Oh, the places you'll go
With a tip o' the cap to the delightful freaks and geeks at Sons of Sam Horn, who currently have a thread going on this very topic, here's TATB's best guess at where baseball's prominent free agents ultimately end up this winter. Keep in mind that these are strictly guesses, some more educated than others . . . and some probably just plain stoopid.
We've broken it down by position, with the player listed, followed by his current team and then the team we expect him to end up with. As with everything in this dusty little corner of the blogosphere, give it credence at your own peril . . .
Ramon Hernandez, Padres: Mets. He's not nearly as good as his stats might suggest, which makes him a classic Omar Minaya acquisition.
Bengie Molina, Angels: Angels. Mets are supposedly hot for him, but if anyone appreciates the value of a rock-solid catcher, it's Angels manager Mike Scioscia. He'll stay where he's respected.
Mike Piazza, Mets: Dodgers. Just seems appropriate, though a DHing gig in the AL best suits his declining skills at this point.
Brad Ausmus, Astros: Astros. He hasn't been an Astro his whole career. It just seems that way.
Paul Konerko, White Sox: White Sox. Losing Konerko - the face of the franchise, at least nationally - would be a PR disaster for the freshly minted champs. Jerry Reinsdorf's cheap, but he's no dummy. They'll outbid Anaheim and keep Konerko where he belongs.
Frank Thomas, White Sox: A's. On-base percentage + a likely undervaluing in the marketplace = A low-risk bargain for Billy Beane.
Erubiel Durazo, A's: Blue Jays. I'd be intrigued if he came to the Red Sox as the lefty half of a first-base platoon, except for one problem: He makes David Ortiz look like Doug Mientkiewicz with the glove.
Rafael Palmeiro, Orioles: Blackballed. And no, that is not meant as some kind of sick Viagra joke. Perverts.
Kevin Millar, Red Sox: One of three places. The Chiba Lotte Marines (best bet), the Angels (non-roster spring training invitee), or "The Best Damn Sports Show, Period." (permanent co-host).
ASSORTED OTHER INFIELDERS
Joe Randa, Padres: Padres, I guess. I just want to know why he looks like The Joker. Seriously, man, you're freakin' me out here.
(Update: It's been brought to TATB's attention that the Padres likely would have little interest in retaining Randa since they recently acquired Vinny Castilla, along with his rigamortis. Not sure how we overlooked that one - after all, the deal, which sent capable starting pitcher Brian Lawrence to Washington, is what convinced us that it's a good thing that Padres GM Kevin Towers doesn't want the Sox job.)
Bill Mueller, Red Sox: Red Sox. Word is he'd prefer to go West and latch on with a team that trains near his Arizona home. But something tells me the Sox will retain Billy Ballgame's steady services, with understudy Kevin Youkilis biding his time a little longer as the righty half of a first base platoon. There certainly are worse solutions.
Rafael Furcal, Braves: Cubs. A fine player, but one I never would have thought would be coveted at the expense of Nomar a few years ago.
Nomar Garciaparra, Cubs: Dodgers. L.A. owner Frank McCourt remembers Nomah's glory days in Boston, and the embattled owner needs to make a splash. Nomar still qualifies. Sort of.
Johnny Damon, Red Sox: Red Sox. A week ago, I would have said Johnny Jesus is a goner. But the Yankees apparently have lukewarm interest, the Sox are desperate for some positive news after the Theo debacle, and Damon has said all along that Boston is his first choice. I say he gets a Varitek contract - four years and $40 million, give or take a few thousand Benjamins - and it ends up being worthwhile deal for all involved in the long run.
Jacque Jones, Twins. Royals. Where he can play with the poor man's Jacque Jones, Terrance Long. Now if only they'd sign the poor man's Terrence Long, Billy McMillon.
Hideki Matsui, Yankees: Yankees . . . but man, that unusual deadline is creeping up. The ink isn't even dry on his contract, and I bet the bags are back under Cashman's eyes already.
Brian Giles, Padres: Cardinals. He'd be a perfect fit in St. Louis, especially with Larry Walker - a beer-bellied, creakier version of Giles - having recently retired.
Reggie Sanders, Cardinals: Cardinals. After playing for six different teams in six years, the classy and underrated veteran settles into St. Louis for a third straight season. It's about time he had a home.
