The GM's Office: Michael Bourn

Top 10 free-agent signings of 2013 

May, 10, 2013
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Anibal SanchezAP Photo/Paul SancyaAnibal Sanchez has helped give the Tigers arguably the best rotation in baseball.
The cream of the 2013 free-agent crop was obvious and expensive.

Teams entered the offseason flush with cash and spent prodigiously. Outfielder Josh Hamilton was the best position player, while B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn followed not far behind. Right-hander Zack Greinke was clearly the top free-agent pitcher available. All together, the four top free agents signed multiyear contracts worth close to $300 million.

And what do those teams have to show for it? The trio of outfielders has hit a combined .205 with a paltry nine home runs, five stolen bases and 93 strikeouts. Greinke added a lone win and a broken collarbone.

Conversely, there are a number of lower-priced free agents who are more than earning their paychecks. Since the top four free agents haven’t lived up to their usual performance levels, which free agents have been the best bargains in baseball so far? Here’s a ranking of the top 10 so far:

Note: Performance to date, salary and long-term commitment were all considered for this ranking.

Ranking the offseason for all 30 teams 

February, 12, 2013
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It was an active offseason that witnessed the trade of a Cy Young Award winner, several large, multiteam trades and an inflated free-agent market. So to evaluate and rank the offseason of all 30 teams, I took into account the following factors:

• How it improved the team for 2013, as well as the next five years.
• How it affected payroll and budgets -- both short and long term.
• How it affected team chemistry and clubhouse culture.
• How effectively needs were filled -- through free agency, trade or farm system.
• The amount of money committed compared with the value received.
• Aggressiveness.

With spring camp upon us, we'll see whose offseason produces the best results. Here are the rankings of all 30 teams’ offseason campaigns.

1. Toronto Blue Jays | GM: Alex Anthopoulos
Acquired: RHPs R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, LHPs Mark Buehrle, Darren Oliver, SS Jose Reyes, C's Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas, IFs Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, OF Melky Cabrera
Analysis: Anthopoulos had a tremendous offseason, making two of the biggest offseason trades in baseball history. It cost him some prospects, and when the dust settled the Blue Jays added three top-of-the-rotation starters to complement Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow to give the Jays the best five-man rotation in the division -- on paper. They now have the veteran leadership, speed, energy and enthusiasm to be a legitimate World Series contender.


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Best fits, predictions for remaining FAs 

January, 11, 2013
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Michael BournPatrick Smith/Getty ImagesMichael Bourn remains a free agent as many teams quickly filled their center field needs.


In about a month, pitchers and catchers will be reporting for spring training, and yet several significant free agents remain unemployed. Some were even once thought to be among the best in this offseason’s free agent class, but because of bad timing, trades or teams’ reluctance to part with draft picks, the lucrative contracts these players were seeking simply haven’t materialized.

Here are the best players left on the free agent market, as well as where they fit best and a prediction of where I think they will sign.

1. Michael Bourn | CF
The center fielder market collapsed pretty quickly for the best leadoff hitter and defensive center fielder in this year’s free agent market when the three NL East teams with obvious holes in center field filled their needs right out of the chute: The Washington Nationals traded with the Minnesota Twins for Denard Span. Then the Atlanta Braves signed B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75 million deal. Soon after, the Philadelphia Phillies acquired Ben Revere from the Twins.

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Scott Boras still holds all the cards 

December, 7, 2012
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BorasRafael Suanes/US PresswireScott Boras has plenty of clients still in play, and there is money out there.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Last year, well into January, Prince Fielder remained unsigned. But as colleague Jerry Crasnick wrote at the time, it wasn’t going to cause his agent, Scott Boras, to sweat: "In Boras' world view, the trade market is almost tapped out, the non-tenders have been picked over and teams are seriously assessing their rosters and coming to the realization that they still have holes to fill and a need to act before spring training."

So when Fielder got a jaw-dropping $200-million-dollar-plus contract from the Detroit Tigers, it may have shocked the marketplace, but not the agent. This is the Boras M.O. -- there are a lot of teams, there’s plenty of money, and for every client it’s only a matter of time.

This year is no different. The 2012 MLB winter meetings will be defined by so many deals that didn’t happen, but for Boras, that’s by design. The sense here is that players aren’t in a hurry to sign because almost everybody has at least something to spend, and when they’re ready to start writing checks, Boras’ guys will get their cut.

Here are four key free agents he reps, the sense of the market for each, and some teams that should be taking a close look.

