Tagged: Carlos Beltran

You’re Welcome…..

On the day he will be introduced as the newest New York Yankee, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury took out a full-page ad in the Boston Globe to thank Red Sox fans for seven years of “great memories.”

Ells Globe Thank You

Ellsbury, fresh off winning his second World Series ring with the Red Sox, agreed to a $153 million deal with New York last week. The contract includes a $21 million team option for the 2021 season, with a $5 million buyout. If the option is exercised, the deal would be worth $169 million over eight years.

Jacoby will wear No. 22 with the Yankees, (he wore No. 2 with the Red Sox, but obviously that belongs to Yankees captain Derek Jeter) taking over the number of Roger Clemens, another Boston Red Sox star who moved south to New York.

Ellsbury, who turned 30 in September, led the majors with 52 stolen bases despite being hobbled late in the season by a broken right foot. The lefty-hitting leadoff man batted .298 with nine homers and 53 RBIs, and the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium should boost his power numbers.

He is part of a rebuilding plan by the Yankees, who lost All-Star second baseman to Seattle. New York also agreed to deals with catcher Brian McCann and outfielder Carlos Beltran.

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Don’t Let The Door Hit Ya’…

Ells 2013 PSThe New York Yankees made it official Saturday, announcing the completion of a seven-year deal with free-agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and a one-year contract for returning starter Hiroki Kuroda.

The busy Bronx Bombers have been undergoing a pricey roster overhaul after missing the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years.

Ellsbury, fresh off winning the World Series with Boston, agreed to a $153 million deal with New York on Tuesday. The contract includes a $21 million team option for the 2021 season, with a $5 million buyout. If the option is exercised, the deal would be worth $169 million over eight years.

The Yankees will hold an introductory news conference for Ellsbury at Yankee Stadium on Friday.

Ellsbury, who turned 30 in September, led the majors with 52 stolen bases despite being hobbled late in the season by a broken right foot. The lefty-hitting leadoff man batted .298 with nine homers and 53 RBIs, and the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium should boost his power numbers.

He joins a crowded outfield that will include Carlos Beltran, who agreed to a three-year, $45 million contract, according to two people familiar with the deal, on Friday. Beltran’s agreement came hours after All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano decided to leave for Seattle.

 

Whoo-pee!

Free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran has agreed to a three-year, $45 million deal with the New York Yankees, sources confirmed to ESPN.com on Friday night.

Beltran, 36, hit .296 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs in 145 games this past season for the NL champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Beltran took $3 million less to sign with the Yankees, sources told ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand. Beltran had an offer for three years and $48 million with another club. A source with knowledge of those discussions said Beltran was “down the road” with that team.

Beltran met with the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix earlier this week, when the team made a three-year offer exceeding $45 million, The Arizona Republic reported Friday.

The Kansas City Royals, Beltran’s first major league team, also pursued him. But the Royals filled their outfield void with a trade for Milwaukee’s Norichika Aoki on Thursday.

The Yankees had sent out signals that they wouldn’t be willing to go to three years on a deal for Beltran, but they relented to get an agreement done in advance of the winter meetings, which begin Monday in Orlando, Fla.  The pact with Beltran, which comes on the same day former Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano agreed to a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Seattle Mariners, marks the latest addition to a revamped lineup in the Bronx.

Beltran and fellow free-agent signings Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann will give manager Joe Girardi a decidedly new batting order for a total long-term cost of $283 million.

Game 5, Like Deja Vu all over again

Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)

Scouting report on Wainwright: Not much went right for Wainwright in Game 1 against the Red Sox. A seven-pitch walk to Jacoby Ellsbury in the first was only the start of the 32-year-old’s rough night as he allowed three runs in the opening inning, partly due to poor defensive play behind him. However, with the series tied 2-2, Wainwright has another crack at giving his team the advantage moving forward.
“It’s a pretty clean slate [from my last start],” Wainwright said Sunday in his news conference at Busch Stadium. “I honestly don’t know why my mechanics were as bad as they were [and] my delivery was off as much as it was. But I feel like I’ve put a lot of good reps in in front of the mirror and watching film and feeling my delivery again.”
“I feel like I’ve made a lot of good adjustments to be ready for this next game to throw some quality pitches.”
Wainwright distraughtIn his Game 1 start, Wainwright’s curveball was his best pitch. He used his curveball for 15 of his final 33 pitches, a span that saw him retire seven straight batters before allowing a David Ortiz single in the fifth inning that he was able to pitch around. Overall, Wainwright went five innings, allowing five runs (three earned) on six hits and striking out four.
“I learned that they hit mistakes,” Wainwright said of his first career start against Boston last Wednesday. “And I learned that if I make mistakes in the middle of the plate up in the zone, they’re going to hit them.”
Overall, Wainwright is 2-2 in his four postseason starts with a 2.25 ERA. The right-hander has allowed seven runs (five earned) in his past 12 innings after allowing only two runs in his first 16 innings pitched of the playoffs.

