like he did following his stellar 2004 campaign. Once again, the Angels could be a possibility as could be the Orioles, Dodgers, Tigers and Cardinals. I don't believe the Dodgers will bring him back and I can't see the Cardinals spending the money either. The Tigers are intriguing as they are probably going to let Ordonez walk without much of a struggle, making them a likely landing destination. The Orioles are looking for a power upgrade and Beltre could fit the bill because he already knows the divisional pitching staffs. The Red Sox would prefer to keep him but their priorities may lie elsewhere. Prediction: The Orioles will pay Beltre what it takes to bring him aboard. He will be a good fit for the O's if he keeps his form given the amount of good young talent they already have in place.

The other five names will be next to come!

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