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Bourn/WerthUSA TODAY SportsMichael Bourn is right where Jayson Werth was a couple of years ago.

When I made my predictions for how much each of the top free agents would get this winter, I had Michael Bourn getting the third-biggest deal of anyone, behind Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke.

Not only is Bourn coming off the best season of his career, but his agent is Scott Boras, who always knows how to get the most for his clients. That’s a recipe for a monster deal.

However, things are quiet on the Bourn front this week, and there isn’t an obvious destination for him. For that reason, I think he could end up with a team that no one expects, much like Jayson Werth, one of Boras’ high-profile clients from a couple of years ago.

Allow me to explain.

Given the availability of B.J. Upton (who already signed with the Atlanta Braves), Angel Pagan (who has agreed to terms with the Giants), Shane Victorino and Hamilton, there is no shortage of good center fielders on the free-agent market this winter. This means demand isn’t what it might be in other years. (Not to mention Dexter Fowler and Drew Stubbs, who are being shopped on the trade market.)

With Pagan and Upton off the board, two fewer teams will be vying for Bourn. The Philadelphia Phillies might be interested, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and Boras aren’t on great terms because of the ill-fated Ryan Madson deal that fell apart at the last minute a year ago. That could make negotiations difficult.

When faced with this situation in the past, Boras has been able to find a deal for his player from a source you wouldn’t expect. In 2010, there was no obvious fit for Werth, but Boras shocked the baseball world by getting him a seven-year, $126 million deal from the Washington Nationals, a team that was a bottom-feeder at the time.

Flash back a few more years, and you might remember that Ivan Rodriguez (a Boras guy) signed a four-year, $40 million contract with the Detroit Tigers when they were coming off of a 119-loss season. People said the Tigers were nuts, but Pudge led them to the World Series two years later.

When the money isn’t there from one of the “obvious” teams, Boras will go find it. So where will he find it for Bourn? I have some theories.

For starters, the Chicago Cubs: They’re rebuilding, but they have a very low payroll and plenty of money to spend. Boras could try to convince the Cubs that Bourn would give them some excitement at the top of their lineup, along with Starlin Castro, and keep fans interested while they rebuild.

The Seattle Mariners might be a destination for Bourn. They could have as much as $30 million to spend, and they're looking to make a big signing (or two) this winter.

Another possibility: the Miami Marlins. I know this sounds crazy, but I could see Boras making this pitch to Jeffrey Loria: “You need some good PR, the players' union is going to be on your back about not spending money, and you can replace Jose Reyes in the leadoff spot for less money.”

Remember, no one saw Pudge signing with Detroit back in 2004, and no one saw Werth to the Nats. Bourn is a man without an obvious destination right now, and don’t be shocked to see Boras deliver him to someone you wouldn’t expect -- like the Cubs.

Agents to watch at winter meetings

November, 28, 2012
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Scott BorasKirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireScott Boras won't be the only agent to watch at baseball's annual Winter Meetings this weekend.
Make no mistake -- Scott Boras is always the headliner among agents at baseball’s annual winter meetings.

He loves the limelight and will make sure to walk by the media area at optimum times and hold court. He’s always entertaining, and his strong and often controversial opinions make the TV cameras' red lights go on and writers fill their notepads. This year will be no different with his representation of free agents Michael Bourn, Kyle Lohse and Rafael Soriano, among many others.

However, there’s been a not-so-subtle changing of the guard. For decades, high-profile agents like Tom Reich and Adam Katz, Ron Shapiro, Jim Bronner and Bob Gilhooley and Randy and Alan Hendricks often stood front and center with Boras, dominating the meetings from behind the scenes. But now, larger corporations such as CAA and SFX have taken over a lot of the game’s player representations.

Regardless, the game’s top power brokers will gather this weekend at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. Here is a quick glance at some of this year’s most important agents to watch:

Excel Sports Management | Lead agent: Casey Close

Top free agent: Zack Greinke | Others: Andy Pettitte, Scott Hairston, Jeremy Guthrie (recently signed three-year, $25M deal with Royals), Casey Kotchman, Jamey Wright Greinke's likely suitors: Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Washington Nationals

Background brief: After beginning his career at IMG and accruing 20 years of experience, Close joined Excel in 2011, partnering up with Jeff Schwartz and Mark Steinberg. Their client list is cross-sport, ranging from Derek Jeter and Clayton Kershaw to the NBA’s Paul Pierce, Blake Griffin and Deron Williams, as well as golf’s Tiger Woods.

