Last off season, despite a free weak free agent class, SP Kyle Lohse was unable to nab a long term contract. Lohse was coming off a mediocre season with the Reds and Phillies in which he only won nine games and produced a less than spectacular 4.62 ERA. Nevertheless, Lohse still thought that he would be able to exploit the market and get a long term deal with a team desperate for starting pitching.
However, Lohse's effectiveness was questioned and teams shied away from him because of his high contract demands. The then 29 year old Lohse proved to be a casualty of the free agent market because he priced himself above what teams were willing to pay him. Lohse eventually signed with the Cardinals in the middle of March on a modest 1 year/$4 million dollar contract. Quite a far cry from the four/five year contract Lohse expected at the beginning of free agency.
Fast forward to the end of 2008. Lohse, coming off a stellar season where he won a career high 15 games, was awarded a 4 year/$41 million dollar contract from the Cardinals. Lohse was able to parlay his modest one year deal into a lucrative, long term deal that will make him one of the Cardinals highest paid players.
I mention Kyle Lohse's situation for a few different reasons.
The first, and most obvious reason is because of the large number of free agents still on the market right now. Between Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Juan Cruz, Orlando Cabrera, Orlando Hudson, Joel Beimel, Will Ohman, and Manny Ramirez; the free agent market remains littered with stars and quality players. There is no doubt that each of these guys entered the free agent market this off season dreaming of a lucrative long term contract.
But with only three days left until spring training, it now looks as though each one of these guys is going to be disappointed. As we all know by now, the market has been brutal to say the least and this year there are an awfully high amount of market casualties.
Each one of these guys by now has accepted the reality that the huge contract they envisioned when the off season began is now a remote pipe dream. It is now time to move onto plan B.
The one year contract.
Yes, I know, it's not a popular option. On many levels, it makes no sense. But to me, this is the only way for most of these guys to cash in...even if it's in the distant future.
Look at it this way, if you take a one year contract now and perform well, then there is no reason why you should not be able to cash in after the 2009 season. Sure the market will always fluctuate, but it can't be as bad as it was this year, right? Let's hope not.
The example of Kyle Lohse is a bold one. Lohse was guaranteed nothing beyond the one year deal he got with the Cardinals, but in part because of necessity, Lohse took the deal and was able to parlay it into something bigger. It was a risk, but at the same time, Lohse had no choice.
And that's how I see the free agent market right now. Some of these guys are stuck in a holding pattern waiting for any opportunities to come their way while others have continued to hold out, hoping to eventually capture a better contract. The choices are slim, and could get even slimmer by the day. Eventually, these guys will have no choices at all and will be out of work despite being productive players.
Taking anything more than a one year deal at this point would be foolish considering how bad the economy is (Manny excluded). Unless one of these guys can get a significantly better contract than what most of their peers have gotten, then they would be better off taking a one year deal and playing the field again after 2009.
Just because the market has squeezed these guys out doesn't mean that they cannot capitalize off a big year in the future. If Lohse can do it, so can you.