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Let's crank up the Hot Stove

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When the clock struck midnight on Friday morning, Major League Baseball teams were officially able to start talking financial numbers with free agents from other teams.

With that, the craziness that is the MLB Hot Stove officially began.

And this offseason figures to be particularly nuts, given the presence of big name free agents like Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia. Not to mention that Jake Peavy is more than likely going to be traded.

Plus the New York Yankees have a lot of money to spend, which is music to the ears of the Players Association.

We've already had a couple of trades this past week with Matt Holliday heading to Oakland and Nick Swisher on his way to the New York Yankees. I don't get either deal. Oakland is never going to re-sign Holliday, and if the Yankees want a .240 hitter who plays first base, why not re-sign Jason Giambi?

The Swisher news had to bum out Scott Boras and Mark Teixeira. Even if they had no intention of signing with the Yanks, you always want them at least in the mix. Who knows? With the amount of cash the Yanks have to throw around this winter, they probably are still in on Teixeira.

So with that said, let's take a look at some of the other top free agents and where they might wind up:

STARTING PITCHERS

CC SABATHIA - You know the deal with him. Stud of studs. Big left-hander, who will take the ball on three days' rest and give you a complete game. Rumor is he wants to pitch on the west coast and would prefer to stay in the National League because he likes to swing the bat. The New York Yankees are going to blow him out of the water with an offer that will probably be $20-30 million more than any other team will offer. I'd be shocked if he is not opening the new Yankee Stadium in April. Be careful, though, he has thrown close to 500 innings over the last two seasons.

A.J. BURNETT - Picked a perfect year to stay healthy. The Yankees could use another starter and if they don't get Sabathia he will be at the top of their list. He comes with some injury concerns, though. When healthy, he is one of the better righties in the league. Baltimore could also be an option.

DEREK LOWE - Good option, not a great option. Best word to describe him is solid. Plus he seems to pitch better as the games get more important which, of course, is why he is so highly coveted. But I am not sure he is worth the $15 or $16 million a season he is going to command.

BEN SHEETS - Buyer beware with him. One of these years, though, Sheets is going to stay healthy and win a Cy Young Award. It wouldn't shock me to see him re-up with the Brewers.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Oliver Perez, Andy Pettitte, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson

RELEIVERS

FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ - No way is he going to get the five-year, $75 million deal he and his people are seeking. When it is all said and done I think he signs a four-year, $52 million contract. Contrary to popular belief, I don't think the New York Mets get in on him. My best guess is he signs with Milwaukee.

BRIAN FUENTES - Going to be a nice consolation price for whichever team does not land Rodriguez. With Billy Wagner sidelined for the entire 2009 campaign, the Mets are going to get a closer, and he will probably be the guy.

TREVOR HOFFMAN - Anyone have room for the all-time saves leader? Apparently the San Diego Padres don't. Something tells me he winds up in St. Louis. Detroit could also be in the mix, but I don't see him switching leagues, especially with all the closer jobs available in the NL at the moment.

KERRY WOOD - I am a little surprised that the Cubs are going to let him walk. It will be weird to watch him in another uniform. Don't be surprised if he winds up in San Diego as Hoffman's successor.

OUTFIELDERS

MANNY RAMIREZ - There is no question Ramirez is worth every penny he is going to get. The question is, do you want to go more than two or three years? Boras supposedly wants a six-year deal. That won't happen. I would be shocked if the Dodgers let him get away. In the end they will cave and give him three years guaranteed at roughly $25-27 million with an option for a fourth year. I don't think he would be able to do much better than that.

ADAM DUNN - He strikes out a lot, but is a run-producing machine. Surprisingly the Washington Nationals are interested, but they have a logjam in the outfield following this week's trade with the Florida Marlins. He could find a home with the Angels if Teixeira decides to leave.

BOBBY ABREU - He has Chicago Cubs written all over him, plus they will give him three years and close to $50 million. He won't love the wall at Wrigley, but you know what you are getting at the plate with him. Abreu will hit close to .300 with 25-30 home runs and will drive in 100 RBI. Plus he is always on base.

RAUL IBANEZ - Could be the steal of this free agent class. The Mets, Phillies and Braves will all be in on him, as will the Tampa Bay Rays. He won't command crazy money either.

PAT BURRELL - Not as solid of an option as Ibanez, but the same teams will be interested. He likely winds up in the AL, probably in Tampa if they don't get Ibanez.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Milton Bradley

INFIELDERS

MARK TEIXEIRA - If Manny is the best hitter on the market, then Teixeira is the second-best. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim want him back bad. But with Boras you know Tex is going to get as much as he can. Also watch for Baltimore to get involved here, as Teixeira is from there.

ORLANDO HUDSON - Hudson is starting to become a hot commodity. The Mets supposedly love him, but they have to unload Luis Castillo's contract first. Good luck with that. St. Louis could also be a fit

CASEY BLAKE - One of those gritty intangible guys. Joe Torre supposedly loved him with the Dodgers, so he could stay out there. But if the Dodgers decide to move Russell Martin to third, there is no use for Blake. Minnesota will be looking for a third baseman and is very familiar with him. He might not win you a championship, but championship teams always have a guy like Blake on their squad. Does that make any sense?

KEEP AN EYE ON: Jason Giambi, Rafael Furcal, Orlando Cabrera

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.

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