Style/strategy: They are well-prepared, engaging and have a tremendous track record. They operate in a very private and professional manner and seem to attract the kind of players who handle their own business the same way. Excel is particularly good at recognizing its clients’ value and market and often gets top dollar for its clients. Excel's honest, straightforward approach has gained the respect of the industry.

Problems/barriers in negotiations: There are not a lot of clubs that have the financial wherewithal to play on Greinke.


MVP Sports Group | Lead Agent: Dan Lozano

Top free agent: Nick Swisher | Others: Brian Wilson, Jonny Gomes (recently signed two-year, $10M deal with Boston)

Swisher's likely suitors: Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Texas

Background brief: Lozano boasts 24 years of experience, negotiating some of the game’s largest deals, including Albert Pujols’ $240 million deal with the Angels last December and Joey Votto’s $225 million contract extension with the Cincinnati Reds during spring training. The two deals totaled more than half a billion dollars, a record for any agency in any one offseason.

Style/strategy: Lozano and his staff are hard-working, loyal, passionate and treat their clients like family. His firm uses a stealth approach, as demonstrated by the Albert Pujols negotiations last December, when the Angels swooped in to get him at the last minute. Lozano doesn’t play games, preferring direct and straightforward negotiations with club executives. He always comes extremely prepared with top-notch communication skills.

Problems/barriers in negotiations: Swisher’s poor postseason performance could undermine the fact he’s had eight straight years of 20-plus home runs.


Reynolds Sports Management | Lead agent: Larry Reynolds

Top free agent: B.J. Upton (recently signed a five-year, $75 million deal with Atlanta) | Others: Torii Hunter (recently signed a two-year, $26M deal with Detroit)

Upton's likely suitors: Atlanta, Philadelphia, mystery team

Background brief: Reynolds possesses 28 years of experience as an agent, and prior to negotiating Hunter's recent two-year deal, he got him a five-year, $90 million contract with the Angels in 2007, which was then the largest contract in club history.

Style/strategy: Reynolds makes a concerted effort to tailor each negotiation to the player and club he is dealing with. He spends a great deal of time studying the negotiating styles of the club executives in order to formulate the best plan to maximize the player’s compensation. Reynolds has a wide array of knowledge of the collective bargaining rights, performance comparables and how to stretch the present market. Negotiations can get adversarial and difficult depending on the situation. At the same time, Reynolds always tries to be reasonable and isn’t afraid to close deals earlier in the process than most agents.

Problems/barriers in negotiations: Getting a sixth year for Upton could be difficult.


Paragon Sports International | Lead agent: Brian Grieper

Top free agent: Mike Napoli

Napoli's likely suitors: Red Sox, Rangers and Mariners

Background brief: Paragon is a medium-sized baseball agency with offices in Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago and represents some of baseball’s top young talent and prospects. Grieper has cultivated relationships with club officials at all levels over a decade in the agent business. Many of these officials have gone on to become GMs, assistant GMs and scouting directors.

Style/strategy: Grieper stresses open dialogue, intense preparation and creative analytical and statistical analysis. He develops personal relationships with clients through trust and loyalty. The quality of representation was best illustrated when Grieper made Napoli -- who he has represented since high school -- the highest paid catcher during arbitration, earning him a one-year deal worth $9.4 million. His raise of $3.6 million is the second highest in the history of third- or fourth-time eligible hitters, ranking behind only Prince Fielder. Grieper is very direct and accurate with information, and he negotiates in a respectful and professional manner.

Problems/barriers in negotiations: Napoli is best suited with an American League team because of his value being able to DH along with playing first base and catcher. Obviously this could limit the number of teams that bid on Napoli’s services.

For more on Michael Moye, who is representing Josh Hamilton, check out Jerry Crasnick’s piece today.

Best fits for 10 elite free agents

November, 13, 2012
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Michael Bourn, Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton AP PhotoWith which team will Michael Bourn, Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton sign?

Every team entering the offseason would love a shot at even one (if not several) of the top available players on the free-agent market. But that often only comes with a particular equilibrium of financial resources and baseball needs.

Below are 10 of the top available free agents, and I've ordered them based on how much I think they will earn in their next contract. I've also indicated where they fit best -- never listing a team more than once -- as well as how probable that signing might be.

(Check out the Bowden Big Board, which ranks the top 50 free agents based on what I expect them to earn on their next contact based on average annual value or AAV.)

