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Friday, December 11, 2009
What happened to the FA bargains?

As Larry Stone writes, all those free-agent bargains that everyone was expecting might not actually be there:

I'm not so sure about that. There was some crazy stuff last year. Especially Bobby Abreu signing for $5 million guaranteed.

I mean, sure: the relievers have been getting too much. If there's one thing that GMs still haven't figured out well enough, it's that relief pitchers are highly fungible. That said, only the Lyon contract is patently ridiculous. Hawkins is solid, and Wagner isn't far removed from being one of the game's better relievers. Penny was hurt in 2008 and terribly unlucky in 2009 (until he joined the Giants, for whom he was incredibly lucky), but he's been a good pitcher for a long time.

Polanco? He's been worth about $40 million over the last three years; does $18 million over the next three years really seem out of line? No, he hasn't played third base lately. But he has played third base, and played it well.

Wolf? He's been worth $22 million over the last two years; does $30 million over the next three seem out of line? Yeah, a little bit. It's not crazy, though.

I'm not ready to draw any conclusions yet, except that baseball guys still overvalue relievers who throw hard. And we're not talking gigantic amounts of money here. There hasn't been a single contract given out this winter that ranks among the 20 worst free-agent deals of the last five years. Maybe we'll see one, still. But we haven't, yet. In the old days -- I mean, like two or three years ago -- the baseball teams wildly overspent. Last year, maybe they overcompensated a bit because of the economy. Now, everyone seems to discovered a natural balance. It's strange, all this sanity.