Blog Entry

Big-ticket free agents may sign with small market

Posted on: October 17, 2011 10:15 am

By Evan Brunell

The four big-ticket items slated to hit the free-agent market may be in for a rude awakening.

Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson have been expected to receive healthy contracts, but unless each of them is willing to head to a lesser competitor than the top dogs that threaten every year, it figures that the total value of the contracts signed will come in well under what was projected. Wilson might not reach $100 million. Pujols may not crack the $30-million annual salary barrier. Fielder might not even match Adrian Gonzalez's new contract in Boston. Reyes might struggle to get five years, but he'll still have more money than he'll know what to do with once he signs.

There are a multitude of reasons why, but in the cases of Fielder and Pujols, it's because there is simply not a great demand for their services, by virtue of hitting free agency at the wrong time. Boston, the Yankees, Mets, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers, Giants, Cubs... all may pass on either first baseman due to money problems, no open spots or simply not fitting within the club's process at the moment. (Especially the Cubs -- Chicago painfully needs to rebuild and unless Fielder or Pujols lands in the lap of incoming GM Theo Epstein, there's zero chance Epstein will give up draft picks.)

Wilson may have a better time of it by virtue of being a left-handed starter that could attract the Red Sox, Yankees and Angels to name a couple, but even he's suffered a beating in perception as of late, struggling through the postseason thus far and better profiling as a mid-rotation starter that is being lifted up by virtue of a stagnant free-agent crop. But even he could fall shy of $100 million, a demarcation line that has long been bandied about for the Ranger. And Reyes has his problems with injuries and inconsistency that will tamp down his market.

If any of these four players want to hit benchmarks -- Pujols signing the richest contract for annual value, Fielder besting Gonzalez and Wilson netting triple digits, Reyes grabbing five or six years -- they may have to follow in the footsteps of Jayson Werth, to name a recent example. Werth inked a deal worth $126 million to join Washington in a stunning turn of events last winter, a contract that met with instant incredulity from all sides, and no wonder. But if the Nationals wanted to announce themselves as true players instead of wallowing in the dregs of wannabe contenders, they had to make that leap, just like the Tigers had to throw gobs of money at Magglio Ordonez and Ivan Rodriguez following their 119-loss debacle in 2003. (These contracts ended up onerous by the end, just like Werth's is and will, but it put Detroit on the map and the club has been better for it since.)

A similar process could unfold this year, and the Nats could be in the thick of things again, having been linked to Wilson and possibly even going after Pujols or Fielder. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are expected to eventually skyrocket their payroll north of $100 million and that could begin as early as this year with a play for Pujols or Fielder. The Royals have stated an interest in playing in the market and bringing in a starting pitcher -- that would mean Wilson. The Orioles have been linked to Fielder for years now; the Mariners may attempt to solve their offensive problems in one fell swoop; the Brewers could replace Fielder with Reyes; the list goes on -- and none of these teams are anyone's idea of a big-market power dominating year in, year out.

And this is a good thing. A's GM Billy Beane has said before that he sees baseball morphing into what soccer has become overseas, with a handful of "superfranchises" dominating the landscape, leaving other teams to pick up the scraps and the occasional joyful run in October that the superfranchises will consider their birthright.

But the more these players filter out to the clubs not synonymous with cash, the better off the sport will be. More fans in more locales will have heightened interest in their local teams, both due signing these players and the eventual (at least, one hopes) winning to follow. Hey, these clubs flush with cash have enough advantages, which shine through in player development and club personnel.

So as you log onto this winter and see a headline of Wilson landing in Kansas City, Reyes in Milwaukee, Fielder in Baltimore and Pujols remaining with St. Louis, don't bemoan the Yankees or Red Sox missing out. Baseball's better for it.

