Which free agents will get their price? (cont.)
Going for him: He just set the single-season record for saves, with 62. He has been a dependable closer for the Angels for years, with at least 40 saves in each of the past four seasons. He has, at times, been a dominating strikeout pitcher, too. In 408 career appearances he has a 2.35 ERA. He's only 26 years old.
Going against him: It's hard to think of anyone, with the exception of Barry Bonds, who has set such a visible record and felt such an immediate backlash. K-Rod's velocity, according to critics and some scouts, is down markedly, which might explain why his strikeout numbers last season were the lowest they've ever been. He allowed more runners per inning in '08 than he ever has. He blew seven saves. Some criticized the kid-gloves way the Angels used him last season. (He never went more than an inning and never faced more than six batters.)
The asking price: In October agent Paul Kinzer was pushing for Mariano Rivera money, which means $15 million a year. He was looking for at least five years, too, which would put K-Rod well past the richest contract ever for a reliever.
Will he get it? No way. Not in those dollars per year and not in that length. The questions alone have scared away many teams. And the Angels seemingly have closed the door after several failed negotiating attempts, though that could re-open. The biggest problem K-Rod has going against him now is a growing free-agent closer market that also includes cheaper options like lefty Brian Fuentes, righty Kerry Wood and veteran changeup artist Trevor Hoffman. The trade market also could include Huston Street, 25, who was just dealt to the Rockies.
Going for him: A Hall of Fame body of work that includes a lifetime batting average of .314, a career .411 OBP and 527 home runs. At 36 he's not slowing down, either, as his reinvigorating half-year stint with the Dodgers showed (.396, 17 homers, 53 RBIs, a 1.232 OPS in 53 games).
Going against him: His reputation as a goof-off and, worse, a team-wrecker. His defensive ability -- or, more accurately, his lack of it -- might be used as a negotiating ploy by some, but if a team is after Ramirez it's not after his glove. Defense shouldn't be in the discussion. And with Boras as his agent -- OK, this is definitely a pattern -- it won't be.
The asking price: We've all heard several different sets of numbers, but one that resonates is the six-year, $140 million that has been floated. That works out to more than $23 million a year. Only Alex Rodriguez has a contract with a higher annual value.
Will he get it? Probably not. Ramirez, who had to laugh at the Dodgers' two-year $45 million offer (and an option for a third year that would have made the contract worth $60 million), is going to have to think shorter-term. He'll be 37 at the start of the 2009 season, and giving him six years would mean he'd be playing most of the last year of his contract at age 42. Though he has been remarkable in his career, and very durable, that's a huge risk for anyone. Maybe five years at around $120 million. But six years? That's pushing it.
Going for him: The tall right-hander is coming off a fine season in Toronto, finishing 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA. He'll be 32 in January, but he threw more than 221 innings, a career high, for the Jays in '08. He has some of the best stuff anywhere, all set up by a high-powered fastball (he led the American League with 231 strikeouts).
Going against him: He's been injury prone, making just 46 starts in his first two years with the Jays and suffering through some very short years with the Marlins. Couple that with his age, and that might preclude many teams from thinking anything long-term.
The asking price: Burnett just opted out of the final two years of his contract with Toronto, forgoing $24 million. So the bidding starts well north of that -- maybe $15 million or more per year -- for a long-term deal of, you'd have to guess, at least five years. So say five years, $75 million.
Will he get it? Five years for a pitcher with an injury history is a lot. Heck, five years for a pitcher, period, is a lot. It's possible, maybe probable, that Burnett could talk someone into a four-year deal for around $64 million, which would easily top his last contract with the Jays and make ditching the last two years of it well worth the effort.