Scouting report on Lester: Putting aside the speculation that he was in some way doctoring his pitches in Game 1, Lester pitched masterfully, shutting out the Cardinals’ potent offense for 7 2/3 innings and striking out eight batters. The start was yet another in a string of successful starts Lester has made in October, something he says he doesn’t know how to explain.
“I feel like I’ve pitched pretty [well] throughout most of my seasons, and it’s just carried over into the postseason,” Lester said Sunday. “I don’t know what it is. I like this stage. I like knowing that I’ve got to go out there and give everything I’ve got for my teammates, because tomorrow might be our last game. You don’t know; I guess that just gives you that little extra focus.”
Lester WS Game 1Of Lester’s 10 career postseason starts, seven have been of the quality variety — at least six innings pitched and three runs or fewer allowed. The 29-year-old has gone 5-4 in 12 postseason appearances overall, posting a 2.22 ERA. Of his 69 postseason innings pitched, 13 1/3 have come in the World Series, where he has yet to allow a run.
“I think the one thing that we all recognize is that the power stuff wins in the postseason,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Sunday. “He’s got it, he maintains it, and yet, in addition to his physical strengths, there’s a level of concentration that he’s capable of maintaining that gives him the ability to execute consistently over the time he’s on the mound. Those two things combined are what’s given [him] the career performance he’s had in the postseason.”
This will be the first time in his career that Lester has made five starts in a single postseason.
Three Cardinals players to watch

Carlos Beltran, RF: Beltran was only given one shot at Lester in Game 1, striking outBeltran robs the HR swinging on four pitches before being removed from the game due to a rib contusion. Beltran has three hits in 10 World Series at-bats so far, two of which have come in his two at-bats with runners in scoring position. Beltran was left with a bat in his hand at home plate in the ninth inning of Game 4 after Kolten Wong was picked off first base to end the game.
David Freese, 3B: Since singling in the ninth inning of Game 1, Freese has been held hitless in his past eight at-bats, a streak that’s resulted in him being dropped to seventh in the order. Of the 13 runners he’s left on base the past four games, six have been left in scoring position.
Pete Kozma, SS: In keeping with pattern, manager Mike Matheny has selected Kozma to start at short in Games 1 and 3 while going with Daniel Descalso in Games 2 and 4. The difference between the two has been a wash offensively, as Descalso is 0-for-6 while Kozma is 0-for-8 through the first four games of the series. However, Kozma was the only St. Louis Cardinals hitter to not strike out in Game 1, seeing 13 pitches in his three plate appearances.
Three Red Sox players to watch

David Ortiz, 1B: A lot of the talk leading into the World Series was about how manyOrtiz 2013 WS HR games Ortiz would play at first base over Mike Napoli. But Ortiz has ended that conversation, with a gaudy .727 batting average, a result of eight hits in 11 at-bats. His eight hits have accounted for a third of the Red Sox’s total in the series (24). He also has two of Boston’s three homers and he leads the team in RBI (5) and runs (5). He has collected hits in his past four at-bats and is the only Boston starter to not strike out so far.
Jonny Gomes, LF: With outfielder Shane Victorino’s status still unknown following his late scratch before Game 4, Gomes re-proved his worth in the lineup to Farrell by hitting what turned out to be the game-winning three-run home run for Boston in the sixth inning, ending his 0-for-9 skid to start the World Series. Gomes also worked a 10-pitch walk in the fifth and a six-pitch walk in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game, a step back on the right track for a player with whom Boston has won eight of nine postseason starts.
Xander Bogaerts, 3B: Bogaerts started off the series going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in Games 1 and 2 before turning it on in St. Louis to collect three hits in his past seven at-bats. The 21-year-old’s .231 average is third on the team behind Ortiz (.727) and Dustin Pedroia (.267).
Three key considerations:
• Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa has appeared in all four World Series games, the only pitcher on either team to do so. Farrell has used Tazawa to face just one batter in three of his four appearances, something the 27-year-old did in only two of his 71 appearances during the regular season.
• Sunday night’s win guaranteed that the series will shift back to Fenway Park for at least a Game 6. So far this postseason, Boston is 5-2 at home compared to 4-3 on the road.
• David Ross will be back behind the plate in Game 5, according to Farrell. Ross has Ross postseasoncaught all four of Lester’s starts this postseason, including Game 1 where he went 1-for-2 against Wainwright. It will be Ross’s second consecutive start since regular starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia made a throw that led to the obstruction call that ended Game 3.

10 Reasons to get Excited about the 2013 World Series

This probably isn’t the World Series most baseball folks wanted, assuming you don’t root for the Red Sox or Cardinals. After all, both franchises have been to the World Series multiple times in the past decade and both have won twice. So maybe you wanted some new blood.

