With the news this week that Jason Bay, after a productive season-and-a-half in a Red Sox uniform, is now officially a New York Met, we're starting to discover how this winter's free agent frenzy is going to shake out. We've been waiting long enough.
With Bay headed to Queens, the rest of the dominoes can now fall. There's a plethora of other corner outfielders around baseball searching for new homes, and now that Bay has settled down, it's time for everyone else to do the same.
Everyone had their eyes on Bay. Not just the Red Sox and Mets — the Angels, Mariners, Giants, Yankees, Cubs and Lord knows who else were all angling for the 31-year-old outfielder at one point or another this winter. And now that Omar Minaya has prevailed and Bay's contract is signed, it's time for everyone else Plan B to come out of the woodwork.
Johnny Damon, Vlad Guerrero, Jermaine Dye, Rick Ankiel, Xavier Nady. These are the names to watch in the coming days and weeks — now that they're the marquee players remaining on the free-agent market, you can expect the offers to come rolling in.
Oh, and there's also the small matter of Matt Holliday.
Rarely do we see the biggest name on the market go unsigned into January. But here we are — 2010 is here, and Holliday is nowhere. Rumors about his return to St. Louis are rampant, but nothing is final and we continue to wait for real, concrete news.
The latest buzz is that the Cardinals are kicking it up a notch in their pursuit of Holliday — SI's Jon Heyman reports an offer on the table of six years and "presumably $100 million or more" for the 29-year-old free agent.
It's a wonder he hasn't taken the offer already.
It's a buyer's market, now more than ever. Look at all those big names — and look at how few teams there are remaining in the hunt. The Mets have Bay — they're all set. The Mariners blew all their cash on Adrian Beltre, and they'll dish out plenty more to pay Cliff Lee next season. The Red Sox got John Lackey and Mike Cameron. The Yankees are laying low, although you can never count them out on Damon.
So who's left?
Very few buyers. The Orioles, according to an anonymous Heyman source, are a darkhorse, but I'll believe that when I see it. Too many times in the past, we've seen Baltimore linger in the free-agent sweepstakes but drop out when the going gets tough — think Mark Teixeira. In the end, Holliday is probably headed back to St. Louis — and he knows it, too.
We saw this with Bay as well. Everyone knew that Bay, despite his solid year and a half of service to the Red Sox, would end up in Queens — and we knew it far before the deal went final. Simply put, there was no other option that made sense. And now Holliday's in the same boat.
He'll have a home soon enough. Just like Bay. And eventually, the rest of the stragglers will fall into place as well.
But not for a lot of money, and not in all cases with the guarantee of regular playing time. That's the peril of delving into this open market — not everyone has the cash to spend and the need to spend it on a left fielder with some pop.
The market is dying, but Holliday's the one guy out there whose value is alive and well. He should take advantage of that value while he still can.
In this market, nothing is guaranteed. When a nine-figure contract hits the table, you take it and run. When Holliday comes to his senses, he'll take his.