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"Lou is not talking about mechanics when he goes out to the mound,"
~Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild

Friday, November 11, 2005

Free Agent Market Opens Today

There are alot of teams this offseason with plenty of cash to spend. The only problem is that this year's crop of free agents is fairly lackluster. In the past couple years, small market clubs have locked up their big stars before they hit the open market. The Brewers and Twins did this with Ben Sheets and Johan Santana, respectively. We just saw the Devil Rays extend Rocco Baldelli through 2011 if club options are picked up. Whether it's wise for them to sign a player to a contract of that length coming off a season ending injury is irrelevant. What is important is that these teams are ralizing the only way to hold onto their young talent is to show them the money before the big fish can lure them in with even richer contracts.

What we can expect from all this excess cash is for it to be thrown around in a similar fashion of Andruw Jones in Atlanta's Gold Club. AJ Burnett will see around $10 million per, not for being the best pitcher, but for simply being the best available. Toronto and Baltimore will bid for his services, with the 2 NY clubs and the Red Sox in the mix as well. For the sake of omitting redundancy, let's assume the Yankees, Sox, and Mets will show at least mild interest in everyone from Burnett to Giles to the old Lenny Dykstra jersey I'm selling on Ebay.

The Indians will attempt to bring back Kevin Millwood, although his 2.86 ERA (2nd lowest of his career) may put him out of their price range. Javier Vazquez put in a formal trade demand today. The D-Backs have until March 15 to trade Vazquez. Otherwise, he may become a free agent or revoke his demand. The latter is the more likely of th two considering the $24 million he is owed on the final two years of his current contract is about double what he would recieve on the open market. Vazquez is tough for me to figure out. He pitched very well in a 3 year stretch between '01-'03, but his last 2 seasons in NY and Arizona have been shaky. His 2005 season ERA was 4.42, but his peripherals looked pretty good. (192/46 K/BB ratio, 8.01 K/9, 1.25 WHIP) The problem was that he gave up 35 homers, that could be attributed to hitter friendly BOB.

As for position players, I fully expect Rafeal Furcal to be playing in Wrigley for 81 games next year. The Cubs always have money to spend, need a lead off hitter, and want an everyday shortstop. Last I checked Furcal meets that criteria to a "T". As a Braves fan, I'd like to bring Raffy back, but I also realize that the money could be spent in better places. At the same time, I fear using Wilson Betemit as an everyday SS. It seems to me that $8 million over 4 years might be justifiable, but if the price or length of the contract rises, it's bye bye Raffy. For more on the subject check out Braves Beat . Mac Thomason has a great piece in which he debates the Furcal issue with himself. It's a good read even if you're not a Braves fan. And I advise all Cubs fans to read it too. After all, shouldn't you know what you're getting.

Anyone looking to upgrade the offense will be calling the agent of Mr. Brian Giles. I know he's getting up there in age, but a 3 year $27 million deal is not unreasonable for for a guy who hit .301/.423/.483 last year. Those numbers include half the year in Petco Park. On the road, Giles hit an amazing .333/.463/.545. The Cards appear to be the front runner. I don't know if anyone in baseball could match a 2-5 lineup of Giles/Pujols/Edmonds/Rolen. That's just scary. Especially if Eckstein is getting on base 37% of the time like he did last year.

Those are some of the big names and I'm sure everyone has taken the time to look over the rest of the list of free agents. The great thing about baseball offseason is not free agency though. That's fairly predictable and has about 10 teams genuinely participating. The trades are the transactions that I find intersting. Last year Billy Beane traded Hudson and Mulder. Will this be the year Zito is dealt? How about the Thome situation? The Phillies have to get Howard in at 1st so they don't have much of a choice. The question is how much of Thome's contract they will have to eat. Delgado, Cameron, Soriano, and Hunter are all possibly on the block? There will be trades of players we didn't know were being shopped and of players we didn't know existed. It should be alot of fun and Unrestricted View will do its best to stay on top of everything. Oh, I almost forgot. I might have heard that some guy named Manny wanted out of Boston. I can't believe that though. Must be a rumor, right?

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