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Free agents won't come cheaply
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
The one big free agent who could sign quickly is Mike Mussina, and don't bet against the Yankees.
But it could take close to a month before the Alex Rodriguez sweepstakes is decided. Clubs that met with Scott Boras, Rodriguez's agent, at the GM meetings in Amelia Island, Fla., were not only impressed with Boras's preparation in trying to sell A-Rod as baseball's Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, but stunned by how strongly Boras feels about this sell.
There were no specific monetary demands. Boras is essentially asking teams to convince them of how they plan to market Rodriguez.
However, there were some guidelines, including the following:
(Incidently, the Pirates and Marlins weren't offered a copy of the 50-page book prepared on the superstar shortstop. They could get a Chad Kreuter pamphlet.)
How many teams can get into this sort of bidding?
"Not many, although a few will put their toes in the water," says one GM. "One of the interesting things this week is that while the attention centered on Rodriguez, (Manny) Ramirez, Mussina and (Mike) Hampton, there was a buzz about Ellis Burks because he's more affordable."
The Indians, Rockies, Rangers and several other teams are poised to take serious runs at Burks as Giants GM Brian Sabean prepares to find another offensive outfielder.
The same may be true of Dodgers pitcher Darren Dreifort, although one GM says "the price may get close to $50 million for five years for a lifetime .500 (actually 39-45 with a 4.28 ERA) pitcher."
There is little question that Rodriguez is the best free agent ever. There's no question he is a terrific person of dependable character. However, he may not have proven he is a franchise personality who sells tickets like Mark McGwire or Junior Griffey.
In 1999, the Seattle Mariners finished 77-85, third in the AL West, and were third in the AL in road attendance, while the Cincinnati Reds won 96 games, forced a one-game playoff with the Mets for the wild-card spot and finished 12th in NL road attendance. In 2000, the Mariners won 91 games and a wild-card berth and finished ninth in AL road attendance, while the Reds fell to 85-77, 10 games behind the Cardinals, and finished first in NL road attendance.
If A-Rod gets treated and paid like Tiger or Michael, he may will become that draw. That is an assumption, because he hasn't done it yet.
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