SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Versatility might have helped Dave Roberts and Rich Aurilia find jobs under any circumstance. But this offseason was a lousy time to be a free agent -- which is why Roberts and Aurilia, among other veterans who signed multiyear deals before 2007, look extremely smart. Or lucky. Opening Day is less than a month and a half away and dozens of free agents remain unemployed, including estimable performers such as Shawn Green, Bartolo Colon and Shannon Stewart. But teams industry-wide are increasingly economizing or relying on younger players (they're often one and the same), leaving fewer opportunities for veterans who lack superstar status yet are too established, or prideful, to accept a non-guaranteed contract and a non-roster invitation to Spring Training. "I think it's all about timing," said Roberts, who signed a three-year, $18 million deal in December 2006. "You have to have a good year at the right time. Obviously, if you're a free agent and you had a bad year last year, it's a tough market."
"The guys that are getting left out of the mix are those guys who are second-tier, who are going to make decent money -- not great money, but not like the minimum -- and I think sometimes clubs would rather pay younger guys to save some money," said Aurilia, who also signed in December 2006 for $8 million over two years. As an accomplished basestealer, Roberts possesses a skill uncommon to most ballplayers. Aurilia can play every infield position. But at 35 and 36, respectively, their marketability could have been limited. Still, Roberts and Aurilia never will have to wonder about what might have been. "I played my whole career to get an opportunity to play every day and get this security," Roberts said Tuesday. "I do think I've shown enough the past three years that I can play any position in the infield to where I've increased my value to find a job," Aurilia said. Delayed reaction? In retrospect, Aurilia said that the automobile accident he endured last March 20 could have caused the neck injury that bothered him through most of the 2007 season. Aurilia felt only a headache after the incident, in which his car was rear-ended on Scottsdale Road near the Giants' training complex. His neck problems didn't arise until May 6.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.