Hot Stove Season Has Begun
Will Varitek return to Boston?
Will Varitek return to Boston?
Scout.com
Posted Oct 30, 2008


Now that the World Series is in the rearview mirror, the Hot Stove season has officially begun. This is going to be an interesting few months, with several star players switching uniforms. Check Scout.com for all of the latest free agent analysis and news.

The World Series is over. The Philadelphia Phillies are champs.

But, now that Game 5 has finally ended, what are die-hard baseball fans going to do with their time?

Well, to some people, the season is only now beginning—the Hot Stove season, that is.

Several big-time players are available on the free-agent market, from sluggers Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira to record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez and stud left-hander CC Sabathia.

Here is a list of the potential Type A free agents, courtesy of Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors.

Bobby Abreu (Yankees) Milton Bradley (Rangers) Doug Brocail (Astros) A.J. Burnett (Blue Jays) Pat Burrell (Phillies) Orlando Cabrera (White Sox) Juan Cruz (Diamondbacks) Ryan Dempster (Cubs) Adam Dunn (Diamondbacks) Brian Fuentes (Rockies) Brian Giles (Padres) Orlando Hudson (Diamondbacks) Raul Ibanez (Mariners) Jason Isringhausen (Cardinals) Derek Lowe (Dodgers) Damaso Marte (Yankees) Jamie Moyer (Phillies) Mike Mussina (Yankees) Darren Oliver (Angels) Oliver Perez (Mets) Andy Pettitte (Yankees) Manny Ramirez (Dodgers) Edgar Renteria (Tigers) Francisco Rodriguez (Angels) Ivan Rodriguez (Yankees) C.C. Sabathia (Brewers) Ben Sheets (Brewers) Russ Springer (Cardinals) Mark Teixeira (Angels) Jason Varitek (Red Sox) Kerry Wood (Cubs)

Sabathia, it seems, is going to sell his services to the highest bidder, which will undoubtedly be the New York Yankees. The Yankees are moving across the street into New Yankee Stadium, which will generate even more revenue stream for the game’s ultimate financial superpower.

The Yankees’ rotation has some question marks, as Mike Mussina, who won 20 games, is expected to announce his retirement later this week, and the status of Andy Pettitte is unclear. Also, since the Phil Hughes/Ian Kennedy experiment did not go according to plan this year, the Yankees will almost certainly make a splash in the pitching market. Even if they fail to sign Sabathia, who was unbelievable for the Milwaukee Brewers down the stretch, count on them to make a solid push at several other Type A starting pitchers listed above.

The Yankees are also reportedly planning to pursue Teixeira as well. Jason Giambi’s stint in the Bronx appears to have come to an end either way, unless he decides to take a massive pay cut in a short-term deal.

Some other interesting names include Burnett, Burrell, Dunn and Lowe.

Burnett won 18 games, but his peripheral statistics all declined.

Burrell, who hit a huge double in the Phillies’ clinching Game 5 win last night, has excellent on-base skills and is coming off a decent season in which he hit 30-plus home runs. Although he has some deficiencies in his overall game, especially his poor defense and lack of speed, expect several organizations to make a serious run at him. He has spent his entire career in Philadelphia, but he seems ready to test the market, and it might not be in the Phillies' best interest to bring him back, anyway.

The Boston Red Sox have a big decision in regards to the status of Varitek, the captain. He had a down offensive season, posting a sub-.700 OPS, and was practically a guaranteed out in the second half. He is still a valuable defender behind the plate, however, and does a great job handling a pitching staff. A Scott Boras client, he will likely demand a lucrative, multi-year deal. There is no question that is value has diminished, though, and he may no longer be strong enough offensively to serve as a full-time catcher in the majors. If Theo Epstein can bring him back at a discounted rate, it would be wise for them to do so. He could share catching duties and help mentor a young backstop. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of catching depth in the Boston farm system, making it likely that Epstein will attempt to make a deal for a young catcher this offseason, regardless of what they decide to do with the veteran.

It is definitely going to be an exciting offseason, and there is no telling which players yet which uniforms several big-time stars will be wearing next season.

Two things are almost certain, though.

1. Boras, who represents Ramirez and Teixeira and several other stars, is only going to get richer, with a number of his clients due to receive lucrative deals.

2. The Yankees are going to reload by throwing big dollars at the best talent available, which is going to make the A.L. East all the more competitive.

Mets Bring Back Tatis:

The New York Mets have decided to bring back Fernando Tatis for 2009, signing him to a one-year, $1.75-million deal. Tatis’ comeback story did not receive a lot of press, but it was quite remarkable. The former star, who once hit two grand slams in the same inning, returned to the game two years ago with the intention of earning enough to help renovate a church in his native Dominican Republic.

All the hard work payed off.

Tatis, 33, helped saved the Mets’ bacon while filling in for injured New York outfielders Moises Alou and Ryan Church. He finished the year batting .297/.369/.484, with 11 homers, an .853 OPS and 49 RBIs in 92 games following his call up from Triple-A on May 13. He truly provided the club a nice little boost before injuring his shoulder in early-September, causing him to miss the remainder of the year.

"Fernando got so many key hits for us last year," general manager Omar Minaya said in a statement. "Not having him the last few weeks of the season certainly hurt. His versatility certainly makes us a better team."

For his efforts, Tatis earned National League Comeback Player of the Year. While his success was quite a surprise, this deal makes a lot of sense for the Mets. He is a low-risk, cheap option who has the chance to be an important bat off the bench for the Mets as they look to return to prominence in the National League East after missing out on the playoffs the past two seasons.

To reach Tyler Hissey, send an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.

Throughout the offseason, I will chime in on free-agent signings as they happen, offering my take on RaysDigest.com. Check back regularly.



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