Free agents in baseball means time to court, bluff

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NEW YORK -- It's the time of year in baseball for courting and bluffing -- sometimes simultaneously.

Free agent signing season began Friday with teams competing for a dearth of stars and a large number of players nearing the end of their careers.

With only pitcher John Lackey and outfielders Matt Holliday and Jason Bay considered elite players by most, it could be a slow signing season as teams seek to fill needs with solutions that are less than ideal.

"Those players who are franchise players that are available are even more valued because of the rarity of them," said agent Scott Boras, who represents Holliday.

The second tier includes starters Erik Bedard, Joel Pineiro and Randy Wolf; relievers Fernando Rodney and Billy Wagner; first baseman Carlos Delgado; second baseman Placido Polanco; shortstop Miguel Tejada; third baseman/outfielder Chone Figgins; third basemen Mark DeRosa and Pedro Feliz; outfielders Mike Cameron and Johnny Damon; and designated hitters Vladimir Guerrero and Hideki Matsui.

"It's not a deep marketplace, but in the end you've got some good players out there," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said.

Last offseason, the New York Yankees alone gave $423.5 million to pitchers CC Sabathia ($161 million) and A.J. Burnett ($82.5 million) and first baseman Mark Teixeira ($180 million).

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