Predicting where the big-name MLB free agents will land

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols comes to bat for the first time to a standing ovation during the last game of the regular season, against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on September 25, 2011. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Here are a couple of predictions sure to be wrong this winter. (It’s not that I lack confidence in my prediction abilities. I just have complete confidence that they won’t be right. But hey, let’s have some freaking fun anyway, huh?)

Albert Pujols: St. Louis Cardinals
Do the Cardinals really have any choice but to work out a deal with Pujols? He is their offense, period. Matt Holliday, David Freese and Lance Berkman are all nice players but their games are enhanced with the mere presence of Pujols, who remains the best hitter in baseball. St. Louis is coming off a miraculous World Series run and just lost icon Tony La Russa to retirement. Turning around and losing Pujols to the Cubs or Dodgers is simply unacceptable. I also believe that St. Louis is the only place Pujols wants to play. But he’s already said that he’s not going to take a hometown discount, which he shouldn’t. That said, considering the Cardinals have allowed him to essentially run the clubhouse over the last decade, he might find that the grass isn’t greener on the other side if he decides to leave. This is a marriage that should stick because it works for all parties involved.

Prince Fielder: Chicago Cubs
Seeing as how I don’t buy into the idea of Pujols leaving the Cardinals, the Cubs make the most sense for Fielder if they’re willing to spend. Signing Fielder could be the start of Theo Epstein’s rebuilding project in Chicago. While the Cubs have a couple of bad contracts on their books, Epstein could build his team around Fielder just like he did with Big Papi in Boston. Management would have to approve a $150-plus million contract for this deal to happen, but it’s clear the Cubs want to win. You don’t acquire Theo Epstein and then tell him to sit on his hands. Could you imagine how many home runs Fielder could hit at Wrigley? I think he just hit one deep while typing this…

Jose Reyes: New York Mets
There are plenty of suitors for Reyes, who is young and productive. The Marlins, Giants, Nationals, Phillies, Pirates, Reds, Twins, Rays and Cardinals could all get involved in the Reyes sweepstakes but in the end, I think he’ll return to the Big Apple. He’s a fan favorite and seemed willing to re-sign with the Mets during the season last year but the situation never played itself out. Trading Carlos Beltran during the deadline last year made sense, as does re-signing Reyes to a new long-term deal.

Carlos Beltran: Boston Red Sox
A return to San Francisco certainly makes sense for Beltran. The Giants obviously need hitting and GM Brian Sabean might want to save face after he inexcusably gave away his top pitching prospect for a three-month rental that didn’t even help San Fran make the playoffs. That said, the Giants still have Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito’s awful contracts on their books and once they get done paying Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, they’ll either be unable or unwilling to sign a big-name free agent. Boston, on the other hand, seems like a perfect place for a guy like Beltran to land. They’re always willing to spend and have a void in right field. Plus, they don’t shy away from risks and seeing as how Beltran is a 34-year-old injury concern, he qualifies as a risk. He’ll be their first free agent signing in the post-Epstein era.

C.J. Wilson: New York Yankees
I had the Rangers listed next to Wilson’s name but I have a feeling that the Yankees will do everything in their power to land the top pitcher on this year’s market. They need a top-of-the-rotation arm to complement CC Sabathia and while Wilson struggled mightily in the postseason this year, he still racked up 250 innings over 39 starts and was Texas’ best pitcher. The Yankees have deep pockets and after missing out on Cliff Lee last winter, they’ll pony up for another Ranger this time around.

Other Predictions:

Jimmy Rollins: Phillies
Aramis Ramirez: Orioles
Edwin Jackson: Nationals
Roy Oswalt: Rangers

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Mets owner slams Wright, Reyes and Beltran

New York Mets chairman and CEO Fred Wilpon talks to reporters at a news conference at Shea Stadium in New York in this October 1, 2002 file image. The owners of the New York Mets turned a blind eye to Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and should give up roughly $300 million of fictitious profits they made from the now imprisoned swindler, a new lawsuit said. Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee recovering money for Madoff’s victims, claims the partners at Sterling Equities, including the Mets’ Fred Wilpon, “were simply in too deep — having substantially supported their businesses with Madoff money — to do anything but ignore the gathering clouds. REUTERS/Jeff Christensen/Files (UNITED STATES) – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL BUSINESS CRIME LAW)

When your ballclub is in financial ruins because you mistakenly invested a significant amount of coin in what turned out to be a Ponzi scheme, naturally the next step is to criticize your own players when speaking to the media.

