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10.28.2003

Top 10 Free Agent Questions

Scanning the list of free agents, there's an obvious A+ list:

C: Pudge-Rod
SS: Migs Tejada
3B: Mike Lowell
OF: Vlad Guerrero (aka V-Grr), Gary Sheffield
P: Bartolo Colon (aka Bart Columbus), Andy "Jesus Loves the Marlins More" Pettitte

Just below them are players like Javy Lopez, Luis Castillo, Keith Foulke, Kevin Millwood, Ugie Urbina, Greg Maddux...how weird not to see his name among the elite...and Kaz Matsui?? Does anyone really have any idea how he'll stack up? As good as Hideki Matsui? That would be nice for him. But remember, Shinjo was highly touted coming out of the Japan League, too.

Below that A-minus tier, there are all sorts of intriguing stories to follow that haven't registered on the national radar screen. Here are a handful:

1) Will the White Sox resign Esteban Loiaza for $3.5 million? To me his season screams "Fluke," and he'll no better than .500 next year. Would they prefer to put that $3.5M toward resigning Bartolo Colon? What kind of PR hit will they take by cutting loose their Cy Young candidate (and likely runner-up)?

2) How much money will Roberto Alomar command? From sure Hall of Famer to suspect clubhouse cretin and indifferent egotist in, what, 24 months? From 1999-2003 he averaged about $7M in salary. In 2003 he totaled 5 HR/39 RBI/.682 OPS. Ouch. He'll be 36 in February. Will he get more than a one-year contract at the ML minimum? Will we ever get used to hearing, "Now batting for the pitcher Tanyon Sturtze, Roberto Alomar"?

3) Who'll get a better contract: LaTroy Hawkins or Everyday Eddie Guardado? Hawkins is 30, sleek and throws hot pepper cheese. Eddie is 33, pudgy and barely throws 90. Hawk is a set-up guy, Eddie a "proven closer."

4) Will Li'l Kenny Lofton get any respect? The last two years, the guy has helped a contender in the stretch run and played good to excellent offensive ball in the post-season. In fact, this year he posted his best slugging pct. since 1995. His defense in CF is shaky but there's no reason, other than his ego, that he can't move to left and be a dangerous leadoff guy for a few more years on a contending team (remember, one knock on him is he loses interest fast if his team isn't in contention). Or will he have to sign a one-year deal with the Devil Rays for $750,000 and hope for the best at the trading deadline?

5) How 'bout that Shooter? Let's hope that Beck's second-half surge with the Padres is the start of a long second act in his career. Welcome back, Rodney!

6) Whither Jose Cruz? OK, so we know the Giants aren't going to re-sign Cruz unless, well, unless nothing. But who will? What happens to a ball player when he commits a heinous act in front of millions of viewers and millions more highlight watchers and drags his team down to a disgraceful playoff loss? Who would sign such a man? (Other than Chuck La Mar, that is.) Are residents of the greater Houston metroplex going to start hearing the phrase, "Hello, I'm Jose Cruz, Jr., and I'll be your waiter for the evening"?

7) Will Reggie Sanders play for his 7th team in 7 years? And tell the second daughter that things weren't right? Will he play for the Pirates again after 31 HRs and a .910 OPS, or go on down to highway 61? Why couldn't that bastard hit for a .900 OPS with the Giants?

8) Does Rickey think Rickey should retire? When Rickey says to himself, "Rickey's getting too slow to keep up with these youngsters, and Rickey's getting too old for all this fool-around and travel and dammit, Rickey can't find a decent limo driver these days," then Rickey will retire.

9) Shinjomania! It's not too late.

10) El Gato Numero Cuatro-Ciento? Only two more homers to 400. Will Big Cat re-sign with the Giants, or go somewhere a little more homer friendly so he can bag the two in the first week of April then retire to his heavily fortified home in Caracas? Or will he retire with the realization that there's really no difference between 398 and 400, that the world of baseball statistics is a chimerical pretense of essence, and that life is a cheap existential void, a brief groveling humiliation between the moment the doctor grabs your squishy head with his forceps and the instant the first shovelful of dirt thuds against the lid of your coffin?

I say he signs with the Twins.

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