|Jon Heyman says Michael Bourn will be pursued by the Phillies and Nationals. (US Presswire)|
Pay no attention to the weak World Series ratings. Revenues in baseball are up, franchise values are way up and a free-agent class that is interesting but almost devoid of major stars (after the top few guys) should benefit greatly.
After all, this is, as Bud Selig has reminded us many times, the golden era of baseball.
And these guys are the luckiest of all the beneficiaries.
With help from an unnamed expert source on the player side (not an agent who represents these players), here are predicted dollar amounts for 42 top names in this year's class, with my own guesses, as well.
1. Zack Greinke, SP. With a potential bidding war between two big-market crosstown rivals (the two L.A.'s), he stands to be the big winner. My expert has him No. 1, and I agree. Expert: $147 million, 6 years. Me: $150 million, 6 years.
2. Josh Hamilton, OF. One of the more interesting markets in years. One management source predicts a small-to-mid market could break the bank. I could see Milwaukee, whether it be the US Bank (Brewers GM Doug Melvin joked they might need that particular bank), or whatever bank. Expert: $137 million, 5 years. Me: $140 million, 6 years.
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3. Michael Bourn, OF. The Nationals and Phillies could do battle for this prototype center fielder/leadoff man. Expert: $83 million, 5 years. Me: $80 million, 5 years.
4. B.J. Upton, OF. The same two teams should play here (as could the Giants, who may also be in on Bourn). Expert: $70 million, 5 years. Me: $65 million, 5 years.
5. Nick Swisher, OF. Regular-season numbers aren't far off those of Jayson Werth, who got $126 million for seven years. But how much with defense and October matter? Expert: $67 million, five years. Me: $39 million, three years.
7. Kyle Lohse, SP. Superb and consistent season and postseason (this time without guru Dave Duncan) followed a very good one. Expert: $64 million, 4 years. Me: $70 million, 4 years.
9. Adam LaRoche, 1B. Monster year should pay off. The Red Sox, who had him briefly, should covet LaRoche. The incumbent Nats surely do, too. Expert: $39 million, 3 years. Me: $56 million, 4 years.
10. Rafael Soriano, RP. Replaced Mariano Rivera and put up a Rivera-like year. Could see the Tigers making a play. Expert: $39 million, 3 years. Me: Agree.
11. Edwin Jackson, SP. The Nationals turned down a $13.3-million qualifying offer, which ought to be a clue. But who knows? Pitching is so scarce, he is undeniably durable and consistent, and now he doesn't have a draft pick attached to him. Expert: $37 million, 3 years. Me: $36 million, 3 years.
12. Ryan Dempster, SP. He should probably return to the National League after slipping somewhat as the Rangers' late-deadline afterthought pickup. Expert: $33 million, 3 years. Me: $25 million, 2 years.
13. Delmon Young, OF. Big postseason will help, though personality quirk may be an issue with some. Expert: $28 million, 3 years. Me: $12 million, 2 years.
15. Torii Hunter, OF. Terrific finish showed he has plenty left. Expert: $22 million, 2 years. Me: $30 million, 2 years.
16. Brandon McCarthy, SP. Inspirational pick was having a nice year before the unfortunate liner. Expert: $22 million, 2 years. Me: $20 million, 2 years.
17. Shane Victorino, OF. His off year will hurt a little, but probably not as much as you think. Expert: $21 million, 2 years. Me: $30 million, 3 years.
18. Kevin Youkilis, 3B. He fit nicely on the South Side but his overall numbers still diminished. Expert: $18 million, 2 years. Me: $20 million, 2 years.
20. Jonathan Broxton, RP. Very nice bounce back season. Expert: $16.5 million, 2 years. Me: $15 million, 2 years.
21. Joe Blanton, SP. He's solid and consistent, which plays pretty well this year. Expert: $16 million, 2 years. Me: $24 million, 3 years.
22. A.J. Pierzynski, C. Big walk year helps. White Sox have replacement Tyler Flowers ready, but watch if Jerry Reinsdorf brings back a favorite. Expert: $15 million, 2 years. Me: $20 million, 2 years.
23. Sean Burnett, RP. Very good lefty reliever who should be appreciated this winter. Expert: $14.5 million, 3 years. Me: $16.5 million, 3 years.
26. Marco Scutaro, 2B. Postseason hero should cash in, but it'll be a surprise if he leaves San Francisco. Expert: $14 million, 2 years. Me: $15 million, 2 years.
28. Hiroki Kuroda, SP. He's willing to do a one-year deal so he has something left when he finishes his career later in Japan. The Yankees should be able to make a deal here after giving him the $13.3-million qualifying offer. Expert: $14 million, 1 year. Me: $15 million, 1 year.
29. Shaun Marcum, SP. He consistently outpitches his stuff, though he had a bit of injury trouble last year. Expert: $10.25 million, 1 year. Me: $20 million, 2 years.
30. Ichiro Suzuki, OF. He resurrected his career once with the Yankees. Maybe the Giants make a play this time. Expert: $11 million, 1 year. Me: $10 million, 1 year.
31. Jeremy Affeldt, RP. His huge postseason should make him coveted. Expert: $11 million, 2 years. Me: $18 million, 3 years.
32. Mariano Rivera, RP. Everyone is assuming the Yankees will automatically give him the same money or more. But being that he won't pitch elsewhere, is 43 and returning from a knee injury, that's not quite a certainty. Expert: $10 million, 1 year. Me: $12 million, 1 year.
33. Dan Haren, SP. The Angels' trade fell through at the last minute, so he's probably not too far off the difference between the $15.5-million option and $3.5-million option. Expert: $10 million, 1 year. Me: $20 million, 2 years.
34. Kevin Correia, SP. Nice solid starter is better than you think. Expert: $10 million, 2 years. Me: $14 million, 2 years.
35. Mike Napoli, C-1B. An off year offensively could hurt him. But his ability to play first base or DH helps. The Red Sox, who have eyed him for years, make sense. Expert: $9 million, 1 year. Me: $16 million, 2 years.
36. Russell Martin, C. The .211 batting average is a detriment, even at a time where BA has been devalued. But should it? Very good defender with power. Expert: $7 million, 1 year. Me: $15 million, 2 years.
37. Andy Pettitte, SP. He came back to pitch for a bargain $2.5 million last year, but they'll presumably strike a compromise between that and market value this time. Expert: $6.5 million (plus $4 million in incentives). Me: $10 million.
38. Ryan Madson, RP. He'll look for a closer job a year after Tommy John. Expert: $6.5 million, 1 year. Me: $7.5 million, 1 year.
39. Scott Baker, SP. Like Madson, he missed 2012 with an elbow issue. Expert: $6.5 million, 1 year. Me: Agree.
40. Jose Valverde, RP. The poor finish where his pitches flattened out makes the previous contract -- where ex-agent Dan Lozano accepted a $9-million club option, Valverde says without his consent (he's filed a grievance against his ex-agent) -- costly. Expert: $6.25 million, 1 year. Me: $7 million, 1 year.
41. Melky Cabrera, OF. As time goes by, perhaps the shenanigans will be less remembered. Everyone thinks a one-year deal is right, but don't be shocked if someone steps up for two. Expert: $6 million, 1 year. Me: $8 million, 1 year.
42. Lance Berkman, OF-DH. He hasn't decided whether he's coming back. Hunch is the Astros probably will want him most. Expert: $5 million, 1 year. Me: $9 million, 1 year.