Instead you’ll get beards. Lots of them.

But you also get two great teams, with no shortage of reasons to watch. Here are 10:

1. Adam Wainwright. He was a rookie closer when the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006 but was injured when they won again in 2011. In a season where much of the attention for pitchers went to Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Matt Harvey and Mariano Rivera, Wainwright quietly went 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA while leading the majors in innings pitched. This is his chance to make his October mark in Cardinals history alongside the likes of Bob Gibson and his mentor Chris Carpenter, who won two games in the 2011 World Series. He has that big curveball — maybe the best since Bert Blyleven was spinning his own — that he’ll throw on any count but is especially deadly with two strikes, when opponents hit .118 with 130 strikeouts in 238 plate appearances.

2. David Ortiz versus Carlos Beltran. They’re not facing each other, but you sort of get the feeling they are. Few hitters have delivered in their playoff careers like these two, although Ortiz did go just 2-for-22 in the American League Championship Series. Beltran had six RBIs in each of the Cardinals’ first two series and now gets the opportunity to play in his first World Series … and perhaps make a Hall of Fame statement.

Lackey 2013 PS3. John Lackey’s redemption. Two years ago he was the most hated man in Boston after posting a 6.41 ERA in 28 starts and ordering lots of fried chicken between starts. Now, after beating Justin Verlander 1-0 in the ALCS, he’s going to start Game 2 of the World Series. Remember, he’s familiar with the pressures of a big game: As a rookie with the Angels in the 2002 World Series, he was the winning pitcher in Game 7.

4. Yadier Molina. One of the memories of the 2011 World Series that stuck with me was the ovations Molina received from his home fans — louder than those given Albert Pujols. Perhaps Cardinals fans anticipated Pujols’ departure, or maybe they just appreciated everything Molina does for the team, from his hitting to his defense to the confidence he instills in his pitchers. Few players ever perfect their jobs on a baseball field, but you get the idea Molina has perfected playing catcher. Appreciate and enjoy. And then see if the Red Sox — who set the all-time record for stolen-base percentage (123 for 142) — attempt to run on him.

5. Power versus RISP. Each team led its league in runs scored, just the fourth time since 1976 that’s happened (1976, Reds-Yankees; 2004, Cardinals-Red Sox; 2009, Phillies-Yankees), but did so in different ways. The Red Sox, while not as powerful as some Red Sox teams of the past, hit 178 home runs (sixth in the majors), but also pounded out 363 doubles (first) and drew 581 walks (third). The Cardinals ranked 27th in the majors in home runs and don’t steal many bases (just 45), but they put the ball in play, an attribute that allowed them to hit .330 with runners in scoring position, the highest figure in the majors since that stat has been recorded beginning in 1961. The Red Sox beat the Tigers largely because of three key home runs — the grand slams from Ortiz and Shane Victorino plus Mike Napoli’s solo shot in the 1-0 victory in Game 3 — and while the Cardinals have hit just .210 in the postseason they’ve hit .286 with RISP.

6. Michael Wacha. In the span of 16 months he’s gone from Texas A&M to … well, almost unhittable. In his past four starts, going back to his final outing of the regular season, he’s allowed an .093 batting average — 9 for 97. In his three postseason starts, he’s allowed one run for a tidy 0.43 ERA. He has a chance to become just the sixth pitcher to have four starts in one postseason where he allowed one run or less, joining Blue Moon Odom (1972), Burt Hooton (1981), John Smoltz (1996), Ryan Vogelsong (2012) and Curt Schilling (2001, the only one with five). I can’t wait to see what the rookie does.

Xander Bogaerts Fenway7. Xander Bogaerts. He just turned 21 and had just 18 games of big-league experience before the playoffs began. Now he may be starting at third base, like he did the final two games of the ALCS. He’s going to be a big star down the road so this is kind of like a sneak preview. He’s had 11 plate appearances in the playoffs and drawn five walks while going 3-for-6. How can a kid have such a mature approach at the plate?

8. Cardinals relievers. Speaking of kids, the Cardinals’ top four relievers right now — Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness — are all rookies. Teams have won before with rookie closers — Bobby Jenks of the White Sox in 2005, Wainwright in 2006 — and the Cardinals had some inexperienced relievers in 2011. But four rookie relievers in key roles? (Five if you include starter Shelby Miller working out of the bullpen.) How can you not be pumped watching Rosenthal and Martinez throwing 100 mph in the eighth and ninth innings?

