MLB

Olney: MLB free agents who will make a difference without busting team budgets

  • Senior writer ESPN Magazine/ESPN.com
  • Analyst/reporter ESPN television
  • Author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty”

The numbers in the contract offers this winter are going to be shocking for a lot of free agents, reflecting how far team payrolls will be scaled back for 2021. Club officials can’t change the terms of existing long-term deals, so it will be the veterans in the open market who will take the biggest hit. This will be especially true for those players who happen to play a position that bears a high volume of available options.

There are a ton of catchers among the free agents, and a massive count of relief pitchers and corner slugger types — right fielders and left fielders and first basemen and designated hitter candidates. Most teams use metrics to formulate offers in this era — those stories of an owner like George Steinbrenner impetuously drawing up proposals on the back of a napkin are relics of the past — and given that the clubs generally use similar systems to evaluate contract terms, a lot of the offers for players will be in the same ballpark. (Some agents also believe that in some cases, club executives are made aware of what other teams have bid — collusion, which, to date, has only been mused about privately, but not proved).

In this strange winter, there will be some players bound to be the targets of a high volume of interest — getting lots of offers but likely without the broad range of terms. For example:

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