Jayson Stark's latest Rumblings and Grumblings column is hot off the press at ESPN.com. Let's take a look.
- Stark explains that the potentially legendary 2012 first base free agent class may be further depleted, as Albert Pujols is expected to stay in St. Louis and Adrian Gonzalez could be traded and extended by his new team. Even Lance Berkman might stay put, leaving Prince Fielder as the remaining big name. There are some who rank Fielder below Ryan Howard, writes Stark.
- Stark says the Phillies signed Howard now because they felt a Pujols extension would drive up Howard's price. For an explanation straight from the horse's mouth, check out Todd Zolecki's MLB.com chat with Ruben Amaro Jr. and Pat Gillick.
- If the 2012 first base free agent class is loaded, will there be enough teams willing to shell out massive contracts? Stark says yes, naming a dozen teams he figures could be in the mix. Don't forget the Nationals and Orioles, two clubs that made huge bids for Mark Teixeira.
- Jayson Werth's agent Jeff Borris named the Jason Bay and Matt Holliday deals as frames of reference for his client. Stark takes that to mean Werth will be looking in the $16-17MM range. My question: does he get five years?
- One source of Stark's says the Indians have shown zero inclination to trade Grady Sizemore. Sizemore's $10MM club option for 2012 becomes a player option upon a trade, and Stark feels Sizemore would "almost certainly" exercise it – decreasing his trade value. That assumes, of course, that Sizemore doesn't turn things around anytime soon.
- Stark doesn't think the Red Sox have reached a desperation point regarding acquiring a catcher who can throw. Bringing in a Chris Snyder or a Gerald Laird might necessitate releasing David Ortiz or Mike Lowell.
- The Orioles have interest in Blue Jays reliever Jason Frasor.
- In a table, Stark provides an interesting look at teams' guaranteed money rankings for 2011 and '12. The Dodgers, interestingly, are very light on '12 commitments ($3.3MM).