This might not be the summer of Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke—or Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes—but there are still some intriguing free agents on the market.
The question is, where will they go? With a weak market, will the top names stay put? Or will the allure of huge, lengthy deals be too much to resist?
Let's find out.
Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees
It seems pretty hard to imagine the New York Yankees letting Cano leave in free agency, but last week, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported that the New York Mets, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels could all be in for the star second basemen.
Though he'll be crazy expensive to retain, it would be insane for the Yankees to let Cano go in an offseason when Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are retiring, Alex Rodriguez could be hit with a season-ending suspension if he loses his appeal and Hiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson will also be free agents.
The Yankees will pony up big cash to keep him. Honestly, they don't have much of an alternative at this point.
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Boston Red Sox
With Cano likely to return to the Yankees this winter, Ellsbury will become the most sought-after player available. While he could return to the Sox, it's also possible the team won't be willing to pay the amount of money it takes to keep him around, almost assuredly more than $20 million per year.
Ben Shapiro of MassLive.com doesn't believe the Sox will splash the cash to land Ellsbury, noting the team might fear his speed will decline over the duration of a mega deal (he's 30) and that general manager Ben Cherington doesn't like handing out long-term deals above market value, which is probably what it will take to keep Ellsbury.
There are a lot of possibilities for Ellsbury—the Yankees would likely love to have him if they don't bring Curtis Granderson back, while it is the sort of splash the Philadelphia Phillies have been known to make—but I think the team to watch for is the Texas Rangers.
If Texas deals Ian Kinsler, Ellsbury could step in and assume leadoff duties, giving the team an upgrade at the department while allowing Jurickson Profar to play second (before everyone writes off Profar, let's keep in mind that he's 20 years old).
I see Ellsbury in Texas next year.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Choo may hope to get center fielder money next season, but more than likely, teams pursuing him will be interested in moving him back to right field, his more natural position. And one team that could make a splash that really needs help in right field is the Philadelphia Phillies.
Choo would give the team the perfect combination of pop and speed at the top of their order while allowing a better fielder, Ben Revere, to remain in center and breakout star Domonic Brown to patrol left.
Should the Phillies probably shed salary and rebuild? Yes. Has that ever been the style of general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. during his tenure? No. Will he change his tune with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels leading his rotation?
Absolutely not. Choo will wear red again next season, but in Philadelphia, not Cincinnati.
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