Looking at the 2011 MLB Free Agent Tracker, there just aren't that many "impact" players out there. The big guy is Cliff Lee but the market for Lee (ability to pay) is relatively small. The Yankees have somewhat of a concern that the Texas Rangers will be able come up with a financially competitive offer (when was the last time you heard of that happening) based on the fact that they can offer less money to Lee while achieving an equal or higher net because there is no state sales in Texas. After that, the next "impact" guy to realistically be had is Carl Crawford.
The Los Angeles Angels are the front runners for Crawford's services and if he doesn't land there it will be something of a surprise. Here's why:
It's widely believed that the Angels are prepared to commit more than $100 million to player who is going to turn 30 in August over six years. Crawford would be 36 years old at the conclusion of that contract. I have a hard time believing that there are other teams lined up to commit that kind of money to a player that will be in his mid 30's who value lies largely in his legs.
It's been reported that one of Crawford's best friends, Torii Hunter, who speaks with Crawford on a regular basis, has stated that he thinks the speedy left fielder will end up with either the Angels or the Red Sox. The Red Sox interests are more of a "block the Yankees" thing than anything else, but the Yankees aren't likely to make a play for him. Besides, the Red Sox already have Carl Crawford-light in Jacoby Ellsbury. While Ellsbury had an injury plagued 2010, there is no reason to believe he won't be back healthy 2011. Additionally, the Red Sox are known to be wooing Jayson Werth who makes much more sense from a skills stand point and they can also commit to fewer years because of his age; Werth will be 32 in May.
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The Mets are the other logical player here however they can only make a real play for the speedy lefty if they first trade Carlos Beltran (who could also possibly go to the Red Sox.) Even of that happened however the Mets still need to address the salaries of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez that would have to somehow be removed from their books.
The prevailing thought is that even if a miracle were to happen and someone would take one or more of these players, it won't be until spring training after having juxtaposed their needs against the risk of taking them. Given the regime change for the Mets has just taken place, no one really knows what they will do. Their fans want the Mets to just turn any or all three of these guys free, but the Mets aren't likely to do that. All totaled, for 2011 the Mets have approximately $17 million tied in Beltran, and more than $18 million tied up in Castillio ($6.25 million) and Perez ($12 million). Until they address the approximate $35 million tied up in those players, they aren't likely to make any substantial acquisitions.
In the end the Angels seem like the most logical place. Yesterday Yankees GM jumped on a plane and made a personal visit to try to woo Cliff Lee, it's expected that in the coming days Angels owner, Arte Moreno, will do the same as he appears to want to be directly involved. - Mike Cardano
Mike Cardano is the founder of Around the Horn Baseball & Xtra Point Football.
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