No payments 'til 2007

Buster Olney checks out baseball's risky marketplace and finds very few bargains and only one guarantee: Buyers, beware.

Originally Published: November 1, 2006
By Buster Olney | ESPN The Magazine
Editor's Note: This story appears in the Nov. 6 edition of ESPN The Magazine.

With revenues riding all-time highs, baseball is healthier and wealthier than ever. But wise? Let's not get carried away. In a free agent lot packed with clunkers, GMs are lining up to bid on Barry Zito. While only one gets to spend $80 million on the 28-year-old lefty, the rest won't hesitate to splurge on would-be, should-be or could-be. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Japan's dominant starter, is out there, but you don't get to kick the tires. Roger Clemens could be available for monthly payments of $3.5 million, but he's going on 45 and has bad wheels. Says one AL exec, "A lot of teams are going to do something crazy." Buckle up -- it's going to be a bumpy ride.

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They managed to overcome their low OBP (.329, 24th in MLB) by banging a whole bunch of homers, but to make the playoffs out of a very tough AL Central in 2007, the Tigers will need more lefty hitters. The perfect fit: Barry Bonds. He's the most patient hitter in history, and he and Jim Leyland go way back. Bonds would fill the park, though we hear he'd come with a little baggage.

Buster Olney | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine