One reason why many clubs are shying away from doling out big-money free agent extensions (besides the economy, of course) is the potential to land a game-changing hitter at more favorable prices in-season from teams that experience a budget crunch. The Milwaukee Brewers are doing this; so are the Red Sox.
Let’s take a look at what players could become available to the Sox as the season goes on…
LF MATT HOLLIDAY
The Athletics, long thought to be cellar-dwelling money despots, brought in Matt Holliday from Colorado as they aim for an AL West title. If their chances are slim at the trading deadline or they face a budgetary crisis, Holliday will become available.
TOP COMPETITION: The Yankees would love to add Holliday (and likely will next free agent period) with Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon’s years in New York coming to a close.
C VICTOR MARTINEZ
The Cleveland Indians are going to go into the season with a Martinez/Kelly Shoppach tandem behind the plate with Martinez also getting plenty of at-bats at first base and DH. Martinez has a $7 million club option for 2010, but the Indians may be forced to move him sooner. It helps that they have stud catcher Carlos Santana in the minors.
TOP COMPETITION: New York Mets. Brian Schneider is a temporary arrangement only, and I’m sure the club would enjoy adding Martinez’s bat to the team. Martinez could also end up their first baseman, if Carlos Delgado flops again.
SS JACK WILSON
Wilson has been linked to the Sox before, and should Lugo and Lowrie not provide enough offense/defense at short (it could happen, don’t rule it out), the Sox would take a look at Wilson, who has a $8.4 million club option for 2010, unlikely to be picked up by anyone, but Wilson would serve as a nice stopgap. Other possibles: SS Bobby Crosby (OAK).
TOP COMPETITION: I can’t imagine anyone else falling overthemselves to get Jack Wilson; Wilson’s market will be dictated by attrition and/or injury.
CF RICK ANKIEL
Ankiel will become a free agent after the season and should cash in on an impressive payday, coming all the way back from imploding as a talented pitcher. As a Scott Boras client, the Cardinals must be pretty scared about what Ankiel could ask for in what is looking like a poor outfield class. If Jacoby Ellsbury doesn’t turn it around, could Ankiel be en route to Boston? Also possibly available: CF Mike Cameron (MIL)
TOP COMPETITION: Yankees again.
1B/3B/LF/RF/DH AUBREY HUFF
The Red Sox have lately made a practice of deepening their bench for the playoff run in July/August by snatching people up around that time. Eric Hinske and Mark Kotsay spring to mind. Could Huff? With the Orioles likely to finish in the basement, the Sox may want to bring in a legitimate bopper to serve off the bench the last couple months.
TOP COMPETITION: Any other team who would need Huff to start.
These are just a few of the impending free agents in 2010; I did not look at the impending 2011 free agent class which will also have an impact on the trade market this year, as teams will trade more to get an additional year of a player. That said, I would be surprised if one of the above wasn’t on a new team in August.