Free agents will spice up offseason

Free agents will spice up offseason

It was nice to see that a couple of longtime friends -- Vin Scully and Bobby Cox -- said this week that they plan to return to the baseball scene in 2009.

Scully and Cox are in a position where they can declare their plans for next season at an early date. After all, Scully has been a member of the Hall of Fame since 1982 and Cox is headed for Cooperstown once he decides to end his managerial career.

The two men have earned the right to call their shots.

Scully will be in his 60th season in the broadcasting booth for Dodgers games next year, and Cox will be in his 27th campaign as a Major League manager and 23rd at the helm of the Atlanta Braves.

The announcements by Scully and Cox got me thinking about how things will look in 2009 when it comes to a group of players who have no idea where they will be when next season opens. That would be the upcoming class of free agents.

If you have taken the time to examine the list of potential free agents, you undoubtedly recognize that it's going to be an active and interesting offseason.

I turned to a few well-connected sources in the game to come up with what amounts to an All-Star team of free agents, and here's how things turned out:

C -- Ivan Rodriguez, Yankees; 1B -- Mark Teixeira, Angels; 2B -- Orlando Hudson, Diamondbacks; 3B -- Casey Blake, Dodgers; SS -- Rafael Furcal, Dodgers; LF -- Manny Ramirez, Dodgers; CF -- Mark Kotsay, Red Sox; RF -- Adam Dunn, Diamondbacks; DH -- Jim Thome, White Sox; starting pitchers -- C.C. Sabathia, Brewers; Ben Sheets, Brewers; Ryan Dempster, Cubs; Derek Lowe, Dodgers; Jon Garland, Angels; and closer -- Francisco Rodriguez, Angels.

It's an interesting team, and you can be assured it would be a very expensive one to field.

It's also somewhat telling about what the future might hold, because seven of the 15 players listed are playing under the banner of Los Angeles -- Teixeira, Garland and Rodriguez of the Angels, and Blake, Furcal, Ramirez and Lowe of the Dodgers.

The big offensive guns here are Teixeira and Ramirez. Both were acquired just prior to the Trade Deadline, and both have delivered in a gigantic way.

It is Ramirez who has captured most of the headlines, as he has brought the Dodgers back to life and back to first place in the National League West with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs in his first 38 games as a Dodger.

Just to put those numbers in perspective, Ramirez is the first midseason acquisition to collect 14 homers and 40 RBIs in his first 40 games since Hank Sauer was traded by Cincinnati to the Chicago Cubs in June 1949. Sauer found Wrigley Field in Chicago very much to his liking and hit 15 homes with 47 RBIs in his first 40 games as a Cub.

Ramirez has hit .396 with a slugging percentage of .776 as a Dodger. This remarkable showing has overshadowed Teixeira on an individual basis, but the Angels' new first baseman has performed quite well, with nine homers and 33 RBIs in his first 38 games with his new team while hitting .362 and compiling a slugging percentage of .610.

The bottom line is that both Ramirez and Teixeira have helped their free-agent portfolios, and you can be assured that the man who represents the two players -- Scott Boras -- is paying close attention to the statistics that are being compiled.

Just what Ramirez and Teixeira will command in the open market is hard to say. What is known is that Ramirez didn't seem to be happy with the fact that he was looking at $20 million a season options held by the Red Sox for the next two years before being traded to the Dodgers, and Teixeira reportedly rejected $140 million for eight years before he was traded by Texas to Atlanta in July 2007.

Whereas Ramirez and Teixeira will command the most attention for teams looking for a power supply, it will be pitching -- as always -- that draws the most suitors.

Sabathia will be at the top of the list of the big spenders, and there is a financial benchmark established by the fact the New York Mets signed Johan Santana last year for $137.5 million for six years.

The other starting pitchers on the market will receive plenty of play, but the pitcher who will draw the most attention, other than Sabathia, is Angels closer Rodriguez.

Rodriguez recorded his 56th save on Wednesday -- just one removed from the all-time single-season record held by Bobby Thigpen -- as the Angels clinched their fourth American League West title in five years.

Rodriguez, 26, is believed to be seeking a five-year contract for $75 million, and when you consider that veteran Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera signed for three years for $45 million, you can see that the Angels flamethrower has a case.

The big dollars being kicked around are enough to giving anyone a major headache.

That's why it was nice to see Scully and Cox say they wanted to come back one more time, because they enjoy the game and they are having fun.

Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book -- Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue -- was published by SportsPublishingLLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.