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A Sign of the Times

The Toronto Blue Jays have reportedly offered AJ Burnett a 5 year contract. The last time any team signed a pitcher to a 5-year deal was 2001. And yes, the player signed to that contract was Chan Ho Park.

Now of course this could be smoke coming from the agent (it wouldn't be the first time), but if true, it would confirm the obvious; there's a lot more teams out in the market than in past years, and the talent on the market is thin at best.

In other words, a lot of mediocre players are going to be paid like superstars. The Indians will probably have to overpay if they're going to get a starting pitcher via free agency, but hopefully they avoid hanging an albatross on themselves.

One possible out is Javier Vazquez, who has demanded a trade (which was his right). He's signed through 2007 at roughly $12M a year. The more the free agent market heats up, the more that contract looks like a bargain compared to what Burnett and Millwood will get. The only difference, of course, is that the Indians would have to give up talent to acquire Vazquez.

Another player that is supposedly on the trade block is Brad Wilkerson. He's eligible for arbitration, so that's probably why the Nationals would like to move him if they can. Wilkerson is coming off a down year, but I'd take him over any other outfielder on the market save Brian Giles. Wilkerson bats left-handed, but doesn't have a platoon split; in fact he has a better OPS against southpaws over his career. He has good range in the outfielder (he was the Nats' center fielder in 2005), and he has a good arm. He seems the perfect fit for right field.    

As the demands for the few good free agents out there increase, I think we'll be seeing a lot more trades than in past offseasons. The Indians have some valuable trade chips, so unlike free agency, they'd have an advantage if they pursue guys like Vazquez and Wilkerson.