Every boy has a dream of what they are going to be when they grow up. There were the aspiring firemen, astronauts, doctors, lawyers, and police officers. I wanted to be a veterinarian. Many of those aspirations – like mine – didn’t work out. Those were the real professions we dreamt about. Then there were the play professions. Who was going to be the next Sandy Koufax or Bart Starr? Me? I was going to be the next great New York Yankees centerfielder. But, as it turned out, I was a better rugby player than baseball player. The problem was no one was getting rich playing rugby when I was younger. Certainly not to the extent baseball players eventually wound up.
Even though I’m older (and all of us are), I still find time to dream a little. Only my dreams have moved on from being that fleet-footed outfielder to the General Manager of the Bombers. After all, that’s what we’re all doing playing fantasy games. We’re all the GM of our favorite baseball or football team. So I’m going to put on my GM hat and sign the best free agents available to form my team. Since they are free agents, I can obviously sign any of them without limiting myself to National League players only. And if they’re already signed, their contract will be voided so they can play for me. So here is my franchise of free agents for the 2012 MLB season.
C – Ryan Doumit – The catcher ranks are not deep and Doumit is the youngest of the bunch. He has fewer than 800 AB over the past three years wearing the tools of ignorance and slightly over 600 games played in his career. The 30-year old is hitting .271 for his career so he won’t be a total drag on the batting order and has occasional pop in his bat. I locked him up at two years for $5.5M.
1B – Albert Pujols – The crown jewel of this year’s free agent class and the cornerstone of my franchise for most of the next decade. I could have gone with the younger and more rotund Prince Fielder but decided to make a statement and have Phat Albert’s quiet professionalism leading my team. Albert may be starting to show just a tint of tarnish in the armor but still was near the top of the league in most offensive categories in 2011 after a slow start and will be fine for the majority of his contract. It seems like he’s been around so much longer than Prince but he’s only slightly over four years older than the second best first baseman on the market and draws more walks while striking out nearly half as much. Signed for eight years at $180M.
2B – Kelly Johnson – A second sacker who’s already had his career year and is coming off a down campaign so I got to save some dough. I don’t expect he’ll ever hit .284 with 26 HR again but will be happy with a career matching .260 BA and 14–18 dingers even though they will come with a gang of strikeouts. Three years and $12M.
3B – Wilson Betemit – No overpaying on Aramis Ramirez here. The money saved will be well spent in other areas. Betemit will be locked up early while my competition fights over the ex-Cub. Not a sexy pick but he’ll be competent enough at the hot corner. Now gets the opportunity at a full-time job. One year $1.5M with a team option for a second year.
SS – Jose Reyes – The second biggest signing after Pujols. This is my leadoff hitter and I want young legs at the top. No Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal or Orlando Cabrera for me. He’ll set the table for the rest of the lineup and cause chaos on the basepaths. Another solid BA to anchor the lineup while pitching in the occasional home run. I’ll also have a top notch medical staff to make sure he stays on the field. Inked for six years and $117M.
LF – Josh Willingham – Not much to choose from for left field but Josh will fit the bill. Can get on base and hit for power decently enough with a career OPS of .836 and will come at a fraction of the cost of a Matt Holliday type. I don’t want a star at every position and Willingham certainly serves my needs for one year and $7.5M.
CF – Grady Sizemore – Briefly considered going with Coco Crisp due to the injury issues with Grady but in a long negotiation period the ex-Cleveland Indian convinced me he was healthy. Offered a great combination of power and speed before the injuries but I told him I want him to play a good outfield and hit for power – no running. We came to a one year contract with an option plus incentives for a base of $6M to lure him away from Cleveland.
RF – Michael Cuddyer – A blue-collar sort who can play multiple positions adequately enough while giving the team some flexibility. Can hit the long ball to the tune of mid 20’s and doesn’t strike out excessively. Two years and $23M is what it cost.
SP – C.J. Wilson, Hiroki Kuroda, Edwin Jackson, Erik Bedard, Paul Maholm – A mix of three southpaws and two righties with some good experience. Not the youngest staff around but you’re not going to get that with entirely free agents and no trades or farm promotions. Skilled and competent enough to provide a WHIP south of 1.30 and ERA lower than 3.50 while striking out a good amount of batters. Got a package deal for $46M.
CL – Ryan Madson – Certainly not one of the premier "names" on the market in the closer ranks but who can argue with the results – 32 out of 34 save chances converted while striking out better than a hitter per inning. Was successful in keeping the ball in the park, especially in a bandbox like Citizens Bank Park. Earned a raise to $7.5M.
This team certainly will compete with whatever Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman throws out there. Now to find someone to hire me and provide the bankroll.