SI Vault
 
Help Wanted (Name Your Price)
Tom Verducci
December 18, 2006
Flush with cash, teams are lavishing eight-figure salaries on some of the most unlikely free agents (Gil Meche?). Good news for the '07 crop: Binge spending won't be a one-year phenomenon
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 18, 2006

Help Wanted (name Your Price)

Flush with cash, teams are lavishing eight-figure salaries on some of the most unlikely free agents (Gil Meche?). Good news for the '07 crop: Binge spending won't be a one-year phenomenon

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2

BARRY BONDS
You know the winter meetings, staged in the backyard of Dopey and Goofy, are odd when commissioner Bud Selig doesn't show but the sport's No. 2 alltime home run hitter does, looking for a job in a flush market. A few teams made preliminary inquiries before the meetings, but ultimately 29 clubs wanted no part of Bonds. Says an executive of one team that showed some initial interest, "His people said he had to have nine [of his] assistants around him. And he wanted top dollar. You like the production he can give you ... not at the cost of the money and the problems."

The Giants, bidding against themselves and committing to another distracting season with old players and a weak team, re-signed Bonds, 42, for one season at $16 million while dropping another $43.6 million combined on Rich Aurilia, 35, Ray Durham, 35, Bengie Molina, 32, and Pedro Feliz, 31.

THE TRADE MARKET
It has barely existed, teams having been preoccupied with free-agent spending. The little action that has taken place has involved pitching, of course, and has benefited the NL East. The Mets ( Ambiorix Burgos from the Royals for Brian Bannister) and the Braves ( Rafael Soriano from the Mariners for Horacio Ramirez) each obtained a power reliever for a back-of-the-rotation starter. The Phillies risked two young starters ( Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez went to the White Sox) for the walk year of '07 free agent Freddy Garcia.

THE RED SOX
With few teams willing to trade young pitching for a bat, Boston hit a dead end again in their annual attempt to deal the flighty but productive Manny Ramirez. "Too bad," says one AL East executive. "We would've chipped in money to get him out." Instead, Boston upgraded its offense at shortstop, where Julio Lugo ($36 million, four years) replaces Alex Gonzalez, and rightfield, where J.D. Drew ($70 million, five years) steps in for Trot Nixon. The Sox also are trying to get Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka signed before a Dec. 15 deadline. After one noncompetitive September, Boston suddenly abandoned the belt-tightening that had defined its previous 12 months, during which the club let durable and productive Johnny Damon leave (after offering him one year and $30 million less than what they would give Drew) and passed on a trade for Bobby Abreu because they didn't want to pick up the $27 million left on his contract.

To the consternation of some, including L.A.'s Colletti, Drew, 31, had opted out of a seemingly generous contract with the Dodgers that guaranteed him $33 million over the next three years. After all, Drew had missed 106 games and batted .284 for Los Angeles in the first two years of that deal. But that performance was enough to essentially add two years and $37 million to what he had in hand. The size of Drew's unexpected windfall stood as its own sort of EKG. With money flowing freely, the game appeared in good health.

1 2