Commentary

Pricing the free agents

A former GM puts a dollar figure on the top players available this winter

Updated: January 31, 2012, 7:26 PM ET
By Jim Bowden | ESPN Insider
Albert PujolsRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesHow much will Pujols make this offseason? The sky is the limit.

With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder finding new homes this winter with Los Angeles and Detroit respectively, the offseason has proven bountiful when many experts thought the market would be lean for them.

I served as a general manager for 15 years, and committing big dollars to a free agent is always a gamble. You have to try to balance age, injury history, tools, performance and makeup before making an offer.

I decided to put myself back in the GM's chair to evaluate this free-agent class. The following is my estimate of what I would pay the top 50 free agents if I were a GM of a club that had the budget and need for that kind of player. The players are ranked by their estimated average annual value (A.A.V). I use A.A.V. because that is what the MLB Players Association is most concerned with when evaluating contracts. When the A.A.V. is equal, tie goes to the contract with greater overall value. To get a better feel for the market, I also talked to agents, scouts and execs who will be heavily involved with this offseason's bidding.

You'll notice Japanese phenom Yu Darvish is not included, and that's because there was some uncertainty regarding whether his team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, would post him and thereby make him available to major league clubs. However, he was posted and signed with the Texas Rangers for $60 million for six years.


Big Board Bar

1
1B
31
9
$243M
$27M
Analysis: Pujols is the Babe Ruth of this era. Don't be surprised if a team such as the Chicago Cubs makes a stealth offer of 10 years at $300 million, but I still think he will return to the Cardinals for less. Agent Dan Lozano's goal is to surpass Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $275 million extension signed back in 2008 with the New York Yankees. However, with the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies not expected to bid, this seems unlikely.
SIGNED: Los Angeles Angels, 10 years, $254 million

Jim Bowden

Baseball, Insider