Koji 20139. Koji Uehara’s splitter. It’s the most dominant 81 mph pitch in baseball history, a force of nature that breaks the natural laws of baseball, a pitcher who turns skilled batsmen into helpless amateurs. Including the postseason, batters are hitting .134 off Uehara. Against the splitter, they’re hitting .096. Since the All-Star break, they’re hitting .074 against the splitter, just 6-for-81 with 37 strikeouts and no walks. He’s 38 years old and basically the opposite of the gas-throwing Rosenthal and Martinez. The contrast in styles should make for some exciting late-game drama. One more thing: In what other sport could a 38-year-old guy, who while a good pitcher was never to be confused with Mariano Rivera, suddenly have a year better than any season Rivera ever had?

10. The best against the best. For the time since 1999, the teams with the best records in the majors will face off in the World Series. For the time since 2004, the teams with the best run differentials will face off. The rejuvenated, bearded Red Sox against the youthful, talented Cardinals. Players trying to create postseason legacies, others trying to add to existing ones. Big stars and future stars on the rise. It’s a World Series that has the elements for a classic duel. I think we’re going to get one.

As if you didn’t already know…..

Game 1 2013 WS

Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)

Scouting report on Wainwright: To win the ALCS, the Red Sox had to overcome one of the best starting pitcher trios ever seen in the form of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez of the Detroit Tigers. Now, Game 1 of the World Series has them facing one of the best starting pitchers they’ve never seen in the form of Wainwright.
“I know I’ll have my work cut out for me,” Wainwright said. “One of my favorite things to do in the world is game plan for a game. I’ll spend a good amount of time today and tomorrow coming up with a nice plan.”
If it’s anything like the plan Wainwright has had in place for his three postseason starts so far, the Red Sox may be in trouble. The 32-year-old has gone 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA in those starts, including the only complete game thrown of the postseason (Game 5 of the NLDS against the Pittsburgh Pirates).
Despite the unfamiliarity with Boston, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny believes the team is similar to his own.
“You hear some of the things that they say and it’s a lot of similar things that have been preached in our clubhouse,” Matheny said. “Grinding out at-bats and playing tough, playing hard, playing all the way through nine. Those are the things that I believe set good teams apart and that’s what they’re all about.”
Grinding out at-bats will be tough against Wainwright, who walked only 35 batters in 241 2/3 innings pitched during the regular season and has walked only one batter in the postseason (23 innings pitched). However, the right-hander also allowed a NL-high 223 hits.

Scouting report on Lester: Unlike Wainwright, Lester has faced his opposition before, throwing 7 1/3 innings and allowing two runs on nine hits in a June 2008 start against St. Louis at Fenway Park. The only remaining Cardinals hitter from that game is Yadier Molina, who started at first base and went 0-for-3 against Lester.
“I’m a visual person so I like to prepare for a team by watching what I’ve done against them in the past,” Lester said. “That’s going to be a little tough [with the Cardinals] but that’s where you rely on your scouting department.”
The most blaring statistic Boston’s scouts will tell Lester? St. Louis’ batting average with runners in scoring position is a robust .330. Considering that reliable RISP statistics started being kept in 1961, the total easily topped the previous high set by the 2007 Detroit Tigers (.311)
“You just have to bear down in those situations,” Lester said. “The biggest thing is don’t let it turn into a big inning, that’s where you get into some trouble in the postseason.”
Lester has gone 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in three postseason starts for Boston so far. The 29-year-old was on the mound for Boston’s last World Series win, Game 4 of the 2007 sweep against the Colorado Rockies.

Three Cardinals players to watch

Allen Craig, DH: The leading candidate for player to watch during the entire series, Craig hasn’t played in a game since Sept. 4, a result of a foot injury. Before going down, the 29-year-old was considered a candidate for the NL MVP, hitting .315 with 13 home runs and 97 RBIs. Craig’s .454 batting average with runners in scoring position was the best in the majors during the regular season. Matheny expects to keep Craig limited to designated hitting at Fenway and pinch hitting at Busch Stadium for the time being.

Holliday 2007 WS Matt Holliday, LF: Part of the 2007 Rockies team that lost to the Red Sox in the World Series, Holliday has been up-and-down the past two months. September saw the 33-year-old hit .378 in 23 games before slumping to a .244 average in 11 October games. Holliday has found success in his six games at Fenway, hitting .346 with a home run and three doubles. Holliday has faced Lester six times, getting two hits in the process.

Carlos Beltran, RF: Oft-described as the Cardinals’  postseason inspiration, Beltran will be playing in his first World Series. With 45 playoff games already under his belt, the 36-year-old should be no stranger to the big stage as he has hit .337 with 16 home runs in his previous postseason experience. Beltran has faced Lester three times without being retired, going 1-for-1 with two walks.

Three Red Sox players to watch

Ells 2013 PSJacoby Ellsbury, CF: All eyes figure to be on Ellsbury for the Red Sox this series as the speedy outfielder takes his 92.8 percent stolen-base success rate up against Cardinals catcher Molina’s 43 percent caught-stealing rate. Ellsbury has stolen six bases in seven attempts so far this postseason.

