'Very little star power' awaits this winter

Led by Barry Zito and Alfonso Soriano, there are presently only a handful of top-tier free agents in this upcoming winter's class.

Originally Published: April 20, 2006
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN.com
Derrek Lee possesses all the attributes that teams prize in a free agent. He's missed 20 of a possible 972 games the past six years, so durability is a given. At 30, he's in his prime producing years. He's coming off a Most Valuable Player-caliber season, plays a superb first base and would be a welcome addition to any clubhouse.

The Chicago Cubs clearly recognized Lee's appeal when they took him off the market last week -- a full seven months before he hit the show room.

When the Cubs signed Lee to a $65 million deal, they solidified first base through 2010 and locked up the slugger who was most likely to generate a Hot Stove buzz in November. Factor in previous long-term deals for Jon Garland and Jose Contreras in Chicago and contract extensions for Jeff Kent in Los Angeles and Randy Winn in San Francisco, and the 2006-07 free agent crop isn't quite as strong as it might have been.

Jerry Crasnick | email

ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer