Men predict free agent destinations, God says “hah!”


Today Buster Olney speculates about where Josh Hamilton may wind up.  He runs through any number of teams, notes that there are either fit or payroll problems, and ultimately lands on the Tigers, noting that (a) they have a spot in left field for Hamilton: and (b) they have recently been something of a free agent wild card, going big money and multiple years on Prince Fielder, who many thought would also pose a long-term/durability risk like Hamilton does.

It’s as fair a guess as any other team, I reckon. But — and I am in no way picking on Olney here when I say this, because it’s fun to guess — handicapping free agent destinations seems like more of a sucker’s game now than it ever has been.

I’m struggling to think of the last top shelf free agent who landed where most people suspected he’d go as the season came to an end. Pujols was supposed to go to Miami, wasn’t he? Cliff Lee was supposed to land in New York.  CC Sabathia preferred to stay on the west coast.  And that all worked out … differently.

I think such predictions are going to be even harder going forward than they have been. Mostly because of the new world of TV money we’ve talked about so often over the past year. The teams we think have money and the teams we think are broke are changing pretty rapidly. The risks associated with long-term, nine-figure deals aren’t as great as they were even a few years ago.  There are probably more players for top free agents now than there ever have been.

Which is not to say that Josh Hamilton will be the subject of a bidding war.  Indeed, he does have issues and even if more teams can take risks on a guy like him, it doesn’t mean they will. If anything, teams are wiser about such things now than they ever have been.

Ultimately, though, it only takes one team to give Josh Hamilton or someone like him a big deal. And, if recent history has shown anything, guessing which team that will be beforehand is damn nigh impossible.

Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for Red Sox

Bob Levey/Getty Images

No surprise here: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. The Red Sox open the season on March 29 in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Sale will oppose Chris Archer.

Sale, 28, is the fifth different Opening Day starter the Red Sox have had in as many years, preceded by Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. Sale started on Opening Day for the White Sox in 2013, ’14, and ’16.

Sale finished second in AL Cy Young Award balloting last year and finished ninth for AL MVP. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a 308/43 K/BB ratio in 214 1/3 innings. Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strike out 300 or more batters in a season dating back to 2003.