It's Good To Be Good Now: A Look At Why Next Year's Free Agency Crop Is Going To Suck

MLB Trade Rumors has a list of prospective free agents for next offseason. Scanning this list, it is not hard to see why this year's market of players received player-centric deals all around. Let me highlight to you the top five names by position just to illustrate how weak next year's player market will be:

  1. Jorge Posada
  2. Ryan Doumit
  3. Jason Varitek
  4. Ivan Rodrigurz (Pudge)
  5. Rod Barajas
Three of those catchers are 40, and Barajas will be 36.

First Basemen:
  1. Prince Fielder
  2. Carlos Pena
  3. Derrek Lee
  4. Michael Cuddyer
  5. Edwin Encarnacion
I omitted Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols because they are almost 100% likely to sign long-term contracts with their current teams. Even 31-year old Nick Swisher will probably have his $10.25 million option for 2012 picked up so he can play more outfield. That leaves Prince Fielder, only 28 next year, as the only good first basemen likely to be on the market under the age of 32. Unless, of course, you count Edwin Encarnacion (29) . . .

Second Basemen:
  1. Kelly Johnson
  2. Mark Ellis
  3. Omar Infante
  4. Jose Lopez
  5. Freddie Sanchez
All of Robinson Cano, Rickie Weeks and Brandon Phillips are essentially guaranteed to have their 2012 options picked up. Aaron Hill is more of a wild card. The team has a boatload of cheap options for Aaron Hill's future seasons, but those are contingent upon whether they exercise all the options at once, if I recall correctly...but then again, the Jays did just acquire Brett Lawrire...assuming that the Blue Jays pick up at least Hill's 2012 option, however, Kelly Johnson will be the lone quality player at second.

  1. Jose Reyes,
  2. Jimmy Rollins
  3. Rafael Furcal
  4. J.J. Hardy
  5. Alex Gonzalez
Shortstop has never been a deep position, but 2012 looks to be the year of the (aging) shortstop! God help us all. Reyes and Hardy will be the only available and useful shortstops under the age of 32. None of these names are a picture of health.

Third Basemen:
  1. Jose Bautista
  2. Aramis Ramrez
  3. Jose Lopez
  4. Mark DeRosa
  5. Wilson Betemit
Rumor is that the Jays are working on an extension for Bautista.

  1. Johnny Damon
  2. Manny Ramirez
  3. Carlos Beltran
  4. David DeJesus
  5. Bobby Abreu
  6. Pat Burrell
  7. Magglio Ordonez
  8. J.D. Drew
  9. Juan Pierre
  10. Andruw Jones
If it was 2002, this would be an elite list of outfielders. But it is not 2002, it will be 2012. Most of these guys are DH-only types at this point in their careers. Grady Sizemore has a $8 million option for 2012, which I assume the Indians will pick up because replacing Grady will cost much more than $8 millions.

Starting Pitchers:
  1. Hiroki Kuroda
  2. Wandy Rodriguez
  3. Brandon Webb
  4. Javier Vazquez
  5. C.J. Wilson
  6. Mark Buehrle
  7. Joel Pinero
  8. Jon Garland
  9. Edwin Jackson
  10. Aaron Harang
  11. Rich Harden
  12. Paul Maholm,
  13. Vincente Padilla
  14. Chien-Ming Wang
  15. Oliver Perez/Jason Marquis
Given the 2012 options on Chris Carpenter, Roy Oswalt, and Adam Wainwright, both C.C. Sabathia and Ryan Dempster should seriously consider exercising their opt out clauses and decline their 2012 (and beyond) player options. I only listed the market as would exist without these five names. Try and guess how many of the above names are 30 or younger.

Relief Pitchers:
  1. Heath Bell
  2. Matt Thornton
  3. Jonathan Broxton
  4. Jonathan Papelbon
  5. Matt Capps
  6. Kerry Wood
  7. Takashi Saito
  8. Francisco Cordero
  9. Mike Gonzalez
  10. Ryan Franklin
For a second, put Koji Uehara, Jose Valverde, and Joe Nathan from your mind. They have options which will likely either vest or be picked up by their new clubs. The same is likely true of Octavio Dotel, and in a blue moon, maybe K-Rod and Brad Lidge will have their options picked up too. Even still, even excluding all of these names, you can see the clear wealth of quality pitchers and pitchers with closing experience which will flood the 2012 market. 2012 will be a great season in which to need a closer or bullpensman. Heck, this is not even to mention the wealth of RHP/LHP relievers like Jason Frasor and Michael Wuertz who will be available. Heck, even Fernando Rodney will be in the market.

What is evidenced by the above is that 2012 will feature an elite class of relievers, a relative "deep" class of shortstops (though really only Reyes is a reliable FA option at this point in the careers of Hardy, Rollins, and Furcal), ten of the best outfielders from 2002, a weak and shallow class of starting pitchers (no "aces" on the market this time around (unless C.C. opts out), and a limited number of quality No. 2 starters), and a class of players from other positions who, outside of Prince Fielder, are old and have been bad in the previous few seasons. Expect Fielder and Reyes to get paid, but the rest of the market will be a big question mark of organizational desperation, at least assuming no player union strike occurs . . .