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The always readable Jayson Stark, columnist at, has joined in the off-season pastime of matching free agents to possible destinations.

Seems to me that in the new era of bottom-line awareness, there will be no rush to throw fortunes at the feet of aging or injury-prone superstars, and teams are waiting to see what Thome, Maddux and Glavine get before making scaled-down bids for the "second tier." There may be quite a few players -- and their agents -- who wish they hadn't turned down previous offers, and (shades of Andre Dawson, back in the day of collusion) sign one-year contracts for a lot less dough at the last minute. The Blue Jays, who are still trying to retain Chris Carpenter with an incentive-laden deal, may also bring Steve Parris back (at a more reasonable cost) or pick up another bargain from the pitching leftovers.

Here's the no-frills complete list and another ESPN summary of the Top 50 free agents.
Free Agent Musical Chairs | 3 comments | Create New Account
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_Jordan - Wednesday, November 20 2002 @ 06:24 PM EST (#102119) #
It's very interesting (and somewhat amusing) to see free agent Jim Thome seek out the Cubs for a meeting. For one thing, when's the last time you saw a player approach a club and suggest getting together for dinner and a spreadsheet? I can only imagine that between the Phillies and the Indians, Thome's not getting nearly the kind of dollars waved under his nose that he anticipated, and he's trying to drum up (the appearance of) interest from other teams.

Thome, or at least his agent, must be cursing his luck that Thome's not only the sole big-name FA hitter on the market, but also that there are so few teams that can afford him. Tommy Glavine could probably commiserate, especially now that the Braves are likely to keep Maddux but not Glavine, in the wake of the Hampton acquisition.

Much as we all hated the labour strife of the past season and the agreement that ended it (well, I hated the deal, anyway), there's little doubt so far that it's served its purpose. Teams are desperate to unload payroll and very reluctant to add more big contracts to the groaning pile. Agents who once got their kicks out of attaching marionette strings to GMs are now finding their calls increasingly unreturned. As much of a player advocate as I am, I'll admit that part of me is rather enjoying this.

What does this new, more temperate market mean for the Blue Jays? It's probably good news in most respects, because as Kent says, a lot of pretty talented players are going to wait too long for the market to correct itself and the money taps to be turned back on. With luck, there'll be one or two guys available come January or February who normally would've commanded guaranteed contracts in the millions and who now may have to be content with spring-training invitations. If there's a reliable fourth starter or legitimate bench bat there, all the better. In the longer term, we might expect to see lower payrolls generally, which should help teams like Toronto that need to keep a tight lid on expenses, or else Rogers subscribers will start paying a whole lot more to see The Sopranos.

The only downside I can foresee is that as dollars become fewer and teams can't afford to spend their way out of incompetence, they might have to resort to a radical new strategy: being smart. That's worrisome, because right now intelligence and ingenuity are the two biggest advantages the Jays front office has over most of the rest of the league. If everyone else decides to start learning how to build a good baseball team, it'll be a whole new ballgame again. I'd like to see the Jays win a few World Series beore that happens. :-)
_Kent - Saturday, November 23 2002 @ 06:00 PM EST (#102120) #
Jordan, you're not the only one who is happy to see the agents squirm. I consider salary arbitration the most inflationary factor in the business -- even when the clubs "win," everyone's costs escalate -- and increased agent clout has been a close second.

I was only half joking when I theorized that eventually, every team will have their own Keith Law or Bill James (Jordan Furlong of the Montreal Expos, hmm...) neutralizing what is now a distinct advantage for the enlightened front offices. But the evolutionary wheel spins slower in baseball than almost anywhere else, and in some places, like Baltimore, it's going backwards. I think the window of opportunity for the Jays will remain open for quite a while.
_Jordan - Saturday, November 23 2002 @ 07:56 PM EST (#102121) #
LOL ... Kent, you are far too kind. I think there's a better chance of the Expos taking the next three World Series than yours truly becoming any team's sabrmetric guru. My fantasy team was in the basement when I went off for three weeks (wedding, honeymoon, etc.)and left it on autopilot; I came back to find the same roster in second place, on the way to a championship season. The lesson for all front-office wannabes: watch what Jordan does and do the opposite.

It's a little hard to tell where teams are going in the new environment, because most of the action has consisted of the spendthrift clubs trying to swap their salary anchors for other teams' salary anchors (aka, the Colorado Two-Step). When that dust settles, we'll probably get a better view of the future. I think the real test will be what happens with overrated free agents like Fred McGriff, Ugueth Urbina and Todd Zeile. If these guys get multi-year contracts worth big bucks, then JP & Co. can breathe a sigh of relief: all's still right with their world.
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