There’s an impressive crop of baseball free agents ready to find new deals this winter. And despite the current economy, they’re still bound to make the big bucks.
Among the prized players are Matt Holliday, Vladimir Guerrero, Carl Crawford, Magglio Ordonez, Jermaine Dye and Hideki Matsui.
But as the Red Sox are well aware, the best potential free agent of all is Jason Bay. And with that in mind, the Sox should make sure he never becomes a free agent at all.
For years, everyone assumed that Holliday would be the big prize of
the 2010 sweepstakes. But then this year, both Holliday and Bay made
the transition from the National League to the junior circuit. Holliday
moved from a mile-high bandbox in Colorado to Oakland; Bay came from a
pitcher’s park in Pittsburgh to friendly Fenway. Holliday’s power has
disappeared in a more difficult ballpark, whereas Bay’s has only
thrived. And now it’s Bay’s time to cash in.
And if the Red Sox want to avoid the uncertainty of this winter’s
market, they had best show him a fat new contract right now — before
it’s too late.
If the Red Sox wait too long on this, bad things could happen. In
these uncertain economic times, the last thing the Red Sox want is a
bidding war — especially if that war ends up being against the
Yankees. Brian Cashman was more than willing to outspend Theo Epstein last winter, when the big prize was Mark Teixeira. It would surprise no one if he did it again.
The Red Sox are in a fortuitous situation right now, though. They
have the best player in the 2010 class under contractual control today.
Bay has done nothing but thrive in Boston. He leads the Red Sox this
season with 20 home runs in the first half of 2009, and with 72 RBIs,
he leads the entire American League. His .380 on-base percentage this
season is his best since 2006.
Clearly, he’s a good fit with these Red Sox, and there’s little doubt that the Sox brass recognizes it.
Bay has a chance to sign a contract extension now, and if the Red
Sox have any chance at all of getting that done, they should. No better
time than the present — the Sox have a nice break this week before
returning to the field on Friday night against the Blue Jays.
The Boston Globe’s Tony Massarotti reported during this All-Star break
that “negotiations between the Sox and Bay are expected this week,”
indicating that both sides are trying. That’s an encouraging sign.
If the Red Sox try hard enough, they could get this done within the
next couple of days. It’s certainly in their best interests to do so —
if they don’t, they could wind up in a free-agent free-for-all with Bay
up for grabs on the open market. They don’t want that.
Because Bay is the best player on the free agent market this coming
offseason, he will define that market. This offseason, Bay’s price tag
will mean everything. And if the Sox don’t act now on extending his
deal, they’re in danger of letting outside factors — say, the Yankees’
offers on the open market this December — influence them.
It’s vital that Bay and the Sox define the market for outfielders this offseason — before the market defines them.
Name your price, Jason. Sooner rather than later.
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