Fifteen days after the end of the World Series, players whose contracts have expired can file for free agency and negotiate with any team.
With a huge class of high-profile veterans likely to hit the market, baseball should dominate the sports pages all winter.
There’s a virtual All-Star team of free agents. Consider these names:
Catcher — Brian McCann, Carlos Ruiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski
First base — Justin Morneau, Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli, James Loney
Second base — Robby Cano
Shortstop — Stephen Drew
Third base — Michael Young, Mark Reynolds
Left field — Nate McLouth
Center field — Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson
Right field — Hunter Pence, Marlon Byrd, Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz
Starting pitcher — Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson, Bartolo Colon, Ubaldo Jimenez,
Ricky Nolasco, Bronson Arroyo, Matt Garza, Dan Haren, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett
Relief pitcher — Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney, Grant Balfour
With so many catchers available, McCann may not realize top market value — especially since his four-strikeout game against Dodger pitching in the fourth and final game of the NL Division Series was a key factor in Atlanta’s one-run defeat.
Teams also have to wonder whether age and injuries will hamper Hudson, if Byrd was a one-year wonder, and how much longer Beltran’s knees will hold up.
Count on the Yankees trying to keep Cano, the Red Sox doing cartwheels in their efforts to retain Ellsbury, and the Giants making a strong pitch for Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young Award winner who suffered a Samson-like demise after cutting his legendary locks.
The free-spending Dodgers will certainly tap the market but the Yanks may stop after landing the lefty-hitting McCann, whose swing is tailor-made for their Bronx ballpark. Just to be competitive, the Mets might pursue Choo, even though the 31-year-old outfielder is represented by the cantankerous Scott Boras.
Ellsbury, at 30, has reestablished his value as a speed merchant and leadoff man, which Atlanta needs desperately, but can the Braves find space in their outfield without moving one or both of the Upton brothers on the trade market.
The Yanks might lose two starters if Hughes and the aging Hideki Kuroda both walk. Cleveland, a surprise playoff team this year, could be in the same boat if Scott Kazmir joins Jimenez in the search for greener pastures.
Somebody is certain to pick up the portly Colon, one of the American League’s best pitchers after a bout with substance abuse. But his age and weight could work against him.
Rest assured that there will be plenty of players picking new teams — and changing the faces of the 2014 pennant races.
Other thoughts that cross a baseball writer’s mind as the final playoff round starts:
After a disappointing year, Justin Verlander (Tigers) rose to the occasion in the final ALDS game against Oakland. But he’s lost his staff ace title to Max Scherzer, the only 20-game winner in the majors this season . . .
Both of the Championship Series matches involve heavyweights with good hitting and good pitching. But home-field advantage figures to help the Boston Red Sox more than it will help the St. Louis Cardinals. The pick here says the Sox will face the Dodgers in the 2013 World Series . . .
Congratulations to Yankees manager Joe Girardi on his new four-year contract. He’s a bright guy and a good manager whose talents will be tested as the team tries to rebound from injuries, advancing age, and the retirements of Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera . . .
Yes, Virginia, Fredi Gonzalez made a major faux pas in letting closer Craig Kimbrel watch from the bullpen as David Carpenter threw away the Braves’ season in the eighth inning of the final NLDS game at Dodger Stadium. Did Fredi not remember that Carpenter had thrown a gopherball with a man on in his previous appearance? Maybe Fredi didn’t study the 1951 playoffs decision of Charlie Dressen, who thought it would be a good idea to bring in Ralph Branca against Bobby Thomson — even though Thomson had beaten Branca with a home run in the opener of the best-of-three pennant playoff.