Sammy Sosa, Orioles: Royals? Tigers? Pirates? Tokyo Giants? How the mighty have fallen . . . and shrunken.
A.J. Burnett, Marlins: Red Sox. He was reportedly wowed by a recent visit with the Blue Jays, and he already is tight with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg from his days in Florida. But if the Sox can get their front office act together, I have a feeling - or maybe it is more than that - that Burnett would be very receptive to their sales pitch.
Kevin Millwood, Indians: Indians. He didn't get much support this year despite his stellar ERA. But what right-minded pitcher would want to leave Hafner, Sizemore, Peralta and the rest of that soon-to-be-phenomenal young offense?
Roger Clemens, Astros: Astros. He's still got it. Might as well flaunt it. Anyway, the Rocket's next mission seems to be to play with his son Koby, a prospect in the lower rungs of the Houston farm system. We'll see if he can extend his so-called twilight for a couple more years to make it happen . . . but you, me, and Mr. More Days In First Place learned to stop betting against him long ago.
Jeff Weaver, Dodgers: Dodgers. I'd love to eavesdrop on a conversation between this Spicoli clone and Boston's favorite exported airhead, Derek Lowe: "Dude . . . where's my car? Where's my car, dude? Dude! No, dude, seriously . . . like where's my car?"
Matt Morris, Cardinals: Rangers. Rekindling their tradition of overpaying for an overrated arm.
Jarrod Washburn, Angels: Brewers. He's from Wisconsin. Yep, that's all I've got. Seriously, where else can you get this kind of insight?
Esteban Loaiza, Nationals: Rangers. Excuse me for a minute . . . be right back . . . I just got the urge to watch highlights from Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS for some reason . . .
Kenny Rogers, Rangers. Retirement. "You got to know when to hold 'em . . . " And while you groan at the worn-out Gambler reference, all of America's cameramen breathe a sigh of relief.
Jamie Moyer, Mariners. Retirement. And somewhere, Darren Bragg grounds weakly to second.
Billy Wagner, Phillies: Mets. Lame Metaphor Alert: The Mets will blow away bidders like Wagner blows away hitters.
B.J. Ryan, Orioles: Yankees. He should be the Sox's No. 1 target, but the Yankees will win the bidding war due to an inside job; he's supposedly close with fellow Louisiana native Ron Guidry, who was recently named the Yankees' pitching coach and needs all the allies he can get, what with bullpen coach/slippery weasel Joe Kerrigan poised to stick a knife in his back at the first opportunity.
Tom Gordon, Yankees: Phillies. Wait 'til he coughs up a key late-season game and the Phillies Phreaks notice that he looks scared to death on the mound. Boston and New York will seem like a Caribbean vacation by comparison to Philadelphia's wrath.
Ugueth Urbina, Phillies: Venezuelan Penal League. Desperately . . . trying . . . to . . . avoid . . . fireman . . . of . . . the . . . year . . . joke . . .
Trevor Hoffman, Padres: Padres. His agent is talking tough and suggesting Hoffman may leave, but something will get done. San Diego is where the 38-year-old crafted his Hall of Fame resume - hell, he's been there so long, I think he played with Nate Colbert, Dave Winfield and the legendary Gene Richards. It's where he belongs, and where he will stay. (Betcha didn't know Hoffman was an Original Marlin. Or that he's this Red Sox legend's brother. All right, so maybe you did know. Who do you think you are, Gammons?)
Todd Jones, Marlins: Braves. I still don't believe these are his 2005 numbers. He looked finished with the Sox two years ago, and now suddenly he's a slopballing Eric Gagne? Did he cut the same deal with the devil that Aaron Small did?
Kyle Farnsworth, Braves: Orioles. They need a closer with Ryan departing, and they'll gamble on the talented but temperamental Farnsworth by giving him more money and responsibility than he probably deserves. Regrets, they'll have a few.
Theo Epstein, Red Sox: Chillin' for a year. There's plenty of time to execute his master plan, which includes becoming a GM again, eventually bumping Bud Selig out of the commissioner's office, and preparing for his inevitable presidential run against Republican candidate Tom Brady in 2020.
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As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
The, uh, not-so-legendary Gene Richards, as referenced in the Hoffman snippet. You know, I beginning to think I'm turning into the sports version of Dennis Miller when it comes to obscure name-drops. Just try to stop me. I'll be confusing Al Michaels on "Monday Night Football" in no time.