While I decide if it’s worth doing a bullpen entry (All We Know = Tom Martin will be back) some things that have bearing on other conversations, especially free agency…
Just randomly guessing, here are how I think the free agent pitchers shake out. Don’t hold me to this unless I get it right, in which case I’m a total genius:
Yankees: Pedro Martinez, Eric Milton
Red Sox: Carl Pavano, Matt Clement
White Sox: Russ Ortiz
Braves: Jaret Wright, Kevin Millwood
Phillies: Odalis Perez, Matt Morris
Dodgers: Jon Lieber, Jose Lima
Twins: Brad Radke
Mets: Kristin Benson
Marlins: Sean Lowe
Cardinals: Chris Carpenter
One point on that last team: The Cards could make a big free agent splash, particularly if they decline Woody Williams’ option. I don’t think that they will, though.
I’ll mention, as I did in comments, that the pitcher I’m highest on is Clement, that I think he has the best chance to be a true ace, and maybe a 10-20 percent chance of having Curt Schilling’s career from here on out. His most-comparable pitcher is Jason Schmidt, and it was at this age that Schmidt broke out. There are a number of pitchers of this type who didn’t have Schilling-type thirties but did pitch very well from about 30-32, and Clement is coming off his Age 29 season. Of course, he might wash out. You can never tell with pitchers.
I’ve been thinking the last couple of days that maybe Moises Alou — an Atlanta native, as you probably know — might be the Braves’ rightfielder next year. It depends on the market. He’s coming off of a great season, but he’s old. I think he might fall through the cracks and wind up with “only” a two-year, $12 million contract. That could work with the Braves’ finances.
One important thing to consider is that the market, especially for “ordinary good” players, has fallen off drastically from what it was only a couple of years ago. I was emailing with one regular earlier today and he thought that Kevin Millwood might get $5 million a season. That is highly unlikely in the current market. Last year, when pitchers were at more of a premium, Sidney Ponson, coming off a year when he was a better-than-average pitcher, got $3 million. Jeff Suppan, who was average, got $1 million. It’s hard to see how Millwood could get as much as Ponson considering that he was hurt last year and hasn’t pitched well in a year and a half. Wright might get more, but I think that his salary will be held down by the presence of similar but superficially better pitchers on the market and by his “bad” NLDS. (As I’ve said, he didn’t pitch that badly, and if he’d had consecutive starts like that in the regular season nobody would have noticed.) My prediction is three years, $16 million total, but I am just guessing, of course. I figure Pavano sets the market, and barring a good old-fashioned Yankees/Red Sox bidding war — and Pavano says he doesn’t want to pitch in New York — he’ll get between seven and nine million a year.
Back to the hitters… I’m guesstimating that the Braves will have (after the pitchers and the various raises) about $8 million to spend on offense. However, there really isn’t an $8 million hitter on the market. Beltran will probably wind up one of the three highest-paid players in baseball. Drew and Ordonez will probably, unless their injuries are a problem, get about $10 million a year each. And nobody else is really worth that much money.
So the Braves move into a situation where they’d either make a trade, or go after an infielder or first baseman and move Giles or LaRoche to the outfield. I doubt LaRoche’s bat would carry his glove in the outfield, but Richie Sexson and Carlos Delgado are both free agents, and both coming off of injury seasons. Frank Thomas might also be available. There isn’t really anyone very interesting at second (unless the Astros cut Jeff Kent loose) but they could sign a shortstop and move Furcal to second.
Finally, remember I’m working off of a traditional free agency list. If form from the last couple of years holds, a few players will be non-tendered, and some might be more interesting than the second-tier outfielders.