Daan De Kerpel, TSN.ca
With no trades made but a ton of groundwork laid out during the three day Major League Baseball general managers’ meetings in Chicago, the focus once again shifts from trades back to available free agents.Along those lines, there are three potentially high-impact Canadian free agents that are poised to hit the market late next week, unless their respective teams can sign them back. You might have heard of them before: Jason Bay, Erik Bedard and Rich Harden.
Let’s examine each player a little more closely and discuss what the market for their services could be.
In this year’s free agent class, the 30-year old native of Trail, British Columbia, along with fellow outfielder Matt Holliday and pitcher John Lackey, is one of the “big three” players available.
Because of that, Bay is sure to command one of the biggest deals this off-season in terms of both length and total contract value.
In 2009, his first full season with the Boston Red Sox, Bay clubbed 36 home runs, drove in 119 runners and stole 13 bases. While his batting average was .267, he did have an on-base percentage of .384 and a slugging percentage of .537.
Bay’s numbers were impressive, but they could have been better had he not slumped in June and July when he hit a combined five home runs and batted just .213 over that 50-game stretch.
Defensively, the jury still seems to be somewhat out on Bay, whose range in left field has been questioned by some advanced defensive metrics, but that shouldn’t stop him from finding a lucrative deal with one of the bigger clubs, particularly one that either falls out of the Holliday bidding or simply wants him more than the Cardinals slugger.
It’s been a frustrating two seasons in Seattle for the Navan, Ontario-born left-hander.
Bedard, who the Mariners acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in February of 2008 for a package of five players including Adam Jones, George Sherrill and Chris Tillman, was great when he pitched for the most part. The only issue was that injuries only allowed him to start 15 games in each of the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Bedard, who had season-ending surgery on his left shoulder on August 14, might not be ready to start the season, but he was great when he played in 2009, posting a 5-2 record with a 2.82 ERA and 90 strikeouts in only 83 innings on the mound.
Because he’s coming off two surgeries in the last two seasons and may not ready to pitch when the season begins, it’s hard to imagine that any club will give him a long-term commitment despite his immense talent.
Bedard could easily be one of the biggest risk/reward gambles in the free agent market. If he can stay healthy – and that seems to be a big if – he’s easily a top-of-the-rotation type arm that could really reward the team that signs him.
It’s funny – in a lot of respects, ths soon-to-be 28-year old native of Victoria, British Columbia is a lot like Bedard. He’s a strikeout machine but his health is always a question mark.
In 2009, Harden did manage to start 26 games, the highest number of games he’s started since 2004, when he made 31 starts for the Athletics. Harden missed 19 games in May and June with a back injury and was shut down for his final start of the season.
Harden posted a 9-9 record with a 4.09 ERA, but he struck out an incredible 171 batters in 141 innings. He did struggle with the free pass, though, handing out 67 walks.
With the injury to Ted Lilly, there is some talk that the Cubs will look to sign Harden before he can reach the open market but either way, much like Bedard, it’s hard to imagine that any team in the current economic climate will go too much past a one or two-year deal, despite his talent, and that’s because of the injury woes.
It’s prediction time. Where do you think Canada’s big three free agents will land? As always, it’s Your! Call.