It’s the 'take the money and run' part of the season as players file for free agency and the managerial merry-go-round moves into full swing. For many fans, especially for those not celebrating playoff successes, it’s actually the most interesting and hotly talked about part of the baseball year.
In pubs, barbershops, buses, at the office water cooler and just about any other place where baseball fans congregate debate is raging about any number of topics. Did Torre do right signing on as manager of the Dodgers? Were the Yankees shortsighted in letting him go? How will Joe Giardi do? Is Boston a dynasty? Can the Braves get better? Can the Mets fix what ailed them? What’s going to happen with Alex Rodriguez? Curt Schilling? Andruw Jones? Who’s the best free agent on the market besides A-Rod? Who’d fit best with the local team?
That’s just a sampling of the many topics swirling away on the airways and in the minds of fans as well as agents and baseball people. For the fans it’s debate and daydreams, but for General Managers it’s a time of possibilities, phone calls and potential.
Each day the number of players filing for Free Agency increases – but that doesn’t actually mean much until November 12th, the first day that teams, other than the team they finished the season with, can negotiate with representatives of those players. For the next several days it’s about compiling lists of needs and ways to fill them, and trying to re-sign those free agents on their own team that they’d like to keep, and deciding which team options they’ll choose to exercise and which players they want to cut loose.
And while quite a few players have been cut loose without the team planning to make an offer, a lot of players will re-sign. For many, filing for Free Agency is little more than a negotiating ploy designed to get them more money. Not all of the players are using it as a ploy however, for some it’s a way to get out of a bad situation or away from a team they didn’t much like. And for the true free agents it’s a chance to chase big money or get a fresh start elsewhere.
How the Free Agent market will shake out this off-season is very much in question. Big names might go early, or take their time examining all the offers on the table. Large market teams will decide how much they can realistically offer for top talent – even if it means taking on a big contract or a health risk. Smaller market teams will try to find bargains and assess risks in a different fashion – leery of signing the next Barry Zito to a long term deal, but desperately trying to improve and join in the success that small market teams like Cleveland, Colorado and Arizona had in this year’s playoffs.
The next few months will be fascinating for any true baseball fan, and even for casual ones, topics like just where Kerry Wood will end up, and will he ever be a great pitcher, will be discussed – ad nauseum.
Isn’t it grand?
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