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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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With most of the drama rapidly leaking from the regular season, it's a good time to take a look at the postseason drama to come. No, not the playoffs, but the annual orgy of ill-spent dollars to come in the free-agent market. This year's crop is among the weakest in memory, with no true superstars and little depth. It brings to mind the advice of Joshua, the sage computer from the movie WarGames: The only winning move is not to play. For those who choose to ignore this counsel, here's what they're getting into.

THE CREAM

John Lackey, Angels By far the best arm available, Lackey has bounced back from an elbow strain, averaging more than seven innings a start since getting ejected one batter into his season debut on May 16. He has five straight seasons with an ERA below 4.00 and a career strikeout-to-walk ratio above 3 to 1, as well as a big-game rep. The drop-off from Lackey, 30, to the field is huge, so he'll have plenty of suitors.

Matt Holliday, Cardinals His big second half in a pennant race has addressed concerns about his value outside Coors Field. Holliday, 29, hits for average and power, draws walks and plays a decent leftfield. He and Jason Bay are close enough in value that they could have a standoff this winter, with each waiting for the other to sign to set a price.

Also: Bay, Red Sox OF; Chone Figgins, Angels 3B; Jose Valverde, Astros closer.

YOU AGAIN?

Last year's buyers' market led to a number of quality free agents signing one-year deals, putting them back out there this winter.

Bobby Abreu, Angels His skills remain intact, except that he's now good for about 15 homers rather than the 30 he hit at his peak. His plate discipline (. 394 OBP) has been a big part of the Angels' improved offense. Even at 35, he's a low-risk addition.

Orlando Hudson, Dodgers The consistent second baseman (below) avoided the freak injuries that curtailed his last two seasons to turn in his fourth straight above-average year. Like Abreu, he contributes across the board, bringing defensive prowess at a key position.

Also: Russell Branyan, Mariners 1B; Orlando Cabrera, Twins SS.

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