The November Twelve

by Ross Friedman

<!-- Article Starts Here --!> 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
Johnson's biggest 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 Athletics.

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 Dodgers.

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
Mussina is 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
Many think 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 as well.

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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