This MLB offseason, we've seen the dawn of a new economy, with teams offering big-money, long-term contracts to players who aren't exactly hall of famers.
Juan Pierre, he of the career 727 OPS, got five years at $9 million from the Dodgers for his age 29-33 seasons. Alfonso Soriano's set to make $17 million a year through 2014. Sori was tremendous in 2006, but only two guys are signed through 2013: Soriano and David Wright. Wright will be 30 that year; Soriano will be 38. And now, Gary Matthews, Jr will get $10 million each season from the Angels while he's 32-36 , despite a mediocre career line of .263/.336/.419.
All of these guys are past their prime, yet their average yearly salary is but $2 million less than that of Albert Pujols! What's the one thing Pierre, Mathews and Soriano (not to mention Mark DeRosa and Nomar Garciaparra) have in common? They're all available now. Teams are spending like there's no tomorrow, busting their budgets on mid-level talent, but the smart GM's should wait till next year.
Looking at a list of players who will hit free agency in 2007, who would you rather have...
- CF: Juan Pierre or Milton Bradley (pictured)? Bradley is a year younger than Pierre and has a career OPS over 50 points higher, 783 to 727. Bradley hit more home runs in 2006 than Pierre's hit his entire career.
- CF: Gary Matthews Jr. or Andruw Jones? Andruw is almost three years younger and has a career OPS almost 100 points higher, 850 to 755.
- CF(?): Alfonso Soriano or Vernon Wells? Sure, Soriano's a 40-40 guy, but Wells is more than a year younger, plays gold-glove defense in center, and has a career OPS of 828 to Soriano's 835.
- 1B: Nomar Garciaparra or Adam Dunn? Dunn is more than six years younger, has stayed injury-free, and his career OPS of 893 isn't far off Garciaparra's 907.
- 2B: Mark DeRosa or Marcus Giles? Giles is almost three years younger and has a career OPS of 809, compared to DeRosa's 735.
Other marquee 2007 free agents? Chris Carpenter, Carlos Guillen, Ichiro, Michael Young and Carlos Zambrano. If your team missed out on the Skyline Matsuzaka sweepstakes or has thus far failed to sign anyone, don't complain that your GM is sitting on his hands. Instead, praise him for saving money today so he can spend it next year, when a real free agent class hits the market.