That’s exactly what Mets owner Fred Wilbon did when he spoke with The New Yorker’s Jeffery Toobin for a story about the impact of the Bernie Madoff investment scandal. In Wilbon’s crosshairs were Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran.

Shortstop Jose Reyes and his contractual future:
“He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford ($142 million) money. .. He’s had everything wrong with him physically). He won’t get it.”

David Wright and his rough start this season:
“He’s pressing. … A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.”

Carlos Beltran and the current $119 million contract Wilpon, himself, handed out:
“We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on one (postseason) series. … He’s 65 to 75 % of what he was.”

There will be some Mets and non-Mets fans that will say Wilbon spoke the truth. And maybe he did. Maybe he’s right when he says Reyes is delusional about wanting Carl Crawford-type money, that Wright isn’t a superstar despite being viewed publicly as one of the best at his position, and that Beltran is a shell of his former self.

But whether or not you agree with what he said, he still shouldn’t have said it. It does him, nor the Mets organization any good to dog the club’s three best players. What will these comments say to future free agents? Hey, come sign with the Mets and you not only can play for a crap team, but maybe one day you’ll get slammed by the owner as well! It’s a riot!

There was nothing, and I mean nothing, constructive about Wilpon’s comments. If you’re an owner, you just don’t say what he did, regardless of whether or not you’re just “speaking the truth.” He’s running a professional baseball organization for cribs’ sake – it’s never a good time for an owner to slam his players unless he’s trying to motivate them. And even then: Shut your mouth and let your baseball people handle the baseball operations.

I don’t follow the Mets 24/7 so if I’m wrong with what I’m about to say, someone please tell me. But as far as I can tell, Wright, Reyes and Beltran have been nothing but professional when it comes to the Mets and the media. They would never say anything about their owner like what Wilpon said about them. And to Wright’s credit, he e-mailed Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal saying: “Fred is a good man and is obviously going through some difficult times. There is nothing more productive that I can say at this time.”

The key word there is “productive.” There was nothing productive about Wilpon’s comments and it’s nice to see that in the wake of being dumped on by his owner, Wright stayed classy.

Jose Reyes to remain a Met…for now.

New York Mets batter Jose Reyes slides into third base with a triple against the Philadelphia Phillies in the fourth inning of their MLB National League baseball game in New York August 14, 2010. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Giants fans had to be excited when they woke up on Wednesday to a report from Mychael Urban of CSN Bay Area that said their club was interested in acquiring Mets’ shortstop Jose Reyes. But they’ll have to temper that excitement for now.

GM Brian Sabean told Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.com that he hasn’t spoken with his Mets’ counterpart Sandy Alderson since January. So as Rubin notes, Reyes may be a fit for San Francisco but a deal won’t be happening anytime soon.

When Juan Uribe surprised the Giants’ brass last winter by signing with the rival Dodgers, Sabean became desperate to fill the hole at shortstop. So he overpaid (a habit he seems to enjoy) for Miguel Tejada, who signed a one-year, $6.5 million contract in November. It’s only been 30 games but the fans in San Francisco have already grown restless with Tejada’s shoddy play. He’s hitting just .204 with one home run and possesses a dismal .243 on base percentage. What’s worse is that his play in the infield has been just as bad. (His error at third base a few nights ago ruined what had been a great outing from youngster Madison Bumgarner.)

But while fans may want Reyes in a Giants’ uniform today, the club isn’t going to give up on a $6.5 million offseason investment after only one month. Granted, it’s not the fans or the rest of the team’s fault that Sabean seemingly screwed the pooch by not only signing Tejada, but also overpaying for him as well. But those are the breaks.

There are other factors to consider as well when it comes to trading for a guy like Reyes, which I outlined in this post yesterday. The bottom line is that Reyes isn’t going anywhere today, next week, or even a month from now. He’s probably going to be in New York until the trade deadline approaches in July. So for now, Giant fans will just have to hope that someone like Mark DeRosa (who has spent more time on the disabled list than on the field since Sabean signed him to a two-year deal last year) can save them from their Tejada misery.

Should the Giants acquire Jose Reyes?

