The free agent frenzy officially begins on Tuesday, and believe it or not, there actually are questions beyond which team will sign Scott Boras.
Yes, anyone signing A-Rod is actually signing Boras, because A-Rod works for Boras and not the other way around. Boras will want 10 years with the ability to opt out of the contract any time he wants. Don’t worry: Boras always finds somebody ready and willing to sign his regular-season big-numbers guy, who seems to get severe dry-mouth in October. Then he wants another $100 million.
It’s a game, if not a scam. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice….
Cubs GM Jim Hendry already missed a shot at a solid shortstop when Edgar Renteria went from Atlanta to Detroit for a couple of good prospects. Now Hendry’s best free agent options for shoring up his middle infield are at second base, where Colorado’s Kaz Matsui or the Mets’ Luis Castillo could offer an upgrade to a needed everyday doubleplay combination. Incumbent Mark DeRosa is better as a super-utility player, though he might also be the best right fielder on the Cubs roster right now.
On the other hand, is Hendry still after shortstop Rafael Furcal, who he wanted to sign last year? Furcal’s availability would seem to depend on the Dodgers signing A-Rod and installing him at shortstop. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti might prefer to deal for Florida’s Miguel Cabrera to fill the hole at third base, although Cabrera has been putting on weight by the sackful in the last tree years and will want a gazillion to sign a long-term deal. His numbers are pretty good, though.
How good are Hendry’s connections in Japan? He could do some one-stop shopping for a pitcher – righthander Daisuke Yamai — and a right fielder – Kosuke Fukudome. Yamai pitched eight perfect innings for the Chunichi Dragons in the final game of the Japan Series (Hitoke Iwasi closed out a perfect ninth inning for the championship). Fukudome, 30, is a left-handed doubles hitter and RBI guy with a high on-base percentage, along with a big-time arm in the outfield. Japanese players are usually sound in fundamentals, which would be a welcome change on the Cubs.
There are four top free agent center fielders available: Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones, Aaron Rowand and Mike Cameron (who starts the 2008 season with a 25-game suspension for taking what sounds like an amphetamine). And Vernon Wells might be available by trade. With that market, do the Cubs really want to take the chance that Jacque Jones will be their opening day center fielder by default? What if Felix Pie can’t shorten his swing and still looks like a non-hitter?
The speculation about Ryan Dempster becoming a starter next year doesn’t solve anything, unless the Cubs are going after somebody like Milwaukee closer Francisco Cordero. Two pitchers the Cubs absolutely need to sign: Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. They can’t be dim enough to let Wood walk and/or low-ball Prior as an invitation to leave. You don’t give up on guys who can throw like that, although the Cubs have spent a lot of time and effort trying to make Prior look like a head case. But even if he is, he has that bolt of lightning for a right arm. Dumping Prior would be dumb, dumb, dumb.
Is Florida really considering a trade of lefty Dontrelle Willis? If so, the Cubs can begin talks with two lefties to offer, Rich Hill and Sean Marshall. Willis had an off-year for a foundering Florida franchise, but he’s another guy with an arm to covet. Especially since the Cubs originally had him and gave him away.
Take it to the bank: Scott Rolen plays third base somewhere other than St. Louis next season. A Minnesota rumor has popped up, but don’t count out the Yankees. Or Boston, if Mike Lowell wants a longer deal than the Red Sox want to give him. Lowell will be 34 in February. Remember when 34 seemed old?
Good news: Less than 100 days until Spring Training.