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Since: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: October 23, 2011 1:23 am

Big-ticket free agents may sign with small market

well after tonight the price for pujols probably went up by at least 30 million, i mean he probably will get at least 210 million, becuase of this one game and he would be worth every penny, i mean 3 hr's ties a record with ruth and jackson, 5 hits ties molitor, 4 runs ties 10 players, 14 total bases sets a world series record and how about this his 3 hr's, over 1200 ft in total distance and has that home run he hit against houston landed yet.  That first one would still be going had it not been for the facade of the 2nd deck.  I mean he crushed that ball and i think part of the reason he had this game tonight is because he was ticked off at the media, like so i comitted an error two nights ago, and you wanted to blame me, here i'll show you

Since: Nov 20, 2006
Posted on: October 19, 2011 1:53 pm

Big-ticket free agents may sign with small market

Every year fans complain when a free agent signs with the highest bidder and they always bash the team.  As a free agent you are free to do whatever you want.  Just because the Yankees offer you $100M doesn't mean you have to take it.  If Pujols or Fielder or whoever likes the situation they are in then go to the team and say, "Hey, what's the best deal you can offer me that will allow us to keep/bring in players and be/stay competitive?"  Then the player can sit down and figure out if he and his family can survive on whatever is left over after the agents, managers, publicists and hangers-on take their cuts.  If they can survive, stay where you are.  If not, then look for a better deal.

Since: May 26, 2011
Posted on: October 18, 2011 11:53 am

Big-ticket free agents may sign with small market

I know the point of this article is that the potential spreading out of talent among the less play-off ready teams is a good thing for those smaller teams, and thus, baseball, and I don't disagree, but in a way it would also be good news for the big perenial playoff teams as well.  As a Phillies fan, I dread it when big names go to the Yankees, Red Sox etc.  No doubt other fans feel the same about the Philies signing big players.  So I'd be happy if all the big free agents spread out among up and coming teams.  Even in the case of Pujols staying with the Cards, he will tie up a lot of their money for the next decade and limit their future signings. 

Since: Oct 15, 2007
Posted on: October 17, 2011 6:34 pm

Big-ticket free agents may sign with small market

I agree that Pujols stating in St Louis would be the best thing,but if he doesn't,I don't think it's going to hurt baseball one damn bit,no matter where he ends up.The Yankees would have to get rid of someone to make room,and maybe that's not such a bad idea if they can do it.I can think of a couple of worthy candidates if they could pull it off.This whole "baseball needs a salary cap" dialogue is tiresome.Who's in the World Series? Where are the top 5 or 6 payrolls? It doesn't matter.It doesn't help.The Yankees have won 1 World Series since 2000.Boston has won 2.The Cubs haven't won any.The Marlins have won.The Diamondbacks have won.And if you want to say what about Kansas City and Seattle and so forth,in part it's their own fault,and in part,it's simply the way that it is,and it's true in other sports,too.When's the last time the Jets won a Super Bowl? Kansas City? Seattle? Same is true in the NBA (assuming they ever play again).Some teams have absolutely no chance when the season starts,and everyone knows it.In the case of Pujols,it's what he means to the city and the franchise.I hope he does stay.But ultimately it doesn't matter.Wherever he goes,it guarantees nothing.

Since: May 29, 2009
Posted on: October 17, 2011 4:11 pm

Big-ticket free agents may sign with small market

Detroit needs to take the money they were paying Magglio and Carlos Guillen in 2011 and make Pujols an offer.  I believe the two I mentioned were making around 25 million combined.  Move either Cabrera or Pujols to 3rd base and Detroit would be set.

I know it is NEVER going to happen, but a guy can dream, right?!?!  LOL 

Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: October 17, 2011 3:41 pm

Big-ticket free agents may sign with small market

Poor poor Boston, poor poor Yankees, where's the love?  Not in New York, that's for sure.  hahahahahaha

I think the Red Sox should trade Lackey to the Mets for Johan Santana. I bet Santana won't be drinking beer during games.

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: October 17, 2011 2:15 pm

Big-ticket free agents may sign with small market

I don't see how CJ Wilson is any where close to being worth 100 Million. The guy has one breakout year (this year) and a decent season (previous year). Other than the NY Mets (based on their track record) I dont see any MLB team GM dumb enough to sign him for 100 Million. Albert Pujols will ultimately resign with the Cards for 200 Million 8 year contract with a 9th year option with a no Trade clause.

I can see Prince fielder coming to the Cubs.

Since: Apr 6, 2009
Posted on: October 17, 2011 1:35 pm

Big-ticket free agents may sign with small market

What was failed to be mentioned in this article is that the Miami Marlins have an open checkbook for 2012. Jeff Loria has promised the city of Miami a payroll of $85M for the new Marlins stadium. The fan attendance would then determine if they could sustain that payroll.

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