My goodness 2010 sped by like lightning! We’ve got a Happy New Year before us, and 2011 promises to be another eventful and exciting season in the life of Baseball. Let’s take a moment to take stock of where we stand and what we can look forward to in this shiny new 2011 model.
We still have some unfinished free agent business; the biggest remaining names are 3Bman Adrian Beltre and RHP Carl Pavano. Most prognosticators foresee Beltre ending up with an American League West team, most likely the Angels but possibly the Rangers (who seem a problematic fit) or the Athletics (who have already been spurned twice). Pavano would seem a natural fit with the Yankees, who crave starting pitching but his previous less-than-successful stint with the Bronx Bombers precludes that possibility. His likeliest landing place remains with the Minnesota Twins, and that’s a good fit for him.
Others among the Best of the Rest include 1Bman Adam LaRoche, who perfectly defines average at his position (and I mean that as a compliment), and LHP Brian Fuentes, who could slot in as a closer or set-up man (the Phillies would like him but are tapped out after hooking the Big Fish, Cliff Lee. No more room in the boat!). Both are seeking three-year deals and my guess is neither will get them. With Derrek Lee evidently taking a 1-year contract to join the Baltimore Orioles, talk now is that the Washington Nationals are serious about LaRoche, who would be a big defensive improvement over the departed Adam Dunn and would be a welcome sight to Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinoza. The Nats will likely have to increase the yearly offering to LaRoche to get him to accept a two-year deal; my suspicion is they really have their sights set on Milwaukee Brewers’ slugger Prince Fielder, who will become a free agent next off-season and is widely expected to be highly sought-after.
This week starting Wednesday January 5th through the 15th teams and their arbitration-eligible players will begin filing their cases and on the 18th the figures will be exchanged. The next days will see furious activity as teams, players and agents seek to come to terms before the arbitration hearings begin on February 1st. While most of the time there’s a split-the-difference gesture, sometimes the cases go before the three-person panels and sometimes bad blood can emerge that can damage long-term relationships. There’s a link below that explains the process in detail.
While the arbitration hearings play out, on February 13th pitchers, catchers and injured players may report to teams’ spring training camps, and on February 18th all players are allowed to report. Those dates are voluntary. On February 25th, all players are required to be present and accounted for. There will no doubt be stories about “visa problems” with players who winter in their native Caribbean and Latin American homes. On March 2nd, contracts of non-arbitration eligible players may be renewed at the clubs’ discretion. By then most clubs will be in the midst of Grapefruit and Cactus League activity, aiming towards Opening Day on March 31st.
I can’t wait!