Everyone wants to be the Red Sox

Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer

The buzz around baseball indicates most teams will shy away from the top of the free agent market and, instead, focus on “middle-tier guys.” The problem is, as that happens, it’s going to raise the price on the mid-range player to a level that — I fear — will routinely exceed Sandy Alderson’s predetermined value.

Nevertheless, Alderson has said he has money to spend and he intends to use it. He had three years to rip down Minaya’s team, rebuild the farm system, and now he says it’s  time to move the organization forward.

Baseball MoneyWriters and hosts around the country are saying this about lots of teams, not just the Mets. It’s like every team is about to try and be the new Red Sox…

In his morning report for ESPN.com today, Buster Olney discusses the overall economics in baseball and writes:

Teams are receiving the first influx of dollars from MLB’s massive national television packages, from ESPN and other entities, money that will allow clubs to nudge their budgets upward, and perhaps spend more than they planned on spending as they pursue a particular player. The lower class of free agents may not necessarily benefit, but the guys at the top of the market – Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, etc. – may get deals that could shock us. … We don’t yet know how many teams will try to copy the Boston strategy, but you can bet that given the respect rival evaluators had for the way the Red Sox went about their daily business, the word “toughness” has been kicked around in meetings of other front offices.”

In early October, Alderson acknowledged how damaging free-agent contracts can be. However, he said, “At the same time, at some point, you’ve got to go for it.”

The question is, will the market exceed Alderson’s price? Will he have to overpay to get deals done? And, if he has to overpay, will he?

In the end, the Mets say they have money to spend. Alderson may be asked to overpay on years not dollars and I’m not convinced he is willing to go that far. For instance, if Shin-Soo Choo has a five-year deal on the table, is Alderson going to top it? If the Cardinals get in the running for Stephen Drew, how does Alderson compete? Alderson has options, but he’s not the only team interested in them…

MLB teams are free to start bidding on all free agents starting tonight at midnight.