Thin crop of free agents waiting next year

December, 30, 2008
I know I touched on this last week -- by way of explaining why the Red Sox wanted to spend so much money on a first baseman when they already have a good one -- but I think Fred Claire's piece about next winter's thin crop of free agents is worthwhile …

    One of the key factors on the free agent front this offseason has received little attention.

    It has to do with the list of players who will be eligible for free agency following the 2009 season. It is, at best, a thin class in comparison with the current group.

    It is a factor that the New York Yankees had to have in mind when they placed first baseman Mark Teixeira and pitcher CC Sabathia in the rather exclusive $100 million-plus club.


    Team executives have no interest in talking about individual players who could be free agents in 2009 since these players currently are under contract and thus we turned to two young Web site operators who follow free agency and contracts closely to get their views of what the future may hold -- Tim Dierkes of and Jeff Euston of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

    Both Dierkes and Euston placed [Matt] Holliday at the top of their position player list, with Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves second. They agreed that Lackey figures to be the leading pitcher if he doesn't sign before becoming a free agent.

    Dierkes also made mention on his preference list of Jose Valverde (Houston), Brian Roberts (Baltimore), Jayson Werth (Philadelphia), Brian Giles (San Diego), Todd Wellemeyer (St. Louis), Adrian Beltre (Seattle), Mike Cameron (Milwaukee), Brett Myers (Philadelphia), Jason Bay (Boston), Troy Glaus (St. Louis) and Vladimir Guerrero (Angels).

    Euston followed his top three selections of Lackey, Holliday and Jones by listing Guerrero, Carlos Delgado (New York Mets), Roberts, Rich Harden (Chicago Cubs), Myers, Valverde, Bay, Adam LaRoche (Pittsburgh), Beltre, and Justin Duchscherer (Oakland).

    This is not a group of players that figures to generate a great deal of excitement and the number of potential free agents likely will dwindle.

First a few bullets …

• Chipper Jones will turn 38 shortly into the 2010 season.

• Brian Giles is a year older than Chipper Jones.

• I agree that Lackey will probably sign an extension with the Angels.

• I suspect the Red Sox will sign Jason Bay to an extension.

So whom does that leave? It'll be a strong market for third basemen, for second basemen named Brian Roberts and for 33-year-old DHs named Vladimir Guerrero. Matt Holliday is going to make a lot of money, and may well slot in nicely as the Yankees' left fielder in 2010.*

*Which reminds me of something. Or rather, two Yankees somethings: Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Both of them will earn $13 million in 2009, and both of them will be looking for new contracts after the season. I know they're both going to be middle-aged a year from now, but both can still hit a little and I would expect them to draw some real interest.

Claire is right, though: Next winter isn't going to be nearly as exciting as this winter. And that is actually a good thing, because we probably won't have to hear any owners in huge markets talking about salary caps.



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