David Ortiz, DH: Wednesday will mark Ortiz’s ninth career World Series game as this is his third time playing in the Fall Classic. In his previous eight games, the left-handed slugger hit .321 with a home run and eight RBIs, four coming each year (2004 and 2007).

Stephen Drew, SS: After a poor performance in the ALCS that saw Drew collect one hit in 20 at-bats while striking out 10 times, the World Series will represent a clean slate for Boston’s shortstop. Unfortunately Drew’s numbers against Wainwright don’t bode well for him as he’s collected only two hits in 21 plate appearances against the Cardinals ace.

Three Key Considerations:
The Man vs The Kid 1946• The Red Sox and Cardinals have met three times in the World Series before (1946, 1967 and 2004), with the Cardinals winning the first two matchups in seven games and Boston sweeping St. Louis in 2004.

• Farrell said Monday that he plans to utilize Ortiz at first base when the Red Sox play with NL rules at Busch Stadium. Farrell is unsure how many games Ortiz will play, but the move will shift regular first baseman Mike Napoli out of the lineup.

• Starters John Lackey and Clay Buchholz were once again flipped in the rotation, as Lackey will draw the start in Game 2 and Buchholz will pitch in Game 3. Farrell said the move was motivated by the chance to get Lackey to pitch as soon as possible from his last start Oct. 15 in Game 3 against Detroit.

The Holidays are upon us… must be Hot Stove!

Isn’t it crazy that the Hot Stove season can be just as exciting as the real deal?

Due to the ongoing CBA negotiations and other technical stuff which isn’t expected to be resolved till the Thanksgiving time-frame, the real heat of the Hot Stove could be closer to December.

Teams that could definitely make a splash:

The Los Angeles Angels. Several members of the Halo’s front office were let go following the rather inept offseason of 2010-2011.  The ‘Napoli’ fiasco (turning Texas down and then trading him to Toronto knowing Texas would obtain him from the Jays) and taking a pass on Adrian Beltre (who lives 30 minutes from the Stadium) who both went on to solidify their only division rival (well, with money, anyway) and have great postseason stats will do that.  Even with the division facing expansion (The Houston Astros joining the AL West) the Rangers are their biggest foe (in town rival Dodgers should be fairly quiet facing their sale to new ownership) and the Angels need to make up ground to keep pace.

The Miami Marlins: New stadium, new branding and a good deal of dollars to invest.  The Fish are looking to become ‘Latin America’s Team’ and have already taken a few steps to push that.  Signing Ozzie, Latin baseball’s poster boy went a long way as did the geographical name change but look for a few changes in the playing personnel too, especially with a number of Latin free agents available and the owner’s decision to increase payroll.

The Washington Nationals: They’ve rebuilt and now it’s time to contend.  The Nat’s have shown some signs of brilliance and an ability to contend in the NL East (the Braves and Phils aren’t going anywhere) with the talent assembled.  Like Miami, they have money to spend and a hungry fan base.  Plus being friends with Scott Boras helps.

The Chicago Cubs: Theo has arrived and brought a number of his former Red Sox employees with him to build a new Dynasty in baseball’s only other historic Cathedral.  He may not have as much payroll as he did in Boston but he has enough to make a splash and be taken seriously in the market.  No, the Cubs won’t be serious playoff contenders next year, but building for two and three years down the road starts right now.

Darkhorse Candidates:

The Los Angeles Dodgers: No, I don’t see them being serious contenders for Prince Fielder (though they should have been under better circumstances) or the top five to ten in the market, but with a pending sale both Frank McCourt and MLB may believe a few prize pieces to complement the established core could go a long way to frost the cake.

The New York Mets:  Again, I don’t see a lot of big name consideration but the brain trust finally came to the overdue decision to bring in the fences at CitiField and by cutting loose Jose Reyes and possibly David Wright they’ll have money to spend on some flashy re-treads who could show some power.  The owner’s financial situation may be too shaky for a Pujols or Fielder to settle on.  Plus they need to contend with the Yankees on the back page.

Now, I’m not expecting the Sox to be big players in the market, they have a set team and may be playing ‘gun-shy’ because of their recent past signings (Crawford, Lackey, multiple members of the bullpen), but they will dabble and pick some fruit from the lower B & C tier.  After all, anyone in their right mind knows Carl Crawford will rebound and so for that matter could John Lackey.  If I had a bum arm, a wife with cancer who decided to divorce me and was in a generally p!ss poor mood for the entire season… yeah, I’d be a rather poor teammate, drinking and fast food pickin’ in the clubhouse who had one of the worst starting pitching seasons in Sox history (and we had Matt Young in early 90’s too.. Yeesh!).  Just remember, now he has something to prove (or at least should) and will be easier to off load if he turns it around.

