ESPN is way off with its early free agent calls

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By division, here’s a list of teams I can see opening up the wallets for a $10 million-plus-per-year pitcher this winter:

Blue Jays, Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees
Royals, Tigers, White Sox
Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Rangers
Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Phillies
Astros, Brewers, Cubs, Pirates
Dodgers

And here’s a list of the elite pitching free agents available this winter:

Zack Greinke

I think it should go without saying that demand is going to exceed supply in a big way.

And that’s why ESPN’s Jim Bowden and Dan Szymborski look kind of foolish for a couple of their early calls.

Edwin Jackson is, in my mind, pretty obviously the No. 2 pitching free agent available this winter. He’s 29, he has practically the same ERA as Greinke the last three years (Greinke has a 104 ERA+, Jackson is at 102) and he seems to be on the upswing, if K/BB ratio and WHIP count for anything. I’ll be stunned if he has to settle for less than $48 million over four years this winter and my guess is that he gets something closer to $70 million over five years.

ESPN’s insiders aren’t thinking that far ahead, though. Bowden, in his column, says Jackson has only “proved himself to be a solid No. 3 or No. 4 starter.” He labels the Royals as the best fit for him, putting the Indians and Marlins as alternatives. He obviously doesn’t think the bigger spenders will go after him. But then, that’s the typical lack of insight one gets from Bowden.

(Bowden also has Fernando Rodney going back to the Angels or maybe the Giants or Dodgers in his column, not realizing that the Rays are just going to exercise their $2.5 million option on his services.)

I expect a lot more from Szymborski, and it’s rare that he disappoints. However, he lists Jackson and B.J. Upton among his five free agent bargains, ones “that won’t break the wallet.” And while I agree that those two look like better values than several other top free agents, there’s no way, no how that either goes off at a bargain price.

This winter is going to reveal that there’s a lot more money to be spent than quality players to spend it on. It’s going to take a lot more digging to find any bargains

The Red Sox AL East championship banner fell off a truck and is being held hostage

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The Red Sox haven’t won the AL East just yet. They will. For them not to, they’ll have to lose the rest of their games while the Yankees win the rest of theirs. It’s just a matter of time.

Knowing this, the club can plan some things in advance. The can begin postseason ticket sales, for example. They can decide what sort of festivities they will undertake for the first game of the ALDS that is guaranteed to begin at Fenway Park. They also, of course, can raise a banner for the division championship.

There’s only one problem with that: the banner, already printed up, fell off the dang truck that was delivering it and is being held hostage by a guy named Louie Iacuzzi from Malden. From the Boston Globe:

Iacuzzi said Wednesday by phone that he and his buddies spotted an object wrapped up on McGrath Highway in Somerville Monday morning. So he pulled over and crossed multiple lanes of busy traffic to retrieve it. Inside was a massive banner that read “ ‘2018 American League East Champions’; it’s the banner,” Iacuzzi said.

One can presume that Iacuzzi is a big Sox fan so he’s willing to do the right thing without hesitation, right? Well . . . kinda:

“We want to return it, we’re trying to do the right thing, but I’m not just going to hand it to them, know what I mean?” Iacuzzi said.

Asked if he wanted cash from the Red Sox, he said, “Yes, financial [compensation], maybe some tickets, we want something. We don’t know what we want. We want to return it, 100 percent, but we would like to get something.”

Iacuzzi didn’t have a specific asking price in mind as of Wednesday morning.

“We want to find out what the thing’s worth,” he said. “We don’t know.”

You have to click through to the Globe story to check out Iacuzzi and his friends. You also have to hear what his dad told him to do with the banner. Frankly, his dad sounds like my dad, and I’m not entirely sure that’s a compliment to anyone involved.

What’ll the Red Sox clinch first? The AL East or the return of their property? And will the movie version of this be more like “The Town,” “Celtic Pride” or “The Friends of Eddie Coyle?”

UPDATE: Oh man, there’s video: