Best guess: CC Sabathia opts out, re-signs
As we approach the end zone of another baseball season, let's look ahead with some hunches:
1 The Yankees' imminent offer to CC Sabathia -- most likely five or six years in the neighborhood of $25 million per season -- will be turned down by Sabathia, who then will opt out. But the offer won't go for naught. It will set a baseline for Sabathia's free agency, to see a) if he can top it, and b) if the offer comes from a team that he actually would join.
Will any club offer more years and more total dollars? If anyone does, it probably would be an upstart team like Washington or Toronto. And would Sabathia uproot his family, which loves New Jersey, for one of those places and teams?
Boston? Don't see it. The Red Sox probably need to hit the brakes a little after their huge expenditures of last winter. And they, like the Yankees and pretty much every other club, are wary of Sabathia's weight gain during the 2011 season.
So the safe bet still calls for Sabathia to return to the Yankees for a healthy raise, renewing what has been an extremely successful marriage.
2 The players and owners will announce a new collective-bargaining agreement within a week, allowing free agency to go forward as scheduled.
How will they resolve the most contentious issue, the amateur draft? With a compromise: a tax on teams that spend more than an assigned figure on their draft picks.
That arrangement enables Bud Selig to tell his owners that he managed to rein in what they perceive to be reckless investments, and on the other side, Players Association head Michael Weiner can maintain his stance against hard slotting on draft picks.
I'll still never understand why owners raise such a stink over such small amounts of money relative to overspending on big-league free agents. At his introductory news conference Tuesday, new Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein stressed the importance of being aggressive in the draft. He's right.
3 Jerry DiPoto will get the Angels' general manager job. DiPoto, a former Mets pitcher and currently an Arizona executive, performed well in his first interview (with team president John Carpino) for the Angels' opening.
Interestingly, when DiPoto served as the Diamondbacks' interim GM in the summer of 2010, he traded frontline starting pitcher Dan Haren to the Angels for a package of players that was widely panned at the time.
Other candidates still in the mix are Yankees senior director of pro personnel Billy Eppler, former Mets GM Omar Minaya, Major League Baseball senior vice president of baseball operations Kim Ng and White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn.
4 With DiPoto going to Anaheim, his top competition for the Baltimore GM job, Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava, will join the Orioles. It would be a good hire, as LaCava has played a significant role in helping Toronto become a team on the rise.
5 Once the Orioles and Angels make their hires, we'll be almost done with the front-office portion of the Hot Stove League. The Red Sox need to hire a manager, and Epstein probably will dismiss incumbent Cubs manager Mike Quade and look for someone new.