Anywhoo!  Here is a list of the Scarlett Hose free agent players:  Erik Bedard, J.D. Drew, Conor Jackson, Trever Miller, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield.  Obviously, of these eight, Big Papi and Pap’ are the one’s to watch while Wake and ‘Tek are the sentimental faves.

David Ortiz: A Type-A free agent who has ranked in most experts Top 10 or close to it.  Yes, he had a great year, almost a ‘comeback’ year but in the end it was a ‘contract’ year.  Papi has the cache to demand his price for a what will probably be his last big payday but the market for a professional DH has dwindled greatly.  Sure, the power is there and he can still be a middle of the order threat in the right line-up (taking home his 5th Silver Slugger), but the stars still need to align both contract wise and probably (with most veteran players) championship caliber talent wise as well.  No, he won’t be as beloved elsewhere.  He’s a big personality and a great media darling but he’s a part of Red Sox lore and you can’t just transplant that, even if he did shoot himself in the face with the ‘Yankees are great’ comments in the Francona/Theo fallout, plus the fact Youk may require more DH time to avoid these late season breakdowns, especially with Will Middlebrooks seasoning in Pawtucket. I don’t forsee much NL interest due to his limited mobility at first.

Teams who might show interest:

1. Boston: Obvious.

2. Los Angeles Angels:  A big-ticket draw who can re-shape that line-up in a hurry and appeal to LA’s latin fan base.  They are contenders in the West and would sign him to keep Texas from thinking about it.

3. Toronto Blue Jays: A power hitter who does well at the Rogers Center but they Jays could climb as high as 3rd in the AL East.

4. The Texas Rangers:  A world champion and veteran presence who could change the face of an already great line-up.  If they can’t sign Prince Fielder, he may be a power hitting 2nd chance prize.

5. New York Yankees: He’s a part of Boston’s folk-lore, so he’s worth a look just as the Sox looked at both Jeter and Mo Rivera last off-season.  They’re the ‘Bombers so they can afford him and will obviously be in contention, but they don’t need him and don’t really have the roster space.  With A-Rod declining in the field, he’ll need more DH time to avoid injury as will a grooming Montero, aging Posada (should they re-sign him) and possibly Jeter as well.

I see him staying put, but if the Angels or Rangers offer 3 years and silly money…

Jonathan Papelbon: Type-A free agent who had a good rebound year but more importantly progressed as a leader with maturity.  Pap’ has said for years he’s been drooling to hit the market and I don’t see him jumping without due diligence.  There are several other closers on the market, however, Papelbon is obviously the best pick, ranking in the mid to late teens on most experts FA lists.

1. Boston: Obvious

2. Philadelphia: The closer’s role has been somewhat by committee the last few seasons and after the downfall against the Cards in the NLDS, they may be the serious contenders for a proven closer.

3. Los Angeles Angels: He’d go great with the Rally-Monkey.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers: Would be another jewel to package with the young core to entice a new owner.

5.1 Washington Nationals: If they’re making an honest push, they’ll make contact but K-Rod or maybe even a Joe Nathan could be a cheaper alternative if Prince or Reyes are on the radar.

5.2 Chicago Cubs: The Cubs can offer a ‘reasonable’ contract, and Theo’s experience will definately dictate that as the former Sox GM praised Pap’s progress as a mature leader who found the next level in his game.

If he doesn’t go to Philly, the Sox may be the next best landing spot for a big payday and shot at another title.  If he can accept a leadership in rebuilding role, Theo’s Cubs could be a very distinct Darkhorse candidate.

Tim Wakefield: Sure, he’s closing in on tying both Clemens and Young for all time Sox wins and is old enough to say he played in Scarlett Hose with the Rocket, but he fits in where ever he is asked and he’s still the Time Lord who can flash some brilliance in the flutterball.  His silence in the ‘Pitcher-gate’ fall out may go against him as a veteran leader in a clubhouse looking for change.

Jason Varitek: He rebounded a bit with a lighter work load in his role as mentor/back-up to ‘Salty for the majority of the season.  With Lavarnway still needing some seasoning in Pawtucket for both his defensive and offensive prowess (probably a mid-season call up with some back-up catcher/DH duty), I can see ‘Tek coming back for one more year as back-up before transitioning to his life as a coach and manager in the major leagues.  Like Wakefield, he may suffer from the silence regarding ‘Pitcher-gate’ and the fall-out may go against him.

Now, a few of the other groceries available in the winter market…

Albert Pujols, 1B: The best player of his generation seeking a contract to match.

1. St. Louis Cardinals: He’s a an established legend in a rabid baseball town and two-time WS Champion with the ‘Cards.  However, LaRussa was his mentor and King Albert may not be giving a hometown discount.

