Slowly but surely the dominoes are starting to fall in the baseball free agent market. The Big Boys -- CC, Tex, Manny etc. -- don't appear to be close, but activity is beginning to pop off with some of the super sexy middle relief market. Those names casual fans may not recognize, but yet and still they're the players who dictate wins and losses in close games.
A week ago, the Yankees took some initial steps by re-signing Damaso Marte to a 3-year $12-million dollar deal. Today comes word that another quality left-hander, Jeremy Affeldt, is signing with the San Francisco Giants for 2-years and $8-million. Marte and Affeldt are not necessarily the #1 guys available, but their track record over the last couple seasons certainly puts them on the top shelf. So that $4-million per year should approximate the ceiling for quality relievers not projected to close.
This raises the fire under Mets GM Omar Minaya's booty in two ways:
1. With Marte and Affeldt gone, the pool of options that could theoretically replace a guy like Schoeneweis in the bullpen has gotten thinner. From the left side you have a Will Ohman, and a Joe Beimel, but that's about it in terms of guys with experience in high-pressure 7th and 8th inning situations. Considering all the hubbub over who the Mets closer is going to be, Minaya has to make sure the market for guys that set up the 9th doesn't pass him by.
2. The consensus among the punditry has the Mets playing with about $25M to spend in free agency. If they have to land a closer who get at least $10M per year, that only gives them room for one, maybe two quality set-up guys before they start squeezing themselves in terms of filling other holes.
So not only does Omar have tough decisions to make, if relievers keep signing he might not have as much time to think and evaluate the market as he would like.