Sunday, December 12, 2010

So Far, So Strange?

If you remember a recent post titled, "Hurry Up and Wait (Part 1&2), I tried to pick the likely landing spot of the top players that would (free agents) or might (trade candidates) be on the move. Let's see how I did, shall we?

10. Matt Kemp (CF) LAD
At the time, rumors were swirling that the Dodgers might be tempted to move their young, athletic, embattled center fielder. I promptly squashed this one and I'm glad I did. It seems that about as soon as this idea got off its feet, it disappeared. Wise move on the part of the Dodgers. Kemp could become truly elite if he realizes his potential and, even if he doesn't, he still possess the talent to be well above average.

9. Adam Dunn (1B/LF/DH) FA
When I wrote the previous article, Dunn had just hit free agency. The defensively-challenged slugger made the right call, moving from the National League to the DH-friendly American League. I predicted the right city but not the right team as I guessed the Cubs and Dunn ultimately signed with the White Sox. One reason why I didn't see this one coming was because the White Sox were expected to, and eventually did, re-sign All-Star first baseman Paul Konerko. Because of this, Chicago will have to use Dunn at the DH spot exclusively.

8. Adrian Gonzalez (1B) SD
The long time infatuation that the Red Sox had for the San Diego slugger finally came to fruition. The Sox pulled off arguably the most surprising move of the offseason when they acquired Gonzalez from teh Padres in exchange for three prospects and a player to be named later. While this appears to be a clear-cut salary dump for a small market team, and I suppose it mostly is, the Padres got excellent return in the deal, centered around Casey Kelley (a stellar pitching prospect). They also obtained Anthony Rizzo (a strong first baseman with the major written all over him), almost ensuring that Gonzalez will have a replacement shortly. While I fully expected Boston to make a hard push for him, I predicted that San Diego would once again fail to deal Gonzalez. Needless to say, this one got my attention!

7. Rafael Soriano (CP) FA
It's been widely known that the Rays are shedding payroll this offseason and Soriano was going to be a casualty of this action. My prediction was that Soriano would land in either Chicago (White Sox) or Anaheim. The Angels are clearly out of the mix because of their surprising move to sign a 35 year-old Scott Downs to a three year deal while the White Sox still remain a viable option. Jerry Riensdorf has already shown that he's willing to spend money this offseason (signing Dunn, Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski) and the back end of their bullpen is still incomplete since Bobby Jenks isn't coming back. This one is still up in the air but Soriano's market is shrinking. At this point, I'm betting on the Southside.

6. Adrian Beltre (3B) FA
Similarly to Soriano, Beltre has seen his market shrink following his re-breakout season in Boston. The Red Sox are moving on without him, the Orioles (my pick) went another direction (Mark Reynolds), the Tigers are spending their money elsewhere (Victor Martinez, possibly Magglio Ordonez) and the Cardinals are focussing on extending Pujols rather than signing overpriced, aging free agents. The Oakland A's have been in contact with Beltre and it appears that they are his only option at the moment. The Angels are still rumored to be in the mix but either way, it looks like Beltre won't be getting the cash he expected and he will likely end up back in the AL West, which doesn't suit him well (see Seattle Mariners).

5. Jayson Werth (RF) FA
Coming off a big season, Werth was expected to cash in big time and he certainly didn't disappoint. The Washington Nationals added the outfielder with a seven-year, $126 million contract. Considering that Werth is 31 and is just now playing exceptionally well, it appears that the Nats overpaid big time for a slugger who will undoubtably underachieve in the latter half of his contract. Somehow I predicted this one correctly, but I never expected him to receive the deal he got. Of course, neither did anyone else. Seven years is just too much for someone his age and the Nats will likely pay the price.

4. Prince Fielder (1B) MIL
Similarly to Kemp, I predicted that Fielder would be dangled but not traded. Indeed, talks around Prince have fallen off almost completely and the Brewers are saying that they won't be moving the slugger even though he is about to hit his contract year and an extension is unlikely. Expected Prince to be with the Brewers until at least the trade deadline.

3. Zack Greinke (SP) KC
Trade rumors around Greinke remain in play but I predicted that he would stay put and he is still a Royal, at least right now. Should the Yankees lose out on their number one target, Cliff Lee, they will likely make a big push for the Royals' ace. The Yankees are the only team that appears to be willing to part with the pieces to make a deal for Greinke an actual possibility. I got this one right, for now...

2. Carl Crawford (LF) FA
With speed to burn and a flare for making flashy plays, I couldn't see Carl Crawford going anywhere besides the Anaheim Angles. Apparently, neither could the Angels since they were shocked when the deal they were working out with Crawford fell through in the eleventh hour and he jumped across the AL East and wound up with the Red Sox. Boston was known to be a candidate but I expected them to pursue Werth more than Crawford. This deal, added to the earlier trade for Gonzalez, makes Boston the clear winner of the winter. Can they transfer that to the diamond?

1. Cliff Lee (SP) FA
The biggest fish in the pond is still swimming at the moment. Lee hasn't made a decision yet and it has baseball holding its collective breath. It appears to be a two team race with an unknown "darkhorse" lurking in the background. Currently, the Rangers and Yankees have the upper hand and it is believed to be between these two, as I guessed it would be. My prediction was that he would choose the Rangers and I still hope he does for a few reasons: it seems like a better fit for him (he's a country boy) and he wouldn't be pitching for Team Evil. Yes that means I would have to watch him carve up my Mariners a few times a year but I want to see some Fexlix Hernandez v. Cliff Lee matchups! I'm sticking with my prediction: the Rangers will lock him up with a seven year deal worth somewhere in the $155-165 million range.

Overall, I have four correct predictions with a chance to make it six (if Soriano ends up with the White Sox and Lee picks Texas). Not bad, I have to say, despite some earth-shattering deals that appeared to be longshots (Gonzalez to the Red Sox, Crawford in
Boston also). The winter is one of the best times to be a baseball fan!

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