Major League Baseball free agency is a beautiful thing.
That is, it is if you think beautiful things consist of capitalistic excess and bloated contracts. If you do, then watching Darren Dreifort sign a contract worth $11 million per year is akin to watching Michelangelo lie on his back and paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Or something like that.
The point is that even the most inconsequential baseball players can strike it rich in free agency, and you can bet your bottom dollar that things are going to be the same after the 2011 season comes to a close. Many contracts are going to be signed, and some of them are going to boggle the mind.
For kicks, let's take a look at five players who are poised to earn the most mindboggling contracts.
Just so we're all clear, let it be known that I'm a huge Michael Cuddyer fan. He gets on base, he hits for power and his versatility is a big attribute.
These things being said, somebody is going to pay Cuddyer much more than he's worth this offseason. He made $10.5 million in 2011, and you just know that he's going to be looking for a nice raise spread out over a multi-year contract.
If I had to guess, Cuddyer is going to get a contract worth at least $11 million per year. That's all well and good, but it's a lot of money for a guy who will be 33 at the start of the 2012 season. It's even more money for a guy who has reached 30 homers and 100 RBI just once.
Yu Darvish is going to be the next big thing to come out of Japan. He's just 25, he's got a live arm, he's got great stuff, and he's one of the best pitchers the Nippon Professional Baseball league has ever seen.
It is no surprise, then, that the word around the campfire (per Yahoo! Sports) is that it will cost at least $100 million to obtain Darvish.
Because the pitching market is going to be thin, I do think we can expect somebody to shell out $100 million for Darvish. Once they do, they will be rolling the dice.
I say this for one reason:
Despite the fact it ended very badly, Jonathan Papelbon actually had a very good season in 2011. He only had 31 saves, but he had a 2.94 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. He also had 87 strikeouts and just 10 walks.
The Red Sox could re-sign Papelbon, but not for the amount of money he's likely to demand. He made $12 million in 2011, and you can rest assured that he'll re-sign for nothing less.
In other words, you can expect Papelbon to go looking around for K-Rod money. Because closers are overvalued, he'll probably get it.
Whoever ends up signing Pap, they better hope that he doesn't revert back to the form he showed in 2010. His strikeouts were down, his walks were up, and he gave up more than his fair share of home runs.
Right now, C.J. Wilson is probably hoping that CC Sabathia does not opt out of his mega-deal with the New York Yankees. If he does not, Wilson will be the best starting pitcher on the market by default.
That's going to lead to a nice payday for Wilson. He's been one of the most reliable pitchers in baseball in the last two seasons, and teams are going to pencil him in for 200 innings, 15 wins and an ERA around 3.25.
Wilson made $7 million in 2011, but the going rate for his services will probably be twice that, especially if the Yankees and Boston Red Sox get into a bidding war for him.
You might be wondering what my problem with Wilson is. Truth be told, I don't have one.
I just worry that he might be the next Barry Zito.
Jose Reyes had to have a great season in 2011, and he delivered by having one of the best seasons of his career. He was one of the best players in the National League, and he ended up winning the NL batting crown with a .337 average.
The joke about Reyes is that he is going to demand "Carl Crawford money" in free agency, which is to say that he's going to be in line for a contract that will pay him roughly $20 million per year.
The problem is that Reyes is not worth that kind of money. Shoot, Carl Crawford isn't worth that kind of money.
What makes Reyes undeserving of a Crawford-like contract is his durability, or lack thereof. He hasn't played as many as 140 games in three years, and he's had all sorts of trouble with his legs. Trusting that these problems are going to go away will be a huge mistake.
Somebody will make that mistake. When they do, Reyes will be set for life.