Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo, who apparently doesn't mind giving away Adam Dunn's innermost financial goals and is himself way overpaid, recently told the Cincinnati media that Dunn will seek $100-120 million as a free agent. So we now have an idea what one top free agent will seek, anyway.
Dunn denied Arroyo's claim. But since I can't think of any reason why Arroyo would make this up and don't automatically chalk up Arroyo as a flake just because he has long hair and plays music, I tend to believe it.
The figure doesn't shock me, either. That's the thing about free agency. Dollar signs dance in the heads of any player with any sort of stature and stats -- and Dunn's certainly got the stats, with as many home runs and walks as anyone in baseball over the past five years.
If someone pays a chronically mediocre pitcher like Carlos Silva $48 million, as Seattle did last winter, why shouldn't Dunn dream of getting double that? If someone bestows an $18.1 million annual salary on a fading star like Andruw Jones (though his Dodgers deal is only for two years, fortunately for L.A.), why shouldn't Dunn dream? Free agency is a time to maximize dollars for the lucky few stars -- and non-stars -- that qualify.
This year's crop isn't a bad one, at all, so it should be a very interesting winter. Three great players virtually without blemish -- CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez -- will hit the open market. Several others have big positives but also some negatives.
No surprise, Manny Ramirez should be the most intriguing case. He could hit the jackpot based on re-energizing the Dodgers since the trade deadline. But perhaps all the teams will remember his final days as a Red Sox, when he mailed it in. (Probably not.)
Below is an early rundown of the top seven free agents to be in terms of likely total contract, listed by projected free-agent haul (the dollar figures are mine):
1. Teixeira, Angels, 1B
The Angels traded a young player they loved in Casey Kotchman (and generally speaking, no one loves young talent more than them), to get Teixeira basically for the month of October since their playoff ticket is already punched. They should have some competition, though, likely from the even-richer-than-usual Yankees, who not only have $88 million in contracts coming off the books but a new stadium bringing in untold riches, plus the hometown Orioles, Mariners and possibly the Mets and several others. Teixeira reportedly rejected a $144 million, eight-year offer from the Rangers last summer, so the baseline is probably set there. The goal is to sign baseball's third $200 million deal (Alex Rodriguez signed the first two.) Best guess: $168 million, eight years.
2. Sabathia, Brewers, SP
He could not possibly have enhanced his already winning hand any more than he has. By pulling a Rick Sutcliffe (Cubs, 1984), Sabathia has ensured that he'll at least equal Johan Santana's record contract unless he limits the field geographically -- and most think he won't do that. While he's a Californian building a home in Orange County (near the Angels), the Yankees are likely to reach deep into their even deeper pockets to try to win the heart of the Vallejo, Calif., native with no knocks against him unless someone wants to get picky about his ... hmm ... large size. Best guess: $150 million, six years.
3. Ramirez, Dodgers, OF
There will be those who say he shouldn't profit from his deplorable behavior at the end of his stay in Boston. And it's true there wasn't too much of a trade market for him, as the Red Sox had to work things hard right until the last minute before the deadline to get it done. But not everyone's memory is so long. Fresh in the minds of many folks will be how he resurrected the Dodgers' hopes for an NL West crown. If the Dodgers wanted him when he was barely trying, the guess is that they'll want him more now. I don't believe he really wants to go home to play for the Yankees, and they may not go after him, anyway. But even though he loved Cleveland's quiet, he did go for the loot last time in Boston, and that worked out OK except for the last few weeks. Best guess: $75 million, three years, but it could be anywhere from $20 million to $100 million.
4. Dunn, D'backs, OF
Sorry Adam. I don't see a $100 million deal in your future. Too many folks (even well beyond Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi) see him as an all-or-nothing player who rarely comes through in the clutch. Still, he's a major power threat, and there aren't many of those. He wasn't exactly coveted before the trade deadline, but eventually Arizona agreed to part with Micah Owings and two minor leaguers, which had to make him feel a little bit better. He probably should get J.D. Drew money. Best guess: $70 million, five years.
5. Francisco Rodriguez, Angels, RP
He apparently wants to meet or beat Mariano Rivera's $15 million salary, and coming off what promises to be a record-breaking season, who's to say he won't? Bobby Thigpen was never the same after saving a record 57 games in 1990; he would save only 54 more games the rest of his career. But that doesn't mean K-Rod won't have more good years in him. The Angels' offer last offseason was only for a reported $34 million over three years. GMs are impressed that he's reinvented himself but that there are concerns about his drop in velocity, down to the low 90s. But on the mound he's been lights out. He deserves whatever he gets, and the guess here is that he's a rare free agent who'll hit his target. Best guess: $60 million, four years.
6. Ben Sheets, Brewers, SP
The upside, on display in his walk year, is fabulous. The downside is the injuries that have dogged him basically every year but this one. When healthy he's one of the best pitchers in the game. But when is he healthy exactly? Oh, now, right. Baseball people compare him to Jason Schmidt, who as a medical question mark signed a three-year, $47 million Dodgers deal. Best guess: $51 million, three years.
7. Pat Burrell, Phillies, OF
He's come back nicely from a brutal year of a few years ago to reestablish himself as a pretty good offensive player. He's had a lot of big hits this year. Of course, many of them have come in Citizen's Bank Jokeyard. Best guess: $48 million, four years.