Josh Hamilton | OF | Best fit: Texas Rangers
I won’t be surprised if Hamilton’s best offer comes from a surprise team like the Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles or Milwaukee Brewers. But I think the best fit for Hamilton remains the Rangers. They are the most familiar with Hamilton and all the issues that come with him. They have a strong support team in place for him and are willing to give him a competitive average annual value. I don’t think three years will get it done, and I’ll be shocked if the Rangers don’t go to a fourth or even a fifth year for him. Simply, the Rangers have been a much better team over the past three years with Hamilton in the lineup and he won’t be easily replaced if he leaves.
Probability: Medium
Zack Greinke | RHP | Best fit: Los Angeles Dodgers
Greinke might end up the highest-paid right-handed starting pitcher in baseball history by the time the winter meetings conclude in Nashville, Tenn., next month. The Los Angeles Angels, Dodgers and Rangers appear to be the teams with the most interest and wherewithal to make a play at this level, though the Nationals could be a dark horse.

I think Southern California is the best spot for Greinke, and he proved last September that he can handle the pressure of the large market. In fact, he pitched his best games against contending teams down the stretch. I think he ends up signing with the Angels because they’re more likely than the Dodgers to give him an extra year. However, the Dodgers would be a tremendous fit for him, pitching alongside Clayton Kershaw at the top of the Dodgers’ rotation. And by signing Greinke, the Dodgers certainly would assume sole possession of the highest payroll in baseball. West Coast New York Yankees, indeed.
Probability: Medium

Michael Bourn | CF | Best fit: Washington Nationals
Bourn is the best leadoff hitter available on the free-agent market. Possible fits for the two-time Gold Glove Award winner include the Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves. However, he’s potentially a postseason game-changer for the Nationals. They would love to move Bryce Harper to one of the outfield corners and put a defender in center field who can run down fly balls as well as anyone.

Offensively, having a leadoff hitter who can help manufacture runs with his speed would really improve the Nats' chances of winning the World Series, but general manager Mike Rizzo told me this week that Adam LaRoche is his top priority this offseason. If the Nationals re-sign him, they will probably keep Harper in center field until their top center field prospect, Brian Goodwin, is ready. It sounds like the only way they make a play on Bourn is if LaRoche signs with the Boston Red Sox, Rangers or Orioles.
Probability: Low

B.J. Upton | CF | Best fit: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies’ No. 1 priority this offseason is improving center field with a long-term solution and Upton is their No. 1 free-agent target. Upton would be an excellent fit with the Phillies because they need another right-handed bat to better balance their lineup, and his raw power should result in more than 30 home runs per season at Citizens Bank Park.

Upton would also give the team some much-needed speed, and he’s a No. 2 or No. 6 hitter in a championship-caliber lineup. From my discussions with Rays manager Joe Maddon it sounds like Upton’s really starting to mature. Sure, he’s going to strike out 160 times, but with his power, speed and above-average defense, Upton would be a huge plus for the Phillies.
Probability: Medium

Anibal Sanchez | RHP | Best fit: Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles made their mark in 2012 and are set up as a solid contender in the AL East for the next several years. However, to win the division or a wild-card berth next year, they’ll have to count on their starting pitchers to repeat their 2012 success, which is easier said than done with so many first-year pitchers.

Sanchez would really help improve the Orioles’ chances, and he looks like he’s finally figured it out, as illustrated by his impressive postseason performances with the Tigers. Sanchez, 29, was throwing mostly 93-95 mph down the stretch with a nasty change, solid slider and decent curveball and his free-agent value might have soared more than any other free agent this past season.
Probability: Medium

Rafael Soriano | RHP | Best fit: Los Angeles Angels
The Angels are not going to spend the kind of money Soriano’s seeking on a closer because it’s against the philosophy of GM Jerry DiPoto, who would prefer to fill the role with more inexpensive options like Ernesto Frieri or Jordan Walden. However, Soriano would be a perfect fit for the Angels, who suffered in 2012 without a lockdown closer. The Angels had a whopping 22 blown saves and would have made the playoffs if the bullpen was more effective protecting leads late in games.
Probability: Low

Hiroki Kuroda | RHP | Best fit: New York Yankees
The Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees all have strong interest in Kuroda, who I expect will either return to the Yankees or go back to Japan. Kuroda had a solid first year with the Yankees and handled New York like he’d pitched there his entire career. He had his best ground ball rate of his career in 2012 and developed a strong working relationship with Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
Probability: High

Kyle Lohse | RHP | Best fit: Kansas City Royals
The Royals’ early acquisitions of Ervin Santana and Chris Volstad were a start, but the Royals must be aggressive this offseason in building up their starting rotation. Lohse was the Cardinals’ best starting pitcher in the regular season this year, going 16-3 with an ERA of 2.86 and he pounds the zone with the ability to keep it on the black on both sides of the plate and rarely misses in the middle.