2. Miami Marlins: The Marlins should be hip deep in the biggest Latin player this side of Ozzie Guillen, who just happens to be the new manager for the Fish.  While increasing payroll, it still might be too steep to relocate the King.

3. Toronto Blue Jays:  The Jays are looking to compete in the AL East and obviously Pujols would be the trigger to get them on the right track.  He’d put a$$es in the seats but probably limit them beyond that.

4. Los Angeles Angels: Since the Dodgers can’t do it, it’s up to the Halos to try to bring one of baseball’s biggest marquee names to LA.  Arte Morneo would love to put this Latin juggernaut in the line-up, but may need to pick up more pitching and line-up depth for the money.

5. New York Mets: Nothing serious, but it would trump the Yankees Hot Stove season on the back pages.

This will probably drag out but will make a great Christmas present to either Miami or front-runner St. Louis.

Prince Fielder, 1B: He’s only 27 and been one of the best hitters in either league for the past six years.  Probably not A-Rod money (Rodriguez was younger in his initial free agency), but easily Mark Texiera dollars.

1. Washington Nationals:  He’s the cornerstone to build on and become the new ‘it’ team in the NL East.  They have the money to spend and have taken years to rebuild to this point.  Baltimore is an afterthought in this mid-Atlantic market and the Nats can finally put the Montreal stigma in the rear-view mirror.

2. Texas Rangers: The Rangers, for all their power and prowess, went to the WS without a bona-fide 1st baseman.  Adding Prince shores up the corner position, adds incredible power to an already potent line-up and ensures Texas a ticket to the dance for years to come.

3. Chicago Cubs: Theo will call in for King Albert but could give serious consideration for the Prince instead.  Fielder is younger and will most likely be cheaper, but could easily carry the hopes and dreams of Cubs fans while kicking Brewers fans in the gut.  Plus, one would think the smaller confines of Wrigley may increase those already gaudy numbers.  It may be the first big step in Theo’s plan for the future.

4. St. Louis Cardinals: Pujols is obviously the priority but should talks stall, turn ugly or just not meet on paper, another star of the NL Central certainly couldn’t hurt.

5. Darkhorse: It’s hard to imagine an off-season like this, with a player like Prince Fielder, where both the Dodgers and Mets are basically tied up in a corner and forced to watch.  This could give teams like Miami, Seattle or Toronto a chance to get into a better negotiating position.

Too close to call for me.  The Cubs offer history and a massive media market to a shy kid who could be the darling of a hungry fan base while Texas may be the best chance at a quick fix WS title.  I’d avoid St. Louis and the endless comparisons to Albert and settle for Washington, whose money is still green, if I had to.

Jose Reyes, SS:  He may have wanted Carl Crawford money but the poor dear is fragile and may have to settle for four or five years just under a hundred million.

1. Miami Marlins: Jose is friends with Hanley Ramirez (who already supposedly stated he’d move to third or another bag for his buddy) and could flourish under Ozzie Guillen.  If Pujols is off the radar, signing Reyes and maybe an Aramis Ramirez could go a long way remaking and re-branding ‘Latin America’s Team’.

2. Washington Nationals: Again, they have the money and he could fit nicely with what the Nats hope to do this offseason.

3. San Fransisco Giants: Jimmy Rollins may be a better investment for the G-Men but I look for them to make a fairly serious inquiry on a still moderately young big name.

4. New York Mets: It’s a longshot at best but he’s been there, has a fan base and is still marketable as a Met.

5. Darkhorse: The Red Sox may only be a bit off the radar if they feel Jose Iglesias is going off track, especially since Scutaro isn’t a long-term fix. St. Louis is in the market as well and don’t count out interest from the Yanks (Jeter and A-Rod are aging…).

I can easily see him amending his asking price / years to be part of something special in Miami.  Anywhere else, he’s cashing in.

C.J. Wilson, SP: He’s had a couple of above average regular seasons now, but fell apart in the playoffs.  However mediocrity is always rewarded (John Lackey & A.J. Burnett) when starting pitching is thin.

1. Texas Rangers: Texas is certainly a good place to be these days, so I’d be surprised if he wanted to leave.  But if the Rangers are going for Prince Fielder then it may tie things up.

2. Los Angeles Angels:  Hometown OC kid who the Halos can afford to add to an already impressive front half of the rotation (and lure away from rival Texas).

3. New York Yankees: He’s a big-ticket AL pitcher. Nuff’ said.

4. Boston Red Sox: I think the Sox will take a fairly serious look at a young guy who can win 15 games.  I think the Bombers will take it more seriously as Cherington may want to avoid a big-ticket pitcher for a rehab/low-cost alternative for the #4 and #5 starter.

5. Darkhorse: Obviously each of the bigger market teams will have a look with Chicago (both), St. Louis, Washington and maybe even Seattle on the bubble but he has WS experience now and again the market is thin.

