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Wait 'til Next Year
JOE SHEEHAN
September 28, 2009
The free-agent gold mine is in the class of 2010, but if you do insist on entering this year's market ... beware
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September 28, 2009

Wait 'til Next Year

The free-agent gold mine is in the class of 2010, but if you do insist on entering this year's market ... beware

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HOW'S THAT HEALTH-CARE LEGISLATION?

Two of the most-often-injured players of the 2000s hit the market this winter.

Rich Harden, Cubs In 2008 and '09, Harden, 27, made 20 starts in back-to-back seasons for the first time in his six-year career. Yet this will be just the second time he pitches more than 150 innings. No starter this side of Tim Lincecum is harder to hit, but should you invest big money in a guy who is always a risk to go on the DL?

Nick Johnson, Marlins After missing 2007 and most of '08, Johnson, 31, has returned to put up a .421 on-base percentage, including a .480 mark since being dealt to Florida in July. His power and range are gone, but there's not a team in baseball that couldn't use his .401 career OBP.

Also: Vlad Guerrero, Angels OF; Adrian Beltre, Mariners 3B; Erik Bedard, Mariners SP.

DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!

Jason Marquis, Rockies He made the All-Star team with great run support from his teammates, who also snapped up the grounders he induced. Marquis, 31, has a low strikeout rate, and K rate, not his 15 wins, is the best indicator of a pitcher's longevity. He's a back-end innings eater, but he may get paid as a No. 2 in this market. Not good.

Marco Scutaro, Blue Jays. Scutaro has had a blowout year, offensively and defensively. In a field with almost no shortstops, he'll stand out thanks to his 2009 stats. But here's the key number: 34, his age at the end of October.

Also: Jarrod Washburn, Tigers SP; Johnny Damon, Yankees OF.

If teams want to invest wisely, they should take this winter's free-agent budget and buy a 12-month CD. Next year's class could be a monster, with the possibility that Joe Mauer, Roy Halladay, Josh Beckett and Cliff Lee will be available.

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