Ranking free agents -- for next year

Updated: November 9, 2011, 9:16 AM ET
By Buster Olney

The perception of many agents is that teams are working slowly and deliberately through the early days of the free-agency period -- the actions of the Philadelphia Phillies and Florida Marlins notwithstanding -- because they want to see the final details from the forthcoming labor agreement. They want to know exactly what the draft-pick compensation is, and they want to know, for sure, what the true price of signing players is.

But once the labor agreement is finished, we'll learn exactly how many teams will be bidding on Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, how many teams will shy away from the most expensive players in the free-agent market. There is great interest within the industry to learn whether the Chicago Cubs bid on one of those two sluggers, and whether the Los Angeles Dodgers are permitted to pursue them even before ownership is in place. "My guess is that right now, [Major League Baseball] has a pretty good idea of who the Dodgers owners could be," said one insider. "Remember when Barry Bonds was a free agent, and Peter Magowan was a part of his signing before he'd actually been approved as an owner. I think the same thing could happen here."

We'll see. One factor undoubtedly being considered, as part of the evaluation process for the Cubs, Dodgers and other teams, is how weak the rest of the free-agent class is, generally, and how weak it could be next year. If you are the Cubs, Dodgers, Marlins, Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners or some other team, and you are looking for a way to boost your franchise substantially without giving up a boatload of prospects in a trade, the list of potential free agents next fall is not game-changing, generally.