Holliday, Bay, Lackey look like best of intriguing group of free agents
The 2010 free-agent class isn't exactly brimming with stars in their prime
Boston and both New York teams are likely interested in the Cards' Matt Holliday
John Lackey said he signed a team-friendly deal last time and won't do it again
Beyond hard-hitting outfielders Matt Holliday and Jason Bay and superb starter John Lackey, the 2010 free-agent class isn't exactly filled with stars in their prime. Except for the bullpen and designated hitter spot, the class lacks depth. But that doesn't mean it will lack intrigue.
After last year's unusual winter, in which certain star players got paid big bucks, some were paid handsomely and other good ones were left standing at the altar, it'll be interesting to how this coming winter's class will be treated. I asked one general manager and one agent to gauge where the market might go, and in some cases their predictions differed wildly, especially with the biggest position-player stars, Holliday and Bay (in a few cases, though, their predictions were exactly the same).
It's never easy to predict how high free-agent salaries might go. But after a winter in which stars Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett were rewarded with contracts for $180 million, $161 million and $82.5 million, respectively, but very good players such as Bobby Abreu, Orlando Hudson, Randy Wolf, Orlando Cabrera and Jon Garland were left with one-year deals, it's especially difficult to predict where things are headed. The economy still isn't good, but baseball revenues appear to be holding up. So who knows?
With almost all the playoff entrants all but decided now, it's time to take a look at the best of the upcoming free agents. I have listed the predictions of the agent and GM, and also put in my two cents (my predictions were made before seeking theirs). A couple of their predictions were ranges, and talented yet fragile Rich Harden was deemed too unpredictable by the GM to venture a guess. Here are the best of the best of the free agents-to-be:
1. Matt Holliday, Cardinals OF. St. Louis is going to try to keep Holliday, one of four big summer pickups who helped the Cardinals run away with the NL Central. The Cardinals are going to hope that he loves being in their baseball-crazed city to the point where he would forego bigger dollars elsewhere (Boston and both New York teams are likely interested). With franchise man Albert Pujols's contract up in two years and Cy Young candidate Chris Carpenter in a year, the Cardinals don't figure to be the high bidder. The agent said he believes that Holliday and Bay should each get $2 to $3 million a year less than Teixeira. But the GM said, "Teixeira's a plus defender, a switch-hitter and slightly younger'' than Holliday.
2. Jason Bay, Red Sox OF. The Red Sox tried earlier, and Bay has said he loves playing in Boston, a stark change from Pittsburgh.
3. John Lackey, Angels pitcher. The Angels tried last winter at close to $60 million over four years, but Lackey said he signed a team-friendly deal last time and won't do it again.
4. Chone Figgins, Angels infielder. Versatile player is expected to draw interest from many teams. The White Sox and Yankees might top the list.
5. Jose Valverde, Astros closer. Terrific season except for aging a year (he'll be 32 next spring).
6. Bobby Abreu, Angels outfielder. One of baseball's most consistent players made $16 million in 2008 before inexplicably having to take a pay cut of nearly 70 percent. The GM sees Abreu as comparable to Raul Ibanez, who received $31.5 million for three years last winter.
7. Jarrod Washburn, Tigers pitcher. Huge performance in Seattle, not so much in Detroit. Could go back and rejoin the Mariners.
8. Miguel Tejada, Astros shortstop. The easiest prediction is that he'll be playing third base somewhere.
9. Orlando Hudson, Dodgers second baseman. The Mets would make a real run if they can find a taker for Luis Castillo.
10. Jon Garland, Dodgers pitcher. Another who was left to settle last year.
11. Vladimir Guerrero, Angels outfielder/DH. An interesting case that gave both our experts great pause. A terrific talent who aged an extra year and was hurt for most of the first half.
12. Rich Harden, Cubs pitcher. Injury-prone ace is a $100 million player on talent. However, he's hurt almost as often as he's healthy, and some will avoid him altogether.
13. Marco Scutaro, Jays shortstop. Career year was well-timed.
14. Randy Wolf, Dodgers pitcher. He will get more if he's willing to leave L.A., the agent predicts.
15. Doug Davis, Diamondbacks pitcher. Good chance he stays in Arizona.
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