We put out our annual Walk-Year All-Star team yesterday on Newsday's website. Last year's such squad looked like this:
C: Ramon Hernandez
1B: Albert Pujols
2B: Kelly Johnson
SS: Jose Reyes
3B: Jose Bautista
LF: Josh Willingham
CF: Carlos Beltran
RF: David DeJesus.
DH: David Ortiz.
RHP: Edwin Jackson
LHP: C.J. Wilson
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
Of these 12 players, only two haven't switched teams in the past year: Bautista never made it to free agency, signing a five-year extension with Toronto just as the Blue Jays' 2011 camp kicked off, while Ortiz entered free agency and accepted arbitration from Boston.
So just for the heck of it, which of this year's dozen are most likely to forego free agency? And which will still be members of their current teams a year from now?
Let's start with "Most likely to stay put" and work our way to "Most likely to be wearing a different uniform."
1. Mariano Rivera, closer. As mentioned in Rivera's write-up, the 42-year-old will either be retired a year from now, or he'll be starting his fifth Yankees contract since accruing enough service time for free agency. Right now, I'm betting on retirement. But I'm betting only a little.
2. David Ortiz, DH. Yeah, he's this squad's DH again, and he learned over the winter that his best ticket to continued good salaries - in this era when many clubs aren't looking for a 150-game DH - was to accept arbitration. The free-agent compensation system changes next winter, but if Ortiz can approach his 2011 numbers this coming season, it might behoove the Red Sox to offer the assigned one-year contract for 2013 (for probably about $13 million), knowing that Ortiz would likely accept it.
3. Lance Berkman, 1B. Not yet finished with a monster, rebound season, Berkman passed up free agency and re-upped with the Cardinals last September. Chasing every last dollar has never been a priority for him, and he seems very content in St. Louis.
4. Scott Rolen, 3B. A repeat of '11 might send him right to retirement. But if he can bounce back at 37, then he sure loves playing near his Indiana home.
5. Cole Hamels, LHP. I know there's much pessimism surrounding a re-upping of this relationship, but I'm skeptical of the skepticism . The Phillies have never let a player of Hamels' caliber depart in their five-years-and-running stand atop the NL East. And as far as we can tell, Hamels is happy in Philly.
6. Yadier Molina, C. He's beloved in St. Louis and likes it there, and the departure of Albert Pujols gives the Cardinals more funds to retain Molina for the long run. Yet given his all-around game and the paucity of catchers out there, he will be in high demand.
7. Josh Hamilton, LF. His free agency will be particularly interesting because of his age (31 next winter), litany of injuries and well-publicized substance abuse history that flared up recently. The Rangers, for better or worse, have the best grasp of Hamilton's assets and liabilities.
8. Nick Swisher, RF. A fourth straight successful season in Yankees pinstripes would make him quite attractive on the market. The Yankees appreciate his production, yet they also listened seriously to trade offers earlier this winter before opting to retain him. You never rule out the Yankees retaining a high-quality player, but Swisher's agent Dan Lozano will be looking for the top deal, and I wonder whether the Yankees will offer the one-year, $13-milllionish contract and gladly accept compensation draft picks when Swisher turns that down and signs elsewhere.
9. Matt Cain, RHP. The Giants didn't spend much this offseason, and they might just wish Cain well so they can focus on retaining Tim Lincecum, who reaches free agency after 2013.
10. Kelly Johnson, 2B. With the one-year compensation offer unlikely, and with the Blue Jays a longshot to seriously contend, Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos could shop Johnson at the deadline.
11. Stephen Drew, SS. He'll be in demand, given the low supply of shortstops.
12. Michael Bourn, CF. Like Drew, he's a Scott Boras client, which means free agency is a virtual certainty. If he can deliver an upcoming season similar to his 2011 campaign, Bourn would be the sort of toolsy player who generates Hot Stove excitement. And the Braves generaly don't let themselves get caught up in open-market silliness.
--Stop by later for the final contest of the week.