Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Free Agent Market

With pitchers and catchers reporting for duty in just under 9 days there are a ton of talented players still on the free agent market. More than any other year that I have seen in my time as a fan. This is an updated list of the top talent still available on the free agent market:

Paul Lo Duca, C
Moises Alou, OF
Lvian Hernandez, P
Braden Looper, P
Paul Byrd, P
Pedro Martinez, P
Mark Mulder, P
Odalis Perez, P
Eric Gagne, P
Will Ohman, P
Jason Isringhausen, P

Many of these players can certainly be classified as being either insurance policies or reclamation projects, yet in years past, they would have been snapped up quickly. There are former all-stars and there are potential future hall of fame players on that list (Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez). Is it be possible that a future hall of famer will have to beg for a job, sure, but three? I don't think so. This has been a crazy off season, and I think that teams have been very reluctant to spend their excess payroll dollars in a year where baseball is appearing to prepare itself for a tough year based on their pricing and the poor economy. Only teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs have been spending significantly and other teams have been making solid bargain moves or by making trades to improve.

I forecast that this is going to be a very unique season. Players appear poised to wait for teams to find holes that they need to fill whether that be because of injuries or lack of talent and teams do not appear willing to give these players their requested salaries because they are by in large not worth it. It may be May or June before some of these players sign to provide depth for the team. Today also provided one of the best bargains of the free agent season. Ty Wigginton to the Orioles for 2 years at 6M was a deal. He is a solid .270, 20, 70 guy and 3M is probably under value for a guy like that. I can't believe it, but good kudos to the Orioles for the second consecutive day!

One final point I wish to make about the free agent market. There is one superstar that would make an immediate and significant impact on any team, Manny Ramirez. This future hall of famer cannot get work because just one team has shown significant enough interest in him to offer a 2009 contract. I think Manny would make sense for a whole slew of teams, but his asking price appears to just be too high. As a result, all of these teams have and will continue to abstain from the bidding. Perhaps only Los Angeles and San Francisco have the interest in Ramirez and after two declined offers, Manny may have just alienated the Dodgers like the Red Sox apparently did to him (according to Ramirez). So what does this mean for Manny? Is the best hitter from the past decade, coming off of one of the best half-seasons in recent memory going to be jobless. The answer appears to be -- YES! For whatever reason, Ramirez declined both offers from the Dodgers, each reasonable and a good deal for each party. Now, because of his greed or desire for the right contract, Scott Boras may have finally lost. The economy appears to have created such a bubble that the elite players market in baseball has burst on Ramirez and Boras. I can only wonder what would have happened if Alex Rodriguez had stayed with Boras last season. Would it have been the same situation?

For the foreseeable future, I do not see any of these players with a Major League Baseball franchise unless either they are willing to accept a lower contract or a team gets desperate for talent. If you were to create two columns for each category, I'll bet that over the next several months each of these players will fall into one category or the other -- it will be fun to watch which side has more patience.

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