A View From Studio 3: Free-agent guessing game
Everyone has an opinion and everyone likes to be right. But let's face it, when it comes to predicting where some of the top free agents will land, it's more of a guessing game than an exact science. You'd be better off picking team names by playing pin the tail on the free-agent donkey. I did that last year and had Josh Hamilton landing in Houston. So on second thought ...
With free agents, we have a chance to make educated guesses. Full disclosure: I had Brian McCann going to Texas. So …
All bets are off with the trade market. Although there's always that one guy on the company softball team who claims he "knew" the Rangers were going to trade for Prince Fielder. Right. Of course he did. Usually the same guy who wins big every time he's in Vegas.
Let's play the free-agent guessing game with some of the top names on the market.
Robinson Cano: He's the top free agent on the market in terms of dollars he may command, but 300 million won't happen. And it shouldn't. No player is worth that amount of money. Certainly not a 30-year-old who has never seemed to want the "face of the franchise" label until he got close to free agency. If I'm giving a guy even 200 million, he needs to represent the franchise on and off the field in a way very few have. That said, the Yankees have no choice but to bring him back. If they don't, there's no way they can compete in their own division. Texas will make a run at Cano, but in the end, he'll remain in the Bronx.
Jacoby Ellsbury: What a talent. His physical abilities are never in question. His ability to stay healthy for the long haul is. The games played column on the back of his baseball card reads like this from 2010-13: 18, 158, 74, 134.
He's missed action with wrist, groin, shoulder, back, rib and chest injuries. I say the Mariners sign him. They need fans in the seats and he's worth a gamble for a club that needs a boost. Ellsbury takes his dynamic talents to his home region in the Pacific Northwest.
Shin-Soo Choo: He's mentioned in the same conversations as Ellsbury because of their similar skill set and age. But he's more durable, and in 2013, he was an on-base machine for the Reds. He proved he can play an adequate center field, but he is better suited for a corner spot. The idea he can't hit left-handed pitching is a bit of a myth. His career OBP against lefties is a solid .340. Although he is not big-market tested, I say Choo ends up playing in the Bronx, allowing the Yankees to move Brett Gardner back to center.
Carlos Beltran: Not many would have predicted a few years ago that Beltran would still be considered a top free agent at the age of 36. He appeared to be broken and coming to the end of the line when the Mets traded him to the Giants in 2011. Not so. In an age where power is disappearing, Beltran can still provide pop, production and presence. I think it's a near guarantee he goes to an American League club. I'm calling for a reunion with the Royals, the team that drafted him in 1995.
Nelson Cruz: Biogenesis will be mentioned hundreds of times in 2014 after the outfielder served a 50-game suspension last season, but that won't deter teams from pitching him big money. There's no denying Cruz provides consistent power in a game that's in need of the long ball. I like Cruz to land in Baltimore, where the Orioles have had trouble filling left field with a run producer. His defensive liabilities will be masked a bit by playing with Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.
Curtis Granderson: His time in New York is not up. But he'll have to reprogram his GPS to get to Citi Field. Perhaps the most engaging player in the game is a perfect fit for the Mets. He brings a power bat, personality and respectability to a club that needs something to feel good about. Granderson has proven he can handle the pressures of playing for the Yankees, so adjusting to the Mets will be a piece of cake.
Keep this list handy and give me a shout when the baseball world converges on Orlando, Fla., for the Winter Meetings Dec. 9-12.