Ken Davidoff's baseball insider

Yankees, Mets, trade rumors, free agents, off-the-wall predictions and other MLB musings.

The Yankees' potential absence from the table, Derek Jeter, Alex Cora and Roy Halladay

I was chatting with a high-ranking official from a major-league club yesterday, and he reiterated the conventional wisdom already out there: No one expects the free agency market's big three - Jason Bay, Matt holliday and John Lackey - to sign any time soon. 

It appears that trio will operate in a vacuum. In past markets, free agents would wait for the big domino to fall, and then act in the hopes that Option #2 would see his value increase. Last winter's starting pitchers provided the perfect such example, as A.J. Burnett waited for CC Sabathia to sign, and then Derek Lowe waited for Burnett to sign, and then Oliver Perez (insert laughter) waited for Lowe, and so on.

This year? I don't know if that second tier of starting pitchers _ Randy Wolf, Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro, etc. _ can afford to wait for Lackey. They might just have to pounce on a good deal when they find one. Just as Bobby Abreu jumped at the Angels' extension, rather than play the game at which he lost last winter.

But it's pretty clear why this year's market appears different, isn't it? It's because, right now, the Yankees haven't RSVPd to the party.

The Yankees current employ the highest-paid starting pitcher,  highest-paid  closer, highest-paid catcher, highest-paid first baseman, highest-paid shortstop and highest-paid third baseman in the industry. They didn't intend to make Hideki Matsui the highest-paid DH when they committed $13 million a season to him four years ago, but this past season, Matsui indeed served as the highest-paid DH, too.

There are myraid backstories to each of the aforementioned signings. But they all emphasize the point that the Yankees are, to quote Brian Cashman, "big-game hunters." Ultimately, they're willing to pay market value and above when they want someone.

Who else consistently operates that way? No one.

The Cardinals will try hard to retain Holliday; I think they'll get him. But they're going to proceed cautiously, rather than aggressively, with the bidding.

The Red Sox like Holliday, but they've shown, time and again, that they appreciate the gravity of what it means to commit immense years and dollars to any one player.

The Mets like Holliday, but it's pretty apparent, whether it's that they don't have the money or don't want to spend it, that they're not going after him the way they pursued Carlos Beltran five years ago.

You can never count the Yankees out of any sweepstakes. I think it's far more likely they go seriously after Lackey than the two outfielders, all the more so if Andy Pettitte doesn't reutrn (unlikely, IMO).

If they actually play this winter conservatively, though? We might get to New Year's Day with the Big Three having no idea where they'll be.

--As for Derek Jeter winning Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year award, I think it's pretty apparent a different Yankee should've won, as NoMaas points out.

Seriously...I guess I don't really care enough about the award to get worked up over it. And Jeter certainly has earned it, based on the award's history. My objection to Jeter, over the years, has been that too much of the media glorifies him as this flawless individual. I just don't think he's flawless. He's not a bad guy. He's human, is all.

--Well, if you're a glass-half-full sort, I guess you can look at the Mets' re-signing of Alex Cora and say, "Hey, they must be fine financially, if they're signing this guy for $2 million. Bring on Holliday and Lackey!"

If you're more of a pessimist, however, you're probably saying, "Good Lord, this must be a bad dream."

Really, it doesn't matter how big your budget is. You can't be signing Alex Cora for $2 million, regardless of how great a clubhouse presence he might be. Cora was a team leader, from what I saw, but that didn't mean much once he played himself into the ground.

In the rest of this linked story, I discuss how the Mets are looking at other options at catcher, via the trade route. But I still think there's a strong chance they end up with Bengie Molina.

--Big day today, with arbitration offers coming. I'd be surprised if the Yankees didn't offer arbitration to Andy Pettitte, and I'd be even more surprised if they offered it to anyone else. The Mets won't offer it to anyone.

--Good story by Buster Olney this morning about Roy Halladay, whose agents have informed the Blue Jays that, if Halladay reports to Toronto's spring training, he will use his no-trade clause to reject all proposed deals.

It's an obvious power play, one that Johan Santana utilized with the Twins two years ago, as Olney notes. It increases the pressure on Toronto management to get a deal done before mid-February, rather than start the season with Halladay and shop him in June and July.

The Jays should learn from the Twins, and how the Santana deal went: If you can't find a deal to your liking, then just call Halladay's bluff, carry him through the 2010 season and enjoy the two draft picks you'll get upon losing him a year from now.

The Twins are such a well-run organization, in general, that they've overcome the minimal return they've received from the Santana trade. The Blue Jays shoudln't make the same mistake.

Regarding Halladay, very good piece here by Alex Speier of WEEI's Web site, who details the risks of acquiring Halladay. And Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star offers some clarity to the Halladay drama, since it began in earnest last July.

Thanks to the amazing MLBTradeRumors.com for linking to both of the above stories.

--I am able to read comments again, thanks to NaOH's tip. Apparently, others of you have experienced the same turbulence. Logging out, closing the browser, re-launching the browser and logging back in did it for me.

Have a great day. I hope to check in later.

 

 

 

Tags: Roy Halladay , Andy Pettitte , Johnny Damon , Hideki Matsui , Derek Jeter , Matt Holliday , John Lackey , Jason Bay

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