The November Twelve
by Ross Friedman
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The very best thing about the "free agent era" of
baseball is that we now have baseball all year round.
October ends and the World Series with it but then we
get to go immediately into the "Hot Stove League."
This, along with 3 other major team sports should be
enough to just barely get us through the baseball
off-season. It's just enough until we hear those
magic words: "pitchers and catchers."
So now that we have finished the 2000 baseball season
let's take a look at 12 of the most coveted free
agents and where they may wind up, so we can start
making our predictions for the 2001 season.
Charles Johnson, White Sox Catcher
asset is his throwing arm. Well, that and the fact
that he's the only decent catcher in the free agent
market. Ivan Rodriguez is the only catcher in
baseball that can contain a running game better than
Johnson can, which helps allow his pitchers to
concentrate more on the batter than the baserunners.
Possible locations for the cannon-armed catcher
include the White Sox, Cardinals, Mariners, and
Andres Galarraga, Braves First Base
It is believed
that the Braves are going to go after bigger fish in
the free agent market and let Galarraga walk, which is
probably the correct decision for them. Whoever signs
the classy first baseman should try to do it to a
one-year contract. While still very productive and
great in the clubhouse, the 39 year-old former-cancer
patient might not have that much left. He could go
over to an American League team and DH, which would
lighten his workload and decrease his chances of
injury. Teams that may go after him include the
Tigers, Devil Rays, Orioles, and Red Sox.
Bobby Valentine, Mets Manager
Not only do we have
free agent players this year, we have more free agent
managers than usual. This includes Bobby Valentine,
the manager of the NL pennant winning Mets. It seems
there is a good chance Valentine will re-sign with the
Mets, however, if he doesn't it is almost certain he
will seek employment in Los Angeles as manager of the
Alex Rodriguez, Mariners Shortstop
Quite possibly the
biggest free agent prize ever. A 25-year old 40-40
shortstop who may very well go down as one of the top
ten players to ever wear a baseball uniform. A number
of teams will offer him over $20 million per season,
giving him the option of going where he wants instead
of for the highest offer. It's expected that the
Mariners, Mets, Braves, White Sox, Orioles, and
Dodgers will make a run at this prized shortstop.
Also, don't be surprised if George Steinbrenner and
the Yankees make a run at him and try to get him to
play third base along side his good buddy Derek Jeter.
Mike Mussina, Orioles Right Handed Pitcher
one of the top pitchers in the league every year.
While his won-loss record was unimpressive for the
2000 season, that was due mainly to unimpressive
teammates as his ERA was still one of the best in the
league. While it was believed that he wanted to stay
with Baltimore, it's now thought that he's more
willing to leave, as he doesn't like the direction
that the Orioles are going in. The Yankees, Mets, Red
Sox, Braves, Rockies, and Indians will all make a run
at the pitcher the Orioles will desperately try to
keep. The price tag may get as high as $15 million
per season for him.
Denny Neagle, Yankees Left Handed Pitcher
that if Mussina leaves the Orioles they may try to
sign Neagle, a native of Maryland, to take his place.
The Yankees are weary of giving him the $10 million
per season the southpaw seeks, as they see a lot of
Kenny Rogers in him. They do not trust him to pitch
the big game. The Dodgers, Rockies, Reds, Indians,
Tigers, and Red Sox may also pursue Neagle.
John Wettleland, Rangers Closer
The Rangers' plan was
to let Wettleland go after this past season. However,
after their bullpen underachieved they are no longer
confident they have a decent replacement for the
veteran closer. Wettleland himself also struggled
throughout the 2000 season, not to mention he's now 34
years old. However, he's been one of the most
consistent closers over the past ten seasons and is
the only legitimate closer on the free agent market.
Expect the Indians, Orioles, Tigers, and Dodgers to
make a run at Wettleland.
Manny Ramirez, Indians Outfielder
Arguably the best
hitter in baseball, he's the second biggest prize to
ARod this off-season. The Indians are going to try to
retain the 28-year old slugger, but there are rumors
that he'd love to play in his hometown New York, be it
for the Yankees or Mets. The Mets need a rightfielder
as Timo Perez was fun to watch but got very exposed in
the World Series, and the Yankees may not resign the
aging Paul O'Neill, leaving rightfield open for them
Jeff Nelson, Yankees Setup Man
Nelson has been an
integral part of his teams' postseason successes over
the past six years, including four championships with
the Yankees. After having public arguments with both
Joe Torre and George Steinbrenner during the 2000
season it was thought that Nelson wanted out.
However, since the World Series, he has said the
Yankees are once again his top choice, although he'll
still test the free agent waters. He could be used as
a closer, however he will be best utilized being a set
up man for a contending team. Expect the Indians,
Braves, Mariners, Cardinals, Dodgers, Rockies, and
Giants to pursue the tall right-hander.
Juan Gonzalez, Tigers Outfielder
The Tigers forced
themselves into a situation where they need to attempt
to retain their surly outfielder when they traded so
much for him. They will most likely give him the
largest financial offer, however when they won't agree
to bring their fences in 20 feet, the statistically
obsessed Gonzalez will not sign.
Expect him to try to go to the Red Sox, Rangers,
Orioles, Indians, or Rockies, all teams with stadiums
well suited for him.
Mike Hampton, Mets Left Handed Pitcher
The Mets will
surely try to retain Hampton. Their cross-town rivals
are expected to pursue him as well though, as being a
southpaw he is very suited for Yankee Stadium.
However, Hampton did not seem to enjoy his time in New
York and liked the atmosphere much better when he was
with the Astros. Both the Astros and Rangers may try
to obtain Hampton's services as well. The Braves
could get involved too. Expect him to make in the
$14-15 million per year range and most likely stay in
the National League as he enjoys hitting.
Tony Gwynn, Padres Outfielder
You almost believe that
when he turns 50 he'll still be able to hit .300.
However, he may not be healthy and therefore not that
productive of a player anymore. Some team (hopefully
the Padres) will overpay the 3000-hit member due to
his veteran presence. The Red Sox are one team that
can use some veteran leadership in their clubhouse.
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