The oddballs of the free agent market

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Let’s take the lull in the hot stove season to think about available free agents. Not the best available ones. That would (a) lead to more Matt Holliday and Jason Bay talk, and who needs more of that right now; and (b) it would take some thinking, and today’s the Monday after a holiday and you’re lucky I didn’t call in sick today, so expecting me to really analyze anything is a laugh.

No, I’m talking about the the ones who have had little or no buzz about them to date. Filler. Guys who used to be big names (or guys who think they’re still big names but believe that the game got small). Weirdos and “that guy filed for free agency?” dudes. Guys like:

Paul Byrd: I figured his little show-up-in-the-middle-of-the-season career path would last longer than a year. I don’t see him getting more than a non-roster invite, but he might have something left, and in a world where pitching is supposedly so scarce, you figure he’d get a try;

Vladimir Guerrero: The lack of any noise about him tells you just how bad the market is for DHs these days. This more than anything has me thinking that the players may one day push for the NL to adopt it. The DH is like the desk job for the guy at your office with seniority but who can’t work a file anymore.

Brad Ausmus: He’s been so bad a hitter for so long but he lands someplace every year. My first impulse used to be to mock him, but I don’t do that anymore. I talked to a writer at the Winter Meetings who went on and on about just how much teams love the guy. Not for rah-rah locker room stuff, but because of his preparation and coaching and the way he’s able to focus younger players on the task at hand. He has giant binders on hitters’ tendencies and studies them all the time. He’s almost definitely going to be a manager some day.  Too bad he can’t hit a lick.

Nomar Garciaparra and Carlos Delgado: I think someone should sign them as a package deal and make a run at the 2000 title.

Tony Clark: Clark is still really active in the Player’s Association, serving on the union’s executive board. I wonder how long you can do that without, you know, having a job?

Joe Crede: A third base free agent with Scott Boras for an agent. Just as Matt Holliday’s situation is complicating Johnny Damon’s, I wonder if Adrian Beltre’s is complicating Crede’s.  He, Damon and a lawyer should probably have coffee one day and talk about it.

Miguel Tejada and Gary Sheffield: whoever loses on the Nomar-Delgado derby can go with this duo to try and keep up.

Willy Mo Pena and Dmitri Young:  Young is only eligible for free agency and has basically retired. But who’s to say that Jim Bowden won’t land a GM job somewhere and get the band back together? Sign these two, trade for Austin Kearns . . .

Ryan Freel: Doug Glanville wrote a column in the New York Times over the weekend about how simply being a pro athlete leads to temptations of the flesh, regardless of whether you’re a real player or not (in every sense of the word).  Case in point: Ryan Freel.  Here he was back when he played for the Reds. I can’t access a current picture of him because I don’t want to spring for an eHarmony membership in order to get it.  Suffice it to say, it seems like a long time since he signed that $7 million extension and moved Ken Griffey, Jr. off centerfield.

Matt Stairs, Mike Sweeney, Jim Thome: if you signed one and they shipped you one of the others, how long would it take you to notice?

John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Jason Schmidt: In April 1996, the Braves were the defending World Champions, and this was 60% of their rotation. Greg Maddux officially retired over a year ago, and I’m fairly certain he could still outpitch all three of them.

Oh well, we now return you to rumors about how someone batted their eye in Jason Bay’s direction and how his agent cant tell if they like-like him or just, you know, like him.

The international draft is all about MLB making money and the union selling out non-members

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 13:  A fan flies the Dominican Republic flag during the game against Cuba during Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic on March 13, 2006 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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On Monday we passed along a report that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are negotiating over an international draft. That report — from ESPN’s Buster Olney — cited competitive balance and the well-being of international free agents as the reasons why they’re pushing for the draft.

We have long doubted those stated motivations and said so again in our post on Monday. But we’re just armchair skeptics when it comes to this. Ben Badler of Baseball America is an expert. Perhaps the foremost expert on international baseball, international signings and the like. Today he writes about a would-be international draft and he tears MLB, the MLBPA and their surrogates in the media to shreds with respect to their talking points.

Of course Badler is a nice guy so “tearing to shreds” is probably putting it too harshly. Maybe it’s better to say that he systematically dismantles the stated rationale for the international draft and makes plan what’s really going on: MLB is looking to save money and the players are looking to sell out non-union members to further their own bargaining position:

Major League Baseball has long wanted an international draft. The driving force behind implementing an international draft is for owners to control their labor costs by paying less money to international amateur players, allowing owners to keep more of that money . . . the players’ association doesn’t care about international amateur players as anything more than a bargaining chip. It’s nothing discriminatory against foreign players, it’s just that the union looks out for players on 40-man rosters. So international players, draft picks in the United States and minor leaguers who make less than $10,000 in annual salary get their rights sold out by the union, which in exchange can negotiate items like a higher major league minimum salary, adjustments to the Super 2 rules or modifying draft pick compensation attached to free agent signings.

Badler then walks through the process of how players are discovered, scouted and signed in Latin America and explains, quite convincingly, how MLB’s international draft and, indeed, its fundamental approach to amateurs in Latin America is lacking.

Read this. Then, every time a U.S.-based writer with MLB sources talks about the international draft, ask whether they know something Ben Badler doesn’t or, alternatively, whether they’re carrying water for either the league or the union.

President Bill Murray speaks about the Cubs from the White House

CHICAGO - APRIL 12:  Celebrity Bill Murray clowns around with Chicago media before the opening day game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 12, 2004 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 13-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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I don’t know why Bill Murray is in Washington today. I don’t know why he’s at the White House. But I do know that he was there in Chicago Cubs gear, standing at the lectern in the press briefing room, voicing his full confidence in the Cubs prevailing in the NLCS, despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw is going for the Dodgers tomorrow night.

“Too many sticks,” president Murray said of the Cubs lineup. And something about better trees in Illinois.

Four. More. Years.