1. CC Sabathia, free agent - Yankees, 7 yr-$161 mil Obviously the best free agent available on the market this year. This big domino has fallen (I mean "big" in several ways) and now all other pitchers and high-price players should start falling into place. The deal makes sense for Sabathia, you can't blame him for taking the money, and he gets a 3-year opt-out; however, his hesitance in signing immediately puts him under the already bright media spotlight in New York. Brian Cashman and arguably the most overpriced superstar Yankee free agent of all-time, Reggie Jackson, flying out to CC's home in California sealed the deal. My gut tells me with the deal being out there for so long, that a combination of no California team offering him a contract, and probably some badgering from his wife, had more to do with his decision than the extra $20 million thrown on the table. I'm not sure how many Kevin Brown-Mike Hampton-Barry Zito type deals are going to have to occur before teams realize that signing a pitcher for over 4 years in guaranteed money is ridiculous.
2. Francisco Rodriguez, free agent - Mets, 3 yr-$37 mil
I believe the highest yearly salary ever paid for a reliever not named Mariano Rivera, but don't quote me on that. I've always had been really hesitant about K-Rod's potential. True, he is young, and fun to watch, but watching him throw just makes me cringe and grasp my elbow every time...I've never seen more torque in a delivery. I wouldn't be surprised, knowing the Mets' bullpen peril in the past, if he blows out his arm before the contract is over.
3. Kerry Wood, free agent - Indians, 2 yr; deal still pending a physical
I view Kerry Wood as a flash in the pan as a closer. I felt he was unreliable, yet good in short stints last season. The Indians are smart to offer him two years, I think he nearing the end of his rope.
4. Mike Hampton, free agent - Astros, 1 yr
I think Hampton will have a serviceable comeback season and could really help this rotation if he stays healthy, as he enjoyed the best years of his career in Houston a decade ago. The Astros usually make a run in the 2nd half of the season, so their standings at the break could determine his fate.
5. Javier Vazquez, trade - with Boone Logan to Braves for 6 prospects
The first big trade of the offseason. Vazquez eats innings and always keeps you in the game...but that was with the White Sox. I don't see the Braves' bats being able to rescue him as much as the South Side Bombers did.
6. Raul Ibanez, free agent - Phillies, 3 yr
The best outfielder nobody knows about - a combination of a horrible team in the Pacific time zone limited his national exposure. The Phillies feel he's a better option than Pat the Bat, and I agree.
7. JJ Putz, 3-team trade - to Mets, Aaron Heilman to Indians, Franklin Gutierrez to Mariners as part of 12-player deal
I don't understand this trade, honestly...it was initiated by the Mets and I think they're giving up more in Heilman than they're gaining in Putz.
8. Junichi Tazawa - Red Sox, 3 yr-$3.4 mil
The first Japanese player to forgo the draft in his own country to join the MLB. He has average stuff by American standards, so paying a guy over $1 million a year to pitch in AAA definitely is a high risk move, but the Red Sox can afford it.
9. Ramon Hernandez, trade - to Reds for 2 prospects
The Reds have had 3 catchers on their roster the last couple seasons, but apparently they felt none of them, nor their upcoming prospect in AAA, were any good. And they gave up super-utility man Ryan Freel. Way to go, Reds.
10. Mike Cameron, trade - to Yankees for Melky Cabrera, deal still pending
Makes sense financially - Mike Cameron $10 million, Melky Cabrera made about $500K last season and will stand to rake in about a million in arbitration. Milwaukee feels Cabrera's youth and much-needed lefty bat will compensate for Cameron's outstanding defense. With CC, Sheets, and Cammy off the books, hopefully the Brewers can go after some good pitching, and if Melky doesn't work out, the Brewers have Lorenzo Cain and Tony Gwynn Jr waiting in the wings for 2010.
11. Jake Peavy to Cubs - deal is "dead"
Word on AM 670 the Score is that this deal is dead, after being all but certain 48 hours ago. Peavy is done being shopped until the trade deadline.
12. Mark Teixeira - Nationals offer 8 yr-$160 mil, Orioles offer 7 yr-$150 mil, Red Sox offer pending
This is an interesting case - Tex wants to play near home (Baltimore) and the O's and Nats have reciprocated. Only problem, is both teams are horrible. So knowing this, the Red Sox jump into the sweepstakes, but with Lowell and Youk, they really don't need him. Look for the Angels to make an offer now that CC and K-Rod are signed elsewhere.
13. AJ Burnett and Ben Sheets - Yankees offer 5 yr-$80 mil, 2 yr-$30 mil respectively
One would have to assume that one if not both of these pitchers will sign, and one would also have to assume that this would put the Yankees into the playoffs - I mean Big Ben as a #4, are you kidding me? However, I still sense a lot of broken hearts in the Bronx come October, despite the stellar rotation of Sabathia-Burnett-Sheets-Wang-Kennedy/Hughes/Joba; see 2008 Chicago Cubs and 1990s Atlanta Braves.
Other key free agents: Manny Ramirez, Derek Lowe, Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer, Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Rafael Furcal, Ivan Rodriguez, Adam Dunn, Jason Giambi, Joe Crede, Ken Griffey Jr, John Smoltz
The Braves, Rangers, and Brewers are teams that are looking for the most with the most money to spend. Most of the California teams, and obviously the Yankees and Red Sox, look to be buyers this offseason as well and should mop up the remaining names on this list.
And a brief update - Erik and I purchased our seats for our first Tour 2009 stop, the 2nd annual Winter Classic! We will be sitting in the centerfield bleachers on a New Year's Day at Wrigley, bundled up with souvenir hoodies and scarves. The final step, as with all our trips, is trying to procure a floor to sleep on for the night, or possibly to coax some of our friends to come down on New Years Eve with us and split a swank hotel. With all of our baseball trips planned for '09, the Winter Classic has kind of taken a back seat, but now that it is so close, we are very excited for New Year's in Chicago. The ice rink layout has been laid out and "construction" has already begun - I will be interested to see how the players manuver from the cramped Wrigley locker rooms, through the tunnel, up the dugout steps, and onto the field, wearing skates. Good news - Erik will have a new license by then that will not contain the "Under 21 until _____" label on it, allowing us to purchase Old Style. Bad news - we will probably be too hungover to drink beer anyways...and the tickets we ordered on StubHub are print-at-home, what the hell?!? Our next post will be upon our return!