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16

Fifteen days have passed since the start of the HRL Twin Cities free agency period and still there is more speculation in the air than results. A few players have made their intentions known, so let's take a look to see how things are rounding up at the midpoint of November.

A's
sm_athletics19Brian "Gimpy" Henderson has announced his free agency for the 2006 season, making many around the league wonder where the future of this team is headed. There have been rumors that Neush might be optioned out to the minors in Denver, leaving the possibility of an A's return in 06' even more unlikely. Possibly destinations for Gimpy involve joining an incoming team of rookies, or perhaps he'll find his way onto the Brewers if they become strapped for players. Jason Hall has given word that he is interested in returning in 2006, either with the A's or perhaps by bringing in 4-5 friends/rookies to form a new team. It is unknown if this team would keep the A's name. Curt and Gus are the other A's that are in question. They are currently playing the waiting game, hoping that that the league's free agency opens up a little more before they lay their cards on the table. Last year Gus was a last second addition to the A's, as it was believed that he wouldn't return after having played in 2004 with Cota and the then Yankees. It is quite possible that Gus will once again wait till Spring to decide whether or not he'll play in 2006.

Braves
sm_braves23After another great regular season and a disappointing loss in the playoffs in 05', the Braves officials have their work cut out for them. Not only do they have to reassure their fan base that this team can be a contender in 06', but now they have to do it during a rebuilding year. Not much has been said about the break between the Braves and the Pabon brothers, but speculation from the media is that the Braves organization did not receive the okay from ownership to raise the payroll in order to resign the Pabons. From the financial end, this move may not be a popular one. In 2005, attendance numbers dropped significantly from the previous year, and there have been talks that all the awards the Braves players have been winning have built up egos and are therefore driving up contract prices. As for the rebuilding process, much is still up in the air for the Braves. Officials are reluctant to mention names, but they have confirmed meeting with several potential free agents and team GM's. Last week Braves Vice President of Personal, Matt "Chops" Travaille, was overheard telling an undisclosed player's agent that the Braves were, "Looking towards the future. We're thinking younger and faster."

Brewers
sm_brewers19Reports show chaos in Brewers headquarters as management and potential free agent Ted "Costa Rica" Spilseth attempt to come to terms on a contract extension. It is believed that the Brewers may look to move Ted before his arbitration hearing as the right-hander looks to receive a large raise from his 2004-2005 salary. Calls to the Brewer's front office were not returned and all attempts at reaching Spilseth failed, leading many to believe he has returned to the island (Costa Rica) to help those affected by this year's hurricane season. Unknown sources have leaked out information that, while in the states, Ted was seen being courted by at least two HRL teams (Braves and Padres). While the loss of Ted would be quite a blow to the Brewers, don't look for them to fall apart in 2006 if he leaves. The Brewers overcame the loss of Jim West in 2005 when Joe Lawrence showed he can do more with a bat than his 2004 campaign (.171 10HR 29RBI and 27R), and Hendi eventually overcame his battle with illness and injury to put up a offensive surge while the Brewers were in a late season playoff run. Also many team officials believe that a minor league player by the name of Tyler is ready to be called up early this spring. Dave "Popcorn" Halvorson is the Brewers other possible free agent. Right now the betting odds are for him to put softball before wiffles next season and serve the Brewers as an occasional sub in 2006.

Dodgers/Rangers
sm_rangersThrough their "front man" Dutch, the Dodgers announced that they will indeed change their name to the Rangers. The Rangers are still looking to fill the sixth man slot on their team, and with Mike Bliss's kid still years away from being eligible look for them to bring in a rookie on their own rather than pick from the league's Spring free agent pool.

Mets/Astros/Colt .45's
sm_mets19This might be the saddest team of the off season. With Al's potential retirement still clouding things, the rest of the team is forced to sit and wait while the offers come rolling in. Reports this week show that at least two teams are making a push for Coop just in case the Mets fold. If Coop does fly from the Met's, look for the Padres and Cota's potential new team to make big offers. There is the potential situation where Al retires and Bob stays with Tony and the Mets. If this happens there is a decent chance that the Mets will be big players on the free agent market, going after Demetrius and/or Cota.

Padres
sm_padres23The mid-season departure/retirement of Brian Pace left the Padres with a hole to fill this off season as it's not likely they will attempt to start the 2006 season with only four players. We've yet to see or hear much of anything dealing with the "major shake-up" hinted at by Shirls early in the off season, but I expect we'll see some movement from this team sooner or later. By the time the winter meeting comes, they should be near the top of the list of movers and shakers. Last year this team made the change from the Phillies to Padres in hopes of ditching the last place finish image of 2004. This year look for the Pads to make the switch to Eagan in hopes of bettering their record with a softer Eagan schedule.

Top 3 Free Agents
Rocket/Keith Pabon
rocket05torpedo04With the sure split between the Pabons and the Braves, these two top the free agent list. Rocket showed this season that he has the stuff to be an ace of any pitching staff and his bat wasn't anything to scoff at either as he finished in the top ten in the league in average. Keith's appearances were spotty as he was balancing wiffles with work, but when he was on, watch out. The guy can flat out hit. Scouts have predicted an MVP calibre season for Keith if he can get enough at bats in 2006. It still looks like the Pabons are heading for Eagan and right now the Royals seem to have a slight edge over the Cubs or possibly the Expos???

Cota
cota06Up to this point there is still only speculation as to if Cota is starting his own team or still hoping to be picked up as a free agent. While Cota's mouth and actions can get him in trouble there still would be an upside to signing him. His pitching is his definite strong point while his offense leaves something to be desired. A career .199 hitter, his pop in the bat is primarily hit or miss, but he still averages a decent .339 on base percentage. At this point of the off season the best bet is that he starts his own team with Goose and Ten, and fills out the remaining roster slots with rookies or other cast away free agents.

Alex
alex04In 2005 Alex hit .315 with 16 Homers in 200 at bats. That normally would be enough to sure up a spot on almost any veteran team yet Alex may have some difficulty finding a home. Many believe this is due to his fondness of pitching where he didn't enjoy the same success with his arm as he did with his bat. In 2006 Alex led the league in games started, but also in losses, posting a record of 4-13 while giving up 33 homers. One year might not define an HRL career, but Alex has dug himself quite a hole as a pitcher. Any team that adds him to their roster will immediately improve their offense, and if he can turn his pitching around they might be pleasantly surprised to see him develop into a number two or three pitcher.

 

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