Lohse will consider his family needs when making a choice, and it appears that the Royals and Kansas City fit that criteria. Seems like a solid fit for both Lohse and the Royals.
Probability: Medium

Torii Hunter | RF | Best fit: Detroit Tigers

I expect Hunter to sign with the Tigers or another team before Thanksgiving. Hunter is a perfect fit for the Tigers, who can use his leadership and positive energy on the field, in the dugout and around their young players. With the Angels, Hunter was a great influence on Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo, and would be a phenomenal teacher for the Tigers’ young outfielders Avisail Garcia and Austin Jackson. Manager Jim Leyland told me that he’d like to add a 15-20 home run bat who can drive in 80 and play above-average defense on one of the corners. Obviously, Hunter fits the bill better than anyone else on the open market.
Probability: High

Stephen Drew | SS | Best fit: St. Louis Cardinals
Drew is the best available free agent on the market at his position, and there isn't much else out there. He owns a strong arm and plus range to both sides. He has the ability to hit 20 home runs and should be close to 100 percent health by spring training. Drew’s consistent play at shortstop and offensive game would be a significant upgrade.

With an aging Rafael Furcal trying to come back from injury, there is a high probability his decline will continue and include future injuries. If they can sign Drew and Furcal shows up to camp healthy, they can trade him during spring training. The Cardinals liked what they saw from Pete Kozma in September, but after his NLCS meltdown, I’m not so sure it wouldn’t make sense to park him in Triple-A for a year and let him keep developing.
Probability: Medium

What's next for Orioles, Nationals? 

October, 15, 2012
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Kyle LohseDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesLohse might look good in a Washington Nationals or Baltimore Orioles uniform next season?

It was a summer of success for baseball's mid-Atlantic teams. After much losing over the past decade, both the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals took their divisions by storm. One surprised, the other finally arrived, but both buoyed fan bases thirsting for a winner.

Considering the success of both teams, neither needs to do anything drastic this offseason. Both need to supplement their current roster with one big acquisition and perhaps a small tweak here and there. So what's next for the Nationals and Orioles?

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What's next for Atlanta and Texas? 

October, 8, 2012
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Josh HamiltonEzra Shaw/Getty ImagesWilll Texas be able to re-sign Josh Hamilton, or has he played his last game for the Rangers?


After more than seven months and 162 games, the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers won 93 and 94 games, respectively.

Their seasons ended in the span of three hours, as they became the first teams to lose in MLB’s new wild-card elimination game format. Such is the new reality for wild-card berth winners.

This also means the offseason has arrived for the Braves and Rangers. So let’s take a look at what both teams need and the possible moves that could improve their clubs or at least shore up the weaknesses.

Texas Rangers

Free agents: Josh Hamilton, OF; Mike Napoli, C; Mike Adams, RHR; Koji Uehara, RHR; Mark Lowe, RHR; Roy Oswalt, RHR; Scott Feldman, RHR (club option)

Needs/targets

The Rangers will lose several significant arms from their bullpen. They hope to get Neftali Feliz back, but both he and Alexi Ogando have told the Rangers their preference is to start, so the Rangers must address those bullpen losses. The Rangers also must figure out a plan for top prospect Jurickson Profar. Is he ready for the big leagues, and, if so, would he or fellow shortstop Elvis Andrus possibly move to center field? But their biggest decisions this offseason will be regarding free agents Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli. Will the Rangers re-sign or replace them? Here are several possible free-agent targets, including Hamilton and Napoli:

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5 FAs who could boost stock in October 

October, 3, 2012
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In 2004, outfielder Carlos Beltran came into the season making $9 million on a one-year contract with the Kansas City Royals. By the time 2005 spring training rolled around, he was with the New York Mets making $119 million on a seven-year contract with an iron-clad no-trade clause.

Beltran was an All-Star player and soon-to-be free agent peaking for a small-market team that knew it couldn’t afford his upcoming contract demands. So the Royals traded him to Houston where he nearly led the Astros to the World Series by hitting .435 with eight home runs, 14 RBIs and six stolen bases in the NLDS and NLCS combined. It was a bonanza postseason en route to a bonanza offseason payday.

Likewise, in this year’s postseason there are five players who could use bountiful postseason performances to improve their free-agent value. For a couple, it could mean lucrative paydays. And for one, it offers a shot a redemption.


