Just like Wall Street, free agent market takes hit - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Just like Wall Street, free agent market takes hit

DALLAS -- Good news, owners: The biggest free agent of the winter is off the market.

Carlos Zambrano's gain is ownership's gain, too.

If the contract extension Zambrano signed with the Cubs on Friday is any indication, free agency deals might not get as wild this winter as they did last year. Zambrano, 26, got five years and $91.5 million from the Cubs. The deal does include a vesting option for a sixth year.

Even so, even if Zambrano maxes out his deal, he's going to earn less than Barry Zito will over the length of his benchmark contract from last winter. Zito, you may recall got seven years and $126 million, from the San Francisco Giants. Zito is three years older than Zambrano and, to be frank, not as good a pitcher as Zambrano right now.

Which is why even though Zambrano is off the market for pitching-starved teams, it represents a smidgeon of good news for the owners. In casual conversations with informed folks over the last couple of weeks, we tossed around what Zambrano might receive.

"How many years guaranteed did Zito get?" one guy asked me.


"Then," he said, "Zambrano is going to get eight."

Another guy: "He'll get $160 million for eight years."

Echoed another: "He's going to get at least $20 million a year."

That the most attractive pitcher on the market is already off it should mean a market correction in the owners' favor may be just around the corner. All the owners have to do is act in a logical and rational manner. That, however, may be flirting with the truly unrealistic.

The weekend planner: Three things not to miss this weekend:

1. Octoberfest!: The four AL teams I expect will make the postseason engage this weekend, though the order is a little off. When it's all done, I think Boston will be facing Detroit and Los Angeles will be facing the Yankees. For this weekend, it's LA at Boston and Detroit at the Yanks. Still, darn good baseball.

2. Central stage: The Cardinals and Cubs, both hot in pursuit of Milwaukee in the NL Central square off in Chicago. On second thought, I'm not sure "pursuit" is the right word to describe a race in which the team "pursuing" teams are moving up mostly because the "pursuee" is plummeting like the stock-market. Anyhoo, Cards vs. Cubs is always good theater. And they are both in the race (Cubs are ½ game back of Milwaukee, Cards are 2 ½ back). Once again somebody has to be crowned the Central champ. Might as well be one of these teams.

3. Milestone watch: It's getting so boring. We haven't had a good milestone reached in like a week or two. Guess we'll have to wait until Ken Griffey Jr. reaches 600 homers for our next thrill. He enters a weekend series at Milwaukee 10 homers away. Good news, he's hit five career homers off Friday's starter Jeff Suppan. Bad news: What if interim manager Pete Mackanin decides to double switch for Junior again?

The ol' thermometer sez: Hurricane season special

Category 5
Magglio Ordonez, Tigers: Lest anybody think the race for the AL MVP is a one-car parade with Alex Rodriguez as the Grand Marshal, remember Mags. In the seven days before Friday, he was 13-for-28 (.464) with four homers and 15 RBIs. He does lead the AL in hitting (.356) and is second to A-Rod in OPS (1.025).

Tropical storm
Bobby Jenks, White Sox: He's welcomed more retirees recently than a Del Webb community. Jenks has retired 41 consecutive hitters. That's 1½ perfect games. It's been a month since anybody has reached base against him.

Tropical depression
Chris Capuano, Brewers: He won his first five decisions and the Brewers won each of his first seven starts. Well, fortunes have changed. He's lost 10 straight and the Brewers have lost each of his last 15 starts. Next chance to break the streak is Sunday against the Reds.

News of the weird: The week's most unexplainable event
Sometimes for the truly bizarre, we have to step outside of the realm of Major League Baseball. That's where Jose Offerman comes in. His attack on pitcher Matt Beech and catcher John Nathans in an independent minor league game last week is just shameful on so many levels. Nathans suffered a concussion and Beech a broken finger and Offerman ended up in handcuffs. He later told the Connecticut Post that "it was one of those moments you want to forget. I lost it for about 10 seconds." And he gained a lifetime of infamy for perhaps the ugliest attack a batter has ever perpetrated against an opponent.

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