Later this week baseball free agents can start signing with any team. Right now players can only go back to their previous clubs, like C.C. Sabathia opted to do yesterday. The Yankees were probably happy to keep him for just a 30-million dollar bump. There were grumblings that some teams would take a shot at C.C. if he hit the open-market. Not that he had any desire to leave NY, or the Yankees would have let it happen, but a team or two might have been desperate. There are a lot of big money clubs out there with thin rotations. The candidates to fill those spots are few and far between.
C.J. Wilson was and remains the biggest name on the free-agent market. What he did to his value with his mediocre post-season is up for debate, but some team out there will throw a bunch of money at him and hope for the best. It is very difficult for teams to show patience when it comes to free agent starting pitchers. You look at the John Lackey deal, and there’s an example of a guy getting near ace money by default. The Red Sox could have waited for a better name to come on the market down the road (Cliff Lee, for example) or could have pursued other means of acquiring a starter, but those are risky and not immediate options. That winter, it was Lackey or nothing, and the move didn’t turn out. That’s pretty much the case with Wilson this year.
For whatever reason, less frontline pitchers are hitting the open-market. Cliff Lee was the exception in recent years. Halladay signed an extension. Verlander signed. Hernandez signed. Josh Beckett signed. Weaver just signed away his first few free agent years. And, some of the guys that have been leftover (Burnett/Lackey) have been pretty big busts. Teams seem more prone to locking up their young pitchers than they have been in the past, and it’s making it more difficult to build a rotation through free agency. How many pitchers do the Cubs/Red Sox/Yankees/Marlins/Nationals need? These are the teams that are supposed to be out there spending money, and they’ve got spots open for starters, but there’s no one to fill them.
After Wilson you’ve got Mark Buehrle available. You’ve got Roy Oswalt. Javier Vazquez. Paul Maholm. Jeff Francis. Stop me when you get the idea. It’s bleak. Signing free-agent pitchers is a bit like the Raiders running a search for a head coach. OK, we can’t get our first 10 choices, but we’ve got to get somebody.
In Philly, the lack of available starting pitching is hardly a problem. There are some teams out there who probably would have picked up Roy Oswalt’s option year. Let’s put it that way, but the Phils were able to cut him loose and maybe they can wrangle him back in for a bit more modest of a price tag. I think Jimmy Rollins will probably dictate the Phillies strategy this winter. If Rollins can be signed for a Phillies friendly deal–something in that 3/36-39 range then he’ll likely be back, Madson will likely be back and there probably won’t be a splash of any significance.
If another team, the Giants for example, bends to Rollins’s demands and coughs up 5-years, the Phillies will certainly walk away. Then, they’ll have to initiate some type of plan-B. If the Phillies took a run at Jose Reyes to replace Rollins, it’d likely mean cutting cost corners in other areas. Perhaps Madson wouldn’t get his deal. The chances of adding Cuddyer or a similar player would become remote.
It’s hard to take anything the Phillies say to heart, because they’re always running some type of interference. Ruben says something like he wants to keep Rollins, but he also wanted to keep Jayson Werth. Well, he didn’t really want to keep Werth. So do you believe him when he says Rollins is one of their primary targets, or is he secretly hoping that some team comes in with a mammoth offer and the Phils can walk away without any of the blame? We won’t know until it all plays out.
Rollins could sign quickly. I don’t know that he needs any player to set the market for him, and if he’s leaving town, he’ll want as many teams pursuing him as possible. It’s important to note, though, that there is a minor hangup in the collective bargaining agreement. Don’t worry, I don’t think a lockout is on the horizon, but the owners and players are at a bit of an impasse over slotting for draft pick contracts and draft pick compensation for free agents. Teams will want to know if they are sacrificing picks or not before signing these players, so it’ll likely have to be agreed upon before we see the big names changing teams.
My Gut Feelings as of Now:
Pujols–Back to St. Louis