Next season's free-agent crop pretty sparse

Originally Published: February 1, 2005
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
The Hot Stove winter of 2004-05 will be remembered for its wall-to-wall eventfulness. Starting pitchers generally regarded as average hit the mother lode. Randy Johnson and Sammy Sosa were dealt. Roger Clemens returned to Houston, but Carlos Beltran didn't. And contrary to the early speculation, Scott Boras' clients didn't have to wait until Valentine's Day to get lucky. We'll find out about Magglio Ordonez shortly.

Bernie Williams
How much longer will Bernie be in center for the Yankees?
A potential theme for next winter's free-agent market? It could be the tug-of-war between business and sentiment. Craig Biggio, Bernie Williams, Frank Thomas and Trevor Hoffman – players who have been synonymous with their franchises since the late 1980s and early 1990s – have a year left on their contracts and are no longer stars. Will their teams take one more plunge for old times' sake, or proceed with the painful breakups?

There's always room for surprises on the free-agent market. Who would have thought a year ago that Jaret Wright would fetch $21 million over three years, or that J.D. Drew and Adrian Beltre – injury-prone underachievers – would sign five-year deals for a combined $119 million? Somebody always emerges to make a grab for the cash.

Jerry Crasnick

ESPN Senior Writer