Just forget for a few minutes about the cold, hard business of baseball and think about a fantasy Hot Stove season where every team had the money, roster need and desire to make legitimate offers to one or two top free agents. If that fantasy were to play out this winter, where would you want to see the top free agents sign for 2009 and beyond, and for what reason(s)?
Here's my list:
SS Rafael Furcal - Athletics - Ok, ok, I had to start with just a little bit of homer-ism here. Furcal makes very good sense for the A's on a short-term deal, especially in light of the Holliday acquisition.
CC Sabathia - Giants - CC, the Vallejo-native, loves his home cookin' and loves being able to hit. Since Zito has not emerged as the type of "face of the franchise" McGowan thought he would be, bringing-in the personable and charismatic Sabathia would essentially allow the franchise a do-over for remaking the club's image in the post-Bonds era. Signing CC would also allow the team to shop Matt Cain for an impact hitter, whom is needed as much on that side of the Bay as it is/was on our side.
Manny Ramirez - Dodgers - I live in Southern California and it was just mesmerizing seeing what Manny did to the Dodgers and their fans. I haven't seen such enthusiasm for the Blue Crew since they beat the A's in '88, and as much as that series hurt to watch, the Dodgers are one of the great franchises in professional sports, and they need superstars to legitimize their legacy and bring balance to the baseball world. Too bad Frank McCourt is such a cheap bastard. It's not like I would ever want to unequivocally agree with Scott Boras, but in a huge market like LA, Manny does, in effect, "pay for himself".
Mark Texeira - Anwyere but Anaheim/Washington DC - Tex was lethal for the Angels and I would hate to see him face-off against our Green and Gold boys 20 times every season for the next 6-10 years...but even beyond that, I would really like to see him shift to the National League and sign a monumental deal with Bowden and the woeful Nationals. Tex is from the DC area and would immediately give that franchise an identity and hope for the present and future. Plus, the politicians in DC could use the distraction of a slugger of Texeira's abilities to help them get through what seems like it could be a long, hot, high-stakes spring legislative season...
AJ Burnett - Baltimore - I guess I'm just a sucker for the "local boy returns to his roots just in time to save the franchise" type of story line. But Burnett would also be, arguably, a very important and seemingly necessary addition for the O's. The team desperately needs MLB-ready starting pitching of any type - Burnett, while not the most durable of starters - certainly fits that bill. Additionally, Burnett has also proven that he can be successful while pitching in the minefield that is the American League East. If the O's have any chance of ever competing in their division (and we should all hope they do, since anything they do to improve themselves will be one more knock on the Evil Empires in Boston and New York) then they will need a few guys like Burnett sooner rather than later. And with a couple of nice young hitters on the MLB roster (Jones, Markakis) and a trio of nice pitching prospects about to break into the majors (Tillman, Matusz, Arrieta) Burnett could be just the guy to lead the O's back to respectability before the decade is out.
Adam Dunn - Blue Jays - I would just love to see the press conference where Ricciardi introduces Dunn to the (inter)national media: "Well, I looked into Adam's eyes and saw his soul...and what I saw was a guy who actually enjoys playing baseball."
K-Rod - Out of baseball - Seriously...is there a way baseball can collude and ban K-Rod from the game like it did with the Bonds situation? I think that would be in the best interest of the game...but you know that SOMEone is going to overpay for the Goggle-eyed one and I can only hope it's Omar Minaya...just so that K-rod will be in the NL East and we won't have to see him unless, miraculously, both the A's and Mets reach the World Series next season.
Derek Lowe- Yankees - Unlike Nico, I hate Derek Lowe. His crotch-grabbing, playoff-game clinching escapades of a few years back forever ingrained in me a deep sense of lowe-thing for Derek. Since the guy is a groundball machine, I would love for him to go to a poor defensive team like the Yankees, where he and Derek Jeter could be most exposed. Of course, overall, he'd make the Yankees better, but he'd also make them even easier to hate, which is a big reason why he makes sense for them...
Pat Burrell - The National League - By most metrics and just by basic observation, Pat Burrell is one of the worst defensive outfielders in the game. He really belongs as a DH in the American League, but it sure is fun to see a team forced to play Burrell in the field everyday...
Orlando Hudson - Dodgers - O-Hud is a character and he belongs in a larger-than-life city. The combination of him and Manny in Dodger blue would certainly result in a slew of well-publicized antics for many years to come...
Casey Blake - Indians - It would be a great story for the Indians to re-acquire Blake less than 6 months after trading him for two of the Dodgers' best prospects.
Trevor Hoffman - Diamondbacks - I think it's common knowledge that Hoffman is rather pissed about the way that Padres ownership has jerked him around this off-season after he loyally served the franchise for over a decade. I think it would be compelling for him to close out his career for an NL West contender like the D-Backs where he could personally make the Padres (or rather just the ownership group) regret their actions...
Randy Johnson - Cubs - This rumor is picking up steam, and I would like to see it become reality. The Unit is still an effective pitcher and could be a critical piece in breaking the Bartman/Billy Goat Curse. Plus, with the Cubs offense behind him, he'd definitely pick up his 300th win next season, which I'd like to see the Livermore-native accomplish at some point.
Milton Bradley - White Sox - Bradley vs. Ozzie Guillen? Lordy, lordy....I'm pretty sure Major League Baseball could turn that into a year-long pay-per-view Ultimate Fighting extravaganza!
Jason Giambi - A's - Not much shock factor here. Most media sources and the vast majority of AN rosterbations have basically concluded that this is a done deal. I'm not so sure that it's such a certainty, but I think it would be good if it did, especially if the A's were to get Furcal too. Holliday + Furcal + Giambi = a reason to watch the A's in 2009.
Thoughts? Questions? Concerns?