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One-Year Deals For 30 Or Older?

As the market continues to fail to materialize for older superstars -- Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Orlando Hudson, Bobby Abreu, Jason Varitek and Orlando Cabrera primary among them -- there's legitimate skepticism about whether any team will step up and offer multiple-year deals for players who are 30 years or older. The New York Daily News' Bill Madden crystalized those sentiments in this piece that's running tomorrow, but has already been released on nydailynews.com.

Madden makes a number of interesting points about why teams aren't willing to commit significant money to older free agents. The recession has definitely scared some previous big spenders away from long-term contracts. Agents may not believe that their clients need to settle for significantly less than they set out to get. And, as Madden admits, some players may be losing the spark that made them so attractive by simply getting older.

All of those sentiments are true, which makes the next three weeks particularly interesting. And no team is poised to feel that more directly than the Nationals.

Throughout the offseason, Washington has balked at the price quoted for free agent slugger Adam Dunn and slick-fielding second baseman Orlando Hudson. They've made it clear that, while they would love to have both wear a curly "W" hat next year, they're not willing to spend the bucks both players' agents insist they have coming to them.

But what happens if the Nationals are suddenly the only team offering more than a one-year contract? What if Washington offers Adam Dunn a three-year deal worth $17 million, while other teams only offer him a one-year, $5 million pact?

Clearly, Dunn's preference is to play for an instant contender. Yet only one team that could fall into that category has shown any interest in him, the Dodgers, and then only if they're unable to sign Manny Ramirez. If, for instance, the Giants stepped up with an offer of $6 million for a year, would Dunn really be able to justify signing in the Bay Area with a window to a new contract next winter?

It's a fascinating dilemma, and it affects Orlando Hudson, as well. There may be a few more teams interested in Hudson than Dunn, but not enough that he'll get much closer to his current financial demands.

So, are the Nats and, more directly, the Lerner family, making the smart move by holding back on Dunn and Hudson, assuming that eventually a small premium on a below-market, multi-year deal will land both of them? They actually might be.

It's worth keeping this quote from Madden's piece in mind:

(An executive claims) most of the over-30 free agents left on the market will wind up having to settle for one-year deals "because, with all the uncertainty about the next couple of years, clubs just don't want to commit risky money on older players or players with injury histories."

Than again, if the Lerners aren't right, everything Boz wrote right here will be validated, and Nationals fans will be stuck with another year of some of the most abysmal professional baseball on memory.

By Cameron Smith  |  January 24, 2009; 7:45 PM ET
Categories:  Nationals  
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Comments

If I were Dunn or Hudson I would sign a one year contract and hope the economy turned around before the next contract, or at least that owners see the economy isn't going to impact baseball as bad as other sectors of the economy.

That way, next offseason, they can go out and try to get that contract they're looking for. Manny and Tek are the two who probably have the most to lose, as one more season of inept offense will likely kill Tek's value and Manny will be too close to the big 4-0 to justify a multi-year contract.

Owners right now are just like shoppers looking for deals. They know that their merchandise is cheap right now, but they think if they wait another week it might go down even more, so they're not going to buy.

Posted by: adampschroeder | January 25, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

The right approach to a guy like Dunn might be something like $7 Million with a Club option @ $10 Million/ Player option @ $8 Million. Dunn is young enough to hit it big in free agency two years from now; the Nats may not need him longer than that. If he plays well here he averages Burrell money then hits FA @ 30 or 31. Worst he does is $15 Million for two years work.

Posted by: advocate2 | January 25, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

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