It would be easy to start the free agent discussion with Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and CC Sabathia. But the free agent class of 2012 is a loaded one.

It has the big-name hitters, the star pitchers, an armory of relievers and plenty of position players for teams to choose from. And even though there are more free agents out there than the big-name ones, no one wants to read about if Rod Barajas or Russell Branyan are going to have new homes next Spring.

Many teams are looking to rebuild starting in 2012 and this free agent class is a perfect place to start.

The position with the most free agent star power is first base. Luckily for these high profile sluggers, there are plenty of teams waiting for their arrival into the free agent market place.


Albert Pujols 

Pujols is the biggest name on the market this year. His numbers are Williams-like, his home runs mirror Ruth, his pride the spirit of Clemente and his bat has the speed of Dimaggio’s. We’ve all heard the praise of Albert during the first 10 years of his career, and so has he.

He knows he’s the best, and he knows he should be payed like the best. He’s 32 and looking for a 10-year, $30 million deal. While he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer, a World Series Champion, MVP, Batting Champion, and will probably repeat a few of those awards, no one is worth $300 million in the second half of their career. And Albert will not get that kind of money.

The Cardinals are the front runners to keep Pujols, and he has said he’d prefer to stay in St. Louis. Without his bat, the Cardinals would be in trouble, and they have the most money to land him, with the possible exception of the Cubs and new President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein.

Pujols will be a priority for any team needing a first baseman, and that will include the New York Yankees. Mark Teixeira, although a consistent performer in the regular season, has more than choked in the playoffs as a Yankee. I wouldn’t count out Brian Cashman and the Yankees to try to nab Pujols.

Prince Fielder

Fielder is done in Milwaukee. Even if the Brewers had managed to bounce the Cardinals and then overcome a ferocious Rangers lineup to win the World Series, Prince would still leave.

The Brewers don’t have the money he wants because they just locked up Ryan Braun to a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal, and they don’t have room for two of those kind of players. Fielder has earned his pay day, and he will get it from another team.

The Cubs and Dodgers appear to be the leaders to get Prince, but don’t overlook the Cardinals. If Pujols leaves, there will be a massive gap in the Cardinals’ lineup that only someone with a bat the size of Prince Fielder’s would even be considered to fill.

It’s a long shot, but the Red Sox were supposed to win the World Series this year, so who knows.


Robinson Cano

Cano is a free agent at the end of this season. The 2011 Home Run Derby Champion has been a star in New York and will continue to succeed wherever he plays. The Yankees have a laundry list of free agents that they are losing this year, and with the possible exception of CC Sabathia, Cano may be their first contract negotiation.

The Yankees infield is waning—A-Rod and Jeter are past their better years, and Teixeira is on the back end of a multi-year deal that was given to him too quickly. Cano is the only strong force in New York’s roster that has the potential to produce for years to come. Plenty of teams would love the chance to have the second baseman on their team.


Jose Reyes

Reyes will be in a different uniform in 2012. The New York Mets are a mess, and they won’t have the funds to re-sign their All-Star shortstop. Reyes won the National League batting title in 2011, and while he has been one of the most dynamic players in baseball since his rookie year, he has suffered a handful of injuries in his career.

The Mets will not sign him to the deal that he wants because Reyes is seeking one similar to what Carl Crawford was given by the Boston Red Sox. It is almost inevitable that Reyes is going to have another significant injury by the time he retires.

He is a fast, small player who hustles and takes extra bases whenever they are available. His legs have already been locking up on him. His last few seasons have been riddled with hamstring and calf injuries and disabled list stints.

But Reyes will find a boatload of cash somewhere, and his tour of franchises will probably begin in Los Angeles to speak with Don Mattingly, or in St. Louis to talk with Tony La Russa about a vacancy at shortstop left by Rafael Furcal’s free agency.

Aramis Ramirez

Ramirez has a monster option for the 2012 season and with the arrival of Theo Epstein in Chicago, many have speculated that he may clear house and remove all of the overbearing contracts on the Cubs’ books. Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano may meet the same fate as Ramirez.

But Ramirez has a good chance of finding work in 2012. He is an All-Star third baseman that, when healthy, can charge a lineup full of home runs and runs batted in. Ramirez will look for a home in a place like St. Louis or Boston, but the Chicago White Sox are also a candidate to land him in the offseason.


Carlos Beltran 

Beltran is still a free agent at the end of the season, despite being traded to San Francisco from the Mets at the trade deadline. He is another All-Star who has endured an injury-filled career. Beltran has missed significant portions of seasons in the past, and that puts owners on edge when negotiating long-term deals.

Beltran will find a long-term deal somewhere like Atlanta or Arizona, teams that needs one more piece to make an impact on their playoff ambitions. The Yankees could also make a move on Beltran. They have not been afraid of older outfielders like Andruw Jones, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, and Beltran is someone that would excel hitting with Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch as a backdrop.

Nick Swisher is a free agent in 2012, and the Yankees will likely not re-sign him, and Beltran would be a perfect replacement in right field. He is nearing the end of his career, and in the years to come his role on a team may change to more of an influence in the clubhouse or on the bench rather than a surge in the lineup. Either way, the Giants will not hang on to Beltran, and he will be free to test the market.


CC Sabathia

Sabathia is the biggest, in size and in name, free agent this season. The Yankees can not afford to let him go because they also lose Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia to free agency this year. CC has a player option for the 2012 season, and he is likely going to opt out of the Yankees’ locker room for next season.

Sabathia can be used on any other team in baseball, and he would be payed a big price to be acquired. A team like the Rangers or the Marlins could pick up CC in the winter, but the Brewers are also a possibility.

Milwaukee already had CC in their locker room and it worked seamlessly. A solid pitching rotation could have saved the Brewers in the playoffs this season, and since CC has already pitched the Brewers to the playoffs once, it’s easy to imagine him doing it again.

CJ Wilson

Wilson is a free agent at the end of the 2011 season. He has been the ace on the Rangers’ roster and led the team to the World Series this year, all while weathering the departure of Cliff Lee to the Phillies in the off-season.

Wilson will be payed a hefty sum to play for the Yankees. With the crumbling of their pitching staff both in the playoffs and in the regular season, Joe Girardi’s club will look to rebuild with a young, quality starter like Wilson. If Sabathia opts out of his deal in 2012, it’s a forgone conclusion that Wilson will be in pinstripes next spring.

Edwin Jackson is another possible Yankee pitcher in 2012. His 2011 season was marked by a move to the Cardinals at the trade deadline. He performed well for St. Louis and proved that he can be a reliable third or second arm on some staffs for the next few years.

St. Louis will most likely re-sign Adam Wainwright in the offseason. Wainwright is a free agent, and although he missed the entire 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery, Wainwright is a viable pitcher in St. Louis and they won’t let him go. Jackson will be let go and teams like Arizona, New York, and the Dodgers would jump at the opportunity to sign the 28-year-old starter.

2012 free agency will be a free-for-all of sluggers, aces, relievers, middle infielders and even coaches. The 2012 season will have many players in new cities and new uniforms, which will make for the exciting possibility of new matchups. 

The big spenders like the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and Dodgers will be out in full force this Winter. Keep your eyes on your team’s roster, but don’t get too attached to any of the names on it.

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