New York Mets’ Jose Reyes signs an autograph before their MLB spring training baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida March 12, 2011. REUTERS/Scott Audette (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

For those who have had the misfortune of watching Miguel Tejada play on a nightly basis, the answer to the question in the title should roll off the tongue: “Yes. Yes the Giants should acquire Jose Reyes. Please God, in all your holiness, allow the Giants to acquire Jose Reyes so that I don’t have to continue to endure Miguel Tejada.”

But the question becomes a little more convoluted when you consider the many factors that would go into trading for Reyes. For starters, the Giants would have to accommodate his $11 million salary this year. That may not be a big deal in the short term, but there are rumors that the 27-year-old will be looking to match Carl Crawford’s seven-year, $142 million deal when he hits free agency this winter. Would the Giants be willing to give up a top prospect in order to acquire a rent-a-player for a couple of months? Furthermore, should they?

The Mets will probably ask but it’s doubtful that the Giants would part with either Madison Bumgarner or Brandon Belt. Either of those players would be too much to give up to acquire a player that New York is looking to dump anyway. The Giants could pitch (pun definitely intended) Jonathan Sanchez in a deal, although that would leave a gapping hole in their pristine rotation. They could probably get by with a starting five of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Bumgarner, Barry Zito and Ryan Volgelsong, but why weaken the pitching staff when the point of acquiring Reyes is to win now?

The more likely scenario for the Giants is to center a deal around former first rounder Zack Wheeler, who was taken sixth overall in 2009. He is one of the top 55 best prospects in the game and while it would deplete the Giants’ already thin farm system, they could stomach that blow much easier than they could if they dealt someone like Sanchez.

But again, it all comes back to whether or not the Giants should make a deal like this. Yes, Reyes would be a massive upgrade over Tejada and once Pablo Sandoval returns in 4-6 weeks, their struggling offense would like rather potent. Assuming Reyes stays healthy and continues to hit as well as he has over the first month of the season, he could lift the Giants back into World Series contention. That said, does a team like San Fran make a move like this for a potential rent-a-player? It’s a tough call, although a few more weeks of watching Tejada flail at pitches and try to play ground balls to his side could force the Giants’ hand.

2011 Fantasy Rankings: Shortstops

All 2011 Fantasy Articles | 2011 Position Rankings

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. Shortstop is the new second base, a fantasy wasteland where only six (!) players are projected to be drafted in the first ten rounds. Six, out of a hundred. That’s bad.

New York Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter warms up before the Yankees take on the Texas Rangers in game four of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium on October 19, 2010 in New York. UPI/Monika Graff

“Hello. I’m Derek Jeter, and you’re not.”

Worse, only five of those players are proven fantasy performers year after year, and even that is stretching the truth until it nearly breaks. Truth be told, there is one guy in this group (Hanley Ramirez) that has held up as a reliable fantasy stud. The rest are streaky, as in ‘Will Ferrell in “Old School”‘ streaky. (Tulo, we’re looking at you.) What is a fantasy manager to do once Hanley and Troy Tulowitzki are off the board? For starters, don’t panic, and for God’s sake don’t reach. Continue to take the best guy on the board, and see if one of these guys lands in your lap.

Jose Reyes, Mets
The late, great Sparky Anderson once said, “Just give me 25 guys on the last year of their contracts; I’ll win a pennant every year.” You think he wouldn’t love to have Reyes this year, since he’s essentially auditioning for all of Major League Baseball? The Mets are so bogged down with money issues that there has even been speculation that they will have a hard time paying their players, which makes the likelihood of a contract extension to Reyes unlikely. Meanwhile, the shortstop of the Red Sox, Marco Scutaro, has a player option on his contract for next year, which the club could buy out for $1.5 million. Don’t think for a minute that Reyes doesn’t know this, and will bust his ass to get him some Carl Crawford money. Having said that, don’t bid the moon and the stars to get him. If he comes to you, great. If not, then take a look at…

Marco Scutaro, Red Sox
Reyes’ 2010 stat line was .282-83-11-54-30. Scutaro’s line was .275-92-11-56-5. Nearly identical in every category except steals, and he can be had 11 rounds after Reyes is off the board. If you play in a points league and Reyes is gone, take a deep breath, and remember that the next best thing is a mere 110 picks away. Scutaro is the textbook definition of a value pick, even if he spends the entire year in the 9-hole.

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