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Money – that’s what I want!

by Matt Smith

As the free agent class of 2006-2007 bagged their lucrative contracts it would have been easy to think that no one else could be so happy, but you would be mistaken.  While I’m sure the likes of Zito, Soriano, Meche and company are quite content with their lot, another gaggle of ballplayers must have been looking on with a smile on their faces.  The only thing better than being a free agent in 2007 is being a free agent in 2008!

Curt Schilling is the latest person to declare that he will be testing the free agency waters after the coming season has ended.  Schilling’s comments are coloured by a degree of pragmatism as he has made this choice due to the Red Sox declaring that they won’t be renewing his contract this spring.  So it’s fair enough for him to be looking at all of his options.

But other players have talked of their impending free agency with unbridled joy.  “I can’t wait to cash in” seems to be the general consensus of many.  Carlos Zambrano’s recent threats towards the Cubs were particularly class-less.  I’m sure most people would agree that Zambrano has due reason to look at the money being handed out to lesser pitchers this winter and think that he deserves a hefty contract.  That’s fine, but does he need to come out publicly and say it?

There’s a large amount of petulant posturing involved here. Even Mariano Rivera has cheekily suggested that if the Yankees don’t meet his demands he might end up with the Red Sox.  Andruw Jones has seemed to conduct himself with a bit more decency, although that may be a consequence of knowing that there’s little point in trying to put pressure on the Braves to re-sign him as they are unlikely to have the financial muscle to do so.  Ichiro has kept fairly quiet so far as well and it will be interesting to see whether he leaves Seattle at the end of the season (or is traded partway through).  If he does, it may be less a case of wanting to cash in and more down to the desire to be part of a winning ballclub.  We shall see though!

While it is difficult to predict where many of these players will be calling home in 2008, a story on MLB.com today about one of Ichiro’s team mates does give you some idea of what you can expect from them during the 2007 season.  The Mariners are apparently “expecting more from Beltre”, which would be reasonable considering the return they have had so far from his five-year, $64 million contract.  Beltre is now the poster child for the “walk year” phenomenon, in which a player has a career year in the final year of his contract so that he can sign a massive multi-year deal before slipping back to his previous level of performance.  Fantasy owners among you may want to study the 2008 free agency class list before making decisions on your roster.  A number of players will have several million reasons to increase their production this season!

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