Josh Hamilton, CF
Hamilton has already publicly stated that there will be no hometown discount for the Texas Rangers. With Hamilton planning on several large charitable endeavors in the near future, he is looking for a maximum contract to help get those plans started.

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Best fits for top free agents 

September, 11, 2012
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As end of the regular season approaches, every major league club that plans to delve into the free-agent market has its best scouts at the ballpark looking at the best guys who will be available during the offseason. They are evaluating every plate appearance and/or every pitch while the front office is using video technology to further evaluate prospective free agents. A club simply cannot do enough homework on a player’s health, character, work ethic and makeup.

Taking an early look at this year’s free-agent class, center field is clearly the position that offers the most depth and quality. However, there will be several quality pitchers available, too, both top-of-the-rotation types as well as closers.

Here is a list of the 11 best free agents -- in no particular order -- who will be on the market this November and with which team they might best fit. (You may notice that Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz and Torii Hunter are not listed here, and that's because I am almost certain they will re-sign with their current teams.)

Josh Hamilton, CF | Best fits: Rangers, Yankees
Hamilton is the best position player in this year’s class, and the 31-year-old would like to get a deal in the range of what Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols received last year, which would mean a 10-year contract for more than $200 million. However, Hamilton’s well-documented issues with addiction and nagging health issues will dissuade some teams. Remember, though, it only takes one team to set the market.

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Teams set for quick turnarounds in 2013 

September, 6, 2012
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Chase HeadleyMark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThe Phillies should acquire Chase Headley if Chase Utley isn't moved to third base in the offseason.

As the pennant races come down the stretch, many teams already have set their sights on 2013. There are three that stand out to me as poised to make a quick turnaround. In fact, two of the three teams won their division in 2011, and all three have set themselves up well -- whether by acquiring players or jettisoning them at the July 31 trade deadline -- for 2013. With just a couple of additional pieces, as well as some star players returning to form and a precocious prospect or two, these three teams will be in the postseason hunt next year.


Arizona Diamondbacks


Arizona’s 94-68 record and NL West title in 2011 were driven mainly by MVP candidate Justin Upton and Cy Young Award candidate Ian Kennedy. Only a year later, however, both have struggled mightily. Arizona might not even finish .500, leaving management no recourse but to retool. As such, the left side of the infield has been traded, with Ryan Roberts sent to the Tampa Bay Rays and Stephen Drew to the Oakland Athletics. But that retooling also has left the Diamondbacks in great position to jump right back in the race in 2013.


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Bourn fills Braves' needs perfectly 

July, 31, 2011
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The Atlanta Braves have acquired center fielder and leadoff hitter Michael Bourn from the Houston Astros in exchange for outfielder Jordan Schafer, left-handed pitcher Brett Oberholtzer and right-handers Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu.

Bourn, 28, was hitting .303/.363/.403 with 64 runs scored, 26 doubles, seven triples and a league-leading 39 stolen bases in 46 attempts. A former All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner, Bourn is an elite center fielder whose ability to get to balls in the gaps and behind him is rare among outfielders. Even the defensive metrics show he is one of the league's top two defensive center fielders. Plus, his success rate on stealing bases throughout his career is an impressive 83 percent.

Bourn changes the entire dimension of the Braves' lineup. Finally, the Braves have a leadoff hitter who can disrupt a pitching staff on the bases, particularly in close games in the late innings. Bourn's acquisition will move Martin Prado to the two-hole where he belongs and give the Braves much-improved on-base percentages in the top two spots. Having Bourn and Prado together will create more fastballs for the middle of their lineup, consisting of Brian McCann (when he's back from the DL), Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward. The only downside is that the Braves' lineup becomes too left-handed. The deal, however, will be significant come playoff time because speed at the top of the order can make a huge difference in a game's outcome when the Braves are facing the league's best pitchers in 2-1 or 3-2 battles.

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Five deadline deals we could see 

July, 31, 2011
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The 2011 trade deadline has arrived and the 30 major league clubs now have just a few more hours remaining to make one final trade that won’t require trade waivers. It’s the last chance for contending teams to make trades without any risk of getting blocked by other organizations.

This has been one of the busiest trade deadlines of recent memory, as we’ve seen contending clubs acquire the likes of All-Stars like Ubaldo Jimenez, Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence while clubs that are now committed to rebuilding have acquired potential future stars like Colby Rasmus, Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Zack Wheeler and Jarred Cosart.

The trading is not done, but here are five more deals that could be made today at the buzzer:

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