The Angels should be able to pry him free, especially if he’s perceived by Texas as a choke artist in the playoffs.

Carlos Beltran, OF: 2011 was supposed to be the contract year but once he got to San Fransisco the remainder of the year stalled out on him.  There’s still a market for his bat, even if his outfield mobility is waning.  The Red Sox and Yankees are expected to make calls on him as are several other clubs.  I’d imagine he’ll land in the AL for a platoon OF/DH role but probably won’t be worth the years/money expected.  Grady Sizemore may be a better alternative for someone wanting to take a chance.

Roy Oswalt, SP: He’s older and obviously a bit more hittable, but he’s still Roy Oswalt.  He’s not necessarily out of Philadelphia, but he’s going to be cheaper if he’s in.  Most teams will call in on this one, especially from the NL, but The White Sox, Red Sox and Yankees love older innings eaters who cost money.  The Rangers will probably give some serious consideration for mid-range money for the guy who carried the Astros for years.

Jimmy Rollins, SS: He’s not the same player he was four or five years ago but his skills, passion and leadership could easily make him a valuable alternative to Jose Reyes.  He’s looking for four years, but an incentive laden three years plus an option for a contender may work.  Both the Cardinals and Giants could go deep for his services, but San Fransisco might win out as the Cards wait on Pujols.  Washington and Seattle (and don’t count out the Mets) could call on him for some veteran stability as well.

Grady Sizemore, OF:  He’s not going to rate very high on anyone’s FA list due to his injury plagued past, but he’s only 29 and will be a year removed from micofracture surgery.  For a big market team in need of a platoon OF/DH type, he could definitely be worth a try.  Boston should be on the phone with serious consideration (after all, they used to have J.D. Drew) as could a team like the Rays.  If he gets the right situation and is held to under a hundred games, it could supply enough rest to build towards his old self.   He could fall somewhere between Carlos Beltran and a Josh Willingham.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B: He opted out of Chicago which may have saved Theo the buyout fee.  One of the better hitting 3rd basemen in the NL, there aren’t a lot of options on the market this off-season.  Definitely not Adrian Beltre but may translate as a 3B/1B/DH for an AL club.  Look for the Miami Marlins to give a serious look as a Pujols fall back plan to team with Reyes and Hanley.

David Ortiz, DH/1B: see above.

Ryan Madson, RP:  Like Oswalt, he’s not necessarily out of Philly, but with the steps he’s taken in the past few seasons he’s definitely sought after.  The Phillies and Red Sox (depending on what they plan to do with Bard) could be at the top of the list (especially if both end up scrambling for Papelbon) but so could any big market team in need of late-inning help.

Edwin Jackson, SP:  Yes, he’s a WS Champion but he’s been traded more than a few times and you really have to wonder why for such a young and seemingly capable guy.  He’ll command a salary in the market (perhaps too pricey for a #4 or #5 type guy the Yankees or Red Sox need) but that could leave anyone to step-up.

Jonathan Papelbon, RP: see above

Carlos Pena, 1B:  His average was down but over all Pena still performed for the Cubs.  Most figure he’ll land in Milwaukie to replace Prince Fielder but I could see the Rays (he has a history), Rangers (if they don’t land Fielder) and Pirates (could be cheap but established) calling as well.

Heath Bell, RP: His K’s were down but he’s still a possible alternative to Papelbon or maybe a Madson.  Probably staying in San Diego, he could still command more than a few inquiries.

Francisco Rodriguez, RP: K-Rod will probably get a lot of attention as a Papelbon alternative even though he’s still a 9th inning rollercoaster.  A few teams will probably call for his set-up qualities as well as closing prowess, the Reds and Red Sox among them but look for Ozzie’s Marlins to make a big push.

Josh Willingham, OF: Even though he played in the caverns of Oakland’s O.co Stadium, Willingham still posted respectable numbers.  Moving to a smaller home field will probably work wonders for him.  The Mets, Red Sox, Braves and Rays could come calling.  Boston could be a viable option as they need a right-handed RF in Fenway to platoon.

Johnny Damon, DH/OF: Damon has transitioned well from everyday outfielder to spot starter/DH and mentor for teams with younger emerging talent just as he did in Detroit and most recently Tampa.  Plus he can still hit.  Arizona would appear to need someone to fill those shoes and maybe even the Cubs (Theo won a title with Johnny) but I see him staying in the AL, possibly for Toronto, Seattle or the Angels if not returning to Tampa.

Now obviously there are roughly 200 free agents on this year’s market.  I’m not covering them all, just touching on some of the more notable players crossing everyone’s wish lists.  There are a lot of B and C type players, veterans, rehabs and retreads who will be circulating as well.  In my next post, I’ll touch upon a few more who I feel the Red Sox in particular should explore.