Just one month remains before players leave their sunny, warm offseason homes to get back into the “swing” of things at their respective teams’ mild-weathered spring training facilities.
Though the schedule is certain, the destination of many key free agents is not, and for those of you who have forgiven me for my weak attempt at trivial humor and have not already moved to Police Beat, allow me to talk you through the remaining names.
Let’s start with the obvious: Is it really possible that Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder remains a sitting duck in the free agency pond?
After rumors of the Nationals’ and the Cubs’ willingness to pull the trigger died off this week, one team has ascended to become the new favorite to bag the prized first baseman: the Texas Rangers.
Now that the Rangers have won the bid to sign Japanese pitching prodigy Yu Darvish, they have shifted all of their attention to Fielder, who has made it clear he is smitten with the idea of playing for the defending American League champions.
Baseball writer Evan Grant said on the Dallas Morning News’ SportsDay, “It’s very, very clear that [Texas] is where [Fielder] wants to be. We’re now in the second week of January and he’s still sitting there unsigned. It appears that he and [Fielder’s agent] Scott Boras have been waiting all along for the Rangers to get their Darvish situation settled so they could get down to brass tacks.”
There’s no chance that Fielder will get the 10-year deal that his slugging first baseman counterpart — Albert Pujols — got, as Darvish will likely come with a steep price tag. It is realistic to expect a contract for four or five years between the two parties.
If the Rangers can somehow secure both players for the relative future, expect to see a lot more national attention paid to the teams’ rivalry with the Pujols-led Angels.
So who’s next?
How about AL East bicycle, Johnny Damon? After shocking Red Sox faithful by signing a four-year deal with the hated Yankees in 2006, Damon enjoyed success as New York’s lefty lead-off hitter, culminating in a World Series Championship in 2009. Damon then twisted the still-pitted knife in Red Sox Nation by signing with the slightly less-hated Tampa Bay Rays for a one-year deal.
Now, in 2012, it seems fitting that the baseball birdies are now Tweeting — literally — that Damon has once again drawn interest from the Yankees.
The 15-year veteran’s services would most likely be utilized at the DH position, where his lefty bat would fit in nicely once again with Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch.
The acquisition would mean a cut in pay for Damon, as the Yankees’ payroll took on a heavy load when they signed pitcher Hiroki Kuroda for $10 million earlier this month.
On the pitchers’ side of the free agent pool, there is one name making a splash more than any other.
After a brilliant 10-year career in Houston, Roy Oswalt was traded, per his request, to the already loaded Phillies’ rotation in 2010. Oswalt finished the year 7-1 with a slim 1.74 ERA, and it appeared he would be a mainstay to the most feared pitching rotation in baseball. However, after a disappointing 9-10 season last year, Philadelphia chose not to offer the righty arbitration, and here we are.
Teams supposedly showing interested in the 159-career-game winner are the Rangers, Red Sox and the Kansas City Royals.
Texas will have their hands full — and their pockets empty — if deals with Fielder and Darvish go through, so don’t expect Oswalt to return to the Lone Star State this season. The Red Sox are similarly not willing to agree to terms on the contract that Oswalt is looking for. Given new General Manager Ben Cherington’s frugal approach to this offseason, I wouldn’t count on the Sox making moves for him either.
That leaves Kansas City as the front-runner for the 36-year-old’s services. Oswalt could be a potential bargain for the Royals if they can get him for the one-year, $8 million deal he is supposedly asking for. Adding the three-time All Star would greatly improve a starting rotation, which currently features the career 60-58 Bruce Chen as their ace.
That’s right: Bruce Chen.